The Greek Philosophers

Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520) Scuola di Atene

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had virtually the same beliefs about man's relation to the State, although Plato's political theory of the State was more rational than Socrates or Aristotle's. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all believed that man was not self-sufficient, they believed man would be most happy living in a State. They also believed that all men wanted to live the truly good life where they could be in tune with the truth and achieve their ultimate goals. Although Socrates, Plato and Aristotle's political views of the State are similar, Plato's view is more rational than Socrates and Aristotle's in the sense that he created an ideal State. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were three philosophers in ancient Greece who believed that no man was self-sufficient enough to live on his own. Plato believed "a State comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing" (Stumph, 70). This theory of Plato's was also shared by Aristotle who said "He who is unable to live in society or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must either be a beast or a god" (Stumph, 103). These two views indicate the importance of a State to an individual according to Plato and Aristotle. All three philosophers believed that man would be much happier if he was part of a State rather than on his own. Socrates once stated "We are all more productive if we specialize in one thing rather than try to excel at many things" (Stumph, 40). Within the State Socrates believed that there would be a division of labour for the provision of food, shelter and clothing. An individual living outside of a State would have to provide thems! elves with these necessities. As Socrates stated above within the State you would specialize in one thing only, while a different individual would specialize in something else and this would allow the quality and the quantity of the product to increase. "Plato assumes that we are all born with physical and intellectual equipment that makes us suited to perform some tasks better than others" (Rice, 42). So now individuals only have to specialize in something that they are physically and intellectually suited for according to Plato. These three philosophers believed that if man could be more productive by specializing in something that they are suited for they would be happier. Aristotle made the point that "Every community is established with the view to some good; and that mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good" (Copleston, 351). Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all believed that man needs to be part of a State in order to live a truly good life. For Plato, who concerned himself with the truly good life for man, it was imperative to determine the true function of the State. He believed that the State was crucial in order for man to live a good life. Plato wrote that "a proper government would lead to a peaceful, ordered society in which all humans needs are met" (Copleston, 223). Meeting the needs of the people was very important within the State, and to help meet the needs of the people Plato thought that the relationship between the individual and the State would be similar to the relationship between parents and their children. This meant that the government would have power over the people but the people would be considered in the decision making. Aristotle viewed the State as "The agency for enabling people to achieve their ultimate goals as human beings" (Stumph, 103). He thought that within the St! ate you were free and able to obtain your needs or 'goals' in life. Aristotle also made the point that "the State exists for the sake of everyone's moral and intellectual fulfillment" (Stumph, 105). Socrates also believed in man's true happiness, which is what is in man's best interest, not just something that will make him temporarily happy, such as alcohol. He believed that the State was where man would be truly happy.

Although Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had similar views on the State, Plato's view is more rational. "Plato's political theory is developed in close connection with his ethics" (Copleston, 223). He believed strongly in the wants of man, "The State does not exist simply in order to further the economic needs of men, for man is not simply 'Economic Man,' but for happiness, to develop them in the good life" (Copleston, 226). In Plato's Republic we wanted poets, but he also objected to the way they speak about the gods, and the way that they portrayed immoral characters. Therefore if he was going to have poets in his State they would have to produce examples of good moral character, and "Lyric poetry would only be allowed under strict supervision of the State authorities" (Rice, 39). Also in Plato's Republic "Women are to be trained as men: in the ideal State they will not simply stay at home and mind the baby, but will be trained in music and gymnastics and military discipli! ne just like men" (Copleston, 229). These regulations and theories were part of Plato's ideal State. By creating an ideal State Plato was expressing the only way the State would be run and remain successful according to his point of view. Aristotle, who believed that the State was substantial, did not create a blueprint of the ideal State like Plato did. Plato who thought out an ideal State and created rules and regulations was more rational in his political views than Socrates and Aristotle.

Even though all three philosophers were similar in their political beliefs about man not being self-sufficient and that man would be most happy in a State. Plato's ideal State made his political view easily understandable and more rational than Socrates who left behind no notes and Aristotle who did not create a blueprint for an ideal State.
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