Explanation of Plato Republic

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Plato was a fervent advocate for the rule of law, the virtues of a just man, and the virtues of a just city. Plato analyzes three different constitutions and the corresponding three different categories of individuals in the society in sections VIII and IX of his Republic. He describes the creation of each constitution and its corresponding man and examines their personalities in order to demonstrate the necessity of just societies. Using Socrates' stories, this essay examines the various human characters as defined by Plato. It also uses Plato's descriptions of tyrants to assess an article by Orts, Struck, and Green (2015) that asserts that President Donald Trump harbors tyrannical aspirations. Socrates describes four unjust constitutions of a city. These include timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. Conversely, there is the honor-driven man whose traits resembles the timocracy constitution, the man driven by his necessary appetitive who resembles the oligarchy constitution, the man ruled by unnecessary appetites who corresponds to a democracy and the man who is ruled by unlawful appetites, who corresponds to a tyrannical constitution. Socrates considers each of these constitution is bad than the other, with the tyrannical constitution being the most wretched type of government, while the men led by unlawful appetites being the most vile. According to Socrates, the first form of government is timocracy. This degenerates to oligarchy, later to democracy and finally to tyrannical constitution. Like all other human constructs, the degeneration is inevitable and is perpetrated by the rulers, who use their fallible sense of perception to select their successors.

Plato argues that the Timocracy man is born in an aristocratic family, he is ruled by spirit and always encouraged to use the logical part of his soul. However, the Timocracy man is surrounded by people that are guided by necessary desires, thus the he shows strong inclination towards love for money. Further, the Timocracy man is proud but most importantly, honor-loving. As timocracy degenerates to oligarchy, similar, the Timocracy man begets a son, who corresponds to the oligarchy government. Oligarchy corresponding man is a thrift money maker. He emulates the father but after mishaps of his father, he turns greedily towards making money until he amasses property again. His spirit and reasoning becomes enslaved to the desire to make more money and become wealthier, which Socrates labels as necessary desires. The oligarchy corresponding man has evil inclinations but these are always in check as he does not want to engage in activities that would threaten his wealth that he has so painfully marshaled.

The oligarchy degenerates into democracy, and the Oligarchy man begets a son, who corresponds to a democracy. According to Plato, the man who corresponds to democracy is led by the unnecessary desires (Grube 554b). In the narration, Socrates differentiates between the necessary and unnecessary desires, whereby the necessary desires include those that indicate true human needs, and which man cannot overcome. These include the desire for wealth and sustenance for survival. Conversely, the unnecessary desires include the desire for decadent lifestyles and luxurious items). While an oligarch man was a miser who hoarded his money, his son, the democratic man is overcome by unnecessary desires thus becomes extravagant and appreciates the lavish pleasures than can be bought by money. He abandons moderation and reverence yields to any desires that fancy him at the moment. Worse, he starts regarding lavishness as splendor and anarchy as freedom, thus there is no necessity or order in his life (Grube 556a).

The democratic constitution degenerates to a tyrannical government, while the democratic man begets a tyrannical man. The tyrannical man is led by the unlawful desires, which according to Socrates, draw men to shameless, ghastly and criminal things such as committing a foul murder and sleeping with own mother. Unlike his father who was constantly pulled to the middle road of democracy, the tyrannical son is raised on democratic values, which only make him move further money than he can afford, thus begins borrowing. When none of his friends are willing to lend him more money, he begins using force and deceit, including robbing houses and temples and tricking the parents to give him money. He grows distrustful, and his soul is enslaved in a cycle of disorder, fear and lawlessness. The tyrannical man is the most unjust and the Aristocratic man most just. Due to his unjust ways, the tyrannical man is lives in fear for he may even be killed in vengeance for the crimes he has committed. He is also the least happy person, while the Aristocratic man, who is also the most, just lives a very happy life. This leads to the conclusion that being just is worthwhile.

Further, Socrates argues that there are three types of constitutions, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyrannical constitutions. Similarly, there are three personalities in the society; the honor-loving, profit and truth-loving. Each category takes great pleasure in what they value and believes it gets the most value. However, Socrates argues that it is only the philosophers that can tell which category derives the most value from life since they have experienced all the three pleasures and have the best argument and reasoning. This leads to the conclusion that the truth-seeking people get the most value in life. The second best value of life is derived by the honor-seeking people, while the profit-seeking category derives the least value from life. About pleasures, Socrates argues that philosophers seek the only true pleasures (truth and knowledge) since other pleasure can never be truly satisfied, and concludes that a king lives 729 times more pleasantly than tyrants (Grube 556b). These arguments help to form logic that being just is not only good but healthy for an individual and a city.

Plato distinguishes between three categories of bad constitution, and four categories of people: the timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyrannical people. The timocracy personality is relatively just compared to other personalities, while oligarchy people are led by necessary desires. Conversely, the democratic people by undemocratic desires while the tyrannical people by the unlawful desires. Further, the timocracy people are relatively just while the tyrannical the least just. However, the Aristocratic people are the most just, thus have the most happy life, unlike the tyrannical, who are the happy.

In their article, Orts, Struck and Green (2015) argues that president Donald Trump is an aspiring tyrant, the article is carefully to call Trump an “aspiring tyranny” since it takes time for a full-fledged tyranny to seize power. According to the article, Trump rose to power due to degeneration of the US democracy that allowed any individual to pursue his or her ambitions, which is similar to what Plato had prophesied. In addition, the article argues that trump exhibits the “faithless” as well as “friendless” that are atypical of a tyrant as put forward by Plato. The article seems to argue that the US under Trump, is prone to foreign wars, which is atypical of tyrannies, and goes on to show how president Trump has no regard for the virtue of honor. The article goes on to illustrate Trump’s lack of respect for other personalities, such as the unrestricted dismissal of Senator John McCain’s military heroism, among other issues. Additionally, the article criticizes president Trump that he thrived on racism and xenophobia, among other unlawful things, which is a typical characteristic of a tyrannical government (Orts, Struck and Green).


I agree with the article that Trump is an aspiring tyranny. The article makes a commendable analysis of Trump based on Plato’s categorization of a tyranny. And from the analysis, Trump is indeed an aspiring tyranny. Trump comes from a wealthy family and has over the years managed to accumulate huge wealth. He came into public limelight during “You’re fired” television show that was an imperious demeanor of persons. His rise into the presidency was almost unprecedented, but was made possible by the maturity of the US democracy, which allowed him to pursue his dreams. As the article argues, Trump’s campaigns were ridden with racist and xenophobic utterances and utter disrespect of professionals and personalities in the US. Throughout the campaign period, Trump made a long list of enemies throughout the political divide, including in his Republican Party, which is atypical of tyrannical persons. Even after his rise into power, he is yet to change his personality as he fires top government officials at will. The relationship between America and a majority of the outside world is also becoming more estranged as seen with the interactions between the US and Cuba, among other countries. As such, I agree with the article that trump is an aspiring tyranny.

Works Cited

Orts, Eric W., Struck Peter, T. and Green Jeffrey “Trump for tyrant: A Platonic analysis of the presidential candidate”. Lapham’s Quarterly, Nov. 2015, http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/trump-tyrant. Accessed 25 Jun. 2017.

Grube, George Maximilian Anthony (Revised by Reeve C.D.C). Plato Republic. Hackett Publishing, 1992.

May 24, 2023

Philosophy Sociology

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Plato Plato Republic Society

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