Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Government is but a Philosophy
With my first installment, I will again be referring to the beliefs of Plato as represented in “The Republic." Plato was born in Athens in the year 427 B.C. He held family ties to Solon, an Athenian lawmaker who played a vital role in what led to the Athenian Golden Age, http://www.watson.org/~leigh/history.html. Athens’ democracy was at its’ peak. So what was it that signaled Plato to hold content towards democracy? It may have been in part, due to what took place after the Peloponnesian War, https://www.britannica.com/event/Peloponnesian-War.
Democracy could not prevail over this conflict. All principles of democracy were lost and replaced with the tyranny of The Rule of the Thirty, http://www.ancient.eu/The_Thirty_Tyrants/. Two of The Thirty were family members of Plato, Critias and Charmides. Their reign was short lived however. Growing tired of the oppression, factions of Athenians decided to rebel. The Thirty did not take kindly to this. They answered with the execution of 300 citizens. This soon led to a civil war in which The Thirty was defeated and all of their troops executed. Critias and Charmides were also executed. Democracy was soon reestablished.
I can imagine this sparked a fire within Plato. Why? Critias and Charmides held a special place for Plato because they are the one’s responsible for introducing him to the most influential character of his lifetime, Socrates. Socrates was a long time teacher to Plato. Much of his philosophical view came from the ideas of Socrates. It is also a great possibility that much of his governmental view derived from teachings of Socrates.
Socrates was an adult during the Peloponnesian War. As a matter of fact, it is said that he fought in the war. He had the opportunity to view democracy before and after the war, as well as the brief tyranny between. Socrates seems the perfect man to make a positive change in politics. So then why did he remove himself from any type of politics? He distrusted democracy.
Socrates was a lover of knowledge above all else. He believed that very few possessed the knowledge to improve the young. Democracy is a platform in which the political “few” control the masses. Socrates did not believe they were equipped with the knowledge to effectively do so. He also taught the most effective way to learn was through questioning. The government leaders did not like to be questioned. On many occasions, they implemented terrible recourse on those who openly questioned them. To Socrates, the very nature of democracy made it a corrupt political system.
The culmination of Plato’s developed content toward democracy could logically be associated with the unjust punishment of Socrates. Socrates was charged with impiety under what most believe to be false pretense. Plato was present at the trial and presented “The Apology” in hopes of sparing Socrates’ life. It would seem that notion fell on deaf ears. Socrates was sentenced to death. This may have been the last straw for Plato and his tolerance of the obvious mob ruled democracy.
-An interesting view in opposition to the common belief on Socrates’ trial: http://www.cam.ac.uk/news/socrates-was-guilty-as-charged