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PLATO (427347 B.C.E.

Plato is one of the world's best known and most widely read and studied
philosophers. He was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, and he wrote in
the middle of the fourth century B.C.E. in ancient Greece. Though influenced primarily by
Socrates, to the extent that Socrates is usually the main character in many of Plato's
writings, he was also influenced by Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans.
There are varying degrees of controversy over which of Plato's works are authentic,
and in what order they were written, due to their antiquity and the manner of their
preservation through time. Nonetheless, his earliest works are generally regarded as the
most reliable of the ancient sources on Socrates, and the character Socrates that we know
through these writings is considered to be one of the greatest of the ancient philosophers.
Plato's middle to later works, including his most famous work, the Republic, are
generally regarded as providing Plato's own philosophy, where the main character in effect
speaks for Plato himself. These works blend ethics, political philosophy, moral psychology,
epistemology, and metaphysics into an interconnected and systematic philosophy. It is most
of all from Plato that we get the theory of Forms, according to which the world we know
through the senses is only an imitation of the pure, eternal, and unchanging world of the
Forms. Plato's works also contain the origins of the familiar complaint that the arts work by
inflaming the passions, and are mere illusions. We also are introduced to the ideal of
"Platonic love:" Plato saw love as motivated by a longing for the highest Form of beauty
The Beautiful Itself, and love as the motivational power through which the highest of
achievements are possible. Because they tended to distract us into accepting less than our
highest potentials, however, Plato mistrusted and generally advised against physical
expressions of love.
1. Biography
a. Birth
It is widely accepted that Plato, the Athenian philosopher, was born in 428-7 B.C.E
and died at the age of eighty or eighty-one at 348-7 B.C.E. These dates, however, are not
entirely certain, for according to Diogenes Laertius (D.L.), following Apollodorus' chronology,
Plato was born the year Pericles died, was six years younger than Isocrates, and died at the
age of eighty-four. If Plato's date of death is correct in Apollodorus' version, Plato would have
been born in 430 or 431. Diogenes' claim that Plato was born the year Pericles died would
put his birth in 429. Later (at 3.6), Diogenes says that Plato was twenty-eight when Socrates
was put to death (in 399), which would, again, put his year of birth at 427. In spite of the
confusion, the dates of Plato's life we gave above, which are based upon Eratosthenes'
calculations, have traditionally been accepted as accurate.
b. Family
Little can be known about Plato's early life. According to Diogenes, whose testimony
is notoriously unreliable, Plato's parents were Ariston and Perictione (or Potone). Both sides
of the family claimed to trace their ancestry back to Poseidon. Diogenes' report that Plato's
birth was the result of Ariston's rape of Perictione is a good example of the unconfirmed
gossip in which Diogenes so often indulges. We can be confident that Plato also had two
older brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, and a sister, Potone, by the same parents. (W. K. C.
Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. 4, 10 n. 4 argues plausibly that Glaucon and
Adeimantus were Plato's older siblings.) After Ariston's death, Plato's mother married her
uncle, Pyrilampes (in Plato's Charmides, we are told that Pyrilampes was Charmides' uncle,

and Charmides was Plato's mother's brother), with whom she had another son, Antiphon,
Plato's half-brother.
Plato came from one of the wealthiest and most politically active families in Athens.
Their political activities, however, are not seen as laudable ones by historians. One of Plato's
uncles (Charmides) was a member of the notorious "Thirty Tyrants," who overthrew the
Athenian democracy in 404 B.C.E. Charmides' own uncle, Critias, was the leader of the
Thirty. Plato's relatives were not exclusively associated with the oligarchic faction in Athens,
however. His stepfather Pyrilampes was said to have been a close associate of Pericles,
when he was the leader of the democratic faction.
Plato's actual given name was apparently Aristocles, after his grandfather. "Plato"
seems to have started as a nickname (for platos, or "broad"), perhaps first given to him by
his wrestling teacher for his physique, or for the breadth of his style, or even the breadth of
his forehead. Although the name Aristocles was still given as Plato's name on one of the two
epitaphs on his tomb, history knows him as Plato.
c. Early Travels and the Founding of the Academy
When Socrates died, Plato left Athens, staying first in Megara, but then going on to
several other places, including perhaps Cyrene, Italy, Sicily, and even Egypt. Strabo (17.29)
claims that he was shown where Plato lived when he visited Heliopolis in Egypt. Plato
occasionally mentions Egypt in his works, but not in ways that reveal much of any
consequence (see, for examples, Phaedrus 274c-275b; Philebus 19b).
Better evidence may be found for his visits to Italy and Sicily, especially in the
Seventh Letter. According to the account given there, Plato first went to Italy and Sicily when
he was "about forty". While he stayed in Syracuse, he became the instructor to Dion,
brother-in-law of the tyrant Dionysius I. According to doubtful stories from later antiquity,
Dionysius became annoyed with Plato at some point during this visit, and arranged to have
the philosopher sold into slavery.
In any event, Plato returned to Athens and founded a school, known as the Academy.
(This is where we get our word, "academic." The Academy got its name from its location, a
grove of trees sacred to the hero Academusor Hecademusa mile or so outside the
Athenian walls; the site can still be visited in modern Athens, but visitors will find it
depressingly void of interesting monuments or features.) Except for two more trips to Sicily,
the Academy seems to have been Plato's home base for the remainder of his life.
d. Later Trips to Sicily and Death
The first of Plato's remaining two Sicilian adventures came after Dionysius I died and
his young son, Dionysius II, ascended to the throne. His uncle/brother-in-law Dion persuaded
the young tyrant to invite Plato to come to help him become a philosopher-ruler of the sort
described in the Republic. Although the philosopher (now in his sixties) was not entirely
persuaded of this possibility (Seventh Letter 328b-c), he agreed to go. This trip, like the last
one, however, did not go well at all. Within months, the younger Dionysius had Dion sent
into exile for sedition (Seventh Letter 329c, Third Letter 316c-d), and Plato became
effectively under house arrest as the "personal guest" of the dictator (Seventh Letter 329c330b).
Plato eventually managed to gain the tyrant's permission to return to Athens, and he
and Dion were reunited at the Academy. Dionysius agreed that "after the war", he would
invite Plato and Dion back to Syracuse. Dion and Plato stayed in Athens for the next four
years (c. 365-361 B.C.E.). Dionysius then summoned Plato, but wished for Dion to wait a

while longer. Dion accepted the condition and encouraged Plato to go immediately anyway,
but Plato refused the invitation, much to the consternation of both Syracusans. Hardly a year
had passed, however, before Dionysius sent a ship, with one of Plato's Pythagorean friends
(Archedemus, an associate of Archytassee Seventh Letter 339a-b and next section) on
board begging Plato to return to Syracuse. Partly because of his friend Dion's enthusiasm for
the plan, Plato departed one more time to Syracuse. Once again, however, things in
Syracuse were not at all to Plato's liking. Dionysius once again effectively imprisoned Plato in
Syracuse, and the latter was only able to escape again with help from his Tarentine friends.
Dion subsequently gathered an army of mercenaries and invaded his own homeland.
But his success was short-lived: he was assassinated and Sicily was reduced to chaos. Plato,
perhaps now completely disgusted with politics, returned to his beloved Academy, where he
lived out the last thirteen years of his life. According to Diogenes, Plato was buried at the
school he founded. His grave, however, has not yet been discovered by archeological
2. Influences on Plato
a. Heraclitus
Aristotle and Diogenes agree that Plato had some early association with either the
philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, or with one or more of that philosopher's followers. The
effects of this influence can perhaps be seen in the mature Plato's conception of the sensible
world as ceaselessly changing.
b. Parmenides and Zeno
There can be no doubt that Plato was also strongly influenced by Parmenides and
Zeno (both of Elea), in Plato's theory of the Forms, which are plainly intended to satisfy the
Parmenidean requirement of metaphysical unity and stability in knowable reality.
Parmenides and Zeno also appear as characters in his dialogue, the Parmenides. Diogenes
Laertius also notes other important influences:
He mixed together in his works the arguments of Heracleitus, the Pythagoreans, and
Socrates. Regarding the sensibles, he borrows from Heraclitus; regarding the intelligibles,
from Pythagoras; and regarding politics, from Socrates.
A little later, Diogenes makes a series of comparisons intended to show how much
Plato owed to the comic poet, Epicharmus.
c. The Pythagoreans
Diogenes Laertius claims that Plato visited several Pythagoreans in Southern Italy
(one of whom, Theodorus, is also mentioned as a friend to Socrates in Plato's Theaetetus). In
the Seventh Letter, we learn that Plato was a friend of Archytas of Tarentum, a well-known
Pythagorean statesman and thinker, and in the Phaedo, Plato has Echecrates, another
Pythagorean, in the group around Socrates on his final day in prison. Plato's Pythagorean
influences seem especially evident in his fascination with mathematics, and in some of his
political ideals, expressed in various ways in several dialogues.
d. Socrates
Nonetheless, it is plain that no influence on Plato was greater than that of Socrates.
This is evident not only in many of the doctrines and arguments we find in Plato's dialogues,
but perhaps most obviously in Plato's choice of Socrates as the main character in most of his

works. According to the Seventh Letter, Plato counted Socrates "the justest man alive".
According to Diogenes Laertius, the respect was mutual.
3. Plato's Writings
a. Plato's Dialogues and the Historical Socrates
Supposedly possessed of outstanding intellectual and artistic ability even from his
youth, according to Diogenes, Plato began his career as a writer of tragedies, but hearing
Socrates talk, he wholly abandoned that path, and even burned a tragedy he had hoped to
enter in a dramatic competition. Whether or not any of these stories is true, there can be no
question of Plato's mastery of dialogue, characterization, and dramatic context. He may,
indeed, have written some epigrams; of the surviving epigrams attributed to him in
antiquity, some may be genuine.
Plato was not the only writer of dialogues in which Socrates appears as a principal
character and speaker. Others, including Alexamenos of Teos (Aristotle Poetics 1447b11; De
Poetis fr. 3 Ross [=Rose2 72]), Aeschines (D.L. 2.60-63, 3.36, Plato Apology 33e),
Antisthenes (D.L. 3.35, 6; Plato, Phaedo 59b; Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.4.5, 3.2.17),
Aristippus (D.L. 2.65-104, 3.36, Plato Phaedo 59c), Eucleides (D.L. 2.106-112), Phaedo (D.L.
2.105; Plato, Phaedo passim), Simon (D.L. 122-124), and especially Xenophon (see D.L. 2.4859, 3.34), were also well-known "Socratics" who composed such works. A recent study of
these, by Charles H. Kahn (1996, 1-35), concludes that the very existence of the genreand
all of the conflicting images of Socrates we find given by the various authorsshows that we
cannot trust as historically reliable any of the accounts of Socrates given in antiquity,
including those given by Plato.
But it is one thing to claim that Plato was not the only one to write Socratic dialogues,
and quite another to hold that Plato was only following the rules of some genre of writings in
his own work. Such a claim, at any rate, is hardly established simply by the existence of
these other writers and their writings. We may still wish to ask whether Plato's own use of
Socrates as his main character has anything at all to do with the historical Socrates. The
question has led to a number of seemingly irresolvable scholarly disputes. At least one
important ancient source, Aristotle, suggests that at least some of the doctrines Plato puts
into the mouth of the "Socrates" of the "early" or "Socrates" dialogues are the very ones
espoused by the historical Socrates. Because Aristotle has no reason not to be truthful about
this issue, many scholars believe that his testimony provides a solid basis for distinguishing
the "Socrates" of the "early" dialogues from the character by that name in Plato's
supposedly later works, whose views and arguments Aristotle suggests are Plato's own.
b. Dating Plato's Dialogues
One way to approach this issue has been to find some way to arrange the dialogues
into at least relative dates. It has frequently been assumed that if we can establish a relative
chronology for when Plato wrote each of the dialogues, we can provide some objective test
for the claim that Plato represented Socrates more accurately in the earlier dialogues, and
less accurately in the later dialogues.
In antiquity, the ordering of Plato's dialogues was given entirely along thematic lines.
The best reports of these orderings included many works whose authenticity is now either
disputed or unanimously rejected. The uncontroversial internal and external historical
evidence for a chronological ordering is relatively slight. Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius, and
Olympiodorus state that Plato wrote the Laws after the Republic. Internal references in the
Sophist and the Statesman show the Statesman to come after the Sophist. The Timaeus may

refer to Republic as coming before it, and more clearly mentions the Critias as following it.
Similarly, internal references in the Sophist and the Theaetetus may be thought to show the
intended order of three dialogues: Parmenides, Theaetetus, and Sophist. Even so, it does not
follow that these dialogues were actually written in that order. At Theaetetus 143c, Plato
announces through his characters that he will abandon the somewhat cumbersome dialogue
form that is employed in his other writings. Since the form does not appear in a number of
other writings, it is reasonable to infer that those in which it does not appear were written
after the Theaetetus.
Scholars have sought to augment this fairly scant evidence by employing different
methods of ordering the remaining dialogues. One such method is that of stylometry, by
which various aspects of Plato's diction in each dialogue are measured against their uses
and frequencies in other dialogues. Originally done by laborious study by individuals,
stylometry can now be done more efficiently with assistance by computers. Another, even
more popular, way to sort and group the dialogues is what is called "content analysis," which
works by finding and enumerating apparent commonalities or differences in the
philosophical style and content of the various dialogues. Neither of these general
approaches has commanded unanimous assent among scholars, and it is unlikely that
debates about this topic can ever be put entirely to rest. Nonetheless, most recent
scholarship seems to assume that Plato's dialogues can be sorted into different groups, and
it is not unusual for books and articles on the philosophy of Socrates to state that by
"Socrates" they mean to refer to the character in Plato's "early" or Socratic dialogues, as if
this Socrates was as close to the historical Socrates as we are likely to get. (We have more
to say on this subject in the next section.) Perhaps the most thorough examination of this
sort can be found in Gregory Vlastos's, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher (Cambridge
and Cornell, 1991, chapters 2-4), where ten significant differences between the "Socrates" of
Plato's "early" dialogues and the character by that name in the later dialogues are noted.
Our own view of the probable dates and groups of dialogues, which to some extent combine
the results of stylometry and content analysis, is as follows (all lists but the last in
alphabetical order):
(All after the death of Socrates, but before Plato's first trip to Sicily in 387 B.C.E.):
Apology, Charmides, Crito, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor,
Ion, Laches, Lysis, Protagoras, Republic Bk. I.
(Either at the end of the early group or at the beginning of the middle group, c. 387-380
Cratylus, Menexenus, Meno
(c. 380-360 B.C.E.)
Phaedo, Republic Bks. II-X, Symposium
(Either at the end of the middle group, or the beginning of the late group, c. 360-355 B.C.E.)
Parmenides, Theaetetus, Phaedrus

(c. 355-347 B.C.E.; possibly in chronological order)
Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, Critias, Laws
c. Transmission of Plato's Works
Except for the Timaeus, all of Plato's works were lost to the Western world until medieval
times, preserved only by Moslem scholars in the Middle East. In 1578 Henri Estienne (whose
Latinized name was Stephanus) published an edition of the dialogues in which each page of
the text is separated into five sections (labeled a, b, c, d, and e). The standard style of
citation for Platonic texts includes the name of the text, followed by Stephanus page and
section numbers (e.g. Republic 511d). Scholars sometimes also add numbers after the
Stephanus section letters, which refer to line numbers within the Stephanus sections in the
standard Greek edition of the dialogues, the Oxford Classical texts.
4. Other Works Attributed to Plato
a. Spuria
Several other works, including thirteen letters and eighteen epigrams, have been
attributed to Plato. These other works are generally called the spuria and the dubia. The
spuria were collected among the works of Plato but suspected as frauds even in antiquity.
The dubia are those presumed authentic in later antiquity, but which have more recently
been doubted.
Ten of the spuria are mentioned by Diogenes Laertius at 3.62. Five of these are no
longer extant: the Midon or Horse-breeder, Phaeacians, Chelidon, Seventh Day, and
Epimenides. Five others do exist: the Halcyon, Axiochus, Demodocus, Eryxias, and Sisyphus.
To the ten Diogenes Laertius lists, we may uncontroversially add On Justice, On Virtue, and
the Definitions, which was included in the medieval manuscripts of Plato's work, but not
mentioned in antiquity.
Works whose authenticity was also doubted in antiquity include the Second
Alcibiades (or Alcibiades II), Epinomis, Hipparchus, and Rival Lovers (also known as either
Rivals or Lovers), and these are sometimes defended as authentic today. If any are of these
are authentic, the Epinomis would be in the late group, and the others would go with the
early or early transitional groups.
b. Epigrams
Seventeen or eighteen epigrams (poems appropriate to funerary monuments or other
dedications) are also attributed to Plato by various ancient authors. Most of these are almost
certainly not by Plato, but some few may be authentic. Of the ones that could be authentic
(Cooper 1997, 1742 names 1, 2, 7, and especially 3 as possibly authentic), one (1) is a love
poem dedicated to a student of astronomy, perhaps at the Academy, another (2) appears to
be a funerary inscription for that same student, another (3) is a funerary inscription for
Plato's Syracusan friend, Dion (in which the author confesses that Dion "maddened my heart
with ers"), and the last (7) is a love poem to a young woman or girl. None appear to provide
anything of great philosophical interest.
c. Dubia
The dubia present special risks to scholars: On the one hand, any decision not to
include them among the authentic dialogues creates the risk of losing valuable evidence for

Plato's (or perhaps Socrates') philosophy; on the other hand, any decision to include them
creates the risk of obfuscating the correct view of Plato's (or Socrates') philosophy, by
including non-Platonic (or non-Socratic) elements within that philosophy. The dubia include
the First Alcibiades (or Alcibiades I), Minos, and Theages, all of which, if authentic, would
probably go with the early or early transitional groups, the Cleitophon, which might be early,
early transitional, or middle, and the letters, of which the Seventh seems the best candidate
for authenticity. Some scholars have also suggested the possibility that the Third may also
be genuine. If any are authentic, the letters would appear to be works of the late period,
with the possible exception of the Thirteenth Letter, which could be from the middle period.
Nearly all of the dialogues now accepted as genuine have been challenged as
inauthentic by some scholar or another. In the 19th Century in particular, scholars often
considered arguments for and against the authenticity of dialogues whose authenticity is
now only rarely doubted. Of those we listed as authentic, above (in the early group), only the
Hippias Major continues occasionally to be listed as inauthentic. The strongest evidence
against the authenticity of the Hippias Major is the fact that it is never mentioned in any of
the ancient sources. However, relative to how much was actually written in antiquity, so
little now remains that our lack of ancient references to this dialogue does not seem to be an
adequate reason to doubt its authenticity. In style and content, it seems to most
contemporary scholars to fit well with the other Platonic dialogues.
5. The Early Dialogues
a. Historical Accuracy
Although no one thinks that Plato simply recorded the actual words or speeches of
Socrates verbatim, the argument has been made that there is nothing in the speeches
Socrates makes in the Apology that he could have not uttered at the historical trial. At any
rate, it is fairly common for scholars to treat Plato's Apology as the most reliable of the
ancient sources on the historical Socrates. The other early dialogues are certainly Plato's
own creations. But as we have said, most scholars treat these as representing more or less
accurately the philosophy and behavior of the historical Socrateseven if they do not
provide literal historical records of actual Socratic conversations. Some of the early
dialogues include anachronisms that prove their historical inaccuracy.
It is possible, of course, that the dialogues are all wholly Plato's inventions and have
nothing at all to do with the historical Socrates. Contemporary scholars generally endorse
one of the following four views about the dialogues and their representation of Socrates:
The Unitarian View:
This view, more popular early in the 20th Century than it is now, holds that there is
but a single philosophy to be found in all of Plato's works (of any period, if such periods can
even be identified reliably). There is no reason, according to the Unitarian scholar, ever to
talk about "Socratic philosophy" (at least from anything to be found in Platoeverything in
Plato's dialogues is Platonic philosophy, according to the Unitarian). One recent version of
this view has been argued by Charles H. Kahn (1996). Most later, but still ancient,
interpretations of Plato were essentially Unitarian in their approach. Aristotle, however, was
a notable exception.
The Literary Atomist View:
We call this approach the "literary atomist view," because those who propose this
view treat each dialogue as a complete literary whole, whose proper interpretation must be
achieved without reference to any of Plato's other works. Those who endorse this view reject

completely any relevance or validity of sorting or grouping the dialogues into groups, on the
ground that any such sorting is of no value to the proper interpretation of any given
dialogue. In this view, too, there is no reason to make any distinction between "Socratic
philosophy" and "Platonic philosophy." According to the literary atomist, all philosophy to be
found in the works of Plato should be attributed only to Plato.
The Developmentalist View:
According to this view, the most widely held of all of the interpretative approaches,
the differences between the early and later dialogues represent developments in Plato's own
philosophical and literary career. These may or may not be related to his attempting in any
of the dialogues to preserve the memory of the historical Socrates (see approach 4); such
differences may only represent changes in Plato's own philosophical views.
Developmentalists may generally identify the earlier positions or works as "Socratic" and the
later ones "Platonic," but may be agnostic about the relationship of the "Socratic" views and
works to the actual historical Socrates.
The Historicist View:
Perhaps the most common of the Developmentalist positions is the view that the
"development" noticeable between the early and later dialogues may be attributed to Plato's
attempt, in the early dialogues, to represent the historical Socrates more or less accurately.
Later on, however (perhaps because of the development of the genre of "Socratic writings,"
within which other authors were making no attempt at historical fidelity), Plato began more
freely to put his own views into the mouth of the character, "Socrates," in his works. Plato's
own student, Aristotle, seems to have understood the dialogues in this way.
Now, some scholars who are skeptical about the entire program of dating the
dialogues into chronological groups, and who are thus strictly speaking not historicists (see,
for example, Cooper 1997, xii-xvii) nonetheless accept the view that the "early" works are
"Socratic" in tone and content. With few exceptions, however, scholars agreed that if we are
unable to distinguish any group of dialogues as early or "Socratic," or even if we can
distinguish a separate set of "Socratic" works but cannot identify a coherent philosophy
within those works, it makes little sense to talk about "the philosophy of historical Socrates"
at all. There is just too little (and too little that is at all interesting) to be found that could
reliably be attributed to Socrates from any other ancient authors. Any serious philosophical
interest in Socrates, then, must be pursued through study of Plato's early or "Socratic"
b. Plato's Characterization of Socrates
In the dialogues generally accepted as early (or "Socratic"), the main character is
always Socrates. Socrates is represented as extremely agile in question-and-answer, which
has come to be known as "the Socratic method of teaching," or "the elenchus" (or elenchos,
from the Greek term for refutation), with Socrates nearly always playing the role as
questioner, for he claimed to have no wisdom of his own to share with others. Plato's
Socrates, in this period, was adept at reducing even the most difficult and recalcitrant
interlocutors to confusion and self-contradiction. In the Apology, Socrates explains that the
embarrassment he has thus caused to so many of his contemporaries is the result of a
Delphic oracle given to Socrates' friend Chaerephon, according to which no one was wiser
than Socrates. As a result of his attempt to discern the true meaning of this oracle, Socrates
gained a divinely ordained mission in Athens to expose the false conceit of wisdom. The
embarrassment his "investigations" have caused to so many of his contemporarieswhich

Socrates claims was the root cause of his being brought up on charges is thus no one's
fault but his "victims," for having chosen to live "the unexamined life".
The way that Plato's represents Socrates going about his "mission" in Athens provides
a plausible explanation both of why the Athenians would have brought him to trial and
convicted him in the troubled years after the end of the Peloponnesian War, and also of why
Socrates was not really guilty of the charges he faced. Even more importantly, however,
Plato's early dialogues provide intriguing arguments and refutations of proposed
philosophical positions that interest and challenge philosophical readers. Platonic dialogues
continue to be included among the required readings in introductory and advanced
philosophy classes, not only for their ready accessibility, but also because they raise many
of the most basic problems of philosophy. Unlike most other philosophical works, moreover,
Plato frames the discussions he represents in dramatic settings that make the content of
these discussions especially compelling. So, for example, in the Crito, we find Socrates
discussing the citizen's duty to obey the laws of the state as he awaits his own legally
mandated execution in jail, condemned by what he and Crito both agree was a terribly
wrong verdict, the result of the most egregious misapplication of the very laws they are
discussing. The dramatic features of Plato's works have earned attention even from literary
scholars relatively uninterested in philosophy as such. Whatever their value for specifically
historical research, therefore, Plato's dialogues will continue to be read and debated by
students and scholars, and the Socrates we find in the early or "Socratic" dialogues will
continue to be counted among the greatest Western philosophers.
c. Ethical Positions in the Early Dialogues
The philosophical positions most scholars agree can be found directly endorsed or at
least suggested in the early or "Socratic" dialogues include the following moral or ethical

A rejection of retaliation, or the return of harm for harm or evil for evil;
The claim that doing injustice harms one's soul, the thing that is most precious to
one, and, hence, that it is better to suffer injustice than to do it;
Some form of what is called "eudaimonism," that is, that goodness is to be
understood in terms of conduciveness to human happiness, well-being, or flourishing,
which may also be understood as "living well," or "doing well";
The view that only virtue is good just by itself; anything else that is good is good only
insofar as it serves or is used for or by virtue;
The view that there is some kind of unity among the virtues: In some sense, all of the
virtues are the same;
The view that the citizen who has agreed to live in a state must always obey the laws
of that state, or else persuade the state to change its laws, or leave the state.

d. Psychological Positions in the Early Dialogues

Socrates also appears to argue for, or directly makes a number of related
psychological views:

All wrongdoing is done in ignorance, for everyone desires only what is good;
In some sense, everyone actually believes certain moral principles, even though
some may think they do not have such beliefs, and may disavow them in argument.

e. Religious Positions in the Early Dialogues

In these dialogues, we also find Socrates represented as holding certain religious

beliefs, such as:

The gods are completely wise and good;

Ever since his childhood, Socrates has experienced a certain "divine something",
which consists in a "voice", or "sign" that opposes him when he is about to do
something wrong;
Various forms of divination can allow human beings to come to recognize the will of
the gods;
Poets and rhapsodes are able to write and do the wonderful things they write and do,
not from knowledge or expertise, but from some kind of divine inspiration. The same
canbe said of diviners and seers, although they do seem to have some kind of
expertiseperhaps only some technique by which to put them in a state of
appropriate receptivity to the divine;
No one really knows what happens after death, but it is reasonable to think that
death is not an evil; there may be an afterlife, in which the souls of the good are
rewarded, and the souls of the wicked are punished.

f. Methodological and Epistemological Positions in the Early Dialogues

In addition, Plato's Socrates in the early dialogues may plausibly be regarded as
having certain methodological or epistemological convictions, including:

Definitional knowledge of ethical terms is at least a necessary condition of reliable

judging of specific instances of the values they name;
A mere list of examples of some ethical valueeven if all are authentic cases of that
valuewould never provide an adequate analysis of what the value is, nor would it
provide an adequate definition of the value term that refers to the value. Proper
definitions must state what is common to all examples of the value;
Those with expert knowledge or wisdom on a given subject do not err in their
judgments on that subject, go about their business in their area of expertise in a
rational and regular way, and can teach and explain their subject.

6. The Middle Dialogues

a. Differences between the Early and Middle Dialogues
Scholarly attempts to provide relative chronological orderings of the early transitional
and middle dialogues are problematical because all agree that the main dialogue of the
middle period, the Republic, has several features that make dating it precisely especially
difficult. As we have already said, many scholars count the first book of the Republic as
among the early group of dialogues. But those who read the entire Republic will also see that
the first book also provides a natural and effective introduction to the remaining books of
the work. A recent study by Debra Nails notes several anachronisms that suggest that the
process of writing (and perhaps re-editing) the work may have continued over a very long
period. If this central work of the period is difficult to place into a specific context, there can
be no great assurance in positioning any other works relative to this one.
Nonetheless, it does not take especially careful study of the transitional and middle
period dialogues to notice clear differences in style and philosophical content from the early
dialogues. The most obvious change is the way in which Plato seems to characterize
Socrates: In the early dialogues, we find Socrates simply asking questions, exposing his
interlocutors' confusions, all the while professing his own inability to shed any positive light
on the subject, whereas in the middle period dialogues, Socrates suddenly emerges as a

kind of positive expert, willing to affirm and defend his own theories about many important
subjects. In the early dialogues, moreover, Socrates discusses mainly ethical subjects with
his interlocutorswith some related religious, methodological, and epistemological views
scattered within the primarily ethical discussions. In the middle period, Plato's Socrates'
interests expand outward into nearly every area of inquiry known to humankind. The
philosophical positions Socrates advances in these dialogues are vastly more systematical,
including broad theoretical inquiries into the connections between language and reality (in
the Cratylus), knowledge and explanation (in the Phaedo and Republic, Books V-VII). Unlike
the Socrates of the early period, who was the "wisest of men" only because he recognized
the full extent of his own ignorance, the Socrates of the middle period acknowledges the
possibility of infallible human knowledge (especially in the famous similes of light, the simile
of the sun and good and the simile of the divided line in Book VI and the parable of the cave
in Book VII of the Republic), and this becomes possible in virtue of a special sort of cognitive
contact with the Forms or Ideas (eid ), which exist in a supra-sensible realm available only
to thought. This theory of Forms, introduced and explained in various contexts in each of the
middle period dialogues, is perhaps the single best-known and most definitive aspect of
what has come to be known as Platonism.
b. The Theory of Forms
In many of his dialogues, Plato mentions supra-sensible entities he calls "Forms" (or
"Ideas"). So, for example, in the Phaedo, we are told that particular sensible equal things
for example, equal sticks or stonesare equal because of their "participation" or "sharing" in
the character of the Form of Equality, which is absolutely, changelessly, perfectly, and
essentially equal. Plato sometimes characterizes this participation in the Form as a kind of
imaging, or approximation of the Form. The same may be said of the many things that are
greater or smaller and the Forms of Great and Small, or the many tall things and the Form of
Tall, or the many beautiful things and the Form of Beauty. When Plato writes about instances
of Forms "approximating" Forms, it is easy to infer that, for Plato, Forms are exemplars. If so,
Plato believes that The Form of Beauty is perfect beauty, the Form of Justice is perfect
justice, and so forth. Conceiving of Forms in this way was important to Plato because it
enabled the philosopher who grasps the entities to be best able to judge to what extent
sensible instances of the Forms are good examples of the Forms they approximate.
Scholars disagree about the scope of what is often called "the theory of Forms," and
question whether Plato began holding that there are only Forms for a small range of
properties, such as tallness, equality, justice, beauty, and so on, and then widened the scope
to include Forms corresponding to every term that can be applied to a multiplicity of
instances. In the Republic, he writes as if there may be a great multiplicity of Formsfor
example, in Book X of that work, we find him writing about the Form of Bed. He may have
come to believe that for any set of things that shares some property, there is a Form that
gives unity to the set of things (and univocity to the term by which we refer to members of
that set of things). Knowledge involves the recognition of the Forms, and any reliable
application of this knowledge will involve the ability compare the particular sensible
instantiations of a property to the Form.
c. Immortality and Reincarnation
In the early transitional dialogue, the Meno, Plato has Socrates introduce the Orphic
and Pythagorean idea that souls are immortal and existed before our births. All knowledge,
he explains, is actually recollected from this prior existence. In perhaps the most famous
passage in this dialogue, Socrates elicits recollection about geometry from one of Meno's
slaves. Socrates' apparent interest in, and fairly sophisticated knowledge of, mathematics

appears wholly new in this dialogue. It is an interest, however, that shows up plainly in the
middle period dialogues, especially in the middle books of the Republic.
Several arguments for the immortality of the soul, and the idea that souls are
reincarnated into different life forms, are also featured in Plato's Phaedo (which also includes
the famous scene in which Socrates drinks the hemlock and utters his last words).
Stylometry has tended to count the Phaedo among the early dialogues, whereas analysis of
philosophical content has tended to place it at the beginning of the middle period. Similar
accounts of the transmigration of souls may be found, with somewhat different details, in
Book X of the Republic and in the Phaedrus, as well as in several dialogues of the late
period, including the Timaeus and the Laws. No traces of the doctrine of recollection, or the
theory of reincarnation or transmigration of souls, are to be found in the dialogues we listed
above as those of the early period.
d. Moral Psychology
The moral psychology of the middle period dialogues also seems to be quite different
from what we find in the early period. In the early dialogues, Plato's Socrates is an
intellectualistthat is, he claims that people always act in the way they believe is best for
them (at the time of action, at any rate). Hence, all wrongdoing reflects some cognitive
error. But in the middle period, Plato conceives of the soul as having (at least) three parts:

a rational part (the part that loves truth, which should rule over the other parts of the
soul through the use of reason),
a spirited part (which loves honor and victory), and
an appetitive part (which desires food, drink, and sex),

and justice will be that condition of the soul in which each of these three parts "does its own
work," and does not interfere in the workings of the other parts (see esp. Republic IV.435b445b). It seems clear from the way Plato describes what can go wrong in a soul, however,
that in this new picture of moral psychology, the appetitive part of the soul can simply
overrule reason's judgments. One may suffer, in this account of psychology, from what is
called akrasia or "moral weakness"in which one finds oneself doing something that one
actually believes is not the right thing to do. In the early period, Socrates denied that akrasia
was possible: One might change one's mind at the last minute about what one ought to do
and could perhaps change one's mind again later to regret doing what one has donebut
one could never do what one actually believed was wrong, at the time of acting.
e. Critique of the Arts
The Republic also introduces Plato's notorious critique of the visual and imitative arts.
In the early period works, Socrates contends that the poets lack wisdom, but he also grants
that they "say many fine things." In the Republic, on the contrary, it seems that there is little
that is fine in poetry or any of the other fine arts. Most of poetry and the other fine arts are
to be censored out of existence in the "noble state" (kallipolis) Plato sketches in the
Republic, as merely imitating appearances (rather than realities), and as arousing excessive
and unnatural emotions and appetites.
f. Platonic Love
In the Symposium, which is normally dated at the beginning of the middle period, and
in the Phaedrus, which is dated at the end of the middle period or later yet, Plato introduces
his theory of ers (usually translated as "love"). Several passages and images from these
dialogues continued to show up in Western culturefor example, the image of two lovers as
being each other's "other half," which Plato assigns to Aristophanes in the Symposium. Also

in that dialogue, we are told of the "ladder of love," by which the lover can ascend to direct
cognitive contact with (usually compared to a kind of vision of) Beauty Itself. In the
Phaedrus, love is revealed to be the great "divine madness" through which the wings of the
lover's soul may sprout, allowing the lover to take flight to all of the highest aspirations and
achievements possible for humankind. In both of these dialogues, Plato clearly regards
actual physical or sexual contact between lovers as degraded and wasteful forms of erotic
expression. Because the true goal of ers is real beauty and real beauty is the Form of
Beauty, what Plato calls Beauty Itself, ers finds its fulfillment only in Platonic philosophy.
Unless it channels its power of love into "higher pursuits," which culminate in the knowledge
of the Form of Beauty, ers is doomed to frustration. For this reason, Plato thinks that most
people sadly squander the real power of love by limiting themselves to the mere pleasures
of physical beauty.
7. Late Transitional and Late Dialogues
a. Philosophical Methodology
One of the novelties of the dialogues after those of the middle period is the
introduction of a new philosophical method. This method was introduced probably either late
in the middle period or in the transition to the late period, but was increasingly important in
the late period. In the early period dialogues, as we have said, the mode of philosophizing
was refutative question-and-answer (called elenchos or the "Socratic method"). Although the
middle period dialogues continue to show Socrates asking questions, the questioning in
these dialogues becomes much more overtly leading and didactic. The highest method of
philosophizing discussed in the middle period dialogues, called "dialectic," is never very well
explained (at best, it is just barely sketched in the divided line image at the end of Book VI of
the Republic). The correct method for doing philosophy, we are now told in the later works, is
what Plato identifies as "collection and division," which is perhaps first referred to at
Phaedrus 265e. In this method, the philosopher collects all of the instances of some generic
category that seem to have common characteristics, and then divides them into specific
kinds until they cannot be further subdivided. This method is explicitly and extensively on
display in the Sophist, Statesman, and Philebus.
b. Critique of the Earlier Theory of Forms
One of the most puzzling features of the late dialogues is the strong suggestion in
them that Plato has reconsidered his theory of Forms in some way. Although there seems
still in the late dialogues to be a theory of Forms (although the theory is, quite strikingly,
wholly unmentioned in the Theaetetus, a later dialogue on the nature of knowledge), where
it does appear in the later dialogues, it seems in several ways to have been modified from
its conception in the middle period works. Perhaps the most dramatic signal of such a
change in the theory appears first in the Parmenides, which appears to subject the middle
period version of the theory to a kind of "Socratic" refutation, only this time, the main refuter
is the older Eleatic philosopher Parmenides, and the hapless victim of the refutation is a
youthful Socrates. The most famous (and apparently fatal) of the arguments provided by
Parmenides in this dialogue has come to be known as the "Third Man Argument," which
suggests that the conception of participation (by which individual objects take on the
characters of the Forms) falls prey to an infinite regress: If individual male things are male in
virtue of participation in the Form of Man, and the Form of Man is itself male, then what is
common to both The Form of Man and the particular male things must be that they all
participate in some (other) Form, say, Man 2. But then, if Man 2 is male, then what it has in
common with the other male things is participation in some further Form, Man 3, and so on.
That Plato's theory is open to this problem gains support from the notion, mentioned above,

that Forms are exemplars. If the Form of Man is itself a (perfect) male, then the Form shares
a property in common with the males that participate in it. But since the Theory requires
that for any group of entities with a common property, there is a Form to explain the
commonality, it appears that the theory does indeed give rise to the vicious regress.
There has been considerable controversy for many years over whether Plato believed
that the Theory of Forms was vulnerable to the "Third Man" argument, as Aristotle believed
it was, and so uses the Parmenides to announce his rejection of the Theory of Forms, or
instead believed that the Third Man argument can be avoided by making adjustments to the
Theory of Forms. Of relevance to this discussion is the relative dating of the Timaeus and the
Parmenides, since the Theory of Forms very much as it appears in the middle period works
plays a prominent role in the Timaeus. Thus, the assignment of a later date to the Timaeus
shows that Plato did not regard the objection to the Theory of Forms raised in the
Parmenides as in any way decisive. In any event, it is agreed on all sides that Plato's interest
in the Theory shifted in the Sophist and Stateman to the exploration of the logical relations
that hold between abstract entities. In the Laws, Plato's last (and unfinished) work, the
Theory of Forms appears to have dropped out altogether. Whatever value Plato believed that
knowledge of abstract entities has for the proper conduct of philosophy, he no longer seems
to have believed that such knowledge is necessary for the proper running of a political
c. The "Eclipse" of Socrates
In several of the late dialogues, Socrates is even further marginalized. He is either
represented as a mostly mute bystander (in the Sophist and Statesman), or else absent
altogether from the cast of characters (in the Laws and Critias). In the Theaetetus and
Philebus, however, we find Socrates in the familiar leading role. The so-called "eclipse" of
Socrates in several of the later dialogues has been a subject of much scholarly discussion.
d. The Myth of Atlantis
Plato's famous myth of Atlantis is first given in the Timaeus, which scholars now
generally agree is quite late, despite being dramatically placed on the day after the
discussion recounted in the Republic. The myth of Atlantis is continued in the unfinished
dialogue intended to be the sequel to the Timaeus, the Critias.
e. The Creation of the Universe
The Timaeus is also famous for its account of the creation of the universe by the
Demiurge. Unlike the creation by the God of medieval theologians, Plato's Demiurge does
not create ex nihilo, but rather orders the cosmos out of chaotic elemental matter, imitating
the eternal Forms. Plato takes the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth (which Plato
proclaims to be composed of various aggregates of triangles), making various compounds of
these into what he calls the Body of the Universe. Of all of Plato's works, the Timaeus
provides the most detailed conjectures in the areas we now regard as the natural sciences:
physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology.
f. The Laws
In the Laws, Plato's last work, the philosopher returns once again to the question of
how a society ought best to be organized. Unlike his earlier treatment in the Republic,
however, the Laws appears to concern itself less with what a best possible state might be
like, and much more squarely with the project of designing a genuinely practicable, if
admittedly not ideal, form of government. The founders of the community sketched in the
Laws concern themselves with the empirical details of statecraft, fashioning rules to meet

the multitude of contingencies that are apt to arise in the "real world" of human affairs. A
work enormous length and complexity, running some 345 Stephanus pages, the Laws was
unfinished at the time of Plato's death. According to Diogenes Laertius, it was left written on
wax tablets.

Platos Concept of Justice

Plato defines justice with the help of his ideal state from which justice is inseparable. He
discovers justice by using the method of Large Letters i.e. the method of solving deeper mysteries with
the help of more easily understandable mysteries of a similar kind. Justice resides in the state and is to be
identified with complete virtue which composed of four elements i.e. wisdom, courage, temperance i.e.
self control and justice. Platonic justice consists in the will to concentrate on ones sphere of duty, and
not meddle with the sphere of others; and its habitation, therefore, is in the heart of every citizen who
does his duty in his appointed place Justice is the condition of every other virtue of the state and grows
with specialization of functions. The justice of the state is the citizens sense of duty. This conception of
justice goes against individualism because a man must not think of himself as an isolated unit with
personal desires, needs or ambitions but as an integral part of an organic whole. Platos justice does not
embody a conception of rights but of duties through it is identical with true liberty. Justice is a quality an
indispensable quality of moral life. It is true condition of the individual and of the state and the ideal sate
and the state is the visible embodiment of justice. The state is the reality of which justice is the idea.
Just as the justice of the state depends upon each class and each individual in the state
performing its or his duties properly, similarly the justice of the individual demands that each of the three
elements in the individual soul i.e. reason, spirit and appetite, keep within their proper bounds. Justice in
the individual is identifiable with complete virtue or excellence which must be distinguished from
compartmental excellences. Justice, as a complete virtue, makes a man good by integrating and
harmonizing his other virtues of courage and self control.
To Plato, complete justice postulates an ideal state and is identifiable with it. Justice, like the ideal
state, therefore, demands division of society into three classes representing the elements of reason, spirit
and appetite, one man, one work, on the basis of functional specialization, a state-regulated scheme of
education, the rule of philosopher- rulers and their emancipation from domestic and economic worries by
a system of communism, and emancipation of women and their equality with men. Platos conception of
justice has in it the principles of a social scheme and social justice. Platos concept of justice is based on
the submergence of the individual in the society. It does not concede the notion of Individual versus the
State. It refers to the whole duty of man and not merely his legal duties. It is based on the division of
society into various professional classes.
Justice, to Plato, has a moral rather than legal content. It has its individual and social aspects.
From the point of view of the individual, it means self-control which makes a man refrain from following his
selfish impulses and doing undesirable things. It makes him curb his social ambitions stick to the station
in life for which he is best fitted by his natural endowments and make his most excellent contribution to
the society in the performance of his duty. It thus leads to specialization of functions. From the point of
view of society, justices means self-control on the part of various classes of society which makes each
class mind its own function and not meddle with the functions of other classes. It also makes various
members of each class stick to their own allotted functions within the class and not interfere with the
functions of other individuals in the same class. Justice, thus, is a principle of non- interference which
keeps within proper bounds the various classes of society, various individuals of each class and various
elements in an individuals soul. It is a principle of functional specialization which moves everyone to
make a specialized contribution to society. Specialization leads to efficiency. Justice is architectonic and
keeps other virtues in harmonious relationship with each other. It permeates and integrates the other
virtues of wisdom, courage and self-control and keeps them proper bounds. As such, justice is the bond
that holds the society together.

Criticism of Platonic Justice

Platos conception of justice is very novel for what it includes and what it omits. It is based on selfcontrol and self-abnegation of the individual in the interests of the society. It envisages a dull uniformity

and harmony of social life. It leads to functional specialization. It ignores the evils of functional
specialization which does not sufficiently realize and properly provide for the whole of human personality.
It stunts the growth of the individual and thereby impoverishes the society. It is based on the unwarranted
assumption that man is all appetite or all reason. It compels every individual to live on one third of his
total self. In Platos concept of justice, the individual is lost in the society. He is a means to an end and not
the end itself.
Justice of Plato stands for non-interference between classes. But it is impossible for the ruling
class not to interfere in the affairs of other classes because ruling means regulation which is interference.
True, Plato is against functional and not against regulative interference but the two cannot always be
Platos concept of justice divides the State into three classes and is not applicable to a modern
nation-state with a large population and with numerous interests and sections or society. His division of
society into three classes with their exclusive functions leads to a class-consciousness and classprivileges. Concentration of absolute political power in the hands of the philosophers is likely to lead to
Platos conception of justice is in moral and not legal terms. It is too subjective and does not issue
in an objective law for the guidance of the people. It makes too much of a demand on an individuals
devotion to the state. It is a system of duties and not of rights of the individual and yet the two must
always be correlated in a healthy society. It does not provide for clash of individual and class interests.
Based on the conception of one man, one work, it does not provide for the proper development of the
individual and, therefore, of the society. It gives a monopoly of political power to the philosopher-rulers
and makes too much of a demand on their altruism. Based as it is on a system of communism, it ignores
the essentials of human psychology. Platos conception of justice is static. It assigns a man a particular
position in life and condemns him to that position throughout his life.

Platonic Idea of Citizenship

From the point of view of political speculation we are vitally concerned with Platos quest after the
attributes of an ideal citizen. What qualities should a citizen possess in order to do his duty by the state
and help to make the state an ideal one? Plato is on firmer ground here and is more definite in his
answers. He tells us that an ideal citizen must possess the following virtues: (1) Physical beauty. (2)
Intellectual keenness (3) Ability and passion for knowledge and quick wit. (4) Perception of beauty.(5)
Hatred of vice for a life of vice renders a man unfit for duties of the state.(6) Quality of a certain divine
madness after the fashion of Socrates-certain originality-the capacity to contribute ones own point of view
to the general discussion of a problem.(7) The true citizen will- the older and wiser an ideal citizen
becomes, the more time he spends on the contemplation of good.(8) Love for ones fellowmen. This was,
however, limited to the Greeks, and was not meant for the barbarians.

Platos theory of Education

Platonic justice demands for its realization proper intellectual and material environment. A man
must, in a spirit of devotion to the state, give his best to the state in his own particular station in life. Plato
believed that a state-regulated system of education could create that spirit of devotion and that excellence
in the performance of public duty which was demanded of every citizen. Public education was, therefore,
a direct corollary of Platonic justice. To Plato, education did not mean the storing up of external
knowledge but the bringing of the soul into proper environment for its development. The eye must be
turned to the light. Education, whose object is to create right surroundings and environment, is a long
process. Plato believed in the perfectibility and plasticity of human nature.
Plato believes that the true life of an ideal citizen is a life of discipline, a life of contemplation of
fundamental things of life, one of loving truth for its own sake. He is refreshingly modern in some of his
views. He is a true and possibly the first feminist because he lays down emphatically that the qualities of
citizenship which he has enumerated would cover women too. He makes mention of women supervisor
for his ideal city-state. Here he was in diametric opposition to the other Greek thinkers.
Plato believed the functions of the state to be very positive. The state could promote justice and
right action and prevent crime by providing mens sana in corpore sano, which could be done by a proper

system of education, intellectual and physical. To Plato, therefore, education was the most important
function of the state and the department of education the most important of state departments. Plato
attached more importance to education than either Aristotle are any other Greek thinker did. First among
human things I reckon education of Antiphon would as soon have come out of Platos lips. In outlining his
system of education, Plato took his inspiration from Sparta rather than his own city-state, Athens. He
disliked the lack of organization in Athens and declared that, the direct and strict control of the state. His
system of education was more disciplinarian than that of any other Greek educationist. It applied to both
men and women. Education culminated in the realization of the Idea of Good. Education was calculated
to promote justice and to enable a man to full his duty. Plato, therefore, held that the function of education
was to make or a woman for the matter of that, socially and economically useful and fit. Education has the
twin aim of enabling the individual to realize himself and of adjusting him harmoniously and usefully to
The Platonic course of education was systematic and progressive. In childhood, the important
thing was not so much the imparting of knowledge as he cultivation of a certain type of attitude towards
things and men. In youth, education should be both physical and intellectual. Here came in music for the
soul and gymnastics for the body. Platos music contained what led to intellectual and cultural
development whereas his gymnastics included all that developed the body such as physical exercises,
diet, etc. In the last i.e the adult stage, education was to be general and vocational. Education must help
the individual to discover his or her true vocation in life. Platos system of education is a graded one,
moving from a simpler to a higher stage of development i.e. from the training of Spirit to that of Reason,
from Arts and Science to Philosophy and from training for self-control and courage to that for wisdom.
Early education in his scheme fits a man for society whereas higher education enables him to realize
reality and truth.
Platos plan of education is a state-controlled system of compulsory education for both sexes. His
system comprised of: (1) Elementary education up to the age of seventeen or eighteen. There is to be
general education in music and gymnastics and also in the elements of sciences. The Greek music
included all cultural subjects including poetry which Plato would have expunged of bad elements that
falsify gods or impair courage or induce intemperance. From seventeen or eighteen to twenty, there is to
be exclusive training in gymnastics. (2) Higher education was to be given on selection after an elimination
test. It extended from twenty to thirty-five. This period was divisible into two parts i.e. twenty to thirty to
thirty-five. In the first, young persons were to be helped to choose their true vocations in life and get
trained in them. There was to be a systematic scientific course. Dialectical power must be developed.
Military training must also be given. At the age of thirty, a second elimination test would follow. Those
passing this test would be the perfect guardians and will get a further five years course of training in
Mathematics, Astronomy and Logic. Emphasis is to be laid on dialectics. Higher education was to be, in
effect, professional. Platos emphasis is on Arts in, the first stage, on Sciences in the second and on
Philosophy in the third or last stage.
Books II and III of The Republic deal with Platonic education which represents a compromise
between Spartan organisation and Athenian individualism. Platonic system of education anticipates many
modern theories of education. It was calculated to promote harmonious of the individual and of the
society. It is not burden-some and is designed to bring about the progressive arousing of the latent
faculties in the individual. It provides for body as much as for the soul by laying due stress on the practical
and the theoretical. Platos system also harmonizes the claims of idealism and realism, of heredity and
environment and of the individual and the citizen. It has its individual and social aspects. It enables the
individual to realize Truth. It integrates him with society, creates social consciousness and enables him to
perform his social duties efficiently and unselfishly. One of the main functions of education is to uphold the
basic principles of the state, as for instance justice and rule of philosophy. If Plato will not give equal
education to all, his system allows equal initial opportunity for education to all. It was a life- long process,
for after retirement from public service, an individual was to concentrate on the realization of the Idea of
the Good.
The system of education detailed above was calculated to create the ruling class. The
fundamental political idea in The Republic is the doctrine that governing authority must be associated with
the broadest knowledge and culture, that the philosopher should be the statesman. Plato laid particular
emphasis on the proper education of the guardians because he believed, with Aristotle, that the class of

guardians i.e. the ruling class, is the state. A guardian must be properly trained so that he unites in
himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength. Only a perfect type of guardian could create a
perfect state. Plato, therefore, recommended for his guardians a life of a sort of military monasticism.

Platos Theory of State

Plato built up his theory of state on the essential identity between the individual and the state. The
state is, to him, a magnified individual, and the virtues of both are identical. The state is a combination of
individuals who by their combination produce an organic whole which is different from its constituent
parts. The state is an organism with an individuality of its own and, therefore, a life of its own. Plato
believed, with the German Idealists, that the state represented the highest manifestation of human virtue.
The institutions of the state the ideas of the individuals and their moral principles. A human soul may be
divided into the three elements i.e. appetite, reason and spirit, Corresponding to these three elements the
state has its economic element i.e. workers and artisans etc., its philosophic element i.e. the governing
class, and its martial element i.e. the governing class and its martial element i.e. the soldiers. This gives
up Platos psychological theory of state.
The philosopher gives us an economic theory of the origin of the state too. He knows, as we do,
that the wants of the individuals comprising a community are multifarious. Everybody cannot meet all his
wants and desires for lack of time and capacity. Everybody, for instance, wants a certain minimum of food,
a certain minimum of clothing and a certain minimum of housing accommodation. To satisfy these
minimum requirements, a large number of commodities are required which is ordinarily beyond the
capacity of an individual to prepare for himself. This gives rise to a desire and necessity of co-operation
between individuals. The first element in the formation of the state, therefore, is the economic motive.
People come together and form an economic system for the satisfaction of human needs. But they are
quick to learn the advantages of specialization. Some people have better aptitude for, and therefore, show
greater efficiency in, certain things and directions. This makes for specialization among workers. But the
workers can satisfy only the economic needs of the people. Men cannot live by bread alone. There is
something more than the satisfaction of economic needs and that is the satisfaction of the economic
needs and that is the satisfaction of the urge to preserve and expand. This gives rise to a class of people
who specialize in fighting. Lastly must grow a class of people who are fit for political speculation and who
specialize in the art of governing the people. Plato, in short, believes that the state originated because of
the necessity of economic co-operation and that functional specialization of appetite, spirit and reason,
creating the three different classes of workers, soldiers and philosophers. Wisdom is the virtue of the
ruling class, courage that of the soldiers, and temperance that of the appetitive class while the virtues of
the state are justice, wisdom, courage and self-control.

Functional Specialization
The ideal of Plato is conceived in terms of functional specialization on the part of individuals and
classes. The Socratic view that knowledge was virtue led to the Platonic doctrine of specialization of
functions. Besides, amateurish inefficiency in Athens and the efficiency of the professional soldier in
Sparta pointed to the necessity of specialization. Platos theory of specialization was based on the
reciprocal needs of human beings and the necessity of division of labour. The needs of an individual are
multifarious and he cannot meet all of them for lack of time and capacity. There must, therefore, be
economic co-operation and mutual exchange of services based on specialization of knowledge and
Platos theory of functional specialization is a direct corollary of his conception of justice which
means the efficient performance by the individual of his allotted task in society and which involves the
division of society, on functional basis, into the three classes of workers, soldiers and rulers. Plato
believed that division of labour, specialization of functions and interchange of services led to harmony and
unification of the state by removing the cause of struggle between individuals and classes. If the task of
ruling is given to a class of specialists, there would be no incentive for political disorder and revolutions on
the part of the untrained demons.

Evils of Functional Specialization

Plato commends the division of the state into different classes on the basis of functional
specialization. Specialization does conduce to efficiency and speed and, therefore, is a good thing but
Plato in his love of specialization of functions did not pay proper heed to the following:He did not sufficiently realize the wholeness of a human being. The personality of a man is a
complex whole and is not capable of rigid division into water tight compartments. Many men are endowed
with all the three human faculties of appetite, courage and reason and desire to exercise them. If every
individual is condemned to the narrow limits of performing one function only, he cannot properly develop
his personality and realize the fullness of his life. The consequent loss is not only personal but of the
whole community. Functional specialization makes one sacrifice the all-round view of an amateur for the
specialized knowledge of a professional. What ought to be aimed at is the combination of the view-points
of an amateur and an expert which is impossible under the Platonic system and which makes the British
constitution of today the best of many good constitutions. The Platonic system of functional specialization
would tend to divide the state into so many bureaus and the system itself would degenerate into a
bureaucratic system with all its concomitant evils.
In the Platonic system the governmental powers, are given to one class of people the
philosophers only. This means that the state at its highest level will become identical with one section of
the community i.e., the thinkers. Now, if political power is to be definitely assigned to the thinkers, to the
exclusion of other classes of the people, the ruling class is bound, human nature being what it is, sooner
or later, to identify the public interest with its own class interest. You can never have a purely disinterested
altruistic class of people to govern a state for a long time. The identification of class interests with public
interest on the part of the ruling class is sure to create resentment and discontent in the state resulting in
disorders, anarchy, political revolution and the overthrow of the whole system of government.
The largest measure of common good in a state can only be brought about by the co-operation of
the largest number of people making their mental and physical contributions for the general welfare. This
would not be possible under the Platonic state-system based on rigid specialization. Plato in his ideal
polity concentrates on the ruling class i.e. philosophers, and, comparatively, ignores the other classes. His
system, is, therefore, lopsided.

Platos Communism
Platos ideal state represents a new social order in which the upper two classes live in a state of
special regimentation. Representing the elements of reason and spirit, they are made to renounce the
element of appetite. This is done through a system of communism of property and family advocated by
Plato which was not wholly without local Hellenic support, institutional and ideological. There was a touch
of communism in Sparta as shown by the institution of common-messing out of private lands. Wives were
lent by husbands to others for state purposes. In Crete there was public B.C the communistic theories
definitely appear, showing a distinct tendency to idealize the ancient nature people who held things in
common. Euripides in his protesilaus advocated communism of wives. Platos communism of property
and wives had psychological as well as practical basis. The communism of wives was brought about in
two waves i.e. emancipation of women and reform of marriage.
To Plato the community as a whole was everything, the individual apart from the community
nothing. He divided the community on the basis of functional usefulness. A citizen was to perform the duty
for which he was best fitted and no other. He had to merge himself in the state and render the greatest
possible service to the state. The state was his raison detre. The collectivism of Plato almost completely
ignored the individuality of the citizen, who just a part of the state and whose functions were the functions
of the state. He was to be allowed neither the opportunity nor the incentive to do anything besides serving
the state. He must not have any interests other than those of the state. Hence he was not to be allowed to
collect private property. A desire to have personal property, it was feared, would lead to the entertainment
of personal ambitions, and would bring about a clash between an individuals personal interests and those
of the state. To avoid this clash and bring about perfect harmony in the state Plato advocated
communism. Communism would destroy the false notion of self as an isolated unit and replace it by a
conception of a self as a useful and integral part of a social whole. The theoretical basis of Platos
communism is furnished by his conception of the state as an organism and of justice as the duty of
performing usefully and thoroughly ones allotted part. His communism was a material and economic
corollary of the spiritual method of Plato to regenerate the state. Plato had given the philosopherguardian the monopoly of political power and he was too shrewd not to realize that unless they were
denied private property and the consequent economic power the combination of two sorts of power,

political and economic, would demoralize even his philosophers. Reason, without communism, may be
impaired or overpowered by appetite.

Comparison with Modern Communism

There are points of similarity and dissimilarity between Platos system of communism and modern
communism. Both are alike in that both essentially ignore the individuality of the citizens and are based
on the conception of the supremacy of the State which absorbs the individual. Both are totalitarian,
covering various aspects of the life of the individual. Both are based on the ignorance of the essentials of
human nature and human instincts. Both are impracticable if applied on a vast scale, both are calculated
to eliminate unregulated economic competition, based on individualism. Both are meant to promote
political unity and social harmony and to develop the sense of social service. Platos communism is
against the holding of private property by the two upper classes. Modern communism also is against
private property in the means of production. Both the systems visualize a social whole in which an
individual secures his own interest best by securing the general interests.
But there are important differences, too, between Platos communism and modern communism.
Platos system demands equal abnegation of material goods by guardian; modern communism is based
on equal division and enjoyment of material goods. In Platos communism, what is common among
guardians is not the possession but renunciation of property. Platos communism affects the ruling classes
only and not the producers of economic goods; modern communism affects all classes, especially
producers of goods. Platos communism was calculated to prevent concentration of political and
economic powers in the same hands, modern communism gives political powers to economic i.e.
producing classes. Platos communism involved abolition of private property as well as private family;
modern communism effects private property only. Platos system does not touch the producing classes
and, therefore, does not affect the individualist system of production. Modern communism is against
economic individualism and advocates state ownership of the means of production and distribution.
Plato advocates communism of property for the guardian rulers for the reason that the union of
political and economic power in the same hands is fatal to political purity and efficiency. Such a union
would demoralize even his philosopher-rulers. The guardians were entrusted with the exceptional function
of ruling and must submit to exceptional regulations. Platos communism is aristocratic in conception and
demands abnegation from only the best in the community. It is for and not by the whole community. It
applies only to the two upper classes and does not apply to the appetitive class which retains its private
property. Platos system, therefore, does not effect the economic structure of society and allows the old
individualist system of production. Plato was not for individual ownership but collective use of it. They
have no private property no lands and no houses of their own. They live in common barracks and have a
common public mess. They agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay, enough to pay the
expenses of the year and no more.
Plato believes that private family postulated property and therefore communism of property made
necessary the abolition of the private family too among guardians. He builds up his communism of wives
on the basis of emancipation of women, and reform of marriage. Women must be brought out into public
life. They must be properly educated for the service of society. The old system of private and permanent
marriages must be replaced, among the guardians, by one of temporary marital unions. There is an
essential difference between Platos communism of property and of wives. In the case of wives and
children, there is common ownership.
Plato advocated communism of wives from political, social and eugenic points of view. He ruled
out the individual family for the guardians. The family system and the family feeling to him, where the
cause of personal ambitions and restricted feelings and militated against the cultivation of esprit de corps
in the community. He would allow no such thing as father, mother, children, etc. There was to be no
permanent marriage in the ruling class. Proper representatives of the opposite sexes were to be selected
by the state for securing a proper type of children. The best of both sexes ought to be brought together
as often as possible and the worst as seldom as possible. The mating age for men is between 25 and 55
and for women between 20and 40. Undesirable children were to be exposed i.e. destroyed. Plato was
thus not only the first advocate of systematic communism but also the first eugenist. In Platos system
there was to be no family among the guardians and, therefore, no family messing. Plato was convinced
that not only a proper system of education but proper environment and habitation were necessary to

produce and maintain uncorrupted his all important guardians. Hence he advocated communism of wives
and property. Plato, strangely enough, never discussed the possibility of the practical realization of his
system of communism Plato wanted to create a community of family in which not only wives but also
husbands and children belonged to the family held together on the principle of joint fellowship. Children,
born of temporary unions, were to be brought up in state nurseries. No parent would know his own child
nor a child his parent. This would convert the whole guardian class into one family.

The First Feminist

To the Greeks of the days, of Plato, a woman was merely an instrument for the procreation of
children. Marriage was no sacrament. Complete seclusion from men and public affairs represented
feminine excellence. Plato was the first thinker who advocated emancipation of women, their exaltation
and enlistment in the service of the community. He was the first feminist. Woman must be taken out of her
household drudgery and allowed a full and varied development of intellect and character. She must be
rescued from ignorant servitude and granted intelligent independence.
Plato was convinced of the necessity and usefulness and feasibility of bringing women out into
public life which would perfect the unity and strength of the state. Women, held Plato, were the equal of
men and had the same nature as men. There was no fundamental difference between women and men
as human entities. Like men, women had the three psychological elements of Reason, Courage and
Appetite though in different degrees. They could perform the same functions as men did. The difference
between women and men one of degree and not of kind.
To Plato no practice or calling in the life of the city belongs to women or to men as men. In
matters of administration and public service, nature has created no difference between woman and man.
Women can guard the sate just as bitches can hunt or shepherd a flock of sheep. Women are capable of
holding both civil and military offices and discharging their duties as efficiently as men. Let the age for
holding office be in the case of a woman forty; in the case of man thirty years Let the age of military
service be, for a man, twenty to sixty but for a woman after she borne children, up to the age of fifty.
Plato held that there must be equality between men and women of the guardian class in functions
and in social status. Women must receive the same education as men. Plato assigns women special
functions in their peculiar province. Women are to regulate marriages and the rearing of children. In the
Laws we read of a committee of women nurses with the duty of supervising married couples for the first
ten years after marriage and reporting cases of obstinate misconduct. Then of them with ten Guardians
of Law form a court to allow divorce for incompatibility of temper.
In order to improve the lot of women, Plato advocates the discouragement of polygamy and
encouragement of monogamy. In the Laws he suggests that those who remain bachelors after the age of
35 should be heavily taxed. Plato is against excessive drinking which corrupts family life and brings
misery to womenfolk.
It must be realized that Platos advocacy for emancipation of women from the household was only
to secure their services for the community at large. As such, Plato was thinking more of their duties than
of their rights. Besides, his was a plea only for the political equality of women with men, for to deprive
women of their political status and functions was to deprive the state of the services of half of the
community. Again, Platos emancipation affected only the female of the guardian class. For the many
women of the appetitive class, Plato had little to offer.

Criticism of Platos Communism

Platos advocacy of the abolition of private property (and private family) ignores the essential
psychology of human nature. In all ages and all places men, of all classes, have needed a certain
minimum of private and personal property through which alone they could best develop and express their
individuality. Private property has the sanction of time and utility and its abolition represents a reaction to
primitivism. Platos communism goes against human freedom and equality, kills diversity and leads to
excessive centralization. It does not touch the lower classes and is, at best, half communism. It represses
the instinct of acquisition and would lead to indolence. Platos communism ignores the appetitive class
does not, therefore, represent a systematized whole. As such it cleaves the society into two groups of the
propertied and the property less. It is negative in character and does not aim at the material well-being of

the society as does modern communism. Platos communism of wives and property, alongside his system
of education, might develop into a hereditary aristocracy. By giving political power to the guardian classes
and the economic power to the appetitive class, Plato failed to establish a correlation between Politics
and Economics which has been a marked feature of human history.
Communism of wives ignores the fundamental sex and paternal instincts and is unworkable. The
individual is as much an individual as he is political animal. The sense of public duty cannot kill, except in
a few abnormal cases, the racial maternal and paternal instincts. To expect an individual to crush these
instincts is to make too much of a demand on his civilization. Platos system ignores the healthy
influences of civilization. Platos system ignores the healthy influences of heredity and family environment,
Plato emancipates women, only to condemn them to the masculine life of public duty. Breeding for the
public, on a system of temporary marriages, reduces women to the position of stud animals. Of course,
some would say that the Platonic system of selection of mates by the state is good eugenic point of view.
But is it? It is extremely doubtful if it can create a race of intellectual, moral and physical giants by statecontrolled mating Parentless children are likely to be fond-lings and poor specimens of humanity. Platos
scheme of temporary marriages does not take note of the fact that the relationship between husband and
wife and between parents and children is a spiritual and life-long relationship.
Platos communism of property and family has been severely criticized by his more practical
disciple, Aristotle, to whom communism leads to excessive unification and destroys the richness and
variety of life. Unity in diversity, rather than in dead uniformity, is the right thing. Common property would
destroy the sentiments of charity and benevolence. True unity should be brought about by proper
education and not through communism. Platos communism divides the society into two halves.
Communism of wives will lead to disharmony as also incestuous love. It may lead to unholy acts against
near relatives. State regulation and selection of proper mates is not an easy task. Common children are
bound to be neglected and humanity will be the worse for this neglect.

Decline of the Ideal State

In Books VIII and IX of The Republic, Plato traces the general decline of the ideal state and of the
individual. This decline is due to the gradual corruption of the basic elements of the human soul i.e. of
Reason, Spirit and Appetite and of the constituent elements of the state. The first decline takes place
when Reason declines and gives place to Spirit. This is followed by Appetite getting the upper hand in the
state and overpowering Reason and Spirit. This decline is due to the natural law of growth and decay and
the excess i.e. the oligarchs aiming too much at wealth or democrats too much at freedom and equality. It
is also due to the decline of the individual i.e. of the citizen when must register a corresponding decline in
the state.

Platos Classification of Governments

In The Republic Plato outlines the changes in the form of government in the ideal state which has
entered its period of decline. He assigns reasons for the change of government from one form to another,
the changes taking place according to a process of rotation. Come now, as a judge who pronounces after
considering all, so do you tell me who second, and the rest in order, they being five in all- the Regal, the
Ambitious, the Oligarchic, the Democratic and the Tyrannic The first and last represent the rule of one,
the second and third rule of a few and the fourth the rule of many. The first i.e the monarchial form is the
best type of government if the state has a philosopher-king animated with the spirt of justice. This in time
gives place to Timoarchy in which the rulers are more influenced by honour than justice. Next comes
oligarchy when a few wealthy men seize all political power and use it in the interests of their own class.
This creates discontent in the minds of the many, who overthrow oligarchy, seize power and establish a
democracy. When there is democracy, people abuse liberty and create a state of anarchy when one man
rises, puts down disorder and establishes his own irresponsible and selfish rule called tyranny. The tyrant
is the embodiment of injustice in the society. The tyrant is the embodiment of injustice in the society. While
Plato considered tyranny to be the worst form of government, he disliked democracy too, for , in a
democracy insolence is termed breeding, anarchy liberty, waste magnificence and impudence courage
Besides, he had amply witnessed the abuses of democracy in his city-state, Athens. To the ideal of
equality he opposed that of harmony.

Plato on Democracy
Athenian democracy, in the days of Plato, had degenerated into mob-rule where selfish
individualism ran riot. The politically untrained and uninitiated multitude held the reins of the government.

Law and conventions yielded place to license and society to the individual. Justice became the interest of
the stronger. Personal ambition and factious spirit polluted public life. This mobocracy reacted adversely
on the sensitive mind of Plato which was further embittered on the sensitive mind of Plato which was
further embittered by the execution of Socrates. Plato an aristocrat by birth, saw the progressive with
individualism and social dissolution. He refers to democracy as a system that grants equality to equal and
unequal alike. Real equality would dispense not equal rights to all but equal rights for equal capacities. To
Plato, a democrat is given to vain conceit. He mistakes modesty for silliness, temperance for
unmanliness, equality for insolence and anarchy and licence for liberty. Platos denunciation of democracy
is understandable because he believes in the rule of trained intellect, but he fails to realize the virtues of
democracy. He does not properly realize the educative value of popular participation in public affairs. He
minimises the sound common-sense of the demos.

Plato and Marxism

Platos theory is based on two postulates i.e. (1) that the government is necessary for any
organized social life, and (2) that the function of government must be left to a small aristocracy of intellect
and virtue. Marxism believes in the slow withering away of the state and therefore does not agree with
the first postulate of Plato. It reverses the second postulate of Plato by substituting the dictatorship of the
proletariat for the aristocracy of intellect. Platos third class was not the proletariat because it included the
capitalists as well as workers.

Plato and Fascism

Platos leadership of human thought is evident from the fact that modern Fascism has borrowed a
good deal of its ideology, from Platonism. If Plato was against democracy, Fascism repudiates demo
liberalism of the 19th century. Plato advocated dictatorship of the philosopher-king; Fascism means
dictatorship of the Leader of the Fascist Part. Plato was in favour of the rule of intellect and held the
minority rule of the guardians to be the best of practical forms of government. Fascism stands for the rule
of the Fascist intellect and the minority rule of the Fascist Party. Both Plato and Fascism assume that only
the enlightened few are the best judges of what is best for the community. Platos Ideal State and the
Fascist State are conceived in totalitarian terms, controlling each and every aspect of the life of the citizen
and the community. Both advocate family planning on eugenic lines. In both cases the ruling class is not a
hereditary class but represents a functional aristocracy.
Platonism in effect, repudiates human-equality and distinguishes between citizen and slave and
citizen and citizen i.e. thinkers and non-thinkers. Fascism also repudiates the principle of human equality.
Both Plato and Fascism are against the unregulated liberty of the individual. Both insist on active
citizenship and devotion to the state. Both try to co-ordinate all forms and aspects of communal life under
the direction of the state. Both try to co-ordinate all forms and aspects of communal life under the
direction of the state. Both stand for the supremacy of law and order. To Plato, the city-state is the
supreme reality; to Fascism, the nation-state is the supreme reality. Platonism denies the non-free i.e.
slave element any organized expression or status in the state; Fascism denies the non-Fascist any
organized expression or status. Both Platonism and Fascism emphasize the duties of the citizens more
than rights.
There are, however, some essential points of difference between Platonism and Fascism. Plato
was against imperialism and thought and wrote in terms of the city-state whereas Fascism is imperialistic.
Platonism represents political idealism, Fascism is based on political realism. Plato erected a political
structure on the basis of philosophy; the Fascist philosophy has essentially followed the Fascist State.
Platonism stands for rationalism which is in contrast with the intuitionism of Fascism. The Platonic
concept of truth and morality is rationalistic, the Fascist is pragmatic.
Platonism subordinates Politics to Ethics, Fascism subordinates Ethics to Politics, Platonism
advocates communism of property and women; Fascism is, in many respects, the antithesis of
communism. Platonism stands for harmony; Fascism for struggle and power. To Plato justice is not the
interest of the stronger; Fascism exalts might.
It must be pointed out that differences between Platonism and Fascism are of more fundamental
nature than points of similarity.

Individualism in Plato

Plato is a collectivist but his political thought is not without traces of individualism in it. In fact, is
collectivism was by way of reaction to the raid individualism prevailing in Athens of his day and preached
by Sophists. Against the atomistic individualism of the Sophists, Plato stood for social individualism.
Platos justice wanted each individual to find out his true vocation in life, excel in it and make his
best contribution to the society in the performance of his specialized function in life. Even when Plato is
emphasizing the social excellence of the individual, the individual is not out of his mind. By concentrating
on the type of work for which Nature has endowed him best from moral, intellectual and physical points of
view, an individual does not lose his individuality. He enriches it. He expands his personality. The greatest
and best expansion of his personality lies in the development of those faculties with which Nature has
endowed him.
Plato cannot be accused of having sacrificed the individual for the sake of the State altogether. It
is only the microscopic minority of the guardians who merge themselves in the state. Plato does not call
upon the mass of the community belonging to the producing classes to efface themselves for the state. In
fact, it is for the good of the individuals in general forming the mass of the community that he would
sacrifice the guardians who stand for the subjects to be the good of the State. He demands the sacrifice
of the ruler and not of the ruled.
Platos communism is not wholly anti-individualistic. It does not affect the appetitive classes but
only the guardians. It leaves untouched the individualistic system of production. So far as the guardian
classes are concerned, Platos communism secures for the individual freedom from every entanglement,
which might stand in the way of his true vocation in life, enriching the society and his own personality. It is
not the diffusion of interests but intensity of interest that enriches the personality of the individual. Plato is
certainly against false notions of atomistic individualism, natural rights and unrestricted freedom for man
to do as he likes. An individual is a part of a whole i.e. the community and has his definite place in the
whole. He has his part to play in the social whole. His individuality, rights or freedom have meaning in so
far as they enable him to play his part in society freely and nobly. An individual is entitled to freedom and
rights which might secure him conditions in which enrich the society and himself.
Though Plato emphasized natural inequality between individuals and was against equal rights to
all, he was prepared to concede equal opportunities to all. This is borne out by his system of education
which combines the principle of natural inequality of individuals with the principle of equality of
opportunity. Up to the age of 20, he gives the same education to all, men and women, and creates
uniformity of conditions and equality of opportunity for all.
The latter works of Plato are more individualistic than his Republic. With advancing years, Plato
tones down his early collectivism. In the Laws, he gives greater recognition to the personality of the
Individual. He allows holding of property by the guardians and his system is based on participation by
larger number of individuals.

Plato on the Idea of Good

Plato holds that the philosopher-ruler must know the idea of Justice and Beauty and Temperance.
Ultimately he must know the Idea of which all these ideas are phases i.e. the Idea of the Good. It is the
realization of the Idea of the Good which enables the philosopher to know the end of all doing and all
being. The Idea of the Good is the source of all truth, of knowledge, The Idea of the Good is the source of
all truth, of knowledge, beauty and of moral goodness. It is the source of all knowledge as well as the
highest object of knowledge. It illumines the intelligible world. Its apprehension by the soul is Knowledge,
its indwelling in the soul is Virtue, its shining forth to the soul- through the medium of sense- is Beauty and
its manifestation in the state is Justice.


If The Republic of Plato is pre- eminently a treatise on ethics and education, his Statesman is preeminently one on politics. Though still an idealist, conjuring up the vision of an ideal than he is more of a
practical idealist in the Statesman than he is in The Republic. Plato tries to enunciate his views on:1. What a man ought to be and do if he is to rule ?

2. What is the part played by politics and political science in education? Plato held that politics
must aim at educating in virtue and justice.
Classification of Government on the Basis of Law
Plato shows the distinction between the theory of government and the art of government. He also
declares that an ideal ruler is not a mere administrator or a politician. An ideal ruler must be a real
philosopher. Plato believes that the duty of an ideal philosopher-ruler is not to administer the state but to
make men the ideal standards of good and justice and that a ruler and a state is good or bad according
as this is or is not accomplished. If the ruler is a philosopher, law is useless. He must not be restrained by
law, but since such an ideal ruler is a rare individual, law which embodies practical wisdom and
experience of the past, is necessary. Making law and its necessity the basis, Plato gives a new
classification of government according as the rule is in the hands of one, few, or many, as under:Government directed By Law
Government not directed By Law
(1) Rule of one monarchy.
(1) Rule of one tyranny.
(2) Rule of few aristocracy.
(2) Rule of few oligarchy.
(3) Rule of many moderate Democracy.
(3) Rule of many extreme Democracy.
In the classification given above, Plato holds that the rule of one i.e. monarchy, is best from the
point of view of the good of the people in a law-governed state but a monarchy is subject to a perversion
to tyranny which is the worst form of government. The rule of few on both sides i.e. aristocracy, where a
small number of the ablest men devote themselves to the service of the state and its perversion,
oligarchy, where a small number of rich people rule in their own interests, holds an intermediate position.
The rule of the many i.e. democracy, is the worst in a law directed state because it represents the rule of
an average man who is incapable of political speculation, but because of its inefficiency and inherent
weakness, democracy is the best form of government in a state which is not government by law.

Platos Modified Views
Plato is even more practical in the laws than he is in the Statesman. Since it is difficult to have a
real philosopher to rule the state in the ideal way, laws are necessary and, therefore, Plato sketches out a
legal system to help, guide and restrain the imperfect governmental machinery. The laws represents an
attempt to discover a practical system of government. With advancing years and mature judgment, the
idealism of Plato is giving place to practical wisdom. The laws is shorn of much of the idealism of The
Republic and Statesman. Experience has forced Plato to modify his views about many things, especially
his communism of property and women. In the laws, Plato has to admit that private property and family
life are indispensable human institutions, though even now he does not give them an unqualified support.
Both private property and marriage are to be allowed but under strict state supervision. The state control
of the educational system is to be far less strict than in the case of The Republic. Plato, however, is in
favour of establishing a censorship over the intellectual and artistic interests of the citizens. The only real
restriction on marriage is with a view to preventing the perpetuation of really bad types of humanity,
Women were to receive the same education as men and were allowed to take part in public affairs but,
unlike The Republic, they were now not entirely free domestic duties.
The government in The Republic is under the control of philosopher-rulers untrammelled by laws
whereas in the Laws, Plato assigns to laws their proper position and supremacy. Laws are supreme over
rulers and the ruled alike. The sovereignty of philosopher-rulers is replaced by the sovereignty of law. The
Republic portrays an ideal state, the Laws builds up a state meant to be realizable. If justice is the basic
principle of the Republic, self-control or temperance is the basic principle of the Laws. The Republic
portrays an absolutist state; the laws introduces a measure of democracy and the principle of election.

Wealth and Political Power

In the laws, Plato allows wealth to share with intellect and philosophy the monopoly of political
power. This wealth, however, must come from land, since commerce is still taboo. The ideal state,
therefore, was to be based pre-eminently on agriculture, but the state was to limit the amount of land in
the possession of individuals. Offices in the state would depend on agricultural wealth. The population

was to be divided into four classes on the basis of wealth in land. At the bottom of the scale a class of
people were to be allotted a definite area of land, produce from which would just enable men belonging to
that class, to maintain life. In the case of this class, only the right of existence was recognized. The three
higher classes were to hold double, treble and four times respectively, the landed property assigned to the
lowest class. If however, any member of any particular class had more landed property than was
assigned to his class. If, however, any member of any particular class had more landed property than was
assigned to his class, the state was landed property than was assigned to his class, the state was to
confiscate the surplus. This was because Plato held that the greater the difference in the possession of
wealth, the lesser would be the harmony of interest between the rich and poor and, therefore, the greater
would be the corruption and inefficiency in the state. It may be said that if, in the Laws, Plato registers a
retreat from his early communism, it is not a full retreat. Instead of a complete abnegation of property, as
advocated in The Republic, he now proposes division of land with proper safeguards against
concentration of property.

Administrative Machinery with Proper Checks

In the Laws, Plato suggested a number of useful checks on the vices of different forms of
government. Every citizen was to be allowed to have his share in the government of his state according to
his ability to do so. The machinery of government, with necessary checks, which Plato proposed, was as
follows:The supreme authority in the state was to be vested in a board of 37 whose members were to be
men between the ages of fifty and seventy. Old age was calculated to bring experience and stability with
it. These men were to be guardians of law and were to be chosen by election. The functions of this board
were supervisory. There was to be an administrative council of 360 appointed to execute the orders of the
board of 37. Men belonging to the second class from the bottom in the list of classification, based on
possession of land, were to be appointed to the administrative council and were to be chosen by a
combination of election and lot. There was to be a sort of jury system in which every citizen of either sex
could take part. There was to be ultimately a council of ten to ensure the proper and smooth working of
the whole constitution, to watch the proper execution of laws and to prevent unconstitutional laws being
proposed. This council of ten was to be assisted and advised by: (a) a council of twenty priests known for
their virtue; and (b) a council of twenty young men to counteract the senile conservatism of the older men.
At the base of the administrative structure, there was to be a popular assembly of 5,040 heads of families,
the main function of this body being electoral.
A close study of Laws makes it clear that though Plato still aimed at the creation of an ideal state,
he took proper count of the facts and figures around him. While in his earlier works he took his inspiration
from Sparta and her institutions, in the Spartan constitution with what was best in his own city- state

Estimate of Plato
Plato was the first systematic political thinker in the West. He was the father of political
radicalism. In his early days of unbounded optimism he wanted to create an ideal state where justice and
virtue should reign under the fostering guidance and control of a philosopher-king. He was prepared to
sacrifice much, even the time-honoured institutions of private property and family life for the sake of his
ideal, but his advancing years and consequent maturity of judgment, the troubled conditions around him,
but, above all, his unsuccessful attempt to realize his ideal state in Syracuse whither he was invited by his
friend, the tyrant Dionysius, purged him of a good deal of his early radicalism. Plato is criticized for his
hatred of democracy, but it must be realized that even more than two thousand years after him,
democracy has not been able to win universal recognition as the best form of government. Many of
Platos ideas were Utopian and as such were severely criticized by his disciple. Aristotle. His communism
of wives would be impracticable in a modern nation-state and communism of property hardly less so. But
we must realize that Plato was writing about an ideal city-state and must not be judged by the standards
applicable to modern states. His emphasis on justice and functional specialization, his feminism and his
eugenics are features of everlasting interest in his political philosophy. Platos Republic influenced Cicero
and St. Augustine. Augustines thought blends Platonism and Christianity. Many of the conceptions of the
Middle Ages are traceable to The Republic. Platos communism is reflected in the communistic

monasticism of the Middle Ages. There is also a certain similarity between the Ideal State of Plato and the
Medieval Church. Both were divided into three classes. Both were ruled by Reason. The philosopher-king
of Plato was like the Medieval Pope. Both ruled on absolutist lines. Sir Thomas Moores Utopia makes
references to The Republic and advocates communism of property and emancipation of women. The
Renaissance and the Humanist Movement owe much to Plato. In his conception of justice and of
communism, Plato belongs to the school of Utilitarians, because he puts the good of the community
before everything else. It is with Rousseau that Plato begins to exercise a steady influence on modern
political philosophy. Rousseau, influenced by Plato, discards the individualism of Locke for the
collectivism of the Social Contract. He believed, with Plato, that the state was a moral organism and an
educational institution. Auguste Comte, like Plato believed that scientific knowledge should govern the
state. Plato has also profoundly influenced the German and English schools of Idealism.
If The Republic of Plato has a lasting influence on later thought because of its idealism, the Laws
was not without its influence. Aristotles Politics is considerably inspired by the Laws, particularly in Books
VII and VIII where Aristotle portrays his Best State. The modern notions of constitutionalism, of Best
State. The modern notions of constitutionalism, of a mixed constitution and of the sovereignty of laws are
traceable to the Laws of Plato.