Plato’s “Republic” – What Is Democracy?

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Topic: Philosophy
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Poverty, inequality, and rising crime rates are some of the social problems that plague countries all over the world. Brilliant people argue that the only way to develop a cost efficient solution to these problems is to establish an effective system of governance. After a careful analysis of Plato’s ideas, it is high time to consider the importance of democracy. Democracy is a flawed system of government. However, democracy is the best form of government to solve the problems mentioned earlier.

What is Democracy?

Ancient Greece provided the seed of the idea that enabled the emergence of democracy. The idea came from them, and the modern world is thankful for their contribution. Ancient Greece demonstrated an alternative form of government that encourages the participation of ordinary people. Ancient Greece also provided the framework that enabled modern men to come into agreement and resolve difficult issues. As a result of their contribution, modern people are able to resolve issues through the electoral process.

Socrates was one of the brilliant minds that shaped the idea of democracy. Socrates’ planted the seed; however, it was Plato who explained the idea of his mentor. Plato was the brilliant student of Socrates. Plato’s book entitled The Republic expressed his thoughts regarding this particular form of government. However, Plato’s uninspired view of democracy was not enough to change the conclusion made earlier that democracy is the best form of government.

What is Plato’s Definition of Democracy and Is it Accurate?

Without a doubt, Plato’s conception of democracy was different compared to its modern version. It is possible to determine Plato’s understanding of democracy by the discussion of the different forms of government in Book VIII. In this particular section of the book he pointed out the similarity between oligarchy and democracy (Plato, Book VIII).

Plato’s argument was based on one assumption. He assumed that oligarchy gave birth to democracy. Oligarchy is unpopular in the modern age, because it is linked to the rule of the elite. It is safe to assume that an oligarchy is a group of leaders that came from the aristocracy. Thus, the author was justified in his belief that this form of democracy was bound to fail (Plato Book VIII). However, Plato did not have an accurate definition of democracy.

Re-Defining Democracy to Persuade Others

The best way to redefine democracy is to use the ideas found in The Republic. For example, the principles rooted in timocracy must be included in the new definition. In addition, the idea about the philosopher-king must be considered in redefining democracy as well. Plato’s description of timocracy brings out the importance of honor in government (Pappas 45). Plato’s analysis of the philosopher-king brings out the need for a wise ruler.

Thus, an ideal democracy is a form of government ruled by a wise leader. More importantly, it is a government ruled by an honorable leader. This combination will create a leadership that is immune from temptations to steal from the people and oppress the weak. This type of government will create servant leaders.

Honor, honesty, and competence are not enough to create a democracy. Therefore, it is important to modify the idea of Plato that democracy comes from oligarchy. It is imperative to prevent the aristocracy from ruling like tyrants. However, an ideal democracy is a government composed of a group of leaders. Thus, the best way to experience true democracy is to establish an idealized version of a parliamentary form of government.

A parliamentary form of government prevents the emergence of a tyrant. At the same time, the parliamentary form of government eliminates the possibility of electing a popular candidate who is not competent to rule the land. There are many countries all over the world that started as a democracy but ended up as a dictatorship. These dictators were once popular candidates who were elected to the highest position because of their popularity.

An idealized version of a parliamentary government requires two ingredients to succeed. First, the citizens will elect the leaders. Second, the citizens aspire to become philosophers. Plato lamented the fact that only a few people can appreciate what it takes to become the leader of a country.

However, Plato did not live to see the day when ordinary people had the chance to read books and study like the philosophers of ancient Greece. It is now possible to raise up a nation of people who are educated and understand the qualifications required to become a national leader. People will support this new version, because it is now possible to change the way people think through education. In Plato’s time the idea that children of poor farmers can become sophisticated thinkers was an impossible dream.

Conclusion

An idealized version of a parliamentary government is the redefinition of democracy. Therefore, an ideal version of democracy is a government ruled by a group of people who were elected into office by ordinary citizens. However, the selection process installs qualified leaders to key positions in government. This is made possible by the quality of the voters. Plato failed to see the emergence of a new social class. He failed to see the possibility of transforming ordinary people into intelligent members of the electorate through the process of higher education.

Works Cited

Pappas, Nickolas. The Routledge Guide to The Republic. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Plato. “The Republic.” The Internet Classics Archive. 2009.