In books 5 and 6 of Plato's Republic, the issue of who should rule society is addressed. Through out the dialogue, the character Socrates makes several arguments for the intelligence, virtue and worth of philosophers as people and as potential rulers. In this paper I will examine his arguments for granting philosopher kings ruler ship of society. I will provide criticisms for these arguments and examine those criticisms by reapplying the ideas of Plato. I will conclude with my arguments for and against the theory of kings as philosophers and philosophers as kings.
Keywords: Glaucon, guardians of the city
[...] This is why many people see philosophers as being bad or vicious, Socrates explains. The philosophical nature will be corrupted easily if it is in the wrong environment. On the other hand, if a philosophic nature receives instruction and is trained properly, it will grow to possess great virtue, (love of truth, good memory, sense of order.) To defend this argument, Socrates describes a man who is well-born with a philosophic nature, good looks and riches. According to Socrates, this man will be filled with high expectations from his society as well from himself. [...]
[...] If the philosophers ruling the city do not accept and discuss each other's differing opinions and those of the other occupants of the city, revolt is inevitable. If the needs of the lower classes are not met and recognized, this is also cause for revolt. It seems impossible for the philosophers at the top to be in touch with each other's thoughts and the needs of the public if they are convinced that there is only one truth and only one form of knowledge. [...]
[...] Philosophers will “take the city and the characters of human beings as their sketching slate, but first they'd wipe it clean . (Page 174 line 501) Through Socrates' dialogue, Plato suggests the eventual creation of a kind of “divine race” of people, more godlike than human as a result of the rule of the philosopher. Next Socrates returns to the idea of the guardians of the city. In order for the city to truly be successful, the guardians (or the favored class) will have to be philosophers as well. [...]
[...] Most importantly, he suggests that the rulers of societies should aspire to a high moral and intellectual level. He points out with the metaphor of the captain on the ship that we often pick the wrong people to be leaders based on qualities that have nothing to do with the true talents of leadership. However the biggest problem with the theory of philosophers as kings turns out to be Plato's theory of knowledge itself. Since he believes that the forms are the [...]
[...] (page 165, line 491 Because of the rigorous breeding and education methods that Socrates condones, the philosopher kings will probably possess many of these “good things,” (such as beauty or physical strength, or perhaps power,) that turn bad with excess. It seems reasonable to infer from Socrates own definition of corruption that the philosophers at the head of society would be just as vulnerable to corruption as those without philosophic natures, if not more so. It is also possible that because of his rigorous education and the isolation caused by it, the philosopher king will be disconnected from the lower classes and therefore unaware of how to relate to the people and their needs. [...]
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