DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #1: The Constitution of Plato’s Ideal State:
DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #1: The Constitution of Plato’s Ideal State: Consider the structure of Plato’s ideal state and the Principle of Specialization, What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks to such a system in terms of the administration of justice? How does this idea compare to how justice relates to people’s “place in society” today? Use your knowledge of the readings and Plato, as well as your own experiences and ethical judgements to make your arguments. Make sure to address possible objections to your arguments.
When one questions the dispensation of justice in Plato’s Ideal State, we could easily invent some distant suppositions on the fallible and corruptible nature of absolute power, but rather, I’d like to look at the situation as Plato laid it out. That is to say, if the system was truly ruled by a successive series of enlightened Philosopher Kings.
Under that framework, I would assume that justice, or at least the concept of punishment for poor behavior, would be mete out quite fairly. It is the other definition of justice that I worry would be poorly applied. Namely, the definition of John Shand where he describes justice as also “an account of how benefits (income and wealth, plus the direct provision of services, such as healthcare and education), and burdens (chiefly taxation) should be allocated” (340). Supposing this to be a valid definition, we must also suppose that a fair allocation of goods and benefits be gifted to all classes.
Unfortunately, Plato’s Ideal State does not address all classes. In his State, all classes are gainfully employed and happily working. This does not take into consideration the infirm, and the lazy, or criminal elements in the artisan class. It does not consider that the class responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing the laws, the auxiliaries, would also have a great deal of power in how those resources would be doled out. Much of the State is based on the premise that by being placed into a class that matches your talents, you will be a productive member of society (Roberts et al 33).
We see in our world now that this is not going to be true. We have criminals and cowards and opportunists in every level of our society, be it in politics or in the unemployed, and at times it sems at times to be in equal representation. Ultimately, this says to me that there will be exploitation of resource distribution in both the Guardian level and the artisan level of the Ideal State. A political system needs to also take into account that no system of governance is going to survive in the face of society, and it must have check and balances on an individual classes power if it is to succeed.
Roberts, Peri, and Peter Sutch. An Introduction to Political Thought : A Conceptual Toolkit. Edinburgh University Press, 2012. John Shand. Fundamentals of Philosophy. Routledge, 2003.