The Benefits and Drawbacks of Having Philosophers as Kings


Some benefit of having a philosopher king, in Plato’s opinion, is that philosophers have a vast knowledge of specialization when it comes to justice and structure. A philosopher can bring a different perspective to being king, whether it be on an equality, liberty, or the unnaturalness of democracy. Philosophers must have characteristics that enable them to rule, such as the ability to distinguish between friend and enemy, good and bad. Philosophers must first and foremost “love wisdom.”

Plato’s argument may be valid in the sense that he argues that philosophers have the “ability to grasp the eternal and unchanging” (Plato; 2007, 204), whereas ordinary people are blind because they have “no true understanding of reality, and no clear standard of perfection in their minds to which they can turn” (Plato; 2007, 204). It is difficult to find a government that is completely representative of its citizens. Members of the House of Commons, many of whom attended elite schools such as Eton and Oxford, are not representative of the public, but they are the ones who rule the country.

Socrates, the main character in Plato’s Republic, suggests using the layout of a perfect city as a guide to organizing the individual soul. Such a just city will need specialized military “guards,” separated thereafter into two groups—rulers who will be “guards” in the sense of guardians, dedicated to what is beneficial for the city rather than for themselves, and soldiers who will be their “auxiliaries.” At this point in the Republic, it is already emphasized that the guards must be upright and selfless, living cheaply and communally, just like soldiers do in their camps. Socrates even suggests that spouses’ and children’s lives should be shared.

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