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Critically discuss the simile of the large and powerful animal and of the ship as an argument against democracy.

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Critically discuss the simile of the large and powerful animal and of the ship as an argument against democracy But in real life all philosophers are social outcasts, says Adeimantus, or they do philosophy for a short while and give it up. Socrates' reply: what do you expect in a democracy like ours? He goes on to give us his famous analogies for democracy in action - living politicians please note: (democracy is like a ship with a deaf short-sighted captain; democracy is like a man in charge of a "large and powerful animal".) In a democratic state like Athens, the Philosopher will lead a quiet life, and won't have scope to help the community: although it may be possible - though hard - to change it for the better. Plato uses the simile of the ship in his book, 'The Republic', to construct an argument opposing democracy. Plato tells us to imagine ship or a group of ships, led by one man, the captain. He supposes that this captain is a large and strong man, yet has little sea-faring ability, and is hard of hearing and short-sighted. ...read more.


However, I also believe that Plato's analogy of the ship and its captain is not as detailed as it could be. I believe that the sea captain could have been described as a man, who all look up to, yet few understand, as he makes decisions that the crew believe are wrong, but eventually the crew, after much contemplation, agree that the captain's decision is the correct one. We are reminded of the qualities the rulers will need and told that their education will have to be long - or he/she will never reach the "highest form of knowledge". This of course is the FORM OF THE GOOD. All other knowledge will be useless without this. One we get knowledge of it we will have the key to life - we'll know why things are good and be able to make the right political and ethical choices. The other simile Plato uses, is the simile of the large and powerful animal; "Suppose a man was in charge of a large and powerful animal, and made a study of its moods and wants; he would learn when to approach and handle it, when and why it was especially savage or gentle, what the different noises it made meant, and what tone of voice to use to soothe or annoy it. ...read more.


Electioneering is one aspect of the democratic process and it is this, which the analogy fits best, if it fits at all. I would also like to refer to voting in accordance with conscience regardless of public opinion and the ultimate nature of accountability. The accuracy of the analogy with the people can be questioned. An educated public can be distinguished from a rabble, there are also similarities and differences between the Greek and western system of democracy of today. When the beast reacts, people judge. A simile can be distinguished from any argument to a degree and some of the alternatives, e.g. Plato's preferred system, could be represented by even more damning/lurid similes. It is preferable to judge what we want ourselves rather than having it imposed externally as this is the only way in which the concept of responsibility can get a foothold. The simile presupposes a pessimistic view of human nature, but can this be justified? We should all remember that politics is not an exact science, and the obvious route, may not turn out to be the right one to choose. ...read more.

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