Plato’s Analogy of State and Individual

Jerome Neu

in On Loving Our Enemies

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199862986
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949762 | DOI:
Plato’s Analogy of State and Individual

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This chapter argues that Plato's political theory does not derive from an analogy that makes the state a monster individual with interests superior to and independent of those of ordinary citizens; it derives rather from a doctrine of objective interests discernible by those with special training and ability, interests which later thinkers have taken to be the object of a “real will,” unerring even where a person's mere empirical desires are shortsightedly misdirected. Plato identifies the interests of his ideal state with the objective interests of its citizens, and in his harmonious world, metaphysics, moral psychology, and political organization combine to ensure that those interests need never override individual mundane interests for they never conflict: they coincide. That the whole theory is dubious should not prevent us from seeing that just what the theory is may be clarified by examining the arguments which putatively lead to it, and that those arguments provide grounds for not confounding Plato's theory with others which may reach similar conclusions about political organization and obligation. The alleged beast grows in three stages: the state as analogous to the individual; the state as super-individual; and the individual as subordinate to the state.

Keywords: Plato; political theory; state; real will; individual; super-individual; subordinate

Chapter.  9591 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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