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Within The Republic, Plato states that tyranny is "the most diseased" kind of society (Republic, 544c). Aristotle echoes this belief when he boldly asserts within Politics that great honours should be "bestowed... on him who kills a tyrant." (Politics, 1267a15) From these quotes alone, it is clear that both share a disdain for tyranny.
This essay will compare and contrast Plato (the Republic) with Aristotle (the Politics) on the causes and consequences of tyranny.
In order to grasp how Plato accounts for the development of tyranny, it is important to understand how he equates the city with the soul. Within The Republic, Plato explains that the soul consists of three parts: reason (wisdom), spirit (courage/honour) and appetite (moderation/desire). The class structure of Plato's ideal city also embodies these divisions: The guardians or "philosopher kings" represent wisdom and are entrusted to rule; the auxiliaries represent courage and serve to protect the city; the producers represent moderation and serve to provide the economic and agricultural base for the city. While, as Plato connotes in this analogy, all three parts have a place in constructing the ideal, reason is the guiding force that mediates and draws from the competing nature of these parts to produce a just city. Accordingly, since "change in every regime comes from that part of it which holds the ruling offices," (Republic, 551d) it is the loss of reason by the ruling class which destroys the just city and provides for the eventual onset of tyranny, a state devoid of harmony amongst its parts.
In explaining how the ideal city would eventually degenerate, Plato puts forth a four-stage linear digression towards tyranny. From the ideal state, a timocracy is first born from the love of honour. As wealth becomes cherished among the citizens, timocracy gives way to oligarchy. In an oligarchic state, the desire for freedom or license leads to the rise of democracy. And finally, as the desire for freedom increases and becomes limitless, the city is said to fall into a state of tyranny. Thus, for Plato, a tyrant is a democrat who has lost all restraint. While Plato views the decay towards tyranny as a uniform digression, the presence of this widespread decay ultimately creates the conditions for one person to rise to power. (Republic, 565d)
Within this digression, reason is gradually overcome by appetite until an "insatiable desire" for freedom transforms a democracy into a tyranny. While such terms as "freedom" and "democracy" may elicit certain connotations for the contemporary reader, it is important to keep in mind that Plato views a regime that promotes freedom and license as its primary objective as a place where reason is overcome by desire. While citizens of such regimes might equate unrestricted democracy with freedom, as Plato explains, "the real tyrant is, even if he doesn't seem so...in truth a real slave." (Republic, 579d)
In practical terms, Plato views money and private property as the floodgate to this decay:
Whenever they'll possess private land, houses, and currency, they'll become... masters and enemies instead of allies of the other citizens; hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, they'll lead their lives far more afraid of the enemies within than those without. Then they themselves as well as the rest of the city are already rus
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Plato and Aristotle,
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