Plato’s Ideal State
“Until philosophers are kings or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and the power of philosophy and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, cities will never rest from their evils.” (Plato)
The Republic of Plato is interpreted as Utopia to end all Utopias, not because it is a romance, but because he constructed an ideal state in it. He compares the construction of an ideal state with an act of an artist who sketches an ideal picture without concerning himself with the fact whether individual characteristic features of imaginative picture are to be found anywhere or not? In the same way, Plato never thought of the possibility of the institutions of his ideal state, being capable of ever becoming a reality. He never thought of the impracticability of this idea concerning his ideal state.
Plato built his state on the analogy of an individual organism. He believed that the virtues of an individual and of the state were identical. He was of the view that an individual presented almost the same features and qualities on a smaller scale as society on a bigger scale.
Features of an Ideal State
1.Rule of Philosophy
Plato was of the view that in an ideal state the philosopher-ruler should be prominent. He should has a broaden vision of unity of knowledge. Philosopher-kings are immune from the provisions of law and public opinion.
2.No unqualified absolutism
Though, neither, there is any restraint of law nor of public opinion over philosopher-rulers but that is not an unqualified absolutism. It is not all despotism, because rule of philosophy is not free from the basic articles of the constitution.
3.Control over the education system
Philosopher ruler should control the education system in an ideal state.
4.Justice in ideal state
Justice is the main feature of Plato’s Republic and it is also present in his ideal state. Justice is the bond which binds every member of society together. It forms a harmonious union of individuals.
5.Censorship of art and literature
In ideal state, there should be a complete censorship of art and literature. It is necessary so that nothing immoral things might falls into the hands of the young individuals.
6.System of Communism
Plato was of the view that guardian class should live under the system of communism of property and family. The rulers and soldiers do not possess any property of their own.
7.Equality among men and women
According to Plato, equal opportunities should be given to both men and women for their economic, social, intellectual and political uplift. We can say that Plato was the first feminist of his time.
8.Principle of Functional Specialization
Plato was of the view that due to multiple wants, an individual could not fulfill all his desires by himself alone due to lack of capacity. Thus co-operation among individuals should be necessary to satisfy their mutual desires. Some people are specialized in performing some certain tasks.
Plato built his ideal state on the analogy of individual and this identification leads to confusion. He failed to distinguish ethics from politics. His ideal state is based not merely on analogy but almost identification between the individual and the state, which is quite wrong.
Plato fails to condemn the institution of slavery and regard it as fundamental evil.
Plato’s system of communism of women and temporary marriage is detestable and unethical.
Plato is a moralist rather than a political idealist. His assumption that the state should control the entire lives of its citizens is false and contrary to human liberty.
By the system of functional specialization, Plato tends to dwarf the personality of the individual. There is no possibility of any full development of human personality in his ideal state.
Plato completely ignores the lower class in his ideal state which forms the great bulk of population. Such negligence may divide the society into two hostile groups.