• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare, contrast and evaluate Plato and Mill on the relationship between individual and society

Extracts from this document...


Compare, contrast and evaluate Plato and Mill on the relationship between individual and society Plato was born around 428-7 BC, he lived for the most part of his life in Athens, and had much to say about Athenian democracy. Mill was born much later in London in 1806, but although over two thousand years of political philosophy divide the two, much of the same issues and concerns arise in both their work though often with very different outlooks. Despite their differing opinions Plato and Mill are both antithetical, or in other words believe that the "tyranny of the majority" is to be feared. Plato believes that individuals are selfish and pursue their own self-interests at the expense of the rest of the population, and follow their own moral path. The philosopher individual is epitomised by the "Gadfly". The gadfly is referred to by Plato in the Apology, to describe Socrates' relationship with the Athenian political scene. Socrates believed he irritated for the purpose of leading people closer to the truth 'to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth'. The gadfly describes a person who upsets the status quo by posing lots of questions. Plato states that while the gadfly is easy to swat, the cost to society of silencing an individual simply because of his irritancy could be extremely high. This seems to contradict some of what he has to say on his republic, as he stifles the lower class citizens in the Kallipolis, counting their opinions as obsolete in comparison to the philosophers. The gadfly is also mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Jeremiah also relating to political influence 'Egypt is a very fair heifer; the gadfly cometh, it cometh from the North'. Plato believes that Democracy fosters the wrong kind of individual, hence the Kallipolis, which is the inverse of Democracy, designed to bring about the 'right way of living'. ...read more.


The Producers are in effect not free, but rather slaves to their senior ranking class, the Guardians. The Producers are thought to be the least intelligent mass of the population, and they are therefore expected to trust and believe their rulers. This is justified by Plato because it is better for them to be under the control of 'divine wisdom' something that the minority of the population possess, and what makes those that do worthy to rule over all others. Plato's belief is that if these less intelligent people are allowed to think freely, then they will make the wrong choices, and an individual is only worth what they contribute to their community as a whole. This means that personal desires are not as important as the overall functioning of the community, which is immaculately ruled by the Philosopher Kings who have the ability to learn and retain the knowledge leaded to rule and guide the citizens of the Kallipolis. Mill's views contradict these of Plato's; his liberalist view is that the individual is important in creating the desired environment within the state and is worthy of reaching their full potential in all areas. Mill considers freedoms of opinion and of actions necessary, and his Harm Principle was made to help protect other individuals from being hurt. Mill believes that individuals have a fundamental right to discover and develop their knowledge to their maximum capacity with the absence of 'a priori' constraints. Plato's view on the freedom of individual development of knowledge is that it is the "despotism of custom". Mill prioritises the freedom of thought and expression; he believes that unless we push an argument to its absolute limit, then we cannot claim to fully understand it. Mill says that we must listen to everyone, even those that offend us, or those who we believe to be irrelevant. Mill's justification for this is that if one person speaks out against an otherwise unanimous society about a certain topic, and they are right, then they could enlighten the mass to the truth. ...read more.


He would argue that social bigotry should be restrained for the sake of encouraging freedom of thought and expression. Mill endorses Grote's admiration of Athenian tolerance, as tolerance is a necessity and encourages genius as a society 'may have persons of talent...but genius in such a soil is fatally stunted in it's growth'. Plato on the other hand criticises Athenian tolerance on the basis that the maintenance of public emotions requires repression by both law and by non-legal sanctions. He held the belief that Athenian tolerance undermines civic spirit required for the furtherance of the tolerant society itself. Aristotle, a student of Plato's born in 384BC stated that it is 'the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it'. It is interesting that somebody taught by Plato would recognise the need for the self-development of opinion, something that Mill believes to be essential for a progressive society. Mill states that his father taught him to value Plato and his contributions to philosophy, and he says that he does just that. He called himself a pioneer when he began his translations of Plato's work. Perhaps this was because he believed that the time that separated the two philosophers had made way for changes albeit dramatic, to Plato's ideas that would concur with the modern world. Mill criticised Plato for trying to show that virtue is in the individuals' interest, but also for attempting to give justification that virtue should be preferred at all. Neither Plato nor Mill's work is flawless, so criticisms can be made on their errors and self-contradictions, yet both of these men helped advance philosophy immensely, and provided the basis of much discussion and debate. For Mill, freedom is necessary and desirable by both the individual and society. For Plato however freedom is not of fundamental concern; it is far more important to live according to the eternal and immutable truths. Herein lays the biggest contrast in the works of these two influential philosophers as regards the relationship between the individual and society. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Compare and Contrast the Philisophical Contributions of Nietzsche and Mill to our understanding of ...

    Mill saw that this kind of political tyranny could prevent the development of individualistic behavior. Such tyrannies could work in two ways: through the adoption of laws which operate against idiosyncratic, non conforming or dissenting individuals. Or, through the power or pressure of public opinion, (which is notoriously prone to error, superstition or tradition.)

  2. Evaluate plato and aristotle on well being

    The purpose of human life is to live virtuously. The end that all virtuous beings should aim at; to be in union with the form of the good, this is the way of achieving the highest form of human well-being. In order to live virtuously one must have justice in the soul.

  1. we do not possess any genuine freedom to act ethically

    On the other hand, through reason human beings have been able to defy that law of gravity. Medieval thinkers, in particular, were inclined to think that human beings have free will through their reason. Aquinas, for one, believed that God gave reason to human beings and, ultimately, free will in choosing between right and wrong.

  2. What are the limitations on our personal liberty? Are all of them justified?

    Operation Spanner was a 1990 police operation following the chance finding by the Greater Manchester Police Service of a video depicting SM acts. It led to the conviction of sixteen men under the 1861 Offences against the Person Act. These men received prison sentences of up to four and a

  1. Plato and Nietzsche on Authority

    The Form of the Good provides the perfect moral code upon which to base the real (material) moral code. This is one of the main reasons why Plato requires his rulers to have philosophical knowledge - they need to know the moral code upon which to base their own.

  2. Nietzsche and Mill on Conventional Morality

    you must first have an ideal you wish to achieve, an intention. It is in the differentiation of the judgement of the action itself and the person committing the action that Mill's morality stems from. This differs from conventional morality, as by judging the action itself as good or bad,

  1. Jesus And Women

    Certainly, if Jesus had considered this woman to be inferior and unable to speak of spiritual matters, he would not have spoken to her in concepts assuming prior knowledge (e.g. the concept of "living water," John 4:10). Nor would he have responded to her question about the place of worship (4:21).

  2. What is authority?

    broad sense, exercising "power" or "influence" could be defined as "affecting what another person does". In this sense obviously authority is a form of power, since exercising authority must Involve affecting what someone else does. However, the notion of authority still seems not to fit more specific senses of power or influence, such as: (a)

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work