Plato was born in Athens in 427 BC when the civilization of ancient Greece was at the zenith of glory and eminence. He belonged to royal blood of aristocracy, from his mother’s side he was related to Solan, the law giver. He made efforts to discover the eternal principles of human conduct i-e justice, temperance and courage which alone imbibed the happiness to the individual and stability to the states. In 399 BC, the turning point came in the life of Plato, the defeat of Athens by Sparta made him to despise democracy.
He wandered abroad for twelve years in Persia, Egypt, Africa, Italy and Sicily in the hours of disillusionment, absorbing wisdom from every source and tasting every creedal dogma. Then he returned to Athens and opened an academy. He wrote about 36 treaties all in the form of dialogues. His academy became the best school in Athens.
Work of Plato
“The Republic” is the most important and authentic work of Plato. It was about political philosophy, ethics, education and metaphysics.
Other works of Plato include: “The Politicus”, “The Apology”, “The Meno”, “The Protagoras”, “The Gorgias”, and “The Critias”.
The Republic and Plato
“The true romance of the Republic is the romance of free intelligence, unbound by custom, untrained indeed by human stupidity and self will, able to direct the forces, even of customs and stupidity themselves along the road to a national life.” (Prof. Sabine)
The Republic is an excellent product of Plato’s maturity. It is a major contribution to political philosophy, education, economics, moral aspects of life and metaphysics.
Plato’s Republic known as “Respublica” in Latin is translated from Greek word “Politeia or Polity” which means a political constitution in general. It is an achievement of comprehension, perfection and universality of thought. It presents a picture not of any existing state in Greek but of an ideal state in which weakness of the existing states were to be avoided.
Rousseau said, “The Republic is not a mere work upon politics but the finest treatise on education that ever was written.”
Main feature of the Republic is the virtue of knowledge. Plato was of the view that different classes and individuals had different capacities for the attainment of virtues. The labor class showed the least capacity. Philosophers were the best entitled to rule the state because of their superiority in virtue. Plato considered justice to be the supreme virtue and his ideal state be dwelt with it. We can say that the Republic is his master piece. Plato’s Republic is the crowning achievement of art, science and philosophy.
According to Baker, “The mainspring of the Republic is Plato’s aversion to contemporary Capitalism and his great desire to substitute a new scheme of Socialism.”
The Republic contains a good deal of criticism on contemporary institutions, opinions and practices. The Republic represents a strong protest against the teachings of Sophists and the existing social and political corruption.
Plato stresses that state should not be an assembly of corrupt and selfish individuals but be a communion of souls united for the pursuit of justice and truth and also for the welfare of the people.