The Nature of States – Timocracy with Socrates

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“Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the individual, and begin with the government of honour?—I know of no name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps timarchy. We will compare with this the like character in the individual; and, after that, consider oligarchy and the oligarchical man; and then again we will turn our attention to democracy and the democratical man; and lastly, we will go and view the city of tyranny, and once more take a look into the tyrant’s soul, and try to arrive at a satisfactory decision.

That way of viewing and judging of the matter will be very suitable.

First, then, I said, let us enquire how timocracy (the government of honour) arises out of aristocracy (the government of the best). Clearly, all political changes originate in divisions of the actual governing power; a government which is united, however small, cannot be moved.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “The Republic.” iBooks.

“Do you know, I said, that governments vary as the dispositions of men vary, and that there must be as many of the one as there are of the other? For we cannot suppose that States are made of ‘oak and rock,’ and not out of the human natures which are in them, and which in a figure turn the scale and draw other things after them?

Yes, he said, the States are as the men are; they grow out of human characters.”

Excerpt From: Plato. “The Republic.” iBooks.

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What is your nature? If a majority of persons in your country had your nature, what manner of country would it be? The excerpts above call for self-examination. We all proclaim to want the best for our countries, thus the question to ask is if we have given our best in the tasks and duties given to us. How honourable are our actions? Do we put our neighbours and fellow citizens into consideration in our actions, or we act simply for selfish reasons, always considering what is in it for us. If your nature is enlarged, what would we have: timocracy, tyranny or chaos?

These rhetorical questions should guide in changes we need to make in our lives and actions. It is not about the answers we give, because even sycophants and flatterers can sound more convincing than people with genuine intentions; but more about our actions.

When choosing leaders, what informs our choices? Pedigree or parochial sentiments? If the nature of the leader you support is enlarged, what kind of country will you end up with? As a leader, what kind of natures have you nurtured? All these will give us the nature of our states.

“Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? Surely they will be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and by whom the State is best administered, and who at the same time have other honours and another and a better life than that of politics?”

Excerpt From: Plato. “The Republic.” iBooks.

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Dr Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher