01 Sep


Due to a lack of primary sources from the time period, scholars through his writings and the writings of contemporaries and classical historians have constructed much of Plato's life. Traditional history estimates Plato's birth was around 428 B.C.E. Plato's father died when he was young, and his mother remarried her uncle, Pyrilampes, a Grek politician and ambassador to Persia. Plato is believed to have had two full brothers, one sister and a half- brother, though it is not certain where he falls in the birth order. Often, members of Plato's family appeared in his dialogues. Historians believe this is an indication of Plato's pride in his family lineage. As a young man, Plato experienced two major events that set his course in life. One was meeting the great Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates's methods ofdialogue and debate impressed Plato so much that soon he became a close associate and dedicated his life to the question of virtue and the formation of a noble character. The other significant event was the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, in which Plato served for a brief time between 409 and 404 B.C.E. The defeat of Athens ended its democracy, which the Spartans replaced with an oligarchy Two of Plato's relatives, Charmides and Critias, were prominent figures in the new government, part of the notorious Thirty Tyrants whose brief rule severely reduced the rights of Athenian citizens. After the oligarchy was overthrown and democracy was restored, Plato briefly considered a career in politics, but the execution of Socrates in 399 B.C.E. soured him on this idea and he turnmed to a life of study and philosophy. After Socrates's death, Plato travelled for 12 years throughout the Mediterranean region,studying mathematics with the Pythagoreans in Italy, and geometry, geology, astronomy and religion in Egypt. During this time, or soon after, he began his extensive writing. Sometime around 385 B.C.E, Plato founded a school of learning, known as the Academy, which he presided over until his death. It is believed the school was located at an enclosed park named for a legendary Athenian hero. Plato hoped the Academy would provide a place forfuture leaders to discover how to build a better government in the Greek city-states. Plato Wrote three books: Republic, Statesman and Laws.


The republic or regarding justice was one o f the greatest works of Plato, which represents his thoughts fully. When he was at the age of 40, he wrote the book, which indicates the maturity of his ideas and philosophy. This book deals with both political and moral principles and consists of 10 books. It also includes the metaphysical, educational, and sociological and host of other problems. A prominent philosopher Nettleship said, "The whole Republic is really an attempt to interpret real nature, psychologically; its methods can be observed in all the institutions of society, class organization law, religion soon are ultimate products of human soul and inner principle of life which works itself out in these outward shapes". 

Prof. Barker also said "It is an attempt at a complete philosophy of man... But man is a whole, his actions cannot be understood apart from his thinking and therefore the Republic is also a philosophy of man in thought and of the laws of his thinking"


Plato had given great prominence to the concept of justice, it was clear fact that he subtitled his book of 'Republic' as Concerning justice', the nature and occupancy of justice was the important issues of Republic. Plato while explanation his theory of justice, he observed different prevailing theories of justice, after rejecting them he proposed his own views on theory of justice.


Plato rejected the following theories of justice.


This theory was produced by Cephalous, and his son Polemarchus. They defined justice as speaking truth and paying what was due to Gods and men. It was considered that, good is done to friends and harm to the enemies. Plato disallowed this theory because justice means doing well to all and harm to none, which depends upon the principles of morality. He further said, it was not possible to distinguish between enemies and friends because the appearance would be often deceiving. Another flaw of his theory was, it treat justice as an individualistic rather than social concept. Justice cannot differ from person to person and it must have universal application. This theory was not tolerable to Plato because it's handmaid of those in power and gives sufficientscope for misuse.


This theory was linked to Sophists and produced by Thrasymachus. He believes that justice as the interest of the stronger. It trusts in the principle of might is right. When the government strongest, it makes laws to the suitability of the rulers and interest of the ruler rather than follow their own interests. Therefore, Thrasymachus claims that, justice for the people, seeking the injustice is better than justice and unjust man is wiser than the just. Plato had disallowed this theory of justice because firstly, Justice can never be the interest of stronger. The government is an art and it must aim at the perfection of the material viz., the subjects rather than its own faultlessness. A ruler must be selfless in his duties as ruler, must work for the progress and governed. Secondly, justice is always better than injustice because just man is wiser, durable and better off than an unjust man and knows his limitation. He tries to work within limits and does his appointed purposes. Thirdly, Plato condemns the extreme individualism of the Sophists and holds that individual is not an independent unit but a part of an order. Fourthly, there cannot be dual standards for Justice one for the ruler and the other for the subjects. Thrasymachus could not give any rational justification that this concept has no universal application.


This theory was proposed by Gloucan, he stated that, justice is an artificial thing,a product of social agreement. Justice is the child of fear and is founded in the need of the weak. Therefore, justice is not the interest of the stronger but it is the necessity of weak.Plato left out and condemned this theory because it considers that justice is something external or an importation. He said that, justice is rooted in human mind.


After rejecting those prevailed concepts of Justice, he proposed his own concepts of justice. He opined that, justice must be present both in individual and in society. He thought that justice in the state existing in bigger and much noticeable form, he tried to put it with the help of state. According to Plato, there are three constituents in human mind namely Reason, Spirit and Appetite, which are presented by the rulers, soldiers and farmers respectively. He opined that each of these three make a valuable contribution for the creation of the state. Justice can be done if the each group performs their duty without interfering in each other. Justice is a bond which holds a society together, pleasant union of individuals, each of whom has found his life work inaccordance with his natural fitness and training, it is both public and private virtue. Plato's concept of justice was planed by Barker as, social justice may be defined as the principle of society, consisting of types of men (producing type, military type, ruling type), who have combined with each other to perform their own duties. Hence, the concept of justice by Plato is based on three principles. First it works as functional specialization like giving a definite function to each one according to his capacity and merit. Second, it works under the principle of non-interference of different groups so that they canconcentrate on their own duty. This sort of work required for the unity and welfare of all the members of sate. Third, it implies harmony between the three classes (groups) representing wisdom, courage and temperance respectively.


The concept of justice by Plato has been exposed to criticism, the following charges are leveled.

  • First, the concept of justice by Plato is mainly grounded on moral principles. Which lacks legal I sanction, hence, is not enforceable. It is based on self- control and self -rejection in the interest of society. At any stage of history more moral sanction cannot protect the social good. 
  • Second, Plato's theory of justice could be practical only in the city-state. It toughly enforces the principle of division of labour and expects everyone to do his allotted duty to satisfy society.In the present context,nor can be fixed.
  • Third, he said that each individual owns three qualities  like, reasons, spirit and appetite Yet he wants each individual to must contribute to the development of only one faculty. He wants ruler class to develop faculty of reason. The soldier class to develop faculty of spirit or courage while appetite for the peasant class.
  • Fourth, his concept of justice gives absolute power to one class like, the philosophers, because they have lot of wisdom. Thus, there is a scope for inequalities of power and privilege in his concept of justice. However, he failed to realize grant of absolute power in the hands of any person or class of persons though morally and spiritually trained lead to degeneration and corruption.
  • Fifth, to spot the misuse of power by ruling class, he pleaded for communalism of property and wives in complete violation of human psychology.
  • Sixth, Prof. Popper, said that, Plato's concept of justice gives rise to totalitarianism and it ignores the humanization principles like equality, freedom and individualism.
  • Seventh, Plato subordinates individuals completely to the state and shows him a meagre means for the promotion of the interest of the state.
  • Eighth, his justice gives rise to a class-state in which ruling is the privilege of a particular class.


Plato's theory of education is connected to his theory of justice. Education act as an important role to bring harmony according to Barker, and unity in the society. According to Barker  "An attempt to cure mental malady by mental medicine".Plato trusts that, most of the evils in the society can be removed by providing education and he asserted that it is a spiritual medicine. Plato gave significance to education and connected to his ideal state, and gave prominence to his second book of Republic. Plato believed that knowledge is virtue and it is the duty of sate to provide knowledge. Plato asserted that the three classes in the state must be properly trained and educated so that they can do their duties with efficiency. That means state should give priority to education.


During the time of Plato, education system was entirely reverse trend they were Athenianand Spartan types. The system of Athenian was in primarily with private people and left with the parents to educate children by the way they think will be the best. In the Spartan system of education which was in control of the state, and parents separates  their children when they attain four years and they will send them to be taken care by the perfects and state take care of their education and involvement of parents in this regard was not there. State provide education in harmony with social conditions. Plato's education system of education designed to promote social welfare and help individuals by understanding the reality.


The important characteristics of platonic or spiritual education are here under:

  • Plato stressed that all concerned be communicated for proper education. He believed that education is a kind of positive measure by which ruler can mould the characters of the people. He never supported the idea of keeping education with private hands and stressed the need of keeping education with state only.
  • Plato never accepted to keep the education options with parents and stressed the need to make it obligatory. He stated that education should be made obligatory to all thecitizens of the state, so that they can develop their mental faculties and can become respected units of state.
  • Plato did not accept the barring of women from education based on the Athenian system. Both men and women must be given education.
  • The education of Plato was for artisans and also for the peasants. He stated that, "Men of copper can be made into men of silver and even of gold, if they possess these ttributes"
  • Plato was in support of firm censorship of all literary and artistic works to make surethat, youth did not come under bad influences.
  • Plato insisted that education must provide moral and plhysical improvement of the child, he said that healthy mind can only reside in the healthy soul.
  • The important aspect of his education was to prepare the philosopher king.The philosophers after passing through a rigorous education would be able to run the government.


Plato's educational curriculum consists of two stages, elementary and higher stages. The first stage starts from birth to the age of six years, during this stage both boys and girls were to be given education of languages, the children were to be given basic education on religion. The second stage from 6 to 18 y and child should be given education on music and gymnastics,The music would give necessary development of soul and gymnastics would provide growth of the body. The third stage was prolonged from 18 to 20 years, both of them given military education during this stage. The stage of higher education starts from 20 to 35 year   by the end of of 20 years was to be taught those who have interest in science and philsophy the higher education again can be divided in to two sub-stage , the first ranging from 20 to 30 years,  second stage from 30 to 35. In the first stage subjects like mathematics, Astronomy, Logics and other Sciences and said that geometry must be taught. During the second stage stress must be given to dialectics, and this stage of education is required for the production of philosopher king. Kingwas to rule from 35 to 50 years after 50 years king had to retire and start study of God.


His scheme of education had been criticised severely, the following charges have beenlevelled

  1. Plato's scheme of education was for the guardian class; other classes like peasant and artisan were not covered.
  2. His scheme of education is a lifelong procedure.
  3. The Plato's suggestion for censorship of art and literature is extremely critical
  4. The Plato's education system is not logical as there is no relationship from one stage to the other stage.
  5. The philosopher king who administers the state does not have the necessary training in administration and other problems.
  6. His pattern of education is opposing to huan psychology and conflicting to rich society which depends on the variety of growth.


An important aspect of Plato's political thought is communism of wives and concept of communism was not known to Greeks, but both in Athens and Sparta a little of communism can be seen. He thought that, Guardian class must be free from physical uncertainties so they can focus on public service. He asserted that, during the acquisition of property and family would stand in the way of philosopher king to take proper decision about the community. Plato said that mixture of political and economic power was likely to lead to corruption and deprivation in the state and an operative system of administratiorn could operate only when economic power was absolutely separated from political power, Baker said that the idea of communism by Plato was an important step in his thinking. According to Prof, Sabine "So firmly was Plato convinced of pernicious effect of wealth upon Government that he saw no way to abolish the evil except byabolishing wealth itself, so far as the soldiers and rulers are concerned".


Plato understood that, private property was a hesitant piece in the way of the unity of state,he wanted to abolish by Communismn of Property. He was afraid that the having private property would promote selfish thoughts and diverge the devotion of philosopher ruler from public service. Hence he states that two ruling classes have no right to have private property. It was noted that the communism was only for the guardian class and expects them to make rejection of private property. The guardians reject the property and family for the good of the society.


Aristotle his student, criticized Plato's concept of communism of property are here under:

  1.  With the doing away of the private property there would barely be any encouragement for hard work and the healthy struggle, which is so important for the growth of society.
  2. His communism is only for the ruling class and workers and peasant are exempted, who were from the majority of the society. Any scheme which excludes majority of people in the society, failure of freedom would arise.
  3. The elimination of institution of private property will end the charity and generosity thoughts would be abolished.
  4. His communism of property was bound to result in loss of production.
  5. The distinct interest of individuals would effect on the development and progress of the society. His communism prevents from happening which would give richness to life. 
  6. He has completely neglected the slaves, who were the distinct portion of the Greek population and part of Greek economy


His thought at of communism of wives was the extension of his communism of property. He was of the opinion that man always give importance to his family and children over the interest of nation, hence he gave greater importance to communism of wives.

Plato's communism of wives was based on certain principles which were mentioned below:

  • The scheme is also for the sake of guardian class only like that of communism of property, and majority of artisan and present class were excluded from it.
  •  Communism of wives is meant to ensure the control over the thoughts of selfishness and free the women from the labour of home which allow them to work for the cause of state. 
  • There was no system of lasting wedding between the guardian class and women were shared for all men.
  •  All the guardians have to live together, both men and women were to live together and share barracks.
  • It was the obligation of state to organize a brief mating between the best men and the best women for one year to yield best children to increase the population of the state.

After the birth of children all of them must be separated from their mothers, no child must know their parents and the duty of rearing lies upon the state nurses. State, to provide the best education to them to nurse them as best citizens.

The entire guardian class was transformed into big family and children born in a specific season must be treated as brothers and sisters.

The weak and disfigured children must be killed as soon as they are born so that their birth should not be burden on the state


The reasons to have common wives were, he wanted to create unity in the state, and Plato thought that family was the main reason for the blockade of any development in the state. He wanted family at public level and  abolish family at private level.

Plato was quite worried by the in acceptable plight of women in Athens wanted that,the talent of the women should be utilized for the benefit of the society. He thought that women has same talents like men.

He was of the opinion that the temporary marriages by the state would produce better intelligent race among the new borns. He also asserted that, "the improvement of race demands a more controlled and more selective types of union


His concept of communism of wives was criticised severely even Aristotle criticised. His criticism is as follows:

  1. Communism of wives inevitable to lead social disagreement and causes much damage to the society, distributing one female is not wife for all guardians.
  2. Children cannot grow into balanced way because they will not get care and nourishment which is required in a family. In fact nobody can take the responsibility of the children, something for all is not the responsibility of none.
  3. The suggested reproduction or mating is not practical and it is not possible to bring mating of best women with best men.
  4. One can observe that communism of wives is applicable to guardian class only and most of the other sections of people are not covered. It stresses too many sacrifices by the guardian community.
  5. He incorrectly treated the marriage process as mechanical one, marriage is a social process than mechanical, and it needs clear understanding of wife and husband in the act of marriage which can be lacking in this case.
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