Plato’s Republic focuses on the pursuit for justice. However, in practice this is completely unrealistic. Because I have already lived in Plato’s perfect city-state, I know that I wouldn’t want to. I lived in the closest utopia to Plato’s: The Soviet Union. Although I don’t believe Lenin began a communist revolt in 1917 to create Plato’s Republic I know the Russian Empire became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics based upon Plato’s ideas. Lenin, in a way, is trying to emulate Plato’s king of philosophers. Lenin exploited workers even though his stated goal was exalting them. Plato’s idealism was excessive when he claimed that his supposedly just and stable republic, when implemented, would counteract men’s selfishness. Plato’s Republic, even in its idealized form, is a totalitarian structure. After my experience with socialism I would agree that I am a moral relativist. A democratic republic is, despite all its imperfections, the closest thing to justice on Earth.
Plato’s view on democracy was negative, as you probably know. He saw how a democracy that is unchecked can corrupt people. If anyone can have political power, it will end up in demagogues’ hands, who will use rhetoric to manipulate the people, while presenting their selfish agendas under the guise of justice. A direct democracy may allow too much freedom, which could lead to anarchy if the majority is able to overwhelm the minorities. Democracies are prone to corruption and volatility, which can lead to either oligarchy rule or mob control. Plato’s position is unambiguous: the majority in society are not sufficiently informed or interested in politics to have the ability to govern themselves.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave has been used as a metaphor to describe the process of acquiring new knowledge. However, it is not easy at first. You should also be aware of the political meaning behind this allegory. Plato wanted to demonstrate that people are stuck in the world of sensory perceptions of shapes and colors, incapable of grasping the real, unchanging essence of an idea. Truth should transcend narrow cultural and individual experience. Plato developed his own blueprint for an ideal republic in response to this criticism. Plato believed that an idea which was universal and eternal would create a prosperous and stable state. Plato’s republic was designed to offer a solution for the problems Plato identified in the democratic systems. In order to unify his state around a universal ideal of justice, he had to come up with a method. He was able to achieve this by comparing the state with the soul of man, claiming that the state is the individual at large.
Plato divides a soul into 3 parts: Appetite (or Passion), Reason, and Reason. A person who is just has an equal set of virtues in order to achieve balance. These are Temperance, Courage and Wise3. Harmony is the key to a healthy mind and body. Plato proposed a hierarchical state consisting of three classes that all citizens should be born into. The three parts of the human soul are the basis of each class. Each class is a virtue that helps balance the three parts in the soul. Workers are at the bottom, representing the desire to gain money and personal profit. The Warriors then represent the passion and spirit of the state. Finally, Plato refers the Philosopher King as the Rulers.
According to Plato, the result of this is the possession of knowledge. Plato says that the result is knowledge. Philosopher-Kings should put knowledge and power before their own inherent reasons to maintain the balance of the state. The ruling class was bred to exist and has access to education. The majority of the populace is not allowed to corrupt the political process. Therefore, the ruling class must be trained in order to make the best decisions. Their value and scope in society will be restricted to the artisanship they have been assigned.
This plan may sound good in principle, but the nature of human beings undermines its foundation. Plato believes that justice for everyone is enough to satisfy all. For real-world citizens, justice isn’t enough. Plato forbids the philosopher king to live as a monk, without private property or family, even though his birthright is exclusive state power. Plato believes people will accept the burdens of running a government without personal benefit. Plato’s Republic’s underlying unrealistic nature is exemplified by this.
Plato said that justice was supposed to benefit everyone equally. A philosopher-king would have the power to decide what is best for the entire state. Once everyone is happy, there’s no reason for conflict. The idea is to make everyone happy, but this does not happen and will never occur. Human nature does not allow us to accept that the interests of the powerful and those who are governed by them are compatible. Somebody will always try to get power to further their own pleasure. It is therefore irresponsible for a society to put all its faith in the philosopher kings and their innate discipline, regardless of how modest they live. It is not enough to have blind faith in what we assume to be an aristocratic superiority in terms of intellect and morals. This would be irresponsible and certainly not just. It is for this reason that Plato’s Republic is reminiscent of a totalitarian regime.
I hope that by now you have realized that Plato’s Republic is not stable or fair, regardless of its purpose. In order to make it clear that Plato’s theoretical republic is unrealistic, let me emphasize that Plato based his republic on a universal fact. As Socrates’ star pupil, he should have understood that truth was not possible in reality. It goes against Socrates core belief that truth and knowledge are not attainable. Jorn Brmann writes in a new book that I’ll send you about how Plato undermines Socrates claim that his only certainty is ignorance.
In order to do so, I must acknowledge that your concerns are valid. However, before doing so, I want to state my firm conviction that the dangers associated with democracy are far preferable to those of a totalitarian system.
Plato was right to say that this is what happens in a democracy. During that election, truth was hindered by many means. It has been thwarted repeatedly by politicians since the beginning of democracy. A person’s money is also a factor that allows them to become powerful and implement rules that benefit their own self interest, not the general good of society. Direct democracy can be dangerous. Also, it is evident that the democratic republic of the United States is not perfect. It is true, I’ll admit it.
In a low-point after the elections, even I started to wonder if we can trust the people to make decisions that will affect the entire nation. In the end, I came to realize that the fact that America is a society which values and respects its citizens’ freedom and their voice above all others, and that this is my definition for justice, was the only thing that allowed it to be able to withstand these times. No matter the circumstances, the unwavering dedication to ensuring that every citizen has a voice in the political decisions made by their country remains. Even the most bitter political opponents praise it. It’s a shared value and America’s redeeming qualities. An inclusive government is the best solution, even if its foundation is equality.
It may seem strange, but I think that Trump’s election as President has shown that our democratic republic is indeed a society of justice. Trump’s base of voters, which was largely influenced by the slogan “Make America Great again”, were also victims of social changes. They had previously held stable jobs in the coal and steel industries, but were replaced by automation’s greater efficiency. Plato was also against concepts and forms subject to constant change. Change is inevitable. Upheavals occur as society advances. This is the pain of a nation growing up. It’s a good thing that America has a flexible political system. We protect and honor the rights and freedoms of every citizen to such an extent that we are willing to accept a candidate elected into office who appears immoral and belligerent. Election results are not as important as long as they are determined by the will of the voters and our checks and balances system is still functional. Even the worst results in American politics will not last forever. This gives me hope. The power of the voice is to influence others by using your own passion to counter manipulative rhetoric. It is important to remember that voters can also influence change. Lenin then Stalin in the USSR took away our voice.
The Communist Russia tried erecting their version of the so-called Just Society based on Plato’s Republic, but it failed. Lenin modified Plato’s republican ideal in certain ways. In Plato’s Society, the ruling group is composed of intellectuals. In communist Russia, this ruling class was made up by the proletariat. Also, the proletariat should have been the only ruling group. Soviet Russia is still a social experiment based on Plato’s theory of a state. Lenin seized upon Plato’s idea that the people could not decide for themselves what to do or the best way to go in the aftermath to his Bolshevik Revolution. Plato’s philosopher kings would have been able to trump Lenin’s appetite for the power of reason. Lenin could not be trusted with a balanced, just state. He was incapable of restraining himself from his desire for power. Lenin denied the right of the supposed ruling classes to make structural decisions which determined their fate. He also murdered his political enemies. What justice is there in this? It is a blessing to be able to express alternative perspectives and criticize the power structures in America. To me, it appears that justice in fact is a precondition for a state of balance and not vice versa as Plato suggested.
I will continue my history lesson by saying that the Industrial Revolution, with its rapid pace of change, was what ignited the Communist Revolution. It is a fact that progressive change will always leave someone behind. This was true in Europe as well. In this regard, Russia was particularly behind. Early USSR efforts were focused on combating destabilizing shifts that were stifling to workers. Karl Popper argues that resistance to change is a common trend in history. For Russia, the problem was Lenin’s adoption of communism which established Plato’s idea of the ruling class, but the intention was to establish a single ruling proletariat. The Russian Monarchy had been replaced by an elitist, oligarchy, disguised as “The Communist Party.”
On paper, a realization by the entire society that every person’s happiness should be the exact same seems to be a powerful equalizing and integrating agent. In Plato’s perfect republic, justice would prevail. This ideal, however, does not exist in the reality of our world. Human nature is to strive for the fullest expression of our potential and well-being, even if the volatile capitalism was what initially made communism so appealing. Plato’s Republic will not be implemented unless the majority is forced to limit their potential. Our personal truths are formed when we pursue our potential unhindered. By embracing as many viewpoints as we can, we enrich ourselves and become more well-rounded. It is much more beneficial for society to be open-minded to other perspectives than to have everyone accept the same ideal.
As you can see, even though the democratic republic of America has its shortcomings, it is still true that under the law all Americans are free. This is what democracy has to offer. For these virtues is it worth dying to defend democracy. Socialism should not replace what’s already good. I will tell ya that the pursuit for utopian values is far more corrupting then the freedom in a society where people are free to be themselves. It is much better to be free to express your truth, no matter your background, rather than having it taken away. I repeat that you have no power without your voice. It is better for the state to acknowledge and honor each individual citizen than to glorify its mechanism at the cost of individual rights.
The American system of checks-and-balances has allowed it to survive the traumas of change, such as wars and economic crises. This is because the integrity and stability of the state are maintained regardless of who wins the election. Plato’s obsession for the unchangeable has led him to create a system that can not withstand changes because it is built on justice, a universal principle. He let his quest for perfection become an enemy to the good, as your grandfather might say. Plato’s pursuit of a goal that was fruitless is my opinion. The only certainty in the world is change. We would then stagnate or die if we reached a conclusion to our knowledge. Is it possible that a state which is not open to change and growth is healthy?