Theories of State: Plato and Kautilya

Topics: Maurya Empire, Chandragupta Maurya, Virtue Pages: 9 (2786 words) Published: October 16, 2010

Introduction Plato’s Theory of an Ideal State Kautilya’s Saptanga Theory of State Plato vs. Kautilya- A Comparison Conclusion References  


A state can be defined as a sovereign political entity. We often confuse it with a Government, but while a Government forms only a part of a state, the state itself is a complex conglomeration of elements like territory, population, sovereignty and so on. In this project, we have attempted to highlight the important points in the Theories of State of two great Political Theorists, Plato and Kautilya and hence bring out the differences in their opinions.

The Republic

Plato, one of the greatest philosophers that world has ever seen, lived around 428-347 BCE in Athens, Greece. Most of his political treatise is found in his Republic, which was written around 380 BCE. It was originally called the Politeia that meant ‘the order or character of political community’. Later, while translating from its Latin version, it came to be known as the Republic. The book is in the form of dialogues with Socrates as the protagonist and begins with an attempt to define justice. This, Plato accomplishes by first defining an Ideal State and then explaining what part of it constitutes justice. He then extends the definition of justice for a community to the level of an individual. In his book, History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell identifies three groups in the ten books that constitute the Republic – The first five that constitute his views on the Utopia, sixth and the seventh books that talk about the Philosophers and the final three books that deal with the other imperfect forms of Governments. In this project, the focus is mainly on his take on the Ideal State- Plato’s Utopia. Plato’s Utopia- The Three Classes

In a State, Plato talks about the Guardians and the Commoners. The guardians are again divided as the Guardians Proper or the Rulers and the Auxillaries. Not only these three classes, he also attributes a special quality to each of these classes. •Rulers: They are the people who exercise supreme authority in a State. Their primary quality is Wisdom, which is the knowledge to comprehend sti

Auxillaries: They take care of the Executive, Military and Police duties in the state. Their quality is Courage, which is a kind of perseverance in the face of fear. They have the combinations of spirit and reason.

Commoners: The others whose quality is Temperance. Temperance is a self restraint or moderation that in this context makes them accept the rule of the Guardians, for the common good of the society as a whole. The combination of these three cardinal qualities leads to Justice in the State, when each person does his own job without interfering in that of the others. Just as there is a division in the community, an individual can be seen as being made up of three types of souls: •Rational: It is the mind or the thinking part, which points out what, is right and wrong.

Spirited: It is the will or the active part, which makes us act according to what reason says.

Appetitive: It is the emotion or the feeling part that makes us want certain things. Plato says that we have to push these desires apart if we are to attain self control. Guardians- Their Education and Ways of Life

Aimed to develop gravity, decorum and courage, their education involved training in both Music and Gymnastics. Music, according to Russell includes “everything...

References:  Plato, Republic
 Russell, Bertrand, History of Western Philosophy, Routledge Classics, First Indian reprint 2010
 Kenny, Anthony, A Brief History of Western Philosophy, Blackwell Publishing, 2005
 Sharma, R.S, Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India , 5th edition 2005
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