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Should Iraq Become A Democracy? A Platonic Perspective

2211 words - 9 pages

Every once in a while it is a good idea to take a step back and question why we believe the things that we do. Reading Plato's Republic reminded me of this, and forced me to re-evaluate my belief that everybody should be entitled to a democracy. Previously, I could not understand why such hostility came from other countries, especially Iraq, on the good and honorable act of the U.S. by freeing Iraq from a dictator. Additionally, Iraq is finally able to become a democracy, where the people decide how to run the country. In his Republic, Plato constructs a convincing argument about the evils and deterioration that result from such a permissive style of living. Similarly, many Iraqi's have also spoken out against the fundamental disagreements between theocracy and democracy. These ideas have lead me to conclude that Iraqi's have a deeper understanding the underside of democracy that Plato depicts and also the long-term implications that result from total liberty.

Plato's understanding of democracy can be found in the Republic VIII (555 b-565 c). The surrounding passages describe Plato's bigger depiction of the breakdown of political systems. He writes that the best system of government is an aristocracy where the intellectuals run the polity based on intellectual skill alone (545 b). An aristocracy gets degraded to a timocracy (545 c-547 c), which further deteriorates to an oligarchy (550 c-551b), finally a democracy is born. Democracy is the second worst political system, right behind a tyranny. It is described as the breakdown of an oligarchy--a system which is greedy, yet still restrained by the greed in order to maintain wealth. This change results in a shift of values; from some moderation to full freedom. As greed sets in, the wise have already lost their appeal in the shift from timocracy to oligarchy. Now, instead of hoarding their money, the democratic society wants to enjoy it (555 b-557 a).

Plato further argues that human cravings do not have a natural limit, people live in excess. Ultimately this is the final step in the destruction of a society. Plato emphasizes that knowledge of natural limits is instilled by parents during childhood, but further practice is needed. He then specifies what natural limits are using an analogy. The analogy is meant to distinguish between necessary and unnecessary pleasures. An example of a necessary pleasure is food. The necessity of food is obvious, but since most of us enjoy eating when hungry, food is also a pleasure. These necessary pleasures are taught, and then implemented through practice. However, the unnecessary pleasures could be compared to foods that taste good, but rot in our stomach and eventually lead to sickness. But the justification is that eating regular food when we are hungry three times a day gets mundane; especially if we have the option to eat three more times in a day, thereby experiencing three more incidences of pleasure (559 b-c). Plato is...

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