Why the Philosopher Should Rule (Plato)

In Plato’s Republic, Plato sets out to prove that it is always better to be just than unjust.

Doing so requires him to look into the soul of human beings. Souls by nature are difficult to examine so he suggests that he use the analogy of a city-state. Using this as an analogy suggests that finding the “ideal” functionality of the state he will also have found the ideal functionality of the soul. Plato’s entire construction of his “ideal” city-state is done with intention of mirroring the soul.

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The city, just as was with the soul, is comprised of three parts or classes.Those classes being the Guardians, the Auxiliaries, and the Producers. The Guardians represent the reason portion of the soul, The Axillaries represent spirit portion and the Producers represent the pleasure portion of the soul. According to Plato’s earlier definition of justice, which suggested justice be each man doing his own, Plato must assign each a roles for a functioning society.

Plato proposed that the Auxillaries would be the soldiers and defend the city, the Producers would be commoners or the entire workforce, and the Guardians would be the Philosophers and they would rule the city.Plato’s claim that philosophers should rule stems from the assertion that only the philosophers would know what is best for the city-state or the society that they rule over because of their superior knowledge. By nature a philosopher is someone devotes himself to truth and knowledge. Plato believes that because they have knowledge that other do not have and only they are fully capable of making crucial decisions about what is best for the city-state.

The particular superior knowledge Plato suggests the philosophers have that makes them more competent rulers is the knowledge forms.Plato believes that only those whose minds are trained to grasp the Forms the can know anything at all. The Form that all other forms are dependent on is the Form of Good. Plato explains this using an analogy comparing the sun to the Form of Good.

The analogy suggests that just as the sun is the light that allows us to see and thus gain knowledge of everything tangible world, the Form of the Good is the metaphorical light that allows us to see the world of forms thus giving the philosopher the capacity to understand forms.In order to demonstrate the understanding of forms Plato turns to the allegory of the cave. The situation presented in the allegory is one that there are prisoners chained to the ground in a cave who have, for their entire lives, known nothing but that cave. There is an exit to the cave above them but they cannot see it because they are chained to the ground.

They can only see shadows of other prisoners on the wall and can only hear the echoes of voices. Since these shadows and echoes are all that they know this is their reality.If one prisoner were to be released or would break away then he would to see the people and hear the voices leading him to understand that the shadows were mere projection. Upon escaping the cave or being forced outside he come to realize that “the sun provides the seasons and years, governs everything in the visible and is in some way the cause of all things he used to see.

” Having seen the light outside of the cave and gaining understanding of the sun the prisoner is now best fit to lead the other prisoners out of the cave and to share with them in the knowledge the light has given him.In the Allegory the prisoners represent the general population in society, the cave represented lack of education and the released prisoner represents the philosopher. The philosopher, represented by the prisoner, has escaped the lack of education is now capable of grasping Form of Good allowing him to see all other forms. Having obtained understanding of the Form of the Good, the philosopher, just as the prisoner who had seen the light is best fit to lead the prisoners out of the cave, the philosopher is best fit to rule the city-state.

At this point the philosopher is faced with a dilemma. Why, after finding this “Earthly Paradise” of the Form of Good, would the philosopher return to the cave and take upon himself the task of leading his former comrades when returning to the cave means returning to the darkness? Even though the philosopher is best fit to rule what would compel them to do so? Plato being aware of this dilemma offers a reason the philosopher would be compelled to rule. One reason the philosopher would return to rule would be a sense of obligation to his former fellows. After all, he was enabled to each this understanding of forms by the education the city made available to him.

Since the city gave him this knowledge he owes them his service as ruler. This claim is countered by the suggestion that by compelling the philosopher to return to the cave the city would be doing the philosopher an injustice. The injustice being that the city would be forcing the philosopher to live a worse life when they could live better one. Plato, now defending the justness, of compelling the philosopher to rule stating that the goal of the city is to make the whole as happy as possible, not one group happier than the rest.

He suggests that just as the commoners contribute to production for the betterment of the city as a whole the philosopher must rule. Plato continues in validating this by declaring that the Philosophers reluctance to rule is not a problem for society but indication that the philosopher is most fit to rule. The philosopher ruling out of a sense of obligation rather than for personal gain and power will defend the philosopher-ruler from corruption. Part 3 By earlier defining why the philosopher should rule, Plato also gives the definition of justice in the city-state.

In saying goal of the city is to make the whole as happy as possible, not one group happier than the rest implies that the city-state is just when it is balanced or in harmony. Now that Plato has defined justice he addresses Glaucon’s challenge setting out to prove that is always better to be just even when it doesn’t seem to result in an immediate advantage. He compares the philosopher to a man ruled entirely by the non-rational part of the soul. The non-rational mans desires would draw him toward unjust things.

Without reason to interfere the man will do anything unjust so long as he desires to do so. As a result of acting on these unjust desires the man will be in constant danger of being killed in revenge by his subjects who he enslaves, his unjust actions cause him to become a captive and live in fear. Plato explains that because his desires are unquenchable (they have no end), the non-rational will always be unfulfilled and unsatisfied. On the other hand the desires of a just ruler have an attainable end point.

That endpoint is the Form of the Good.Plato goes on forming his response by explaining that a person’s pleasures depend on what they value most. Answering the question of what should be valued most should be left to the philosopher who is the only one qualified to judge which one of the groups of pleasures is to be most valued because he alone has experienced all types of pleasures. The philosopher will say that the pleasure one gets from having a just soul is the best kind of pleasure.

The just life is the best life because it is connected to the greatest good, the Form of the Good.Plato explains further through metaphor. He explains that every individual has a lion, a beast and a human being living inside of him. If he behaves unjustly he is feeding the beast and the lion, making them strong, while he weakens the human so that he is dragged where the others lead.

The three parts are enemies because each tries to pursue its own agenda and there is disharmony in the soul. In the just person, the human has the most control. He tames the beast and makes the lion his ally in controlling the beast.The three animals live in harmony and the soul is balanced.

So in response to Glaucon’s Challenge, it can be said that being just is always better than being unjust because unjustness causes an imbalance in the harmony of the soul while justice brings the soul as a whole closer the the Form of Good. Conclusion Plato, through his creation of the ideal city-state, has demonstrated that justice is found through the balance of the class structure. The relations found by creating the city can now be applied to the soul as well.Just as harmony between the three classes of society makes for a healthy and just city, harmony of the parts of the soul makes for a healthy and just soul.

Justice is achieved when all aspects of the whole know their role and not meddle in the roles of the other parts. In both the city and the soul the rational parts should rule. The rational part desires truth and wisdom and is developed further through education. Education brings people closer to understanding the Form of Good.

Because being just brings one closer to the form of good it is better than unjust, which leads to no end.

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Why the Philosopher Should Rule (Plato). (2017, May 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/why-the-philosopher-should-rule-plato/