The Crito - Platos democracy essay

plato / democracy / Crito / tyranny

Essay Topic:

The uniqueness of the changes that occurred to Platos democracy definition.

Essay Questions:

What is the definition of democracy provided in Platos The Crito?

How is definition different from the contemporary understanding of democracy?

What is the main peculiarity of the modern democratic societies?

Thesis Statement:

They have not lost their value even after two thousand years. Plato did not welcome democracy at all and he had many reasons for that. He would have never considered the contemporary societies just but he has no right to claim it unjust as the meaning of democracy as changed.


The Crito - Platos democracy essay


Table of contents:

o Introduction

o Platos cogitations about democracy

o What is just according to Plato?

o Plato and modern democratic societies

o Conclusion

1. Introduction

The term democracy has become rather popular in the last years. It can be heard every now and then from different people. Some people respect what they call democratic society and so do not. It is common knowledge, that the majority of the contemporary societies are democratic; therefore, there is no wonder that the idea of democracy is realized in the constitutional structure of these countries. Democracy is considered to be the highest point of the societys evolution. The worst thing about democracy nowadays is that politicians and counties that are very distant from democracy and nevertheless often use this term. The interest to the problems of democracy is very high nowadays but it was high and many centuries ago, too. Such philosophers as Plato and Aristotle studied the processes happening in the society during democracy. Historically, democracy has always been interpreted as the power of people. Cotemporary people welcome democracy, considering it to be the best power in order to take into count the opinion of the majority of the population of the country and not just the upper class. Plato was one of the most furious enemies of democracy. It is very important to say that the arguments that he performed against democracy still possess their primary power. They have not lost their value even after two thousand years. Plato did not welcome democracy at all and he had many reasons for that. He would have never considered the contemporary societies just but he has no right to claim it unjust as the meaning of democracy as changed.

2. Platos cogitations about democracy

Plato thought of democracy as of a possible potential source of tyranny. For him democracy was an intermediate period before that start of tyranny. Plato views democracy as the extreme of popular liberty, where slaves - male and female - have the same liberty as their owners and where there is complete equality and liberty in the relations between the sexes. For Plato, this extreme of liberty was equal to anarchy. Plato suggested that such a liberty would convert the society in a chaotic structure that will no be able to maintain self-regulation and will need a tyrant to control it. Plato did not consider quality to be a good base for political management of a state.

In other words, Plato was a supporter of the idea that democracy makes people stop respecting the laws. Under the term laws he saw both laws of morality and laws of the court. He considered it the start of people each other as consumers in the first place. For Plato this form of extreme liberty was the key to the extreme servitude of people, which is the dialectical opposition of democracy.

These thoughts lead Plato to very deep conclusions concerning the democratic societies. He viewed a democratic society as the society where a person that is obedient to the Law is hated by the rest. He saw the possible wiping of the borders of everything that was unauthorized. Platos ideas in terms of democracy are very bright as he makes a projection to the future. Is a decent society the one that adores dogs and fights for their rights and kills people in other countries? This is the figurative meaning of the question that Plato was constantly asking about democracy. It was the opinion of the crowd that scared Plato the most. He considered the opinions of the crowd to be not constant and rather changeable depending on the situation. He could not see this crowd as the potential source of weighted political decisions or any decisions at all. He did not see any way for this majority finding the truth in any of its embodiments.

There is a very popular comparison presented by Plato in his 6-th book. He compares democracy to a ship that has been enthralled by its sailors. The sailors are the crowd that acts spontaneously. Continuing the though of Plato it is necessary to say that each of this sailors want to take control over the ship and non of them has the idea that only the best sailor is the one to do it. In other words the person to navigate the ship has to a real professional captain and nobody else but him.

What Plato tries to say is that the crowd would rather choose a person that sees to be smart and not the one that really is intelligent. He shows the reader that it is impossible to trust the opinion of the crowd and therefore democracy looses its main reason to exist. For Plato democracy is not a symbol of development of the society but a symbol of its degeneration.

3. What is just according to Plato?

Plato dedicated a lot of his works to the question of what is just and what is not. There is a bright example of the analysis of what is just in Platos Crito. In this part of the Last days of Socrates he reveals the true essence of what he considers to be just. It is not hard not to cite his understanding of democracy as the rule of the crowd. Here, in Crito, Plato through the lips of Socrates asks the question: Should we care about the opinion of the many?[1,46b]. And probably this is the main question that should be asked in order reveal the motivation of Platos thoughts of whether democracy is just or not.

In Crito Plato says that it would have been the greatest miracle if the crowd instead of doing evil deed would do fine things. At the same time he criticizes the possibility of such a phenomenon: but in reality they can do neither; for they cannot make a man either wise or foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance[1].

Socrates implies that if a man listens only to the one he should he will prosper and if he listen to the opinion of the ignorant majority he will suffer harm form it. He highly criticizes the opinion of the many as the source of degradation, because the many do not know what is best for one given person. In other words if a person is a soccer player he should rather listen to his coach than the advise he gets from idle fans. The same parallel is drawn to democracy.

In terms of what is just Plato says: In questions of just and unjustought we to follow the opinion of the manyor the opinion of the one man who has understanding?[1,47b]. If we apply it to the democracy dilemma we see that a democratic for Plato society is something unjust, because it follows the opinion of the many, instead of doing everything another way.

It is clear form Platos thoughts in Crito that a society will be just only in case if it are ruled by a person who has understanding of just and unjust[1]. Since, the crowd dictates democracy and its opinion is easily changeable that it is not just in any way. For Plato democracy is a danger primarily due to the fact that the many can kill us[1, 48b].

According to the thoughts of Plato only a virtue society can be a just one and as a democratic society cannot be one from its definition, then in it not just. He considered democracy to be wrong, as its main morality to be doing evil in return for evil which is not just at all. This is very vital, in terms of the wars that the modern societies always start against each other with numerous victims.

How may such societies under any possible condition be called just? So what is just according to Plato? From Platos opinion what is just has to bring the good and if it does not then it is not just at all.

4. Plato and modern democratic societies

It is not hard to guess what Plato would have thought about the modern democratic societies, especially due to the wars. Still, it is necessary to add that Platos attitude towards democracy had a piece of subjective evaluation. For some definite reason modern societies have decided that democracy is the best option from them. This is primarily due to the fact that modern democratic societies live on the edge of democracy and tyranny trying to maintain balance. And the good news is that in some cases they manage to do it.

The principle of contemporary democracy is its accessibility to all the classes. It has been highly criticized by Plato in terms of the their incapability to make right decisions due to the lack of intelligence in politics. Nowadays, the situation has quite changed. Only qualified people have access to the ruling apparatus and they are chosen according to what they have already done and the results they have achieved. No hollow speeches are eaten by the public any more.

Therefore, the many strive for what is just. Plato would have called it unjust in general, but contemporary democratic societies have a lot of features changed in comparison with what Plato observed when he was alive. It is believed, that democracy is a real opportunity for the society to choose. It is a kind of self-realization process for the population. Nevertheless, a deep analysis of this issue makes the reader realize that in reality democracy has never been literal power of the many, because the one that does not care will not vote. So it may be said that contemporary democracy it the power of those who are interested and want to participate in the decision of the future. And of course Plato would not be right to call the contemporary democratic societies unjust. In some ways they are, but they manage to get the best of democracy, where everybody is equal. Off course it goes without saying that the person who has the power to choose has to be very intelligent. This was one of the main issues that Plato put against the crowd. This issue is destroyed by the contemporary societies. The level of general education has grown quite noticeable, especially in comparison with the people who lived two thousands years ago. So why not let educated people decide their future? Contemporary politics and societies have nothing in common with what Plato observed. And finally it is not just ordinary people who make the most prominent decisions in every society but individuals that are specialists at what they do. Platos ideas are irrelevant to the contemporary societies, because people truly are educated and interested enough to influence the course of the political flow. Mass media has filled in the blank that Plato noticed two thousands years ago. Democratic societies have gone through a multi-step evolution that converted them into systems with qualitative differences. Now, anywhere where contemporary democracy comes into play, ancient Platos political observations disappear. The question of what is just, especially in terms of politics will remains unanswered.

5. Conclusion

Plato would have definitely regarded the contemporary democratic societies as unjust. Time and development change everything and he would not have been right to say it now. He criticizes the most dangerous issues of democracy, especially the issue of participation of completely ignorant people in the process election of the power. He would not have been right to call the contemporary societies unjust because contemporary societies and ancient societies, ought both considered to be democratic nave a little in common in their essence. At the present moment every person has the possibility to get education, which used to be a privilege in the times of Plato. This fact has changed and added a lot to democratic relations. Contemporary people are active and well informed and that is a major difference in terms of democracy. Some people nowadays state that justice is impossible without democracy and some state the contrary statement. Plato without any doubt was a great philosopher but some of his ideas have grown old and especially his notion about democratic societies. Something that has once been unjust can be just now. So the question whether the contemporary democracy in just or unjust remains to the modern philosophers. Platos ideas about democracy cannot be applied to the present worldwide democratic situation. They do not correspond to the character of the XXI century and to the speed of the education and development. So no matter how great some of Platos ideas seem not all of them are to be used now.


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