In The Republic, Plato posits ideal-state can only be realized if and only if all individuals act according to the dictate of their inherent nature. In doing so, realization of an ideal-state necessitates the observance of justice among its citizenry. In this milieu, I will argue that Platonic stance of ideal-state must be abandoned altogether because it annihilates the fluidity of individual’s existence and jeopardizes the existential condition of each individual.
I vehemently argue in opposition to Plato’s philosophic stance on ideal-state because of the following premises: 1) Man’s existence is not immanent; rather it is fluid and spontaneous. 2) Ideal-state only predisposes what should be the intrinsic natures of each individual but it does not define these intrinsic natures because the power of defining one’s own being is in the being itself. 3) Ideal-state conception of justice is perverted because it denies each individual of their autonomy.
4) Ideal-state confines reason in its own predisposition. To elucidate further the validity and soundness of the given premises it is of necessity to provide a nitty-gritty exposition of Plato’s philosophic formulation of ideal-state such as its constructs and mechanism, as well as, the importance of justice in establishing an ideal-state. According to Plato, justice is served when each persons act accordingly to their very own nature because in doing so, each individual can actualize their potentialities.
On Platonic standpoint, justice operates when all people performs their own function or specialization, without doing other function that is not intrinsically imprinted within their own souls, because through the practice of each given function the entirety of the state is in harmony, which is the true essence of justice. An ideal-state founded on specialization paved for the creation of a stratified society. Plato postulates that an ideal-state consists of ruling class, military class, and artisan class that are considered the majority of the populace.
The ruling class, which is composed of rulers, must guide the society because they possess the rational soul where wisdom is embedded. The rulers must formulate treatises and make decisions for the welfare of their citizenry because they have the capacity to understand the delineation between reality and fiction, to comprehend the contingency of the universe, and most importantly, to evaluate unprejudiced judgments. Therefore, the rulers have rational souls, which aid them to generate rational choices.
Conversely, the military class is made of soldiers, and designed by their own nature to be courageous because they are the protector of an ideal-state from its internal and external adversaries. Soldiers possess a spirited soul, which is intended to ensure that reason is observed within the confines of practical life, even if ensuring of reason will jeopardize their own lives. On the other hand, the artisan class or the craftsmen must provide the needs of their society such as food, clothing, housing, and etc. These craftsmen must not pursue their personal interests because the appetitive soul demands the virtue of moderation from them.
The artisan class must give up their own aspiration for rational pursuit. In toto, Plato’s ideal-state only happens if and only if justice is observed which is manifested through the proper functioning of the given class’ specialization. It must be noted that all citizens of the ideal-state cannot perform other function than what is predisposed to them by their society, meaning, if a person is born to be an artisan then that person cannot be a ruler or soldier in any way. As I assert earlier, human existence is fluid and spontaneous, and not immanent how Plato’s perceives it.
As what stated above, Plato believes that each individual have their own innate nature, which is designed for the realization of an ideal-state. With this claim, Plato denies each being of their innumerable potentialities because he considers the being as one-dimensional or immanent, which must act only on one defined purpose. Beings are not immanent because their faculty and capability is vast. Individuals cannot be confined to a single definitive purpose because every person cannot only nourish a single capacity (i. e.
being an exceptional soldier) they can develop new capacities. It is valid to say that one must have specialization but limiting the being to this specialization is invalid because intrinsically speaking, humans must transcend their existential condition and must always actualize their innumerable potentialities. When we look for the meaning of the being, we do not limit ourselves to the superficiality of life but we go beyond it. The problem with the ideal-state is that it presupposes the meaning of the individual by appealing to its dichotomization of the souls.
Plato fails to recognize that beings are not defined by functions or whether they are part a specific class. And worst, Plato fails to realize that individuals should not be defined by their society because the former should define their society and not the other way around. The authority of defining oneself resides within the individual. Meaning is not incarcerated to functions alone, it is the summary of one’s aspirations, potentialities, projects, emotions, principles, and everything that can be attributed to humanity.
The state should not designate each individual to a certain class; rather the individual must ascertain which class they should belong, whether they subsume themselves to a specific class or they partake in all classes because their capabilities can perform the functions of each class. No one should dictate the role that must be embodied by each being, except for their own selves. In relation to the second premise, the ideal-state must not hinder the autonomy of all rational beings mainly because its definition of justice is perverted. Aside from reason, autonomy is one of the elements that separate man from animals.
Autonomy is the power of an individual to choose between given things. In an ideal-state, autonomy is annihilated because the beings cannot choose to be someone they aspire to be since the ideal-state prescribed what they should be. Remember, in Plato’s The Republic all beings are defined from the moment they were delivered in this world. Meaning, autonomy is already eliminated to every individual. Plato will argue that the stratification of the individuals is not prescribed by the society because this stratification is predisposed by reason. Therefore, the mechanism of ideal-state speaks of truth.
The point is, reason was treated as how individual was treated, as if reason is immanent. The ideal-state represented reason as a machination to establish a well structure society. Reason does not translate itself to a prescriptive definition because as time evolves, reason also evolves. Plato has limited the horizon of reason by encapsulating it to the mechanism of his ideal-state. Having established the following premises, I affirm that Plato’s philosophical stance on ideal-state must be eliminated as a whole because it undermines the horizon of every individual.