A Day With Plato

Plato's five forms of government


Date Sat 16th Jun 09:30 - 17:30
Location Townley Hall Main House, Slane Rd, Drogheda, Louth

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What to expect

The day will start with an introductory talk on Plato, The Republic and the forms of government described in book VIII. After lunch Dr Horan will speak on how Plato's ideas apply to the modern world. Dr O'Byrne will wrap up the day with a look at the state of western liberal democracy and the dangers of a descent to tyranny per the signs in book VIII. In between talks there will be lively discussion groups and a scrumptious lunch in the beautiful sourrounds of Townley Hall.

Plato's five forms of government

Justice and what rules in ourselves and in our state

In Plato's Republic, Socrates and his fellow enquirers set out to discover what is justice and if the life of a just man is the best one. On this journey Socrates describes an ideal state governed by philosopher kings educated to be able to behold the absolute good – after which pattern they order the state and the lives of the citizens.            

until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils

The nature of a state resembles the natures of the men who comprise them and in this state the citizens are themselves well governed by reason, supported by spirit or the passionate part of their natures and in control of their appetites or desires.   

As the natures of the citizens become predominated initially by the passionate part and later the appetites, Socrates describes the corresponding descent of the state - from Timocracy to Oligarchy, from Oligarchy to Democracy. Finally when the thirst for freedom and immediate satisfaction of the appetites in the citizens of a Democracy has descended to type of anarchy the Tyrant emerges.

thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery

On this Day with Plato we will start by examining the ideas that Plato puts forth. Using Plato’s perspective see if we can gain any insights as to what is going on it today’s society and what is ruling within ourselves. And finally look at the signs as outlined in Book VIII of The Republic on the descent from Democracy to Tyranny so see if any are familiar to us in the world around us.