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PLATO

Past Paper Questions

Explain Plato’s Theory of Justice. How he tries to implement it through ‘The Education System’? (2001, 2006)

Plato’s Communism was, is, and will remain impracticable. Critically examine this statement. (2003)

“Plato intended to build an institution for the scientific study of politics and training of statesmen”. Elaborate (2008, 2012)

Discuss Plato’s contribution to the history of political thought. (2009)

Platonic and Aristotelian paradigms (2011)

Critically examine the concept of “Justice” by Plato. (2014)

Write a short note on Philosopher King (2015)

Critically analyze the salient features of Plato’s Republic. Do you think that some of its features are valid, even today? (2018)

Discuss in detail Plato’s concept of justice. (2022)

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OUTLINE

  1. Introduction
  2. Political context
  3. Plato’s Theory of Justice
    1. Individual Justice
    2. Political Justice
    3. Justice as the Principle of Specialization
    4. Plato’s Concept of Philosopher Kings
    5. Allegory of the Cave
    6. Meaning
    7. Legacy & Influence
  4. Plato’s Theory of Education
  1. Introduction
  2. Influence on Plato’s System of Education
  3. State-controlled Education
  4. Plato’s Scheme of Education

 

     5. Plato’s Theory of Communism

  1. Communism of Property
  2. Communism of Wives/ Family
  • Plato’s Work
  • Critique

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  1. Introduction

Plato (428/27-348/47 BCE), a Greek philosopher, is one of the most creative and influential thinkers in political philosophy. He has left behind many important works, out of which The Republic is of great interest to all those interested in the history of political ideas. Plato has been credited for laying the foundations of the Greek political theory, as he explored, analyzed and covered a wide range of philosophical perspectives and issues. In his philosophy, Plato gives a prominent place to the theory of the philosophers’ rule. ‘Philosopher King’, the idea according to which the best form of government is that in which philosophers’ rule. The ideal of a philosopher king was born in Platos dialogue The Republic’ as part of the vision of a just city. It was influential in the Roman Empire and was even revived in European political thought in the age of absolutist monarchs. Plato’s rulers had the responsibility of preserving and promoting the interests of the whole community. Their aim is, as Plato expressed in The Republic, to give order and happiness to the state.

  1. Political Context
  2. Plato was averse to democracy as was practiced in Greece/Athens. In Athens, it was a norm that every ‘free person’ (which excluded slaves & women) had the right to vote and speak. But Plato was against that idea and advocated that there should be rule by the philosophers i.e., the most intellectual people of that time. This was because when he was in his early adulthood, Athens lost the Peloponnesian war of 431-404 BCE due to which the democratic constitution of Pericles was overthrown and democracy failed to protect Athens against Spartan aggression. The Thirty Oligarchs rule was established. Hence, to protect Athens from the external environment Plato became averse to democracy.
  3. Secondly, Socrates was condemned to death by a jury for ‘corrupting the youth’ of Athens and questioning the basic beliefs and foundations of Athenian society. Plato was a student of Socrates and all his work was in terms of dialogues where he would ask Socrates a question and Socrates would answer. In short, Socrates was used as a mouthpiece for Plato’s ideas in his works. This was the kind of attachment Plato had with his teacher Socrates. Hence, when he saw that democracy by ordinary people who did not understand the intricacy and details of philosophy sentenced the wisest man on Earth (according to Oracle of Delphi) to death, he became averse to democracy.
  4. After criticizing the conventional theories of justice presented differently by Cephalus, Polymarchus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon, Plato gives us his theory of justice according to which, individually, justice is a ‘human virtue’ that makes a person self-consistent and good; socially, justice is a social consciousness that makes a society internally harmonious and good. According to Plato, justice is a sort of specialization.
  • Plato’s Theory of Justice
  1. Individual Justice (The Tripartite Soul). Plato stated that every human being has three components (tripartite soul) viz., appetite, spirit and reason, and works accordingly. But, all by itself these three elements will not work in a coordinated fashion and the mind as a whole will work disjointedly. Therefore, every part of the mind must work virtuously’ in unison with other parts and under the sovereignty of reason.
  2. Rational part. As the name suggests is part of the human mind or soul that attempts to answer intellectual questions. This enhances the reasoning of human beings and makes him/her decide between right and wrong. This is responsible for philosophical inclinations.
  3. Spirited part. This deals with emotions and is not related to cold rational calculations. This is what years for honor and glory. It is also responsible for feelings of anger and indignation.
  • Appetitive part. It is responsible for primate and base desires such as the desire for acquisition of material goods, food and sexual desires.
  • Individual justice demands that these 3 should be present in synchronization. Since the rational part makes best decisions, they should be the most superior faculty in humans. Spirited and Appetitive parts should be subordinate to his rational part. The same should be the case for society.
    1. Political Justice. Plato’s Political Justice mirrored his concept of Individual Justice. Just like the soul, he believed that society is divided into three natural components:
    2. Guardians. The guardian class or ruler class are the ones who are dominated by the Rational Part of the soul, hence they can make the best decisions based on rational calculations.
    3. Auxiliaries. They are the warrior class and militant part of society that fight and protect the city against foreign invasions. Since they have a desire for glory and honor, they have the Spirited Part most dominant in them. Hence, they can use their emotions to defend their country.
    • Producers. People who are producers that work as farmers, craftsmen, and so on constitute the lowest rung of the social ladder. In these people, Appetitive Part is the most predominant one and their spirited and rational part is subordinate to it. Hence, they constitute the producers.
    • Justice as the Principle of Specialization. Since the philosophers are the only people who have their Spirited and Appetitive parts submissive to their Rational parts, they should be the only rulers and only then the country will prosper. Hence, in eyes of Plato, Justice is the principle of specialization. In every social class since there is one aspect dominant in the 3 part-classification of the soul, hence the people should be divided into social classes.

    A person who is endowed with a dominant Spirited part should become only a warrior. A person who is endowed with a dominant base level of desires should be in producing class. This all is allotted by birth lottery and training. Each person is required to fulfill the societal role to which nature fitted him and not to interfere in any other business. This is the first amongst the series of arguments used by Plato to justify the rule of philosopher kings.

    Justice is, at once a part of human virtue and the bond, which joins man together in society. It is the identical quality that makes good and social. Justice is an order and duty of the parts of the soul. Plato says that justice is not mere strength, but it is a harmonious strength. Justice is not the right of the stronger but the effective harmony of the whole. All moral conceptions revolve around the good of the whole individual as well as society.

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