By Carl Eric Scott
Read or Download The inconstant democratic character: A comparison of Plato's ''Republic'' and Tocqueville's ''Democracy in America''. PDF
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Extra info for The inconstant democratic character: A comparison of Plato's ''Republic'' and Tocqueville's ''Democracy in America''.
It is not as easy to see in democracy, because of the intangible and encompassing nature of the good of freedom, and because of freedom's troubled connection with the likewise intangible good of justice. Democracy's notion of justice is in large part an over-reaction against the unjust restriction of merit found in timarchy and oligarchy. Its justice blindly assigns equal merit to all. (cf. 564a) This dynamic is somewhat difficult to discern in timarchy's case,(ftnt. 25) but it is clear that for both oligarchy and democracy, their devotion to 57 their ruling goods produces within themselves a class of men opposed to these goods.
To the shock of the modern reader, perhaps especially the American one, democracy turns out to be a bad thing—it dishonors philosophy, it paves the way for tyranny, and it is the second-most vice-ridden way of life. While this can be dismissed as merely historical information about how ancient democracy functioned, or as reflecting Plato's presumed aristocratic bias, the serious reader remains troubled upon reflection. For the case against democracy proves closely related to a number of the most attractive arguments of the Republic, and what is more, the portrait of the democratic psyche appears rather contemporary.
It is for these that we form cities in the first place,(cf. Bk. II; cc. Aristotle's Politics) although Glaucon's demand for "relishes" reminds us that the desire for the fine and the honored inevitably makes itself felt in political life. We like to imagine that there is a regime that provides all three of the basic political goods in proper proportion, and Socrates has provided one vision of how this might work, a vision that makes an honored place for another basic human goal, that of knowledge.