Plato’s Design of the State and SocietyJune 28, 2021
Plato (427-347 BC) was a member of an aristocratic family of Athens and was a student of Socrates.
He taught philosophy at the school he founded, called Akademia, in Athens. He wrote his works in the form of dialogues, which he saw as the most suitable educational method for philosophy. He was greatly influenced by the ideas of Socrates. He wrote especially his early dialogues under the influence of Socrates’ thoughts. Plato expressed his political views, that is, the design of society and the state, in his work called Politeia (State).
Plato’s theory of society and the state is based on his theory, known as the theory of ideas. According to this teaching, beings are divided into two in terms of their being known. Plato divides all beings into two as seen and thought. Plato’s main concern here is what knowledge is and its certainty. For this, he finds the way to distinguish between information types by separating the information according to its object. He calls the type of information whose object is in the seen field, conjecture (doxa).
According to Plato, since the things that exist in the field of the seen are objects that change and move, one can have an opinion, not information about them. Conjecture is not as solid as its object, it can be wrong or right. Assumption is a fallible type of knowing. However, the real knowledge is reached in the field of thought. Plato speaks of “episteme”, which is an unchanging type of knowledge about “ideas”, which are the unchanging and immovable objects of the field of thought. According to Plato, the object of episteme, that is, true knowledge, is the eternal, unchanging, and self-existent idea. However, the objects of the seen field exist by taking a share from the ideas. For instance, it is the idea of the beautiful that makes all beautiful things beautiful. Plato also calls this “the beauty itself”. In other words, Ideas are “primary examples” (paradeigmata) of individual beings.
Plato divides beings into two as sensible beings in the world of seen and intelligible beings in the world of thought. Ideas, which are the unchanging entities of the intelligible world, are the original and first examples of the things that exist in the visible world.
In Plato’s philosophy, ideas are ideal forms. It is the opposition between the ideal and the real, expressed by the theory of ideas. The discrepancy between the ideal and the real singles is insurmountable.
In other words, none of the individual beautiful things is as genuine and beautiful as the beautiful itself. In the real world, which is the world of singles, bound to time and space, ideal forms cannot exist. Plato also carries this doctrine of ideal forms to the design of the state, which he expressed in his work The Republic. The state that Plato deals with in his work is the ideal state. In this sense, it is a perfect state, different from all the individual state forms that exist in reality. Since it is ideal, it can never be one of the states in the field of sight. In other words, the state that Plato deals with is the ideal state, that is, the state in accordance with the state idea. Thus, by presenting us with a rational theory of the state, Plato can be considered the first thinker to come up with a political theory in the fullest sense of the word. Plato discusses in detail what the ideal state and form of government is, and what the corrupt forms of government are in his work.
The ideal cannot be real. What is in reality cannot be ideal either, if it were in reality it would not be called ideal. What makes the ideal ideal is that it is completely transcendent to reality. This is how the concepts of ideal and real are determined in philosophy.
Plato’s starting point to deal with the state and society is his teacher Socrates’ understanding of philosophy. Philosophy, according to Socrates, should be the study of man rather than the study of the universe. “Socrates convinced Plato that philosophy should begin with the human problem” (Cassirer 1984, p. 72). However, according to Plato, in order to answer this question, it is necessary to consider the research field in a larger example. What is written in small letters in the human soul and therefore difficult to see will be easier to see because it will appear in larger letters in the political and social life of the person. In his work, which Plato begins to investigate what justice is, he asks the question of how a just person can be, and in order to answer this question, he moves on to the question of how justice emerges in a society that is larger than human beings, and how a just society can be. “This principle is the starting point of Plato’s Republic” (Cassirer 1984, p. 72).
When Plato says the human soul, he means human nature. It should not be forgotten that the concept of “soul” in Plato’s philosophy corresponds to human.
According to Plato, if justice exists in a single person, it exists in a whole society, and it is easier to investigate what justice is in a larger society rather than seeing it in a single person. According to Plato, “what makes the state wise is what makes man wise” (Plato 441c). In the same way, it can be said that whatever makes the state and society just is what makes people just. All this comes to say that in Plato’s teaching, it is possible for man to be virtuous only in a social life, in a state. See Plato’s view of man