Does Plato’s political theory apply to the U.S – a view from a foreigner

December 3, 2018

In Book VIII, Socrates elaborately identified and critiqued many forms of political systems. Socrates critiqued Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. Aristocracy, represented by Socrates’ Kallipolis, identifies that the society should be ordered in three classes, craftsmen, law-enforcers and the rulers. This society is organized by the inherent value of citizens, those most worthy in terms of knowledge and justice – The form of the good. Timocracy for Socrates is when the ruler of a political systems aims to rule in terms of ambition or honor instead of the form of the good. This would be represented by a ruler’s ambition for conquest and war. Timocracy is degenerated from Aristocracy and is the second best form of government. Oligarchy for Socrates is when a small part of the population rules over the majority. This creates diversity and that there is constant conflict between the majority and minority. These small group of ruling people possesses power and wealth. Hence, the poor are constantly in conflict to take the power and wealth from the rich. Democracy is then the variation from Oligarchy, where the society focuses on the equality of the spread of power. Plato referred that people in a democracy had the freedom to do whatever they wanted, which resembles anarchy. Plato uses the example of an oligarchic man and his democratic son, where the father is disciplined and makes money. Whereas his son has no discipline and spends all the money his father makes. In a chaotic democracy – towards the later stages, some tyrant will evolve and establish tyranny, which is the worse form of government. In the realm of chaos, someone will establish their presence but in the form of oppression over the public. This is the worse form of government as it is the most unjust and bad. (Plato’s Republic, Book VIII, and IX)

I only visited the U.S several times before actually coming to the U.S to study music at the Eastman School of Music. However, the U.S is not an unfamiliar country to me as most of the world does revolve around it. However, for most of the times, not for good reasons. People talk about the “American Dream” and I did not ever conceptualize the U.S as a dream, although attending Eastman was certainly a dream of mine while I was younger. The U.S is just so chaotic with problems such as race, religion, politics, and society. The bads definitely outweighed the goods of the country. I did not agree that it was a “dream” of any sort, if anything, it was more like a dystopia filled with problems. According to Plato, Democracy is a pretty bad type of political system as freedom is valued more than the wellbeing of society as a whole. I believe Plato’s theory is reflected in the U.S. There are shootings reflecting personal opinions regularly and the society is filled with many issues. I believe all this is due to the freedom that an individual is entitled to, causing individuals to promote their ideas and beliefs in unorthodox methods. There was a news article from the 2016 news article campaign, where I saw that various satirical presidential candidates such as “Deez-nuts” which is a 15-year-old from Iowa participated in the presidential elections. Although he did not win any elections, he did win roughly 8-9% of the votes. I just found it hard to comprehend that a 15-year-old could enter the presidential elections, this almost seemed that the 8-9% that voted for the 15-year-old are just trolls and saw politics as a meme or something.

With president Donald Trump in position, his provocative comments made towards the media just strikes me as absurd although it might not be directly related to the democratic system. The Guardian of a society should be wise and just. I believe for the U.S, they might have a president that does not acknowledge the form of the good or even show tyrannical qualities. The democracy that allowed every individual to vote for what they truly believe is good for society, in turn, was actually bad for society as a whole. I believe if the current situation continues to worsen, tyranny might possibly evolve out of the chaos.

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NPR Story: “What If I Don’t Have A Passion?”

May 12, 2013

This is a story that was featured on Nation Public Radio entitled: “I Know I’m Supposed To Follow My Passion. But What If I Don’t Have A Passion?” I found this very interesting especially after reading Socrates’ stance on the different roles that he feels people should fill in society. In this story, Max Kornblith is questioning what to do with his life. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from a prestigious Ivy League institution, he found everyone around him being driven by his or her “passion”. In fact, it seems to Max Kornblith that the main argument that everybody is making for having a successful and meaningful life is to follow that passion that every person has. However, Mr. Kornblith has not found this driving force in his life, and does not know whether he has a passion or not.

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Socrates believed that every person has a place in society, and that every person should be content with that position. He said that if every person dedicated their energy towards the position that they fill in society that the city could function to its full potential. This is a very different philosophy than the one that is most present in our society today. In today’s world, people, like Max Kornblith, are encouraged to “follow their hearts”, “follow their passion”, and “follow their dreams”. It takes about five minutes of watching American Idol to truly understand that a person who is passionate about something shouldn’t necessarily be doing that thing at all. The most successful people today, in my mind, seem to be the people who have both the passion, and the natural ability that Socrates looked for in a person when deciding which profession they were best suited for.

Max Kornblith is somewhat the opposite of the prototype of the conventional successful person. He is a very smart person, having graduated from a prestigious Ivy League institution, with many skills. However, he does not have the “passion” which would motivate him to strive for greatness in career. He explains that he became frustrated when all of his peers had their “one thing” that they found brought meaning to their life. Still it seems to me that Max is looking for depth and meaning in his career that will satisfy the overall goals that he has for his life.

Socrates would not have a problem with Max Kornblith being unable to find his passion. In his mind, Socrates believes that the passion a person has for certain things is irrelevant to the success of their career. This is because Socrates would not have had people in a certain line of work based on their passion and interests, but what their natural skills (determined at a very early age) were.