Plato the Republic Research Paper

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Plato (the Republic)

There have been numerous theories concerning the best means through which equality, justice, and at the same time power can be achieved and defended by a state. At this moment in time the rule of democracy and that of the democratic principles is considered to be most suitable for the world we live in. However, there are arguments to support the idea that democracy as we know it today is not the best means to govern in a global society especially taking into account the massive negative reactions that are evident in the world against the western democratic system. Democracy is at its foundation a principle that ensures equal treatment of all human beings, yet, for instance, it refuses to ensure equal rights for religious worship. Although such an example would necessitate further debate, it has been provided to argue that, to this day, the best means to govern has not yet been established and depend on the local, regional, national and international context.

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The theory of philosophical thought has taken this matter into account since the earliest of times. Plato in this sense is one of the most significant theorists of the ideal state. Although his initial beliefs of the ideal state are no longer applicable to the current day realities, his views on the matter are crucial for understanding certain aspects of the organization of the state from a philosophical perspective. The "polis" or the ideal state as it is presented in the "Republic" is not a political project, but rather an analogy used by Plato to be able to answer a more complex question on the meaning of "justice"

Research Paper on Plato the Republic Assignment

. Therefore, the theory of the soul and the virtues of the soul, as well as its projection on the idea of the state, represent a model to better identify the forms of justice as "oikeioragia - justice." Overall, neither the ideal state nor a soul in perfect harmony with the notion of justice, actually exist in the real world. In this world, there are only corrupt forms of these ideas, an aspect that is clearly visible to this day. Yet the perceptions and theories that have tried to answer such questions are important to provide perspective and to eventually justify the development of the state, of justice, and of other terms as they are today.

2. Background

Plato is one of the greatest ancient philosophers that has given birth to an original and profound philosophical thought. He is believed to have been at the foundation of political thought through the impressive work he achieved in the early days of the construction of states in human civilization

. His contributions to the theories of the state are essential to this day and are seen as crucial for the theories developed since ancient Greece onwards.

Plato's philosophy however was based on previous works from philosophers such as Heraclites and Socrates. Despite these influences however, his work far surpasses that of his predecessors through the way in which the ideas were developed. The Dialogue technique was impressive and served the purpose of the dialectical exercise. Initially the technique was taken from Socrates. Plato opted for the form of dialogue to express his views on different philosophical matters for several reasons. One of the main reasons relates to the fact that Plato was an admirer of the dramatic genre and considered the dialogue to be a dramatic and pedagogical form of expressing his philosophy. Another reason relates to the actual structure of the dialogue that he considered useful for reaching the truth through conversation. The technique makes it less artificial the argumentation and counter argumentation that in the end reveals the arguments and the eventual conclusion.

Plato's dialogues are divided into youth, maturity, and old age works. The "Republic" is part of his maturity works. The characters in his dialogues are people and philosophers that either lived at the time of writing the dialogues or before that. However, in almost all of his dialogues Socrates is present as a character. In his philosophical endeavors, Plato follows the Greek life (Heraclites, Pythagoras, Parmenides). At the same time though he uses nature, religion, and ancient myths to argue his own beliefs. Even if in the beginning he uses Socrates' ideas he soon departs from them to consider his own line of judgment.

3. Terminology and content

The "Republic" is one of the most important collections of political ideas that remained since ancient times

. The dialogues revolve around the best way a society must be led and organized. The starting point of the organization is, according to Plato, the nation, based on the principle of justice. Plato considers the forms of state organization present in his days as unfit and unsuited and he therefore proposes the creation of an ideal state. Even a single individual can initiate such a construction. However, this individual must first and foremost consider very thoroughly the guiding principles that must be at the base of this construction. The initiator can only be a philosopher and he can only be a representative of the aristocracy. This differentiation is based on the belief however that people are not equal. Some of them are endowed with certain qualities that make them suitable to uphold certain functions in the republic, while other need to follow the leaders rather than become leaders in their turn.

Plato in his work the "Republic" makes particular assumptions that are relevant to this day. In Book VIII, on the four forms of government, Plato argues that "the States are as the men are; they grow out of human characters"

. This mention comes to point out that in fact the state, regardless of its constitution is as good as its components. Although there are laws that govern the well being of the state, these are created and enacted by individuals and not by a supreme construction independent of the human being

. From this point-of-view, Plato's emphasis on the nature of the human being, and his quality as a just or unjust individual is relevant for the dialogue.

The notion mentioned before is also applicable in today's world. Indeed, there is a different background and cultural consideration to be taken into account than the ones in ancient Greece. However, taking as status quo the existence of a certain form of government, in this case democracy, the results on the short run can be different depending on who in fact is leading this democratic government

. For instance, in the United States, the overall directions of leadership change once the Democratic and the Republican parties change. During a Republican Administration there is more focus on a more liberal doctrine, on a more engaged foreign policy, and bolder economic strives. When the Democratic Administration is heading the White House and the Government, the directions of leadership change in the sense that more emphasis is on social measures, a more pacifist foreign policy. This is not to say that the basis of the form of government changes but rather that the content of such government is influenced by the actual people that develop policies which eventually influence the dwellers of a "polis" or the citizens of a state in today's world. Therefore, one of Plato's assumptions in ancient Greece is valid to this day and applicable in everyday politics.

The four forms of government presented by Plato included the Spartan polity, the oligarchical, democratical, and tyrannical

. His aim in his comparison of these forms of government is to eventually reveal the degree of happiness or unhappiness of those leading a just or unjust life. This exercise is, as mentioned previously, related to Plato's general exercise and debate on justice and happiness rather than on the actual forms of governing a state. Indeed, a side result of the general discussion, the debate on the just or unjust forms of government is further emphasizes; yet this is not a purpose in itself. More precisely, "Plato tries to determine which of the four forms of xaxia produces the least unhappiness and which the greatest wretchedness. Clearly what Plato attempts to establish -- but again in terms of his own conception of justice -- is that any intermediate life, any soul characterized by some degree of injustice is inferior in point of happiness to the perfectly just, despite any other good things in intermediate life might include"

4. Arguments

Plato was considered a fine analysis of the period of his time. As a philosopher he was part of a privileged cast of the society and had the time and ability to provide analysis and arguments of the world around him. However, the "Republic" as it stands today does not take into account the existing political arrangements and social conditions in Greece as an actual subject for analysis. More precisely, "were it not for the title, it might be read for what it is, rather than an essay on utopian political theory. It is a fact that only about a third… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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