Plato's Republic


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Slides regarding Plato's Republic for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  • Learning objectives: 1.) To become acquainted with Plato’s ideas as expressed in the Republic . 2.) To be able to situate this ideas within the broader context of Greek politics and Athenian democracy. 3.) To abstract the assumptions that underlie Plato’s political philosophy as expressed in the Republic .
  • Plato's Republic

    1. 1. Plato’s Republic Plato’s Republic
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Background on Greek politics </li></ul><ul><li>Brief biography of Plato </li></ul><ul><li>Plato’s ideal state in the Republic </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of Plato’s political ideas </li></ul>Overview
    3. 3. Greek Politics <ul><li>The fundamental locus of Greek politics was the polis (city-state) </li></ul><ul><li>In the polis “civic space” lay at the center of the community </li></ul><ul><li>All citizens were expected to engage in politics </li></ul>Greek Politics
    4. 4. On Democracy <ul><li>Democracy is often associated with Ancient Greece (where it originated) </li></ul><ul><li>However, democracy was only confined to a few poleis , most notably Athens </li></ul><ul><li>Greek democracies did not function as democracies today do </li></ul>On Democracy
    5. 5. Who was Plato? <ul><li>Aristocrat born around 427 BC . </li></ul><ul><li>Grew up in the years after the Peloponnesian War </li></ul><ul><li>Lived through the high point of Athenian democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Studied under Socrates , taught Aristotle </li></ul>Who was Plato?
    6. 6. What is a State? <ul><li>States come about because individuals have needs they cannot satisfy alone </li></ul><ul><li>Individuals with different talents have complementary needs </li></ul>What is a State?
    7. 7. What is Plato’s Ideal State? What is Plato’s Ideal State? TRADESMEN GUARDIANS RULERS (AUXILIARIES)
    8. 8. What sets Guardians apart? <ul><li>Training </li></ul><ul><li>Guardians are trained to value state interests above personal interests </li></ul><ul><li>Communal lifestyle </li></ul><ul><li>They are to receive no salaries and share everything with each other </li></ul><ul><li>In the case of rulers, wisdom </li></ul>What sets Guardians apart?
    9. 9. Who should rule? <ul><li>Philosopher-King </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Has a grasp of the true and enduring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Would not fear death , would be fair-minded , gentle and sociable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Would necessarily be brave , temperate and thereby just </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Would work to preserve the status quo </li></ul></ul>Who should rule?
    10. 10. Other (sort of) Interesting Things Plato Discusses <ul><li>Composition of the soul: wisdom , courage , temperance and justice </li></ul><ul><li>The concept of the “ just state ” and of justice in general </li></ul><ul><li>The equality of men and women </li></ul>Other (sort of) Interesting Things Plato Discusses
    11. 11. Analysis <ul><li>Plato’s ideas in the Republic are clearly undemocratic on the whole </li></ul><ul><ul><li>He highlights democracy’s weakness as a populist machine </li></ul></ul><ul><li>His ideas are rooted in his view of man as possessing specific talents </li></ul>Analysis
    12. 12. More Analysis <ul><li>Plato emphasizes unity as the supreme value of the state </li></ul><ul><ul><li>concept of organic unity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>He recognizes that the state exists to ensure the happiness of everyone , not just a particular class </li></ul>More Analysis
    13. 13. Even More Analysis <ul><li>In Plato’s view, the basis of political rule is knowledge </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In this regard, the “best” should rule </li></ul></ul><ul><li>He also points out that for rulers to be effective, they must put the public interest before private concerns </li></ul>Even More Analysis