A well governed state…

Plato has some things to say about a well governed state. Maybe we should take heed in these troubled times.

The one who should rule should not rule for the sake of ruling but for making our society better. Career politicians should not rule for that is what they seek. Instead it should be a person who would rather be doing something else but seeks to make a better society.

“If you discover a life better than ruling for those who are intending to govern, a well-run state becomes a possibility; for only there will the genuinely rich govern, rich not in monetary terms, but in that in which the happy man must be wealthy: a good, intelligent life. But if beggars and those starved of private resources enter public service thinking they must seize the good, it isn’t possible, for when the government becomes a matter of contention, such civil and internal war destroys both them and the rest of the state.”

“That’s very true,” he said.

“Do you have any other way of life that looks down on ruling for political motives,” I asked, “than that of true philosophy?”

“Zeus, no!” he said.

The Republic, Plato, Book VII, 521a


εἰ μὲν βίον ἐξευρήσεις ἀμείνω τοῦ ἄρχειν τοῖς μέλλουσιν ἄρξειν, ἔστι σοι δυνατὴ γενέσθαι πόλις εὖ οἰκουμένη· ἐν μόνῃ γὰρ αὐτῇ ἄρξουσιν οἱ τῷ ὄντι πλούσιοι, οὐ χρυσίου ἀλλ’ οὗ δεῖ τὸν εὐδαίμονα πλουτεῖν, ζωῆς ἀγαθῆς τε καὶ ἔμφρονος. εἰ δὲ πτωχοὶ καὶ  πεινῶντες ἀγαθῶν ἰδίων ἐπὶ τὰ δημόσια ἴασιν, ἐντεῦθεν οἰόμενοι τἀγαθὸν δεῖν ἁρπάζειν, οὐκ ἔστι· περιμάχητον γὰρ τὸ ἄρχειν γιγνόμενον, οἰκεῖος ὢν καὶ ἔνδον ὁ τοιοῦτος πόλεμος αὐτούς τε ἀπόλλυσι καὶ τὴν ἄλλην πόλιν.

Ἀληθέστατα, ἔφη.

Ἔχεις οὖν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, βίον ἄλλον τινὰ πολιτικῶν ἀρχῶν καταφρονοῦντα ἢ τὸν τῆς ἀληθινῆς φιλοσοφίας;

Οὐ μὰ τὸν Δία, ἦ δ’ ὅς.

Πολιτεία, Πλάτων, βίβλος Ζ


Plato, pointing upwards to the sky where the Forms reside. Detail from the “School of Athens,” by Raphael circa 1510 A.D.

Why pointing upwards? Plato’s philosophy relied on the idea of the Forms which exist not on this earth but in another realm. They represented the true Good of all things. It was the responsibility of the philosopher kings to study these forms as much as possible and then relate them to everyone else through education. However, as we have seen in history people like this are usually ridiculed or run out of town because the general masses refuse to accept a philosopher as a ruler.

I think that we should attempt this once again. Since we have never truly had a philosopher ruler except for Marcus Aurelius, ~120 A.D. in Rome (or actually outside Rome, he was at war most of the time), maybe it is time after 2500 years to actually try to do this.

This should be combined with education of the children in the arts and sciences as well as the Classics, Latin and Ancient Greek. This I believe can change our society back towards the good.








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