The 5th and 4th centuries B.C represent the classical period of Hellas. Of a galaxy of talent which has immortalized ancient Greece, Plato and Aristotle may be said to be the most outstanding. Plato was born in an aristocratic family and lived at a time when the best days of Athenian democracy were over. He studied for eight years with Socrates and on the latter’s death he traveled, for more than a decade, to Megara, Cyrene, Egypt and Southern Italy. He then founded his Academy and wrote and taught there except for his short visit to Syracuse.

The Megarian and Pythagorean doctrines affected Plato’s receptive mind but the chief source of inspiration for Plato was Socrates. Plato agreed with Socrates in identifying virtue with knowledge. Virtue was knowledge, held Socrates and single virtues were varieties of knowledge. Knowledge moulded and disciplined the will and emotions and virtues like courage, temperance and justice flowed from knowledge. Another Socratic doctrine adopted by Plato is the doctrine of the ideal being the real. This doctrine holds that “reality inheres only in the ideas of things that is in the perfect, permanent, immutable, self-existent entities which underlie the changing and imperfect object of perception, the latter are merely the superficial appearances of things. Plato interpreted and developed this theory and its ethical application in the identification of virtue with knowledge of absolute reality”. Plato held that the world of reality lay embedded in and behind the world of perception. What was real was not a particular concrete table but the table i.e. the abstract idea embodied in the concrete table.

The method of teaching adopted by Socrates gathered round him a number of disciples; the greatest of whom was Plato (427-347 B.C).Like this master, Plato had an instinctive for practical reform of men and affairs. Plato taught in the Academy and like Socrates awakened thought by dialogues. Plato was the friend and counselor of king Dionysius of Syracuse and thus had the opportunity to come into contact with practical politics.

While studying the political philosophy of Plato we must bear in mind that he was deeply affected by the death of Socrates at the hands of the Athenian democracy and disapproved of a good deal in Athenian public and private life. We must also remember that in the best of his dialogues, the republic, Plato tried to portray a state which could be an ideal state from every point of view. Politics, with Plato, therefore, included our modern politics, sociology, much of our ethics and pedagogy and a part of our theology.
It is no easy matter to follow the political philosophy of Plato because all the writings of our philosopher and thirty six of them may more or less safely be ascribed to him are in the form of dialogue and his political philosophy is inextricably woven into his general philosophic speculation. Besides, Plato in his dialogues always uses an analogy and deduces his arguments from that analogy. This makes the understanding of Platonic line of argument and reason very difficult. His writings have a poetic and idealistic tinge.

Plato wrote his dialogue during a period when Greece was subject to a process of decay and disintegration, politically, socially and intellectually due largely to the teachings of the Sophists. He could not remain unaffected, positively or negatively, by the teachings of the Sophists but in the content and form of his philosophy he was essentially Socratic. The very basis of Plato’s philosophy is the Socratic doctrine of reality according to which the reality of a thing inheres, not in its superficial material manifestation but in its idea which is perfect, permanent, immutable and self-existent. Plato also agreed with Socrates in identifying virtue with knowledge. But there is also an essential difference between the master and the pupil as shown by the attitude of the two towards truth. To Socrates, as we have seen, truth was the creature of individual reason. This conception of truth precludes the possibility of there being any abstract principles of truth capable of universal application. Plato, on the other hand, did believe in certain abstract principles representing truth. The chief aim of Plato always was to promote justice and virtue. He entered into political speculation and tried to conjure up his vision of an ideal state because he wanted the state to help in the promotion of these virtues. Only a perfect state could represent the highest development of human virtue and produce the perfect citizen. Following his doctrine of reality, Plato believed that reality belonged not to a man but to the Universal Man or to a corporate whole, the state. The state i.e. the ideal state, therefore, was more real than the citizen or in Aristotelian phraseology, was prior to the man. In his consideration of a form of government best suited to the promotion of justice and virtue it was, of course, inevitable for him to establish a very close connection between politics and ethics. He practically made politics the handmaid of ethics.

Pato’s Works:

From the point of view of the study of the political philosophy of Plato we are mainly concerned with:

  1. The Republic, finished about 386 B.C, and dealing with metaphysics, ethics, education and political philosophy.
  2. The politicus or statesman, finished about 386 B.C and
  3. The laws, published after the death of Plato

 Besides these three dialogues, of which the Republic is by far the most important and most representative of Plato, we have a number of other dialogues, such as the Apology, the Memo, the Protagoras, the Gorgias, the Critias and the Crito etc. the Apology of Socrates represents a splendid  defence of the right of individual conscience. Both the memo and the Protagoras deal with the important question of whether or not virtue is communicable i.e. teachable. Plato believes that virtue, art of statesmanship and proper conduct in life are teachable. The Gorgias represents and attack on Sophists. Plato exposes Sophistic teaching as a mere sham. The Crito inculcates obedience to laws if they do not clash against conscience. Law is the creator of every social relationship. The state has an absolute claim upon the citizens.

The Republic:

The Republic of Plato, written at the virile and ripe age of about forty, is the greatest of all Plato’s dialogues. It represents the acme of Plato’s philosophy and in a way is the centre of his other dialogues. In its sweep, comprehension, perfection and universality of thought, it shows Hellenic philosophy at its best. It gives a picture not of any existing city-state in Greece but of an ideal state in which the apparent weaknesses and shortcomings of the existing states were to be avoided. The platonic ideal was not a creature of imagination but an idea perfected by speculation and logic, experience and test, comparison and criticism.

The Republic lends itself to five natural divisions. (1) Book I and a part of book II are introductory, and deal with representative views about human life and about the nature of justice and of morality. (2) Books II, III and IV concern themselves with the construction of the first state and the first system of education. Plato suggests the best form of human society which would reflect the three elements of human nature i.e. reason, spirit and appetite. Justice is traceable to a society so constituted. (3) Books V, VI and VII are given mainly to the construction of the second i.e. ideal state based on the principles of communism and rule of philosophy. Plato enlightens us on his idea of the Good. (4) Books VIII and IX deal with perversions of the states and of individuals. (5) Book X forms a rather detached part of the dialogue and discusses the relation of philosophy to art and the capabilities and destinies of the human soul. The real importance of the Republic lies in Books II to VI and Book VIII.

The republic is Plato’s masterpiece. It is the crowning achievement of Plato’s art and philosophy’. Like a true Greek that he was, Plato considered justice to be the supreme virtue and in The Republic, he tried to portray an ideal state in which justice should reign supreme. To Plato the state was a magnified individual. The virtues of the individual and of the state were identical. He held ‘that the individual presents almost the same features and qualities as society, on a smaller scale’. The elements of reason, spirit and appetite were common to both and, therefore, his conception of an ideal state ‘is an imitation of the best and noblest life’. In the nature of things, therefore, The Republic is preeminently a treatise on ethics. It is a single treatise of an ethico-political order, treating of man as a member of the state and of the state as a moral community. The Republic represents a protest against the teachings of the Sophists and the existing social and political corruption.

In The Republic, Plato sets to himself the task of analyzing human nature to show that the real foundations of social morality and social organization lie in the very constitution of man. The Republic is an “attempt to interpret human nature psychologically; the postulate upon which its method rests is that all the institutions of society, class organization, law, religion, art and so on are ultimately products of the human soul, an inner principle of life which works itself out in these outwards shapes”. As such the Republic of Plato connects politics with philosophy and shows classical philosophy at its best. It is the parent of idealism in philosophy, in politics and in education.

A practical idealist as he was, Plato believed that his ideal state was not impossible of realization if ‘any place be found suitable for the habitation of philosophers and the growth of philosophy’. He may be called an ideaist rather than an idealist. Though primarily ethical, The Republic is one of the greatest treatises on education. This was but natural since Plato held that virtue was teachable. Though the different topics discussed in The Republic are inextricable, though artistically, interwoven and present an ‘artistic unit’ Plato in this dialogue explains his attitude towards the following main problems:-  

  1. What is justice? What are the principles of right action? What is good?
  2. Since virtue is teachable, what educational system would best promote virtue?
  3. Who is the ideal man? What particular qualities should an ideal citizen possess?
  4. What is the best type of government in which the qualities mentioned above would find their fullest possible development and expression.

Platonic Idea of Right Action:

In the Republic, Plato emphasizes the importance of determing whether or not one man is socially better i.e. more virtuous than another. If one man is more virtuous and, therefore, better than another, then virtue ought to be promoted. This is possible to do since virtue is teachable. What is virtue, asks Plato and replies that it is not good-will since good-will is not enough to make a man virtuous. A will may be good but ignorant and obviously ignorant will cannot be identified with virtue. With the best of good-will in the world, one might do something which is anything but virtuous. Plato says that in order to promote virtue, a man must not only bear the good-will but must have the knowledge of what is right. Plato was very keen on the promotion of ethical virtue because the disorganized Greece of his time had outgrown the need for a theological ethics, which had been thoroughly discredited by the teachings of the Sophists. Plato wanted to make the social life of the Greeks more ethical than it was and the best way of doing that was to lay down general standards of virtue and rules of conduct which would admit of universal application. He wanted people to disabuse their minds of the pleasant notion that what appeared to be right must necessarily be right. Our notions of right or wrong often depend upon our intuitive sense but virtue is based upon knowledge which is a more complex thing than our intuitive sense. Is a thing right because it gives pleasure? No, since it is sometimes pleasant to believe some false news or opinion. Plato pursues the subject further and says that right conduct depends upon one’s conception of good but he does not analyze what is “good”. He guides us just a little by saying that ‘good’ is something on which right action is based, which is teachable and which is not intuitive, but beyond that Plato does not go any further on the positive side. Negatively he admits that ‘good’ is not obedience to custom or command; it is not pleasure; it is not good-will but unfortunately he does not guide us any further.

Plato’s Ideal State:

Believing as he did that the ideal was the real, Plato constructs in The Republic an ideal state. His state was meant to be the state or ‘state as such’ i.e. a type or model for all times and climes. Plato wanted to show what is principle the state ought to be. He wanted to give the idea of the state not worrying about the practicality of the idea. Even as such his ideal state is based partly on Hellenic ideas and institutions. He constructs his ideal state on ht analogy between the individual and the real-state. The human soul consists of the three elements of reason, spirit and appetite, functioning within proper bounds. The state must reflect such a constitution for the state was a magnified individual, the virtues and the constitution of the two being the same. This identification of the state with the individual makes Plato present a number of false or partly fallacious analogies between the two. The constituent elements of the state, unlike those of the individual, are self- existent and have a will of their own. The individual has a conscience but the same cannot be said of the state.’

The object of the ideal state of Plato is the ‘good’ life and Plato lets his imagination pursue this Good which results in the portrayal of what in some of its essential elements is a Utopia. Plato’s portrayal of an ideal state may be compared to an artist’s portrayal of an ideal landscape. Just as an artist is not worried about whether or not the individual features of his landscape are to be found anywhere in nature, similarly Plato was unconcerned about the actual realization of the institutions of his ideal state. Plato’s ideal state is an ideal in the sense that it is an exhibition of what a state ought to be. The ideal state was a reflection of man’s best and noblest self and provided the medium in which man found his best self. Man found his perfection only in the ideal state.

Plato builds his ideal state in three successive ‘waves’. In the first wave he shows that men and women are different in degree only and not in kind. They should have the same education and should partake in the same public function. Plato gives his scheme of education. In the second wave, Plato advocates the abolition of the family on the basis of communism of property and wives. In the thirds wave, he introduces the rule of philosophy. Knowledge is virtue and therefore, the salvation of society depends on government by philosopher rulers.

At the head of the state is a philosopher-ruler who represents reason and therefore, virtue in action. The scheme of education of Plato was calculated to ensure a constant supply of philosopher-guardians and to help every individual to discover his true vocation in life and to excel in it. The communism of property and family among the upper two i.e. the guardian classes, was meant to keep them out of economic and worldly temptations and ambitions so that they could concentrate on their duty to the state. The three classes in the state were the class of philosopher-rulers i.e. perfect guardians representing Reason, the ordinary guardians i.e. auxiliaries representing the element of spirit and the non-guardians i.e. common people reflecting the element of appetite. The other features of the ideal state, besides the rule of philosophy, state-regulated education and communism of property and wives and were functional specialization, equality of men and women and censorship of art.

The Class State:

The introduction of two upper classes in Plato’s ideal state proceeds not only from the principle of specialization of functions based on diverse capacities for diverse functions and excellence of attainment resulting from specialization but also on the principle that the members of the upper two classes are better endowed to attain complete virtue than members of the producing class. Plato believes that guardians are better men. He believes in the essential inequality of men justifying their division into different classes.

Criticism of plato's ideal state:

Plato’s ideal state as portrayed in the Republic contains much that is of abiding interest and universal import but it is also vitiated by a number of defects. In his organic conception and construction of the ideal state Plato sees too much analogy between the individual and the state. He practically identifies the two and this identification leads to confusion. Plato fails to distinguish ethics from politics. Plato’s ideal state is absolute and totalitarian. Based on communism and rule of philosophy it is too collectivistic to allow full freedom for the development of all the various faculties of a human being. Plato in his ideal state fails to take notice of and denounce the vicious institution of slavery. The great mass of the people i.e. the producing or appetite classes are almost completely ignored and are reduced to the status of mere producers of consumable goods. Plato permits the promotion of men of the lowest class to the higher classes of guardians but provides no system of education for this class which might result in such promotion. His men of brass and iron are doomed to remain brass and iron. He overestimates intellect and underestimates character.

Plato’s system violates human nature in its advocacy of communism of property and wives. This communism may become very intolerable and lead to corruption. His system of temporary marriages of guardians is unworkable. Plato’s conception of justice leading to functional specialization would stunt the growth of the individual resulting in the impoverishment of the individual and of the society. Plato assigns to the philosopher-king absolute power untrammeled by law. This monopoly of power of an absolute nature might debase the nature of even philosopher king. It assumes supreme altruism on the part of the all-wise and disinterested guardians and imbecility on the part of others. Both these assumptions are unwarranted. Plato’s rule of philosophy is bound not only to deprive the mass of men in the state of the ennobling influence of participation in civic affairs but to promote discontent in the state.

In his sketch of the ideal state, Plato ignores the most important needs of the community. He does not provide any regular constitution for his ideal state. There is almost a complete absence of rules and laws about appointment of officials, about the institution of law courts and about punishment of criminals.

Platonic Conception of Justice:

The sub-title of the Republic shows the extraordinary importance which Plato attached to justice. Plato saw in justice conceived by himself, the only remedy of saving his beloved Athens from decay and ruin. Nothing agitated Plato’s mind in contemporary affairs more than the amateurish meddlesomeness and political selfishness which was rampant in Athens of his day. Men and classes must be confined to their own specific duties to the state and their selfishness must give place to utter devotion to the state which could only be if justice, conceived by Plato, reigned supreme in the state.

The main argument of the Republic is a sustained search after the location and nature of justice. Plato pursues this discovery with the help of the aporetic method i.e. the method of elimination and that of the large letters leading to the deciphering of the small ones. He discovers and locates justice with the help of his ideal state. He reviews the various theories of justice representing various states in the development of conceptions of justice and morality and finally gives his own.

The theory of justice of Cephalous based on traditionalism and proverbial morality, defines justice as giving to every man what is due to him. This theory is rejected on the basis that it is not of universal application. To restore weapons to a man who has gone mad is not justice, even though theoretically his weapons are ‘due’ to him. Polemarchus elaborates this theory by giving a new meaning to the word ‘due’. He defines justice as consisting in doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies. This theory is also rejected by Socrates who points out that it is not justice that enables you to be good to your friends but knowledge of things that you may not be able to distinguish your true friends from enemies because appearances are often deceptive and that to do harm to anybody even your enemies is against morality and cannot be justice.

To Thrasymachus the Sophist justice is the interest of the stronger and lies in conformity with laws laid down by the sovereign in his own good. Thrasymachus takes up two successive positions and his argument falls into two sections. In the first he emphasizes that justice is the interest of the stronger i.e. the sovereign is just in pursuing his own interest. Socrates points out that if pursuit of self interest is just for one man i.e. sovereign; it is just for others too. Therefore one may obey a law when he must and disobey it in pursuit of his interest when he can. This is an unsound position for society. Besides, Socrates points out that government is an art and that true art looks for the perfection of the material i.e. the governed and not of the artist i.e. the governor or sovereign. Thrasymachus then changes his position and says that injustice is better than justice because the former brings wisdom, strength and happiness. Socrates counters this by pointing out that it is justice that brings wisdom and happiness born of one’s knowledge of one’s limitations. Governors are like shepherds and therefore justice is the interest of the weaker i.e. the governed and not of the stronger i.e. the sovereign.

Glaucon carries on the argument of Thrasymachus and says that it is good to be unjust but bad to suffer injustice. Morality is good because it is useful in securing certain external ends. All advantages are on the side injustice. Man’s actions are based on nature which demands injustice when one’s action are undetected and on convention which demand a reciprocal recognition of rights and counter-rights when one’s action are under detection. Justice is a sort of mean. it is an artificial thing. It is based on fear and is the interest of the weak. Socrates points out that justice is not conventional and external but natural and internal and represents the right condition of human soul.

Plato identifies justice with the help of his ideal state from which justice is inseparable. He discovers justice by using the method of ‘Large Letters’ i.e. the method of solving deeper mysteries with the help of more easily understandable mysteries of a similar kind. Justice resides in the state and is to be identified with complete virtue which is composed of four elements i.e. wisdom, courage, temperance i.e. self-control and justice. Platonic justice consists in the will to concentrate on one’s own sphere of duty and not to meddle with the sphere of others and its habitation, therefore, is in the heart of every citizen who does his duty in his appointed place. Justice is the condition of every other virtue of the state and grows with specialization of functions. The justice of the state is the citizen’s sense of duty. This conception of justice goes against individualism because a man must not think of himself as an isolated unit with personal desires, needs or ambitions but as an integral part of an organic whole. Plato’s justice does not embody a conception of rights but of duties though it is identical with true liberty. Justice is a quality an indispensable quality of moral life. It is the true condition of the individual and of the state and the ideal state is the visible embodiment of justice. The state is the reality of which justice is the idea.

Just as the justice of the state depends upon each class and each individual in the state performing its or his duties properly, similarly the justice of the individual demands that each of the three elements in the individual soul i.e. reason, spirit and appetite keep within their proper bounds.

To Plato, complete justice postulates an ideal state and is identifiable with it. Justice, like the ideal state, therefore, demands division of society into three classes representing the elements of reason, spirit and appetite, one man, one work, on the basis of functional specialization, a state-regulated scheme of education, the rule of philosopher-rulers and their emancipation from domestic and economic worries by a system of communism and emancipation of women and their equality with men. Plato’s conception of justice has in it the principles of a social scheme and social justice. Plato’s concept of justice is based on the submergence of the individual in the society. It does not concede the notion of individual versus the state. It refers to the ‘whole’ duty of man and not merely his ‘legal’ duties. It is based on the division of society into various professional classes.

 Plato’s conception of justice is very novel for what it includes and what it omits. It is abased on self-control and self-abnegation of the individual in the interests of the society. It is conceived in moral and not in legal terms. It has no legal sanctions behind it and yet it makes too much of a demand on the individual’s devotion to the society. It is a system of duties and not of rights of the individual and yet the two must always be correlated in a healthy society.

Plato’s concept of justice does not provide for individual and class interests. It envisages a dull uniformity and harmony of social life. It is based on the conception of one man, one work and leads to functional specialization. It ignores the evil of functional specialization which does not sufficiently realize and properly provide for the ‘whole’ of human personality. It stunts the growth of the individual and thereby impoverishes the society. It is based on the unwarranted assumption that a man is all ‘appetite’ or all ‘reason’. It compels every individual to live on one-third of his total self.

Plato’s justice gives a monopoly of political power to the philosopher-ruler and makes too much of a demand on his altruism, based as it is on a system of communism of property and condemns his to that position throughout his life. It is too subjective and does not issue in an objective law for the guidance of the people.

Criticism of platonic justice:

Plato’s conception of justice is in moral and not legal terms. It makes too much of a demand on an individual’s devotion to the state. It is a system of duties and not of rights of the individual and yet the two must always be correlated in a healthy society. It does not provide for clash of individual and class interests. Based on the conception of one man, one work, it does not provide for the proper development of the individual and therefore of the society. It gives a monopoly of political power to the philosopher-rulers and makes too much of a demand on their altruism. Based as it is on a system of communism, it ignores the essentials of human psychology. Plato’s conception of justice is static. It assigns a man a particular position in life and condemns him to that position throughout his life.

Platonic Idea of Citizenship:

From the point of view of political speculation we are vitally concerned with Plato’s quest after the attributes of an ideal citizen. What qualities should a citizen possess in order to do his duty by the state and help to make the state an ideal one? Plato is on firmer ground here and is more definite in his answers. He tells us that an ideal citizen must possess the following virtues:

  1. Physical beauty
  2. Intellectual keenness
  3. ability and passion for knowledge and quick wit
  4. perception of beauty
  5. hatred of vice for a life of vice renders a man unfit for duties of the state
  6. Quality of a certain divine madness after the fashion of Socrates – certain originality – the capacity to contribute one’s own point of view to the general discussion of a problem.
  7. The true citizen will – the older and wiser an ideal citizen becomes, the more time he spends on the contemplation of good.
  8. Love for one’s fellowmen. This was, however, limited to the Greeks, and was not meant for the barbarians.

His System of Education:

Platonic justice demands for its realization proper intellectual and material environment. A man must in a spirit of devotion to the state give his best to the state in his own particular station in life. Plato believed that a state-regulated system of education could best create that spirit of devotion and that excellence in the performance of public duty which was demanded of every citizen. Public education was therefore a direct corollary of Platonic Justice. To Plato, education did not mean the storing up of external knowledge but the bringing of the soul into proper environment for its development. The eye must be turned to the light. Education, whose object is to create right surroundings and environment, is a life-long process. Plato believed in the perfectibility and plasticity of human nature.

Plato believes that the true life of an ideal citizen is a life of discipline a life of contemplation of fundamental things of life, one of loving truth for its own sake. He is refreshingly first modern in some of his views. He is a true and possibly the first feminist because he lays down emphatically that the qualities of citizenship which he has enumerated would cover women too. He makes mention of women supervisors for his ideal city-state. Here he was in diametric opposition to the other Greek thinkers.

Plato believed the functions of the state to be very positive. The state could promote justice and right action and prevent crime by providing mens sana in corpore xano, which could be done by a proper system of education, intellectual and physical. To Plato, therefore, education was the most important function of the state and the department of education the most important of state departments. Plato attached more importance to education than either Aristotle or any other Greek thinker did. First among human things i.e. reckon education of Antiphon would as soon have come out o Plato's lips. In outlining his system of education, Plato took his inspiration from Sparta rather than his own city-state, Athens. He disliked the lack of organization in Athens and declared that as in Sparta the educational system should be under the direct and strict control of the state. His system of education was more disciplinary than that of any other Greek educationist. It applied to both men and women. Education culminated in the realization of the Idea of Good. Education was calculated to promote justice and to enable a man to fulfill his duty. Plato, therefore, held that the function of education was to make a man, or a woman for the matter of that socially and economically useful and fit.

The Platonic course of education was systematic and progressive. In childhood, the important thing was not so much the imparting of knowledge as the cultivation of a certain type of attitude towards things and men. In youth, education should be both physical and intellectual. Here came in music for the soul and gymnastics for the body. In the last i.e. the adult stage, education was to be general and vocational. Education must help the individual to discover his or her true vocation in life.

Plato's plan of education is a state-controlled system of compulsory education for both sexes. His system comprised of:

  1. Elementary education up to the age of seventeen or eighteen. There is to be general education in music and gymnastics and also in the elements of sciences. The Greek music included all cultural subjects including poetry which Plato would have expunged of bad elements that falsify gods or impair courage or induce intemperance.

  2. From seventeen or eighteen to twenty, there is to be exclusive training in gymnastics.

  3. Higher education for members of both sexes was to be given on selection after an elimination test and was meant for members of the guardian classes. It extended from twenty to thirty-five. This period was divisible into two parts i.e. twenty to thirty and thirty to thirty-vive. In the fist young persons were to be helped to choose their true vocations in life and get trained in them. There was to be a systematic scientific course. Dialectical power must be developed. Military training must also be given. At the age of thirty, a second elimination test would follow. Those passing this test would be the perfect guardians and will get a further five years' course of training in Mathematics, Astronomy and Logic. Emphasis is to be laid on dialectics. Higher education was to be in effect professional. Plato's emphasis is on Arts in the first stage, on Sciences in the second and on philosophy in the third or last stage.

Books II and III of the Republic deals with Platonic education which represents a compromise between Spartan organization and Athenian individualism. Platonic system of education anticipates many modern theories of education. It was calculated to promote harmonious development of the individual and of the society. It is not burdensome and is designed to bring about the progressive arousing of the latent faculties in the individual. It provides for the body as much as for the soul by laying due stress on the practical and the theoretical. If Plato will not give equal education to all, his system allows equal initial opportunity for education to all. It was a life-long process, for after retirement from public service an individual was to concentrate on the realization of the Ideal of the Good.

The system of education detailed above was calculated to create the ruling class. "The fundamental political idea in the Republic is the doctrine that governing authority must be associated with the broadest knowledge and culture that the philosopher should be the statesman". Plato laid particular emphasis on the proper education of the guardians because he believed, with Aristotle that the class of guardians i.e. the ruling class is the state. A guardian must be properly trained so that he 'unites in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength'. Only a perfect type of guardians could create a perfect state. Plato therefore, recommended for his guardians a life of a sort of military monasticism.

General Remarks and Criticism:

Plato's plan of education recognizes the division of human soul into the three elements of appetite, courage and reason and is calculated to bring about the development of all the three by creating a right environment for such a development. It is a scheme of education which is co-extensive with life. The media of education are the things and institutions which the human soul has evolved in its progress i.e. arts, sciences and philosophy, etc. the most original part of Plato's scheme of education is the higher education to be given between the ages of 20 and 35.

Though Plato does not specifically exclude the lowest class from his system of education, his system is obviously meant for the guardian classes and does not, therefore, represent a well-rounded system. It ignores the lower classes which represent an overwhelming part of the population of the state even though Plato would promote men of iron and brass into silver and gold classes. It appears that Plato had contempt for manual workers compared to intellectual workers. Not having received any education, the lower class people are not fit to rule. Thus Plato strikes at the roots of democracy. Plato's system is calculated to produce citizens of a particular pattern. His education will create an ideal philosopher more than an ideal man of action. Plato does not sufficiently realize that education should be relative to the character of the individual. His system does not admit of sufficient diversity of intellectual development which alone can tone up the character and caliber of the society. Plato minimizes the influence of literature and exaggerates that of mathematics on the mind of the individual.

Plato's Theory of State:

Plato builds up his theory of state on the essential identity between the individual and the state. The state is to him a magnified individual and the virtues of both are identical. The state is a combination of individuals who by their combination produce an organic whole which is different from its constituent parts. The state is an organism with an individuality of its own and therefore a life of its own. Plato believed with the German idealists that the state represented the highest manifestation of human virtue. The institutions of the state reflect the ideas of the individuals and their moral principles. A human soul may be divided into the three elements i.e. desire of appetite, reason and spirit. Corresponding to these three elements the state has its economic element i.e. workers and artisans etc its philosophic element i.e. the governing class and its martial element i.e. the soldiers. This gives us Plato's psychological theory of state.

The philosopher gives us an economic theory of the origin of the state too. He knows as we do that the wants of the individuals comprising a community are multifarious. Every body cannot meet all his wants and desires for lack of time and capacity. Everybody for instance wants a certain minimum of food, a certain minimum of clothing and a certain minimum of housing accommodation. To satisfy these minimum requirements a large number of commodities are required which is ordinarily beyond the capacity of an individual to prepare for himself. This gives rise to a desire and necessity of cooperation between individuals. The first element in the formation of the state, therefore, is the economic motive. People come together and form an economic system for the satisfaction of human needs. But they are quick to learn the advantages of specialization. Some people have better aptitude for and therefore show greater efficiency in certain things and directions. This makes for specialization among workers. But the workers can satisfy only the economic needs of the people. Men cannot live by bread alone. There is something more than the satisfaction of economic needs and that is the satisfaction of the urge to preserve and expand. This gives rise to a class of people who specialize in fighting. Lastly must grow a class of people who are fit for political speculation and who specialize in the art of governing the people. Plato in short believes that the state originated because of the necessity of economic cooperation and that functional specialization in the state took its cue from the three human faculties of appetite, spirit and reason, creating the three different classes of workers, soldiers and philosophers. Wisdom is the virtue of the ruling class, courage that of the soldiers while the virtues of the state are justice, wisdom, courage and self control.

 Functional Specialization:

The ideal state of Plato is conceived in terms of functional specialization on the part of individuals and classes. The Socratic view that knowledge was virtue led to the Platonic doctrine of specialization of functions, besides amateurish inefficiency in Athens and the efficiency of the professional soldier pointed to the necessity of specialization. Plato's theory of functional specialization was based on the reciprocal needs of human beings and the necessity of division of labour. The needs of an individual are multifarious and he cannot meet all of them for lack of time and capacity. There must, therefore, be economic cooperation and mutual exchange of services based on specialization of knowledge and functions.

Plato's theory of functional specialization is a direct corollary of his conception of justice which means the efficient performance by the individual of his allotted task in society and which involves the division of workers, soldiers and rulers. Plato believed that division of labour, specialization of functions and interchange of services led to harmony and unification of the state by removing the cause of struggle between individuals and classes. If the task of ruling is given to a class of specialists, there would be no incentive for political disorder and revolutions on the part of the untrained demos.

Evils of Functional Specialization:

 Plato commends the division of the state into different classes on the basis of functional specialization. Specialization does conduce to efficiency and speed and therefore is a good thing but Plato in his love of specialization of functions did not pay proper heed to the following:

He did not sufficiently realize the wholeness of a human being. The personality of a man is a complex whole and is not capable of rigid division into water-tight compartments. Many men are endowed with all the three human faculties of appetite, courage and reason and desire to exercise them. If every individual is condemned to the narrow limits of performing one function only he cannot properly develop his personality and realize the fullness of his life. The consequent loss is not only personal but of the whole community. Functional specialization makes one sacrifice the all-round view of an amateur for the specialized knowledge of a professional. What ought to be aimed at is the combination of the viewpoints of an amateur and an expert which is impossible under the Platonic system and which makes the British constitution of today the best many good constitutions. The Platonic system of functional specialization would tend to divide the state into so many bureaus and the system itself would degenerate into a bureaucratic system with all its concomitant evils.

In the platonic system the governmental powers are given to one class of people, the philosophers only. This means that the state at its highest level will become identical with one section of the community i.e. the thinkers. Now, if political power is to be definitely assigned to the thinkers, to the exclusion of other classes of the people, the ruling class is bound, human nature being what it is, sooner or later, to identify the public interest with its own class interest. You can never have a purely disinterested altruistic class of people to govern a state for a long time. The identification of class interests with public interest on the part of the ruling class is sure to create resentment and discontent in the state resulting in disorders, anarchy, political revolution and the overthrow of the whole system of government.

The largest measure of common good in a state can only be brought about by the cooperation of the largest number of people making their mental and physical contributions for the general welfare. This would not be possible under the Platonic state-system based on rigid specialization. Plato in his ideal polity concentrates on the ruling class i.e. philosophers and comparatively ignores the other classes. His system is, therefore, lop-sided.

Plato on the Rule of philosophy:

Books V and VI of the Republic bear on the rule of philosophy. "Until philosophers are kings or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, cities will never have rest from their evils". This sums up Plato's views regarding the government of the ideal state. The government must be associated with knowledge and the only true knowledge was philosophy. The philosophers must rule because then alone there could be an end of political selfishness and political incompetence. A philosopher alone can think of his office not as an opportunity but as a sacred duty. A philosopher can properly comprehend all time and all existence. He searches for absolute Beauty beyond all beautiful things, absolute Good beyond all good things. He loves truth and can see the unity of all knowledge. He knows what is justice and beauty and temperance and uses this knowledge to mould the character of those over whom he rules. "He has the noblest gifts of nature and makes the highest use of them". He has no room for covetousness. He is just and shows due proportion in all things. Such a nature comes from the study of metaphysics, higher mathematics and from contemplation of the Good. Good was best realized by people who lived it and Plato conceived of his philosopher as living this good.

Plato's Classification of Governments – The Philosopher King:

The spiritualism of Plato in building up his ideal state in the Republic led inevitably to the conception of ideocracy. Plato like Socrates or like Calvin liked an 'aristocracy of intellect' but his best preference was for a philosopher king. The inequality of mankind necessitates a government and the regime of law but the laws are less flexible than the wisdom of a philosopher. With a philosopher king the laws would be the dictates of reason and his discretion would be better than inflexible laws. Plato' philosopher king would be above laws and above selfishness. A philosopher king is a true statesman and his monarchy is the best form of government. A philosopher king should be no more burdened with laws than a medical practitioner with medical rules. Plato was therefore, in favour of the absolute monarchy of a philosopher king. Justice was the cornerstone of the Platonic state. Justice to him was knowledge in action. A philosopher king would represent this knowledge in action and therefore embody in himself justice the highest political virtues. Justice lines in rendering to a man his 'due'. The philosopher king would render to every man his due and not the due of a non-existent average man which the law provides for.


The philosopher king was to be absolute in the sense that his rule could not be trammeled by any written laws but this absolutism was not unlimited. He may be free from written laws but he was not free of all restraint. He must respect the fundamentals of the society and of the state which he must not radically alter in a hurry and at his own will. These fundamentals relate to:

  1. Regulation of wealth and poverty in the state
  2. The size of the state
  3. The rule of justice and
  4. The system of education.

Plato shows a sane conservatism by reducing even his philosopher king to the position of the agent of a fundamental social order.

Criticism of plato's classification of Governments - The Philosopher King:

Plato's conception of the rule of philosophy or ideocracy goes against the spirit of democracy, equality and liberty. It assigns sovereign power to persons one or few instead of to law and is bound to degenerate into enlightened tyranny. Plato grants the monopoly of political power to the philosopher king or to the aristocracy of intellect and yet his scheme of education is one more likely to create men of ideas than of action. A study of abstract mathematics, dialectics or logic will not do in the hard practical affairs of life. A philosopher given to abstract thinking is likely to lose touch with the realities of public life and introduce harmful changes in public institutions. He may not be fitted to take decisive action in moments of crisis. His eccentricity may lead to unpopularity and civil commotion in the state. Untrammeled by laws he may be arbitrary and may even identify his own with public interests. His monarchy of a philosopher king, not based on law is apt to degenerate into an 'enlightened' tyranny. By insisting on the supreme authority of the wise, Plato reduced the mass of the people to the status of political robots which was not healthy for the society.

Plato does not propose for his philosopher ruler any study of law or finance or military tactics. Abstract sciences like mathematics or dialectics are no preparation for a man of action which a philosopher ruler has to be. What a philosopher ruler needs to know is not what is good in abstract but what is good for different individuals and different conditions of society. The experience of history shows that philosopher rulers have failed and have brought more misery to those entrusted to their care than good.

Plato's Communism:

Plato's ideal stat represents a new social order in which the upper two classes live in a state of special regimentation. Representing the elements of reason and spirit, they are made to renounce the element of appetite. This is done through a system of communism of property and family advocated by Plato which was not wholly without local Hellenic support, institutional and ideological. There was touch of communism in Sparta as shown by the institution of common-messing out of private lands. Wives were 'lent' by husbands to others for state purposes. In Crete there was public tilling of public estates. In Athens, during the 5th century B.C., the communistic theories definitely appear showing a distinct tendency to idealize the ancient nature people who held things in common. Euripides in his Protesilaus advocated communism of wives. Plato's communism of property and wives had psychological as well as practical basis. The communism of wives was brought about in two waves, the emancipation of women and reform of marriage.

 To Plato, the community is whole was everything, the individual apart from the community nothing. He divided the community on the basis of functional usefulness. A citizen was a to perform the duty for which he was best fitted and no other. He had to, merge himself in the state and render the greatest possible service to the state. The state was his raison d'etre. The collectivism of Plato almost completely ignored state the individuality of the citizen, who was just a part of the state and whose functions were the functions of the state. He was to be allowed neither the opportunity nor the incentive to do anything besides serving the state. He must not have any interests other than those of the state. Hence, he was not to be allowed to collect private property. A desire to have personal property, it was feared, would lead to he entertainment of personal ambitions, and would bring about a clash between an individual's personal interests and those of the state. To avoid this clash and bring about perfect harmony in the state Plato advocated communism. Communism would destroy the false notion of self as an isolated unit and replace it by a conception of a self as a useful and integral part of a social whole. The theoretical basis of Plato's communism is furnished by his conception of the state as an organism and of justice as the duty of performing usefully and thoroughly one's allotted part. His communism was "a material and economic corollary of the spiritual method" of Plato to regenerate the state.

Unlike modern communism, Plato's communism was a means to a spiritual end for instead of demanding equal division of material goods, it demanded equal abnegation of material goods. It was negative in conception and was a necessary corollary of his conception of justice. Plato's communism affected the ruling classes and not the producers of economic goods as does modern communism. It was meant for the guardians i.e. the rulers of the state the philosophers and the fighters more for the former than the latter. Plato had given the philosopher guardians the monopoly of political power and he was too shrewd not to realize that unless they were denied private property and the consequent economic power, the combination of the two sorts of powers, political and economic would demoralize even his philosophers. Reason, without communism may be impaired or overpowered by appetite.

Plato advocates communism of property for the guardian rulers for the reason that the union of political and economic power in the same hands is fatal to political purity and efficiency. Such a union would demoralize even his philosopher rulers. The guardians were entrusted with the exceptional function of ruling and must submit to exceptional regulations. Plato's communism is aristocratic in conception and demands abnegation from only the best in the community. It is for and not by the whole community. It applies only to the two upper classes and does not apply to the appetitive class which restrains its private property. Plato's system, therefore, does not affect the economic structure of society and allows the old individualist system of production. The guardians are partners in renunciation and abnegation. They have no private property, no lands and no houses of their own. They live in common barracks and have a common public mess.

Plato believes that private family postulated property and therefore communism of property made necessary the abolition of the private family among guardians. He builds up his communism of wives on the basis of:

  1. Emancipation of women, and
  2. Reform of marriage

Women must be brought out into public life. They must be properly educated for the service of society. The old system of private and permanent marriages must be replaced, among the guardians by one of temporary marital unions. There is an essential difference between Plato's communism of property and of wives. In the case of property, there is common renunciation, while in the case of wives and children there is common ownership.

Plato ruled out the individual family for the guardians. The family system and the family feeling to him were the cause of personal ambitions and restricted feelings and militated against the cultivation of esprit de corps in the community. He would allow no such things as father, mother, children etc. there was to be no permanent marriage in the ruling class. Proper representatives of the opposite sexes were to be selected by the state for securing a proper type of children. Undesirable children were to be 'exposed' i.e. destroyed. Plato was thus not only the first advocate of systematic communism but the first eugenist. In Plato's system there was to be no family among the guardians and therefore, no family messing. Plato was convinced that not only a proper system of education but proper environment and habitation were necessary to produce and maintain uncorrupted his all important guardians. Hence he advocated community of wives and property. Plato strangely enough never discussed the possibility of the practical realization of his system of communism.

Criticism of Plato's Communism:

Plato's advocacy of the abolition of private property and private family ignores the essential psychology of human nature. In all ages and all places men, of all classes, have needed a certain minimum of private and personal property through which alone they could best develop and express their individuality. Private property has the sanction of time and utility and its abolition represents a reaction to primitivism. Plato's communism goes against human freedom and equality kills diversity and leads to excessive centralization. It does not touch the lower classes and is at best half communism. It represses the instinct of acquisition and would lead to indolence. Plato's communism ignores the appetitive class and does not therefore represent a systematized whole. As such it cleaves the society into two groups of the propertied and the property-less. It is negative in character and does not aim at the material well-being of the society as does modern communism.

Communism of wives ignores the fundamental sex and paternal instincts and is unworkable. The individual is as much individual as he is a 'political animal'. The sense of public duty cannot kill except in a few abnormal cases the racial, maternal and paternal instincts. To expect an individual to crush these instincts is to make too much of a demand on his devotion to the state. Private family is an institution of civilization. Plato's system ignores the healthy influences of heredity and family environment. Plato emancipates women only to condemn them to the 'masculine' life of public duty. Breeding for the pubic on a system of temporary marriages reduces women to the position of stud animals. Of course some would say that the Platonic system of selection of mates by the state is good from eugenic point of view. But is it? It is extremely doubtful if it can create a race of intellectual, moral and physical giants by state-controlled mating! Parentless children are likely to be fondling and poor specimen of humanity.

Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Communism:

Plato's communism of property and family has been severely criticized by his more practical disciple, Aristotle to whom communism leads to excessive unification and destroys the richness and variety of life. Unity in diversity rather than in dead uniformity is the right thing. Common property would destroy the sentiments of charity and benevolence. True unity should be brought about by proper education and not through communism. Plato's communism divides the society into two halves. Communism of wives will lead to disharmony as also incestuous love. It may lead to unholy acts against near relatives. State regulation and selection of proper mates is not an easy task. Common children are bound to be neglected and humanity will be the worse for this neglect.

Plato's Classification of Governments:

In the Republic Plato outlines the changes in the form of government in a state. He assigns reason for the change of government from one form to another. The changes taking place according to a process of rotation. He classifies governments into five different types. "come now, as a judge who pronounces after considering all so do you tell me who according to your opinion is the first as to happiness and who second and the rest in order they being five in all the Regal the Ambitious, the Oligarchic, the Democratic and the Tyranic". The first and last represent the rule of one, the second and the third the rule of a few and the fourth the rule of many. The first i.e. the monarchial form is the best type of government if the state has a philosopher king animated with the spirit of justice. This in time gives place to Timoarchy in which the rulers are more influenced by honour than justice. Next comes oligarchy when a few wealthy men seize all political power and use it in the interests of their own class. This creates discontent in the minds of the many who overthrow oligarchy seize power and establish a democracy. When there is a democracy people abuse liberty and create a state of anarchy when one man rises puts down disorder and establishes his own  irresponsible and selfish rule called tyranny. While Plato considered tyranny to be the worst form of government he disliked democracy too for in a democracy "insolence is termed breeding, anarchy liberty, waste magnificence and impudence courage". Besides he had amply witnessed the abuses of democracy in his city-state, Athens. To the ideal of equality he opposed that of harmony.

Plato on Democracy:

Athenian democracy in the days of Plato had degenerated into mob-rule where selfish individualism ran riot. The politically untrained and uninitiated multitude held the reins of the government. Law and conventions gave place to license and society to the individual. Justice became the interest of the stronger. Personal ambition and factious spirit polluted pubic life. This mobocracy reacted adversely on the sensitive mind of Plato which was further embittered by the execution of Socrates. Plato, an aristocrat by birth saw the progressive ruin of Athens under democracy. He identifies democracy with individualism and social dissolution. He refers to democracy as a system that grants equality to equals and unequal alike. Real equality would dispense not equal rights to all but equal rights for equal capacities. To Plato, a democrat is given to vain conceit. He mistakes modesty for silliness, temperance for unmanliness, equality for insolence and anarchy and license for liberty. Plato's denunciation of democracy is understandable because he believes in the rule of trained intellect but he fails to realize the virtues of democracy. He does not properly realize the educative value of popular participation in public affairs. He minimizes the sound commonsense of the demos.

Plato and Marxism:

Plato's theory is based on two postulates i.e.

  1. That the government is necessary fro any organized social life, and
  2. That the function of government must be left to a small aristocracy of intellect and virtue.

Marxism believes in the slow 'withering away' of the state and therefore does not agree with the first postulate of Plato. It reverses the second postulate of Plato by substituting the dictatorship of the proletariat for the aristocracy of intellect. Plato's third class was not the proletariat because it included the capitalists as well as workers.

Individual and the State:

Plato cannot be accused of having sacrificed the individual altogether for the sake of the state. It is only the microscopic minority of the guardians whom he makes merge themselves in the state. He does not call upon the mass of the community belonging to the producing classes to efface themselves for the state. In fact, it is for the good of the mass that he would sacrifice the guardians who stand for the state. He thus conceives of the good of the subjects to be identical with the good of the state. He demands the sacrifice of the ruler and not of the subject.

Plato on the Idea of the Good:

Plato holds that the philosopher ruler must know the idea of justice and beauty and temperance. Ultimately he must know the idea of which all these are phases i.e. the idea of the Good. It is the realization of the idea of the Good which enables a philosopher to know the need of all doing and all being. The idea of the Good is the source of all truth of knowledge, beauty and of moral goodness. It is the source of all knowledge as well as the highest object of knowledge. It illumines the intelligible world. Its apprehension by the soul is knowledge, its indwelling in the soul is virtue, its shining forth to the soul through the medium of sense is Beauty and its manifestation in the state is justice.

The Politicus or the Statesman:

If the Republic of Plato is preeminently a treatise on ethics and education, his Statesman is preeminently one on politics. Though still an idealist, conjuring up the vision of an ideal state, he is more of a practical idealist in the Statesman than he is in the Republic. He is more logical and exact. In the Statesman, Plato tries to enunciate his views on:-

  1. What a man ought to be and do if he is to rule?
  2. What is the part played by politics and political science in education?

Plato held that politics must aim at educating people in virtue and justice.

Classification of Government on the basis of Law:

Plato shows the distinction between the theories of government and the art of government. He also declares that an ideal ruler is not a mere administrator or a politician. An ideal ruler must be a real philosopher. Plato believes that the duty of an ideal philosopher ruler is not to administer the state but to make men adopt the ideal standards of good and justice and that a ruler and a state is good or bad according as this is or is not accomplished. If the ruler is a philosopher the law is useless. He must not be restrained by law but since such an ideal ruler is a rare individual law which embodies practical wisdom and experience of the past is necessary. Making law and its necessity the basis, Plato gives a new classification of government in the Statesman. There are six kinds of government according as the rule is in the hands of one, few or many as under:-

Governments directed by law

Governments not directed by law

1. Rule of one – monarchy

1. Rule of one – Tyranny

2. Rule of few – aristocracy

2. Rule of few – oligarchy

3. Rule of many – moderate democracy

3. Rule of many – extreme democracy

In the classification given above, Plato holds that the rule of one i.e. monarchy is best from the point of view of the good of the people in a law-governed state but a monarchy is subject to a perversion to tyranny which is the worst form of government. The rule of few on both sides i.e. aristocracy, where a small number of the ablest men devote themselves to the service of the state and its perversion, oligarchy where a small number of rich people rule in their own interests, holds an intermediate position. The rule of the many i.e. democracy is the worst in a law-directed state because it represents the rule of an average man who is incapable of political speculation but because of its inefficiency and inherent weakness, democracy is the best form of government in a state which is not governed by law.

The Laws

Plato's Modified Communism:

Plato is even more practical in the Laws than he is in the statesman. Since it is difficult to have a real philosopher to rule the state in the ideal way, laws are necessary and therefore Plato sketches out a legal system to help, guide and restrain the imperfect governmental machinery. The Laws represents an attempt to discover a practical system of government. With advancing years and maturer judgment the idealism of Plato is giving place to practical wisdom. The Laws is shorn of much of the idealism of the Republic and the Statesman. Experience has forced Plato to modify his view about many things especially his communism of property and family life are indispensable human institutions though even now he does not give them an unqualified support. Both private property and marriage are to be allowed but under strict state supervision. The state control of the educational system is to be far less strict than in the case of the Republic. Plato however, is in favour of establishing a censorship over the 'intellectual and artistic interests of the citizens'. The only real restriction on marriage is with a view to preventing the perpetuation of really bad types of humanity. Women were to receive the same education as men and were allowed to take part in public affairs but unlike the Republic, they were now not entirely free from domestic duties.

Wealth and Political Power:

In the Laws Plato allows wealth to share with intellect and philosophy the monopoly of political power. This wealth, however, must come from land since commerce is still taboo. The ideal state, therefore, was to be based preeminently on agriculture but the state was to limit the amount of land in the possession of individuals. Offices in the state would depend on agricultural wealth. The population was to be divided into four classes on the basis of wealth in land. At the bottom of the scale a class of people was to be allotted a definite area of land produce from which would just enable men belonging to that class to maintain life. In the case of this class only the right of existence was recognized. The three higher classes were to hold double, treble and four times respectively, the landed property assigned to the lowest class. If, however any member of any particular class had more landed property than was assigned to his class, the state was to confiscate the surplus. This was because Plato held that the greater the difference in the possession of wealth the lesser would be the harmony of interest between the rich and the poor and therefore, the greater would be the corruption and inefficiency in the state. It may be said that if in the Laws Plato registers a retreat from his early communism, it is not a full retreat. Instead of a complete abnegation of property as advocated in the Republic he now proposes division of land with proper safeguards against concentration of property.

Administrative Machinery with proper Checks:

In the Laws, Plato suggested a number of useful checks on the vices of different forms of government. Every citizen was to be allowed to have his share in the government of his state according to his ability to do so. The machinery of government with necessary checks which Plato proposed was as follows:

The supreme authority in the state was to be vested in a board of 37 whose members were to be men between the ages of fifty and seventy. Old age was calculated to bring experience and stability with it. These men were to be the guardians of law and were to be chosen by election. The functions of this board were supervisory. There was to be an administrative council of 360 appointed to execute the orders of the board of 37. Men belonging to the second class from the bottom in the list of classification, based on possession of land were to be appointed to the administrative council and were to be chosen by a combination of election and lot. There was to be a sort of jury system in which every citizen of either sex could take part. There was to be ultimately a council of ten to ensure the proper and smooth working of the whole constitution, to watch the proper execution of laws and to prevent unconstitutional laws being proposed. This council of ten was to be assisted and advised by:

  1. A council of twenty priests known for their virtue and
  2. A council of twenty young men to counteract the senile conservatism of the older men.

A close study of the Laws makes it clear that though Plato still aimed at the creation of an ideal state, he took proper count of the facts and figures around him. While in his earlier works he took his inspiration from Sparta and her institutions, in his later years he tried to amalgamate what was best in the Spartan constitution with what was best in his own city-state, Athens.

The Hellenic and the Universal in Plato:

The political theory of Plato is not only based on contemporary Hellenic ideas and institutions but has a good deal in it of what is of universal import. The superstructure of the Platonic state is in general sympathy with Lycurgean institutions. Plato admires and adopts the organization of educational system of Sparta. In Sparta as in the Republic the governing class confines itself to the work of government and the individual is sacrificed to the state. Many of the Platonic ideas given in the Republic such as ban on silver and gold, common messing, military training of the youth including women hatred of trade and usury, equality of sexes and exposure of weak children are Spartan in origin. Plato's abstention from denouncing slavery shows how typically Hellenic he was. In the Laws, Plato borrows from contemporary Athens more than from Sparta. The constitution given in the Laws is closely modeled n the Athenian constitution.

There is also a good deal of the universal in Plato. His system of education, his insistence on emancipation and equality of women, his principles of rule of intellect, his advocacy of preambles to laws, his distinction between civil and criminal laws etc are in universal practice today. Many of the conceptions and institutions of the Middle age are traceable to Plato. In fact the profoundness of his philosophy his grasp of the fundamentals of life and his practical radicalism make Plato the master for all times and places. 

Estimate of Plato:

Plato was first systematic political thinker in the west. He was the father of political radicalism. In his early days of unbounded optimism he wanted to create an ideal state where justice and virtue should reign under the fostering guidance and control of a philosopher king. He was prepared to sacrifice much even the time honoured institutions of private property and family life for the sake of his ideal but his advancing years and consequent maturity of judgment the troubled conditions around him, but, above all, his unsuccessful attempt to realize his ideal state in Syracuse whither he was invited by his friend, the tyrant Dionysius, purged him of a good deal of his early radicalism. Plato is criticized for his hatred of democracy, but it must be realized that even more than two thousand years after him, democracy has not been able to win universal recognition as the best form of government. Many of Plato's ideas were Utopian and as such were severely criticized by his disciple, Aristotle. His communism of wives would be impracticable in a modern nation-state and communism of property hardly less so. But we must realize that Plato was writing about an ideal city-state and communism of property hardly less so. But we must realize that Plato was writing about an ideal city-state and must not be judged by the standards applicable to modern states. His emphasis on justice and functional specialization, his feminism and his eugenics are features of everlasting interest in his political philosophy. Many of them the conceptions of the middle ages are traceable to the Republic. Sir Thomas Moore's Utopia makes references to the Republic and advocates communism of property and emancipation of women. The renaissance and the Humanist Movement owe much to Plato. In his conception of justice and of communism, Plato belongs to the school of the Utilitarian, because he 'puts the good of the community before everything else'. It is with Rousseau that Plato begins to exercise a steady influence on modern political philosophy. Rousseau, influenced by Plato, discards the individualism of Locke for the collectivism of the social contract. Auguste Comte, like Plato believed that scientific knowledge should govern the state. Plato has also profoundly influenced the German and English schools of idealists.

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