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Essay/Term paper: Plato

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Psychology

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Plato was a philosopher in the time of the distinguished Greek philosophers. He wrote a book entitled The Republic in which he explains some of his philosophy on subjects ranging from education to government. Plato constructed a model by which he proposed all governments evolve. He called it the Five Stages of Government.
He suggested that there are five forms of government, which evolve out of one another; Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Tyranny, and Aristocracy. A Timocracy is a government of the military and of honor. An Oligarchy is a government of money and of the rich. Democracy is a government of liberty by and for the people, and it coincidentally happens to be the government which we have right now. A Tyranny is a government of absolute power and dictation. And finally an Aristocracy is a government of philosopher kings. Each form of government arises out of another, and so they go about in a cycle. Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Tyranny, Aristocracy,
Timocracy, etc. We can compare our government of liberty by and for the people, Democracy, to Plato's model of the five stages of government. However, we must first discuss the reasons for each of the government's
evolution and how Democracy comes about.

Plato submitted that all governments, no matter how good, would out of necessity progress into other forms of government. He said that this decay was due to corruption in the form of government. This corruption resulted in the demise of that form of government and out of its ashes arose the next form of government in the cycle. Plato
proposed that most new governments begin as Timocracys; governments of the military and of honor. There are always exceptions to every proposal, so this was not absolute. Since a Timocracy is a government of honor, one would think that there would not be any corruption. To the contrary, the Timocratic man quests for power
and has a fondness for money. These weaknesses eventually lead to the collapse of Timocracy and the creation of the next form of government, Oligarchy. The Timocratic man's fondness for money carries over into the Oligarchal state; for an Oligarchy is a government of the rich and of money. Man's fondness of money leads
him to seek out profits and to strive to be better than his brothers. Soon one man has majority of power in the Oligarchy and the people cry out. This leads to the Oligarchy's ruin. This outcry for liberty brings about Democracy, the system in which we are involved right now.

When we talk about Democracy, we have to be careful; there are many subsets of Democracy. When Democracy first begins, there is strict representation, like that of Parliament; where a few make the decisions for the many, considering the good of the common people. This then progresses to a more sensitive representation, were the representatives ask their constituents their opinions and make decisions based on
that and the good of everyone. Today we are a more sensitive representative Democracy. Our elected officials obtain the opinions of their constituents but still weigh decisions considering the entire country. After this sensitized representation comes a direct Democracy, where there is no electoral college and public officials
are elected purely by the people. With the help of technology, some advocate the founding of a direct democracy in America. "They bandy about the term teledemocracy as a catchword for the establishment of direct democracy through the use of communications media." (Arterton 14) "if one questions the American
people today for their opinions as to desired political reforms, large majorities support further 'democratization' such as direct election of presidents or a simple national presidential primary." (Arterton 195) "The belief that
technology may provide a needed antidote to the problems created by a representative system is the latest manifestation of a long tradition of American political thought that deplores the usurpation by political elites of power justly residing among the citizenry." (Arterton 69) These feelings of stolen power cause for a cry for more
freedom and liberty. Plato suggests that this is the downfall of Democracy; the unending thirst for more liberty. The people demand more and more freedom, eventually spiraling down into anarchy; which is the extreme form of liberty. Out of this anarchy arises a tyrant, and Plato's cycle continues on.

Our present form of government is of course a Democracy. We are in transition between a representative, republican Democracy and a direct Democracy. How this affects both us and our descendants is of immense importance. Perhaps a direct Democracy will be instituted, with technology being the catalyst, and the notion of voting at home will not be such a fanciful idea. Then again, if Plato's Five Stages of Government cycle holds true, there is every possibility that from there America will succumb to anarchy. Perhaps by that time we may have found a way to stop the progression around the cycle. Information technology influences everything. And with more information than ever, more consequences are sure to come.

Chapter XVII


A. Why put together a commonwealth?
1. Self preservation
2. Getting out of the condition of war
3. To observe natural laws
4. To keep the covenants they make

B. Why do we need a commonwealth?
1. Men compete for honor and glory, leading to war
2. People are selfish and look for the personal good rather
than the common good
3. Men think that they're smarter than whoever is ruling
them and that they can do a better job
4. Men can warp ideas of good and evil and influence others
5. Men can't let things lie--even when things are going
well they complain
6. The covenant of men below a leader is artificial--they
need something to tie them to their promises

C. How do you erect a commonwealth?
1. Channel the opinions of many into the voice of one or a
few men
2. This results in true unity rather than just consent or
concord of the people

D. Definition: One person, of whose acts a great multitude by
mutual covenants one with another, have made themselves every
one the author, to the end he may use the strength and means of
them all as he shall think expedient for their peace and common
1. Commonwealth by institution: when the men form the
commonwealth voluntarily
2. Commonwealth by acquisition: when the men are forced to
enter the commonwealth

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