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A Reflection on Platonic Thought

A Reflection on Platonic Thought

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Published by Nathaniel Broyles
A Reflection on Platonic Thought: The Feasibility of Aristocracy as a Societal Model is a paper that I wrote for my Philosophy of Social Sciences class.
A Reflection on Platonic Thought: The Feasibility of Aristocracy as a Societal Model is a paper that I wrote for my Philosophy of Social Sciences class.

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Published by: Nathaniel Broyles on Apr 07, 2011
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A Reflection on Platonic Thought:The Feasibility of Aristocracy as a Societal Model
ByNathaniel B. BroylesProfessor Alexander OttPHI 311 Philosophy of the Social SciencesApril 7, 2011
 
Mu
ch of what the modern world knows of Socrates comes from second and third-hand so
u
rces.Altho
ug
h he is considered by many to be the Father of Western Philosophic Tho
ug
ht, we only know of him thro
ug
h the writin
g
s of his st
u
dents.
M
ost notably, we are made aware of Socrates thro
ug
h thewritin
g
s of Plato and his most well-known work,
The Republic
.
The Republic
is written as a dialo
gu
ebetween Socrates and several other Athenian citizens wherein they attempt to define the nat
u
re of j
u
stice. D
u
rin
g
the co
u
rse of the disc
u
ssion, several definitions are formed and discarded
u
ntil, finally,Socrates consents to
g
ive his own opinion on the nat
u
re and definition of j
u
stice. From that definition,Socrates
g
oes on to define five different types of societies and to explain why fo
u
r of those types of societies are
u
ndesirable. The fifth, which he calls Aristocracy, ties in directly with his own definition of the nat
u
re of j
u
stice. While Plato and Socrates advocate Aristocracy as the ideal society, their assertionis deeply flawed as it is not a societal model that can f 
u
nction effectively in a real world environment.Plato and Socrates defined society as belon
g
in
g
to one of five different types, listed here in descendin
g
 order from best to worst as defined by Socrates: aristocracy, timocracy, oli
g
archy, democracy, andtyranny. Tyranny then, bein
g
the worst society that one can live in, is defined as the r
u
le of thestron
g
est. It is a place where mi
g
ht is the
u
ltimate extension of what is ri
g
ht as the stron
g
est imposetheir will
u
pon the people and impose order thro
ug
h fear and the force or arms. Democracy, which isthe society that Socrates himself is a part of in Athens, is the r
u
le of the masses. In this form of society,the r
u
le of the majority becomes law. There is a little of each type of society in democracy b
u
t the
u
nderlyin
g
theme for Socrates is that little is act
u
ally accomplished and it is b
u
t one small step fromdescendin
g
into tyranny. Socrates middle
g
ro
u
nd is that Oli
g
archy, wherein the rich and the prospero
u
sr
u
le society in their own self-interest. Socrates defines this type of society as bein
g
r
u
led by theappetites or, more properly, the satiation of bodily wants and desires. From the r
u
le of the rich, Socrates
 
brin
g
s
u
s to the r
u
le of the honored warriors, the timocracy. In a timocracy, which is the type of societyfavored by the Athenians chief rival, Sparta, the defense of the city-state takes precedence above allother concerns. Warriors are honored above all others and they form the base
u
pon which that societyrests safe and protected from all that wo
u
ld harm it. This leaves
u
s with aristocracy as the perfectsociety accordin
g
to Socrates for all others have flaws which make them less than desirable. ForSocrates, the perfect society is one based on reason and j
u
stice. It is a place where people like Socrates,philosophers, r
u
le for the
g
ood of all as philosopher-kin
g
s in a city-state wherein everyone lives a j
u
stlife.Socrates defined j
u
stice as doin
g
ones own b
u
siness, and not bein
g
a b
u
sybody. F
u
rther, he refinedhis definition to incl
u
de the three social classes of the trader, a
u
xiliary, and the
gu
ardian, all doin
g
theirown b
u
siness as j
u
stice. Inj
u
stice was defined as the meddlin
g
of one with another, or the chan
g
e of one into another of the three classes, which wo
u
ld be doin
g
the 
g
reatest harm to the State, and mayby most j
u
stly termed evil-doin
g
. In the modern era that we live in, Socrates definition is conf 
u
sin
g
andmakes little sense. As with any a
u
thor, it is critical to take into acco
u
nt the times d
u
rin
g
which Socrateslived before we are able to come to an
u
nderstandin
g
of his meanin
g
. In Socrates time, Greece wasdivided into a n
u
mber of competin
g
city-states. Each of the citizens of those states considered thewelfare of the city-state to be of the
u
tmost importance when considered a
g
ainst the welfare of theindivid
u
al. This sense of nationalism was what the citizens of those ancient city-states were ta
ug
ht frombirth and the closest modern comparison wo
u
ld be the romantic nationalism that so characterizedE
u
rope d
u
rin
g
the ei
g
hteenth cent
u
ry. That sense of romantic nationalism is most easily defined in thewords of former President of the United States John F. Kennedy: Ask not what yo
u
r co
u
ntry can do for

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