“Society originates because the individual is not self sufficient and no two of us are born exactly alike”. How does Plato get from that claim to the view that philosophers should rule? Are you convinced by his claims that philosophers should rule? It is in Plato’s Republic that we first get a discussion of his ideal state and the components needed for its proper function. Plato’s model, known as Kallipolis, is introduced by Socrates during his dialogues with his friends and it is throughout Books I-VIII that this state is built up through three distinct stages until Plato concludes that only philosopher kings should rule.
Socrates starts with what Plato labels the “first principals of social organization”1, namely the basics which are needed for an “economically self sufficient city”2; in the second stage he goes on to develop this idea. He adds luxury to the state necessitating the presence of armed forces which in turn become the governing class from which come the philosopher kings, selected by the process of the education system that Plato set up to discern those best qualified to rule. The first stage is primitive at best and simply contains the key elements needed to fulfil the “underlying principles of any society”3.
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The two principles Socrates found were first, mutual need, as “The individual is not self sufficient but has many needs which he can’t supply himself”4. Therefore humans need to live together in societies in order to survive. Plato lists the needs of the basic community as being provision of food, shelter, and clothing requiring tradesmen to provide services such as farming, weaving and building as well as others providing support by making the necessary equipment for them. From this, a small state is begun on a purely economic basis.
Adequate provision for people’s own needs rather than friendship is what for the time being ties this community together. The second principal is “different natural aptitudes which fit us for different jobs”5, and therefore it is “better to exercise one skill”6 and “specialise on a single job for which he (an individual) is naturally fitted and neglects all others”7. Therefore people should attend to their specific trades and be prepared to share the produce with all so that the community can survive.
The need for imports is raised thereby bringing Socrates to construct another group which would trade abroad and would need a surplus from the community in order to purchase other goods. This requires the use of “experts on ships and seafaring”8, a “market”9 to buy and sell imports and other goods and a “currency as the medium of exchange”10. The marketplace would also require a “class of retailers”11 whose sole job is to run the market thereby freeing others to do their own tasks.
The final touch Socrates puts to the state is to add a class of “wage-earners”12 whose strength means they can contribute most through manual labour. They “market their strength in return for wages”13. And thus Socrates concludes that “our complement of citizens seems to be complete”14. This city moves to its second stage in Book 2, Section 2 of the Republic where Glaucon, Socrates friend, protests at the “uncivilised nature of the life of this primitive society”15 calling it a “community of pigs”16. R.
Martin backs this up claiming that it is “one dimensional for all its energies are focused on physical well being”17. So Socrates proceeds to add elements of refinement changing his “healthy”18 Kallipolis into a more luxurious “gold and ivory”19 community. Socrates therefore embarks on the enlargement of the state to include occupations not concerned with necessities. This would include spheres of entertainment (actors, painters, sculptors and musicians), more luxury clothes and foods (requiring hunters, fishermen, etc.) and more servants (such as tutors, nannies, butchers, cooks and barbers).
There would also be the need for doctors. This enlargement of the state means that the current territory might prove inadequate and that the community would have to take it from their neighbours as the principals of “unlimited material possessions”20 is now in people’s minds. This would lead to war, for which is needed an army, where “soldiers go out and defend”21 the lives and guard the property of the civilians. They have a natural aptitude that makes them suited to this job alone and are called “Guardians”22.
Once this class is established we begin the final transition towards the ideal state where Plato deals with the qualities of the Guardians and how they turn into Philosopher kings. Guardians are developed by Plato into the ruling class of the state and although initially a defence force, their governing function soon overshadows their military function. However Socrates initially describes his Guardians as “watch-dogs”23 who should contain “physical strength, courage”24 and “a disposition gentle and full of spirit”25.
This means the Guardians should be gentle towards their fellow citizens but savage towards threatening outsiders. Then later on in his discussion Socrates divides the Guardian class into two sections, “Guardians” and “Auxiliaries”26. The Guardians function as the administrators of the city and the Auxiliaries “assist the rulers in the execution of their decisions”27. The Rulers exercise “supreme authority” in the state and are extracted by the educational process which will be discussed further on in this essay.
They will “rule by virtue of their superior rational endowment, which gives them access to the relevant knowledge”28 and are men that “besides being intelligent and capable, really care for the community”29. Auxiliaries retain their military function, as well as policing internally and carrying out executive duties. So the city now consists not of economic equals but of people pursuing their economic function. They co-operate with each other to make life pleasant for others preparing each to subordinate his own interests to those of others.