Plato is one of the greatest and most influential ancient philosophers, the founder of the first higher educational establishment in ancient Greece – the Academy of Athens, and the author of about fifty philosophical works, the most notable of them are “The Apology,” “The Republic,” and “Crito,”. Most of his works are written in the form of dialogues in most of them Socrates being the protagonist and discussing with other characters various topics by asking each other questions. In his works, Plato discussed such issues as justice, language, politics, ethics, and morality, and even love and beauty. Though thousand years have passed since the time Plato wrote his dialogues, some of his ideas still find their realization in the modern realms and will continue to influence the world’s development. It especially concerns his views expressed in the work “The Republic,” namely his vision of justice, forms of government, and the model of an ideal state.
One of the key concepts discussed by Plato in “The Republic” is justice. Though in the process of discussion, the characters of the dialogue present various definitions of justice, such as a state of being honest with other people, helping friends, following one’s legal duties, and sticking to one’s moral obligations, etc. As Christian (1988) states, “justice in the individual is still, tentatively, a condition of the soul and action has worth only to the extent that it contributes to the soul’s health (66).” However, in Book IV, Plato presents another vision of justice that is connected rather with the interpretation of this concept from the perspective of the state. It lies in the fulfillment of one’s duties to the state and other people by performing one’s particular chosen role in the society. In other words, from Plato’s standpoint, being just means doing what one has to do and not interrupting other people. As for the modern implementation of this idea, it can be seen as a principle of organization of every working structure – from a little factory to a big state. Only in case, every member of the working or administration process performs their duties precisely, in time, and responsibly, everything can function effectively and be productive. In fact, nowadays, this idea serves as a basis for the specification of labor and duties that serve as a fundamental principle of modern business and politics.
Another important part of “The Republic” is the description of the main forms of government, namely timocracy, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Timocracy presupposes that the state is ruled by people of honor and arises from the aristocracy, “the government of the best” (Plato, 2002, p. 403).” The next stage is oligarchy that is “the form of government in which the rulers are elected for their wealth (Plato, 2002, p. 411)” that further develops into the democracy that is based on an equal share of freedom and power of poor strata of society. And the final model of government, according to Plato, is the tyranny that is based on the principle of strict social division of all people into three main classes: the dominating, the elite, and the common ones. Though thousands of years have passed since Plato presented the classification mentioned above, some of the types of government he singled out still exist in the modern world. More than that, analyzing the course of history, one can see in what way these stages substitute each other and what events can lead to these stages. In the modern world, most countries function according to the rules of democratic government. However, there are still some countries both with emerging economies and those with rather a high level of development that are, in fact, ruled by a number of rich families. For instance, Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Africa of the twentieth century which shifted to the democratic regime are the examples of countries that are ruled according to the principles of oligarchy. Moreover, some political analysts claim that Russia is also on the on the stage of oligarchy now, while the others define the regime there as an intermediate between oligarchy and democracy. According to Plato’s theory, in the nearest future thee democratic regime is likely to be substituted by tyranny, and, in fact, in some countries, the first hints of the coming changes have already emerged.
Moreover, another idea that has greatly influenced the political development in many countries is the model of an ideal state formulated by Plato. In “The Republic” he represents it as a state that is equally ruled by every its citizen, has three main classes, namely a military, a ruling, and professional ones. The primary role in it is given to education, sexual equality, principles of monarchy and communism. According to Klosko (1981), “in order for the ideal state to be made real, political power must find its way into philosophic Hands (389).” Though such a state has never been realized in the modern world, its model is not as impossible as it seems from the first sight. In fact, some modern highly developed countries have already implemented some of its principles and have all the chances to make Plato’s dream real.
Summing up, many ideas expressed by Plato in his works have influenced the development not only of the ancient world but the modern one as well. The concept of justice expressed in “The Republic” that lies in the fact that each member of society performs their particular function and, in such a way, brings profit to the state nowadays serves as a basic organization of business and politics. Plato’s classification of political regimes also have proved to be relevant in the modern world, and the model of a perfect state can still find its realization in future.
- Christian, W. (1988). Waiting for Grace: Philosophy and Politics in Plato’s Republic. Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue Canadienne De Science Politique, 21(1), 57-82.
- Klosko, G. (1981). Implementing the Ideal State. The Journal of Politics, 43(2), 365-389.
- Plato (2002). The Republic. Retrieved from http://www.idph.net