For many years thinkers have try to defined and create a vision of what they term as The Ideal Society. This assumes beforehand an understanding of human nature. Many thinkers who have endeavored to build the vision of an ideal society agree that humans desire to find happiness. But no everyone agree upon what sort of society will make that possible. Examples include Plato’s “Republic.” This begins with an exploration of human virtue and uses small view to explore the big view of the state state. Most thinkers, modern and ancient, believe that an ideal society is one in which happiness is maximized by the whole. It is a society where people are free to pursue the occupations of their choice. A society where people are free to do what they believe (not the society) will bring them happiness and fulfillment. They can practice this liberty unhindered by other citizens or the state. This would also require an improvement of the system for electing, just leaders, Plato’s “Philosopher Kings”, who had the best interest of people in mind. Specifically, I believe a society that has incentives for people to work, allows them to enter the industries of their choosing, and also provides basic safety nets to prevent people from starving or homeless is The Ideal Society that we should work for.
Society, in one simple definition, is a set of conventions existing between a group of people that serves the general welfare of the people. Society’s focus should be on the individual. Plato’s society in The Republic has not this focus. It sees society’s purpose of serving the common good, which is not unlike repressive communist regime such as China. Plato divides his society into a cast system of three levels that dedicate themselves to different labors and privileges not based on their desire at these things, but their aptitude. In The Ideal society people would not be confined to a certain cast, but could rise to any rank their drive, ambitions and talents allowed them to.
What would happen if Plato’s prescription for an ideal society was given a chance to play out in the real world? Sophocles’ play Antigone explores a disparity that is certain to occur when an individual’s means to an end or the end itself conflicts with the goals of the whole of society in maintaining the common good. It causes the reader to ask the important question of if and when it is permissible to break the laws of a society for reasons associated with an individual within that society. This causes one to ask the second question of who is to judge whether or not the laws of a society are moral and whether or not action against an unjust law can be viewed as permissible. To answer these questions, it is important to judge Antigone’s personal justification of her actions. The justification of the king Creon’s austere demeanor with regard to his kingdom’s laws being imposed, and then contrasting the happenings within Creon’s society and Antigone’s actions against that society in light of what Plato imagines an ideal society to be in his work The Republic.
Justice is important in any society. In my Ideal Society science would allow science to clear the ambiguity currently present in the criminal justice system. An article on the website Slate, “The Future of Lying” asked the question, “Can society survive if computers can tell fact from fib.” I believe that society can not only survive, but flourish. One of the biggest issues in real world society occurs because politicians say whatever it is they want to get elected. If a machine could determine 100% honesty, in both matters of justice and politics no longer would innocent men/women be convicted of crimes they did not do, but also politicians who actually plan to do what they say they do could be elected.
Another big consideration for any society is wealth. How to distribute it? How it can be attained and retuned? Moore in Utopia concerns himself with abolishing wealth. He have everyone work a reasonable amount to ensure what he believes will be prosperity for all. He thought that the summum bonum, the highest good, was to follow ones natural, God-given impulses (Moore, 860). Moore here I do not believe is looking at human nature as it is, but as he wished it were. One must admit that money, wealth, outside of certain hunter-gatherer tribal people are a common corner stone of any society. It is not surprising that Moore’s Utopia has been used at times as a basis for the support of communism. But without incentivizing work, Moore might be mistaken how much is actually produced in the six hours a day of farm or other labor members of his society must concern themselves with.
I believe in an ideal society we would have a more perfected version of capitalism. One that, as Moore provides members of his Utopia with, would have basic minimum standards that even the poor could enjoy. This would include basic health care, housing and food. Wealth could still be acquired, but in a fair and just manner. Today, I believe the wealthy are too wealthy and in my ideal society there would be laws that required a CEO to pay employees an equitable percentage of what he/she earns.
Both in Moore and Plato’s Ideal Society, children are separated from ther parents at birth and were raised by the state. In Plato’s it is in every instance, and in Moore’s it is in cases where they wish to learn a trade other than their parents’. (Moore, 856). Because of this, humanity’s strongest ties, family ties, would not have been allowed to exist in Plato’s and would be seen as lesser in Moore’s society than pursuing ones interests.
In these instances are both cases in which the writers allowed for their ideal societies to depart from what is realistic. Removing children from a household, as anyone whose studied the American foster care system, is a traumatic as a rule, and can lead to life long problems for children shuffled from family to family, unable to establish strong ties of trust necessary for life in the modern world. The family as a unit in my basic society would be kept together. In situations of neglect or death of the parents, they would be placed in permanent foster homes.
Plato, Moore and Sophocles were wrote from the perspective of societies in which only a select elite enjoyed the privileges of freedom and justice. In all three of their societies, slaves, or slave-like people live which would be unimaginable in contemporary thought. Through natural means, American society has moved closer towards Moore’s ideal society, in which individual freedoms are valued and the constitution proclaims that every citizen is entitled the pursuit of happiness.
Martin Luther King Jr., as opposed to these more ancient thoughts, wrote and spoke at a time of movement within the American society was working towards a “more” ideal state. , His words had a direct effect on changes occurring within the system. Those fighting for rights of people of different colors who were being marginalized believed that their fight would lead to a better, more ideal society.
In his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” he stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” King’s society as he dreamt it could be, was much different than Moore’s and Plato’s in which the state has greater control over the everyday lives of citizens, but the central tenet of individual freedom resonates with Moore’s view of the freedoms that citizens should have to find happiness.
Racism and all forms of discrimination would have to be abolished in my Ideal Society. However, while laws can help bring this about, it also must come from people communally denouncing acts of discrimination.
In similar battle to change society into a “more ideal” one that took place in the same time period as King’s fight, Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in support of women’s rights in The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolution. She believe that women “suffer” under the current government and that they “demand the equal station to which they are entitled.” (Scanton, 1)
Moore and Stanton both think of the women as equal to men in terms of their freedoms and occupations within a system. At the time, this was a progressive way of thinking. Currently we are living in a society that in a lot of ways has achieved many of the finer points of both Plato and Moore’s societies, while not adopting points that would have later proved to be impractical, or impossible.
Society progresses generally marches onward to it’s own music. Therefore, thinkers can bring new ideas to the table for implementation into the laws of a state, but have no direct channel to change. I would argue, that given the premises of Moore’s Ideal Society, that we are closer to having achieved that than we ever have. Society, like humanity, may never be perfected, as our very nature is one that lends itself to conflict, and disagreements and even maximizing the happiness of the whole can sometimes lead to the discomfort of the few. In the society I have developed, it considers these ‘ideal” thoughts in terms of what can realistically be hoped for and achieved in my Ideal Society. However, where we are today, is closer to where both contemporary thinkers, King and Scranton, fought for us to be, and with the Ideal Society defined and explored, we are moving closer to and to a large extent have achieved a society in which people are free to do what they believe will bring them happiness and fulfillment, and are able to do with their liberty unhindered by other citizens or the state. All of this within a state that looks out for it’s people and sets minimum standards for how low they can drop.
Cady Stanton, Elizabeth. "Declaration of Sentiments - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
Gross, Nicolas P.. Sophocles' Antigone. Bryn Mawr, Pa.: Thomas Library, Bryn Mawr College, 1988. Print.
Luther King Jr. , Martin. "I Have a Dream - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia."Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2013.
More, Thomas. Utopia. New York: Scott-Thaw C., 1903. Print.
\Plato, and Tom Griffith. The republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.