PLATO: THE PHILOSOPHER KING

Just as reason should rule in each individual, Plato believed that "reason" should rule in society. In other words, enlightened or wise persons (philosophers) are best suited for governing society.

As we have seen, the community is related to philosophy, and philosophy (wisdom) is crucial or essential for human excellence. The community can either nurture philosophy or make its existence difficult or even impossible. Healthy communities accordingly are those which cultivate and value the pursuit of wisdom, rather than value power, wealth, or false beliefs of human excellence.

What about fanatics? Even if we believe that enlightenment is real in some people, many people claim to be enlightened and know better than the rest of us-and many times these people have led their societies in evil directions. Best answer from Plato: enlightenment requires moral character-truly enlightened people are unlikely to do this. (But a further problem then is how do we tell the difference? Especially if we aren't enlightened ourselves.)

A better problem is whether philosophers are best suited to led in practical matters.

Plato's functional theory of morality: For Plato, human happiness comes from being moral, because morality is matter of living your life in conformity with your nature or function. Individuals as well as societies have different functions--in the fully functioning state, all needs are met by those most fit to meet them. In the fully functioning individual, all parts of the soul fulfill their function without encroaching on the function of the other parts. Societies and individuals are dysfunctional (and create unhappiness) when some essential needs are not met.

There is an anology between the make up of the individual and the state.

Needs
Social Classes
Parts of the Soul

Virtues or
excellences of each

Nourishment needs
(shelter, food, clothing)
Workers/artisans (bakers, etc.)
APPETITE
Temperance
Protection needs Warriors (policemen, soldiers)
SPIRIT
Courage
Order Guardians
(including philosopher-kings)
REASON
Wisdom

Justice: occurs when all the other virtues are present.

Question: Is society unhappiness really caused by social dysfunction? And is Plato's view of dysfunction correct?