Greek Philosophers


Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had virtually the same beliefs
about man's relation to the State, although Plato's political
theory of the State was more rational than Socrates or
Aristotle's. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all believed that
man was not self-sufficient, they believed man would be most
happy living in a State. They also believed that all men wanted
to live the truly good life where they could be in tune with
the truth and achieve their ultimate goals. Although Socrates,
Plato and Aristotle's political views of the State are similar,
Plato's view is more rational than Socrates and Aristotle's in
the sense that he created an ideal State. Socrates, Plato and
Aristotle were three philosophers in ancient Greece who
believed that no man was self-sufficient enough to live on his
own. Plato believed "a State comes into existence because no
individual is self-sufficing" (Stumph, 70). This theory of
Plato's was also shared by Aristotle who said "He who is unable
to live in society or who has no need because he is sufficient
for himself, must either be a beast or a god" (Stumph, 103).
These two views indicate the importance of a State to an
individual according to Plato and Aristotle. All three
philosophers believed that man would be much happier if he was
part of a State rather than on his own. Socrates once stated
"We are all more productive if we specialize in one thing
rather than try to excel at many things" (Stumph, 40). Within
the State Socrates believed that there would be a division of
labour for the provision of food, shelter and clothing. An
individual living outside of a State would have to provide
thems! elves with these necessities. As Socrates stated above
within the State you would specialize in one thing only, while a
different individual would specialize in something else and this would
allow the quality and the quantity of the product to increase. "Plato
assumes that we are all born with physical and intellectual equipment
that makes us suited to perform some tasks better than others" (Rice,
42). So now individuals only have to specialize in something that they
are physically and intellectually suited for according to Plato. These
three philosophers believed that if man could be more productive by
specializing in something that they are suited for they would be
happier. Aristotle made the point that "Every community is established
with the view to some good; and that mankind always act in order to
obtain that which they think good" (Copleston, 351).
Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all believed that man needs to be
part of a State in order to live a truly good life. For Plato,
who concerned himself with the truly good life for man, it was
imperative to determine the true function of the State. He
believed that the State was crucial in order for man to live a
good life. Plato wrote that "a proper government would lead to
a peaceful, ordered society in which all humans needs are met"
(Copleston, 223). Meeting the needs of the people was very
important within the State, and to help meet the needs of the
people Plato thought that the relationship between the
individual and the State would be similar to the relationship
between parents and their children. This meant that the
government would have power over the people but the people
would be considered in the decision making. Aristotle viewed
the State as "The agency for enabling people to achieve their
ultimate goals as human beings" (Stumph, 103). He thought that
within the St! ate you were free and able to obtain your needs
or 'goals' in life. Aristotle also made the point that "the State
exists for the sake of everyone's moral and intellectual fulfillment"
(Stumph, 105). Socrates also believed in man's true happiness, which is
what is in man's best interest, not just something that will make him
temporarily happy, such as alcohol. He believed that the State was
where man would be truly happy.
Although Socrates, Plato and Aristotle had similar views on the
State, Plato's view is more rational. "Plato's political theory
is developed in close connection with his ethics" (Copleston,
223). He believed strongly in the wants of man, "The State
does not exist simply in order to further the economic needs of
men, for man is not simply 'Economic Man,' but for happiness,
to develop them in the good life" (Copleston, 226). In Plato's
Republic we wanted poets, but he also objected to the way they
speak about the gods, and the way that they portrayed immoral
characters. Therefore if he was going to have poets in his
State they would have to produce examples of good moral
character, and "Lyric poetry would only be allowed under strict
supervision of the State authorities" (Rice, 39). Also in
Plato's Republic "Women are to be trained as men: in the ideal
State they will not simply stay at home and mind the baby, but
will be trained in music and gymnastics and military discipli!
ne just like men" (Copleston, 229). These regulations and theories were
part of Plato's ideal State. By creating an ideal State Plato was
expressing the only way the State would be run and remain successful
according to his point of view. Aristotle, who believed that the State
was substantial, did not create a blueprint of the ideal State like
Plato did. Plato who thought out an ideal State and created rules and
regulations was more rational in his political views than Socrates and
Even though all three philosophers were similar in their
political beliefs about man not being self-sufficient and that
man would be most happy in a State. Plato's ideal State made
his political view easily understandable and more rational than
Socrates who left behind no notes and Aristotle who did not
create a blueprint for an ideal State.


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