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Utopian Government: Plato…of Desire, Emotion and Knowledge.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 19, 2012

” Like man, like state…governments vary as the characters of men vary…states are made out of the human natures which are in them.”- Plato

One of my favorite ideas of Plato is the one where he puts forward the drivers of human behavior. Plato categorizes these drivers as desire, emotion and knowledge and sorts the populace of a state based on varying degrees of each driver in an individual. Clearly for Plato not all men are alike and these drivers are the scales for measuring their suitability for the role they would play in the state.

Desire(appetite, instinct, impulse) is associated with the loins and is heavily influenced by sexual needs. Emotion rests in the heart while Knowledge rules the head. These drivers and qualities are present in all men but to varying degrees.

Men that are ruled by Desire are bestowed with ambition and a lust for luxuries.Such men must comprise the industry of the state. Those that are passion personified due to high levels of emotional drives that instil courage in them must make up the armies and navies. The remaining that seek delight in knowledge and understanding must guide the nation.

“Ruin comes when the trader, whose heart is lifted up by wealth, becomes ruler.” Wouldn’t be wrong to call Plato one of the earliest Communists.


3 Responses to “Utopian Government: Plato…of Desire, Emotion and Knowledge.”

  1. Wow…this one set me to thinking about American politics and class structure (or strictures) in general. In my head I’m seeing this:
    men – desire – luxuries – industry
    men – emotion – courage – service
    men – thinking – delights – guidance
    Easy as 1-2-3, but not really. Civilization hasn’t evolved much since the time of Plato apparently. Is it due to our expectation that with each new generation, there’s the hope of change, but then as time passes, the capability to change OR make change morphs into apathy and indifference?

    • Raunak said

      every generation feels it is smarter and more evolved than the preceding one..and to think that is their biggest folly. Mankind’s immense intellectual potential has always remained the same. Yes, one generation has built on the legacy it has inherited from the previous one, and it is the cumulative effect of these discoveries that have brought us to the stage of technical development that we find ourselves in today.

      Our technical and philosophical prowess today is the cumulative effect of thousands of years of work and it would be unwise to take credit for all of it. The core principles of life, nature and civilization have always remained the same.

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