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

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 20, 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.

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11 Responses to “[Repost] Utopian Government: Plato…of Desire, Emotion and Knowledge.”

  1. soumyav said

    Interesting thought!

  2. Beautifully written. I spent 4 years studying Plato (my degree is in Classics) and I wish I could have summed up his writing on the human soul so concisely and so well.
    I am trying to remember who it was that wrote, people generally end up with the governments they deserve. The quotation you placed at the start of this explains WHY people get the govts they deserve.

    • Raunak said

      thanks indeed for your kind words 🙂 I really relate to Plato’s thoughts. Unfortunately not too many “intellectuals” consider his thoughts practical. I beg to differ and often end up in long arguments.
      His propositions are difficult to support by ethical, moral and egalitarian principles. The latter have become the norm these days and hence anything otherwise is easily shunned.

      That is an impressive degree. Would love to discuss Plato with you someday 🙂

  3. I think Plato would feel justified in his theories about those interested in wealth ecoming the rulers if he were to see modern banking today and its influence on government. Good post.

  4. Good Deed said

    Very interesting post. I love it 🙂

  5. gerone said

    Still, I am more Aristotelian than Platonic. 🙂

  6. ” 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

    I’m not sure I agree with this statement. I prefer Lord Acton’s statement that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    • Raunak said

      Malcolm, thanks for sharing that!
      There have been a few exceptions to those rules. Too few to the second one. Power indeed in intoxicating and addictive.

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