y does Plato believe that only Philosophers are fit to rule?
Essay written by: ALAN T
Rather than the practical pursuit we are accustomed to, for Plato, Politics is an intellectual faculty. Governance by non-philosophers is to be governed by opinions, beliefs and self-interest; in contrast the philosopher ruler will govern with virtue and justice with no hidden agenda. The philosopher is in love, in love with learning, knowledge and truth. It is important to make a distinction here between the acquisition of knowledge and the acquisition of truth, because knowledge is not necessarily the truth.
With the help of an allegory, Plato explains the sensible world of illusion and belief, the place where most people reside. The philosopher has stepped outside this world, into a world of knowledge and truth. Plato makes use of a cave to explain this; I will use another means. A child believes in the myth of Santa Claus, a child has good reason to suppose this myth is true, it is inculcated when he receives Christmas presents, the media, family and friends consolidate the belief, the child even writes to Santa Claus and receives a reply. On Christmas Day this belief becomes a reality. Through education and maturity, the child will have doubts as to the truth of this illusion. At some stage during the transition from childhood to adulthood he will acknowledge the illusion, and further, during parenthood the myth really comes home to roost as knowledge and absolute truth. (He now has a choice; he can put an end to the myth or continue the cycle) What is distinctive regarding each stage, is how far they have come out of the cave. Through illusion and belief to knowledge, or from artisan to auxiliary to philosopher.
The fundamental prerequisite to becoming a philosopher ruler is to have knowledge of the forms, therefore knowing the truth. The forms do not exist in the sensible world, they can only be found in the super-sensible world. Platos theory of the forms is partly logical and partly metaphysical. The logical part is, take for example a dog, there will be many types of dog, and general particulars regarding a dog. The form of a dog is universal and eternal it has no position in space or time, it is not born when a dog is born, nor does it die when a dog dies. The metaphysical part of the theory is the form of a dog is a perfect, unique dog, created by God. The dog is real, particular dogs are apparent. Armed with this truth, the philosopher rulers will always make the right decisions, and rule with total wisdom, justice and virtue. The rulers will not own property, nor have money, they will be free of vices, excesses and desires. They will have a Spartan existence (Plato was an admirer of Spartan culture). A ruler in Platos' society as described in his dialogue The Republic would be incorruptible, an absolute model of sensible world perfection and justice. If one was to look no further into Platos utopian society you could be forgiven for thinking that the philosopher rulers would be the ultimate answer for political duties and government administration. A more detailed examination of policy and structure is necessary, prior to arriving at a conclusion.
The structure in Platos society is tripartite and hierarchical, made up of the philosopher kings as rulers. The auxiliaries who will be in a sort of military role (prospective rulers) and the artisans (workers) who will produce all the consumable and non consumable goods deemed necessary for consumption and the continued economic viability of the society.
The philosopher rulers duties as administrators in platos society or commonwealth are to legislate, educate and to keep an ever watchful eye on the auxillaries and artisans, paying special attention to the auxillaries, especially those that are considered fit to be future philosopher rulers. All auxiliaries will be subjected to a series of tests, which will check their powers of resistance to self-interest, pleasure and other temptations
. Aristotle on Excellence in Leadership
\"But when a whole family, or some individual, happens to be so preeminent in excellence as to surpass all others, then it is just that they