A Day With Plato - Plato's five forms of government

Are Plato's ideas relevant to our times? Are the warning signs on the path from Democracy to Tyranny described in Republic Book VIII recognisable? Join us in this exploration of ourselves and our society through the wisdom of Plato.


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

What to expect

The day will start with an introductory talk on Plato, the Republic and the five forms of government described by Plato. After lunch Dr David Horan will speak on how Plato's ideas apply to the modern world. The day will conclude with Dr Brendan O'Byrne, TCD, looking at contemporary lessons from Republic Book VIII and examining the question - "Are we sliding into Tyranny?" In between talks there will be lively discussion groups with lunch and refreshments, all in the beautiful surroundings of Townley Hall.



In Plato’s Republic, Socrates and his fellow enquirers set out to discover “What is Justice?” and whether 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 Ideal State the citizens are themselves well governed by reason, supported by spirit or the passionate part of their nature and in control of their appetites or desires.

As the natures of the citizens become dominated 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 a 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 and then consider how they may apply to ourselves and our times. We live in an age where democracy is highly regarded, but are the pitfalls pointed out by Socrates over 2000 years ago evident today? The final talk of the day will look at the descent from Democracy into Tyranny and the warning signs along the way.