Plato is considered by many of today’s philosophers as the first genuine political philosopher while Aristotle is regarded as the first political scientist. Both philosophers were great thinkers and together with Socrates, formed a foundation of great western philosophers. Both Plato and Aristotle had ideas aimed at improving societies that existed during their different lifetimes.
To begin with, Plato was a pupil of Socrates and came from a powerful and wealth family. His real name was Aristocles but was nicknamed Plato due to his broad physique. Plato devoted his life to philosophy while he was in his twenties and lived during the time of Peloponnesian war that put to an end the Athenian democracy. Plato had a first a person account of Socrates trial and execution and his death troubled him greatly. Following the death of Socrates, Plato traveled to Greece, Egypt, Italy and finally to the Mediterranean. While in Egypt he learnt of the water clock which he introduced to Greece some years later. Also, Plato learned of Pythagoras in Italy making him appreciate mathematics. During his wandering, he was enslaved and friend and family members contributed funds to ransom him from slavery; they succeeded in their efforts marking a new beginning in his life.
On the other hand, Aristotle was a born in Macedonia and received education in arts and in Homer. It was after entering academy of Plato that his intellectual development begun. He later began tutorship with Alexander, the great after which he retuned to Athens where he founded a personal school of philosophy.
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Plato’s political ideas focused on attaining a perfect society through creation of a utopian society as outlined in his book The Republic. This book was written out of the urge of political tension that was being experienced at the time hence his ideas targeted at easing problems he taugth were encountered in the society (Blitz 243). He sought to heal human afflictions as well as the whole society. This influenced his political thought into believing that a government could only be formed through fear and faith, improvisation and indolence. As such, his ideas targeted at achieving a perfect society.
Hannah Arendt was a germane American political theorist whose work centers of nature of power and subjects of authority, politics and totalitarianism. She is considered as one the most significan political philosophers of 20th century. She is hard to be classified in the traditional poetical science because she supports constitutionalism and rule of laws while at the same time favors revolutionary spirit and high level participatory democracy. Arendt was born in Hanover in Germany to a Jewish family. She studied philosophy at Marburg Heidelberg and in Freiburg. While at Marburg, she was a student of Martin Hedeinger (1889-1976). When Hitler took power in 1933, she left Germany and became a stateless person for eigteen years before becoming an American citizen in 1951.
Plato’s idea of prefect society primarily entailed non-hereditary and distinct groups. First group included the guardians who could either be in power or mere followers. The non rulers occupied the higher levels of the civil servants whereas the guardians were mainly tasked with policy making in the society. The other distinct groups included the auxiliaries; who were minor civil servants, soldiers and workers also referred to as the artisans who comprised of unskilled laborers, farmers, and craftsmen. According to Plato, guardians were considered as wise and good rulers who emerged from the group of craftsmen. These craftsmen are considered to be skilled in the art of government as well as spirited in public temperament. Guardians are absolute ruers thus are placed in high regards. They are the few selected and who trusted to know what s good and best for the society.
Unlike Plato, who aimed at creating a new society based on the new political ideals, Aristotle attempted to improve an existing society. Plato is against the existence of discontinuing political power but instead favors the idea that a society should be in a position to attain the best possible system it can be able to. Incorporating the two uses of philosophy to search for an ideal political system, Aristotle uses inductive approach while Plato employs a deductive one. Both Aristotle and Plato agree on justice as an objective sense because it dictates provision of good life to all regardless of their social status. According to Plato law and justice set guidelines to be followed by the society where as Aristotle considers justice as equality in democracies.
In the Republic, Plato uses the figure of Socrates to think about the value of philosophic education, in so far as that could be a key to the fulfilling of political life and the maintenance of order. For Aristotle in The Politics, the aim of politics is the constitution of a good community. According to arguments by Aristotle and Plato, they seem to care about the happiness of individual members of the community. Both advocates for each citizen to participate in improving their societies governed by state that is exists for the common good of the community. Citizens lead a good live when they are governed by good administration and good laws that ensures that what is best for all is provided regardless of individual’s status.
For the political thinker Hannah Arendt, the Greeks understood political viruses and the value of life in the polis in a particular way. According to her argument, the Greeks understanding of polis life denoted a political organization that was every special and freely chosen to ensure sustenance of an orderly system. The Greeks during Aristotle time considered the demands of human life for political as organization constituted ruling of subjects but such depots of life could not be regarded as being free and related to bios politicos (Arendt and Canovan 234). It was considered as merely a necessity. According to Arendt, both Plato and Aristotle did not count the human condition as one of the specific human characteristics. The inability of a man to live outside the company of other men was a common characteristic shared with animal species; therefore social companionship in human species was regarded as a limitation that was impsed upon humans by the need of biological life.
Hannah believed that the Greeks thought that human capacity for political organization was different and opposed natural association which was centered at home and the family. Rise of city–state prompted that every man received second life, bios politikos in addition to his private life. Foundation of polis was preceded by destruction of organized units that rested on kinship and this facilitated a sharp distinction between the two orders of existence including his own and that of the community.
Arendt’s works on the human condition comprised of an inquiry into ‘cita activa’ meaning ‘human life in so as it is actively engaged in doing something’. In her vita activa Arendt makes a distinction between three of the human activities including labor, action and work all of which corresponds to different conditions of human existence.
In arguing on labor as a human condition she says that repeated tasks of life including cooking, growing food, cleaning and washing up have no beginning or an end. According to Arendt labor is only capable of providing things that are consumed almost immediately. People labor because they are living and are embodied beings implying that labor is a condition of labor.
According to Arendt the human condition of work entails doing of activity that produces durable things as well as the institutions forming the world being inhabited. Arendt draws distinctions between oikos or the private realm of house hold the polis or public realm of the community by arguing that matters of economy and labor belong to the public and not the private realm (Arendt and Canovan 234). The rise of the social or emergence of the private concerns and necessary labor into public sphere has destroyed what is politically proper through subordination of public realm of human freedom to animal necessity concerns.
Political arguments by Aristotle are considered ‘communitarian’ in that the well being of the whole community is placed above the well-being of an individual. His politccal argument is devoid of modern liberalisms and individual freedoms as well as the right to protect the private life of citizen from public eye. Aristotle regadrs human beings as being ‘political animals’ because its only through active participation in city-states, and through considering his recommedatos in education and justice system that the strongest states will be attained.
In his argument Aristotle discuses the existence of tension between demands of the state and individual liberty. He believes that in the Greek city states, the idea of private life seemed absurd. This is because according to Aristotle political ideas regarding the highest objectives of life ranging from physical exercise to political debate occur in public sphere thus conception of ‘private persona’ is not given (Kraut 325). According o this philosopher, the interests of the city state and those for individuals are more equal.
In his writings about how an ideal state should be, Aristotle argues that a good life should primarily comprise of a rational contemplation. This implies that even if a given optimal action is considered necessary is admirable by many; it serves an end point of securing ultimate happiness of such rational contemplation. According to Aristotle an ideal city-state would be organized in such a way that it ensures that the happiness of its citizens maximized. Such kind of an ideal city-states should be small enough to allow an individual feeling but should at the same time be large enough facilitate self-sufficiency. Moreover according to Aristotle the political things crucial to happiness of citizen in an ideal city-state include being located in by the water to maximize and easy promote easy access to sea commerce.
Also, such kind of city should allow its young citizens to serve in its military; middle-age citizens to participate in governing of the city, while the non citizens to participate in crafts and farming activities. The older citizens should be allowed to engage in religious affairs of the city. According to Aristotle education is a very significant factor in that it ensures the city’s well being (Kraut 35). Aristotle prefers education through private tutoring or pubic program that is essential in breeding of right habits in children fostering their use of reason right in their mothers’ womb. Aristotle recommends education system consisting of writing and reading. He believes that this type of education will help citizens to make the very best of play, work as well as leisure time they pursue in good life.
Discussion of politics by Aristotle is basically grounded on polis or Greek city-state which he assumes consist of administration of the states by male citizens as women, foreigners, slaves and noncitizens are tasked with menial tasks that help the states run. He takes holding of public office as feature in defining citizenship. In doing this he implied that citizens in Greek world were bestowed with many responsibilities as opposed to modern democracies. According to Aristotle, a city state and citizens were closely linked and citizens played active role in the running of these states (Kraut 35). Therefore exile was considered a worst fate than death in Greek world. The tight bond existing between city states and citizenship explains why he considers active citizenship as a feature of a good life.
In collusion, both Plato and Aristotle were philosophers whose main agenda was to improve the current society setting through formulation of the political and societal roles. Plato pursued philosophical truth while Aristotle concentrated on designing of political institutions and citizenship. Both had resourceful ideas on ways to improve the societies they lived in and their ideals have until to date, profoundly impacted on our modern day political scientists. Despite the fact that both philosophers had different thoughts and positions about the society, they both aimed at building a society, founded on values that would promote humanity and wellness for the whole society and generations to come.
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