Plato's Republic - Does this mean that Plato's view of human nature had no influence on his conception of just and good political institutions? 1. Introduction The development of effective explanations in regard to social concepts is necessarily related to human nature…
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For this reason, most theorists that try to explain the role and the characteristics of political institutions primarily refer to human nature, as influencing politics in all their aspects. Plato seems to follow a different practice. More specifically, in Republic politics and political institutions are analyzed and evaluated without a direct reference to human nature. However, if studied carefully the Republic reveals a close relationship between human nature and politics. For this reason it would be wrong to claim that Plato did not take into consideration human nature when developing his explanations for politics; rather Plato incorporated his views on human nature in his dialogues so that human nature is explained simultaneously with politics. The particular practice is analyzed below aiming to show that in Republic human nature has been the basis for the explanations for political institutions, even if the relationship between these two concepts is not always clear. 2. Human nature and politics for Plato Plato’s Republic has been developed in order to explain the role and the elements of politics, as appeared in the particular era. Still, the Republic is not fully related to politics; it can be also used in order to understand human nature. A thorough review of Republic would help to verify the importance of human nature for Plato. Of course, the Republic is a text dedicated to politics; however, it is the study of politics that helps readers to understand also the thinking and the social life of individuals in the particular period. The direct relationship between the politics and the human nature, as this relationship is reflected in Republic, can be understood by referring, indicatively, to certain parts of Republic. In the first volume of Republic, in book A, Socrates discusses with Kefalos, the father of Polemarhos. In the above dialogue Kefalos notes that he now, that he is quite old, enjoys the discussion more than when he was younger (328d). For this reason, he asks from Socrates to visit Piraeus more often so that he has the chance to discuss with him. Socrates replies to Kefalos that he also can learn from Kefalos important details in regard to the particular period of time, the senescence (328e). Socrates claims that Kefalos would help him to understand whether this period of time is difficult or not (328e). The specific part of Republic makes a clear reference to human nature; aging is an indispensable aspect of human life so that it can be characterized as an element of human nature. In the dialogue that follows, Kefalos offers to Socrates explanations in regard to the particular period of human life (329a-d). Further on, the interaction between this period and human life and the social and political life of individuals is clearly explained (330a-331d); the dialogue between Kefalos and Socrates ends with the explanation of the potential relationship between this period of human life and justice (331c-d). In the next dialogue, Socrates discusses with Polemarhos the elements of justice. Socrates aims to explain to Polemarhos the actual role of justice within society. The explanation given by Socrates is based on certain arguments. Reference is made to the view of Simonides that ‘friends should always seek for the good of their friends and they should never seek for their bad’ (332a). Polemarhos agrees that this view is right (332a). The above view reflects human behavior, as part of human nature. The involvement of human ...
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