Social Utopias: Will Saada Fall 2015

December 15, 2015

Response Paper 3: Take 2

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 4:26 pm

The Philosopher King makes Kallipolis a utopian society because he seeks true knowledge and he rules for the benefit of the city not himself.  A philosopher’s soul desires the truth above all else.  This enables him to be the best ruler for the happiness of the city as a whole.  Socrates’ ship analogy explains how a philosopher is better suited to lead than other members of society because leads for the betterment of society not to fulfil personnel desires like so many leaders do.  He refers to a ship captain who is clearly not competent for his position.  Each crew member plots a way to become the captain themselves by the use of force, trickery or persuasion.  Consequently, the new captain is not the one who is most fit to navigate the ship but it is the one who was able to overthrow or convince the old captain to gain power for themselves.  Naturally, the captain should be the one who is most knowledgeable on navigation and running a ship.  In terms of a city, it is the one who is most knowledgeable on what is truly right and wrong who should rule: a philosopher. This makes it utopian because the ruler is not selfish and is very knowledgeable on how to rule.  In most societies rulers come to power because they are wealthy, persuasive or powerful.  However, none of these traits make a good ruler.  In fact, these traits tend to be associated with people who are selfish and greedy.  For example, in Plato’s time, the democracy was dominated by those who had wealth and could convince citizens to accept their ideas. Someone who is wealthy can use money to get their way, which leads to unjust laws.  A philosopher will never make decisions for personal gain.  Additionally, he will not make decisions to gain honor and praise, but he will make decisions to be benefit the entire community.  The knowledgeable part of his soul, which overpowers the other two parts, makes him just and thus fit to rule a utopian society.

And important component of the Philosopher King is their unwillingness to rule which makes them the best fit to be the leader.  One of Socrates subjects notes that the Philosopher King will be unhappy and reluctant to rule after being properly educated.  Socrates responds by saying that they will have a sense of duty to pay back the city for their upbringing.  One who rules out of duty rather than for personal gain will be a better ruler.  They are chosen and rule for the benefit of the entire city, which will also erase conflict over who shall rule.  It is utopian because no one part of society benefits at the expense of another.  Each member of the society does their part by sacrificing some of their freedom.  The Philosopher King, for example, would rather not rule, but he does because it is his duty.  This is utopian because the happiness of the city as a whole is prioritized over the happiness of individuals.  A philosopher would rather not associate themselves with people of less intelligence, however, by ruling he will benefit the entire community.  Many ideologies seek to create a better means of government such as communism and democracy.  But in both of these societies the wealthy and powerful benefit at the expense of everyone else.

In understanding Plato’s Republic, it is important to understand the time he lived in and what he is speaking against.  Essentially, he sees an oligarchy with philosopher kings as the rulers as a better form of government than democracy.  This is demonstrated in the allegory of the cave in which he explains how the uneducated members of society only see shadows rather than what things actually are.  It is up to the philosophers who understand the truth, to lead those who do not understand the truth.  In practice a democracy gives everyone in society a say in the government.  This can be very dangerous because in some cases people take advantage of the masses lack of knowledge.  Demagogues arise by appealing to the emotions of the masses, even when they have no understanding of governing.  This can even be seen within our democracy with people like Donald Trump who appeal to the masses despite having no idea how to lead.  Plato saw the fall of Athenian Democracy because people who could convince the masses were given power.  Thus, an oligarchy in which the leaders are trained, humble, and intelligent would be better than democracy which is essentially an oligarchy with leaders who gain power through popularity rather than merit.  Ultimately the Philosopher Kings are ideal rulers.  By giving power to the masses, power resides in people who only see shadows and do not know the truth.  By using education and other limits to the philosopher’s lifestyle, Plato creates a king who rules for society and not for power.


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  1. Plato, and C. D. C. Reeve. Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2004.

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