Monday, April 8, 2013

David and Solomon as Models for Plato's Philosopher King

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Plato's Republic

After church one day, I spoke to a friend and I brought up a thought I had during the service about David and Solomon being the first Philosopher Kings. Everything I heard about Plato’s Philosopher kings was that he led by great wisdom. I started to think if Plato used Solomon as the cornerstone of his work “The Republic”? Solomon, being the wisest man the world has known, brought great wealth and power to Israel and the people were at peace. He would have been the perfect person to base a great leader on. Plus Plato lived in the 4th Century BC. Plus he traveled greatly during the time including a trip to Judea before writing this Classic. This peaked my interest, that perhaps the great Philosopher King that the earthly world is clamoring for is based on Solomon? I had to do more research. I had read many accounts of “The Republic” but I had never read the Dialogue, so I read the work and here is what I found.
The Dialogues of Plato are written almost as plays, that places his old mentor Socrates as the central character. Plato seems to explain his thoughts through the interaction of Socrates with the other characters in the story. The Republic starts as Socrates and a few friends going to a festival and they start talking about philosophy of a just man, then move into a story of the best government for the people and who should lead it. All through this Dialogue he uses Socrates’ questioning style to maneuver the other characters into his line of thought. He speaks about leaders and being a just ruler by stating that a just ruler does thing for the weak the same way that a Doctor does things for the sick and not the healthy, and the same way a captain does things for the good of the crew not what is good for him.
Then he goes on and describes justice and praises the just man. Socrates’ friend gives a description of the purely unjust man and shows how a perfectly unjust man will seam like the most just man of all. They state that the truly unjust man will go about it in the truly right way and gets away with it. The one that is not perfectly unjust will gets caught and is considered incompetent and is not the perfectly unjust, since perfect injustice consists of appearing just when you are not. The perfectly unjust man will have reputation of being the most just man. Then we need to contrast him with the “truly” just man. He is a simple and honorable man that does not appear to be just. We must deprive him of the appearance of justice because the appearance of justice will bring him recognition and rewards and then it will not be clear if his motive for justice was a desire for justice or a desire for the rewards and the recognition. This I disagree with completely, that a perfectly just man will not care of the view of others. He will do what is just and leave it at that, not boasting or using this deed. Plato contends that we must strip him of everything but justice. He must have the worst possible reputation for injustice but truly being just, and have this reputation until his death. This description almost makes me think that Plato has a premonition of the only truly just man. Does not Christ meet every aspect of the truly just man listed above? Was he not given a criminal’s death when he was completely just? They then talk of the life that awaits them both here on earth. The unjust man would ask to rule cities because he has the reputation of justice. He can marry who he likes and make contract and partnership with who he wants. He finds it easy to make himself a rich man because he has no compunction about acting unjustly. And the just man is nothing of the sort. He just receives a cross to bear (These are my words).
Socrates defends the just man. And he gives the just man three elements to being just; Courage, Wisdom, Temperance or Self-discipline. First Socrates changes the subject to a just city but intends to describe the just man with the description of the just city. They start with the origin of a city. He starts stating that the origin of a city is because not one of us is self sufficient and need others. He starts talking about how a city is formed and what makes a just city and come to conclusion that a just city is just because of its rulers are just. At this point, he explains that citizens should be classified into four types, the Gold, the Silver, the Bronze and Iron. Gold should be the ruling class and would be the best of the people. They should be trained to be the most just and wise. They should also be removed from the need for money and therefore not be restrained by greed. They should learn the needs of the people and learn what is best for the people. The Silver would be the warrior class and the other lesser important leader roles like doctors and such. And next would be the Bronze and lower classes. These are the common people that need leaders.
The guardian class or Gold class would live communally and would need for nothing except the needs of their people. They would learn from an early life the philosophy and manager skills to run a city. Socrates finally states that these leaders should be Philosophy Kings, for only the Philosopher can have the wisdom to run such a city. He states that these rulers should do whatever is needed to better the lives of the people. Then a question on the women and the children come up, and he comes to say that the families for the ruling class should be in common, that women should be treated the same as the guardian men, each man with knowledge of each women and not knowing his children. With children he states, that the best class should reproduce and have many children and with the lower classes it would only be best that the embryos never see the light of day. This is also the view of any deformed children; only the best people should be born, not the lesser people.
After defining the just city he returns to the just man and states that the just man would be one that does what he is best suited to do; a hunter being a hunter, a farmer being a farmer, a bronze man being a bronze man and a ruler being a ruler. A hunter should not be a ruler because he does not have the skills to be a ruler. Only one trained to rule should rule.
All in all I came from this book with a greater understanding of the liberal view of today’s society. The leaders of the liberal view feel that they are Philosopher Kings in charge of a great just city, and they are the great defender of this city. These are the same liberals that called for free love and communal living in the 60‘s. They force abortion on the lower classes and try to destroy the common people’s society by degrading the value of marriage. All of this thought came not just from Plato, but also from Rousseau and Voltaire. Rousseau and Voltaire shouted “let us make a heaven here on earth and forget about God. Let us rely on reason and human understanding.” These are the same people that attempted at trying to have Enlighten Despots in many European nations, that would rule a nation like these Philosopher Kings of Plato and Socrates, but they all failed with huge amounts of bloodshed; with the French Revolution the bloodiest of all.
In all of these descriptions of the just man I saw one thing. The just man that they described is the perfectly unjust man of the first part of the story. "...The truly unjust man goes about it in the truly right way and gets away with it. The one that gets caught is considered incompetent since perfect injustice consists of appearing just when you are not. They will have the reputation of being the most just man..." They gave this statement when describing the unjust man. Does the Just man in the second part of the story not sound like he will have the gone about it in the right way? This just man lies to his people because “The end justifies the means” and ends up doing what is not just for all the people; only the ruling class. He does all of this in the guise of making the best choices for the society.
Plato tried to introduce his great leader as a man that uses his great human reasoning ability. He believed that man’s wisdom could create a society that was perfectly just, but he did not want to admit that man could never be perfectly just. That ingrained into him was something that would always move to the evil inside of his spirit. Since he lived only a couple hundred years after the greatest part of Israel‘s history, Plato must of known of the story of how David and Solomon ruled with great wisdom and created a great and just nation. He must have known that with this great wisdom that each man ended up doing unjust things after failing to follow God’s guidance. So in the end even Solomon, whom was considered the wisest man ever to live, that had great courage, and was very self-disciplined, ended up becoming unjust to his people and led them astray.
I will say that at the same time of the Enlightenment and the attempts of Philosopher Kings in Europe, a group of castaways in the new world created a different republic that was not formed in the image of Plato’s Republic, but in the theory that each individual is as great as another and getting representatives from all the people would create a truly just nation. They based there nation on something different then man’s wisdom; God’s wisdom. Thomas Jefferson, who admired the French enlightened leaders as a Deist, still spent many a line on the importance of God in society. As is written in a Memorial dedicated to this man are these words.
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just. That his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between Master and Slave is Despotism. Nothing is more written in the book of fate then that these people are to be free.
This Book of Plato’s does give good information, but not of the proper enlightened government, but of the folly of man’s justice. As Solomon has shown us, man can rule justly, as long as he follows the guidance of the truly just man, Jesus Christ.

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