Plato

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Plato

Today many people regard Plato as the first genuine political philosopher and Aristotle as
the first political scientist. They were both great thinkers in regards to, in part with
Socrates, being the foundation of the great western philosophers. Plato and Aristotle each
had ideas in how to proceed with improving the society in which they were part of during
their existence. It is necessary therefore to analyze their different theoretical
approaches regarding their philosophical perspectives, such as ethics and psychology. This
paper however will mainly concentrate on Aristotle's views on friendship and how it
impacts today's society.

The main objective in Plato's philosophy is a creation of a perfect society. He constructs
a foundation for a utopian society in his book "The Republic". The purpose of his thought
process was to cleanse his society of the woes he felt plagued it and construct a new one.

Plato lived during the Peloponnesian War, which consequently lead to the end of the
Athenian democracy. He had eyewitness account of his mentor's (Socrates) trial and
execution. Bitter and angered by the political corruption that gripped the Athenian
democratic government, he disengaged from participating in politics. He strongly felt that
neither a moral individual nor a state that is rational could be established in a
democratic environment. Plato felt that the common man wasn't intelligent or capable of
dealing with concepts that influence the state such as economics, policy of foreign
affairs and other relative matters. He viewed political incumbents in Athens government as
being elected for matters that were irrelevant to main factors that affected the state.
Another danger was that excessive liberty for the people of the democratic society could
potentially lead to anarchy. In Plato's perfect society, he forged ahead to eliminate the
disease (pluralism of friendship) that plagued the human character and society (Class
Notes). Essentially, Plato wanted to establish the perfect form of society, linked by one
single entity.

Aristotle, unlike Plato, was not focused or concerned about the idea of a perfect society,
instead he wanted to improve upon the one that he was part of during his existence. Rather
than develop a framework for a society that is perfect, he suggested that society should,
in it self, strive to utilize the best system it can attain. He felt that utopia was
abstract and superficial. It wouldn't allow for realistic problem solving solutions. He
felt that Plato's view of a strict overhaul of society in general wasn't necessary. He
believed that society was at its optimum and you can only improve upon the existing one.

Plato's perfect society would consist of three basic groups, which are Guardians (Gold),
Auxiliaries (Silver), and the Artisan (Bronze). The highest of these classes are the gold
people, which consist of rulers and non-rulers. Those that are rulers are society's
decision & policy makers and non-rulers occupy levels of civil servants. The fundamental
prerequisite to becoming a genuine philosopher is to have knowledge of forms, thus
enabling you to know the truth. Plato's theory of the forms is partly logical and part
metaphysical. Armed with the truth, he believed that philosophical ruler will always make
the right decision, and rule with total wisdom, justice and virtue. The rulers, he felt,
wouldn't posses any money or property, they would be free of desires, excesses, and vices.
The Auxiliaries (Silver) are people of strength, courage, and military capacity; they
occupy a small sector of society. All auxiliaries would be subjected to a series of tests,
which will check their powers of resistance to self-interest, pleasure and other
temptations. The last level, Artisan (Bronze), are the workers which might be composed of
farmers and artist, essentially non-skilled workers. They would produce all the consumable
and non-consumable goods deemed necessary for consumption and the continued economic
viability of the society. Plato whole-heartedly felt that if ever the bronze or iron
people rule the state would collapse (Class Notes). He sought to establish the concept of
the gold class having wisdom, thus they should be wise and good rulers. It was imperative
that those who rule be philosophers and skilled in areas that pertained to the interest of
the state.

Aristotle's disagreed with Plato in regards to allowing one particular class to govern the
state politically for indefinite period of time. He felt that to not allow interaction
among the various classes would inhibit those who posses the ability to engage in
political life, an injustice. He feels Plato's structure of classes is politically
incorrect for the state. He quotes "It is a further objection that he deprives his
Guardians even of happiness, maintaining that happiness of the whole state which should be
the object of legislation", ultimately he is stating that those who rule (Guardians),
sacrifice their happiness for control and absolute power. Those who are of the gold class,
lead such a rigid life, that it will become necessary to impose the same strict way of
life on those being governed. He places the idea of moderation on a high pedestal. Many
individuals come to favor the concept of moderation because it is flexible, part liberal
and part conservative. Plato's ideal society is so difficult to conceive that Aristotle
believes that no human being can achieve its rudimentary requirements. He decided to
express in the "Republic" how men should conduct it self in a perfect society and what
attitude they should posses. In retrospect, Aristotle felt by using real world experience
along with real people, he can see first hand how and what way can he improve society.

Plato and Aristotle both agreed on justice and viewed it objectively; that is it controls
the belief a life of good nature would be provided for all people no matter their ranking
in society. Aristotle's states " In democracies, for example, justice is considered to
mean equality, no oligarchies, again inequality in the distribution of office to
considered just". Plato views the idea of law and justice as what sets the standard for
society's behavior in a state.

Aristotle puts emphasis on the institution of the polis or civilized community. The polis
was structured to allow the average individual in society to participate in political
matters. This institutional forum is not the city-state or the community, but merely the
larger of the two entities. It is rather a partnership between households, clans, and
villages for the sake of a fully developed and self-sufficient life. The polis enables
those individuals who naturally posses moral intellect and wisdom an opportunity to rise
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