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When talking about something as broad as democracy we must define the term to make it more manageable. and they praise some things which are being said or done. The exaggeration is a problem for a developing person because they will gain their knowledge 1 Plato. Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics. equally exaggerating both”1.edu/Plato/republic. Book 6. For this discussion we will define democracy as a form of government where eligible people choose their leaders through elections and the social constructs are based on the equality of everyone within the state.mit. the public. Aristotle’s views about democracy hold that democratic office will cause corruption in the people. and fashion them after their own hearts?”1 This is undesirable according to Plato because the public exaggerate the praise for both what they think is good and the shame for the bad “there is a great uproar. Do these criticisms of democracy hold true for the democracy of today? We will investigate this question with reference to the Democracy of the United States of America. Plato’s thoughts on democracy were that it causes the corruption of people through public opinion and creates rulers who do not actually know how to rule but only know how to influence the “beast” which is the Demos.html 1 . Plato as we have discussed views democracy as a system of government where public opinion shapes the ideas and views of the citizens “are not the public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists? And do they not educate to perfection young and old.Plato and Aristotle were both philosophers from Greece who criticized democracy as a poor form of government. if the people choose to redistribute the wealth of the rich they will end up destroying the state and since the people have no knowledge about governance when they elect rulers they will err. men and women alike. The Republic. and blame other things.
anarchy freedom.”2. Translated by G. Hackett publishing company (1974) p 83 . such will he be”1. The Republic. Book 8.M. but others belong to evil ones that one should prize and pursue the former while the latter must be restrained and masters. Translated by G.”1 1 2 2 1 1 Plato. he denies all this and declares that all pleasures are equal and must be equally prized. and shamelessness courage. Hackett publishing company (1974) Plato. Democracy “despises those things we solemnly spoke of when we were founding our city… unless a man has an exceedingly fine nature. Book 8.of what is good and bad from the views of the public “Will he not have the notions of good and evil which the public in general have --he will do as they do. The reason this happens is because the democratic man “does not welcome true reasoning… if someone tells him that some pleasures belong to the good and beautiful desires. Since all pleasures are equal and must be equally prized and the democratic man “[has] no plan or discipline in his life”1 he jumps from pleasure to pleasure never fully pursuing anything his soul becomes rudderless as “insolence becomes good breeding. he would never become a good man”2 for Plato the freedom of a democracy leads to the citizens not toward but away from enlightenment unlike Plato’s government in the “ Republic” which helps to enlighten individuals.A Grube. and as they are.A Grube. The Republic. extravagance munificence. These exaggerated views of good and evil will not be the proper views of what is just and right according to Plato.M. which can only be found through the study of philosophy and the ideas of forms.
they compliment with the name of sailor. whether other people like it or not—the possibility of this union of authority with the steerer’s art has never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling”2 In this analogy the captain is considered the “demos” or majority of peoples and the sailors the politicians who are vying for the approval of the captain to take control of the ship. they kill the others or throw them overboard. but others are preferred to them.edu/Plato/republic. but that the good pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds. Book 6. In their struggle for control the sailors ply the captain with alcohol or drugs.mit. pilot. and abuse the other sort of man. “[the sailors] throng about the captain. they mutiny and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores.Plato also uses a strong analogy to make his thoughts on democracies more tangible. and if at any time they do not prevail. thus eating and drinking. and that he must and will be the steerer. The Republic. if he intends to be really qualified for the command of a ship. begging and praying him to commit the helm to them. They proceed on their voyage in such a manner as can be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain’s hands into their own whether by force or persuasion. able seaman. whom they call a good-for-nothing. Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics. which could represent something such as pleasurable 2 Plato. which is representative of the state.html . and whatever else belongs to his art. and having first chained up the noble captain’s senses with drink or some narcotic drug.
edu/Plato/republic. The Republic. though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned. Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics.promises and rhetorical speeches. who have knowledge of how to truly run a state which is sustainable as well as just and moral. They are disregarded by the politicians because the politicians argue no one can learn the art of governance “every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer. such as Plato. the opinions of their assemblies”2 . the sailors break open the stores of food and wine with no consideration for any rationing. These teachings however do not teach what is “honorable and dishonorable”2 2 2 Plato. The sailors.mit. Book 6. These Politicians who have taken control of the state will have been educated about the demos by the Sophists whom “teach nothing but the opinion of the many. Once they have wrested the control of the ship from the captain through force or persuasion.html 2 2 . that is to say. are like politicians who ransack the state stealing money and wealth which was originally planned for some greater good of the community. whom have disregarded the fact that the ships food has been rationed. and will further assert that it cannot be taught”2 and that the true navigators or philosophers are merely star gazers with their heads in the clouds. Those who have aided the sailors in their mutiny are now known as true sailors and those who went against the sailors fight for control of the ship are considered unfit sailors and contemptible. These unfit sailors represent the philosophers. The “Sophists” according to Plato learn the way of the “mighty and strong beast”2 which is the demos and teach this to the politicians.
Though this deviation from the constitutional type of government is only small it is still big enough for Aristotle to have some criticisms of it.edu/Aristotle/politics. The Sophists are teaching untrue definitions of what is just and good which is corrupting the very people that he is teaching. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. in which everyone’s voice is equal and the rule of the majority has a greater authority that the law. Politics. Aristotle asserts that the worst type of democracy is a Demagoguery. Due to this it is extremely hard for a good and just man to develop within a democracy since he is constantly being bombarded by untrue definitions of what are the good and bad instead of the ideas and forms of good and bad which are the only true definitions. although individually they may be worse judges than those who have special knowledge -. Prentice Hall. Book 3. To him a democracy which is ruled by law with a people who are not utterly degraded is not that bad a form of government and actually seems to praise it “that if the people are not utterly degraded. Aristotle writes in his book “Nicomachean Ethics” that “[of the perverted forms] Democracy is the least wicked since its perversion of the constitutional type of government is only small”3.html . 1999. p 234 Aristotle.3.because the teacher has no concept of these things.as a body they are as good or better”4. Nicomachean Ethics. 2 3 4 Aristotle. His views of good and evil are “Good he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights and evil to be that which he dislikes”2. His criticisms however are mostly based on hypothetical scenarios and types of democracy.three. http://classics. Translated by Martin Ostwald.mit.
3. and grows into a despot. “The demagogues make the decrees of the people override the laws. and they alike exercise a despotic rule over the better citizens. The problem arises from their poorness and ill education.three. Politics. http://classics. by referring all things to the popular assembly”5. The decrees of the demos correspond to the edicts of the tyrant”1.3. The spirit of both is the same. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. http://classics.This lawlessness is created as decrees gain more power then laws. “At all events this sort of democracy. With government decrees having more power then the law.html 1 Aristotle. this sort of democracy being relatively to other democracies what tyranny is to other forms of monarchy. They will become criminals because they are so poor and responsible for such great and grandiose things that they will desire them for themselves. the flatterer is held in honor. Politics. The fact that they will error is self evident from the fact that they have no education in the higher matters of the state.edu/Aristotle/politics. Book 4.html 1 . seeks to exercise monarchical sway. these two factors will cause them to err and become criminals.edu/Aristotle/politics. which is now a monarch. The poor however shouldn’t be totally excluded from according to Aristotle “for a state in which many poor men are 5 Aristotle. and no longer under the control of law. Another problem for Aristotle is allowing the poor people to “share the great offices of state”1. Aristotle argues that a charismatic leader will eventually be able to control the opinions and feelings of demos so well that he will become a virtual tyrant over the people. Book 4. The Tyrants then rule like masters of the people instead of equals which they first claimed to be.three.mit.mit.
Many Americans believe insolence to be good breeding. Plato’s argument that democracy creates men who believe “insolence is good breeding. while they don’t necessarily harbor dreams of anarchy these are anarchist tendencies. anarchy freedom. When this policy is not adhered to the government gets quite an earful from economic commentators and big businessmen. The general public as well often dislikes it when the government is interfering with their affairs and would like more autonomy. and shamelessness courage” is found to be somewhat true in democracy today. How well do these philosophers arguments apply to today’s democracies? Using the United States of America as an example we will see that many if not all of the criticisms argued by Plato and Aristotle are just as relevant today as they were 1500 years ago.consciously or unconsciously. It is also exhibited in some ways by the rich and powerful such as Donald Trump “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me . while this is really only evident within certain counter cultures such as Punk/Gothic this is still a substantial portion of the population that should not be overlooked. The 1 .” Anarchy is the most free a person could ever be. This is an economic policy where the government tries its best to totally stay out of the private economic sector making businesses freer to do as they wish. whom do often shape the opinions of the public.excluded from office will necessarily be full of enemies”1 the enemies being the poor against the rich. this is ingrained into democratic individuals though the current economic system within the USA in which lassie-faire economic policy is preferred. extravagance munificence.
All things which are . such as Bush. are known to belittle and attack the “unfit politicians” such as the independents who are usually running on a campaign of sustainability. As with our discussion about anarchy the current economic policy also ingrains into the population that extravagance is munificence. This is reminiscent of the sailors who raid the food stores and take no account of the fact that they need to be rationed. The politicians in the current democracy still ply the demos with rhetoric and pleasurable promises such as pulling out of Iraq or bushes promises of election reform which he yet to be realized. and health care reform. Once in office politicians. This is based on the tickle down effect which was first stated by Ronald Regan. having the “balls” to beat your father up on the toilet. Plato’s ship analogy also applies to American democracy in every way. The “true politicians” of today. Shamelessness is seen as courage by the majority of the youth of America. environmental reform. republicans and democrats. seem to use the power that they now have to award defense contracts to their friends which are not the most cost effective way of dealing out expensive deals. They are seen in this light because of the USA’s economical policies.extravagant within America are very commonly seen as munificent individuals. This effect basically states that through increasing corporate profits the poor will benefit indirectly making extravagant corporations or people seemingly appear to also be munificent. this can be seen through such culturally important films as “Jackass” which influenced an entire generation to believe that idiotic shamelessness was actually a type of courage i.e.
. This polarization does however affect how people view such issues as abortion and Iraq. His argument that the demos will impose their views onto others is also flawed but still applies to some situations. Such as his argument that politicians will not know what is really just and unjust.important for running a state such as the USA but the independent gets told he has his head in the clouds and should focus on more attainable goals. Plato’s other arguments do not apply very well to democracy today. There also aren’t that many important issues where public opinion is not polarized. They still do support or deny whatever the public says is good or bad but because of their higher education they have probably read Plato’s works and understand his forms of true justice which is really all he can ask for. I think that the politicians these days do understand what is truly just and unjust because they are very educated men. in which there are really only two views and people are highly motivated on each side. a politician to understand his views of justice. There are so many different view points on so many different issues that most people’s opinions today are shaped by their close relatives and friends and not the demos because there are to many different view points.
The way in which he used the situation to his advantage was exactly the way in which Aristotle envisioned a demagogue using the people’s emotions and fears to create an almost monarchical control the state. and having this object in view. Aristotle’s other argument on how you cannot allow the poor people into higher offices because their education and poor self control would lead them to corruption is no very applicable to the current situation. they themselves select those of the other classes who are to be admitted to the government.Aristotle’s arguments against democracy are broken down into two points one which is valid in our modern day criticisms and the other which is invalid today. an almost tyrannical type of security. So this argument of Aristotle’s doesn’t really apply to the democracies of today. His first argument against Demagoguery applies completely to today’s democracy within the USA. The Government of the USA does make laws that represent their wishes such as the earlier mentioned tightening of anti terror laws but they also make laws for their friends such as . as some might say. the more power they claim. With reference to the situation after 9/11 the “charismatic leader” (I’m stretching the word charismatic pretty far) George Bush was able to sway public opinion in favor of a complete revamping of the nations anti terror laws. but. not being as yet strong enough to rule without the law. The president used the momentary fear and emotions of the people to put forward a controversial security bill which at any other time might not have passed. leading to. they make the law represent their wishes”. The American democracy uses almost oligarchic rulers for its higher political offices. However Aristotle does address this type of oligarchic leadership “For the stronger they are. considering the last 3 or more presidents have been considerably wealthy.
is a perversion of good governance according to Aristotle. With the information provided above it is clear that according to ancient philosophers. If either philosopher were alive today they would not agree that the current government in the USA is the ideal form of government. while not thinking that this type of democracy is best. the government utilized by the United States is far from ideal. Plato’s complaints would include how democracy corrupts certain citizens as well as creates rulers who are tyrannical in how they go about running the state. and its relevance to the current government in the United States of America has allowed us to make the following assumption. would not be able to completely condemn it. Plato and Aristotle. he would disapprove as to how the president rules. . Aristotle.lowering of corporate taxes or pardoning those who have been incarcerated such as President Ford pardoning Nixon. This discussion regarding the critiques of Plato and Aristotle concerning democracy. The use of the fear and emotions of the demos. in order to enact controversial legislation. This is because he does think that democracy is the least perverted of all the perverted types of government. according to how we have understood his thoughts on demagogues. Though he would not condemn it fully.
. p 234 Aristotle. Translated by G. The Republic.edu/Plato/republic.html Plato. Book 6.A Grube. Translated by Benjamin Jowett.edu/Aristotle/politics. http://classics.mit. Nicomachean Ethics. Book 8. 1999. Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics. Book 3.edu/Plato/republic. Book 6. Politics. http://classics.three.3. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Hackett publishing company (1974) Sorry my citations are not as good as they could be but the internet reading I used did not have any line numbering system.Bib Aristotle.M. The Republic.html Aristotle.mit.mit. Book 4. Translated by Martin Ostwald.mit. Translated by Benjamin Jowett http://classics. Politics.html Plato. The Republic.three.3.html Plato. Prentice Hall.edu/Aristotle/politics.
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