The text deals at length and often with a great variety of matters which bear on the human condition, but there are matters which would certainly have no place in a modern treatise on politics"
Therefore, it is rather hard to determine the extent to which Plato used this means of communication, the dialogues, to point out to the actual necessities of the society he lived in and the aspects that needed changes. In particular, the arguments he provides from the realities of the time are provided by Plato to merely support his own line of thought related to the philosophical ideas on happiness and justice.
An aspect that firmly relates to the way in which the "Republic" is constructed and that uses the arguments on the ideal state is related to the role the state may have in providing its citizens (here, the term "citizen" must be understood as "the dwellers of the 'polis' and not in the narrow understanding of the Roman Empire use of the word) with the necessary guidance and administrative structure as to ensure that the man lives a good life. This is therefore the connection between Plato's arguments and the state he envisages. In his views the ideal state must provide man with the possibility to improve himself as an individual and the institutions must ensure that this is achieved through education
.The logic connection between the individual, the state, and its rulers lies in the fact that only the worthy ones must be put at the head of the ideal state because only they will know how to make the necessary changes as to ensure that people live good lives through education and knowledge. More precisely, "if the good life is to be lived in a particular society or state, its institutions will have to be framed in such a way as to further this education and this will come about only if those who have the knowledge are put firmly in charge of the machinery of government"
The arguments presented by Plato are somewhat taken from real life experiences but in connection with his main ideas and beliefs related to education and knowledge. The reasoning behind this line of thought is based on syllogisms and on apparent self-contradictions. More precisely, the actual technique of the dialogue implies real or fictional characters that either agree or disagree with the arguments provided and the dynamics of the presentation is therefore increased. The arguments presented in such a manner however present Plato's discontent with the contemporary system of Athens
"This government was in the hands of selfish and ignorant rulers. Keeping these defects in view Plato has drawn a picture of welfare state"
5. Relationship between individual and political community
According to Plato, democracy was not considered the ideal state. The ideal state in fact cannot be applied to any state, past or present particularly because the ideal state in the opinion of the philosopher had to take into account above all the education and knowledge of the individual. This aspect only points out the fact that the actual arguments of Plato's ideal state were only side considerations for a more philosophical view on life which, neither then nor now, do not consider the realities and necessities of the political community or the social one.
The community is not merely an association of independent individuals but rather a live organism that is however dynamic and depends on its components. Yet, in the view of Plato there is a clear distinction between the rulers and the economic power that are part of the political community. However this, in any state, does not represent a viable solution. At that time, Athens was one of the most important commercial points of the European continent and in deep competition with other cities at the Mediterranean
. Such a separation between the powers was not sustainable. From this point-of-view, it is clear that Plato's arguments on the ideal state followed more a philosophical path rather than a political theory structure.
6. Nature of the political authority
The nature of the political authority, in the state envisaged by Plato is the knowledge and the education. As mentioned previously, in order for the ideal state to provide a good life for its population, it must be run by individuals of knowledge and educated in the spirit of Socrates.
The deviation from the ideal state however is justified through the loss of this type of source of political authority. Therefore, in Book VIII, the four forms of government are discussed in detail; the denigration of each of them lies in the loss of the political authority by those that have been educated and knowledgeable in the spirit of the philosophers. More precisely, "the decline of aristocracy -- the rule of the philosophers happens by magic; children are begotten at the wrong time and are unworthy (…) and the next generation is under-educated. Some of them turn towards money making and private property is eventually instituted among the rulers (…) this is timocracy and the next stage, oligarchy is simply an increase in the energy given to money making"
The transformation from the ideal state to democracy and eventually tyranny takes into account, in Plato's terms, the desire for economic gains and for money making. Theoretically, without the proper education of children from the aristocracy and the knowledge of the rulers, the political authority falls in the wrong hands and is corrupted. Therefore, an important aspect that rulers must take into account is the limited access to economic means and an increased attention on education.
The entire work is focused on actually determining the definitions of the values of the human soul. According to Plato's text there are several main virtues of the soul. One of them is being wise. After several considerations and dialogues and argumentations, the conclusion is that a wise person is the one that knows what "good" represents in relation to its own person
Courage is yet another virtue that is important for the human soul and that defines the just person. The absence of courage determines faltering in the face of danger, perils, or pain. A courageous person does not change its attitude in the wake of such challenges.
Moderation is a strong component of the just individual and implies the capacity of the human being to temperate the parts of the soul that would otherwise be in disagreement. Plato defines the parts of the soul as being reason, spirit, and appetite
. If the individual can temperate the urges coming from all three parts of the soul, he is exercising moderation.
Justice in the case of the human being is the consideration of all these virtues into a single soul. Unjust people do not have one of these virtues and are therefore not considered for leadership or ruler.
Plato's the "Republic" is one of the most important philosophical works of ancient times. This assumption is not only made based on the content and value it has for the philosophical spectrum of ideas but also for the dialectical elements of its construction. Although it cannot be considered a traditional treatise of political theory, it touches on aspects that relate to the way in which states can and may be run. Even so, the theories concerning the ideal state cannot be applied at any given moment in the history of civilization. However, the study and debate on the forms of government and the way in which these forms of government degenerate one from another are important contributions to political theory and to understanding certain aspects of political developments.
Notes and Bibliography
Benjamin Jowett, trans. The Republic by Plato. (2003-2012) Online version at http://www.literaturepage.com/read/therepublic.htm
Berstein, Serge, and Pierre Milza. Histoire de l'Europe. (Paris: Hatier, 1994)
Braunstein, Florence, and Pepin, Jean Francois. Les Grandes Doctrines. (Paris: Ellipses, 1998)
Dunleavy, Patrick, and Brendan O'Leary. Theories of the state. The Politics of Liberal Democracy. (London and New York: Macmillan and Meredith, 1987)
Eric a. Havelock, Preface to Plato. (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1963).
I.M. Crombie, an Examination of Plato's Doctrines . (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962).
R.N. Sharma, Plato: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. (New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 1991)
Richard Hare, Plato. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).