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THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF PLATO’S CONCEPTION OF IDEAL STATE

Political Theory Project Topics & Materials

THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF PLATO’S CONCEPTION OF IDEAL STATE

ABSTRACT

Plato introduced his ideal state to salvage bad governance that could spring up from bad leaders. He classified the citizens of his Republic into three categories; Guardian (Rulers), Auxiliaries (Military) and the Artisans (Farmers). He apportioned duties for each of the three classes and conditions that make one a member of either of the classes. He defined duties for both the sate and individuals that make up the state and introduced Justice as a means of assuring peace in the state, which is by the principle of one minding his duties without interfering with others. The individuals owe the state a duty of obedience, while the state on the other hand owes the individuals a duty of security and provisions of other amenities. Finally, Plato’s ideal state is a pace setter for all generations and has made a whole lot of positive impact which prevails over his mistakes throughout the history of political Philosophy.

CHAPTER ONE

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Plato was born in 427B.C. at Athens; he was born into a distinguished and wealthy family; his birth, took place some few years after the out break of the Peloponnesian war. This war lasted until he was twenty three years old. This is to say that his experience with this war, made impact toward his ability to sharpen his thought on the relationship between the individuals and the state
More so, Plato’s analysis on the relationship between the individuals and the state was also influenced and sharpened through the political connection of Plato’s family. He had a link with Pericle whose political influence, dominated Athens for a period of about thirty years. Pericle was a democrat to the core and he died at the early state of the war in 427BC. After the death of Pericle, some radical democrats came up and used more ruthlessly, the element of force in the Athenian confederation. According to Plato, “they were ready to act on the belief which Thracymachus expresses that it is natural and sensible to exploit the weak”! This was an ugly experience for Plato, between the agency of the state and the individuals. These radical democrats had all their powers depended on their ability to sway and win the popular support through rhetoric. Their policies depend on popular acclamation rather than what the situation demanded. It was in their hand that Athenian state got humiliated and defeated, due to their inability to do what the mind of the individuals.
After the final fall of Athens, then came on Oligarchic revolution and commission of thirty was set up. Though, they started on a good note, purging the city of perpetuators of evil and later the resorted to savage tyranny. Their tyranny lasted for only eight months and they were divided out and subsequently killed. So the ugly democratic but tyrannical political dispensation and the outbreak in the political scene of Athens contributed in no small measure, to the Platonic idea of what the relationship between the state and the individuals ought to be, the measure to ensure peace and avoid tyrannical leaders.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Right from the ancient days, philosophers are faced with the problem of what the relationship between the individual and the state would be and the structure of the society where the individuals live. On this quest, Aristotle voted earlier that “man is by nature a political animal and thereby needs the existence of others in the society (state) for his survival”2 Most is political scholars till date are still faced with this unique problem of what nature, form or kind of state that will be the best organization to enable man to live a good life, which is what man cherishes best. The kind of principle, which will best guide the relationship that exists between the individuals, is part of the existing problem facing political philosophers.
Since the individuals according to John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes gave up their right of self and independence governing of them selves to the sovereign state, which gave rise to the civil society. What then are the expectations of the individuals from this civil state that they have formed, by given up their rights of self and independence governance, which is the political obligation of the sovereign state? What also is expected from these individuals in a civil society, so as to sustain peace and harmony and to make this state, what they want of it is also another basic problem facing all political scholars.

SCOPE OF STUDY

Plato dealt with numerous topics in his various works. But this research work is narrowed down to his conception of the motion of the state and notion of the individuals: What the relationship between the individuals and the state is in the Plato’s ideal state. Plato’s three categories of the individuals and the principle that shall be applied in his ideal state so as to maintain peace and harmony among the individuals and classes that make up the state. Also are the respective political obligations of the individuals for the sovereign state and political obligations of the sovereign state for the individuals that formed the sovereign state.

Purpose of the study

Politics has been denoted as one of the most interesting endeavors through all the epoch. The reason for this, been that it concerns man and how he relates with his follow man in a community or groups. This derives from the fact that man as a person is dignified and ennobles as a being and as a result must be treated as such.
However, the purpose of this work; about the ideal state in the political philosophy of Plato, is to view the Platonic conception as it presents enough materials for learned research into the ways of improving man’s life in the society.2 Plato conceived government in general to be fundamentally based on competence, that is why he tried to introduce hiss ideal state so as to replace the general conception of governance that involves ruling the people through a democratically elected leaders and which he called the rule of the mob. He went as far as suggesting his ideal state as a veritable replacement for democratic society. This is where the philosopher king will always be at the realm of affairs.
Furthermore, the general purpose of this work is to explore the element of Platonic conception of his ideal state and how it poised to be credible alternative to any system of government and equally on how the Platonic conception of ideal state can be relevant to the improvement of lives.
Moreover, this ideal state contains some comprehensive department of Philosophy very relevant to the improvement of life in society, such as Ethics, Philosophical Theology and Psychology. For Plato, ethics, politics and education are all one and constitute a positive branch of knowledge. Plato believed that the peace of a society depends on the good character of its citizens. This research for the ideal state, lays much emphasis on the righteousness of the individuals, this is why the philosophical logics of the republic might as well be the Socratic used dictum that an unexamined life is not worth living3. this introduces a notable point that even though the ideal state is an aspect of Plato’s philosophy, it is remarkable to bear in mind that for him the ideal state is not so much a form of government in the political sense; rather it is the form of the character of the people who live in it.
More so, for Plato, there is no distinction between knowledge and practice, between right conduct and self-fulfillment, between the needs of the individual and that of the society. Even though Plato knew that in human affair, the idea is not practicable, but he hoped that societies could come very near to this form of community; the ideal type that he referred to in the dialogue.

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

The significance of this research stems from the fact that not only does the work give a substantive and uncomplicated treatment of the major political ideas of a substantive of Plato as they concern the ideal state, but also, more importantly; it provides an application of the relevant themes and perspectives of these theories to the specific situation in the third word.

METHODOLOGY

In the bid to carry out a successful research work, the researcher extensively used available materials, sourced for information on the internet and read books with similar thematic frame of reference after which the comparative analysis of these work was made.
Secondly, materials such as journals, periodicals etc were subsequently made use of. Finally as somebody who has been in the society and watched the society undergo and experience some kinds of political inequality, to some extent the researcher laid down what he has observed. Thus the method is hermeneutical for it is more of interpretations.
Also, this research work is to be divided into five chapters.

  • Chapter one will be on general introduction, statement of the problem, purpose of the research work and definition of terms used in this research
  • Chapter two, shall constitute of the literature
  • Chapter three will be an analysis of the Plato’s conception of the ideal, which deals more on the relationship between the individuals and the sovereign
  • Chapter four comprises of the political obligations in the civil state, and
  • Chapter five will be a critical evaluation and conclusion of this research work.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

  • EPISTEMOLOGY

Epistemology is derived from a Greek word “episteme”, which means “knowledge”! and is a branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitation) of knowledge. And it is also “not only the study of knowledge, but it is associated with a justified belief”3.

  • STATE

A state is defined as “a country considered as an organized political community controlled by one government”. This signifies that a state is the political organization of a country with its sovereignty limited to her geographical territory, free from any external control.

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