theoretical as opposed to actual. Aristotle, contrarily, holds the view that politics is the art of ruling and being ruled in turn.
Plato’s concept of what politics and government should be is a direct result of his belief in the theory of forms. The
lovers, are the only beings who can reach true knowledge. This concept has to be taken a step further because in The
Republic, Plato states that philosophers should be the rulers since they are the only ones who hold the form of the good.
of the good–in order to rule. The reasoning is: if you know the good, then you will do the good. Therefore, philosopher
rulers are by far the most apt to rule.
In The Republic, Plato builds around the idea of Philosopher Rulers. Even though it is not his primary point, it certainly
philosophers as rulers?’ There are many layers to the answer of this question. The first thing is that a state cannot be ideal
without having philosophers as rulers. This answer leads to the question, ‘Then why do you need ideal states to begin
ideal state is needed is to guarantee the existence of Justice. This does not mean, though, that there cannot be states
without Justice. Actually, Plato provides at least two reasons why the formation of a state cannot be avoided. These are:
aptitude for a specified task and should concentrate on developing it (The Republic, pp 56-62). Although a person is not
self-sufficient, a composition of people–a state–satisfies the needs of all its members. Furthermore, members can
specialize on their natural fortitudes and become more productive members of society.
States are going to form, whether purposefully or coincidentally. For this reason, certain rules have to be enacted for
Commoners–that makes the most of each person’s natural abilities and strives for the good of the community. The point is
consequently, each individual.
The three classes are a product of different aptitude levels for certain tasks amid various individuals. Plato assigns
different political roles to different members of each class. It appears that the only classes that are allowed to participate in
government are the Auxiliaries and, of course, the Philosopher Rulers. The lower class does not partake in politics
duties. Ruling and making laws is reserved for the Philosopher Rulers whose actions are all intended for the good of the
state. To ensure that public good continues to be foremost on each Ruler’s agenda, the Rulers live in community housing,
hold wives/children in common, and do not own private property. The separation of classes is understood by everybody
Self-interest, which could be a negative factor in the scheme of things, is eliminated through a very moral oriented
education system. All these provisions are generated to maintain unity of the state. The most extravagant precaution that
each class is biological as well as moral, Plato reassures that there won’t be any disruption in the harmony of the state.
Whereas Plato’s The Republic is a text whose goal is to define Justice and in doing so uses the polis, Aristotle’s The
Politics’s sole function is to define itself–define politics. Aristotle begins his text by answering the question: “Why does the
state exist?” His answer is that the state is the culmination of natural associations that start with the joining of man and
Plato, believes that a person is not self-reliant. This lack of sufficiency is the catalyst in the escalating order of unions
In The Politics, it appears that Aristotle is not very set on breaking down society. His argument says that there are
“naturalness” of slaves and their role in society. Aristotle is also very sexist and explicitly states so. His view is that women
reason is that the lower class is not mentally adept for the intricacies of higher knowledge on the good. Aristotle seems to
time to openly participate in politicking.
scarce and valuable goods is in proportion to contribution to the good of the polis. This system provides for the self
interested who believe that those who work harder should receive more. Another point is that the citizens rule and are
ruled in turn, insofar as the mixed social system allows. This is permissible because of the strong involvement of the citizens
in government; it is what one would call a “true democracy.” Overall, a spirit of moderation prevails.
specific instances where either philosophy is applied. This may be a result of the fact that today’s political philosophy
differs from both philosopher’s. While Aristotle and Plato uphold the good of the community or state above individual
individual rights is a necessity for today’s citizens. Going back in history to 1787 will show that one of the reasons there
promised that as soon as the constitution was ratified, a Bill of Rights would be added, the doubting states proceeded to
ratify it. According to Plato and Aristotle, a Bill of Rights is not necessary because it does not improve the good of the
argues for the naturalness of slavery in The Politics, yet slavery has been considered grotesque for quite some time. In
correlation to slavery, there is the undermining of the female population by Aristotle. Although Plato is a lot less
recognition they deserve, today it is a well accepted fact (generally) that women are as capable as men in performing
Naturally, since Aristotle and Plato have been around for such a long time, our society certainly contains some of their
influences in a general sense. For example, today it is believed that certain people are born with certain capacities.
classes–for example: advanced, intermediate, and beginners. In their appropriate level, each person develops his or her
abilities to the highest potential. This concept is sometimes at odds with the ideal of equality, ie. we are all human beings.
Yet, in essence, it does not take away from the ideal because we are all humans, but we differ in certain capacity levels to
Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy have helped shape present thought, though, by no means, mandate our practices. The
philosophers are very community oriented while we value the individual. Besides differing with today’s standards, each
philosopher is in his own way distinct. Plato is very attracted to metaphysical philosophy, while Aristotle is much more
methodical. Both perspective views are and will continue to puzzle students for years to come.