Politics of Plato and Aristotle

To compare the political theories of two great philosophers of politics is to first examine each theory in depth. Many experts regard Plato as the first writer of political philosophy, and Aristotle is recognized as the first political scientist. These two men were great thinkers. They each had ideas of how to improve existing societies during their individual lifetimes. It is necessary to look at several areas of each theory to seek the difference in each. The main focus of Plato is a perfect society. He creates a blueprint for a utopian society, in his book “The Republic”.

This blueprint was a sketch of a society in which the problems he thought were present in his society would be eased. He lived in times of Peloponnesian War, the time of sunset of Athenian democracy. In addition, he had witnessed Socrates’ trial and execution. Shocked by corruption of Athenian democracy and politics he refused to participate in political life. He believed that neither rational state nor moral individual could be obtained under the rule of democracy. In his works he mentions three dangers that he thought were present in democratic society.

Plato believed that common man could not think intelligently about foreign policies, economic, and other state’s matters. He also thought that leaders in democracy were chosen by reasons such a good look, family background, and other non-essential reasons. The third danger was that too much liberty for citizens could turn a democracy to anarchy. In his utopian society Plato sought to cure the afflictions of both human society and human personality. Essentially, Plato wanted to achieve a perfect society. Aristotle, unlike Plato, is not concerned with perfecting society. He just wants to improve on the existing one.

Rather than produce a blueprint for the perfect society, Aristotle suggested, in his work, ? The Politics’, that the society itself should reach for the best possible system that could be attained. He thought that utopia is an abstract solution, a solution that has no concrete problem. There is no solid evidence that all societies are in need of such drastic reformation as Plato suggests. Aristotle discovers that the best possible has already been obtained. All that can be done is to try to improve on the existing one. Plato’s utopia consists of three distinct, non-hereditary class systems. The highest class was Guardians.

The Guardians consist of non-ruling Guardians and ruling Guardians. The non-rulers are a higher level of civil servants and the ruling is the society’s policy makers. Auxiliaries are soldiers and minor civil servants. Finally the Workers are composed of farmers and artisans, most commonly unskilled laborers. The Guardians are to be wise and good rulers. It is important that the rulers are public-spirited in temperament and skilled in the arts of government areas. The highest Guardian is to be placed in a position of absolute ruler. He is supposed to be a philosopher and know what is best for society.

Aristotle disagrees with the idea of one class holding discontinuing political power. The failure to allow circulation between classes excludes those men who may be ambitious, and wise, but are not in the right class of society to hold any type of political power. Aristotle looks upon this ruling class system as an ill-conceived political structure. He quotes “It is a further objection that he deprives his Guardians even of happiness, maintaining that happiness of the whole state which should be the object of legislation,” ultimately he is saying that Guardians sacrifice their happiness for power and control.

Guardians who lead such a strict life will also think it necessary to impose the same strict lifestyle on the society it governs. Aristotle puts a high value on moderation. Many people favor moderation because it is part liberal and part conservative. There is so much of Plato’s utopia that is undefined and it is carried to extremes that no human being could ever fulfill its requirements. Aristotle believes that Plato is underestimating the qualitative change in human character and personality that would have to take place in order to achieve his utopia.

Plato chose to tell the reader of his Republic how men would act and what their attitudes would be in a perfect society. Aristotle tries to use real men in the real world in an experimental fashion to foresee how and in which ways they can be improved. Both Plato and Aristotle agree that justice exists in an objective sense: that is, it dictates a belief that the good life should be provided for all individuals no matter how high or low their social status. “In democracies, for example, justice is considered to mean equality, in oligarchies, again inequality in the distribution of office is considered to be just, ” says Aristotle.

Plato sees the justice and law as what sets the guidelines for societal behavior. Aristotle puts emphasis on the institution of the polis. This institution is not the state or society merely the larger unit of the two. The polis was set up to allow political participation on the part of the average citizen. This contradicts Plato’s theory of one ruling class controlling the political power and all decisions that effect the entire society. The theory of Democracy that Aristotle derived states that democracy is a “perversion” form of government of “polity”. Aristotle said, “The people at large should be sovereign rather than the few best”.

Plato would never allow the full public participation in government, as Aristotle would like. According to Plato public judgments of approval and disapproval are based on belief and not on knowledge. Plato thinks that is a revolution were to take place it would be a palace revolution. A palace revolution occurs when there is a power transfer from one power holder to someone else. Aristotle sees the cause of revolutions originating with either the rich or the poor. He feels that the means of preventing revolutions is to anticipate them. Plato thinks that in a utopia a disgruntled group of Guardians will emerge and break from the rules.

He thinks that in an oligarchy two things may happen to spark a revolution: the first being the ruler and their offspring grow to be weak rulers and too sympathetic, the second is that the number of poor grows larger and suffer exploitation at the hands of those in power over them. Aristotle states that to know the causes, which destroy constitutions, is also to know the causes, which ensure their preservation. Plato and Aristotle alike were two men who had ideas on ways to improve existing society. Plato, a political philosopher, was in the pursuit of philosophical truth.

Aristotle was concerned with the citizen and the design of political institutions. They both had well thought out ideas and plans on how to build a better society. Both Aristotle and Plato have had a tremendous impact on political scientists of today. Aristotle helped to develop some democratic ideas. In conclusion, these men were great thinkers. Their opinions on society and its functions were quite different, but they both had the same intention, to build a better way of life for the societies they lived in and for the societies that would come to be in the future. Haker acient politicks