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POLC70H3 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Oligarchy

Political Science
Course Code
Daniel Lee
Study Guide

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POLB70 – Midterm Review | 1
Key Terms & Concepts:
The rule of the “best”
An independent country or community as a combination of both Democracy and
Oligarchy (the rich and the poor)
It is a constitution of commonwealth because it is an independent constitution /
Aristoi - Plato
Plato’s Theory of a Just Government  who should rule the city?
In the city, the best part of the soul must rule while the other parts obey
So, which part of the soul must rule? The rational part must rule, not the desiring part or
the spirited part
Which part should rule the city? According to Plato’s theory of a just government, the
best [aristoi] must rule. The government of the ideal city is literally an aristocracy because it is
the rule [kratos] of the good or the best [aristoi]
If only the best should rule, it implies that others should not rule because not everybody
is fit or qualified to rule, especially the demos (democracy), whom are not a suitable form of rule
A matter of justice: it is only just that the best should rule and do their
designated/assigned work of ruling a city – it would be unjust if anybody other than the best
were to rule
Democracy cannot rule because by definition, demos is not the best
Who counts as the best?  Connection between aristoi and arête (virtue), the best must
be distinguished by the possession of virtue & justice must be part of what it means to be
virtuous. The best ruler therefore will probably be one who brings justice to the city
Plato answers: The ‘best’ ruler is the Philosopher
The kallipolis can only come into existence when philosophers rule a kings or those who
are called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political
power and philosophy entirely happen together (coincide)
The best ruler is what Plato calls the Philosopher King. Thus, having the knowledge of
philosophy is what makes one best suited to rule.
Cave Allegory - Plato
Prisoners in a cave – Socrates says “they’re like us” with various interpretations
The political meaning of the ‘Cave Allegory’  the best rulers do not rule from ignorance
or opinion; they rule only from knowledge. So, the lovers of opinion or ignorance are not
philosophers, and for that very reason they are not qualified to rule
Only philosophers have knowledge – like the liberated prisoner who left the cave
It would be absurd to choose anyone but philosophers as the rulers of an ideal city,
philosophers govern only according to reason and by virtue, unlike others who govern according
from ignorance or opinion and by vice
Knowledge = reason & virtue
Opinion & Ignorance = vice & unreasonable
Implications (Suggestions) for Plato’s ideal city; The guardians must be philosopher-
kings, in other words money-makers (regular people, and auxiliary classes must be excluded
from government)
Political exclusion; if the aristoi is to rule, it means that the demos (the masses, the poor,
the people) must never rule because Democracy can never be the best form of rule since people
in a democracy lack virtue [arête]
Cephalus - Plato
Most intriguing figure of the Republic.
He is wealthy, and a member of the money-making class
He questions why material wealth is valuable

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POLB70 – Midterm Review | 2
Fear of death and possibility of an afterlife compels him to evaluate his own life.
‘Whether he has to be unjust to anyone.’
He worries about justice/injustice and asks Socrates. “What is Justice?” 
(1) Speaking the truth and paying whatever debts one has incurred
(2) Simonides’ definition; to give each what is owed to him
(3) Justice as a craft – treating friends well and treating enemies badly
A regime where those who are not free, not wealthy, and in the numerical majority are in
control of the government
The license to do what one wants = [Demokratia]
“Direct” democracy is [ekklesia] = the citizen-body, supreme judicial powers
[Boule] = delegated council of officials and senior military/executive officers
Generally not by election, but by random assignment – but is it unjust to have potentially
unqualified political leaders making coercive public decisions?
Democracy comes about when the poor are virtuous in killing some of their opponents
(the rich), expelling others and giving the rest and equal share in ruling under the constitution,
and for the most part assigning people to positions by the rule by lot
Democratic man; the free person, governed by the desiring/appetitive part of the soul
without any limits (rules)
To pursue desires without guidance of reason is not virtuous, but that is strictly what
democracy promotes. The freedom to satisfy more and more of your desires, whatever those
desires may happen to be (good or bad)
Why is democracy unfair? Giving an equal share in ruling to all individuals would mean
giving power of politics to those who are qualified and to those who are unqualified
It is dangerous because it is driven by the satisfaction of desires – there is no judgment
on what desires can be satisfied, but this leads to extreme freedom, which becomes extreme
slavery – we come ‘slaves’ to our desires in democracy – this leads to tyranny
“The people” in a common place; populace [a community of people]
[kratos] = ‘power’ or ‘ability’
The poor masses (the many of the poor)
Elenchus, Elenctic Method - Plato
Book I was a failure because it doesn’t tell us what justice is, but only what just is not. It
is designed to show us our ignorance, not our supposed wisdom
In Book II, Plato begins to show a new method of “dialectic”, Unlike Socrates, Plato
thinks that truth can be established
Serving to refute (prove wrong); - applied to indirect modes of proof
The elenchus is often used in describing the Socratic dialectical method – thus, the
elenchus shows us by describing that Socrates does not show us the definition of justice
because his method does not establish uncovering the truth, hence why the dialectic method
was introduced by Plato to describe that truth can be established by justice using the two goods
(1) intrinsic good, and (2) instrumental good
The ‘supreme good’
Happiness or living-well – only possible to live like this in the polis
A person who enjoys eudaimonia is one who is fully human, they are fully flourishing
and living a wholly complete and good life
Ethical reasons – to make people virtuous (good), so they can live better lives – Thus,
we need politics to live a good/happy life

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POLB70 – Midterm Review | 3
It is something final and self-sufficient/independent and is the end of action – the state
must concern itself with virtue
It is an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. When we do things with purpose
and achieve deliberate goals, we achieve this end
It is good because it cannot be achieved in isolation, but is achieved when you live and
do things together with others in a community – e.g.
, it is an essentially social good – you cant enjoy the benefits of friendship by yourself!
We cannot survive on our own, so we naturally communicate and associate with others
to form friendships and bonds – e.g. male: female reproduction
The supreme good is impossible without politics, why? Because the supreme good
would seem to belong to the most authoritative art and that which is most truly the master art,
and politics appears to be of this nature; for it is this that ordains which of the sciences should be
studied in a state
Politics legislates as to what we are to do and what we are to abstain from, the end of
this science must include those of others, so that is the end must be good for man – the craft of
producing good laws practiced by the statesman [politikos]
Gyges’ Ring – Plato
The power of invisibility – [to be able to get away with several things]
Plato observes that, no one ever wants to be just and commit crime even though they
are invisible, they are being just unwillingly because if one were to be unjust there are bad
consequences, so they are afraid of being caught
There are 2 threshold cases:
(1) The completely unjust person – the cheater who gets away with it
(2) The completely just man – the innocent person wrongfully accused and punished for
someone else’s crime
Plato argues that we shouldn’t look at the rewards we get in this life, but what justice
does for the soul when it lives properly according to justice
‘No one has ever adequately described what each itself [justice or injustice] does of its
own power by its presence in the soul of the person who possesses it’
Plato thinks that living a life where you are merely thought to be just to have a reputation
of justice (virtue), even though you are not actually just, is not sustainable. It has a morally
degrading effect on the soul
To see why, we need to know what to soul is, what it looks like – it is in the soul of a
person where justice is to be really found
Justice - Plato
Justice is a good thing [virtue]
Goods (Intrinsic vs. Instrumental):
(1) Intrinsic good – something valued in itself for its own sake – regardless of the outcome
(2) instrumental good – something valued not for itself, but only for its outcome that result from it
– e.g. physical training
(3) Combination of [1] + [2]
Division of labor [form of the good]; every craftsman must practice only the one craft for
which he is naturally suited or assigned to [this is justice] -- Justice is to be found in an ideal city
because “justice is doing ones own work – injustice is exchanging and meddling between other
classes” (doing the work and tasks of individuals from other classes/souls) e.g. money makers
should not perform the tasks of guardians (this is meddling)
Political justice  it is the kind of justice to be found in the just city – when each class
performs its own designated function – one must not meddle in the affairs of the others. e.g.
money makers should not perform the tasks of guardians (this is meddling)
Thus, justice is a form of harmony
Kallipolis (Socrates)
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