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Plato's Philosophy of Democracy

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Democracy is a topic extensively studied by political philosophers all around the world. Plato was one of these philosophers. Plato believed that “democracy […] is a charming form of government, full of verity and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike”. An analysis of ancient Athenian democracy and the Republic provides great understanding of the statement within its context. The statement itself is valid, but Plato does not appear to mean what he said.

The statement itself has two main parts that one must understand in order to fully understand the statement. Plato wrote the Republic in 380 BCE, in Athens (Spark Notes Editors). The first part of the statement discusses the variety and disorder found in the Athenian democracy. This section is discussing the issue of the use of the ‘lot’ system, and the freedom of opinion and speech. The ‘lot’ system, and the freedom of opinion and speech causes a lot of variety in the polis (Breaugh, Lecture 3). When Plato is referring to disorder, he is referring to the civil unrest involved in the transition to democracy (Breaugh, Lecture 3). Plato might also be referring to the lack of harmony due to the level of freedom that is offered in Athenian democracy (Saxonhouse, 279). The freedom can cause civil unrest due to the differences of opinion presented by a variety of people. The second part of the statement discusses equality within democratic Athens. This section basically discusses the principle of isonomy, which was the core principle of Athenian democracy (Breaugh, Lecture 3). Democracy provides a sort of equality because, in Plato’s view, the different classes of citizens are equal, but only politically, not socially. This also did not apply t...

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...cratic Revolution.” York University, Toronto. 31 October 2011. Lecture 6.

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University, Toronto. 26 September 2011. Lecture 2.

Manin, Bernard. The Principles of Representative Government. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997. Print.

Saxonhouse, Arlene W. “Democracy, Equality, and Eidê: A Radical View from Book 8 of Plato's Republic.” The American Political Science Review 72.2 (1998) 273-283. Web. 21 Oct 2011. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2585663.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Republic.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 18 Oct. 2011. Retrieved from http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/republic.html

Santas, Gerasimos. "PLATO’S CRITICISMS OF DEMOCRACY IN THE REPUBLIC." Social Philosophy & Policy Foundation, (2007): 70-89. Web. 23 Oct. 2011.
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