The Athenian democracy is considered the first, most prominent and perhaps the most radical form of democracy in the history of mankind. Equally, Plato is the first thinker to have written a detailed and theoretically elaborate critique of it, and also its most prominent and insightful critic to date. It is therefore obvious that the study of this criticism remains extremely interesting.
Focusing on the study of nine Platonic works as well as references to the broader Platonic corpus, I examine Plato's attitude to Athenian rule in its varied aspects. As I look at its evolution, I distinguish it in two phases. In the first - and under Socratic influence - the philosopher presents a constructive critique of it, accepting its institutions but also strongly disputing some important elements of its ideology. At the end of this phase, the philosopher implies his own distancing from the Socratic venture (political reorganization through moral reform, moral reform through exhausting examination of citizens) and from the Socratic view of political affairs.
In the second phase, by genuinely expressing his own thinking and forming his own identity as a thinker, he completely and unequivocally rejects the Athenian government. The disenchantment and thriftiness with which he incorporates some Athenian elements into his own philosophical systems is indicative of this attitude.
Investigating the factors that shape the Platonic opposition to Athenian democracy, I argue that it does not result from class or political bias, although this element is occasionally intruded. As I demonstrate, this is a philosopher's critique and not one of a prejudiced and spiteful observer. Finally, I find that behind the varied manifestations and the ostensible fluctuations of the Platonic attitude lies a – mostly – firm opinion of the philosopher on Athenian rule.
Plato, Socrates, athenian democracy, political philosophy