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Political Ethics in Plato’s Republic

After having completed the reading of Plato’s Republic and having perused their many affirmations and argumentations particularly the concept of justice applied to the more specific topic of political ethics, there has never been any change in me with respect to my thinking as well as attitudes in regard to the subject at hand. The basic problem initially presented in Plato’s Republic is whether it is worth it to choose justice for its own sake no matter what the rewards or penalties others may bestow.

To answer this, Socrates described three classes of good, the first and the highest are goods desired for their own sake independent of their results, secondly those desired both for their own sake and for their results and those no one will desire for their own sake but only for the rewards or result that flows from them (Jowett, bk. II, 357, p. 36). When asked to which class he placed justice he answered, “in the highest” (Jowett, bk.

II, 358, p. 37) thereby affirming that justice is desirable as it is or valued for its own sake. But when asked further what justice is, he had to use the analogy of the state and the individual person indicating that the ideal city consists of persons who fall into three classes—rulers who are rational; the auxiliaries or guardians who are spirited, and the producers who are ruled by desire.

In the pursuit of the meaning of justice Plato felt compelled to clarify it by moving towards the discussion of the state, arguing that it is easier to recognize it in a larger context. Then he described the just state as when each of the three classes performed the individual tasks for which they are naturally capable of performing and thereby contributing as a whole to the welfare of the estate (Jowett, bk. II, 369-372. ). But the ideal state (Jowett, bk. II, 372, 399 and bk.

VII, 522) called Fair City goes beyond this and incorporate the vision or knowledge of the good as the primary object and for which it is necessary that philosophers be the rulers. Thus in the pursuit of the real meaning of justice Plato moved beyond these and located justice in the psychological attitude of the individual and by retrospect in the quality or nature of the ruler of the ideal city (Jowett, bk. VII, 540, p. 245). Political ethics centered on the quality of the ruler more than the arrangement or composition of the state.

Or rather, the assurance that the state is ruled by people who values and aim for the vision and knowledge of the good will ensure that the state and all the individual elements will attain the proper harmony that will bring the good of the state and that of the individuals in the state into a happy balance. Do all these discussions of Plato’s Republic have any bearing or import in my attitude or thinking with respect to my primary concern regarding political ethics – which is the politicians’ behavior in our present day society?

These do not change any of my attitude or thinking with regards to. When I hear the term political ethics, I think of the world of politics and how it controls our lives and our society. We are at the mercy of politics. We receive promises of what will be done to make our lives better, such as better health care, lower taxes, an end to the war, and better education. Sometimes, theses promises are made to get us to vote on way or another. I don’t feel that it is ethical to make promises that will never be kept.

We vote a certain way because we want these promises to come true, we want the better life that the politician offers. Sometimes the promises are kept, but other things happen politically that we have no control over that causes us, citizens lots of grief. Most times these issues are not a part of the promises. Sometimes it is easy to get people to trust because if they hear something that they truly want, they can be swayed to vote a certain way to get promised ideas or issues.

I feel that it is not ethical to make promises to people just to get in office and never address the promises again, or give people the promised issues and do other things to them that cause people to live a lower quality of life. Political ethics cover all facets of life. Also, people try to get what they want in life because of whom they know, or where they live, and their financial class. Another aspect of political ethics is politicians use advertisements that are misleading.

This is all part of the world of political ethics. It touches all our lives, and many people always hope for the best when they listen to the political promises made by those who have power. As indictment to what I have just mentioned above, Plato described the story of Gyges (Jowett, bk. II, pt. 360, p. 39) wherein the person who previously appear to be just will act unjustly if he can get away with it or has the power to be invisible while acting unjustly.

These concerns placed side by side with the Republic’s dialectics on justice both in the individual and in the state served not to change my thinking or attitude but rather simply confirmed what I believe concerning Political Ethics – that what is required in our modern day government institutions and the conduct of the interests and concerns of the state are politicians approximating the nature and qualities of the philosopher-king (Jowett, bk. VII, 540, p. 245) in Plato’s ideal city. That I share similar if not exactly the same thinking and attitude described in Plato’s Republic education and upbringing.

The sense of justice that is strong in my character is the product of my upbringing as well as early and later education which intersect many though not all of the aspects incorporated by Plato (Jowett, bk. VII) among which is the teaching of truth as a matter of principle like the simple religious and moral truths, lessons of good manners and good taste I learned while young. WORKS CITED Jowett, B. , M. A. The Republic of Plato – Translated with Introduction, Analysis, Marginal Analysis, and Index. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1887.

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