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Plato Vs Aristotle On City-State Essay, Research Paper

Aristotle argues that in order for a polis to emerge, a union between man and women must convene. Later a household must be introduced which unites with other households to form a village, villages come together to form city-states. This theory is Aristotle?s natural view that an individual can not be self sufficient Plato argues that, in order to achieve absolute justice, a city-state is needed.

In The Republic, Plato builds around the idea of Philosopher Rulers. Even though it is not his primary point, it certainly is at the core of his discussion of the ideal state. The question that arises is, ‘Why do you need ideal states which will have 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 with?’ The Republic starts with a discussion of Justice, which leads to the creation of the ideal state. The reason why an 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. The first reason is that human beings are not self-sufficient so they need to live in a social environment, and the second reason, each person has a natural 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 the well being of the state. The main way to institutionalize rules is through government and in the form of laws. Plato’s The Republic is not an explication of laws of the people. It is a separation of power amongst three classes–Rulers, Auxiliaries, Commoners–that makes the most of each person’s natural abilities and strives for the good of the community. The point is to create a harmonious unity amongst the three classes, which will lead to the greater good of the community, and, 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 because they are not mentally able. In other words, they do not understand the concept of the forms. Thus, it is better to allow the Philosophers, who do have this knowledge, to lead them. Providing food and abode for the Guardians are the only governmental responsibility the lower class has. The Auxiliaries are in charge of the military, police, and executive 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 Plato takes is the Foundation Myth of the metals. By making the people believe, through a myth, that the distinction of each class is biological as well as moral, Plato reassures that there won’t be any disruption in the harmony of the state.

Plato’s “ideal city” is really the search for the truth of justice, if Socrates is able to find the relationship between the soul and city in his “ideal city” then he would have the true meaning of justice. We saw from the reading how he came about braking down the city’s parts and also that of the soul in order to see the reaction between three different regions which Plato and Socrates describe in The Republic. According to Plato, Socrates broke down the perfect city into three parts; each part is tied to a specific virtue that he believes will help define justice. The three virtues are wisdom, courage, and moderation. Wisdom is the whole knowledge, which describes the rulers of the city. The rulers should be the ones who incorporate philosophy and ruling together to rule the city wisely. Courage describes the guardians, whose job was to defend the city from invasion and take new lands for the city. The third virtue of the ideal city was moderation which is the concept of self-control and knowing ones role, also the concept of “one man, one job”. The ideal city described in the work is ideal to me because it relates all essential parts to bring harmony among the different kind of people and the virtues that go hand in hand with to bring about justice.

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 woman (”pair”), which has a family and form a “household”; households unite and form villages; villages unite and form the state. This natural order of events is what is best because it provides for the needs of all the individuals. Aristotle, like Plato, believes that a person is not self-reliant. This lack of sufficiency is the catalyst in the escalating order of unions among people.

In The Politics, it appears that Aristotle is not very set on breaking down society. His argument says that there are different classes in society, but they are naturally defined. For example, he devotes a lot of time to an explanation of the “naturalness” of slaves and their role in society. Aristotle is also very sexist and explicitly states so. His view is that women are inferior to men in all senses. Perhaps the most pertaining to our discussion is the citizen, whose role is purely political. Both Plato and Aristotle seem to agree that some people are not capable of practicing an active role in political life. Plato’s reason is that the lower class is not mentally adept for the intricacies of higher knowledge on the good. Aristotle seems to base his opinion on a more political issue. He believes that only those that fully participate in their government should be considered citizens of the state. For this reason, he excludes workers as citizens because they would not have the required time to openly participate in politicking.

Aristotle puts emphasis on the institution of the polis (Hacker 77). This institution is not the state or society merely the larger unit of the two (hacker 77). Neither Plato nor Aristotle found it to be necessary to distinguish between the state nor society and

Therefore it is difficult to define polis (Hacker 77). The polis was set up to allow political participation on the part of the average citizen (Hacker 80). This contradicts Plato’s theory of one ruling class controlling the political power and all decisions that effect

the entire society. The theory of Democracy that Aristotle derived states that democracy is a “perversion” form of government of “polity” (Hacker 92). Aristotle said, “The people at large should be sovereign rather than the few best” (Hacker 92). Plato would never allow the full public participation in government, as Aristotle would like. According to Plato public judgments of approval and disapproval are based on belief and not on knowledge (Hacker 59).

The Aristotelian polis, as opposed to Plato’s, is a city with a large middle class that promotes stability and balances the conflicting claims of the poor and the rich. Aristotle combines elements of democracy with elements of aristocracy, again to balance opposing claims. Because he is aware that human interest is an inextricable entity, the distribution of scarce and valuable goods is in proportion to contribution to the good of the polis. This system provides for the self-interested that 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.

Our nation fits into Aristotle?s idea of a city-state very well. Upon reading history one can ascertain the fact that our nation came together in a similar matter as Aristotle suggested. First, during the initial colonization periods, back in the 1600?s with the pilgrims, one could see the initial signs of a city-state system. These pilgrims soon built villages in the same way that Aristotle suggests. After the villages grew in population and means of communication where introduced among the villages, the townspeople began to unite under a common goal, namely survival. Soon the townships formed states; thus the 13 colonies came about. After many years all the states where united in a loose bond called the United States. Aristotle?s own view of how city-states are created is almost paralleled when reviewing our own history.

Plato and Aristotle alike were two men who had ideas on ways to improve existing society. Plato, a political philosopher, was in the pursuit of philosophical truth (Hacker 114). Aristotle was concerned with the citizen and the design of political institutions (Hacker 114). They both had well thought out ideas and plans on how to build a better society. Both Aristotle and Plato have had a tremendous impact on political scientists of today. Aristotle helped to develop some democratic ideas. In conclusion these men were great thinkers. Their opinions on society and its functions were quite different, but they both had the same intention, to build a better way of life for the societies they lived in and for the societies that would come to be in the future.

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