Premium Content

Ideal State of “REPUBLIC” still Relevant in the Modern World

The REPUBLIC by PLATO is still relevant in the modern world. It may be an ideal state, hence inspiring human imagination.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Ahmad Naveed

The Republic, one of the most important dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, is renowned for its detailed expositions of political and ethical justice and its account of the organization of the ideal state (or city-state)—hence the traditional title of the work. As do other dialogues from Plato’s middle period, and unlike his early or Socratic dialogues, the Republic reflects the positive views of Plato himself rather than the generally sceptical stance of the historical Socrates, who had been Plato’s teacher. (“Socrates” is the main character in most of Plato’s dialogues.) The middle dialogues are literary and philosophical masterpieces, containing sensitive portrayals of characters and their interactions, dazzling displays of rhetoric, and striking and memorable tropes and myths, all designed to set off their leisurely explorations of philosophy.

In the Republic, Plato undertakes to show what justice is and why it is in each person’s best interest. Although the dialogue starts with the question, “Why should I be just?” Socrates proposes that this inquiry can be advanced by examining justice “writ large” in an ideal state. Thus, the political discussion is undertaken to aid the ethical one. According to Plato, the ideal state comprises three social classes: rulers, guardians (or soldiers), and producers (e.g., farmers and artisans). The rulers, who are philosophers, pursue the Good of the entire state based on their knowledge of the form of the Good and the shape of the Just—both being abstract essences, knowable only by the mind, through which things or individuals in the sensible world are, to varying degrees, good or just, respectively. Political justice is the condition of a state in which each social class performs its role properly, including by not attempting to perform the function of any other category.

Corresponding to the three social classes are the three parts of the individual soul—reason, spirit, and appetite—each of which has a particular object or desire. Thus, reason desires truth and the Good of the whole individual; the spirit is preoccupied with honour and competitive values. Appetite has the traditional low taste for food, drink, and sex. Justice in the individual, or ethical justice, is a condition analogous to political justice—a state of psychic harmony in which each part of the soul performs its role properly. Thus, reason understands the form of the Good and desires the actual Good of the individual, and the other two parts of the soul desire what it is good for them to desire, so that spirit and appetite are activated by healthy things properly.

The middle books of the Republic contain a sketch of Plato’s views on knowledge and reality and feature the famous figures of the Sun and the Cave, among others. The position occupied by the form of the Good in the intelligible world is the same as that occupied by the Sun in the visible world. Thus, the Good is responsible for the being and intelligibility of the objects of thought. The usual cognitive condition of humans is likened to prisoners chained in an underground cave, with a great fire behind them and a raised wall in between. The prisoners are chained in position and can see only shadows cast on the facing wall by statues moving along the wall behind them. They take these shadows to be reality. The account of the progress they would achieve if they were to go aboveground and see the real world in the light of the Sun features knowledge as enlightenment.

Plato proposes a concrete sequence of mathematical studies, ending with harmonics, that would prepare future rulers to engage in debate, whose task is to say of each thing what it is—i.e., to specify its nature by giving an objective, rather than merely lexical, definition. The dialogue concludes with a myth concerning the fate of souls after death.

The canons of the Republic are still relevant in modern times. The theme of the book is universal. The ideal state may not be achievable as the context is; however, it is the destiny of human aspirations and ideals. Then, it is an excellent work of literature; the flow and diction are exemplary for the reason that it was crafted centuries ago. The work is still inspiring for contemporary writers of society and politics.  

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Videos