Plato's Republic

Plato's Republic describes a society that is to be completely rational, based on his concept of the good life and developed to create and protect that sort of life within the context of a civil state. What Plato seeks in this dialogue is a definition of the perfect life and the perfect state to promote and sustain that life. The ideal state is a concept and not a reality, neither in Plato's time nor since. Much of what Plato embodies in the Ideal State is probably a reaction to imperfections in the government and society of his time. Plato lived in a time of turmoil and warfare, and he created a society that would be free of strife if it lived up to the ideal. It does not seem likely that many today would want to live in the society Plato proposes, and this may be because Plato ignores human nature. For his perfect society to work to protect the perfect life, it would have to be made up of perfect people. Plato tries to address this through education and other means, but in the final analysis his Republic must remain an ideal only, and to a great extent one man's ideal.

The question can be raised whether Plato intended his Republic to be more than an ideal. His Theory of Forms shows an awareness of the existence of qualities derived from the abstract and ideal Forms, with the object or quality in the real world being like the shadows on the walls of the cave in Book VII. What we see in the real world are but imperfect copies or imitations of the ideal, and the Repu



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