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Thread: Plato's Critics

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    Plato's Critics

    Plato’s ideal is not without its critics. In fact, one of Plato’s more famous students was highly critical of such political ideals. This student of course, is Aristotle. He believed that Plato’s idealistic plan is contradictory because his state becomes more like a household which may even be reducible to individual instead of a state. The problem is that the state is a collection of individuals who are diverse and complex by nature. Aristotle also disagrees with the way in which children are to be raised in Plato’s Republic. He argues that the more common something is, the less cared for it will actually be. And since it is the case that all the adults are to care for the children, and the adults (or parents) care for many children and no unique children, the care provided to the children will suffer substantially. The more owners there are of that which is to be cared for, the more potential for neglect, and children ought to be the last thing in a state that should be neglected. Lastly, he argues that from the family unit, we learn to be patriotic. And since patriotism is an ideal, Plato was mistaken about how to nurture patriotism. It isn’t taught in a nursery, military academy or school, it is taught at home.

    Aristotle’s critiques are valid I believe. Plato removes the necessary diversity that a state requires to flourish. A variety of experiences and opportunity for the citizens of the state allows the state to be rich in culture and influence neighboring territories as well as have its populace become well-rounded. His critique about the family unit seems to be true as well. Parents have a natural tendency to care a great deal more about their own children than others. I think this is a good thing because it gives children the attention they need. This specified attention allows the child to understand values; first, the value of the family unit, then that of the local community, followed eventually the state. It’s a learning process that must begin somewhere, and I think it starts with the nuclear family.

    Plato may disagree with Aristotle on the importance of diversity. He may argue that diversity may be a distraction from the necessary responsibilities of the citizens. If each citizen knows only one role or one responsibility, each having their stated and specific purpose in society, then the outcome should result in a perfectly oiled machine. Diversity, on the other hand, may instill desire and passion where it does not belong.

    Another critic of Plato’s political philosophy was Niccolo Machiavelli. He argued not necessarily against the specifics of Plato’s Republic, but rather of the whole. He believed that idealism was unrealistic. He argued that no such perfect or ideal society has ever existed, and he believed morality should never be a part of politics. When one incorporates morality into their practice as a politician, it will result in ruin. He argued that it is better to be feared than loved, and the only way to be loved perhaps was to be moral. However since this resulted in failure, it leaves only fear as the practical choice. Fear endures time. Love is fickle and people will stop loving their prince whenever they become disappointed with him. Fear ensures that the people will help the politician regardless of good or challenging times. It’s universal, so it should be adopted into every politician’s arsenal.

    Machiavelli takes the opposite extreme of Plato. Instead of idealism, he moves to far realism, taking a much more pessimistic worldview. I don’t agree with this position that it is better to be feared than loved, although I do understand it why Machiavelli endorses it. I think that to be truly loved, it would mean that people are loyal to their prince. To be loyal would be to have a devotion to their state and leader regardless of the turmoil it was experiencing. Of course, there are limitations here, but I think it is far better than being feared. Once someone gets the idea that they don’t necessarily have to fear their ruler or that they may have nothing more to lose, revolution is just a flame waiting to be sparked. Ruling a loyal state means never having to be concerned about internal matters. Plato may agree with my position about loyalty. I don’t think he would necessarily think that love is the appeal though. I think he wants to create a state with perfect patriotism. I believe he would definitely disagree that it is better to be feared, however. He rejected the tyrannical claiming they were unjust, and of course, he sought to find what would make the most just society.

    One of John Dewey’s biggest objections to Plato’s ideal state is its education system. He argued that Plato’s education system was circular because in it, the education system was a product of its society. But then Plato’s perfect society can only be brought about by the state’s education systems. Thus, a major flaw exposed in Plato’s Republic. He also criticizes the three classes of the state on the grounds of lack of diversity, much like Aristotle did. Dewey argued that people are naturally diverse and have a wide range of talents and characteristics, and they should be helped to grow. Plato’s ideal would prevent this growth, resulting in a stagnant, stale society.
    I agree again on the argument from diversity. Plato doesn’t seem to recognize it as a virtue. And I think he would offer the same objection as he would have for Plato, that diversity is a distraction to the ideal and merely because man may be diverse in nature, doesn’t mean that he ought to be.

    Lastly, Karl Popper objected to Plato’s Republic on the grounds that Plato’s class division results in a totalitarian regime. He argues that the ruling class has far too much power because they control education, communication, military and many other aspects of society that give the few a significant advantage while at the same time ultimately oppressing the majority. There is no freedom to express alternative ideas; there is no free economy to allow a free market. It is, according to Popper, a dictatorship.

    Because freedom is a virtue, I agree with Popper’s objection. Plato doesn’t seem to place much value on freedom in the sense of opportunity. He seems to argue that opportunity is a cause for the unjust and unwise. And by removing opportunity (and certain freedoms), only can the just and ideal state be created. But freedom of expression is an ideal, as are freedom of opportunity and diversity. Plato doesn’t recognize these as virtues but hindrances and mechanism for unjust acts that arise from men’s passions and appetites for power. While it is true that some may abuse such ideals, it doesn’t change the fact that they are ideals. So to hinder them, to restrict them or even eradicate them, is to commit an unjust act, something that Plato opposes. So it would appear that Plato’s ideal is self-contradictory on many grounds. It is a fun thought experiment perhaps, but it can never be anything more. For once it becomes realized, it because not an ideal state, but a horribly flawed state, the very type of state Plato sought to prevent.
    Last edited by Apokalupsis; September 17th, 2012 at 09:42 PM.
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