The Social Fabric of the Platonian State
Social fabric is the composition of any state and consists of the rate of employment, values of the environment, levels of education, ethnic composition, and wealth. On the other hand, a Platonian State is an ideal city that Plato envisioned. In one of Plato’s most significant works, The Republic, the philosopher reveals the composition of a typical city or state. He offers ideas on the social structure of a state as well as on how concepts such as justice can be achieved.
Furthermore, Plato reveals that the ideal state should have producer class, a military class, and a class of rulers. He compares the human soul to a perfect state and explains that a human mind is made up of physical needs, reason, and active thinking. The paper argues why the social structure of the Platonian state is ineffective in solving the social and political upheavals that are common in the modern world.
Athens, idealized as the ultimate representation of balance and harmony in society, suffered a period of social and political upheaval as a result of its slow decay. Social and political discord present in the earlier forms of the Athenian government was especially prevalent in Plato’s lifetime during the fourth and fifth centuries. The Athenian state went through a very uncertain time during its development. Its prosperous commerce, victories in battles with other neighboring countries, and its government’s tendency towards greatness introduced the state into the process of extension, which led to imperialism and brought luxury and wealth into the city. Affluence associated with political power increases corruption, as it became an obsession with the Athenian population. Athenian political leaders struggled to acquire political positions using demagogic and pragmatic techniques to bribe the people. Sophistry became a traditional method of justifying proposals and opinions of significance to the Athenians.
Political and social transformation led to several changes as a result of revolutions that took place during the Peloponnesian war. The permanent shift in the social structure of the state led to unclear arrangements and undefined ideas of social groups that were supposed to be ruled. The unstable and precarious system of administration in the city affected the living conditions of the citizens and the economy as the state entered the process of political stagnation. Plato worked within the Athenian culture using various tools to criticize its functioning. He believed that both the oligarchic and the democratic forms of government were corrupt and guided by self-interest. Plato offered an accurate analysis of the social and political conflict within the state and explained his idea of an ideal state in his writing. He thought that it was necessary to develop a social structure in which people’s interests would be taken into account by unifying politics and philosophy.
Plato’s perfect state is divided into three groups, and by practicing the cardinal virtues of justice, moderation, courage, and wisdom complete equality can be achieved. The three social divisions are illustrated with myths of the metals assigned to each social partition. Bronze is for the craftsmen who will be allowed to trade with money, silver is for those in charge of the state’s security, and gold is for the rulers and leaders educated through a complex education program designed by Plato. The three social classes are supposed to be balanced with each one having advantages and disadvantages. Plato considers all the social classes to be equal and communal happiness to be reached through interactions between the social classes. In the Platonian state, knowledge is a privilege of the few and yet there are no social differences in the welfare of individuals.
The educational ideas conceived by Plato originate from his understanding of justice both for an ideal state and people within various social fabrics. Plato viewed people as individuals who depended on their well-being and survival. Furthermore, he opposed the fact that justice in the soul of a person was congruent with the judgment provided within the city. The ideal state envisioned by Plato was a republic with such citizen categories as auxiliaries, artisans, and leaders who had distinct capabilities and natures. The approach reflected the diverse elements within an individual’s soul based on reason, spirit, and appetite. Auxiliaries were ruled by spirits and courage that were vital in the protection of the city from invasion by outsiders. Artisans were controlled by their desires and appetites and were mandated with the production of goods and services. Finally, philosophers who were the leaders of the city possessed knowledge and foresight to rule the people, and their reasoning outweighed their appetite and spirit.
I agree that the social structure of the Platonian state is ineffective in solving the social and political upheavals that are experienced in the modern world. I support the criticism leveled against Plato’s social fabric by Sir Karl. Sir Karl reveals that the Platonian state allows for less freedom of expression and diversity because it is totalitarian in nature. Plato’s social arrangement is irrelevant and cannot be applied to the modern world. The Republic, one of Plato’s books, aims at explaining the vision of an ideal city through the development of different social fabrics. Plato describes how such a state will be arranged, educated, and governed. He goes ahead to lay ideas that may appear as petty, immoral, and simply wrong to a modern audience. His idea of division of people based on their capability is discouraging and can only apply in a totalitarian state.
Plato reveals that justice is not being impertinent and striving to focus on personal business. The definition may seem odd to a modern reader, but that is how the philosopher thought about it. His idea was that justice entailed fulfilling an individual’s proper role, realizing the potential of other citizens, and not overstepping individual roles by doing what is contrary to a person’s nature. Plato ensures that in his social arrangement, each person will have different duties and obligations to the community and that, if each person sticks to their roles, the outcome will be a harmonious whole. When an individual conducts or performs their duties, they receive whatever remuneration and credit that they deserve and should be punished when they fail to fulfill their tasks.
Plato believes that justice is served when an individual performs the duties that are assigned to them based on their capability within the class that they belong to. In this form, the platonic definition of social justice seems plausible. For instance, a thief is wrong for wanting what is not his. A doctor who is unable to treat his patient is considered unjust as a result of not being able to perform his proper role. A murderer is wrong because he deprives his victims of life. Dishonest people do not fulfill their duties properly according to their situations in life and often treat individuals worse than they deserve. Consequently, a fair city aims to create conditions in which people can have shelter, food, clothes, and tasks necessary for the society. Plato believes his social arrangement to be useful in ensuring that the state can achieve excellence by dividing the nation into the ruling, military, and producer class. The producer class will consist of people who live for money and whose bodily appetite is dominant. The class is mandated with production and includes blacksmiths, farmers, fishers, weavers, retailers, and bankers.
According to Plato, the life of a producer is not as tough as that of a guardian or a ruler. The producers’ class follows the familiar pattern of family, work, recreation, and rest. Members of the producer class learned a profession or trade, such as farming and carpentry, according to their capabilities and needs in the society. Plato reveals that the military class was formed from men who aspired for success in courageous act and aggression. The members of the ruling class were chosen from members of the state with dominant reasoning who lived only for the truth. A Platonian state will be efficient if various classes perform their duties on behalf of the state. Plato believed that, through social arrangement and justice, the state would be more effective in ensuring that each member of the social classes could serve a purpose in the community. He perceived anarchy as a vice and an unjust state of affairs. A country that is just requires ranking people based on their potential and capabilities in social hierarchy.
The human soul itself is hierarchical. The active part is superior to the appetitive part, which is superior to the rational. Each part has a different role. The reason should govern an individual, and there is a need for the appetite to be heeded if the soul is to be unanimous with the body. Every aspect of the mind has to accomplish its duties in an efficient manner to ensure a moderate state of affairs. The right individual should possess a well-ordered soul that understands justice as an act of knowledge. The social fabric of the Platonian state is different from the modern liberal and democratic world. We are used to a free and dynamic society which does not include rigid hierarchies. People are no longer ranked based on their intrinsic value or capabilities towards the society. Individuals are not tied to analogies based on either nature or role in the community. Additionally, they do not visualize their world as being ideal or harmonious. The society admires individuals who are driven by vision as opposed to those who conduct everything in moderation and those who are at peace with themselves. People’s culture has less impact on ideas, and Plato prefers an ideal state that is unjust and decadent.
Plato grew up in the city of Athens. At the time, the city was facing several challenges which made it disintegrate from within. Plato gained experience by observing the state’s war with Sparta and the tyrants. Consequently, Plato saw better life crumbling and wanted to understand whether what was happening around him could be fixed. As a result, the philosopher emphasized order and uniformity and upheld the city’s perception over people’s claims. Plato believed in justice that is static. He thought that people should be assimilated into the society. Despite minor similarities between modern ideas and those of Plato’s social fabric, there are many differences because his perceptions are different from that of people in the contemporary world. For example, Plato’s opinion on the issue of murder is the same as that of our current justice systems. However, both the deeper intuition and the explicit definition of justice differ from our understanding. We conceive justice as oriented towards people’s freedom and individual’s priority over the community. We find it non-permissible and meritorious to disobey the laws of the state. The difference becomes apparent when we focus on people’s transgressions.
People will support Plato’s idea that individuals who do not perform their duties as expected are unjust. However, on the issue of tyrants, the current system will focus on various reasons such as self-determination, disregarding democracy, killing of innocent people, and suppression of freedom. Plato will, however, consider tyranny as being unjust as a result of it preventing subjects from seeking harmony and goodness between themselves and the community. Our concept of a just and ideal person indicates another example of a difference in outlooks. Plato suggests that an ideal individual is a philosopher, because their wisdom means that their soul is in harmony. The rational understandings of a leader is that of a person who governs his appetites and passions and doesn’t allow them to reign free reign over the people and the city at large. Plato believed that a leader of the ruling class was aware of his subjects and understood the society as a whole. However, his reasoning of social arrangement was overruled by his passion because he failed to respect reasons that brought unity among individual’s souls. The vision of an ideal person by modern people is different to that imagined by Plato. Like Plato, the modern world tends to incorporate virtue in a nation. Their ideal is more rational and does not emphasize an individual’s behavior.
Judging by the language used by Socrates, it is reasonable to think that Plato would have loved to see his ideas implemented. Plato presents three social arrangements that are related to the human soul. The classes include the military class, the producer class, and the ruling class. Individuals in the ruling and the military classes acquire the same education that begins with music and literature and concludes with gymnastic. Arts, such as poetry, were used for educative purposes. The curriculum ensured that music which sounds soft and sorrowful was banished from the education of guardians (McKeen). This apparently leaves the Phrygian and Dorian modes of which Socrates approves as they incite the audience to temperance, courage, and harmonious living.
Indeed, the life within a totalitarian government resembles that of Plato’s ideal state. Socrates suggests repressive laws where people are allowed to choose only one occupation.
Evidently, there exists no bridge between the private and public lives. Conducive issues are encouraged, while vices of any kind are discouraged. Both poverty and wealth are unacceptable. Plato believed that women and children should not be considered individuals. Through Socrates, he presented his idea that the original form of families should be shunned. Children were taken away from their mothers at birth and offered to other women for feeding. Plato’s breeding mechanism resembles that of the Nazi’s idea of getting rid of the weak.
It is true that the social structure of the Platonian state is not useful in solving the social and political upheavals that are experienced in the modern world. Plato was unable to understand the condition of harmony that he thought resulted in collective and personal happiness. The condition is the perception that others appreciate one’s sense of freedom. Fortunately, the ideologies of modern liberals have compensated for the deficiency of the Platonian state. In a free society, there will be no man-made obstacles and atomization to one’s understanding and interpersonal recognition.