Socrates, in Book 5 of Plato’s Republic as explained by his student Plato distinguishes the terms faction and war. Socrates distinguishes the two terms by stating that faction is hostility towards one’s own people. On the other hand, he refers to war as hostility towards strangers. In the book, which is written in a dialogue form, Socrates is speaking to Glaucon whom he tells that faction only occurs between kinsmen. He further illustrates by giving an example of a Greek race fighting against another Greek who are its own and kin, as faction rather than war. On the contrary, Socrates gives an instance of a person of the Greek race fighting with barbarians. He characterizes that as war, since it is hostility towards strangers. In effect, the latter form of hostility, it is warfare since the persons are fighting against a natural enemy. On the other hand, when Greeks engage in hostilities as between themselves, it shall be said that the two are natural friends and that the Greeks are sick and divided into factions.
The difference between faction and war as espoused by Socrates is a fundamental concept as far as political philosophy is concerned. Indeed, this distinction plays a fundamental role in guiding both domestic and foreign political affairs. Usually, in confrontation of politics between domestic parties, this would usually be characterized as faction rather than war. It is hoped and believed that all parties in conflict have the motherland or nation’s interest at heart. Consequently, the mode of treatment offered in this kind of conflict for the weaker party in this conflict is fundamentally different as opposed to a party in a conflict involving foreign political affairs. Socrates further adds that whenever the sort of a thing called a faction occurs and a city becomes divided resulting in devastating damage and arson of other people’s houses, then such faction is thought abominable. More so, each of the party involved in the faction is thought to abhor their city or motherland since if they so loved it, they would never have dared to harm it. Be it as it may, the stronger party in a faction is still allowed to carry off the crops of the weaker party and to have an attitude of people who will one day be reconciled. It is proffered that parties or persons involved in a faction quarrel or fight with the hope of reconciling because they belong to the same homeland or kin. In domestic political affairs, it must be hoped and believed that there is only a difference of ideology for the benefit of the whole nation. Consequently, the parties in a faction shall ultimately reconcile though they do quarrel or disagree. This is all premised on the understanding that all parties in a faction are both mindful of the welfare of the nation. On the contrary, a war involves natural enemies and usually one of the party enemies is never concerned with the welfare of a nation. Comparatively, in foreign political affairs, it is analogized that the foreign entity never has a nation’s interest at heart but rather a desire to annihilate it. More so, the hostility is never fuelled with the hope of reconciliation. As such, significant circumspection on a party should guide a nation involved in a conflict on political affairs with a foreign nation or entity.
In the book Crito by Plato, Socrates warns against following the opinion of the majority despite the attractiveness of such a venture or the strength the convictions of the majority. A summary of the contextual background of the events as they unfolded is crucial in this respect. The plot of the narrative starts when Crito, a significant friend and student of Socrates visits his friend and teacher Socrates in prison. Socrates is awaiting execution in prison the following day. It is also the case that Socrates has been imprisoned and sentenced to execution unfairly by the laws of the land. Consequently, Crito implores him to escape from prison in order to save his life and avoid execution. However, Socrates refuses this and states that if it is the will of God that he should die, then it should be so. Crito then seeks to prevail upon Socrates by stating that if he does not escape from prison, he would have lost a true friend and that the majority or the public would chastise him for neglecting to do what would be helpful for his friend. He argues that those people who are not familiar with the facts of affairs will presume that Crito would have bought the freedom of his friend of which he failed to do. To this end, Crito told Socrates that if he cared about his reputation among the majority, he should honor the request given to him by Crito. He adds that Socrates must not ignore the opinion of the majority as they have the ability to inflict harm on anyone of whom they disapprove.
It is to this suggestion by Crito that Socrates responds by saying that the opinion of the majority should not be a concern for the reason that the majority is never capable of either the greatest virtue or the greatest evil. He adds that the opinion of the majority can neither make a person wise nor foolish and that whatever it does is usually a matter of chance. Crito then asks Socrates whether he harbors the fear that in the event that he escapes, the person in charge of the prison would be in trouble with the authorities and Socrates says that, that is one of the many fears. Crito then tells him to have no fear since he has the means to enable his escapefor there are persons willing to save him from the prison at no cost. Crito then extends his offer by indicating that he has the means to aid in bribing the authorities. More so, he states that if Socrates feels that he was becoming a burden to Crito, there are several friends ready and willing to pay for his freedom. Crito continues to persuade Socrates to escape from prison by telling him that by his continued stay in prison, he was playing to the hands of his enemies and gratifying those who disregard the demands of justice. He also tells him that his refusal to escape is a betrayal of his family and especially his children who will be bereft of a father for providence and guidance of which he would provide if he were alive. He further tells him his escape would be perceived by the people as a cowardly act and failure to act like a man. Socrates tells Crito that his zeal is invaluable if it used for good but if used for the wrong thing it results in even a greater evil. He says that he is not swayed by emotional appeals but rather by reason. As a result, Socrates tells Crito that he will not depart from his principles which he has valued all his life but will remain true to whatever reason tells him is right.
In Book 3 of Aristotle Politics, Aristotle makes a stinging verdict of democracy as a form of government. He denigrates democracy as a form of government that tends for the poor in lieu of caring for the common good. Further, he states that form of government places too much power in the people who are not fit to govern leading to disorder. Aristotle saw democracy as a form of governance denoting the rule of common people for their own interest whereas this is in conflict with the essential purpose of a state. He argues that there are different types of democracy in practice. In one of the more direct types of democracy, Aristotle states that all citizens rule provided they are able to pass scrutiny. In such a democracy, it is never the law but the multitude that are sovereign with the help of a few demagogues who tilt the tide against the elite and rule public opinion. As a result, the state degenerates into a monarch and such a democracy is never founded on any law or constitution. The hallmarks of democracy chiefly sovereignty of the majority and liberty is seen by Aristotle as the primary evils of democracy. As mentioned by Plato, democracy lets the people live as they deem fit. This position is untenable as people are bound to be lawless resulting in anarchy. He reiterates Plato’s position that democracy may lead to disorder and lack of respect for the rule of law.
Without doubt, Aristotle makes the case that democracy is not a good form of government. It is crucial to note that democracy is founded on ensuring freedom of citizens and public participation. It is based on the recognition that power to rule reposes in the people who are the subjects of the law. Aristotle and Plato were writing at a time when their country Greece was practicing direct democracy which called for direct participation by citizens in making laws and similar issues instead of their elected representatives. Such a practice cannot fail to be marked by anarchy and disorder. Aristotle even proposes a hybrid of democracy and oligarchy so as to mitigate the effects of direct democracy practiced in the country. It is, therefore, the contention of this paper that democracy as practiced in major western democracies is good and should be sustained to realize the ideals sought by citizens.
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