Plato, democracy, and anti-democracy in ancient Greece


From Green Left Weekly in Australia:

Platonic loves revisited

Plato’s Republic: A Biography

By Simon Blackburn

Allen & Unwin, 2006
181 pages, $22.95 (pb)


Has all European philosophy been nothing but a series of footnotes to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato and his book, The Republic, written in 375 BC?

Maybe, says Simon Blackburn with philosophical equivocation, in his history of Plato’s book.

Plato is not, says Blackburn, an attractive figure we would want to emulate — the political implications of The Republic are “mainly disagreeable and often appalling”, with its advocacy of totalitarianism, militarism, nationalism, hierarchy and censorship.

Plato was an aristocrat, profoundly out of joint with the Athens of antiquity that was a (limited) democracy, centuries ahead of its time.

Direct participatory democracy was a right for citizens (not including slaves and women) who had the right to speak and vote in the law-making governing assembly and to sit as judges in jury courts.

Major state officials were elected and, in some cases, chosen by lot so as to increase popular participation in government.

Plato, however, disagreed with these democratic principles.

The Republic spelt out Plato’s anti-democratic utopia.

3 thoughts on “Plato, democracy, and anti-democracy in ancient Greece

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