Plato's Republic
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Plato's Republic



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

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 Plato's Republic Presentation Transcript

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