Relationship between Philosophy and Politics

Philosophy has been one of the most fundamental parts of the human
society. Indeed, it has formed some of the most controversial lessons
pertaining to the society and even inspired some of the most radical
changes in the society. The human society has encountered varied
philosophers, each of whom have come with different ideas on the ways in
which people should live or rather the best ways of governance. While
there may have been numerous philosophers, none would arguably stick out
as much as Plato, a classical Greece philosopher who also doubled up as
a student of Socrates, a mathematician, as well as a writer of
philosophical dialogues. Underlining his position in the philosophy
world is the fact that, Plato, alongside his student Aristotle and
mentor Socrates laid the basis for Western Science and Philosophy. His
expertise and sophistication as a writer comes out clearly in the
Socratic dialogues that he wrote, which have not only been published in
varied fashions but also been used in teaching a number of subjects
including ethics, mathematics, religion, rhetoric, ethics and logic.
Nevertheless, his trademark writings or rather the most popular writing
is covered under the book “The Republic”.
“The Republic” incorporates a debate whose key intent is the
determination of an extensive definition of what justice is all about
in a given state. In addition, it explores whether or not citizens in a
given state have the capacity to determine the concept of justice, as
well as how justice can be achieved in a given state or rather how
citizens can enact laws that would serve them as citizens in a just
society in courts of law (Plato & Reeve, 2004). In essence, the
conversation incorporated in “The Republic” stems from the question
as to the meaning of justice, complemented by questions pertaining to
facts, as well as addressing the question policy, where it asks what
laws can be made to ensure that justice is carried out. It goes without
saying that if any state was to be based on the emulation and resolution
of such concepts, it would become an ideal state (Plato & Reeve, 2004).
This dialogue advances an argument that aims at outlining a realistic
and possible policy that would secure a happy and well-being concord for
the citizens of a given state or rather, just citizens who dwell in a
just state. In advancing his argument in the dialogue, Plato recognizes
the necessity of incorporating questions pertaining to the education of
ideal citizens, the place and role of factitive arts such as drama,
music and poetry in the ideal state, as well as the metaphysics and
philosophies that would give birth to these things. However, in its
entirety, the book underlines the relationship between philosophy and
politics, especially with regards to ensuring the attainment and
sustainability of the just society.
Underlining this relationship is the definition that is given to
justice in Book 11. The definitions seem to deviate from pure philosophy
to political philosophy. It defines justice as a legally enforced
compromise that is crafted for the citizens of a particular state’s
mutual protection. This means that justice is an invention of the State
that aims at preventing citizens from causing harm to one another (Plato
& Reeve, 2004). However, the fictitious persona in “The Republic”,
Socrates, does not like the notion that justice does not have the
capacity to exist naturally rather it has to be superficially and
externally imposed by the state so as to discourage unbecoming or unjust
behavior. When there is uncertainty as to whether there is bound to be
an all-acceptable definition of justice, Socrates comes up with the idea
that they make a State that they approve of and determine whether they
can find justice in it. Socrates states that the state would arise
“out of the needs of mankind” (Plato & Reeve, 2004). Upon the
official commencement of the building of the State, basic or fundamental
necessities are first addressed, followed by the primitive or primal
division of labor, after which the rudiments of education follow.
Socrates maintains that manipulative poetics or “bad fictions” will
not be necessary in the ideal state as education would have to be
perfectly moral. This dialogue essentially underlines the fact that
philosophy would determine the things that would come first or rather
the things that societies would lay more emphasis on in an effort to
build an ideal state (Plato & Reeve, 2004). Of particular note, is the
fact that politics determine the things that an individual is entitled
to at a particular time. In this regard, philosophy determines the
things that an ideal state would have for the betterment and
sustainability of a just society.
In addition, philosophy determines the hierarchical organization so
individuals in a just society or state. Plato underlined the fact that
the rulers of a just society must be the brightest and the most educated
in that society. An acknowledgement that the most intelligent in the
society were philosophers meant that they would essentially occupy the
highest echelons of power in the state. At the early stages of Book III,
citizens in the state are generically called guardians and are only to
nourish themselves on literature, which Socrates broadly calls
“music”, clearly showing wisdom, virtue, wisdom, courage and
temperance. The citizens would then go through the second stage of the
education, which mainly involves gymnastics where they undergo physical
training. The state, in dire need of rulers, would then select the most
patriotic and best citizens produced by the comprehensive educational
apparatus. The extremely select few would now be strictly referred to as
“guardians”, while the non-guardians remain simply as citizens.
These guardians are the rulers (Plato & Reeve, 2004). It is worth noting
that the rulers would be occupying the highest echelons of power, way
above the common people or the non-guardians. Complementing the
hierarchical arrangements of the citizens in the society is the
Phoenician myth, which Socrates uses to tell citizens that they are
composed of a distinctive combination of metals including brass, iron,
silver and gold, among other things (Plato & Reeve, 2004). This mix is
assigned to them by birth and determines the requisite social station
that they are to occupy. Nevertheless, in cases where a citizen of
silver or gold is born to parents who are made of inferior metal, the
child will rise socially in a just manner. This myth offers the state an
allegorical and accessible illustration of a hierarchical and stable
social organization. In this regard, philosophy determines the things to
which an individual is entitled both by birth and by the experiences and
knowledge that they acquire in the course of life.
Moreover, philosophy would also determine the appropriate people that
are fit to be in a state or rather the roles that individuals should
play in enhancing the sustainability of the ideal state. Of particular
note in “The Republic” is Plato’s disdain for poets and artists.
Socrates vigorously attacks the “libelous poetry” for its betrayal
of his beloved virtues in a negative light. He opines that poets and
artists should not be tolerated in the society as they introduce new and
radical ideas that, not only destabilize the state, but are also of no
use to the citizens and the just state. He opines that if art and poetry
is to have any use, it has to be stringently didactic and take on no
rhapsody and indulgence that is common to their conventions and to the
modern poets, as well. This essentially means that philosophy would be
determining the individuals who are fit to be in certain parts in
politics, the roles that they are to play in the political systems, as
well as the rules that they are to follow in the same. It determines the
ideas and the people that are to be entertained in the society in an
effort to ensure the existence of stability both in the long-term and
the short-term.
Moreover, philosophy determines the aspirations and the needs that
states should aim at meeting in a political system. This is all in line
with the fact that politics determines “who gets what, when and
how”. Book IV questions the notion of the guardians’ happiness,
after they have undergone such a strenuous training. Socrates rebuffs
the objections of his auditors and reminds them that the original
premise in building the state is that the State would aim at serving the
good of the many rather than the few (Plato & Reeve, 2004). The
hypothetical state that they were building has in the meantime grown
larger and begun to divide its labors, in which case there is debate
about foreign invasion, security and defense against enemies. Socrates
states that the education that has been provided to the citizens,
coupled with their affection for the state, as well as their solidarity
would be enough to outwit and repel all challenges. Believing that a
just society has been created, he goes ahead to define justice where he
suggests the elimination processes among four virtues namely wisdom,
temperance, courage, wisdom and justice. However, prior to the
attainment of justice, a digression yields three principles of a human
soul including appetite, reason and passion. The harmonious existence of
these three would amount to justice (Plato & Reeve, 2004). Philosophy,
in this case, plays an immense role in politics as far as the
determination of the sequence and priorities that states and governments
should follow in achieving the ideal status is concerned.
In conclusion, Plato was one of the most prolific writers and
philosophers in the classical period. His writings in “The Republic”
have been interpreted in varied versions used in different subjects.
However, the book underlines the relationship between philosophy and
politics through the dialogues between Socrates and his auditors. First,
philosophy determines the social status of the people in the society, as
well as the how that social status is attained. This social status,
whether attained by birth or through experience and education comes with
certain distinctive entitlements. In addition, philosophy would ensure
the stability of a political system through determining the ideas that
are to be entertained, as well as the framework on which they are to
operate. Moreover, philosophy determines the needs that a political
system should cater for, as well as the priorities that should be
followed in a political system.
References
Plato, ., & Reeve, C. D. C. (2004). Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub.
Co.
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