What is Plato's theory of the ideal state

The question of the ideal state in Plato and Luther

content

A: Introduction

B: Plato
1.0 Looking for a new constitutional order
1.1 starting point
1.2 The essence of justice
2.0 The panacea: the rule of the philosophers
2.1 Theoretical foundations
2.1.1 Theory of ideas
2.1.2 Doctrine of anamnesis
2.1.3 The philosopher as the ideal ruler
2.2 Illustration based on the allegory of the cave
2.3 Education as a solution
3.0 Summary

C: Luther
1.0 The biblical image of man
2.0 The state
2.1 Two kingdoms doctrine
2.2 The behavior of the Christian towards the state
2.3 State borders
2.4 The Christian prince

D: comparison
1.0 approximations
1.1 Motives
1.2 Legitimation of the state
1.3 Laws
2.0 differences
2.1 World of thought
2.2 Justice
2.3 Solution

E: Personal statement

When I focused my heart on recognizing wisdom and looking at the goings-on that is happening on earth, I saw in the whole of God's work that man cannot fathom the work that takes place under the sun. No matter how hard a person tries to research it, he does not fathom it. And even if the sage claims to know it, he still cannot fathom it. (1) (Solomon)

(1) The Bible. Book of Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes) 8.16f

A: Introduction

The idea or rather the desire for the The ideal state within whose borders there is peace and justice has always moved and challenged people. Great philosophers and state thinkers (less the state leaders) have made every effort their to conceive ideal state. One of them was definitely Plato, whose draft of a just state is still hotly debated today. When dealing with Plato, as a (Protestant) Christian who sticks to the Bible in its entirety as God's inspired and thus authorized word, I was "provoked" in a positive sense by asking myself: What answers can I as a Christian to the question to give to the just state? In search of answers, I found what I was looking for in the reformer Luther, whom I hold dear. His famous work "From Secular Authorities - How Far One Is Obeyed to Their Obedience" is much less extensive than Plato's "Politeia", but it is still sufficient to offer a Christian alternative.

So the present seminar paper is an experiment. It tries to juxtapose two great thinkers of humanity in their search for the ideal state.

Due to the seemingly infinite abundance of material, both concepts of state can only be roughly grasped and circumscribed. This is done in the first two main parts (B / C). Then both concepts are compared with each other. (D) Both the points at which an approximation seems palpable and the points at which the differences are palpable are worked out.

A personal review concludes this work (E).

B: Plato

1.0 Looking for a new constitutional order

1.1 starting point

Plato experienced the defeat of Athens during the Peloponnesian War, which was accompanied by a collapse of the constitution and institutions. The rule of the thirty with their political misdeeds deterred him just as much as the government of the oligarchs, his highly respected teacher Socrates, whom he called "my dear older friend" and as "the fairest of his time" (7th letter of Plato, quoted in Kersting, p.3) had them executed. The state, and not just it, but the community as a whole, culture and morals were down. The Tyrants had taken over and lived up to their name. Plato deterred this. He was contemplating the crisis "feeling very dizzy" and he came to believe that "all existing constitutional orders are politically neglected." (7th letter of Plato, quoted in Kerstung, p.1).

Plato was confronted with this gloomy initial situation. On this basis, he set out to devise a new constitutional order in which justice will again take center stage in the state.

1.2 The essence of justice

In order for a state order to be fair at all, the essence of justice must first be clarified. What is justice anyway? This question is dealt with extensively in the first book of Politea in dialogic form. Socrates is talking to three different interlocutors about justice. A final definition has not yet been found here, but the discussion participants come to the conclusion at the end: "So the righteous are happy and the unjust are unhappy." and: "Unhappiness does not bring any reward, but happiness does." (Politeia 354a). Justice is therefore something worth striving for, since it is appropriate to the human soul. (Blum, p.13)

In the second book, the ideal state is discussed at the beginning in order to better research justice with its help. Here, too, a definition of justice has not yet been achieved, but rather the essence of U.N justice described.

A comparison of the most unjust with the most just leads to the conclusion: "The highest degree of injustice consists in appearing to be righteous without being righteous. So we must ... allow the utterly unrighteous to gain the reputation of the greatest righteousness in the face of the greatest injustice that he commits acquires " (Politeia 361a).

Only in the fourth book can the essence of justice be defined: "That, my friend, I said, will be justice: that you do your own thing." (Politia 432e) With this Socrates means that everyone should remain in the state he is naturally destined to be. If two craftsmen such as shoemaker and carpenter swapped their professions, this would not be harmful to the city. But should a craftsman for any reason strive to rise to the next higher rank of warrior, this would be an exchange "to mean the ruin of the city." (Politeia 434a-c)

The state has to be a good state if it is to be a just state. And it is only a good state if it is one, i.e. forms a unit. Every change in the state means disorder and thus disintegration. The state is only good if it exists unchangeably.

The same applies to justice in people. A person is just when his soul forms a unity in which each part fulfills its task. If there is a conflict, then the person is unjust.

2.0 The panacea: the rule of the philosophers

Determining the essence of justice is not enough to realize the ideal state. There is one more question that needs to be addressed. Who should rule the city justly? Who can do this? The rulers must be the best educated if the state is to remain in good shape. (Pol. 412a) Ultimately the philosophers have to become rulers or vice versa (Schubert, p.86). Plato himself was deeply convinced of this idea. So he writes in the seventh letter already quoted: "So, I declare, humanity will not be redeemed from its misery until either the community of true and genuine philosophers comes to dominate the community or until the rulers in the state decide to philosophize through divine dispensation. " (quoted in Kersting, p.1)

In order to better understand this position of Plato, which is somewhat astonishing for modern people, it is necessary to make a small detour into Plato's doctrine of ideas, since it forms the basis for the philosophy of power.

2.1 Theoretical basics

2.1.1 Theory of ideas

Plato was convinced that it would be a terrible shortening to only see as real those things that we can perceive with our senses here on earth. So there is indeed on earth beautiful things to look at, but these are different from the beauty per se.

How do we even know that there are beautiful things (a)? We can only know because there is the idea of ​​beauty (A) which cannot be perceived with the senses and which do not exist in time and space. The beautiful (A) is the idea, the general in a perfect way. Beauty (A) is the original and, as beauty in itself, has to be distinguished from beautiful things (a) which are only an image of the original. The beautiful things (a) are always only a distorted and shadowed reproduction of reality.

The material world is shaped according to the pattern of the archetypes, with considerable defects. Thus the material world exists full of appearance and illusion. The truth lies beyond the sensual. (Kersting, p.188.192-194)

2.1.2 Doctrine of anamnesis

The fundamental possibility of recognizing beautiful things as beautiful presupposes the idea of ​​beauty. This realization that there is an idea of ​​beauty is triggered by the beautiful things. This "triggering" of knowledge is only possible because the person remembers the idea again. The knowledge of the idea from the perceived presupposes a stage of the pre-existence of the immortal soul. In this pre-existence the soul saw the idea and remembers it as soon as it perceives things here on earth. (Kersting, p.194)

2.1.3 The philosopher as ruler

What makes a philosopher a philosopher? How does he differ from the non-philosopher? Platon is convinced that only the philosopher is capable of showing ideas. He is not interested in beautiful things (a), i.e. what is tangible with the senses, but strives to see the essence of the beautiful itself and to enjoy it. The other people are unable to do this. You will always rave about beautiful voices, colors, shapes, (cars) as onlookers, but never grasp the beautiful in itself with your mind.

Correspondingly, only the philosophers are in a position to truly recognize with all sharpness and clarity the important things such as justice and virtues in their ideal state. Therefore the philosopher must rule on the basis of his knowledge. He has to become a politician, because only he knows the ideal, the idea, the archetype best and only he can therefore avert all injustice and all evil and bring about a change for the better, because reliable knowledge is only possible in the idea, the original. In the realm of the senses there are only uncertain opinions. (Kersting, p.192.229, Blum p.21) So the philosopher as ruler doesn't need any laws, because because he knows the ideal, laws are unnecessary. He can rule and decide without laws (Blum, p.17).

In short: a good state is the state in which the good is realized. It only comes to that when the philosopher rules. And that's why got to the philosopher to power.

This becomes clear in the allegory of the cave.

2.2 Illustration based on the allegory of the cave

In the cave there are shackled, immobile people. Behind the backs of the people there is a fire and a bridge on which people walk and carry all kinds of objects. The tied up people only see shadows of reality on the wall. One of the people is released from the fetters (= the philosopher)

He goes outside the cave and sees himself in the mirror. Later he sees the sun as the reason for the mirror image, for being in itself and for the good (= the idea of ​​the good). After this realization he goes back to the cave with the aim of proclaiming the reality, to free people from the shadows and to bring them into the true, real reality. Unfortunately, he is so blinded by the shock of brightness that he cannot see anything when he returns to the cave and thus becomes the mockery of his fellow sufferers, who even threaten to kill him if he tries to free someone and bring them to light to lead. (Blum, p.19)

This parable is a very vivid illustration of Plato's world of thought. People lie tied up in their misery in a dark cave and only see shadowy worlds that they believe to be reality, but never recognize what is truly perfect. Only one person succeeds in breaking out, the philosopher. He goes the way of knowledge, who "painful, laborious, a single plague" is (Kersting, p.226). If he has then gained the knowledge, he must experience that the people in the cave did not wait for it "to be told that (their) previous life had been lived wrongly." (Kersting, p.226) The philosopher experiences ridicule and rejection, even enmity. Nevertheless, the philosopher must rule, because only he has been outside the cave and has seen the sun, the idea of ​​good.

2.3 Education as a solution

Another central aspect becomes visible in this parable. The philosopher does not acquire the necessary knowledge automatically, by himself, but "He should be freed, in order to then found the state out of insight. He should be educated for this purpose." (Suhr, p.156) So the education of the philosopher in the Platonic state plays a decisive role. Is the rule of the philosopher the Medicines for the state, education of the philosopher is the way to the pharmacy. Only the "most excellent natures" be compelled to go through the educational program with the aim "to see the good and to start the journey upwards" (Pole 519c). After they have seen what is good, they must return to the prisoners and tell them what they have learned about their journey. (Pole 519c)

3.0 Summary

Plato's idea of ​​the state, as briefly outlined above, contains the following essential points in summary:

- Humans have to observe and adhere to their natural limits. Any border violation means the downfall of the state, as it then becomes unjust. So everyone should stay in the state in which they naturally find themselves. This applies in particular to the third booth.
- Justice means that everyone does his own thing. What is good for the state is fair, because what is good for the state is also good for the individual.
- The value of the individual is that he takes his place as a member of the structure.
- There is no democracy, voting or even revolutionary activities in the state. All of this is unnecessary because the philosopher is able to decide all things for good alone. This is how the state structure is cemented. Change means deterioration.
- The panacea for the state is the rule of philosopher. He becomes a philosopher through strict selection and upbringing.

It remains to be said that Plato probably saw himself as the incarnation of the true ruler of the philosophers.

C: Luther

1.0 The biblical image of man

Martin Luther was at home in the Bible. For him, the Bible was the inspired word of God. It was thus the highest authority and last resort in all questions of faith and life. It is not for nothing that one of the pillars of the Reformation reads: "sola scriptura - only the writing". In order to better understand Luther and his teaching about the state, it is therefore necessary to deal with the Bible, especially with the biblical image of man.

The biblical image of man has two sides. On the one hand, man, created in the image of God, is ennobled and thus has an incomparably high dignity. This likeness of God encompasses man in his entirety "as a lively, rational, decision-making and morally thinking person." (Ryrie, p.225) On the other hand, the Bible describes man as a fallen creature. Because of the fall, man lost his unique fellowship with God. The consequences of this case are manifold. One of the most serious consequences is man's wickedness.

This is what the first book of the Bible reports: "And the Lord saw that man's wickedness was great on earth and that all contemplating the thoughts of his heart was evil all day." (Genesis 6.5) The NT also clearly follows this line. So says Christ himself: "What do you call me good? Nobody is good but one, God." (Luke 18:19) The apostle Paul sums up the evil heart of man when he writes: "There is no righteous man, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have deviated, they have all become unfit; there is no one who does good, there is not one either. " (Romans 3,9-12)

One has to keep these two sides of the biblical image of man in mind in order to understand Luther rightly.

2.0 The state

2.1 Two kingdoms doctrine

Luther distinguishes two groups of people. Some belong to the Kingdom of god, the others belong to the Empire of the world. The people who belong to the kingdom of God are referred to by Luther as "true believers in Christ". (Luther, p.18) As Christians they are saved from their guilt and sin through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. They are given a new nature through Christ and can thereby overcome the wickedness of their hearts. That's why you don't need a government for them: "If all the world consisted of true Christians, no prince, king or lord would be necessary or useful." (Luther, p.19) Here Luther starts from the thesis that the heart of Christians has changed. This change is expressed through a new lifestyle. Injustice is no longer done, but justice. So one can expect Christians to do a lot more on their own "than everything law and doctrine can demand." (Luther, p.19) Therefore the Christians do not need a state and no laws.

All people now belong to the kingdom of the world, "who are non-Christians." (Luther, p.20) In contrast to the Christians, they are the Unjust who just don't do what is right. Since they are not doing the right, they need the right, the law and the state. So these are "subjected to the sword"so that they "cannot do what is their evil nature."(Luther p.20) The state is therefore indispensably necessary in order to ward off evil and protect the righteous. (Luther, p.17)

The ideal situation would therefore be a state in which all Christians would live. Then there would be no more wrong. That is of course a very idealistic and utopian idea. And Luther also recognized this very clearly. It was very clear to him that the world would never be made up of only Christians: "because the world and the masses remain unchristian, even if they are all baptized and are called Christians." (Luther, p.21) To be like that "the wicked ... always outnumber the righteous" be. (Luther, p.22) Precisely for this reason there will always be a state. Its task is to create peace outwardly and to ward off evil works.

2.2 The behavior of the Christian towards the state

How should the Christian, who actually does not need a state, behave towards the state? Luther has a clear answer here. Since the state authority is given by God, the Christian must obey the state authority. (Luther, p.24) The Christian should serve the authorities, not because he needs them for himself, but because the authorities are useful for the others (the unjust). By serving the authorities, the Christian also serves his neighbor because the state ensures that the neighbor can live in peace. So charity is a motive for the Christian to obey the state. The obedience demanded by Luther, however, is not cadaver obedience. Luther sets limits to government obedience: "If a prince were wrong, is his people also obliged to follow him? Answer: No. Because nobody deserves to do anything against the law, but one has to obey God, who wants to be right, more than man (Acts. 5:29). " (Luther, p.56) Obedience to God is far higher than obedience to a person.

2.3 State borders

According to Luther, state power has its limits. From the words of Jesus: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matthew 10:28) Luther concludes: "At least I think here the soul is clearly enough taken out of the hand of all people and placed under God's power alone." (Luther, p.37) So the state has no power over the soul. It is true that the state can only demand lip service from its subjects, but "The heart is by no means able to force you, and should you tear yourself apart about it." (Luther, p.39)

It is analogous to the soul with faith. Faith is also a free work "to which nobody can be forced." (Luther, p.39) The state is experiencing its limits again. Instead of mastering the faith, he should rather master the evil works, because the soul and the faith do not succumb "the power of the emperor." (Luther, p.41) A logical consequence of this thesis is that the state power must neither promote nor combat faith. So it is not the job of the state to combat heresy and heresy. This is done through the Word of God alone. State measures do not help in this regard. (Luther, p.44 / 45) So the state apparatus is again restricted.

2.4 The Christian prince

Luther also dealt with the question of how a Christian should govern the state. First of all, he notes that "A clever prince is a rare bird, an even rarer a righteous prince. They are generally the greatest fools or the worst villains" and further that if the prince is a Christian, this "one of the great miracles and the most dear token of divine grace over the country in question" is (LU, p.43/44).

Luther paints the example of Christ before the Christian prince's eyes. He should serve instead of rule, do not regard subjects as property, but think about how he can be useful to people. (LU, p.51) Furthermore, the Christian prince should become dependent on God and ask him for wisdom for his reign. The "Malefactors" should he go with "moderate seriousness" and meet the necessary severity. He must not blindly rely on his confidants and advisers, but must monitor them with understanding and reason. (LU, p.54 / 57f)

D: comparison

1.0 approximations

As different as the initial situation, the historical context and the thought systems between Plato and Luther are, one can recognize some tendencies towards convergence.

1.1 Motives

First of all, the motifs are similar. Plato saw the decadent polity of his time and wanted to think up and found the just state in order to remedy the situation. Luther, too, saw the unjust actions of the rulers of his time, criticized them massively for this reason and offered biblically based alternative courses of action for the common people as well as for the princes. Christ was the model for him - serving instead of ruling.

1.2 Legitimation of the state

For both thinkers, the question of the legitimacy of the state was never up for debate. Both assumed that people must live in community and that a community order (= the state) is necessary.

1.3 Laws

Plato and Luther describe different "ideal states", which, however, interestingly have one thing in common: governing without laws. With Plato, the philosopher rules without law solely on the basis of his knowledge. With Luther, Christians do not need a law because they are under the rule of Christ and would therefore rather suffer injustice than commit injustice.

2.0 differences

2.1 World of thought

The starting point of the thought world of Plato and Luther differs significantly from one another. For Plato, what is in the foreground is the true and perfect, to which the philosopher must soar. Luther, on the other hand, found a personal God in the Bible who created man in his image. Proceeding from this God, the authority of the state can be justified as long as it adheres to God's law and order. The ultimate authority, then, is not man, but God, to whom man (whether prince or subject) alone owes obedience. Plato, on the other hand, elevates man to the ultimate authority by granting the philosophers sole rule and authority.

2.2 Justice

There is a clear difference here. Plato demands the unity of the soul and thus of the state. Only then is justice achieved. Luther, on the other hand, deprives the state of power over the soul. Man acts righteously when he has Christ as his example, practices love, suffers injustice, renounces his own claims and serves his neighbor instead of himself.

2.3 Solution

Both thinkers see human injustice and are looking for a solution. Plato sees the solution in education to be a philosopher. The state needs an elite. On the basis of the biblical image of man, Luther sees both the nobility of man and the wickedness and injustice of man more than Plato and does not expect man to be redeemed from misery. His solution is the kingdom of God, in which all people are Christians who can do without a state. However, Luther knows very well that the world will always be unchristian and that this idea is therefore utopian. What remains for him is the eschatological solution. Christ will come again as King and then the Kingdom of God will rightly bear that name. The solution to man's misery is therefore transcendent. It is beyond human possibilities. Plato seeks the solution against it in man.

E: Personal statement

Working with Plato and Luther was very stimulating and a personal gain for me. As a Christian, I am naturally more closely related to Martin Luther than to Plato. Luther's thoughts inspired me because they are firmly rooted in the Holy Scriptures. In addition, there is Luther's apt and pointed manner of expression, which brings the right flavor into it. I think his statements are balanced, realistic and convincing.

Plato's teaching, on the other hand, makes me uncomfortable. His endeavor to put an almost godlike person at the head of the state, won through strict upbringing, is frightening. History teaches that all attempts to transfer full power over a community to one person or a small group of people usually end in disaster. If you then consider the great importance Plato attaches to the education of the elite, the thought of the eugenics of the 3rd Reich is obvious. The evangelical pastor and resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: "A leader without a leader is a seducer." A god-like leader like the one Plato wants him to be, who is responsible to no one but himself, is a dangerous person. In this respect I can only agree with Popper in his harsh criticism of Plato, who characterized him as "The first great political ideologist who thought in terms of classes and races and proposed concentration camps." (Popper, introduction on page IX).

After Hitler and Stalin at the latest, it should be clear that, to use the language of Luther, the prince who sits on the throne in the place of God is at best a fool, at worst a devil.

literature

Bavarian State Center for Political Education: Blum, Wilhelm u.a .: Political Philosophers. 3rd edition Munich 1997

Bible: Quotes based on the revised Elberfeld translation. Wuppertal: Brockhausverlag

Kersting, Wolfgang: Plato's "State". 1st ed. Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchges 1999

Metzger, Wolfgang: Luther, Martin: From secular authority. Volume 4 of the Calwer Luther edition. Neuhausen-Stuttgart .: hänssler 1996

Meyer's large pocket dictionary in 24 volumes. 4th edition Mannheim 1992

platon: The state. 2nd ed. Munich: DTV 1991

Popper, Karl: The open society. Vol. 1: The magic of Plato. 7th edition Tübingen: UTB 1992

Ryrie, Charles: Understanding the Bible. Dillenburg: Christian Publishing Company 1996

Schubert, Andreas: Plato: "The State": an introductory comment. Pader-born: Schöningh 1995

Suhr, Martin: Plato: Introductions. Frankfurt / Main: Campus Verlag 1992

Winzer, Fritz (ed.): Cultural history of Europe. Cologne no year