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Ideas of Plato and Aristotle

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In spite of the fact, that Plato was Aristotle’s teacher their political ideas seem to have a slight difference.  It is natural to start the comparison from analyzing Plato’s views, since he was the one who gave the knowledge and base to Aristotle. 

Plato considers philosophers the key characters in the formation of an ideal state.  In his most famous essay "The Republic" he  identifies a particular group of philosophers, which is not subject to the laws by which the rest of society lives. Exactly this point allows them to be wise leaders of society. We have to admit, that Plato was the founder of the school of idealism, thus his views on such matters were not very realistic.

However, Plato emphasizes that the world must be built by those who have taken a long path of knowledge and have gained much of experience.  It must begin with the sciences, which produce harmony of thought, depth and breadth of thinking. Basics are in mathematics, geometry and astronomy.  But Plato sees the basis of wisdom beyond the "mathematical cycle”.

As a true idealist Plato is against the two evils in any society - wealth and poverty. The only wealth to him is wisdom and virtue. While gold is the equivalent of evil. According to Plato, if gold is highly prized in a country, virtue and kindness are prized less.  The poor are also perhaps the main enemies of the ideal state, because if the poor and disadvantaged get access to public goods, hoping to snatch a piece there, it won’t make any good, the philosopher thinks.

Plato insists on the nessesity of education from the early childhood. However, he means volunteer education. Plato believes that everybody should do only what they like, what they tend to do. But this does not mean that the youth won’t get to know about other sciences, he will optionally get acquainted with them.

According to Plato the most successful in their studies are the future elite (only a principle of its formation is acceptable to Plato, he talks about the need to avoid the diffusion of social classes, for each has its place and role in life). However the history the history has proved the irrationality of this approach. After all, desire to "jump higher" has been giving birth to great people.

Nevertheless there is one strong principle that  only old and wise people may be aloud to govern. The ideal age for philosophy and politics is fifty years, when a person already know a lot, and have seen a lot. And the philosophy with the help of his authority will be able to raise a successor.

Having determined for himself the image of ideal politician, Plato proceeds to the analysis of existing types of government. It is known that Plato himself was an active supporter of the slave-owning aristocracy. Noblesse - this is a wise philosopher, who are guarded by not less wise guards and are supported by  landowners.

Hence, it is a matter of fact that individual happiness and justice is actually the essence of Plato’s political approach. He presented the version of ethical politics to get the peace prosperity and progress in the society. At the same time, his wisdom of a second parallel world in his theory of form tints out the ethical approach in the politicians. That is why he has been always known as a humanistic personality and insightful scholar.

Hannah Arendt is neither ancient nor philosopher. But, she has been called a philosopher by a large amount of people. However, she herself denied that fact. Her blend of ancient, old and current political, public and social theories provide comprehensive wisdom to understand the overall human life and its political scenario.

The most unacceptable to Plato type of state is oligarchic. Such a state is dangerous primarily for its citizens, those who are not too rich.  However, Plato does not see any merit in a democratic system either, because such state is not concerned of what kind of life did the person, who became a governor, had led before.  In the democratic state, there is no place for philosopher and his thoughts, because the crowd is not able to understand his reasoning. In a democracy, violates the principle of everyone being their places, which they have been belonging since their childhood. And the main fault of democracy according to Plato is freedom, or rather the  excessiveness, and people can not accurately use this right, because democracy doesn’t teach them to.  People can not be happy in democracy because they are too free and suffer this freedom. However, if they were taught by the wise philosophers of how to manage their freedom, how to use their rights, the state would be able to provide a much better life.

Man is like the state, hence it has its own and all the diseases and vices of the latter: the tyranny he is poor, oppressed by demons, it ruled by evil forces, he has no choice.

Vices leads to disease of the soul. Just as the body destroys the disease, they destroy the soul. Plato argues that the human soul is virtually immortal. It can not kill the influence from the outside, it can only be destroyed from within, the actions of the man himself. But everything that happens to him on the outside it - ultimately it is for the benefit , even  if man suffers poverty, sickness, or else of what is evil, all this will eventually be him for the good in life and after death.

Plato and Aristotle were the authors of many works, but if the works of Plato are preserved in a sufficiently large volume , in the case of Aristotle, a complete collection has been preserved. Many works have survived only in fragments. Despite all of the views of Aristotle, the basis of his philosophy is the doctrine of Plato, as he held the same view on the nature of knowledge, which has its origin in the mind.

The state, according to Aristotle – is "work of nature", a product of natural development. It is based on the needs of people. Aristotle have pointed out  the famous definition of man as "animal political" or public, and the policy is society. The meaning of this definition is that a man can not live alone, he needs contact with others, in association with them. Isolated people, says Aristotle, must possess the qualities of God, to remain human. Because of these qualities man becomes a beast.

According to Aristotle there are three levels of associations that people make in their natural desire to communicate. The first - a family consisting of men, women and children. Then the village or town, and finally the policy. As we expand the terms of association, its complexity, climbing the ladder of social life increasing the  amount of benefits of a persons communication and security. The division of labor becomes increasingly important for it  gives benefits.

The relationship of master and slave are, according to Aristotle, part of the family, not the state. The political authority is derived from the relationship between freedom and equality; it is fundamentally different from his father's authority over the children and from the master's authority over the slaves.

The state, says Aristotle, - is a complex concept. In form, it represents a certain kind of organization and brings a certain set of people. From this angle he no longer means such primary elements of the state, as an individual, family, etc., and the citizen.

Protection of private property did not prevent Aristotle from condemning greed and over-enrichment. He identifies two forms of wealth accumulation. First - our work, through production, wealth creation - increases overall wealth and favorable policy. In the second form - through trade, speculation, usury - nothing new is created. This is nothing but transfer of ready-made values, selfish enrichment. The ideal of Aristotle is private property, which  fruits are used for the common good.

 Man by nature seeks to communicate with others, and this leads to family at first, and then to the union of families - the village, and several villages form the state as the highest form of human communication. Aristotle considers, that human nature manifests itself in state. While outside the state there are only gods and beasts.

In its genesis state includes primary non-civil unions - the family and village. Historically, these elements, including the man himself, preceded it. However, the nature of the state as a whole, says Aristotle, is determined by the nature of its elements. Therefore the idea of state (not historically, not in the origin) precedes all other forms of human communication, and seem to have existed before the individual. Thus a living organism, having formed, dominates over its parts, and separate organs. The bottom line is, according to Aristotle, first the ability of state to give all its people a good life, which covers all separate elements of the state.

Aristotle distinguishes two kinds of justice: equalizing and distributing. The first is based on the equality (arithmetic - in the case of the division of subjects amenable to the account), the second inequality implies and justifies it. Here Aristotle agrees with Plato. He spoke of the inequality. Aristotle prefers a formula of "unequal" ( distribute) justice.

The same principle, according to Aristotle, should be applied at the organization of the policy. The aim of the policy - the common good. To ensure an equitable distribution of power, honor, rights and responsibilities, must take into account the contribution of each to the common good. He is determined not only by their state and spending on social needs.

As an important indicator of the lack of justice, Aristotle considers the absence of extremes between rich and poor, the golden middle. His ethical principle - nothing excessive. In the policy he seeks to achieve a balance between rich and poor, common people and aristocrats, philosophers and ordinary people’s brain power.  Aristotle considered middle-class people, not poor, but not too rich, the best in the policy and its reliable support, for they are able to understand the common good, not prone to extremes.

Following well-established tradition, Aristotle divides the number of states participating in the management of three groups - where one person dominates, the few or the majority. But to this "arithmetic" principle, he adds a quality and ethical criteria. Depending on whether the governors think of the common good, or only of their own interests. And in this he is not entirely original. Such a classification was made by Plato. Aristotle makes some of the nuances in the definition of the six forms of the state, obtained by combining the two above-mentioned criteria.

 Aristotle states that correct the power of one man called monarchy, incorrect – tyranny, proper government by the few - the aristocracy, wrong - the oligarchy. The correct rule of the majority is polity, and wrong - democracy.

In such a way it is clear that the views of Aristotle and Plato don’t differ that much. In a democratic society the ideal government refers to the government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The democratic characterization of government would be the idea of three prominent philosophers; the good government could also be built on the same characterization.

Therefore, people are a core of government because people make the governments by participating in political process. And, people in the government are actually those people who participated to form a government. The concept of a democratic government also refers to the notion of Aristotle’s scholarly approach of cities or community, Plato’s approach of republic, and Hannah Arendt’s concept of public and private realm.

Therefore, altogether, government is a conception of a public or a community and its activities are based on public and community. The formation of government and its functions are governed by the public and the community. So, it is an activity of public realm to build good community, republic or government for the people, it should be formed of the people, and it has to be formed by the people.    

It is clear, that Plato gave a broad picture of how a perfect state should be arranged(it should be aristocratic), every person should a child, and do what he intended and should not expose his or her body and soul to various temptations in the form of excessive love comfort or hobbies.

If such a state and such a person actually existed, then perhaps it would be nice, though it was boring to communicate with only aristocratic citizens. The  ideas of Plato embodied with precision in real life (especially with regard to the oligarchy, tyranny and democracy). One can rebuild the state machinery and make it perfect, but to it is impossible to subdue a man's soul with the same rules. And the whole history of the past century has proved this when totally failed attempts to "create a new man."

Aristotle points to the main purpose of the state as the common good. Because every state is a kind of communication, while all communication is organized for the sake of good (after all, every activity has in mind the expected benefit). This sort of communication is called the state or political communication, and Aristotle pays great attention to it, for expects it form the foremost strong bases for the good state.

For Aristotle, the polis (state) is a certain unity of the whole and its constituent elements, but he criticizes Plato's attempt to make the state "over one". The state consists of many elements, and an excessive desire for their unity leads to the destruction of the state. Aristotle stands as staunch defender of individual rights, private property and family.

Aristotle, unlikely to Plato sees the political system (government) with  the right to require the freedom of members of the political and legal communication. Thus the policy (the state) and the law are, according to Aristotle, the forms of liberty, of free men forms of communication, but not dependent individuals who are in the oppressive subordination or slave state.

The doctrine of Aristotle has not lost its relevance in today's world and seems to be more realistic than Plato’s one. 

Aristotle in his treatise "Politics" emphasized the State's responsibility for the maintenance of cooperation and the overcoming of division between people. Thinker believed that power should belong not to the poor and not very wealthy and middle-slaveholders politicians, which don’t necessarily have to be philosophers.

The essence of this essay is also about happiness of citizens for having good laws and good administration around them. For without justice a nation cannot achieve the status of a civilized nation. And, without civilization no society can be treated as a community. Therefore, justice is deemed the basis of achieving the status of a civilized nation. For a. member of community and for the whole community justice is something that gives social, political and the domestic/in house equality.

Therefore, justice is an utmost and ultimate requirement of a stable and lawful government. No government can run its system and procedures in a proper manner without justice. Plato has presented very good notion of just and unjust man in his theory of politics. He justified the importance of justice and denied the unjust prevalence in the society. On the other hand, Aristotle has add-on ethics in his politics theory that also means the justice and respect in the system and process of politics. So, justice is basic to achieve a status of a civilized nation.  

I personally believe that a good city concept presented in the theories of above-mentioned scholars is critically important to individual happiness. The reason behind my opinion is a cooperative community; it is a guarantee of communal happiness to the individual. There are several examples of united individuals and independent individuals. The outcome civilizations get from these experiences is the united individuals or the community system, which is much better for the independent individuals. 

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