One could often hear politicians to be regarded as charismatic or charming. However, seldom, if ever, does one associate these adjectives with a political system. The lack of connection between the two words did not stop a great philosopher, Plato, to describe democracy exactly with one of these terms: “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispersing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike” (Plato 214). The underlining message of the quoted sentence leads one to believe Plato employed the adjective – charming – with a great agree of sarcasm.
The philosopher states that democracy brings instability to a state which is governed by the many. Plato is also voicing his opinion regarding those who get to govern through democracy: the power to rule is given to those who are worth it, “equals”, and those who may be undeserving of it, “unequal”. Even the wording he uses buries a negative connotation towards democracy. Thus, the quote sheds an off-putting light on democracy and Plat’s favoritism for aristocracy becomes evident. Democratic rule is an agent of change because parties with different interests get o enjoy the power of creating the law through rotation of the office.
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Thus, the law tends to shift and evolve as one party is replaced by another. Such changes are not necessarily bad, but Plato highlights the worse of them by referring to the changes as “variety and disorder”. He was not completely out of the line, however. In the Republic, Plato summarizes how democracy is created: “… Democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and rower” (Plato 216).
Democracy did come to be as a result of revolutions due to tension between different social and political classes in any state from Athens to Florence to modern democratic sates. As professor Breath highlights the fact in his lecture Florence contra Venice, Florence was a far more democratic state than Venice during the Renaissance. Professor Breath then makes an argument that there was much more social and political tension present in Florence than there was in Venice around this time. Whereas Venice enjoyed far more stable political structure because t was more aristocratic and the same families kept the political power in Venice.
Plato does seem to favor this aristocratic stability even as it comes at the expense of freedom derived from democratic political system. The underlying philosophy of democracy is economy: everyone’s equality before the law and in the creation of the law. Pure democracy, thus, gives everyone an equal chance of being elected to hold a political office through lottery. This system, while does allow the greatest degree of freedom to its citizens, comes with a price: a lattice office may be assigned to a completely incompetent person if his name is drawn from the lot.
Although such person may be incompetent, he is still equal to hold the office in the same way as any other person, according to economy. However, Plato does not believe this principle is legitimate when he states that equality is distributed between “equals and unequal alike”. He makes a distinction between the knowledgeable and the competent and those who are not. He goes as far as saying that the latter are not equal to the former, alluding that they belong to an inferior lass. Plato, believing in aristocracy or the rule of the best, does not agree with democracy because it allows those who are inferior to rise to power.
Thus, Plat’s ideals are contrary to those of a democratic rule. Taking this point of view allows us to no longer be surprised that the philosopher does not treat democracy as a superior political system. Plato does not work hard on trying to hide his true opinion about democracy. Not only does he provide a reader with insights about his favoritism for aristocracy, he puts down democracy through the literal language itself. In the same sentence which calls democracy charming, Plato also associates it with words such disorder, dispersing and unequal.
These words and the language Plato uses bury a negative connotation and create an off-putting attitude towards democracy in readers’ minds. Needless to say, Plato is a great philosopher and communicator who is able to fully utilize the written word to persuade his readers and inspire them with his point of view. Therefore, before one even begins to analyze the meaning behind Plat’s words, a reader already begins to form a poor Judgment about democracy. A very small percentage of communication is conveyed through words which are being said.
A much larger portion of a meaning of any given message is hidden within the way a message is delivered and allusions a communicator is hinting on. Although Plat’s statement appears to praise democracy in a positive way, a deeper analysis of his message shows the opposite. Plato thinks of democracy as an inferior form of government compared to aristocracy due to its lack of stability. He also opposes it democracy because it presents an opportunity for those other than the best to rise to political power.
These allusions and Plat’s negative language towards democracy make his praise of the rule of the many sound sarcastic. While much of the evidence I have gathered in this paper goes to show that Plato favors aristocracy over democracy and he does in fact hide his true message in the allusions of his statement, my position is stated after an analysis of a very small portion of Plat’s work. A whole life could be dedicated to the study of the works of this great philosopher and discoveries which are made during this study could be contrary to the ideas discussed in this paper.
It is quite difficult to Judge a man Just by glancing at him and it is even more difficult to summarize his philosophy Just by referring to very few of his notes. Many great philosophers used the mastery of the written word to convey secret messages through a literal meaning and it is quite possible that a deeper study of Plat’s work would open one’s eyes to different ideas Plato may have had.