Duneekable Notions

Unruffled Thoughts of a Wanderer

Why Socrates Hated Democracy

Why Socrates Hated Democracy

A picture of ancient Greece
Photo by Puk Patrick on Unsplash

We all speak very highly of the political movement of democracy. May it is a liberal thinker or a conservative thinker or a capitalist believer or a fan of the socialist movement, everyone believed in the idea of democracy. Anyone who loved the idea of democracy also respected the birthplace of it; Athens. This is why a lot of world leaders who represented democratic countries shared pictures of them in the ancient city.

What Greece is also famous for is its philosophy. However, the two ideas were not fond of each other at the inception. The founding fathers of Greek philosophy, Socrates was not in favor of the idea of democracy. Socrates’ student Plato, explained his teacher’s resistance towards this idea in the 6th book of the “Republic of Plato”. There he talks about a time where Socrates tries to show the flows of democracy with a person called Adeimantus. He used an example of a ship to explain this.

With his deeply pessimistic point of view, he popped out a question. If we want to find a captain for the ship, would we say that the job can be done by anyone or qualified seafarers? Adeimantu replies saying the latter focuses. Socrates then asks, so why would we let everyone decide who is going to rule a nation? Now before you jump your guns in favor of dictatorships, let me explain what Socrates really meant.

He was never against the idea of going for a vote to decide who is going to be in charge. Instead, he brought out the fact that being able to make the right decision to vote should not be a right from birth. Instead, he insisted that it should be a practice that requires training and the use of intelligence.

However, the consequences of absolute democracy later became the fate of Socrates, when he was sentenced to death by a jury of commoners. It was infamously known as one of the great losses to the world like the one of Jesus.

I am not trying to stir up a debate about who should be able to get the right to vote. However, even at the time of Socrates, women were not allowed to vote. When the European colonies were introduced with public representation, most of the countries like Sri Lanka (AKA Ceylon) the citizens got the power to vote only if they were men who own lands.

Selecting the crowd who gets to vote in an institution is not something alien to us. But the system always broke because they did elections on unreasonable grounds. Taking out your right to vote because you are a woman is abysmal. Instead, what should have done is to create a system where only the people who are intelligent enough to make a valid judgment get to vote.

But how? Who can decide on who gets to vote and who does not? Does being educated on some other subject qualify them to vote? Being poor and not having access to formal education means you are not intelligent enough? Whatever the system you come up with, it will always have tons of loopholes, where the cunning and powerful gets in and the voiceless become more and more helpless. What we might be able to do instead is to make sure that everyone gets the right to vote as well as get some education on decision making.  

I only mean to share both sides of the coin. Take a moment to share your point of view on this. Was Socrates right?

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