Plato, the Greek philosopher, wanted to build an ideal state, ruled by the philosopher king, mentioned in his famous book The Republic. He had observed different types of regimes, but he considered monarchy as the best form of government. So he came up with a monarchy regime to build an ideal state and Plato’s philosopher king was essential for the state. It is because Plato believed that a philosopher king could rule the state properly. After all, the philosopher king possesses some good qualities like wisdom, knowledge, etc.
Who is a Philosopher King?
A person with dominating reason who possesses the knowledge of Ideas and forms, as well as the wisdom and discernment to make decisions. He is the one who will establish an Ideal State which will be free of corruption. Plato believes that a State can not be an Ideal State until the Philosophers become the king or kings become the Philosophers. Plato preferred the Rule of Philosophy over the rule of Law. For him, no law is mightier than knowledge. Plato has given absolute power to the philosopher king with the only exception of the constitution which he cannot change. In the words of Plato no Law or Ordinance is mightier than knowledge. Philosopher King was known to possess absolute and ultimate knowledge, which is something that cannot be diluted by the opinion of the public. Philosopher King cannot be confined by the wisdom of the ordinary or the opinion of the public, all of which is as foolish as having a book of medicine to limit a professional doctor.
Education and Selection of the Philosopher King
Education and Selection of Philosopher King In Plato’s ideal state, King must have learned philosophy as well as must have received an education. The selection of a philosopher king is a lengthy process in the ideal state of Plato. But it begins with Education. In short, Plato’s theory of education starts from age 6. Every child receives education. Til the age of 20, Students receive intellectual education, Moral education, army training, etc. At the age of 20, Students affairs their first examination. Those who qualify for the examination, are eligible for higher education, and failed students are sent to become farmers, traders, mechanics, etc. In higher education, Student receives Physical, moral, and mental training, etc. At the age of 30, Student faces their second examination. Qualified student receives higher education and failed student is sent to become army. Qualified student receives philosophical education. At the age of 35, they were sent to worldly life to receive practical knowledge. After 15 years, Student faces their last examination to become a philosopher king. Qualified students are eligible for Philosopher King and failed students are eligible for Ministers.Plato’s Philosopher king
Qualities of Philosopher King:
Platonic Philosophers must possess certain qualities which are as follows:-
1) According to Plato, the Philosopher King is a repository of all human virtues.
2) The Philosopher King should possess true knowledge. He is the only person who can rule the state efficiently.
3) Philosopher King should possess definite knowledge of state principles. These principles guide him to rule efficiently.
4) A philosopher should have boundless curiosity for new experiences.
5) Truthfulness is another striking quality of a philosopher King.
6) A philosopher must have greatness of mind. Proudness should never touch him.
7) Sharp memory is another important quality of a Philosopher. He should learn a thing easily and remember it for life.
8) A philosopher is free from earthly desire.
9) A philosopher is completely free from family.
10) A philosopher must be a self-controlled man. He is never eager to get and spend money.
Why did Plato need a Philosopher king?
●Ideal State- Plato’s main aim was to build an ideal state and he hated the democratic government. He believed that a democratic government is a corrupted government and rulers misused the powers. That’s why he considered monarchy as the best form of government to rule the state by a philosopher king. Plato believes that the Philosopher king is the best person because he has some good qualities like knowledge, truthfulness, wisdom, etc. Without the philosopher king, Plato’s ideal state is incomplete. That’s why Plato needed a Philosopher king.
●Justice and peace
Plato believes that if the rulers are not philosophers, then the justice and wisdom of the city will be pathetic and degenerative.
Because, he believes that a person who will be a philosopher king, is the only person who can deliver justice in society. Because for them, he must have some qualities, he will be a high-quality person, who will think everything, who will consider all the things in nature from different aspects.
●Guidance in Decision Making:
Decision-making in governance requires a new understanding of justice, morality, and the consequences of actions. The philosopher-king, rooted in philosophy, can deal with complex situations in a way that is consistent with ethical principles and the common good.
●Critic of Democracy:
Plato was against democracy, believing that it could lead to popular rule and that it did not emphasize virtue and wisdom. He saw the philosopher-king as a balance that ensured rule was in the hands of people with intellectual and moral integrity.
●Harmony in the state
Plato’s ideal state involves the harmonious coexistence of different classes, each of which has its function. The philosopher-king, inspired by wisdom, is seen as a unifying force that ensures the proper functioning of the state while preventing conflicts and differences.
Philosophers are not only rulers but also teachers. Plato envisioned philosopher-kings who established and supported educational systems that developed virtue in citizens. According to Plato, education is necessary for the development of an enlightened society.
Powers of Philosopher King:
●He has absolute power.
●In the words of Plato, no ordinance or law can be mightier than knowledge.
●His wisdom cannot be questioned by public opinion or by the book of love.
●In the words of Plato, “It is foolish to limit the expert practitioner of medicine with the book of medicine”.
●There is only one limitation on the philosopher king – he cannot change the constitution written by Plato.
Limitations of Philosopher King by Plato
Plato has imposed the following restrictions on the rule of the philosopher king-
●To maintain the education system
●Maintain the administration of justice
●Preventing increase or decrease in the limits of the state
●Preventing the entry of wealth and poverty into the state
Criticism of Plato’s philosopher king
Unrealistic Utopian Vision:
Critics argue that Plato’s vision of the ideal State with the philosopher-kings may be too utilitarian and disconnected from the complexities and imperfections of the real world.
Limited roles for citizens
A major issue with Plato’s method of governance is that it places the key decision-making responsibility at the fingertips of philosopher-kings, potentially limiting citizen participation in shaping the direction of their government.
●According to Plato, majoritarianism and popular participation are unsuitable for the ordinary person who doesn’t possess the capacity to understand absolute truth as well as the idea of good, so he rejects them as systems of government and states
●It could be argued that this proposition could be questioned because no one could comprehend the whole of the absolute truth, truth, in its entirety.
●In other words, truth is not absolute or absolute fact, but rather is relative or as “I see it”, which might differ from other versions. In the case of falsification of claims of absolute truth (Popper), what is the outcome of that?
●What measures were taken to ensure that the collective benefited from the knowledge that the philosopher ruler professed to have? What strategies did they use to do so?
●Plato entrusted absolute power in the hands of those Philosophers who possess these qualities.
● There is no such guarantee that the Philosopher King always rules the country in the best interest of all.
Plato’s significant contribution to the field of political Science is his bifurcation of beauty, knowledge, wealth, and power. He remarked rightly that if happiness and peace are to be there in a society, everyone should not pursue limited, power and wealth. When everyone pursues it, it leads to friction among individuals and ultimately unhappiness in society. When everybody pursues unlimited, beauty and knowledge, all will be happy and this prepares an ideal ground for the creation of an ‘Ideal Society’ and th,erefore an “Ideal State”.