Plato’s Social Political Philosophy
What makes a good society or a good individual? According to Plato, the virtues of justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation are necessary to make a good society. Since Plato’s perspective is exemplified in today’s society and in many other works of fiction, we can derive that there is convincing argument for Plato’s view. Before we explore examples of Plato’s perspective, we must first establish Plato’s views. Plato believes that there are virtues that are needed to create a good individual and society. The four virtues are justice, wisdom, courage, and moderation. According to Plato, individual justice consists of maintaining the soul which itself is composed of three parts: the appetitive, the rational, and the spirited: The appetitive part of the soul is the one that is responsible for the most basic desires people have; simple desires for the things that we need to survive such as food, sleep, and even for unnecessary cravings such as over-eating, and sexual excess. The desires for necessary things (such as food and drink) are restricted by the other parts of the soul, while unlawful desires are restricted completely by the other aspects of the soul. The rational part of the soul is the thinking portion within all of us. It tries to decipher what is real and what is not, decides what is true and false, and responsible for making intelligent, rational decisions that reflect human morality. The spirited, or Thumetic soul is the source of the desires of love, honor and victory. A just soul acts as an enforcer to the rational part of the soul ensuring that the actions are reasonable. To achieve justice within the individual, the person has to be able to effectively control the three parts of the soul (“Plato's tripartite theory of soul”).
Wisdom, according to Plato, is another virtue, along with justice, that creates a good individual. Wisdom can be understood as the knowledge of the whole, knowledge of the self and political prudence. In other words, wisdom can be seen as enlightenment. For example, in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, wisdom is defined as getting out of the cave to see the objects that projected the shadows for what they “really are”. Wisdom can also be seen as care for the soul. Near the end of the Apology, Socrates famously says: "…the greatest good for a man [is] to discuss virtue [excellence] every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living for men…” (Carroll.edu). This suggests a second image of wisdom: the examined life. This is how the philosopher cares for his/her soul (Republic cf. 29d). The other two virtues, Courage and Moderation are also very essential to creating a good and just individual: Courage is the ability to preserve and to stand in defence for values such as freedom, on which a good society is founded on. Moderation is a sense of the limits that bring peace and happiness to all, and is the quality of all social classes. Moderation expresses the mutual consent of both the governed and the rulers as to who should rule. Without courage or moderation, the soul could not be considered just (Republic 430b, 431d-432a).
Now that we have ascertained Plato’s perspective on society and the individual, we can now explore the relevance of Plato’s view. On the night of July 11, 2011, a woman named Catherine Kieu mutilated her husband’s penis after he had threatened to divorce her. A few days later, the story reaches a TV show, The Talk. The TV host, Sharon Osbourne, brings up this dark story to the audience. After she has explained the story to the viewers, she tells them her personal opinion on it. She said that it was “fabulous” that Catherine Kieu stood up for herself and did what she did. Surprisingly, the entire live audience (mostly if not all women) also began to laugh at that comment. Everyone in the...
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