The Republic

Plato's Democracy as the Fourth Best of Constitutions

In his Republic, Plato enlivens the character of Socrates with his own views of how a just and virtuous city would grow into existence. In describing his ideal city-state, a society ruled by an aristocratic Philosopher-king, Plato also makes note of the four other possible constitutions: timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. In spite of living in a democracy, he theorizes that democracy is too faulty in its inherent development to be considered a perfect living environment. Rule by the people depends on its citizens' collective greed to establish laws, which implies that the entire city is ruled by the third and most barbaric aspect of the soul, the appetite. While Plato dismisses a democracy as a breeding ground for mediocrity, there is no denying that the freedoms presented by such a constitution enable the creation of political forums that allow for philosophers to outline their views on the ideal state. Plato's arguments labeling democratic citizens as lazy and luxurious gain strength through his explanation of the soul, but he severely understates the role of freedom in creating the virtuous and happy people of an aristocracy.

Plato's main critique of democracy lies within his definition of an ideal...

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