Irony of Plato

Topics: Democracy, Oligarchy, Equals sign Pages: 4 (1067 words) Published: September 29, 2014
One could often hear politicians to be regarded as charismatic or charming. However, seldom, if ever, does one associate these adjectives with a political system. The lack of connection between the two words did not stop a great philosopher, Plato, to describe democracy exactly with one of these terms: “Democracy … is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispersing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike” (Plato 214). The underlining message of the quoted sentence leads one to believe Plato employed the adjective – charming – with a great degree of sarcasm. The philosopher states that democracy brings instability to a state which is governed by the many. Plato is also voicing his opinion regarding those who get to govern through democracy: the power to rule is given to those who are worth it, “equals”, and those who may be undeserving of it, “unequals”. Even the wording he uses buries a negative connotation towards democracy. Thus, the quote sheds an off-putting light on democracy and Plato’s favoritism for aristocracy becomes evident.

Democratic rule is an agent of change because parties with different interests get to enjoy the power of creating the law through rotation of the office. Thus, the law tends to shift and evolve as one party is replaced by another. Such changes are not necessarily bad, but Plato highlights the worse of them by referring to the changes as “variety and disorder”. He was not completely out of the line, however. In the Republic, Plato summarizes how democracy is created: “… democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power” (Plato 216). Democracy did come to be as a result of revolutions due to tension between different social and political classes in any state from Athens to Florence to modern democratic sates. As professor Breaugh highlights the fact in his lecture...
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