Giant Minds

Essay by zalmahro May 2006

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Plato is perhaps one of the figures whose name is identified with the field of philosophy itself. Although some of his ideas have caused great controversy, most philosophical authorities and popular opinion do agree that he is one of the best minds that Western civilization has ever been blessed with. Following the footsteps of his teacher Socrates, Plato has dedicated almost his entire life working hard in the field of philosophy. He was born and raised in an Athenian aristocratic family and thus it can be assumed that he enjoyed good education from a very young age. When his teacher was executed in 399 BCE, Plato left Athens and spent most of his time travelling and pursuing knowledge. When he returned to Athens he started what is considered the first European University, the Academy (McClelland 2003, pp. 18-23).

Though his writings on politics and system of governments were original and powerful, there is no evidence that he had any political influence on any Athenian city or leader.

This essay is dedicated to discussing his most controversial stance on democracy. It will present Plato's arguments for despising democracy. This paper will mainly discuss his first book on political philosophy, "The Republic". It is arguably the most comprehensive on the subject and the richest philosophical literature ever written. As we centre our discussion on Plato's "Republic", it is important to note, "Although Plato's Republic can be a rich and fascinating book when read out of context, it is in fact closely related to the troubled political situation of Plato's time. It is in particular a reflection on the problems of democracy as experienced by Plato's native city" (Dunkle 1986).

Plato's main argument against democracy is that too much freedom eventually leads to chaos and anarchy. The results of that chaotic situation is...