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I am author of the books Political Internet(Routledge, 2017), Intimate Speakers ( Fingerprint! 2017), has finished the typescript of three books—first, on Internet and sexuality; second, on the negative impacts of social media; and third, a novel—and is presently working on a narrative non-fiction with the working title Lovescape: Why India is afraid of love.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Palto: Ideal State

The good life is possible only in and through society (State).  Society is a natural institution.  Man is essentially a social and political animal.  The State exists for the sake of the good life.  Now according to Plato, the aim of the good society is neither freedom, nor economic well-being.  Rather, the aim of the good society is justice.  A true State, therefore, must be conformed to justice (the Ideal of which exists in the World of Forms).  And so the state does not decide what is just.  Justice is an object of knowledge, that is, it is one of the forms.  That is why the Statesman must be a Philosopher.  If not, he will only lead the state downwards toward self-destruction.  Justice in the state is analogous to justice in the individual, and the state must be structures after the pattern of justice in the individual.  Now the soul has three parts, according to Plato:

Justice in the individual exists when the lower appetites are subject to governance of reason.  This is the state of peace or pax (harmony), and peace in the city state is analogous to peace in the individual.  Recall Socrates' self-rule.  Freedom means knowing what we ought to do (wisdom), and having the ability to do what we ought to do.  In other words, it is only when the appetites are subject to reason that I can do what I ought to do.  The unjust man cannot control his anger, or moderate his passion for money, etc.  So, for Plato, justice is a kind of order, a harmony between reason and the appetites.  A just man will not allow his anger to move him to do something that is irrational.  In this way, only the just man is truly free.  So too, only the state that is just is truly free.

Thus, the just state looks like the following:

Points to Note
Censorship is necessary in the context of education.  For the good of the State, all poetry and drama that depicts the gods as indulging in gross immorality (violating oaths and treaties) will be censored.  The notion of an absolute right to free artistic expression is, for Plato, absolute nonsense.
Education:  must be for everyone.  Education in morality and philosophy is the most important (the true and the good).  This will be most conducive to the good society.
Private Property: Auxiliaries must possess no private property, but receive all necessities from their fellow citizens.  They are never to handle gold and silver.  If they are allowed to begin amassing property, they will very soon turn to tyrants.
Community of Wives and children:  In the two upper classes, there is to be no private ownership and no family life.  Marriage relations of citizens of these classes should be under the control of the State.  Family and private property are not to be abolished on the artisan level.

Wisdom (Prudence): The wisdom of the State resides in the small class of rulers or Guardians.
Fortitude (Courage): The courage of the State resides in the Auxiliaries.
Temperance:  The temperance of the State consists in the due subordination of the governed to the governing.
Justice:  The justice of the State involves the harmony of all the parts (classes).  Everyone attends to his own business without interfering with anyone else's.

An individual person is just when all the elements of the soul (concupiscible appetite, irascible appetite, will, intellect) function properly in harmony and due subordination of the lower to the higher.  So too, the State is just (a just society) when all the classes and individuals in them perform their due functions in the proper way. 

Ideal State

Consequently, Plato began the process of deconstruction of the Athenian system, and reconstructing his theory of state and order. However, this paper will look at the Athenian system of government and Sparta. This is because both systems served as a reference point for Plato in the reconstruction of what he called the ideal state.
The Acropolis of Athens has been inhibited since Neolithic times. As early as 1400 BC it was fortified in the manner of Mycenae, Tirus, and other late BronzeAge citadels. At that time and in the subsequent “dark age” (1200-900 BC) that followed widespread warring among the Mycenaean Greeks, Athens was one of a number of petty states in Attica.
Athens practiced a direct system of democracy where every adult is to participate in discussions of matters of the polis in the general assembly. The institutions by which this body of citizen- members undertook to transact its political business can be illustrated by taking Athens as the best- known type of democratic constitution. The whole body of male citizens formed the Assembly or Ecclesia, a town- meeting which every Athenian was entitled to attend after he had reached the age of twenty.
The interesting thing about Athenian government is therefore not the Assembly of the whole people but the political means which had been designed to make the magistrates and officials responsible to the citizen-body and answerable to its control. The magistrates were selected from the cross-section of the whole body of citizens, which has short term, there was a provision against re-election and thus the way was open for other citizens to have a turn at the management of public affairs.
Another important body of Athenian officials which was outside the scheme of choice by lot, and which retained a much larger measure of independence than the others,was the ten generals who were chosen by direct election and were, moreover, eligible to repeated re-elections. They were purely military officers but especially in imperial days they actually exercised not only important powers in foreign parts of the Athenian Empire but also very great influence over the decisions of the council and the assembly at home.
The ancient city even in its most prosperous days was merely a group of five villages with simple houses and a few public buildings. The passes leading intothe valley of the Evrotas were easily defended and Sparta had no walls until the end of 4th century BC. The inhabitants of Laconiawere divide into Helots (slaves), who performed all agricultural work; Perioeci, a subject class of free men without political rights, who were mainly tradesmen and merchants, and the spartiatai, or governing class, rulers and soldiers, descended from the Dorians, who had migrated to the area about 1100BC (Redmond:2008) .
The foundation of Spartan greatness was attributed to the legislation of Lycurgus, but was more probably the result of ascetic reforms introduced about 600 BC. From 6th century on, Spartans looked upon themselves as merely a military garrison, and all their discipline pointed towards war (ibid). At age seven, a Spartan boy was taken from his mother and raised in barracks. They were whipped to inculcate respect (aidos) and obedience; they went ill clad to make them tough; and they were starved to make them resist to hunger. If they get too hungry, they are encouraged to try stealing (as a way of improving their stealth) but were punished if caught (Lendon: 2005).
Girls, while not trained militarily, were expected to train physically. Fitness was considered to be as important for females as it was for males, and girls took part in races and trials of strength; this include running, wrestling, discus and javelin throwing. They also learn to manage horses; they drove carriages in processions and at the Hyacinthia- a festival of Apollo and Hyancinthus (Blundell: 1995).
Spartan in time developed a system of dual kingship (two kings ruling at once). Their power was counter-balanced by the elected board of ephors(who only serve a single one-year term). There was also a council of elders (gerousia), each member of which was over the age of 60 and could serve for life. The general assembly, which consisted of each citizen, also had the chance to vote on legislation. 
Plato’s “Republic” was an indictment of the Athenian way of life and its vibrant participatory democracy. Plato dismissed the Athenian practice of ‘happy versatility’ whereby every Greek male adult could participate in the political process and offer a political opinion, as amateurism. He attacked democracy for the incompetence and ignorance of politicians, for that gave rise to factionalism, extreme violence, and partisan politics, which were the cause of political instability. Moreover, democracy did not tolerate highly gifted persons; a view that was reinforced by the execution of Socrates.
Plato wrote at the time when Athens was at the cross road after its defeat in the Peloponnesian war. The defeat of Athens was due to an error in the military strategy. The clash between Athens and Sparta was depicted by Plato as representing two opposing ideologies competing political systems and different lifestyles. Athens was individualistic, excelling in literary pursuit, highly creative, democratic and open. Sparta on the other hand was statist, regimented, oligarchic and militaristic. Plato concluded that Spartan military victory was due to its political and social systems. He tried to infuse the communitarian spirit of Sparta into the individualistic Athenian society, and temper democracy with aristocratic values.
Leaders in Athens were elected through the cast of lots. This is particularly what Plato rejected as the ruler ship is open to everyone, thereby denying the knowledgeable what was due to them. He believed that, only when the knowledgeable and no other persons rule that justice will prevail in the society. Thus “the total happiness of the society is achieved only when philosophers become kings, or kings become philosophers.”
Women in Athens had no right to participate in the affairs of the polis. This also was not accepted by Plato, as he sees both genders capable of providing good life for the society. Thereby did not differentiate between them in his ideal state.
Besides his admiration for the Spartan model, Plato was philosophically influenced by some of his predecessors and contemporaries, one of which was Pythagoras; from whom he borrowed many ideas including; the importance of mathematics, belief in other worldliness and in the immortality of the human soul, sexual equality, and the idea of the philosopher ruler.
Plato also belittled the sophists In general. Sophism was a rival school of Socratic tradition. Philosophically, it stood for relativism, skepticism, individualism, and humanism, and was generally acknowledged as founder of democracy and social change.
What Plato desired to do was to set an ideal for the state even for the times to come. He also wanted to lay down standards or principles which the state ought to follow under all circumstances and become ultimate goals and objectives which it should struggle to achieve. His ideal state was not bound by any customs and conventions but a romance of free intelligence.
To him (Plato), it was superiority virtue which mattered much in the administration of the state. If the wise and the virtuous rule the state there can be no doubt that an ideal state can be achieved, as in the case of human beings that reason and spirit dominate appetite, so as the case with the state. In an ideal state, only a few reasonable shall rule.
Plato starts with the human beings and divides soul into three elements namely: Reason (Rational), Spirit (forceful), and Appetite (Concupiscent). In each soul, one of these qualities would be the predominant faculty. Individuals in whom the rational faculty was predominant would constitute the ruling class, and the virtue of such a soul was wisdom. This soul, a lover of learning, had the power to comprehend the idea of good. These in whom spirit was the predominant quality were the auxiliaries or warriors, and the virtue of such souls was courage, implying the ability to hold on to one’s convictions and beliefs in adverse times. Together, the rulers and soldiers would constitute the guardian class. According to him (Plato), appetite gives birth to love, he however, attached great importance to Reason (Rational) alone. In the Ideal State, there shall be functional specialization. There shall be overproduction to raise national wealth, the warriors shall defend the frontiers and the philosophers will rule the nation.
Therefore, the diagram below depicts Plato’s conception of the Ideal State:
(Suprata and Sushila:1999)
To Plato, the good life is possible only in and through society (state). Society is a natural institution. The state exists for the sake of the good life. To him (Plato), the aim of the good society is neither freedom nor economic wellbeing. Rather, the aim of the good society is justice. That justice is an object of knowledge. That is why the statesman must be a philosopher. If not, he will only lead the state downwards towards self-destruction. He (Plato) therefore maintained that an individual person is “just” when all the elements of the soul function properly in harmony and due subordination of the lower to the higher. So also, the state is “just” when all the classes and individuals in it perform their due functions in the proper way. Plato concludes in the Republic, that in the “perfect state” the people who should govern are those who are superior in the ways of philosophy and war. Plato calls these ideal rulers “philosopher-kings” (Mingst, 1999).
In an attempt for the construction of an Ideal State, Plato observed that there should be the following features:
The Rule of Philosopher Kings: According to Plato, an Ideal state must be governed by a philosopher king who should be a passionless person and seeker of truth and wisdom. He should also be above all types of prejudices and be a symbol of human wisdom. By his actions he should command respect from all. He should possess high qualities of lead and heart, and shall not be corrupted by concentration of power of his own hands. He should combine in himself virtue and knowledge. He is not to be bound by any laws; such a king could be in a position to look after the welfare of all.
Specialized Soldiers: Plato well realized that defense of the state was most essential for all states. He (Plato), therefore, gave this responsibility to soldiers. He believed that these people should not be ordinary soldiers, but persons specially trained for the purpose.

Division of Labor: Plato’s ideal state has three classes namely; rulers at the head to govern, soldiers to defend, and peasants and artisans to work for the betterment of the economic conditions of the people living in it. Each section of the society was required to attain perfection in the particular assigned job. According to Plato, it was only in class division that each class could give security, property and proper administration to the people, and thus, helps in promoting collective welfare. Unless society was divided into classes, no good could be done to the people.
Ordinarily Plato did not wish to impose any limitations on the authority of the philosopher king. To him (Plato), virtue in action could not be corrupted. In fact, a close study of the power and position of his philosopher king would reveal that he was Hobbesian Leviathan.
Plato believed in a system of complete functional specialization. He did not like that each and everybody should go on performing functions of the type which were not suited to his temperament and taste. He was of the firm view that everyone should perform functions assigned to him and should not try to go beyond it. Thus, the king should rule and let soldiers fight along on the battle field. But he wished that everybody should be completely devoted to the task assigned to him and should try to attain perfection in that field.
State Control Education System:An ideal state rule by philosopher was made possible through an elaborate and rigorous scheme of education. According to Plato, state should have full and final control over education. For him (Plato), it was only the agency which could produce philosopher kings and train the minds and thoughts of the people in the right and proper direction. In his philosophy, education had both social and individual aspects. In society, education should promote social welfare, while individually it should bring soul closer to reality. According to Plato, children were national possession and as such, it was obligatory on the part of the state to bring them up according to their aptitude. He also believed that ultimately, the children should be under state control and the state should not only provide them proper education, nourishment and development but proper work as well.
For Plato, human faculties were not hereditary. An individual’s functional role in society was determined by his own natural aptitude, and not by parental lineage. To ensure that the parents did not manipulate to get the best for their child, they were made to give up their child to the state, which in turn would categorize and educate him in the appropriate faculty that he was endowed with. 
 Plato started the process of acquiring a child’s education from the elementary stage. That elementary education would be confined to the guardian class till the age of 18, followed by 2years of compulsory military training, and then by higher education for those qualified. While elementary education made the soul responsive to the environment, higher education helped the soul to search for truth which illuminated it. At the age of 20, a selection was made. The best ones would now take an advanced course in mathematics, which would include arithmetic plane and solid geometric, astronomy and harmonics. These helped easily in acquiring the vision of idea of Good.
Those who did not qualified to join this exclusive category of esoteric minds would become soldiers, and form the second tiers of the ruling elite. The first course in the scheme of higher education would last for 10years. It would be for those who had a flair for science. At the age of 30 there would be another selection. Those who qualified would study dialectics or metaphysics, logic and philosophy for the next 5years. They would study the idea of Good and the first principles of being. They would receive partial experience for ruling. They will accept junior positions in military and political life till the age of 35. This period will last for the next 15years. By the age of 50 the philosopher ruler was fully equipped (Subtrata and Sushila,1999).
Proper Administration of Justice: According to Plato, justice was an essential and integral part of a state and it kept various organs and individuals in close harmony with each other. Therefore, he pleaded that justice should be properly administered. His concept of justice was somewhat different than the modern one. It was not a legal concept as well, but something quite different from it. It was something in which there was functional specialization and everybody was required to remain within his limit.
Equal Treatment of Men and Women: According to Plato’s Ideal State, the philosopher king should make all efforts in developing character of both men and women. Both should be brought up as useful citizens, as both are an integral part of the state and as such, there should be no distinction between the two, in so far as development of their faculties is concerned.
Communism of Wives and Property: He believed that if the ruling class was to perform it duties devotedly and honestly, it was essential that there should be communism of wives and property. As long as rulers were not free from the bondage of family life and rose above narrow interests of possessing maximum of private property they shall never be in a position to solely devote themselves to the work of the state. Without such a communism, there was every possibility of their becoming corrupt and selfish.
Restriction of Art and Literature: According to Plato, in Ideal state, there should be positive restriction on the production of art and literature. According to him (Plato), in such a state no cheap, unpopular or immoral literature should come before the people. The people should have only literature of a type which promotes high moral character and develops character, wisdom and intelligence.

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