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Democracy Outlined by Plato and Aristotle Essay

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In the fifth-century BC, Athens emerged as one of the most advanced state or polis in all of Greece. This formation of Athenian ‘democracy’ holds the main principle that citizens should enjoy political equality in order to be free to rule and be ruled in turn. The word ‘democracy’ originates from the Greek words demos (meaning people) and kratos (meaning power) therefore demokratia means “the power of the people.” The famous funeral speech of Pericles states that “Our constitution is called democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.” However, only citizens (free adult men of Athenian descent) could participate in political matters. Women and slaves held no political rights, although they were essential in order to free up time for the citizens to participate in the matters of the state. The development of Athenian democracy has been fundamental for the basis of modern political thinking, although many in modern society UK would be sceptical to call it a democracy. Plato and Aristotle in The Republic and The Politics respectively were critical of the Athenian democracy, by examining the culture and ideology present the limitations and possible downfalls of a democratic way of life. Within this essay I will outline these limitations and evaluate their validity.

Plato defines Athens as a democratic society that “treats all men as equal, whether they are equal or not.” Therefore, believes that there are those that are born to rule and others that are born to be ruled. Plato presents the argument that democracy does not achieve the greatest good, giving four main objections to democracy. Firstly, he identifies that most of us are ruled by passions, pleasure, sentiment and impulse. Hence, th...


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...kingship, aristocracy and polity are all good forms of ruling because each serves the interest of the people or community. Overall, Aristotle believes that we must not question how many rule, but instead ask how they are capable of ruling or do they rule in a manner that best serves the community. Aristotle’s Politics gives a simpler critique of democracy than Plato’s Republic, however it is convincing in the sense that in order to rule for the good of the community or the good life (Bios) one should only question that capability of those ruling rather than ask the quantity.



Works Cited

Finley, M. I. Introduction. In Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian war. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Plato, The Republic, p.375.
Plato, The Republic, p.288.
Plato. The Republic, Book 5, Section 473D
Aristotle, The Politics, Chapter 5, p.304. 15-20
Aristotle, The Politics. Book III



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