Plato and the republic

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Plato and the republic

  1. 1. Plato and the Republic
  2. 2. Plato was born into a wealthyAthenian family around 429 BC.
  3. 3. So, he grew up during thePeloponnesian War (431 – 404 BC).
  4. 4. Around the age of 20, Plato joined the circle of Socrates.
  5. 5. Socrates did not conduct hisphilosophical inquiries through writing...
  6. 6. ... but through engaging in dialogues with prominent Athenians, often in public places.
  7. 7. We can imagine Plato watchingon and sometimes participating in these conversations.
  8. 8. In 404, when Athens was finally forced to surrender, a Spartan sponsored tyranny, known asthe Rule of Thirty, was installed in Athens.
  9. 9. The tyranny was extremelyvicious and lasted less than a year.
  10. 10. Plato’s uncle and cousin werekey players in the Rule of Thirty.
  11. 11. It may have been his family’sinvolvement in this unhappyperiod that led Plato to finally shun politics and pursue the philosophical life.
  12. 12. In 399, Socrates was tried and sentenced to death (by drinkinghemlock) for impiety and for corrupting the youth.
  13. 13. After this, Plato spent around a decade travelling the Mediterranean.
  14. 14. Around 388 BC, Plato returned toAthens and established a school called the Academy.
  15. 15. Plato wrote 20 books before his death in 347.
  16. 16. Almost all his books take the form of dialogues led bySocrates (who, remember, did not write anything himself).
  17. 17. To what extent Plato is faithfully representing Socrates...
  18. 18. ... and to what extent he is using Socrates as a character through which he advances his own views,
  19. 19. ... is difficult to discern and a matter of debate.It is believed to vary from book to book and over periods of Plato’s writing.
  20. 20. Plato’s Republic was written about 375 BC.
  21. 21. The title is a poor Latintranslation (res publica > things + public = public affairs) of the Greek word politaea which meant ‘ideal state’ (Phelan: 2005, 148).
  22. 22. In the Republic, Plato envisages a utopia or perfect society. The central element of this society is that it is ruled by philosophers.
  23. 23. He takes a dim view ofdemocracy in which the unwiseand untutored are accorded as much power as those who aresteeped in knowledge and whodeliberate in a rational fashion.
  24. 24. Plato advances numerousarguments for his ideal state but one is important to bear in mind.
  25. 25. Plato thinks ruling is a specialised skill no less than,say, making shoes or building a ship.
  26. 26. Therefore, he thinks it no moresensible to have unskilled non-specialists ruling than making ships or shoes.The results in all cases will be similarly shoddy.
  27. 27. It is somewhat surprising that Athens’ most famous thinker, Plato, is so negative aboutAthens’ most famous invention, democracy.
  28. 28. The goal of this lesson is to understand Plato’s critique of democracy in theory. Insubsequent lessons, we will lookat some historical examples that might explain Plato’s views.

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