Plato’s Theory of an Ideal State


In his most celebrated book the Republic, Plato gives the theory of an ideal state. As far as a state is concerned,Plato gives ideas about how to build an Ideal commonwealth, who should be the rulers of the Ideal state and how to achieve justice in the Ideal state. Plato finds the state as the more suitable place to discuss about the morality than an individual, because everything is easier to see in the large than in the small. A state , says Plato , is a man ‘writ’ large against the sky.The elements that make up a city correspond to the elements that constitute the individual human soul.


The justice of the city is the same as it is for the individual.For Plato,there is not one morality for the individuals and another for the state. Like the tripartite individual human soul every state has three parts which are its three classes.


The elements that constitute the human soul are as follows:


1.Bodily appetite,

2. Spirited elements

3. Reason


Like the tripartite individual human soul ,every state has three parts such as-


1. Producer class

2.Military class

3. Ruling classs


Plato finds the origin of the state in the various needs of people.Noboby is self-sufficient.So,to meet the various needs men created the political institution.To Plato,in the beginning there was only one class namely the producing class.Then emerged the guardian class.From the guardian class emerged the ruling class.

In a state the producer class will consist of those people to whom the bodily appetites are dominant and who live for money . The producer class is made up of farmer, blacksmiths, fishermen, carpenters áshoe –makers,weavers,labourers,merchants,retailers and bankers.The life of the producer class is much easier than the life of the rulers or the guardians.The life of the produce class follows the old familiar patterns of home and property,family and children,work ,rest,and recreation.By nature the producers have money.

Each member of the producer class will be educated by being taught a trade or a profession –farming,banking,carpentry-according to his or her capabilities and to the needs of the society,both of which will be determined by the guardians.



The military class will be drawn from that type of men to whom the spirited element is dominant and who live for success in aggressive and courageous acts. The members of the ruling class will be drawn from that type of man to whom reason is dominant and who lives only for truth.A state should be ruled only by the elite group of the most rational.In the ideal state each of these three classes will perform a vital function on behalf of the organic totality of the state.


Selection of the ruling class


Plato gives most emphasis on the selection of the ruling calss.The selection of the ruling class is from all classes by natural intellectual capacity. women as well as men possess the natural capacity of intelligence to become members of the ruling class.

Plato proposes that an ideal state will be governed by a person who is highly educated, has passion for truth and has achieved the greatest wisdom of knowledge of the good. The ruler of this ideal state is called the Philosopher king.


The Philosopher king has several important functions to perform. The rulers, said Plato, should be the one who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the visible world and the invisible world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. The Philosopher king is one whose education, in short, has led him up step by step through the ascending degrees of knowledge of the Divided line until at last he has a knowledge of the good.


To reach this point, the Philosopher King will have progressed through many stages of education. By the time he is eighteen years old, he will have had training in literature, music and elementery mathametics. His literature would be censored. Music also would be prescribed so that seduction music would be replaced by a more wholesome, martial meter. For the next few years there would be extensive physical and mililary training.At the age twenty a few would be selected to persue an advanced course in mathematics. At age thirty, a five year course in dialectic and moral philosophy would begin. The next fifteen years would be spent gathering practical experience through public service. Finally, at age fifty, the ablest men would reach the highest level of knowledge, the vision of the good and would then be ready for the task of governing the state.


Both the ruling class and the military class are forbidden to possess any private property or any money. They must live, men and women like soldiers in barracks, with common meals and sleeping quaters. Their food, clothing and equipment will be provided by the producers. This food must be simple and restricted to moderate quantities. They are too have no family life, in order to aviod any conflict between family loyalties and their loyalty to the state.


When they are at the physical prime of life, their sexual gratification is restricted to officially designated and infrequent occasions on which they are required to breed children to maintain the number of the guardian class. These occasions Plato calls sacred Marriage which are temporary unions for the sake of producing children.





Justice in the state


Like the the human soul, the justice will be achieved in a state when each class fulfils their respective functions.Justice is a general virtue. It means that all parts are fulfilling their special functions. As the craftsmen embody the element of appetite, they will also reflect the virtue of temperance. Temperance is not limited to the craftsmen but applies to all the classes, for it indicates, when it is achieved, the willingness of the lower to be rulled by the higher. Still temperance applies in a special way to the craftsmen subordinate to the two higher levels.


The guardians, who defend the state, manifest the virtue of courage. To assure the state that these guardians will always fulfill their funtions. Special training and provision are made for them. Unlike the craftsmen, who marry and own property, the guardians will have both property and wives in common. Plato considred these arrangements essential if the guardians were to attain true courage, for courage means knowing what to fear and what not to fear. The only real object of fear for the guardian should be fear of moral evil. He must never fear proverty and privation, and for this reason mode of life should be isolated from possessions.


Thus,in his Republic Plato gives the theory of an ideal state.But later the theory of the ideal state was severely criticized by Aristotle.