Socrates and Aristotle
Everyone views democracy differently; some people think it’s not the best way to run a government and others feel that it’s the only way. Both Socrates and Aristotle have strong views on democracy. In Book Six of The Republic Plato describes a conversation between Socrates and another character called Adeimantus. Socrates compares democracy to a ship. He asks him if they were going on trip by sea who would he want in charge; the shipowner who is bigger and stronger than everyone else on the ship, who is hard of hearing, short-sighted and is not educated in seafaring or someone who was educated in seafaring?
Adeimantus responds, the person educated in seafaring, so Socrates asks why we would let just anyone rule a country? Socrates’ point here is that someone who is educated and knows all the demands that come along with seafaring should be in charge; just as someone who is educated in law should be the ruler of a country. In Book Seven of The Republic we read a conversation between Socrates and Glaucon, Plato’s older brother.
The narrative begins with Socrates picturing everyday life of humans who live in a cave. “Imagine human beings living in an underground cave like dwelling, with an entrance a long way up which is both open to the light and as wide as the cave itself. They’ve been there since childhood, fixed in the same place, with their necks and legs fettered able to only see in front of them, because their bonds prevent them from turning their heads around. Imagine that along this path a low wall has been built, like the screen in front of puppeteers above which they show their puppets” (Plato p 187).
This cave is supposed to represent everyday life. As humans we are conditioned to listen to society without questioning why we do this. All we believe are things that are in front of us, just like the humans in the cave who see the shadows of the puppets. These puppets are all they’ve ever known. One of the prisoners in the cave is freed and sees what life outside of the cave is. The prisoner goes back to the cave and tries to tell everyone what he has seen. The allegory of the cave shows that we must free ourselves from the chains of society and seek out the truth. I think Socrates is trying to show how democracy fails. In a democracy we all are conditioned to see and think a certain way.
In the Politics Aristotle comes off very strong in his view of democracy. Aristotle believed a democracy was flawed and could run into issues. His biggest issue with democracy was that laws were ignored. A functioning country requires that everything is governed by law. Aristotle said some that some men may not be aware of what the laws are and for a democracy to work laws need to be followed. “Or rather,by heavin,in some cases it is impossible of application; for the argument would equally hold about brutes; and wherein, it will be asked, do some men differ from brutes?” (Aristotle p 9).
Socrates and Aristotle have varying opinions on democracy. I think they both realized a democracy was flawed and it wasn’t always the perfect form of government. Socrates argues that someone who is educated in seafaring should run a ship; just as someone who is educated in law should be a ruler of a country. Aristotle makes a similar argument. “For election can only be made by those who have knowledge;those who know geometry, fro example, will choose a geometrical rightly.”(Aristotle p 9).
He is pointing out here that people who know the laws should be the ones who vote. I don’t think they were necessarily against democracy, I think they just knew there were ways it could go wrong. I agree with both Socrates and Aristotle, I believe a democracy can be very flawed but I don’t think it’s a bad form of government. I think people who want to vote and be involved in government should educate themselves on the laws of their country.