Plato’s Political Philosophy & Ideal State

Introduction

Plato’s political philosophy is a utopian theory where he gives various ideas about constructing an ideal state, namely ‘Kallipolis,’ the best form of government, the ruler, classes within the state, and the proper way to achieve justice in the ideal state.

Best form of Government

According to Plato, the best form of government is ‘absolute monarchy.’ He opposes democracy since ignorant and incompetent politicians can create political instability by their misdeeds. 

State as a Giant Person

Regarding the state as a giant person, Plato compares a state with a living body. He says that a state represents the same features at a large level that an individual represents at a small level.

Three Social Classes

Plato bases his ideal state on three major classes: the guardian, military, and producer classes. He gets inspiration for this social division From Pythagoras’ theory of human nature. Pythagoras classifies human nature in three sections- reason, courage, and appetite.

The Philosopher King

Regarding the ruler, Plato says that a philosopher-king must govern the ideal state as he/she seeks true knowledge outside the senses and does not rely on empirical evidence in terms of epistemology. A philosopher-king is a passionless person and seeker of true wisdom. He/she does not impose cruelty over the people and is never thirsty to impose power. He is the outcome of the platonic educational scheme and thus superior to law.

Equal Right between Genders

There is no distinction between men and women in Plato’s ideal state. Any man or woman can be a philosopher-king. Plato believes that men and women should get equal opportunities for their economic, social, intellectual, and political uplift.

Communism on Ruler & Military Class

Plato suggests that there should be ‘communism’ of wives and property in the ideal state to ensure a better working environment for the ruling class. Both the ruling class and military class cannot possess any private property. They also have no family life to avoid any conflict between family and state loyalties.

Concept of Justice

In Plato’s viewpoint, justice is to provide one with what is due. He wants to compensate everyone according to capability and prohibit interference in one another’s affairs. Therefore, he gives a concept of Federation.

Ban on Poetic Works

In Plato’s ideal state, poets are strictly prohibited because poetic works can lead society away from the truth.

 ‘Poetry is the imitation of imitation.’

Plato believes that the world around us is an imitation of an ideal form. As the poets produced art based on this world, their poetry is twice removed from reality. Thus, Plato bans literature and promotes philosophical knowledge.

Limitations of Plato’s Political Philosophy

Plato’s concepts of communism and justice are contradictory. While the guardian and military class are under communism, the producer class is free from communism; this is not proper justice. Plato fails to provide any constitution for his ideal state. He is also silent about slavery. Plato’s social classes are the outcome of Platonic educational schemes. However, it is impractical because learning capability may vary for various reasons. Also, there is no room for any unique person in Plato’s social class.

Conclusion

Plato’s ideal state is only an idea; it cannot be applied. He tries to create a society based on true wisdom. His concepts are still essential in this modern age. 

 

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