Republic and Politics: Compare & Contrast
Plato’s “Republic” is a philosophical discourse that basically deals with an issue that pertains to justice, and it raises serious concerns about what justice truly is, in the true sense of the word (particularly in a city-state and individuals concept) (Plato 16). In the work, Socrates and many Athenians and some foreigners discuss justice. Some of the ways justice is defined are that it involves helping friends and hating enemies. This is the kind of definition that is not like those that are often given to other concepts. Above all that was said in “Republic”, what is most important at the moment is Plato’s conception of the relationship that would exist between the philosopher and the city. Plato conceives the possibility of there been a society that would be ruled by philosophers—philosopher-kings under the umbrella of the possibility of a just person being happier than an unjust person. Socrates conceives a situation he thinks would help create a just state. What he conceives is the state where there is no private property, no private wife or children, and no philosophy for the lower class. He denies the possibility of any kind of government that is headed by individuals being free from corruption. According to him, as a result of the fact that these other people who head any form of government are not philosophers, they are very prone to corruption. The philosopher is the one who can govern the city very well because they have a certain feature called disinterestedness (Plato 92). This means that the philosopher does not attach any sentiments to issues. This is also true because the philosopher is able to bury personal interest for the good of the state. The philosopher is one who is able to provide for the people with the aim of creating equality amongst all in the society.
However, he throws in a note of caution which is that the ruler (philosopher) must be kept away from any avenue that could be an outlet for corruption. Along the same line, Socrates also conceives the idea of raising children that will be raised in ways that will enable them to know what is good, but parents will never get to know their children and vice versa.
Like Plato’s “Republic”, Aristotle’s “Politics” is a work of philosophy. However, unlike Plato’s, Aristotle’s “politics” is focused on politics. It is pertinent to note that the two works treat issues that relate to justice. Although both works discuss issues that relate to sexes, that of Plato appears to provide more room for equality amongst the sexes (some may even be of the opinion that women are favored above men) (Plato 12). Aristotle’s “Politics” gives no voice to the yearning and aspiration of women to be heard and seen (Aristotle 21-24). Aristotle discusses the kind of relationship that may exist in the typical family unit; the relationship between master and slave, between husband and wife, and that which exists between father and children (Aristotle 6). According to Aristotle, what is central to all this is the father (the man) (Aristotle 19). Aristotle then assumes that men are more important to any family than any other member of the family. He fails to put into cognizance the fact that he clearly refuses to recognize the role women could play in society.
In contrast to the view of Plato, Aristotle identifies monarchy as the most desired kind of government but for its tendency to easily turn into a dictatorship (Aristotle 61). The notion of kingship is quite similar to that expressed by Plato except that for Aristotle, the king does not necessarily have to be a philosopher. But one thing that is certain is that the king must not be a tyrant.
In line with what Plato expresses, Aristotle also opines that the philosopher is the one that is most capable of ruling because he or she is the most qualified. Nonetheless, Aristotle does take cognizance of the fact that in the perception of many and based on what is true; philosophers could appear to know too much. Thus, the knowledge at some points may either be extreme, abstract, or totally irrelevant. Despite the truth of the foregoing, Aristotle still insists that no one can rule a nation-state better than a philosopher. This, according to him, is because based on the capability of the philosopher to think of what others may not think of at all. Then, it is assumed that to the philosopher, no terrain is strange. This would only imply that the philosopher will be able to provide solutions to any problem that may raise its ugly head.
At this point, it lends credence to state the opinions expressed by the two philosophers in their different works may differ, there is no denying the fact that their ideologies about the issues discussed meet at a common point. For example, they both seem to agree that there is a need for egalitarianism to be operated in the distribution of the national resources. This is in spite of the fact that Aristotle leaned more to the side of the aristocracy, to which he belonged. Nonetheless, one thing is sure for both philosophers. It is only a philosopher like they themselves that can only equitably distribute the resource of the nation-state. As expected, even if a mad person were to be given a hoe to farm, s/he would surely draw sand to himself or herself.
As earlier said, Aristotle seems to drift more to the side of the aristocracy than to the side of any other class. From this, it appears that Aristotle builds his supposition on the belief that all philosophers are from the upper class just like he is. This may even be viewed as one of the areas where their opinions sharply vary. Also, based on what Plato says, it would mean that Aristotle is unjust in his judgment because he forecloses the possibility of a philosopher ever emerging from the lower class or from the middle class. As far as this is concerned even Plato is guilty. He is because just like Aristotle brought the idea forth, so did Plato. The idea that Plato brought forth which is similar to that of Aristotle is that philosophy should not be open to any person who is not from the upper class. So, it is very obvious that both philosophers have committed the fallacy of the wrong assumption—they assume that because of the fact that they are born from a lowly background, they cannot be thinkers. Going by this, it would only be right to say that Plato and Aristotle have one other feature in common—they are both hypocrites. They try as much as possible to hide their true intention by presenting to the reader that they hold a pretentious opinion which they actually do not hold. But, unfortunately for them, there is no way they can totally hide their true intentions.
In conclusion, even though “Republic” and “Politics” were written by different people: Plato and Aristotle respectively, there are points where they meet. But it is important to mention that as much as they have similarities, so do they have differences that seem to totally make them like a parallel line that will never meet.
Aristotle. Politics Trans. Jowett, Benjamin. Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 1999
Plato. Republic Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2008.