Plato's Totalitarianism

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In his book The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper criticizes that Plato’s philosophy set forth in his work The Republic is Totalitarian in nature. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective “totalitarian” is defined as, “Of or pertaining to a system of government which tolerates only one political party, to which all other institutions are subordinated, and which usually demands the complete subservience of the individual to the State” (“Totalitarian”). By this definition and through a detailed analysis of his work, one can discern that Plato and his philosophy in The Republic are not as thoroughly totalitarian as Popper suggests. While Plato does advocate for the government of Kallipolis, the morally perfect city he…show more content…
Plato’s analysis in Book IV of the legislation needed to create Kallipolis, his idea of a truly just city, reveals that he was not as completely totalitarian as Popper suggests, in that Plato gives particular attention to keeping religion unlegislated by the government. Near the middle of Book IV, with the drawing up of imaginary legislation coming to a close, Adeimantus asks if there are any areas of citizen life left to legislate to which Socrates responds, “For us nothing, but for the Delphic Apollo it remains to enact the greatest, finest, and first of all laws” (427b). Here, Plato reveals his belief that religion must remain untouched by the government and instead be regulated by the religious authority already established. Further in the passage,…show more content…
Throughout Book II and Book III, Socrates argues repeatedly for the censorship of art, music, and stories. However, this censorship seems to be only in effect over the guardians rather than the general population. The commencement of the conversation about education and censorship illustrates this point with Socrates asking, “but how are we to bring [the guardians] up and educate [them]” (376c). Here, Socrates sets up the discussion that follows to be one pertaining to the education of the guardian class of Kallipolis specifically and not the rest of the population. Socrates expresses that, “[they] want the guardians of [their] city to think that it’s shameful to be easily provoked into hating one another,” so they, “mustn’t allow any stories about gods warring, fighting, or plotting against one another” (378b-c). This passage further illustrates that censored stories will only be used in the education of the guardian class to cultivate in them morality and perfection. Socrates does not care if the general populace exhibits these specific traits, only that the guardians do, thus making the oppressive tactic of censorship only necessary for a small portion of the populace. Later on, in Book III, Socrates further expresses that this censorship is only for the guardians in stating
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