Sunday, March 1, 2009

Similarities and Differences between Plato and Aristotle on Political Theories

Plato is regarded as the first writer of political philosophy, and Aristotle is recognized as the first political scientist. These two men were great political thinkers. There are a lot of differences between the two even though Aristotle was a great student of Plato. They each had ideas of how to improve existing societies during their individual lifetimes. It is necessary to look at several areas of each theory to seek the difference in each. There are some similarities too, but first we will discuss the differences.

The main focus of Plato is a perfect society. He creates a blueprint for a utopian society, in his book The Republic, out of his disdain for the tension of political life.Plato sought to cure the afflictions of both human society and human personality. Essentially what Plato wants to achieve is a perfect society.

Aristotle, unlike Plato, is not concerned with perfecting society. He just wants to improve on the existing one. Rather than produce a blueprint for the perfect society, Aristotle suggested, in his work, The Politics, that the society itself should reach for the best possible system that could be attained .Aristotle looks to the ideals which are expressed in the laws,customs,and public opinion of the people of the actual states;these are the materials which politics must respect ,work with,and seek to improve.In short,all that has to be done is to try to improve on the existing one.

Plato's utopia consists of three distinct classes:the producers,the auxiliaries and the rulers or guardians. The Guardians are to be wise and good rulers. The guardians are to be placed in a position in which they are absolute rulers. They are supposed to be the select few who know what is best for society.

Aristotle puts a high value on moderatio.He finds the polity,which is a mean between oligarchy and democracy ,as the most workable system of government.The polity is the rule of those with property ,as in oligarchy,but the property qualification is low ,so that the majority of the citizens have a share in government,as in democracy.The polity is in effect ruled by a large middle class;it will provide ,Aristotle believes,a stable,well-administered foundation for the state,since this class is composed of equals and similars of moderate means,who are most likely to follow the rational principles.

Aristotle rejects the political absolutism of Plato,even though the despots are philosophers kings.For Aristotle a good society is one in which the constitution is sovereign and the relation between the ruler to ruled is that of freemen,who are morally equal.

Aristotle also rejects Plato’s radical ablition of private property and the family for the ruling class.Aristotle supports the institution of family.

Aristotle’s fundamental oposition to Plato’s theory is that it constructs an unattainable ,speculative ideal with which it undertakes a criticism of existin states.Aristotle rejects the political theory expressed in Plato’s Republic on the ground that it is too speculative,too utopian,too far removed from the actual city states and their forms of government.There is so much of Plato's utopia that is undefined and it is carried to extremes that no human being could ever fulfill its requirements.

But there are major areas of agreement between Plato and Aristotle on political theory.Like Plato ,Aristotle views the state as having a moral end or purpose:the highest possible moral development and happiness if its citizens.Also,like Plato,Aristotle regards the state as having primacy over the family and over the individuals.The state is a self-sufficient whole,wherears the family and the individual have no self-sufficiency but are only parts dependent upon the social life of the state.It is only in the state that the virtues of the individual are developed and functional and the good life,the life of happiness ,can be lived.Aristotle also initially follows Plato’s classification of types of government into three good and three bad states according to the number of the rulers.

They both had well thought out ideas and plans on how to build a better society. Both Aristotle and Plato have had a tremendous impact on political scientists of today. Aristotle helped to develope some democratic ideas. In conclusion these men were great thinkers. Their opinions on society and its functions were quite different, but they both had the same intention, to build a better way of life for the societies they lived in and for the societies that would come to be in the future.