Pick out two ways in which Plato’s ideas might be described as totalitarian. Explain in which way they might be totalitarian. Do you think that they are in fact totalitarian? Argue for your view carefully with reference to both Crito and The Republic. Plato’s “Crito” describes Socrates, an Athenian philosopher who chooses to die for an ideal. In the text, Socrates is condemnded to death and sitting in jail.
At this time, Crito, a friend of Socrates comes to rescue him. Socrates has many followers who hope he will agree to escape. When Crito comes to take on this position, Socrates refuses to his arguement and also the plan of escape. In “The Republic”, Socrates, visiting Polemarchus’ house, enters into a conversation on the nature of justice. Several various definitions are presented by the different guests. After finding each of these incapable, Socrates attempts to define justice himself.
This requires that he first describe justice on the scale of the “ideal state”. According to “Crito” and “The Republic”, Plato’s ideas can be count as totalitarianism. Both texts are refer to accepting the state rules and esteem to the rulers. To this end, I will prove my argument by giving brief information about totalitarianism and criticize excerpts from “Crito” and “The Republic” Totalitarianism can be defined as the political power which is concentrated in one bloc, and the ruled have no alternative. “A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but rhe attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society.
Despite the many differences among totalitarian states, they have several characteristics in common, of which the two most important are: the existence of an ideology that adresses all aspects of life and outlines means to attain the final goal, and a single mass party through which people are mobilized to muster energy and support” (The Columbia Encyclopedia Web Site). Citizens cannot object the rules of the ruler and they must obey them.Otherwise, society exlude the rebels against the state. The party is generally led by a dictator and, typically, participation in politics, especially voting, is compulsory. The party leadership maintains monopoly control over the governmental system, which includes the police, military, communications, and economic and education systems.
In totalitarian regimes; the party leader or the ruler of the state has right to attempted to exercise control over the lives of their subjects, by whatever means were available to them. Plato states that “We have given you birth, nurtured you, educated you; we have given you and all other citizens a share of all the good things we could. Even so, by giving every Athenian the opportunity, once arrived at voting age and having observed the affairs of the city and us the laws, we proclaim that if we do not please him, he can take his possessions and go wherever he pleases. Not one of our laws raises any obstacle or forbids him, if he is not satisfied with us or the city, if one of you wants to go and live a colony or wants to go anywhere else, and keep his property” (Crito, 51d-e).
Socrates is trying to explain that they must respect the rules and the ruler. State is giving all the life opportunities such as education, birth, nutrition so they must satisfy the ruler in order to keep the order be stable and gratitude him for giving this advantages, otherwise, he can take his possession and his conditions and use them against the society. Ruler of the country has power to control citizens live and exercise them. We saw this kind of skimp in near history, in Saddam’s Iraq, Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.
Citizens are afraid of them and they applied their ruler’s laws in order to live in peace and in order. In my opinion, citizens need a authority to keep them in order but also this authority needs citizens, otherwise there is no state. State must treat its citizens justly and give them rights to live. Socrates is defending the totalitarian system and he mentions that he cannot abandon the principles which he used to hold in the past simply because this accident has happened to him. He knows that obeying his death sentence will strengthen Athens’ fledgling system of law.
As I mentioned before, totalitarianism is the political power which is concentrated in one bloc, and the ruled have no alternative. On this definition, the ideal state of Socrates called “Kallipolis” in “The Republic” is totalitarian. He argues that citizens without knowledge should concede that only philosophers have knowledge (The Republic, 414c-415e, Book III) According to him, the non-philosophers must esteem the philosophers.
In totalitarian regimes, this obedience may bring chaos to the nation because the ruler or the ruling bloc may use this power for their self-interest. Up to this arguement, we should discuss the characterics of how to be a ruler. Is it only depends on being well educated or having a noteworthy charisma? If we have to give an actual example, we can deal with Yasser Arafat. He had the great authority on Phalestenians because he had a great charisma. Maybe he was not well educated as his rivals, but with this charisma, he ruled Phalesten and succeeded in their national action. There is no doubt that the cencored education in “Kallipolis” represent totalitarian concerns, as does “Kallipolis”‘ use of a “noble lie” to convince citizens’ of thier unequal standing and deep tie to the city.(The Republic, 414c-417e, Book III).
As we return the text, “Crito” we can see another example of totalitarianism in Plato’s ideas. In totalitarianism, state is the one which have all your properties and also, state is your father. You must accept whatever instructed although it leads you to be wounded or killed. Socrates mentions that “Is your wisdom such as not to realize that your country is to be honored more than your mother, your father, and all your ancestors, that is more to be revert and more sacred, and that it counts for more among the gods and sensible man, that you must warship it, yield it, and placate its anger more than your fathers?. You must either persuade it or obey its orders, and endure in silence whatever it instructs you to endure, whether blows or bonds, and if it leads you into war to be wounded or killed, you must obey” (Crito 51a-b).
Plato thinks that the state is to be more respected than one’s parents. The ruler’s anger is more effective than a father’s because your father is using his emotions as a parent, and a nurturer but the ruler is using his tough rules in order to cultivate you. So, you must obey the ruler’s orders and endure whatever your ruler instructed. I think respect to the state is important but it is not the same case of respecting your parents because your state is giving you the property of being a citizen, but the ones which educate you, nurtured you are your father and your mother. Being a father is not a mission, this is a process of what nature orders. Surely, you can fight for your country with nationalistic emotions and you can die for your nation but you cannot refuse the holiness of being a father and mother. Socrates is drawing a portrait of totalitarian and he refuses the loftiness of being a father and mother.
In conclusion, we must accept Plato’s ideas as totalitarianism with the respect of the definition of totalitarianism. In the text “Crito”, Socrates refuses to give in to the ‘eye for an eye’ method of justice. Since Socrates is unable to convince those who ruled against him, he believes that he has no alternative but obey his sentence. Though escape would be easy, it could only lead to more corruption in the system that found him guilty.
As a totalitarian, Socrates is willing to give up his life to Athens, not as a solider, but as an example of obedience to the law. Also in “The Republic” , obeying the philosopher class can be count as totalitarian. As I thought before, you have to be much more careful to classify the society as rulers or ruled. A life ruled by one ruler may cause chaos, and wound people emotionally if the state has a low charismatic and low educated ruler.