Plato lived in an era and a nation that did not believe in gender equality. During his time, Greece was a society that favored men more than the women. Women were expected to be submissive to their male counterparts and were to obey all men. A married woman has only transferred the submission she has had since childhood from the father and other male relatives to the husband. Plato had broken ranks with his fellow countrymen who believed that women did not deserve the same treatment accorded to men. In the Republic, Plato is quoted as giving some interesting discussion about women and why he believes they should be treated equally (Plato 35).
In his argument, Plato seems to argue that even though men and women are different, they should be addressed equally. He believed that men and women are equal in the same way to one another and deserves equal respect (Plato 41). Eradication of gender inequality is the first step advocated for by Plato, and it is for this reason that he was considered one of the first feminists for a very long time. The Republic highlights some of the traditional distinctions that make women to be considered inferior to men in the society.
In Greece, just owning a male name would likely get you a job, having a female was an outright doom. However, Plato’s theory of gender equality ran contrary to the new gender equality. His argument was based on the usefulness of the women and not on their rights as human beings. He looks at the women’s capability to rule the society. In the dialogues, uses Socrates to convey the message that wives of the guardians have the same qualities as the guardians (Plato 78). Hence they should be allowed to join the guardians. Through the dialogues, Plato argues that women should be given equal social roles as those granted to men.
The discussion in the Republic shows that Socrates and Plato have different views concerning the family. The perspectives seem to go two different ways, but Socrates view on marriage seems to hold more truth than that of Plato. Plato does not consider family as a natural occurrence where men and women get together because they are in love and later raise a family (Plato 102). Plato views the family as an association where individuals group themselves together for some kinds of benefits.
Plato believes that there are many reasons that make people come together to form families. All the reasons he gives are egocentric in nature, and love is not among them. He believes people create families so that they have favoritism among family members and other relatives. To amass wealth together as private citizens is another reason given by Plato on why families exist. Families could lead to less violence in the world as people consider themselves brothers and sisters. It also reduces fear and insecurity.
Plato had believed that love does not feature anywhere in the formation of families, his theory was that mating and marriage festivals would be organized once a year. During these ceremonies, people are assigned to each other depending on the desirable offspring and when the festival is over each goes a separate way (Plato 123). The result would be a community of wives and children without men knowing their children. Plato believed this would eliminate the need for excesses and selfishness among people. People would communally raise children and share all things among them because the children and wives belong to everybody.
In his description of the family, Plato has denied the possibility of human desire between a man and a woman (Taylor 23). He believes that there is no romance and people should just be forced to perform marital rights once and then abstain from any marital activity until the next festival. This opinion against the modern societal beliefs about family and Aristotle’s criticism of Plato’s philosophy has been supported up-to-date.
The Philosopher King
In the Republic, Plato states that philosophers should rule cities to put a stop to evil. The statement by Plato seems to imply that those who rule because they love to rule would not seek to remove evils from the society. Such rulers would use their positions for personal benefit and not for the good of the whole society. Philosophers are described as people who love to seek knowledge. Political positions need people who have mastered knowledge of how things work. They should love knowledge and seek the truth in every situation. Plato views this as the only way in which the society could achieve justice in all matters (Plato 221). In the city of Polis, justice to all people would be good, and Plato believes justice could not be achieved by partisan rulers. It needs leaders whose interests go beyond earthly possession and could see what others could not see. Aristotle is quoted in the dialogue as saying that the philosophy king would be able to see more than other people because they have seen and known the truth.
According to Plato, philosophers are the only people who believe that there is more to this life than just gaining wealth through the political office. They will ensure that the whole society lives in improved living standards and everyone could enjoy good things the society has to offer. The choice of who should rule the society sometimes bring conflict among members if the society, Plato believes members of the public would prefer philosophers to economists and social elites. Plato’s main argument is that only true philosophers have the knowledge of how things are and how they work (Plato 245). They know what is right to the people and what is just to the masses. They know the relevance, correctness, and goodness of any political decision they might take. Other people could gamble with matters that are essential and are important to the community by applying trial and error in the political decisions.
Looking at the concepts of Plato’s conception of women, the family and philosopher king, they are all linked to Plato in one way or another. Plato was regarded by many as a feminist before his theory for gender equality received a sustained criticism. His perception of women is one of the reasons why he does not believe in family units and separates women and children on one side and men on the other side.
Plato looks at the three concepts regarding forms of good. He believes that real knowledge is the ultimate goodness. When he argues his point of the philosopher king, he says that real knowledge acquired by philosophers is knowledge of goodness. The philosopher’s fitness to rule is in their ability to unite the society. Unity is also reflected in all the three concepts.
He states that when choosing guardians, one of the characteristics to look at is their readiness to pursue things that would bring advantage to the whole society. The society must be in number one priority so as to bring people together at all times. The concept of family is viewed as a way by which people unite for various reasons (Taylor 46). Families are formed to unite humans; the children and women are expected to be taken care of in unity. The political leaders are expected to unite the people and never divide them. The differences between the economic and social elites are best solved by philosophers hence uniting the society (Taylor 75). In defending the philosopher king, Plato explains that other rulers would amass wealth for themselves leaving members of the public in the deplorable state. These acts lead to protests in the society leading to disunity and mistrust in the society.
Plato believes that life is only valuable when it is examined. He says that life must have some retrains to make it worth living. A person is expected to master himself well before he can help others have stability in their lives. When one masters his life, he would be able to have clear boundaries on what is supposed to be done what is supposed to be avoided. The concept of family is depicted as a form of restraint on human beings. They cannot do evil things to other people because they believe they belong together. Plato reflects through Socrates that rewards and punishments are waiting for humans after death (Plato 270). These expectations mean that people must be carefully on how they live their lives in this world because there is a supreme being who observes and records everything. The souls of people who did well on earth are sent to heaven to have ever-lasting peace and harmony while the souls of evil-doers are taken to hell to suffer.
Plato. The republic of Plato. Vol. 30. New York: Oxford University Press, 1945.
Taylor, Alfred Edward. Plato: The man and his work. Courier Corporation, 1926.