Plato s arguments against democracy

This regime is ruled by a philosopher kingand thus is grounded on wisdom and reason. The aristocratic state that Plato idealizes is composed of three caste-like parts: Plato envisages for this philosopher a disposition and ability that makes him the ideal governor of any state precisely because his soul knows the Idea of the Good, which is the metaphysical origin of all that is good, including happiness itself. Wealth, fame, and power are just shadows of the Good and provide only hollow and fleeting satisfaction.

The Failure of Democracy Plato is often described as the greatest Western philosopher. Historians like to quote A. It is likely that he served in the cavalry in various campaigns against Sparta. Disgusted by the belligerent and self-destructive policies of his native city, he stayed out of politics and spent most of his time and energy pursuing philosophy.

When Socrates was executed inPlato left Athens. He studied mathematics in the neighboring city of Megara, and then spent a decade or so traveling to various places around the Mediterranean Sea.

When he returned to Athens aroundhe founded what was later described as the first European university, the "Academy. Aristotle, for example, both studied and taught at the Academy before he founded his own school. Plato accepted these invitations because he hoped that the rulers of Syracuse would install the constitution and government that he had designed as part of his innovative social philosophy.

Nothing came of this political ambition, however, and Plato had to content himself with being a teacher of ideas.

From the SparkNotes Blog

The following notes focus on the political and pedagogical ideas of this book. The two political parties or social classes that vied for power in classical Athens, as in most other Greek city states, were the oligarchs and the democrats. The oligarchs tried to establish a state in which only owners of substantial amounts of property could vote and hold public office, while the democrats insisted that all male citizens have the same rights.

Only in and did oligarchs succeed in establishing a government where the few and wealthy ruled over the many and mostly poor. Neither oligarchic regime lasted even as long as a year. But tensions between oligarchs and democrats were always present in Athenian politics.

There was rarely a time when the democrats did not suspect the oligarchs of conspiring against the democracy, or when the oligarchs did not fear hostile encroachments on their privileges and wealth. Commenting on the ever present antagonism between the two classes, Plato notes in the Republic that every city consists really of "two cities that are at war with each other.

In the Athenian oligarchs executed a great number of their democratic opponents, and forced many others into exile. Even in exile death squads and other supporters of the oligarchic regime assassinated particularly popular leaders of the democrats.

But the oligarchic junta of was moderate in comparison with the terror that the oligarchs unleashed when the Spartans, after their victory over Athens, installed them as rulers of the city in Two relatives of Plato, his uncle Critias and his cousin Charmides, were then part of the ruling junta, and they were among its bloodiest and most extremist members.

Their crimes were the reason why Plato declined to become involved in oligarchic politics, even though he was invited by his relatives to do so. The dictatorial rule of the oligarchs eventually became so egregious that the democrats rose up en masse and defeated their oppressors in a series of dramatic battles.

The Spartans withdrew their garrison from the Athenian Acropolis, and democracy was restored. A generous amnesty succeeded in preventing any further bloodshed among Athenians.

Plato s arguments against democracy

Plato was in his early twenties when Athens was defeated by Sparta, and when the second oligarch dictatorship was established. His inclination was to turn his back on politics—it seemed altogether too hopeless a mess. He had no faith in the rule of the rich, nor any confidence in the ability of ordinary citizens to run a city like Athens.

The rich, as he saw, had mostly their special interests in mind, and during the time of their short-lived regimes they had shown to what length they could go to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people.

But the rule by the many was no remedy for the ills of oligarchy, according to Plato, because ordinary people were too easily swayed by the emotional and deceptive rhetoric of ambitious politicians. It was the demos, after all, the majority of ordinary people, who time and again had supported the disastrous campaigns of the Peloponnesian War by their votes, who had condoned numerous atrocities and breaches of the law, and who were also responsible for the questionable trial and execution of Socrates.

Plato s arguments against democracy

Such a retreat into privacy went strongly against the grain of Greek thinking, however. The citizens and inhabitants of Greek city states were generally far too aware of the social base of their personal lives to simply ignore the politics of the community on which they depended in one way or another.

An individual who retreated from politics and public life was called an idiotes--a person who lacks the knowledge and social skills that mature individuals can be expected to posses. In the end Plato could not see himself living a private life of the mind; he felt that he had to make his contribution to the construction of a rational and just society.

Reason and justice, he thought, could not be a matter of personal conduct alone; they had to become attributes of society at large. A rational state of affairs could not come about on the basis of Athenian politics-as-usual, however.

For more than a generation politics-as-usual had produced an incessant series of wars and civil strife. If peace and just conditions were to be secured in the future, an alternative to the limiting choice between oligarchy and democracy had to be found.

A convincing blueprint for such an alternative was the task that Plato set for himself in writing the Republic.

In mapping out the constitution for his utopian society or state, Plato starts out with a schematic description of the human soul. Every soul, according to him, is composed of three parts: In a healthy individual all three parts fulfill their proper function.Plato S Arguments Against Democracy 1.

Democracy is a form of government where people choose leaders through elections and social construct that are based on the equality of everyone within the state. Themes, Arguments, and Ideas Dialogue and Dialectic. The dialogue form in which Plato writes is more than a mere literary device; it is instead an expression of .

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill The discussion of which polity is best goes back to Plato's Republic and Aristotle.

Plato's Arguments against Democracy

Neither one of these men advocated democracy, but they also feared despotism. "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute. The Case Against Democracy Plato, one of the earliest to see democracy as a problem, saw its typical citizen as shiftless and flighty: The second argument against epistocracy would be to.

For a modern reader of the Republic it is not necessary to summarize its author's discussions as an argument against democracy. One can also read the book as a reminder of what would have to be the case for a genuine democracy to function.

A dangerous opponent of democracy? Plato's views in the Republic. By Catherine Osborne Omnibus 26, September , In the Republic Plato compares the nature of the human individual to the members of a state.

Criticism of democracy - Wikipedia