Plato v. Aristotle Plato`s Ideal State In The Republic (360 B.C.E), one

Plato v. Aristotle
Plato’s Ideal State
In The Republic (360 B.C.E), one of the most important philosophical treatises of the ancient world, Plato describes
the ideal aristocratic state and how rulers and citizens should behave in order to maintain a place where justice,
wisdom, beauty, poetry and music would be exalted.
In Plato’s perfect place the philosophers rule. There is censorship, obedience to authority, death penalty and no
exclusive relationship. Some might argue that it is impossible to be happy without freedom but Plato demonstrates
that the true slavery is that of the spirit imprisoned by tyrant senses, and, only through a model of government which
ensures that the imperfections of the physical existence do not dominate the soul’s will, can citizens attain true
freedom and happiness.
Plato and the Aristocratic State
In Plato’s ideal state, there are three main classes – magistrates who rule the state selected from the guardian class,
warriors (the "militaries"), and artisans (musicians, smiths, cooks, poets, etc.).
The guardian class is constituted of philosophers who are concerned with the moral values of the citizens and
therefore, they are the ones who decide the principles of education, control the censorship of music and poetry and
guarantee the prosperity of the state.
The leaders selected from the guardian class must be the most virtuous and compromised with the morality of the
citizens. Since they are philosophers, they can distinguish between people's real needs and people's illusory needs,
which often corrupts the soul, thereby leading to immorality and unhappiness. So, the main role of the guardian class
is to make sure all citizens grow spiritually and morally. Because of that, there must be death penalty for the citizens
who infringe upon certain laws and censorship of certain kind of music and poetry.
The "militaries" cannot have any possessions and all their needs must be provided by the fellow citizens. They are
warriors who obey the rulers and protect the state. Finally, the artisan class must subject to the upper classes,
knowing that every law and every rule is projected only to make them virtuous, and, therefore, happy. For Plato,
there's no happiness without moral virtues.
Women and Children in Plato's Ideal State
Women, according to Plato, are equal to men and can do the same things as men, so, they should also work to serve
the population. Men and women reproduce but do not get married or live together as there can be no exclusive
relationships – all women belong equally to all men, who, in turn, also belong to all women.
The children are raised by slaves in the first years and educated by the state according to their natural skills. So, if a
child demonstrates ability for combats, for instance, he or she must be educated to become a warrior, and if a child is
sensible for music, he or she must be educated to become a musician and so on.
According to Plato, marriage and family ties are harmful because citizens become attached only to a certain group of
people — their biological families — instead of regarding the whole community as a large family. If there are no family
ties, people will work to serve the whole community, in which their biological families are also included. The artisan
class, however, is allowed to maintain family ties.
Music, Arts, Literature and Poetry
Music and arts were very important to Plato. In Plato’s perfect world, every person is educated to appreciate music
and contemplate arts. Plato argued that some kinds of music and poetry should be censored and only those which
speak of the good actions of the heroes could be appreciated. Music, literature and poetry which blame the gods for
all bad things that happen have to be banned, so that people know they are responsible for their actions.
Words like "hell" or "purgatory" to describe Hades, the mythological underworld, are completely extinguished from the
vocabulary as the afterlife is to be understood as a transitory state of mind that emerges from a person’s
consciousness after death. It's not viewed as a physical place that should be feared.
The Importance of Gymnastics
According to Plato, gymnastics are important to perfect the body, which is a tool to bring the ideas to life. A weak
body cannot serve the state, so, for Plato, gymnastics has to be a part of every citizen’s education.
A virtuous soul without a strong body makes a fragile man, just as a strong body without a virtuous soul makes a fool.
Beautiful bodies remind the soul of its origins and therefore, inspire people to search for eternity and completeness,
as explained through the concept of Platonic love.
Plato's Perfect World
Sometimes it is hard to understand Plato's concept of the ideal state because today's society is not based on virtues,
but money. The ultimate goal of the capitalist world is not to grow spiritually and produce a community of virtuous
citizens, but to make people materially richer (sometimes at the expense of others!).
So, the Platonic state can only be understood if one abandons the materialistic view of the world and embraces the
philosophy which says that the physical world is transitory and the purpose of life is to perfect the soul. Without this
thinking, the Platonic state becomes just another absolutist nation.
Aristotle on Politics
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) was a disciple of Plato in the Athen's Academy but founded his own center of studies in 336
BC — the Lyceum — which gave birth to the Peripatetic School. Such was his greatness as a thinker, that he was
called by Philip II of Macedon to be the tutor of Alexander the Great.
Unlike his master, who philosophized about the world of the ideas, Aristotle focused on the practical aspects of life
and his political treatise, The Politics, remains until today, one of the most important theories studied in Political
Zoon Politikon – Man is a Political Animal
Zoon politikon is an expression used by Aristotle to define men's nature – man is a political animal. According to
Aristotle, politics is the only way that can lead men to excellence when it comes to community life.
Among animals, only men can articulate language in order to determine the just and unjust, the good and the evil, act
according to moral and intellectual principles, and therefore, politics is a human property.
Aristotle on Happiness
Aristotle said that the whole precedes the part or the society precedes the individuals. It means that the political
institution is not a result of human creation, but humans are a product of the society. Although some animals gather in
communities for instinctive reasons, in order to satisfy their needs such as protection, reproduction, food, etc; men
also need the community to fulfill their potentials as a well organized society will provide conditions for its members to
develop moral, intellectual and physical virtues, without which people cannot reach their ideal as humans.
So, from this perspective, what is considered good for one person has to be also good for the whole community as
the common wellness will, in all cases, provoke individual wellness as well, creating a perfect system of social
harmony – there is no individual happiness without public happiness. The objective of politics, according to Aristotle,
is to provide the best ways to guarantee people's happiness.
Aristotle's theory says that some people cannot govern themselves and therefore, they need someone to govern for
them, these people are slaves by nature and should work to the free men — warriors (militaries), priests and
magistrates — the only ones who can exercise citizenship and become virtuous.
It's important to point out that the concept of slavery in ancient times was quite different from what is considered
slavery today. Slaves had the right to medical care, sheltering and even retirement, and being a slave was not
necessarily a pejorative thing, as slaves were often given important tasks such as tutoring the children. Aristotle
understood that in every society, it is natural that some people are slaves Slaves need the master and the master
need the slaves, so it is a fair deal for both parts. When all component of a family (constituted by father, mother,
children, free men and slaves) are acting according to their nature, then each one of them is happy and the whole is
harmonious. This same principle can be applied to the society. Aristotle's perfect society, then, is that which allows
all its members to be happy by providing the ways through which all people can exercise the potentials that
correspond to their nature
Which philosopher’s “Ideal” State would you prefer to live in? Explain why? - 350 words