What factors, for Plato and Aristotle, were critical in the construction of a state? Before one examines the construction of the State in the eyes of two famous classical thinkers, one must first understand what a State is. A State can be defined as a group of people settled in a specific geographical location where, through interdependency and order, a livelihood can be achieved. Plato and Aristotle, both great philosophers, contributed to the world of politics today, their views and ideas on what should be considered in the construction of a State.
Plato (427-347 B. C. ), famous for his work “The Republic”, viewed the state as a machine which can be constructed systematically. In contrast to his former mentor, Aristotle, a former student of Plato, regarded the State as an organism with the attributes of a living being, stating that its emergence is a natural process. Both ideas are very influential and crucial in examining and understanding their contributions made to politics and society today.
In the eyes of Plato, one of the main factors critical to the construction of the State was the division of the human soul. Within Plato’s division of the soul, there were 3 divisions: – “the rational”, which was regarded as the highest part of the soul and, as a result, gave particular people the ability to reason; “the spirited”, which had the capacity to follow and asset the claims of reason; and lastly, “the appetitive”, which Plato found as the lowest part of the soul and sheltered desires and emotions.
The Rational reflected the rulers/philosophers who were small in groups but ruled over a much larger group of producers. They occupied the top of the class structure and because of their ability to reason, people believed that they alone had the insights and solutions to human problems. The Spirited followed the Rational and consisted of soldiers and administrators who supported and were controlled by the Government, hence their capacity to follow. The Appetitive represented the producers in society.
Making up the majority of the population, producers were mainly artisans, traders and farmers who provided the basic services to society and were never allowed to state their opinions and feelings, thus their harbored emotions. Such a class structure was referred to as an aristocracy, which Plato thought of as the ideal State. It was this threefold division of the soul which influenced the division of society, therefore making it a critical factor in Plato’s construction of the state.
Another factor which was very influential in Plato’s construction of the State lay in the process of selective breeding. Selective breeding can be considered the pairing of parents to ensure the highest physical and mental qualities of the offspring. Such offspring were to become the next generation of rulers by the age of fifty. Plato believed that the selection of rulers could be best made through lengthened education and training which were reserved for only the ruling class in the form of music, literature, military instructions and so forth, to enhance these qualities.
According to Plato, government and ruling must not be left to chance. It is through a planned program of training that kings are born, made and sculpted into society. This transmitted process is significant to the construction of the State in the eyes of Plato. Contrary to Plato’s views, Aristotle had his own vision of the construction of the State and rather than viewing the state as a piece of machinery, he saw it as a ‘natural entity. ’ Aristotle spoke of the construction of the State as an organism, in which the State was the highest form of all communities.
One of the main factors in Aristotle’s eyes, critical to construction of the State, was the belief that the State was natural. In this perspective, the family, the village and the State were 3 stages in the growth of human relations. Aristotle saw the family as the first stage or form of association where mankind is reproduced and men’s primary daily wants and needs such as food, clothing and shelter are supplied. The second form of association of the state was the village in which men search for something more than the basic wants supplied in the family.
In this stage, man satisfies his elementary needs such as a desire for companionship and loyalty. The third and highest form of community is the State. It is within this stage that moral values and beliefs are established through social institutions which are implemented throughout the State, such as the church and school. The state exists solely for the purpose of ensuring that man realizes himself and lives the good life. Thus, Aristotle emphasizes on the recognition of the State as a natural process which is critical for the proper construction of a state.
Moreover to Aristotle’s belief of the State as an organic concept, another essential factor which Aristotle considers in the construction of a state is the framing of an appropriate system of government. Aristotle recognized 3 forms of true governments: – monarchy, aristocracy and constitutional government. Monarchy consisted of one ruler with the best features, qualities and merits who governed the majority of the population. Aristocracy consisted of a small group of rulers governing a large group of people.
Aristotle defined it as “government formed of the best men absolutely”. Finally, a constitutional government was one where a large group of citizens administered for the common interest of the people. Aristotle, like Plato, regarded the aristocracy, in addition to the monarchy, as the ideal forms of government as they both consider the virtue of rulers above the consent of the ruled. Thus, to Aristotle, the framing of a system of government was essential in the construction of a state.
In retrospect, in assessing the various factors which were significant to the construction of a state, both philosophers possessed dissimilarities in how they viewed the entire entity of the State but agreed in the decision of which government should be implemented within the state. These factors proved very influential in today’s conceptions and understanding of society and are important components of the work done by both classical thinkers and the present study of politics.