Plato lived in the democratic Greek city-state of Athens, between 427 a.c and 347 a.c. The Political context in Greece during that period is of extreme importance in understanding the motivations behind Plato’s political philosophy. His dissatisfaction with the current system, which was characterized by corruption and injustice, was intensified after Socrates’ death what led him to formulate anew conception of politics. In his most famous work, The Republic, he draws the lines for the ideal state which should have its foundation on knowledge anchored by the human reason. For Plato, decisions in the political realm could not be addressed by the public opinion, because people do not have enough foresight and just learn about the right course of action only post factum. Therefore, hedefends the idea of a government composed by philosophers, who by the study of philosophy, were capable of observing universal and intangible values, such as justice and goodness, which should be on the base of an authentic state whose ultimate goal is the good of the society. This best political regime, for Plato, therefore is aristocracy.
In his writings Plato traces a parallel between theinternal structure of the soul and the structure of the community. For him, in the same way as the soul has different parts with distinctive functions, the community has people who differ from each other in their abilities and capabilities. Therefore, each person should play a role in Plato’s ideal state that reflects his/her individual abilities. In this line of reasoning, Plato advocates anaristocratic regime, where the state is ruled by a philosopher king who should govern grounded on reason and wisdom. In his ideal state the society would be divided into three social classes: the class of the philosophers (rulers), soldier (guardians) and the producers, which correspond respectively to the reason, spirit and appetite parts of the soul. The republic, according to Plato, should be governed bythe philosopher’s class. This class would be capable of rationally guiding the society, since the study of philosophy enable them to contemplate the world of ideas, grasp the reality of things and the ideal order of the world.
The protective class was responsible for defending the polis internally and externally in accordance with the philosopher’s instructions, who were the ones that knew theright course of action to take for the good of the community. The guardians represent the strength serving the law, which is established by the philosophers in power. In this way, the protective class should be subordinated to the ruling class. The productive class – carpenters, merchants, farmers etc – was subjected to the governing and the protective classes and served as the economic base ofthe polis to ensure its survival. In contrast to the ruling and the soldier classes, common people were allowed to own property, but were obliged to economically support the other two classes, that were forbade to own any property. In the Platonic political arrangements, the balance between all these three classes was fundamental in guaranteeing the harmony and well functioning of the society,while the working class was in charge for the economic base of polis, the philosophers and soldier would account for the moral and physical matters. (reference book)
The fact that Plato advocates the elimination of the institution of family as well as the private property in the two upper classes might give the wrong impression that he defends a communism of property, women and children. Actually,Plato was motivated to include these aspects in his theory because of the importance of morality and the role he attributes to the state in observing intangible values. He had understood well that the private, economic and especially domestic interests might jeopardize collective and social interests, being the latest naturally superior to the first. In Plato’s view, society should not hesitate...
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