Plato's Ideas About Philosopher Kings Depicted in Republic Essay

Plato's Ideas About Philosopher Kings Depicted in Republic Essay

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In Plato's most famous work 'Republic' he puts forward the view that only the study of philosophy would allow man to see what was good and just. Therefore to cure the ill's of society it would be necessary to either make kings philosophers or make philosophers kings. I intend to show how Plato justifies this view and then attempt to point out some possible problems with this justification and to forward my own view that 'the people' should ultimately be king.

Plato's starting point was his recognition that justice was one of four cardinal virtues, along with wisdom, courage and moderation, that when working harmoniously together in a high level of order - he felt equalled the elusive 'good life'.
Plato thought that the best way to discover what justice was, was to create a 'perfect soul' - this he did by first creating a theoretical 'perfect city', which would have a good soul and all four virtues. Using the theory that the 'polis is the individual writ large' he intended to compare his perfect city with a perfect person and subsequently evaluate justice.

Plato's perfect city was to be a model of order, efficiency and discipline. Above all it would be governed by the strict adherence to what White refers to as 'the natural division of labour'. This was to take the form of vocational and social division within the city. Everyone had one job in order to specialise and become good at it. 'We forbade our shoemaker to try his hand at farming or weaving or building and told him to stick to his last, in order that our shoemaking should be well done.'
More fundamentally however the city was to be divided into three distinct social classes, in which people would be raised from birth. These classes consisted of the producers, the gu...

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...been replaced by a fierce belief in individualism that is underwritten by a nebulas concept of equality enshrined in individual rights and constitutional checks, perhaps based ultimately on the 'free-for-all' concept of capitalism.

I do not think that the idea of Philosopher-kings would or could have worked in Plato's day, let alone any other since then given the nullifying concepts from Aristotle to Christianity to Capitalism. I tend to agree to some extent with Karl Poppers view that Plato allowed himself to be seduced by the idea (as many others have since) that he (and his theoretical like in the philosopher-kings) were the only ones that could see objectively and so should rule. It is a trap more dangerous, possibly, than any other and democracy (in the modern, rather than Greek sense), its antithesis, is a far safer - if far less than perfect alternative.

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