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Philosophy: State and Society Assignment 2010

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Philosophy: State and society assignment 2010.

In the republic Plato advocated rule by the philosopher kings. Describe and critically evaluate Plato's rationale for his perfect state. Describe why Machiavelli believed it better to rule by fear than by love. Compare and contrast these two approaches of rule.

In this assignment I will be looking at the two different approaches of Plato and Machiavelli. Both of these philosophers had views and opinions on the best way to rule, there are similarities and differences in both of their approaches. I will start by analysing Plato's approach and then move on to Machiavelli. Plato and Machiavelli are two of the best known philosophers to date. Plato was a classical Greek philosopher and mathematician. He was also a great writer of philosophical dialogues. He was originally the student of Socrates, who he learnt a great deal from. Along with Socrates' and Plato's own student Aristotle Plato went on to lay down foundations on natural and western philosophy. Machiavelli was born in 1469 and died in 1527; he is looked upon as one of the main founders of political science. Machiavelli is most famous for his short political treatise "The Prince." His surname Machiavelli was later used to create the term Machiavellianism. Machiavellianism is a term that is used in politics for when deceitful or cunning tactics have been used. Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher and writer.

Before we can address the question we need to understand what Plato saw as a philosopher. To him a real philosopher was a person who loved knowledge; he called them "wisdom seekers" they were not just interested in opinion or simple sights. They find enjoyment in learning and learn with passion and enthusiasm; they are interested in all learning, and love seeking new knowledge. As they love knowledge they must love learning. They do not nor cannot love parts and not others but all as a whole. They love the entirety of a thing, a being, concept or idea. Plato also goes on to say that only philosophers can have access to the forms and truly understand them.

Plato advocated rule by the philosopher kings. Philosopher kings are hypothetical rulers or guardians of his utopian Kallipolis (Plato's "just city"). But for Plato's "ideal City" to of ever come into being, then kings must be philosophers or philosophers must be kings. Plato divided his just society into three classes: the producers, auxiliaries and guardians or philosopher kings. The producing class is the largest in the society. They are all professions except warriors and rulers. Producers may be; craftsmen, doctors, merchants, artists, lawyers, judges and so on. They do not have any share of power in ruling; they merely obey what the rulers wish. Producers will focus exclusively on the task or trade that they are best suited to. This is the best ay forward for the "City." Auxiliaries are the warriors; they are responsible for maintaining the safety of the city and keeping invaders out. They must ensure that the convictions of the rulers are carried out. One of their fundamental responsibilities is to make sure the producers obey the rulers. Warriors hold a certain amount of power as it is their duty to ensure the behaviour and well being of the rulers. Guardians are also known as philosopher kings. Guardians are carefully selected out of the auxiliaries (the warriors,) they are the rulers of the city. Philosopher kings are the only ones who understand the forms and as a result are the only ones who can attain true knowledge. Truth above all is the most important source of knowledge to the philosopher kings. As of this they are the most just men, and making them the rulers of the city is common sense. Philosopher kings are also the only ones who truly understand the concepts or understanding, belief, thought and imagination. A being can only understand once he has grasped the form of good. If to understand, you must have access to the forms this restricts all other beings except the rulers form every truly grasping it. This is the same for belief, imagination and thought. To understand all of these concepts you must have the knowledge of the forms.

To Plato his world was perfect. It was the ideal way of living and being. However this "perfect" world is far from perfect it has major faults. One class rules another. The lowest class has no sense of power or authority. They are merely there to serve the world. They have no real self purpose, they follow the rules set and if they do not the warriors will make sure they do. This is not a perfect world. It is a world that lacks freedom and individuality. How Plato can argue this is the perfect and just world it ludicrous. How can a world be just when the people that live in it are not equal in any way shape or form.

One philosopher who highly criticised Plato's view was Karl Popper he blames Plato for the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century. (Totalitarianism is a political system that does not recognise any limitations to their power; they try to influence and regulate all parts of human life, publicly and privately.) Popper thought that Plato's philosopher Kings with their great sense of idealism led to the rise of Stalin and Hitler. He highly blamed and criticised Plato for this. Popper thought that it was through Plato that Stalin and Hitler got their ideas from. Hitler in particular with his idea of an Arian race, to him this was perfection and yet led to the downfall and death of thousands if not millions.

One person's idea of perfection is another person's fear and hatred. No one has exactly the same ideas, principles, beliefs. It is these that make us all unique if we all thought the same there would be no individuality; would Plato then, still think his world was perfect? Also how can Plato say it is ok to tell his "people" that they are in a specific trade or class due to the metals in them. Yes in some situations is it necessary to lie to society in order to protect it but this is not protecting them but bending them to Plato's way.

The last criticism I am going to make is about the restriction Plato seems to of placed on the inhabitants of his "just world." How can the world be perfect when the people in it are only supposed to posses or do one specific trait. The workers to work, the reason they have should be put to use on their work. They must not gain the idea that the reason they have could be related to the running of a city as this is the philosophers job. Also the warriors or soldiers are taught that their only rule is to protect and guard the city. How can this city be perfect or just when the people in it are not pushed to be the best they can, their full potential.

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