Free Essay About The Ideal City Through The Philosophical Minds Of Plato And Aristotle
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: Philosophy, Plato, Aristotle, Politics, People, City, Leadership, Government
About political unity and its role in establishing the Polis, there are varying ideologies and hypotheses on the required level of harmony within a state for it to be the ideal city. From the rulers to the citizens, political unity demands social cohesiveness achieved by everybody in it fulfilling their given responsibilities. Plato’s “Republic” attempts to describe the perfect government while Aristotle’s “Politics” criticizes and attempts to modify the former’s ideologies. As a result, the final product, which one can perceive as a joint effort between the two minds, looks at the pros and cons to the hypothetical Polis, a government at its best element. In fact, one can confidently state that the effects of Aristotle’s work manage to polish on Plato’s ideas by verifying their practicability. Hence, where Plato appears to trust the pawns excessively in his supposed government, by applying unrealistic outcomes to set conditions, Aristotle disbands the idea with one that is more natural. On that note, Aristotle takes everything Plato documents to be literal, despite the fact that they are theoretical; one needs to overlook such instances and pay attention to the given arguments to decipher the philosophical messages. Thus said, this study analyzes the description of an ideal government in “Republic” and “Critias” before determining the similarities and differences they hold next to Aristotle’s “Politics”.
The third and fourth books in Plato’s “Republic”, explains the ideal city based on its equally ideal leader. According to the philosopher, rules “should be selected and established” to guarantee only the honorable people become leaders (Plato 99). Honor entails bravery and can directly show Plato’s idea of a perfect leader is a courageous person who uses his intelligence to govern. Consequently, the guardians will safeguard the city “against external enemies and internal friends so that the former will lack the power, and the latter the desire, to do any evil” (Plato 99). With the power comes responsibility and with bravery, the ability to face potential enemies and fight them to protect the weak. Accordingly, owing to such descriptions of the ideal government heads, one can safely assume that Plato expects his ultimate leaders to sacrifice themselves or even put their lives in danger for the people. With such a leader, the Polis, will survive against attacks, allowing its people to prosper. Aristotle’s “Politics” refutes Plato’s findings by pointing out that the ideologies of the latter “deprives the guardians even of happiness” (27). According to Aristotle, while the perfect political unity needs a proper guardian for survival, it does not necessarily mean that said trustees should neglect themselves. In other words, it is illogical to assume that an unhappy man will provide the people with the best leadership. In addition, if the leaders who everybody assumes to be the most dominant in the society are not happy, then how can one expect the poorest man to be so? In Plato’s government, where the leaders give everything to the people and do not cater for themselves, it is probable that their frustrations will be everybody else’s frustrations.
The second trait of the ideal city is one in which, the people know their positions in the society and do not go outside their specified class. However, there is the threat of people failing to follow this mode of classification. For instance, guardians may fail to take care of the population and the lower class men challenging the rightful leaders for a noble position in the Political government. To prevent such a problem, Plato presents his idea of "useful lies" which includes the use of the “myth of metals” (100). As per the myth, the rulers and commoners of the ideal city begin to believe that the earth is their mother and giver of all precious metals. Otherwise dubbed as the noble lies, the myth serves two purposes in building the perfect city. It encourages the leaders by portraying their roles as God-given and ensures that the people of different classes do not intermarry and destroy the established system. Apparently, the gods put gold in the leaders of states, making them honorable, then “silver into the auxiliaries; and iron and bronze into the farmers and other craftsmen” (Plato 100). Accordingly, the “myth of metals” is noble because it aims at maintaining the social system and is a lie because the idea of metal souls is ridiculous. In addition, Plato’s “Critias” is for the idea that warriors had “everything that was appropriate for their sustenance and training” (107). In turn, “Critias” provides a second solution by advocating people to provide the warriors with “everything that was appropriate for their sustenance and training” (107). For Plato’s solution to work, it is important to ensure that the gold souls, and not the other soul metals, are the guardians of the Polis. Guardians of the Polis will lose their prowess and succumb to the worldly pleasures if they associate with the commoners, the same way the descendants of gods lost their divinity after mixing with humans (Critias 121). Hence, as long as gold begets gold, then leaders will remain useful and immune to the lure of worldly possessions. Accordingly, the possibilities of warriors being discontent with the government are minimal if not non-existent, and if a small percentage of the people are dissatisfied then it is a little price to pay in Plato’s city. Gold triumphs over all earth metals and class are paramount.
About Aristotle contrasting Plato, it is important to note that he bases his disproval on the possibility of the classes failing to work. By so doing, the philosopher’s thoughts prove to be similar to those of Plato, making the only contrast the fact that they have dissimilar solutions. On that note, Aristotle contradicts Plato’s views by presenting an analysis that according to him, will guarantee a rebellion by the poorest in the city. As Aristotle points out, restricting people to specific roles will cause agitation among the inferior classes and impunity in the high societal level. As an illustration, Aristotle uses the warriors within a government who have the capacity and weapons to stand against whatever is wrong in their views. The danger is in Aristotle’s perception, the “high-spirited warriors” who can develop the same bitter feelings of the ordinary citizen (Politics 27). Apparently, the guardians will seek a way out of their enclosed social rank by using the means they know best, taking up arms and using force to have their way. In the views of the theorist, Plato based his arguments on assumptions because one cannot guarantee the offspring of a person will have their traits. Therefore, by arguing that gold will have gold is wrong and restrictive for the other people. Aristotle reckons “the gold that the God mingles in the souls of men is not at one time given to one, at another time to another, but always to the same” (Politics 27). The assumption is, in Aristotle’s view, flawed because gold can end up in any class. Because of that, clusters should not exist, and society should not depend on hierarchies to function. Otherwise, potential leaders will not be able to exercise their abilities and in the worst case, the wrong people will govern Plato’s city.
Finally, as one can expect in any successful city, leaders begin to be over confident and, as a result, their attitudes can change for the worst. Plato’s answer to keeping the guardians loyal revolves around the idea of denying them private properties that will probably divert their attention from the city (Republic 101). According to the theorist, because they have precious stones in their soul, a gift from the gods, the guardian will “have no need of human gold” (Plato 102). In “Critias”, Plato describes the qualities of a prosperous king as one who understands “wealth declines and friendship is destroyed by materialistic goals and ambitions” (121). Consequently, the property of the guardians needs to be joint and not privately owned. Aristotle provides a compelling counterargument at this, one that assumes different premises that manage to question the very foundation of Plato’s reasoning. On the first assumption, Aristotle questions the ideology behind the importance of making properties common among the guardians. Why is Plato concentrating on the city trustees alone? Should the same rule apply to the citizens as well? Aristotle finds Plato’s responses insufficient because “the citizens who and not guardians are the majority” (Politics 26). Consequently, rather than concentrate only on the effects of wealth on the guardians, Plato ought to consider its impact on the majority as well. After all, without people, there will be no city to rule. To the second question, if the public shares properties, the citizens will be like the guardians rendering their rules redundant. For this reason, Aristotle disagrees with Plato’s position that private ownership will destroy a city because, without differences in wealth, everybody will be powerful. Hence, classes should mix but everybody should have what they earn. Consequently, Aristotle’s ideas provide an innovative way of looking at the society and the roles of its people to make it perfect.
Conclusively, Plato’s idea of happiness revolves around good governance, with little to no consideration for the citizens. Aristotle sees this as a problem and diverts the attention to the people without whom there would be no city to guard. On social classes, Plato’s society cannot survive without them while Aristotle advocates their dismantling. Hence, Plato’s views hold on to the traits of the Athenian government where the nobles keep to themselves while the commoners stay at bay. Aristotle’s views are rather innovative as he looks at the possibility of a new form of government. Thus, as evidenced by the given analysis, Aristotle’s practical approach is more acceptable to make a city perfect and happy on all levels.
Aristotle. Politics. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. II Vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. Print.
Plato. Republic. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004. Print.
Plato. Timaeus And Critias. Trans. Robin Waterfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.