Plato's Concept of Philosopher-kings

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"Society originates because the individual is not self-sufficient and no two of us is born exactly alike." How do those two assumptions/principles lead to Plato's ideal society being ruled by philosophers? Are you convinced by his claim that Philosophers should rule?

A good starting point will be to consider what Plato means by these two assumptions. The first assumption states that the individual not self-sufficient (369b). This is the basis by which cities form; communities of human beings are created because every man has needs that he cannot cater for by his own means, which ensues in the association of the needy. Plato believes that humans are social beings, or natural cooperators.

The second assumption states that "no two are born exactly alike (370a-b)." This explains why the cities formed are heterogeneous rather than homogeneous. Each person has a different aptitude which ascribes each to a different occupation, and as they deploy their natural talents for the good of their society and for themselves, an inegalitarian society forms. From the utilitarian aspect, it is more efficient for the society to employ differentiation of labour through each person's specialisation. Plato claims that this specialisation is justified by one's understanding of oneself. The self is able to only be itself and none other; it is impossible to play multiple roles.

Just as a shoe-maker should only concentrate his efforts in making shoes and a ship-builder in building ships, there has to be a unique and specialised occupation which requires a person or a group of persons to rule the city and concentrate his efforts on nothing else. These two principles together explain the reason this occupation should be created.

However, the...

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...he baggage of worldly desires. However, before we hastily agree with Plato, we must examine the practicality of all his assumptions and proposals which, under scrutiny, seem to be less than feasible.


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Rowe, Christopher, 1995. `Plato; the search for an ideal form of state', Plato to Nato, studies in Political Thought. London: Penguin Books.

Reeve, C.D.C., 1988. Philosopher-Kings, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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