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Greek Philosophers Essay, Research Paper

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


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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