Plato’s Theories: Theory of Justice, Education and Communism!
Justice the Most Important Part of Republic:
The concept of justice occupies the most important part of Plato’s The Republic. Sabine says: “The theory of the state in The Republic culminates in the conception of justice.” He has treated justice as the bond which holds a society together. Hence it is the true principle of social life. The Republic deals with the bond and true principle of social life.
The purpose of The Republic is to ensure justice. The failure will invariably disintegrate the whole society. The philosopher king will take every care to establish justice. That is why The Republic is called a “treatise concerning justice” By elaborating the doctrine of Justice Plato wanted to combat the false notions which the Sophists spread. Ideal state is the highest manifestation of morality, goodness and idealism and, naturally, in such a state justice cannot be relegated to an inferior position.
Rather, it holds the highest position in the state. Different social classes are combined by the bond of justice and this makes the ideal state a perfect one.
The purpose of his Republic is not simply to provide peace and order and, at the same time, protection, but all the opportunities for social interchange which make up the necessaries and the amenities of civilized existence.
Four Virtues of Good Community:
Plato has analyzed the virtues or nature of a good community. In his view a community will be called good if it possesses the four cardinal virtues of the Greeks. Plato says that every nation has its own virtues and the Greeks consider that wisdom, courage, temperance or self-control and justice are the four virtues. He proceeds to enquire into the different virtues. Among these four virtues justice is the most important.
The essence of wisdom is good cause or deliberation. Wisdom resides in those persons who perform the deliberative functions of government. Deliberative faculty is not to be found in men of large number.
Naturally this quality is treated as rare. Plato says that very small number of men have the capability to participate in the deliberative function of the state. He thinks that only the guardians can exercise the deliberative functions and, hence, wisdom is their virtue.
After wisdom comes courage. Plato has defined courage as the power of resisting fear. Although bravery is not confined to army, it is a fact that battle-ground is the proper place where it is tested.
That is, bravery is proved only in war. If we want to know whether a state is brave, we must look at its army. Generally the soldiers through their courageous activities can protect the integrity and unity of a state.
Elaborating Plato’s view on courage, Nettleship says that bravery is not in the battlefield alone, but the preservation under all circumstances of a right opinion. By courage Plato also means firm belief and conviction. The conviction encourages individual to fight against injustice and irrationality. In this way, courage establishes justice.
The next virtue of a good community is self-control. Plato has clarified the concept of self-control in a peculiar way. He has said that there are two parts of the human soul—inferior and superior part.
Self-control implies that the inferior part should be submissive to the superior part. In the same way, in a state, there are also superior and inferior classes and die latter should surrender to the former. The submission of the inferior to the superior is not sufficient for materialization of self- control in the state.
The agreement between the classes is essential. The central idea of the agreement is who will rule the state and who will obey. That is, Plato wants to emphasize that rule and subordination both must be based on agreement so that there cannot be any grievance. Plato’s self-control, whether it is in the case of state or individual, is a sort of harmony or symphony.
Definition and Nature of Justice:
In Plato’s theory to perform the nature-ordained duty is justice. Each class and each individual will do their duty and none will interfere with other’s activities. In The Republic, Plato has made the following observation….. “in the case of citizens generally each individual should be put to the use for which nature intended him, one to one work, and then every man would do his own business and be one and not many; and the whole city would be one and not many”. Plato wants to say that nature has made some men physically strong and other men intelligent and wise.
It has also made some men brave. Naturally, one man will be unfit for another man’s job. If we accept this natural phenomenon it is expected that man will cooperate with nature in all respects. This constitutes the central idea of justice. When this is achieved, Plato says, justice in the society will start to reside.
Plato has analyzed the concept of justice in wider perspective and for that reason he has said that justice has full relevance in the state. In The Republic we find “And a state was thought by us to be just when the three classes in the state severally did their own business and also thought to be temperate, valiant and wise”. Like individuals, classes will also not interfere with each other. This is justice. Plato has assertively said that in the good state this must be found. Plato’s theory of justice is another name of specialisation.
Interpreting Plato’s theory of justice from the background of specialisation Barker says—”Justice is simply the specialization …it is simply the will to fulfil the duties of one’s station and not to meddle with the duties of another station and its habitation is therefore in the mind of every citizen who does his duty in his appointed place.”
Plato in his The Republic has said that justice demands that each man shall do his own business and to that business only to which he is best adapted. Meddlesomeness and interference, according to Plato, breed great injustice.
Again, he says, just actions cause justice and unjust actions cause injustice. All these observations about justice prove one thing—specialisation is the central idea of justice.
We have already noted that Plato strongly advocated justice to prevent any civil dissension and discord among the several classes and individuals. He thought that if each class were engaged in performing its own duty ordained by nature, then there should not arise any be no ground for dissatisfaction.
It was his belief that absence of specialisation was the prime cause of disunity among the citizens—with the advent of specialisation selfish aspiration for government office and meddling with others’ functions would disappear.
Justice is Quality of Both Individual and State:
Plato did not use the word justice in any legal sense. Nor did he attach any legal significance to the term. Like courage, self-control, and wisdom, justice is a virtue. All these four virtues constitute the moral goodness of the ideal state. Again, this moral goodness is the virtue of both the individual and the state.
The logical form, therefore, of justice is moral goodness. Individual and the state are not separate entities. Both require justice. Individual and the state are connected by justice or moral goodness and not by any legal act. Plato’s theory of justice rules out the possibility of interference of law.
Plato has further said that there are three elements of soul—reason, spirit and appetite. Goodness is identified with justice in relation to these three elements of soul. In the same way we can say that the goodness of the community is identified with the justice in relation to the members of the state.
Architectonic Nature of Justice:
“The architectonic nature of justice accounts for that element of restraint which is the first thing apparent in it. Just as the authority of the architect touches the subordinate craftsmen as a restrictive force, curbing the exuberance of their production, confining their scope and limiting their freedom in the interest of the design as a whole, so justice operates as a restraint upon a man’s particular capacity, withholding him from many things which he has both the desire and the ability to do.”
In Plato’s theory of ideal state there are several virtues or excellences and justice is one of them. But it plays the role of an architect.
That is, it is architectonic in relation to other excellences. Michael Foster has illustrated the point in the following way. A carpenter with a high degree of finesse manufactures a door. But the excellence of the door is not to be judged in isolation. The other parts of the building are to be duly considered while analyzing and estimating the design and beauty of the building.
The design and dimension of the door must be in harmony with other features of the building. The carpenter cannot do this job; it is the architect’s job. Architect’s skill has not special department, but it is present in all departments. Justice, in Plato’s opinion, plays the role of an architect. It acts as a control office upon the capacities of the individual.
Justice in Political Arena:
Justice is not simply a moral goodness of human virtue, it has also political value. It is a quality that enables man to enter into relation with other fellow citizens, and this relation forms human society which is the subject-matter of political science.
Justice teaches every individual to practise self-control. It prevents many from doing those acts which are harmful to other members of the society. Self-restraint is, therefore, essential for any political society.
While analysing justice the following observation has been made by a critic. “Justice is, for Plato, at once a part of human virtue and the bond which joins men together in state. It is an identical quality which makes man good and which makes him social. This identification is the first and fundamental principle of Plato’s political philosophy.”
Sophists admitted the political value of justice, but they denied its human value, that is, it is a moral goodness. It was a great drawback on the part of the Sophists. Justice or morality to the Sophists was essential for the formation of political society.
Sophists’ refusal to accept it as a human value has not been approved by Plato. Analysing from this angle we can say that Plato’s theory of justice is a comprehensive and perfect concept.
Critics have criticised Plato’s famous theory of justice from various angler. He enunciated the doctrine of specialisation as a vital precondition of justice and harmony of society. But it is unfortunate that he has not uttered a single word about the conflict or disagreement among the members of the same class or among the different classes.
Only among the gods there may not be any disagreement, but it is unthinkable to assume that people will never enter into conflict. If conflict arises who will resolve it—Plato maintains silence on this issue. Plato was a philosopher of outstanding stature. He might have made provision for the settlement of disputes.
There can be harmony in the body politic if all the categories of persons and classes can practise self-control and adhere to their own appointed business. Without self-control justice can never be achieved. But self-control is a moral principle and not a legal one. If people fail to practise it, that will create problem. Legal provisions are necessary. Barker says—”…the justice of whom Plato speaks is not really justice at all.
It is an indwelling spirit; but it does not issue in a concrete jus and still less in any law. Law is one thing and morality is another. The one is concerned with the external rules…the other with the ideas which lie behind rules and the ideals which lie behind order… Plato has blurred the distinction and confused the boundary which lies between the moral duty and legal obligations.” It may be emphasized that, without legal force, moral duty may not always find fruition.
Plato’s concept of justice has another drawback. The guardian class endowed with wisdom will predominate over the entire society. It is a very common experience that the persons or class controlling the administrative affairs of the state will ultimately establish hegemony over the entire society.
In Plato’s view, subordination of one class to another is the cause of unity and integrity. But our idea is quite different. Equal share in the affairs of the state is the potent factor for removing grievances and, hence, materializes unity.
In Plato’s theory of justice there is no special or separate importance of the individual. He is not an isolated self, but part of the whole order and the order is the ideal state. The individual is not a whole and even he cannot claim that the whole is the state.
Plato has given no scope to the individual of thinking in his own way. In the vast order of the state the individual cannot have separate identity. Individual is completely merged with the state.
Theory of Education:
Importance of Education:
If we imagine that the whole structure of ideal state is supported by three great pillars, then we should say that education is one such pillar. The other two are justice and communism. But it has been held by some renowned critics of Plato’s philosophy that, to Plato, education was more important than communism.
“For education”, says Sabine, “is the positive means by which the ruler can shape human nature in the right direction to produce a harmonious state.” Communism is regarded as a negative way. It simply hinders the hindrance which the ideal state faces. But the purpose of education is to build up the character, behaviour and outlook of the individuals highly suitable for the ideal state. Rousseau has said that Plato’s Republic is the greatest book on education that has ever been written.
Plato’s theory or idea of education is regarded by many as a mental medicine. Its purpose is to remove the evil and malady from mind. It reforms the mind and broadens the whole outlook. Wrong ways of life are arrested by education.
That is why education has been given priority over communism. Education helps man and, more particularly, his soul to be fully and properly acquainted with the environment. Plato has never treated the individual as an isolated entity. He is part of the state or environment. How to adjust with the environment is imparted by education.
From the just-mentioned point we can draw an inference. In the entire Greek thought-system, including Plato’s, education is regarded as a social process. With the help of education units of society learn to think of social consciousness and fulfil social obligation. Justice demands that every man must discharge his appointed function.
But how he will do it, justice cannot enlighten. Education teaches man how and in what manner an individual will perform his function. Naturally, as Platonic ideal state can never be complete with justice, so also the case of education.
Plato on Education:
Plato sees education from the teleological point of view. He says that whenever human mind acts, it acts purposely. Its activities are, again, based on reason. Plato is not prepared to accept that mind or soul acts without any purpose.
Rational action can never be purposeless. To what extent mind will act rationally and purposefully that considerably depends upon education. Education teaches man and his mind to act with a definite purpose. So education can be considered teleologically.
Plato thought of a state-controlled education. Education controlled by private persons could not serve real purpose. We have already seen that the chief aim of education is to materialize the well-being and harmony of the state and, to fulfil this mission, education must be controlled by the state.
In Plato’s mind there was an idea of compulsory education system which we today see in many modern states. Sabine says that state-directed education scheme of Plato is perhaps the most important innovation.
The primary object of education, Plato says, is to turn the eye, which the soul already possesses, to the light. The message which Plato conveys in this metaphor is that the whole function of education is not to put knowledge into the soul, but to bring out the best things that are latent in the soul.
Plato thinks that human soul is responsive to its environments. But how it will respond, education teaches that, soul is sometimes ill-nurtured and ill-trained and education places it on a proper footing.
If the purpose of education is the development of soul, Plato proceeds to say that the growth of the soul can be divided into two stages—early stage and later stage. According to Plato, education of the young is important.
In The Republic he says—”the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.”
Younger people should be taught mythological stories treating of the divine nature whose very essence is to be good and true. God is the manifestation of good and truth and mythology containing the stories of God should be taught. From the very childhood young people should be well-acquainted with good and truth. Education for the young will present heroic nature in its true and good form.
The reason will be presented in the guise of beauty and rhythm. The young will learn art, literature and rudiments of science and figures. The attainment of eighteen years will qualify them to learn gymnastics whose purpose is to fit the young citizens for military and other duties which require a strong and healthy physique.
Let us now discuss the education of the second stage. When people will be mature, they will be taught science and philosophy. In Plato’s belief only a mature brain is capable of understanding these two subjects. The purpose of learning science and philosophy is to produce a guardian class or, more particularly, statesmen and rulers.
If we go through the Platonic system of education, we shall find that both the stages are chiefly meant for the guardian class. The purpose of the first stage is to train the young people for military services.
Emotions, spirit and courage all will develop in the mind of the young people. Grown up people, Plato believed, were capable of military services efficiently. But for the ruler and statesman a different training is necessary. The grown up people of guardian class will receive the education of science and philosophy.
Importance of Gymnastics and Music:
In Platonic model of politics justice, education, and communism all correspond to the concept of ideal state. The absence of one of these will make the state incomplete.
Similarly, the character and mind of the individual will be so built up as to suit the state. Remembering this fundamental idea Plato has sketched the scheme of education. His emphasis on music and gymnastics has been highly appreciated by many.
Plato has said that gymnastics will train the body and music the mind. “Both modes of training are really intended to serve a moral purpose; both are means to the formation of character.”
Plato proceeds to note that although gymnastics aims at improving the body, it also helps healthy development of mind. It is, of course, in an indirect way. The impact of music upon mind is direct. The implication is for an ideal state that type of individual is required whose mind and bodies are fully and in a balance way developed.
Good and robust health of a people builds up a strong foundation of ambitious military services, as well as it is an asset of the nation. In The Republic, Plato has disapproved of making doctors, because they would only encourage diseases.
Proper gymnastics make people sound and healthy and stop appearance of all sorts of ailments. Plato believed that music created an artistic appeal and rhythm in the mind of the young men.
This makes advent of righteousness easier. By music Plato meant particularly the study and interpretation of masterpieces of poetry, as well as singing and playing the lyre. The rhythm and diction of poetry, the sounds of musical instruments, the shapes and colours of plastic arts appeal to youth themselves.
“Undoubtedly the most original as well as the most characteristic proposal in The Republic is the system of higher education”—says Sabine. The purpose of higher education is to train the guardians and this will be given to a selected number of students between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. In Plato’s scheme of higher education the study of mathematics occupies a very vital place.
The mathematical studies were serious. In his curriculum of higher education Plato gave almost highest position to mathematics. That is why Greece produced a large number of geniuses in mathematics. Plato believed that the mathematical studies were connected with philosophy.
In his opinion the units of arithmetic are not concrete counters presented by the senses; they are abstractions of the intelligence. Only with the help of the study of arithmetic the intelligence can be sharpened and this helps attainment of pure truth.
Besides mathematics Plato recommended the study of geometry, astronomy and logic. The study of geometry “makes easier the Idea of the Good” (Republic). Plato speaks of studying everything philosophically.
When student is studying a subject he must remember the concept “The idea of the Good”. If any student fails to grasp the idea of philosophy, he will be eliminated.
The interest in philosophy is the first and foremost qualification of the higher education. Plato believed that this interest would not arise in early age and that is why he recommended higher education for mature age only.
The students must spend a part of their time in the study of pure philosophy. The study of philosophy was essential -for a person to be king.
Plato’s theory of education is “fascinatingly modern in many respects”. His scheme of higher education is really innovating. Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we fully realize the importance of science. But about twenty four centuries ago Plato prescribed the study of science for grown up people.
The study of science which includes mathematics and astronomy makes mind scientific and exact and it prepares a field for an introduction to the study of philosophy and the study of philosophy is essential for the philosopher-king.
Today, in many countries, education has become a state controlled subject. But it is surprising that Plato thought the same thing. He did not want to leave education to private management.
An important subject like education should never remain in the hands of private persons. In Plato’s realisation these persons will utilize education for furtherance of narrow and parochial interest and the greater objectives of state will be neglected.
Plato realised that the purpose of education is the balanced growth of both mind and body—mens sana in corpore sano—healthy mind in healthy body. Only adequate emphasis on both gymnastics and music can ascertain the balanced growth of both mind and body. Even today there is no scope to dispute with Plato in this regard. If one is neglected the other is likely to be affected.
Psychological and Historical Basis of Communism of Property:
It is said that Plato’s theory of communism is based on psychology. Let us see how Plato established his view. We know that Plato has divided the soul into three parts—reason, spirit and appetite.
In his opinion if reason and spirit are to discharge their functions and to attain justice, then they must keep themselves away from appetite. Domination of appetite is a great hindrance to the purification and goodness of the soul. Similarly, in the ideal state, there are three classes—the ruling class, military class and farmers.
If the former two classes are guided by economic motive, then there will be gross negligence of duty on the part of these two classes and that will erode justice. Plato, for this reason, had prescribed the introduction of communism for these two classes.
Only communism could enable the rulers and soldiers to devote their entire energy and enthusiasm to the cause of the state and in this way justice could be achieved. “A communistic life, in the sense of a life divested of economic motive, is thus necessarily connected with and necessarily issues from, the proper position in the state of the two-higher elements of mind” Plato believed that the absence of communism would invite appetite. But justice demands that these three will discharge functions separately.
To Plato justice was not external, but internal. It was the result of habit. Mind must acquire true habit. But habit depends upon the material conditions. That is how mind will act and react that will be decided by the material conditions of society. Communism in property will make men’s mind fully suitable for the attainment of justice.
Many of the political ideas of Plato can be traced to his predecessors and the theory of communism is not an exception. In ancient Greek society which existed before Plato there was a form of communism in land. Land was held in common in many tribal societies. But subsequently land came to be divided among individuals and the authority of the state manipulated and supervised this division.
At the time of Pythagoras and Pythagoreans there were traces of communism. “Friends’ goods were common goods”—this was the motto at the time of Pythagoras.
Communism as Stated in Republic:
In The Republic Plato says—True education will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize the rulers and the soldiers in their relation to one another and to those who are under their protection.
Not only their education but their habitations, and all that belongs to them, should be such as will neither impair their virtue as guardians nor tempt them to prey upon the other citizens.
None of them should have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; neither should they have a private house. Their provisions should be only such as are required by trained warriors.
They should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of pay— enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more—and they will go to mess and live together like soldiers in a camp. But should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their own, they will become housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians, enemies and tyrants instead of allies of other citizens, hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, they will pass their whole life in much greater terror of internal than of external enemies. For all which reasons may we not say that thus shall our state be ordered, and that these shall be the regulations appointed by us for our guardians concerning their houses and all other matters?
Interpretation of Plato’s Idea:
We have quoted above what Plato has said of communism of property in The Republic. It requires clarification.
Barker says that his arguments of communism in property are ethical. We know that Plato has always adhered to the organic concept which means that the individual is an inseparable part of the state.
Similarly, the self, is an integral part of the whole order. Individual has no scope to satisfy his personal and selfish desires by remaining away from the whole social order.
If he is engaged in satisfying personal ambition or desires that would be quite unethical on his part. Fulfillment of selfish desires does not find place in Plato’s thought-system. Plato believed that personal property was a potent instrument to satisfy desires and it clears the way for the appearance of negligence of duty and also of corruption in all its manifestations.
By advocating communism in property Plato wanted to materialize the divorce between economic power and political power. Plato apprehended that the combination of two powers in a single hand would lead to corruption in the ideal state, and this apprehension had factual basis.
Plato saw that in the contemporary states the union of these two powers was the source of corruption and mismanagement. If a ruler exercises two powers simultaneously he will forget wisdom. This idea urged Plato to recommend the introduction of communism for the guardian class.
Advocating communism of property for the ruling class Plato wanted to set up an example which would be unique in all respects. To shoulder the responsibility of government is not an ordinary function; rather, it is an extraordinary duty.
Persons carrying out this extraordinary duty are also not ordinary persons. They belong to guardian class and the king is philosopher. A philosopher is an exceptional person. Hence he should be guided by certain exceptional or unique regulations. Communism of property is one such unique regulation.
Barker has emphasized another interpretation of Plato’s communism. It is better to put the matter in his own words: “Platonic communism is ascetic; and just for that reason it is also aristocratic. It is the way of surrender; and it is a surrender imposed upon the best and only on the best”
The rulers will have to forego the personal comfort emanating from the ownership of private property. They will have to forget the attraction for private property. Only very few persons will embrace communism and in that sense it is aristocratic.
Since it is aristocratic it is also political. Only the governing class comes under the purview of communism. Its purpose is to make suitable certain people for governmental job.
Communism in Wives:
If the purpose of Plato’s community of property is to create a congenial atmosphere for the rulers which will enable them to devote their time and energy completely to the administration and progress of the state, then we will say half of the purpose is achieved. Because temptation or distraction will still remain.
If property is abolished and family remains as before, people will be encouraged to acquire it, since without property family cannot be maintained. Plato understood it fully and he strongly recommended the community of wives as well as children and his discussion on this subject in The Republic occupies much larger space.
In ancient Greek society the family life was private. Women were confined to home. Men met at market-places and assembled at other areas. The functions of women were to look after the domestic chores and to procreate children.
They had no freedom and led a very secluded life. Women were not allowed to meet men other than their husbands and to participate in the affairs of the state. This seclusion of women from social life, Plato thought, was absolutely inimical to the unity of state.
In prescribing the community of wives Plato wanted to serve two purposes. To emancipate the women from the bonds of family life and to reform the time-old system of marriage. In Plato’s view it was an urgent task to free the women so that they could invest their energy to the all-round progress of the state.
In other words, he wanted to bring the family within the ambit of the ideal state by reforming and transforming it in accordance with the ideals of the body-politic. Confinement of the women within the four walls of the family deprived the state of their valuable services.
In order to import the services of women into the state Plato prescribed the community of wives. His theory is based on eugenic and moral grounds. The implication of the first is both men and women guardians will live in barracks like soldiers and discharge their duties in common.
Best and healthy men and women guardians will cohabit and their children will naturally be healthy. Plato thought that healthy children would be the best assets for the ideal state. Again, for the benefit of the state, the sexual life of both men and women guardians would be regulated.
Plato assumes that as a result of the community of wives, the parentage of the children will remain unknown not only to their parents but also to the society. All the boys and girls will be brothers and sisters. In such a situation a deeper sense of unity and patriotism will grow in their minds.
In The Republic Plato has said— “There cannot be any greater evil than discord or distraction and plurality. Again, there cannot be any greater good than the bond of unity”. There is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains.
In Plato’s view to think separately and do separately and not to think of the interests of the ideal state is immoral. So, for the sake of the ideal state, feeling of unity must be encouraged and it should be nurtured from the very childhood.
We have briefly stated Plato’s theory of Communism and also its various aspects. Now it is high time to throw light upon its dark and bright sides.
Plato’s communism has been criticized as “half Communism” due to the fact that it is not the Communism of the whole society, but of the’ half society. He has prescribed communistic way of life only for rulers and soldiers and not for other classes or sections of society. He believed that non-communistic way of life (i.e., ownership of private property and accumulation of wealth) by guardians and soldiers would invite corruption among the members of these two classes. But the prescription of communism for about half of the society will divide it into two parts—one half will be deprived of the benefits of private property and accumulation of wealth, and the other half will enjoy the benefits.
Such a division of society, the critics observe, will frustrate the noble and lofty purpose of communism. Plato believed that ownership of private property would create dissension among the members of society which might not be ideal for an ideal state. .
If this argument is accepted (for the sake of argument of course) we are of opinion that any sort of private property is always harmful. It is not true that it is harmful for any particular class and harmless for another class.
It is said that Plato gave top priority to the idea of unity of state and he believed that there could be no greater good than unity. Ernest Barker does not agree with Plato. He says—”He pushed the organic conception too far.”
Plato laid excessive faith on the organic concept of state. But the experience teaches us that there cannot be solid state of unity among all the sections of society. Various sections of society will try to mould their lives in their own ways and for greater welfare and benefit of society that variety must be accepted. For the sake of artificial unity diversity cannot be sacrificed.
Every section of society has its own will and this demands that only through the institution of private property each section will be able to translate it will into reality. But by prescribing the abolition of private property Plato wanted to abolish the will of a part of society.
Another criticism which has been levelled against the concept of communism enunciated in The Republic is that the state is composed of various parts, and family is an important part of the state. But by suggesting that no family for guardian and soldier classes Plato had practically inflicted injustice upon these two classes and it is irony that this prescription is in the name of justice.
The state is no doubt the supreme political organization and aims at supreme good. But this cannot cover all aspects of human life. Even a state cannot fulfil all the objectives of an individual.
Family has a definite and purposeful role in society and this should be allowed to play the race. If it is forced to discontinue, human life will be barren. Man can develop the finer and artistic objectives through the institutions of family and private property and, if these are abolished, the development of these qualities will be in critical position.
It is unfortunate that a genius like Plato dismally failed to realize the good effects of family and private property. Unlimited property is no doubt harmful, but a limited amount of private property is always admissible. Even the 1982 Constitution of China recognizes private property.
We shall now turn to the brighter aspects of Plato’s theory of Communism. Maxey, the renowned interpreter of Western political thought, makes the following observation about Plato’s theory of Communism:
“Virtually all socialistic and communistic thought has its roots in Plato. Were he alive today Plato would be the reddest of Reds and would no doubt hasten to Russia with the same expectant enthusiasm he displayed in answering the call of the ancient tyrant of Syracuse”.
Another critic has said—”The ideal state of Plato and that of Russian communists have many elements in common, both regard private property as the sole source of evil, both would eliminate wealth and poverty, both favour a collective education of children, exempted from paternal care, both regard art and literature only as a means of state education, both would control science and ideology in the interests of the state.
It is interesting to note that more than two thousand three hundred years ago Plato realized that private property and accumulation of wealth were the chief sources of discord and corruption in society. The right to property as a fundamental right of Indian Constitution was abolished by the 44th amendment.
For proper evaluation and judgment of Plato’s concept of communism we are to go back to Plato’s time and to understand Plato’s political philosophy in the real perspective. There is no doubt that he wanted to establish a corruption-free and discord-free society which is called the ideal state.
He believed that if the guardians and soldiers were engaged in the management of private property the whole interest of the body-politic will be adversely affected. For this reason he prescribed that these two classes of people would receive from the general store of the society what is absolutely required.
We think that there may be some sort of utopianism in such conception but it is absolutely in consonance with his whole political philosophy.
As to the communism of wife and children it may naively be observed that he always wanted the emancipation of women from the obligation of day to day life. He thought that it is the duty of the state to assume the responsibility of rearing and educating the children and for that reason he recommended communism in wives and children.
We have said that Plato’s theory of communism should not be separated from his whole philosophy and this centres on the lofty concept of the ideal state. In Republic he has said—our aim in founding the state was not disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole.
He thought that through the establishment of communism the greatest happiness of the whole state would be achieved. We may not agree with the view of Plato but we must say that there are certain clear and definite reasons in his concept of communism.
He was not in a position to grant coexistence of opulence and poverty because in his judgment this is harmful for the state as a whole. We conclude that there is ample logic in his theory of Communism.