Rijo Ninan December 4, 1998
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Rijo Ninan December 4, 1998
Ms. Purcell-Murphy European History
Two of the greatest philosophers of all time are Plato and Aristotle. They both had their own views on different subjects. One area where they had contrasting views was politics.
Plato lived from 427 to 347 B.C. and was Athenian. He started a school called the Academy where he taught his philosophy to other people. He wrote two great books, The Symposium which was a book about love and The Republic which was a book on governments and was composed around 374 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates and carried on some of his teachings. He also wrote his books in dialogue between Socrates and some other of his followers.
Plato's Republic contains almost all his philosophy on politics. "The aim of the Republic is very simple: to discover what justice is, and to show that it is more beneficial, in a certain sense of that word, than its contrary, injustice," (Nicholas White 1979, 13). He goes in depth to first discover the meaning of justice. "Ultimately Plato settles on the idea that justice is the harmony that arises when each person is able to his or her own best talent: the artisan to build, the musician to play, and the ruler to govern," (Greaves, Cannistraro, Zaller, and Murphey 1993, 124). He then goes on to employ this justice in what he calls the Ideal Society. But before he does that, he first defines what makes up a city. "The basis for a state, he says, is the association of people based on need. People aren't self-sufficient, and they have varied needs. We
get a state when we have a group of people whose self-interest is far-sighted enough for them to specialize and divide their tasks," (Julia Annas 1981, 73). So Plato goes in to the fact that everyone must have one job. They must focus on that job and not any other. For if a person does more than one job, they will do it with less success because they are dividing their attention. By only doing one thing, they are able to work better. So, the farmer will farm, the shoemaker will make shoes, and the blacksmith will forge metal. "This is introduced what I shall call the Principle of Specialization, the idea that one person should do one job," (Julia Annas 1981, 73).
Now that Plato had the groundwork done, he goes on to the specifics of the Ideal Society. First, there are rulers. He says that every society must have rulers but the challenge is seeing who will be best fit to rule. "Since the capacity to rule - that is, to perceive justice in its essence and apply it to the social order - is the rarest of talents, the education of the guardian elite is protracted and difficult. Only those who have demonstrated both the necessary philosophical aptitude to grasp and internalize the nature of forms and the practical ability to apply them to affairs may be entrusted with the responsibility of the state," (Greaves, Cannistraro, Zaller, and Murphy 1993, 124-125). The rulers are called the Guardians. But they are split in to two groups. There are the Auxiliaries (epikouroi) who are the warriors and the remaining are the Guardians Elite (phylakes). They are to live as commoners. They must not own any private property and have no dealings with wealth.
Page 3 This is so the Guardians do not chase happiness for themselves. Rather that they keep the happiness of the state always first. If they neglect their responsibilities then there is no hope for that state. The Guardians also have the responsibility to keep unity. That means keeping the state in a reasonable size. Growing too large will rip the state apart. They must also not let there be any extremes of poverty or wealth. If one person despises the wealth of another, the state is also doomed. Guardians must also keep the citizens strong and keep them without the want of riches. This will make them better allies than opponents and keep war to a minimum. Then there is the citizens themselves. They have their own responsibilities. They must follow the Principles of Specialization and do one and only one job as to create
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Ancient Greek philosophers, Dialogues of Plato, Socratic dialogues, Ancient Greek law, Platonism, Plato, Republic, Theory of Forms, Socrates, Aristotle, Politics, Laws
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