Socrates is arguably the greatest philosopher the world has ever seen. His writings and quotations cover various subjects from all spheres be it life, society, state, or being.
Socrates covers the traits of a perfect state and a perfect individual with long ruthless arguments where he breaks down each and every aspect and scenario to form a solid conclusion of his ideas. The stand-out feature of all of his arguments is that he never goes easy on himself he operates his own statements to pieces before coming to any conclusion.
The major focus of Plato’s work Republic is to cover Socrates’ reasons and thoughts on the formation of an ideal state and ideal citizens. It covers the ideals of justice, truth, governance, faith, law and order, art and artisans, war and defenses, economic welfare, and the overall polity of this imaginary ideal state.
Who is an Ideal Guardian?
As the title suggests ‘Ideal Guardian’ is about the kind of rulers or heads of the state needed to make this ideal state a possible reality. This idea can be understood with reference to the contemporary polity of not only India but the entire world. The first thing to note here is that Socrates himself believed that the imaginary ideal state is impossible to achieve in the real world and so is the idea of an ideal individual but as per Plato’s Republic Socrates goes on to say a very typical and rather rare possibility under which such a state is possible. The possibility as per Socrates exists only if the polity of the state is in the hands of philosophers.
To grab this idea for a simpleton mind we can take it as a politician in power who is not driven by individual greed, a bias of any kind, any hidden motivation, who knows the ideals of duty and justice, and who above all is a true seeker of wisdom in every aspect. As per Socrates, such characters should be the guardians of the state, he also lists down the challenges to get such man at the required position in a state’s polity like the disinterest of the philosophers themselves and the resistance by the wicked and the ignorant to let such wise characters sit at the top. So to say the ideal guardian in the first place is very rare to have attained that level of philosophy, secondly, if he exists he won’t be interested to jump into polity and state’s political affairs, and lastly, philosophers have often been discarded by the state and people in general as idle dreamers and good for nothing elements who do nothing but corrupt the minds of others with delusional thoughts. Here it can be noted that Socrates himself fell to this very attack on him from the Greek state and was executed on the charges of corrupting the society and its young.
If we try to map Socrates’ Ideal Guardian in today’s times it will be impossible to find even one such character in the entire sociopolitical ecosystem of the largest democracy in the world that is India. If we look hard enough maybe we will find one or two traits in some individuals here and there but the system itself has stopped producing politicians or we can say guardians in Socrates’ terms that are required to work for the overall welfare of the state. The ideal guardian is the one who has truly attained wisdom through knowledge of self as well as the state, he can see things clearly without getting blinded by personal biases or ambitions or suppressed emotions. He is clear in his thought and conduct as he has completed a long toiling journey inside out to realize true wisdom.
Whether such an individual would have been actually a good guardian or not is debatable as it has never happened and how polity actually functions with n number of stakeholders and friction points make it hard to believe that such an individual would be able to survive or do any good whatsoever. However, it won’t harm us to not only hope but aim towards being as close as possible to the ideal individual which would create the possibility for the society to produce guardians that are as close as possible to Socrates’ Ideal Guardian having good conduct, strength, and wisdom to run the state.