M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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Protagoras, p. 326.

  • Charmides, p. 157.

  • Sabine : A History of Political Theory, p. 65.

    Higher education, which is regarded as the most original and most characteristic proposal in the Republic, was to be given to the members of both sexes after an elimination test and was meant for the members of the guardian classes. It extended from twenty to thirty-five. This period was divisible into two parts, i.e., twenty to thirty and thirty to thirtyfive. In the first, young persons were to be helped to choose their true vocations in life and get trained in them. There was to be a systematic scientific course. Dialectical power must be developed. Military training must also be given. At the age of thirty, a second elimination test would follow. This test is far severer than the first. Those who fail will become the auxiliaries, or executive aides and military officers of the state. Those who pass this test will be the perfect guardians and will get a further five years' course of training in Mathematics, Astronomy and Logic. Now it is just in these great eliminations that we shall need every resource of persua­sion to get the eliminated to accept their fate with urbanity and peace. For what is to prevent that great unselected majority, in the first test, and that lesser, but more vigorous and capable second group of eliminees, "from shouldering arms and smashing this Utopia of ours into a mouldering reminiscence ?" What is to prevent them from establishing there and then a world in which again mere number o-

  • great political thinkers

  • mere force will rule, and the sickly comedy of a sham democracy will re-enact itself da capo ad nauseam ? Then religion and faith will be our only salvation : we shall tell these young people that the divi­sions into which they have fallen are God-decreed and irrevocable— not all their tears shall wipe out one word of it.

  • Plato's Ideal State and Communism


    1. 14 Laws, p. 807.

    Plato's entire system of education in the Republic is a prerequisite to the organization of an ideal state. But state-controlled education is not the only thing which can guarantee the constant supply of the selfless and efficient administrators and which can secure the people against the abuse of power. The second precaution which Plato takes against the abuse of power and the tendency of men to lust after functions other than those for which they are naturally best suited is a social one. The guardians and the guards are to live a life very different from that of the producers, one in which they must forgo all that makes life for the ordinary man worth living. They are not to own any property, for from the union in the same hands of politi­cal and economic power have sprung so many of the troubles of the world. If there is not a complete divorce between ruling and owning, rulers will not rule for the good of all but will use their power to in­crease their wealth, and owners, who lack the qualifications necessary for the proper exercise of power, will seek to seize control of the state. Significantly enough, when Plato analyses the corruptions of the ideal state, he traces them all to that generation of men which leads to the union of political and economic power. Everything, therefore, used by guardians and guards will be held in common. They will have no private homes, but will live a hard barrack-room existence, receiving that bare maintenance deemed necessary for soldiers on unending garrison duty. They will eat together, like consecrated men; they will sleep together in single barracks, like soldiers sworn to sim­plicity. "Friends should have all things in common," as Pythagoras used to say.14 So the authority of the guardians will be sterilized, and their power made poisonless ; their sole reward will be honour and the sense of service to the group. And they will be such men as from the beginning have deliberately consented to so materially limited a carrer ; and such men as at the end of their stern training will have learned to value the high repute of the statesman above the crass emoluments of the office-seeking politicians or the 'economic man'. Also, the guardians will have no wives. Their communism is to be be women as well as of goods. They are to be freed not only from the egoism of self, but from the egoism of family ; they are not to be narrowed to the anxious acquisitiveness of the prodded husband; they are to be devoted not to a woman but to the community. Even their children shall not be specifically or distinguisbably theirs ; all



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    1. children of guardians shall be taken from their mothers at birth and brought up in common : their particular parentage will be lost in the scuffle. All the guardian-mothers will care for all the guardian-children ; the brotherhood of man, within these limits, will graduate from phrase to fact; every boy will be a brother to every other boy, every girl a sister, every man a father, and every woman a mother.

    2. However, community of wives does not mean, according to Plato, indiscriminate mating ; rather there is to be strict eugenic super­vision of all reproductive relations. The argument from the breeding of animals here starts its wandering career : if we get such good results in breeding cattle selectively for qualities desired, and from breeding only from the best in each generation, why should we not apply similar principles to the mating of mankind ?15 For it is not enough to educate the child properly ; he must be properly born, of select and healthy ancestry ; "education should begin before birth."14 Functional Specialisation

    3. Further, Plato argues in the j\».puonc mat the eugenic society must be protected not only from deterioration within, but also from enemies without. It must be ready, if need be, to wage successful war. Our model community would, of course, be pacific, for it would restrict population within the means of subsistence ; but neigh­bouring states not so managed might well look upon the orderly prosperity of our Utopia as an invitation to raid and rapine. Hence, while deploring the necessity, we shall have, in our intermediate class, a sufficient number of well-trained soldiers, living a hard and simple life like the guardians, on a stated modicum of goods supplied by their 'maintainers and forefathers', the people. At the same time, every precaution must be taken to avoid the occasions of war. In short, the perfect society would be that in which each class and each unit would be doing the work to which its nature and aptitude best adapted it: in which no class or individual would interfere with others, but all would co-operate in difference to produce an efficient and harmonious whole.1' That would be a just state.


      1. Republic, p. 459.

      2. Laws, p. 789.

      3. Republic, pp. 433-34.

      This completes the general outline of Plato's theory of the state starting from the conception that the good must be known by metho­dical study, the theory constructs society around this idea by showing that the principle is implicit in all society. The division of labour and the specialization of tasks are the conditions of social co-opera­tion, and the problem of the philosopher-king is to arrange these matters in the most advantageous way. Because human nature is innately and inherently social, the maximum advantage to the state means also the maximum advantage to citizens. The goal is, there-



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    1. fore, a perfect adjustment of human beings to the possibilities of sig­nificant employment which the state affords. The remainder of Plato's argument might also be described as a corollary. The idea of the good, in fact, is the source of all truth, of knowledge, beauty and of moral goodness. It is the source of ali knowledge as well as the highest object of knowledge. It illumines the intelligible world. Its apprehension by the soul is Knowledge, its indwelling in the soul is Virtue, its shining forth to the soul—through the medium of sense— is Beauty, and its manifestation in the state is Justice.

    2. It is clear that Plato in the Republic did not consider law as an essential element of the state. He did not wish *o bind the hands or limit the powers of the philosopher-king with the rules of law as to force an expert physician to copy his prescription from the recipes in a medical text-book. He trusted too much the wiseness and sincerity of the philosopher-king. Hence the omission of law was not a matter of caprice but a logical consequence of the philosophy itself. But soon Plato became doubtful about the success of his own plan regard­ing the ideal state. Also, it ran quite contrary to the deepest convic­tions of the Greeks about the moral value of freedom under the law and of participation by the citizens in the task of self-government. Hence, Plato became more practical in his outlook towards the state and gave the law its due place in his later works, the Statesman and the Laws. Since it is difficult to have a real philosopher to rule the state in the ideal way, laws are necessary and, therefore, Plato sketch­ed out a legal system to help, guide and restrain the imperfect govern­mental machinery.

    3. The Laws

    4. The Laws represents an attempt to discover a practical system of government. With advancing years and maturer judgment, the idealism of Plato is giving place to practical wisdom. The Laws is shorn of much of idealism of the Republic and the Statesman also. Experience at Syracuse, where Plato had gone with the expectation of founding an ideal state ruled by a philosopher-king, forced him to modify his views about many things, especially his communism of property and women. In the Laws Plato has to admit that private property and family life are essential human institutions, though he does not give them even now an unqualified support. Both private property and marriage are to be allowed but under strict state super-Vision. The state control of the educational system is also to be far less strict than in the case of the Republic. We find htm in favour of establishing a censorship over the 'intellectual and artistic interests of the citizens'. The only real restriction on marriage is with a view to preventing the perpetuating of really bad types of humanity. Women were to receive the same education as men and were allowed to participate in public affairs but, unlike the Republic, they were now not entirely free from domestic duties.



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    1. In the Laws, Plato suggests a number of useful checks on the vices of different forms of government. Every citizen is to be allowed to have his share in the government of his state according to his ability. The law is now, so to speak, the surrogate for that reason which Plato had sought to make supreme in the ideal state and which he still regarded as the supreme force in nature. The chief virtue in the ideal state had accordingly been justice, the division of labour and the specialization of functions which puts every man in his pro­per place and 'gives him Lis due' in the sense that he is enabled to bring all his faculties to treir highest development and allowed to put them to the fullest use. In the state of the Laws wisdom is crys­tallized—perhaps one might even say frozen—in the law : no such flexible adjustment of the individual to the state is possible, but the regulations made by the law are assumed to be the best possible 'on the.whole'. Consequently, the supreme virtue in such a' state is temperance or self-control, which means a law-abiding disposition or a spirit of respect towards the institutions of the state and a readiness to subordinate oneself to its lawful powers.

    2. However, we find on the close examination of the Laws that Plato never definitely decided that the theory developed in the Re­public was erroneous and to be abandoned. He repeatedly stated that his purpose in the Laws was to describe a second-best state, and he sometimes put this assertion into conjunction with his strongest statements about the importance of law. Without laws men "differ not at all from the most savage beasts," and yet if a competent ruler should arise, they would have no need to be ruled by laws, "for no law or ordinance is mightier than knowledge."18 In fact, the state ruled by law was always a concession to the frailty of human nature and never something which he was willing to accept as having a right to stand on a parity with the ideal. Still if the knowledge necessary to make the philosopher-king is unattainable, then Plato is clear that the common moral consciousness is right in believing that a govern­ment according to Jaw is better than a government by men, rulers being what they are. The relation between the two theories is not at all satisfactory ; "the ideal is logically irreproachable but not attainable in fact, while the second-best state is not impossible to attain but is shaky in respect to its credentials."

    3. The State as an Organism


      1. 18 Laws, 874 c ; 875 c.

      Also, Plato could never appreciate a democratic state. He was no democrat, but the most formidable opponent that democracy has ever had. He attached little value to and took little interest in the majority of producers. And it appears that he sacrificed the indivi­dual to the state. He compared the state to the human body, stating that when a finger is hurt the whole body feels the pain, and that



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    1. when a member of the state is hurt all will likewise suffer. The state for him is the best in which the unity is that of the natural man. He stated that the happiness of the whole was more important than that of the part, that the happiness of the state came before that of any one of its three classes. He was of the view that the life of every individual had meaning only from the function he performed in the organism of the state. He meant that the supreme good was the unity of the whole. But it does not mean that Plato completely sacrificed the individual to the state. The state exists for the perfection of the individuals within it, and the development of the individuals within it perfects the state. We look in vain in the Republic for any difference between the laws of public and private morality. The state conforms to the ideal of the individual man, and leaves to a later age the assertion that what is morally wrong can be politically right. Plato's description of the unjust states hammers home the lesson that it is the falling away in personal conduct that leads to the lowering of tone in public life and to the passing of power into unfit hands for "constitutions are not born of oak and rock, but grow out of the characters in each city."1' And to com­pare Plato's Republic to the Totalitarian States of the twentieth century is to miss the whole point of his teaching, which is that the purpose of the state is the production of noble characters, that the true greatness of states is to be measured by the personal worth of their citizens. And ultimately Plato leaves with an idea that even though his Republic cannot exist on earth, man can by contem­plating the eternal pattern build himself into the true state, can realize the state within himself. So the "celestial city, like the Kingdom of God, is really within us, and in our daily actions it is up to us to try to fulfil its laws, so far as is possible to live like an immortal," as Plato says in the Laws. George Herbert's "Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws, makes that and the action fine" is fully Pla­tonic. "It is unimportant whether the perfect state exists anywhere or will exist in the future," Plato writes, "for the first man fulfils the law of that state and of no other." And, in view of the above considera­tion, it cannot be pleaded that Plato tried to sacrifice the individual to the state. In fact, he, to quote Wayper, "has founded human personality not on man-made law but on eternal standard."*0

    2. The Purpose of Plato's Life

    3. When Plato ventured to speak of a 'philoscpher-king', therefore, he had in mind something more than a benign but rather ineffectual figure, given to meditation and study, but separated by his superior intellect and rarefied tastes from the common herd. His philosopher was to be a practical philosopher ; his king was also to be a law-

    4. Wayper, C. L. : Political Thought (1958), p. 37.

    5. Ibid., p. 38.



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    1. maker, an active statesman. He was to lay down the law with the authority not merely of his regal office but of his philosophical insight. In obeying the laws he proclaimed, the common people would thus be acting in conformity with the supreme good of the universe. Some of them would no. doubt obey willingly, conscious of the wisdom of the law-giver. Some would obey mechanically, conscious merely of the necessity of conforming to a common standard. Some would obey with an ill-grace, being so far corrupted and immersed in the natural world that the 'pull' of heavenly wisdom would be felt hardly at all. He, however, never for an instant lost sight of the end to which human life should be directed. He remained in doubt only as to the means by which this end should be attained. Perhaps he hit the nail on the head most surely in a passage which occurs towards the end of the Laws, where he states the problem that in later ages was to become the chief preoccupation of all men of good will. "In no very long period of time," he observed, "an autocrat, if he wishes, can change the manners of a state ; he has only to go in the direction of virtue or of vice, whichever he prefers, he himself indicating by his example the lines of conduct, praising and rewarding some actions and rebuking others, and degrading those who disobey. The quickest and easiest way for a state to change its laws is through the leader­ship of its masters : such changes never have and never will come to pass in any other way." So far, so good ; but, he continues, "the real impossibility, or difficulty, is of another sort, and is rarely surmounted in the course of ages ; but when once it is surmounted, every kind of blessing follows. The difficulty is to find a divine passion for rational and just institutions." That indeed was the purpose of his life; and if he failed to achieve it, his failure was touched with sublimity. From Socrates he had learnt that virtue was the child of true knowledge; and for himself he arrived at the idea that true knowledge issued from communion with the Supreme Good. The crucial question was whether mankind, left to itself and in the absence of some prolonged emotional stimulus, could ever be brought to desire this supreme communion for its own sake. The same question was later "tackled by the Christian philosophers with an insight that Plato could not have possessed. But those later philosophers in turn looked back to him as the most inspired of the thinkers of the old dispensation, whose doctrine of the Love of Good was the nearest approach to the Christian Gospel of Love."*1













    2. 21 Tomlin, E.W.F, : Great Philosophers of the West (1959), p. 62.

    3. 2

    4. ARISTOTLE (385 OR 384 B-C-322 B.C.)



    5. His Environment and Writings

    6. Aristotle was born in either 385 or 384 b. c. at Stagira, a Mecedonian city some 350 kilometres to the north of Athens. Aristotle's father, Nicomachus, was a doctor of considerable ability, who finally rose to be the chief physician at the court of Amyntas II, King of Macedonia. While in the latter's service, he wrote a number of books on medicine and natural science. Aristotle's mother, Phoestis, was a native of Chalcis. By reason of his father's profession, the young boy became a member of the guild of Ascle-piadae (named after Asclepius or Aesculapius, the Greek God of Medicine), since the medical profession was hereditary in that con­fraternity. He had every opportunity and encouragement to develop a scientific bent of mind ; he was prepared from the beginning to become the founder of science.

    7. His early acquaintance with natural science had a profound effect upon his way of thinking. Not merely did it turn his interests in a particular direction—the direction of analysis, experiment, and classi­fication—but it caused him finally to strike out on an original line of his own. This new departure in thought has affected all subsequent enquiry, whether scientific, philosophical, political or ethical. For the ideas and conclusions of Aristotle have entered into our common traditions of thought, so that we speak with his idiom even though we may protest ignorance of his writings.

    8. We have a number of stories regarding his youth. One narrative represents him as squandering his patrimony in riotous living, joining the army to avoid starvation, returning to Stagira to practise medi­cine, and going to Athens ai the age of thirty to study philosophy under Plato. A more dignified story takes him to Athens at the age of eighteen, and puts him at once under tutelage of the great master ; but even in this likelier account, there is sufficient echo of a reckless and irregular youth, living rapidly.1 The scandalized reader may console himself by observing that in either story our philosopher anchors at last in the quiet groves of the Academy.


      1. 1 Grote : Aristotle (London, 1872), p. 4.

      A man of such originality might have been expected soon to weary of discipleship, and to seek the earliest opportunity of orga-



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    1. nizing an 'opposition' school of his own. But, as it happened, Aristotle was content to enjoy the status of pupil and imitator much longer and with a greater measure of self-effacement than many a thinker of lesser stature. The majority of scholars and intellectual leaders serve an apprenticeship of three, four or five years at some seat of learning, Aristotle served as many as twenty in the Platonic Academy. Finally, he left it for the only reason that might have been expected to prompt his departure, namely, the death of Plato m 347 b.c.

    2. If our chronology is not at fault, Aristotle must have put in his first appearance at Athens at a time when Plato was away at the court of Dionysius II. Thus, he probably did not have an opportunity of meeting the master until he had already become a well-established academician. His first teachers of Platonism were among those members, who, like himself, enjoyed the status of disciples. Although Aristotle soon succeeded in proving his ability, the activities at which he excelled were not as yet those of original speculation ; they were those of faithful interpretation of the master's own works. Aristotle's first writings, in fact, consisted not merely of dialogues in the Platonic manner but of expositions of Plato's ideas ; and these expositions were so distinguished for clarity and persuasiveness that for many centuries after his death they were studied with greater eagerness than the works of Plato himself.

    3. It seems probable that later thinkers, such as Epicurus (340-270 b.c.) and later still Cicero (106-43 b.c.), derived their knowledge of Platonism less from the works of the master, which were regarded as exceedingly abstruse, than from the works of the pupil, which were accepted as models of precise statement. We should give a great deal to be able to read these early dialogues today ; but except for a few fragments and what can be deduced from a paraphrase here and there in the works of less gifted writers, they have all been lost: a fate which, as we shall see, nearly overtook the whole body of Aristotle's writings.

    4. Aristotle's writings ran into the hundreds. Some ancient authors credit him with four hundred volumes, others with a thousand. What remains is but a part, and yet it is a library in itself—conceive the scope and grandeur of the whole. There are, first, the Logical works ; "Categories", "Topics", "Prior" and "Posterior Analytics", "Propositions", and "Sophistical Refutation" ; these works were collected and edited by the later Peripatetics under the general title of Aristotle's "Organon"—that is, the organ or instrument of correct thinking. Secondly, there are the Scientific works : "Physics", "On the Heavens", "Growth and Decay", "Meteorology", "Natural History", "On the Soul", "The Parts of Animals", "The Movement of Animals" and "The Generation of Animals". There are, thirdly, the Aesthetic works : "Rhetoric" and "Poetics". And fourthly come the more strictly Philosophical works : "Ethics", "Politics" and "Meta­physics".



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    1. Here, evidently, is the Encyclopedia Britannica of Greece : every problem under the sun and about it finds a place ; no wonder there are more errors and absurdities in Aristotle than in any other philosopher who ever wrote. Here is such a synthesis of knowledge and theory as no man would ever achieve again till Spencer's day, and even then not half so magnificently ; here, better than Alexan­der's fitful and brutal victory, was a conquest of the world. If philo­sophy is the quest of unity, Aristotle deserves the high name that twenty centuries gave him—Ille Philosophus : the Philosopher.

    2. However, it is admitted that the writings attributed to Aristotle were not his, but were largely the compilations of students and followers who had embalmed the unadorned substance of his lectures in their notes. It does not appear that Aristotle published in his life­time any technical writings except those on logic and rhetoric ; and the present form of the logical treaties is due to later editing. In the case of the Metaphysics and the Politics the notes left by Aristotk seem to have been put together by his executors without revision or alteration. Even the unity of style which marks Aristotle's writings, and offers an argument to those who defend his direct authorship, may be, after all, merely a unity given them through common editing by the Peripatetic School. About this matter there rages a sort of Homeric question, of almost epic scope, into which the busy reader will not care to go, and on which a modest student will not under­take to judge.* We may at all events be sure that Aristotle is the spiritual author of all these books that bear his name : that the hand may be in some cases another's hand, but that the head and the heart are his.

    3. His Ethics and Scientific Method

    4. Like Plato, Aristotle maintained that the highest object of our intellect is the contemplation of eternal truth : but he shared none of Plato's indifference to temporal matters. On the contrary, he told us to seek for truth in what lay around and about us, considering i{ no lapse from dignity on the philosopher's part to spend much of his time connecting and dissecting specimens, collating manuscripts, and rummaging among old archives and records. Socrates questioned men ; Aristotle went on to question things. He questioned in all directions, being the first great thinker to seek for an underlying con­nection between the various spheres of enquiry in which he interested himself. It came to him more clearly that above all questions of the physical world there loomed the question of questions—What is the best life ?—What is life's supreme good ?—What is virtue ?—How shall we find happiness and fulfilment ?

    5. He was realistically simple in his ethics. His scientific train­ing kept him from the preachment of superhuman ideals and empty

    6. 2 Shule : History of the Aristotelian Writings.



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    1. counsels of perfection. "In Aristotle," said Santayana, "the concep­tion of human nature is perfectly sound : every ideal has a natural basis and everything natural has an ideal development." Aristotle began by frankly recognizing that the aim of life was not goodness for its own sake, but happiness. "For we choose happiness for itself, and never with a view to anything further; whereas we choose honour, pleasure, intellect.. . .because we believe that through them we shall be made happy."3 But he realized that to call happiness the supreme good was a mere truism ; what was wanted was some clearer account of the nature of happiness, and the way to it. He hoped to find this way by asking wherein man differed from other beings ; and by pre­suming that man's happiness would lie m the full functioning of this specifically human quality. Now the peculiar excellence of man is his power of thought ; it is by this that he surpasses and rules all other forms of life ; and as the growth of this faculty has given him his supremacy, so, we may presume, its development will give him fulfilment and happiness.

    2. The chief condition of happiness, then, barring certain physical prerequisites, is the life of reason—the specific glory and power of man. Virtue, or rather excellence, will depend on clear judgment, self-control, symmetry of desire, artistry of means ; it is not the pos­session of the simple man, nor the gift of innocent intent, but the achievement of experience in the fully developed man. Yet there is a road to it, a guide to excellence, which may save many detours and delays ; it is the middle way, the golden mean. The qualities of characters can be arranged in triads, in each of which the first and last qualities will be extremes and vices, and the middle quality a virtue or an excellence. So between cowardice and rashness is cour­age ; between stinginess and extravagance is liberality ; between sloth and greed is ambition ; between humility and pride is modesty ; between secrecy and loquacity, honesty ; between moroseness and buffoonery, good humour ; between quarrelsomeness and flattery, friendship ; between Hamlet's indecisiveness and Quixote's impul­siveness is self control.4 'Right', then, in ethics or conduct, is not different from 'right' in mathematics or engineering ; it means cor­rect, fit, what works best to the best result.

    3. The Golden Mean

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