Political Science: Plato

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Political Science → Plato

Plato (427-347 BC)
An aristocrat by birth, found democracy disrespectful since it took life of his mentor: Socrates. For education, Plato visited Italy and Egypt. In Syracuse, he was jailed for lecturing the Dionysius I. After being brought to Athens, he founded his academy.

The Republic
Most of the Platonic wisdom is found in The Republic – a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. It is thought to be Utopian but still it has scientific approach in discovery of truth. The dialogue occurs in house of Cephalus whose son Polemarchus is also there. Third character is Thrasymachus – representative of radical Sophist school. He believes that justice is interest of the strong. Fourth character is Glaucon – he believes that men obey laws and do just under the fear of being punished with injustice. All these contend Socrates. In this way, Plato remains in search for justice in the ideal state.

The Republic highlights following thought of Platonic Philosophy

Periclean Principle of Happy Versatility
Politics is an art. He believed in Periclean Principle of Happy Versatility that the government of civic-minded amateur is the best.

Public Opinion
Public opinion is incomplete to guide state policy.

Virtue is Knowledge
Virtue is knowledge and, knowledge is required for leadership. Only a few develop this amount of virtue essential to lead.

Social Classes
Based on three basic forces that motivate men, Plato divides society in three classes: largest class will be those motivated by appetite or desire; fewer will be those motivated by spirit or courage; least will be those motivated by reason.

Principle of Specialization
Each person should perform what he is best at. Not one class is essential, all are. Large territory and population is essential for refined civilization.

This class division and specialization of function produces justice according to Plato. He defines justice ‘giving every man his due’. Justice is served when everyone performs work for which he has specialization.

Three Virtues of State
Three virtues of state: wisdom – to be found in ruling class of philosopher kings; courage – attribute of soldier guardians; self-control – feature of both soldier guardians and artisans from interfering in work of rulers.

Education and Communism
Read: Plato’s Philosophy of Education

Forms of Government/State
Ideal state may undergo from ideal Republic to monarchy or military rule, to oligarchy, to democracy and finally to tyranny in progressive stages of degenerative corruption.