The idea of a Utopian state remains a subject of controversy and that of debate today. This is mainly due to the belief by many that it is just an imaginary state that society may never attain. However, it will be proper to describe what a Utopian state is before we continue our discussion about how possible it is to achieve such a state. A Utopian state is a state that has everything working correctly. It is a just and upright society where the rights and privileges of the citizens are guaranteed and protected.
Having given a brief description of what a Utopian state is, it is fair to say that such a society may never be achieved. The reason for saying so is not far-fetched. This is because what is perfect and just to a set of people may be wrong and unjust to another group of individuals. This then shows that such a community may never be achieved.
Plato had many views about the idea of a Utopian state, which many writers and commentators of philosophy have written about. We will discuss some of his views about the achievement of a Utopian state in this article.
Justice in a Utopian State
Plato held many views about justice in the society. It was his belief that justice plays a vital role in ensuring a just and perfect state. We will be discussing some of the views he held about justice as a critical component in the attainment of a perfect community.
- Minding your business is justice: To Plato, justice in an ideal state means everyone is minding their business and not meddling in the affairs of others. Though this may be strange to our modern day, to Plato it is the definition of justice. To him, justice only means allowing every individual to fulfill his right duties and aspirations. He feels this should apply to the ideal state and individual. The perfect state should have individual roles and responsibilities bestowed on every citizen within the community. Doing this ensures that each person is rewarded or held liable for the performance or non-performance of their assigned duties.
Therefore, justice means each one playing their role that has been assigned to them. Over-performing or underperforming of the functions allocated to the individual is unjust. Plato’s definition of justice seems reasonable in this case. So, in the long run, stealing is viewed as injustice because you carried what does not belong to them which is wrong. Plato described people who do evil as those that fail to realize their duties within the society and the reason for their being unjust.
- Everything in nature is part of a hierarchy: Plato’s idea of justice in a perfect state was based on his beliefs that everything follows a hierarchy in nature. In his postulation, everything in nature works in harmony and that the opposite of it is chaos which means an unnatural and unjust state of things. Plato feels that the soul of the individual also has a hierarchy and that the selfish part of the individual’s spirit is inferior to right thinking. Each individual is expected to allow reason to rule the conduct of their affairs. The individual knows what the state expected from him and he should be ready to play that role to the best of his ability.
Plato’s Idea of a Utopian Individual
Just like Plato viewed justice as a primary requirement in an ideal society, he also had views about what an ideal individual should be. Read on to know more about his notion of a perfect state.
- Philosophers as extraordinary individuals: The thinking of some people about an ideal individual may be different from that of Plato. Plato’s thinking about an ideal person differs from that of some people because he feels philosophers have a higher level of reasoning than others. The philosopher according to him thinks rationally and allows rationality to control his thoughts and actions. The philosopher possesses adequate knowledge of the society. Scholars understand what it means to be upright and have complete self-control. An unjust individual according to Plato lacks self-control and does not have respect for the laws governing the society. From all this, it is clear that Plato’s idea of the utopian individual may be different from what some people may term a perfect person.
- Women and children in a perfect state: His thoughts about women and children in an ideal state may be horrifying today’s society were rights of women and children are highly protected. This is because Plato advocated that society do away with the way the family is being organized and that men should share women and children in common. By doing so according to him, no single man will single out a child as his own or a woman, and she is his wife alone. By doing so, he argued that no man will show so much love for a particular woman or child.
He advocated that children should be taken away from their mothers at birth and given to other parents to bring them up, while their mothers should be given other kids to bring up. He advocated the pairing of intelligent males and females in the society together to mate and produce offspring of their kind and vice versa. This, of course, does not make sense to modern day society. How would a woman not be allowed to breastfeed her child or a father not allowed to show love to his biological child? How would people be paired based on their rational thinking, then where is the place of love?
Plato is a well-respected philosopher, and his thinking is also well respected. But it is evident from what has been discussed in this article that his thinking with regards to what an ideal state should be is something that may not be achievable. Most of the theories he postulated to support his arguments on what an ideal state should be are theories that may be difficult to implement in modern day society. In our opinion, Plato’s views of a perfect community may not be attainable. This is because what may be perfect to one citizen may not be ideal to another citizen.
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