Why is Plato's philosopher-king incorruptible

Plato - The State

Today it's finally about Plato's state. I will introduce you to the form of society and the institutions that Plato envisaged for his utopia. I clarify the question of who should rule and wonder why that should be fair now. You can watch it as a video or read the transcript underneath.

Today I would like to really get to know Plato's ideal state and explain to you what Plato's vision looked like. So, let's look at the text again:

The ideal state model

After Plato talked about what the right upbringing is, and by which he meant above all what, in his opinion, harmful influences the children should be protected from, he now turns to the question of who should rule in his ideal state.

Plato then designed a model of society with three castes: the rulers, the soldiers and the class of artisans, farmers and traders. Every class and every citizen has the duty to contribute to the common good by doing for the state that which corresponds most closely to its nature. Remember, remember: To each his own. The farmers, artisans and traders have the task of producing everything that society needs. The soldiers are supposed to protect the state both externally, i.e. militarily, and internally, i.e. police. After all, the rulers should, well: rule!

Usually the class is inherited, but all children are subjected to an aptitude test by the rulers and can therefore be assigned to a different caste if necessary. The state plans and directs reproduction: it can both command and forbid it for the benefit of eugenics and population development. Disabled children or children who are not wanted by the state are abandoned or murdered. That sounds extremely brutal and it is, but it was not a completely new idea from Plato, but was practiced in ancient Greece. Every second Greek drama begins with an abandoned child.

Further in the text: So that the soldiers and the rulers cannot turn against their own people, they are prohibited from owning private property, they have no apartments of their own, no wealth, they live in communities and are provided with everything from the third estate they need. At this point I would like to remind you that Plato and his buddies tried several times to establish the ideal state in Syracuse. N / A? Do you have any idea why that failed?

The renunciation of private property is therefore intended to protect against the soldiers and / or rulers turning against their own people because it makes the individual soldiers and rulers incorruptible. Because they could not do anything with corresponding riches. Good idea, I have to admit that. Quasi the platonic variant of Transpareny International. In my opinion, that overlooks how creative people can be when it comes to bribery. But regardless of bribery, this measure does nothing against a coup, it may even increase the risk ...

Plato also lets Adeimantos formulate the objection, namely that the rulers will probably not exactly like doing their job. After all, they have all the stresses of government without reaping the rewards. Socrates replies that it is not so clear whether such an ascetic life does not make you much happier in the end. Classic Plato: Asceticism makes you happy! Exactly! Why did the Greeks have a boozy hippie Jesus who celebrated sex parties with Dionysus as God? Good: Plato does not forbid sex this time.

But - according to Plato - it does not depend on the happiness of the rulers either, but on the fact that in the end as much good as possible comes to the entire state. If a small group had to cut back on this, then that was justifiable.

In there is the principle that was taken up a few millennia later by utilitarianism: The state has to ensure the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number of its citizens. But of course this does not invalidate our power-political objection at all: You can of course argue that this is morally more valuable. But does the people with the guns and the people who will write the laws see it that way?

What is fair about that?

Anyway: They were already, the rough features of Plato's state. The question is, what is so fair about it now? Plato says that the principle, which I mentioned at the very beginning of this episode, constitutes justice in this model of the state: that every citizen is assigned to the class that most closely corresponds to his natural inclinations - the principle "Each his own".

But this principle is taken even further here: while everyone contributes to the success of the state, everyone is doing his duty, that is, his own. Plato also equates the three classes with the three parts of the soul that we have come to know: reason, feelings and drives. Accordingly, one of these three parts is dominant in every person and he should then come into the associated caste: The sensible are of course the rulers, the emotional are the soldiers and the instinct-driven come into the third class.

Who shall rule?

What is exciting about Plato's utopia for us is the question of who should rule in this state. So how it is determined who is suitable for the ruling caste. You probably all know the answer, it is also one of the most famous traditions of Plato. But even if you do not know it, it is not particularly surprising, but remains in Plato's egocentrism: the rulers must become philosophers or the philosophers rulers.

Why just that? Well, apart from the fact that philosophers are always the coolest with Plato, let's go back to the allegory of the cave: Only philosophers have seen the idea of ​​the good and can thus rule wisely and justly after years of dealing with the good.

So, that should be enough for today. Next time I'll finish Plato's political philosophy by asking myself once again how he came up with such crazy shit. On the other hand, I'm going to address a few tiny little problems in Plato's theory of the ideal state.


Published on the author Private languageCategories PhilosophyTags asceticism, bribery, population development, the just state, the state, the idea of ​​the good, Dionysus, three parts of the soul, third estate, emotions, eugenics, common good, justice, rule, allegory of the cave, ideal state, each his own, Caste society, corruption, power politics, duty, philosopher king, Plato, coup, soul, soldiers, Transpareny International, instincts, utilitarianism, reason