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Democracy. Republic.

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

"Ancient Greece is famed for both it’s democracy and philosophy. Despite this, the seminal Greek philosopher Plato was much opposed to his city’s democratic governance.

Plato’s ‘Republic’ is widely acknowledged as the cornerstone of Western philosophy and the first great examination of political life. Written around 375bc, ‘The Republic’ still holds insights into ethics and political life that can teach the modern world many a lesson. Such has been the impact of Plato on Western thought that Alfred Hitchock Whitehead claimed:

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato”.

European political thought became dominated by appraisals to democratic values in the 20th century, as democracy swept the continent. But this is not quite what the great philosopher had in mind. Plato uses The Republic to deliver a damning critique of democracy that renders it conducive to mass ignorance, hysteria, and ultimately tyranny.

Democracy in Ancient Athens

Plato witnessed democracy begrudgingly in his city of Athens. Ancient Athenian democracy differs from the democracy that we are familiar with in the present day. Athens is a city-state, while today we are familiar with the primary unit of governance operating nationwide. Consequently, governance of a smaller population enabled more ‘direct’ forms of democracy rather than the ‘representative’ forms accorded by contemporary constitutions."

I am for giving more power (rights) to cities and states (and also people), but have questions on how to best go about it. Much needs to be fixed at the top level (federal) first I believe and at the bottom (us common citizens, believing in our selves to change and make a difference in the world for example and also educating and preparing ourselves better) for it to be much effective.

"All citizens (with the pertinent qualification of their being free men) were permitted the opportunity of equal political participation"

I believe all free citizens should be able to easily vote and to increase democracy at all levels. Would be nice anyway.

"Professional prosecutors and judges did not exist in Ancient Athens. Instead, it was left to the ordinary citizen to bring indictments, act as jurors, and deliberate on the outcome of trials."

I think our judicial system is pretty good - the way it works and is set up - the development of laws. I might not agree with all things in a specific law or especially the level(s) at which some laws are applied at all times (Federal government can overstep their bounds a bit).

Continuing on - "Democracy — Rule by the Ignorant"

"Plato believed that expertise is the critical attribute of a leader; He criticizes democracy of seldom producing such characters. Rather, it elects popular spinsters who are effective in manipulating popular opinion.

To depict this, Plato uses an analogy of ship navigation in Book VI of ‘The Republic’. He contests that in order to select the appropriate captain, a popular vote is ineffective because people can be swayed by characteristics as irrelevant as their appearance. Instead, we should seek out only the most knowledgeable candidate as it is he who holds the required expertise.

Plato illustrates the ignorance that democracy yields in producing a captain:

… the true navigator must study the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all the other subjects appropriate to his profession if he is to be really fit to control the ship…[the electorate] think that it’s quite impossible to acquire the professional skill needed for such control and that there’s no such thing as the art of navigation."

This is no longer the case. The internet with it's treasure troves of information at the tip of our fingertips changed all that. One can learn just about anything (or try to change the world I guess). The fact I can easily look up such great information from history's greatest and most influential minds is testament to that. Every one and every thing is unique but at the same time we are connected.

I believe that most people are not so different, not so bad. Humans are rational. We can rationalize a lot of things. We can do good, we can do bad. A lot is up to us. It takes real belief and commitment though to truly change. Practice. Discipline. Patience.

"Plato, therefore, believed that philosophers should rule — philosopher kings. A true philosopher is someone that is in love with knowledge and the search for true reality. Those who seek reality are those best qualified to guide as they have the greatest knowledge at their disposal.

‘Philosophy’ can be interpreted from Greek as the love of wisdom, thus a true philosopher is a person who seeks pleasure purely of the mind. According to Plato (in Book VII), this unencumbered love of wisdom negates the possibility of the love of falsehoods, physical pleasures, material pleasures, meanness, and cowardice. All desires and tendencies that threaten to corrupt leadership.

In a democracy, however, leaders are prone to ignoring the inconvenient truths. During the Brexit campaign, a leading UK politician Michael Gove refused to name any economists who back Britain’s exit from the European Union, saying that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. In different sections of Plato’s Republic, this hostility towards philosophy (true knowledge) is predicted."

In his famous Allegory of the Cave (Book VI), Plato illustrates a moment in which a man discovers the reality of the world is different than perceived by prisoners in a cave. As he returns to the cave to reveal this, he is met with violent rage. As well as being symbolic of Athens’ treatment of Socrates, it suggests that knowledgeable leadership cannot survive in democracy as it will be ‘warped and estranged’ by the need to remain popular.

Like I say and believe, the need to stand firm (on beliefs etc.) is very important. Being willing to accept reality and change is good as well such as with new information. That doesn't change the core tenets of a person though. That is why character of people matter much. People can see through lies (to degrees anyway) and lies can lead to more lying and the need to conceal and cover up.

"Democracy is Hysterical

The excitability and emotion of people and their mass mobilization incites democracy to acts of hysteria according to Plato. The whimsical nature of public support defies sound reason and produces fatal inconsistency over time."

..."Aside from inconsistency, Plato also insists that the hysteria of democracy leads to its demise in other ways:

“An excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny”

I don't believe this and this section to be so much true today but there are some parallels to today. Things are complicated today. Some effects of people being mad at the state of the world and our democracy (for a number of reasons, I get mad as well and was depressed a bit for a lot of my life) are seemingly being used for more authoritarian type of actions though, true (I believe anyway).

Criticism of the Plato’s Ideal State

In Plato’s ideal state, groups are divided into their social utilities such as a warrior population and an agricultural population, without the ability to willfully change professions. With this system of functional specialization, there is little possibility of any full development of human personality. Suggesting that the state should wield such control over the livelihoods of its citizens is an affront to human liberty as we understand it now.

Plato fails to condemn the institution of slavery and regard it as fundamental evil, which reflects the social construct in neighboring Sparta — a militaristic oligarch with a large serf populous. His careful organization of society by a detached philosopher-king rids his ideal state of the self-determination that provides human liberty in a democracy. A final irony is that Plato’s advocacy of censorship of art, poetry, and bad characters (Books III and X) could perhaps prohibit The Republic from existing in his own ideal state.

Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher who was a student and admirer of Plato, criticized his teacher’s purely theoretical approach. Aristotle pursued political knowledge with a historical appreciation and practical sensibilities which reflected the epistemological divide between the two great thinkers — Plato a rationalist and Aristotle an empiricist.

Ignoring the lower class population was dangerous according to Aristotle, and likewise, notions such as a frequently idle warrior population were simply impractical. Kings should take advice from philosophers and they should also benefit from the advice of their citizenry. This mode of the constitution is thought to bring more unity than one preventing political dialogue between the ruled and their rulers.

While there have been instances of tyranny arising from democracy, as noted in the previous chapter, democracy has been widely successful. An article from the Economist claims that populations have turned on autocrats for good reason:

Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption. More fundamentally, democracy lets people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures. That so many people in so many different parts of the world are prepared to risk so much for this idea is testimony to its enduring appeal”.

Nice. Let's rise up and stand for true democracy, not just for the United States sake, but for the World as a whole.

"The affluence, liberty, and peace arising from the spread of democratic values in the 20th century would afflict damage to Plato’s testimony for what appears to be an autocratic rule of dissonant philosophy.

But while Plato may have sought to heal tyranny with medicine that tastes a lot like the disease, The Republic still carries its important messages. In 2018, Freedom in the World recorded the 13th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. The reversal has spanned a variety of countries in every region including long-standing democracies like the United States.

There is a lot we can learn from Plato and his work in The Republic. Perhaps where democracies are concerned, we must remain wary of the ignorance and hysteria that Plato forewarned us of, to halt regression into tyrannical practice."


A Video today:

Am I trying to be the savior/Do I have to be the savior or something? I don't know. I'm just wanting to help direct the future towards, what I feel, would be a better path. A beautiful vision (of the future). I especially like to envision a beautiful world where the youth can be free to play outdoors, are respected, free, and people every where are more at peace with their selves and the world. Healthy and vibrant. An environmentally sound and peaceful world with sound democracy.

That does entail fighting for it - devoting one's life to the cause. The circular economy (a new economic way of thinking I'm taking a course on at the moment (March, 24, 20201) along with action and ideas such as proposed on my site, is my vision anyway. China is rising and gaining in power to challenge the U.S. and the West of course but there is nothing the West can do because China holds most of the Worlds rare earth metals needed in electronic devices for microchips.

Interesting video: - I like it but think it obviously is quite extreme and one sided.

Here's more to add to the fire:

“You will own nothing, and you will be happy”? | The Great Reset

YouTube OBLITERATING Independent Media's Reach - Crimes against humanity I say! - but YouTube is not all bad either (emotional reactions to things we don't like). Really just matters what you subscribe to:

America's Overwork Obsession

American Exceptionalism but as a Religion

Capitalist Realism, Mental Illness and Societies of Control

Capitalism And Monopolies: How Five Companies Control All US Media

America's Unemployment Problem

America's Two-Party Corporate Duopoly

You're Probably Already A Socialist

The Great Reset: Is Billionaire 'Philanthropy' Just Tax Avoidance?

Tech Billionaires Are Buying Up Space - WHY IT AFFECTS YOU!

Is Elitism Destroying Politics? | Russell Brand & Jonathan Haidt

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