Plato's The Republic and Aristotle's The Politics are two famous political theories that bear certain similarities and differences. In order to compare these theories, it is of the utmost importance to examine each of them in detail. Both Plato and Aristotle were great thinkers and philosophers. The two thinkers possessed the knowledge how to make successful changes in societies that would bring them prosperity. In this respect, Plato and Aristotle have embodied their thoughts into works, which remain topical even today. Plato's The Republic is a collection of dialogs regarding the nature of righteousness in the life of city and its inhabitants as well as society and its structure. The main aim of Plato's work is to create the perfect society. In his The Republic, the philosopher contrasted the existing society with the utopian one deprived from the woes that weighted it. At the same time, Aristotle's The Politics is a treatise on the state, which contains philosophical and social views on the particular issue. Therefore, Plato's The Republic and Aristotle's The Politics are two important works that having both similarities and differences contain the ancient wisdom.
To start with, it is necessary to look at the theories from different perspectives in order to find similarities and differences in both of them. In The Republic, Plato focused on the perfect society using philosophical dialogs that helped him to investigate the nature of society. In his educative work, the philosopher made attempts to define the features of ideal society. Thus, Plato created a draft of the utopian society and showed his neglect of the strain of political life. The thinker believed that democratic environment was not proper springboard for the establishment of a moral individual as well as state. The particular model of ideal society demonstrated simplified variants of challenges characteristic of the actual society. It should be noted that the philosopher attempted to find a cure to help both society and people living in it. In comparison, Aristotle was not aimed at achieving a perfect society, but he sought to make considerable changes in the existing one that would improve it. In The Politics, the thinker stated that society itself has to devise the best possible system to its success. In this respect, Plato's views on society differed from Aristotle's ones because utopia was an abstraction, since it did not face concrete problems that would help society develop after solving them.
Furthermore, Plato's comprehension of social division into classes that consequently influenced the division of political power contrasted with Aristotle's vision of the particular phenomenon. Therefore, Plato subdivided his utopian society into three non-hereditary classes, namely non-ruling and ruling Guardians, Auxiliaries (military people), and the Artisan (workers).
According to Plato: the result, then, is that more plentiful and better-quality goods are more easily produced if each person does one thing for which he is naturally suited, does it at the right time, and is released from having to do any of the others.
The ruling citizens were considered to be a higher class while the non-rulers were civil servants. Additionally, farmers and artisans as well as all unqualified laborers belonged to the working class. The ruling dwellers should be a select few intelligent and wise rulers who knew what was the best for the society.
Furthermore, Plato believed that a philosopher would be the best ruler who could improve the society:
The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.
In this regard, Aristotle did not share Plato's thought of one class possessing political power. The philosopher emphasized the fact that ambitious and wise men from the lower class were devoid of the opportunity to become rulers, while not clever enough men from the upper class were able to hold the political power for a long time. Unlike Aristotle, Plato believed that the ordinary man was not capable of handling concepts that made an impact on political life of the state. Aristotle viewed the failure of Plato's utopia regarding the class division. Therefore, it is not good for society when a particular class holds any type of political power because it makes impossible for smart people from other classes to become policymakers and introduce important political changes in society.
Aristotle considered a class system where only the upper class was privileged to possess the political power an ill-conceived system for society. In The Politics, Aristotle stated, “It is a further objection that he deprives his Guardians even of happiness, maintaining that happiness of the whole state which should be the object of legislation”. Finally, Aristotle noted that rulers in Plato's utopia preferred to conduct a severe lifestyle sacrificing happiness in order to have control and power. Aristotle believed that ruling Guardians would force people living in the society they ruled to accept their way of life. In this respect, Aristotle considered Plato's utopia an overestimated model of society because there were a lot of undefined and extremely high requirements that no human could fulfill. Hereby, Aristotle preferred moderation in everything. The thinker regarded moderation as something between liberal and conservative models of political systems. Unlike Plato, Aristotle valued the qualitative change in one's character required for affirmative changes in the society in order to achieve Plato's utopia. Therefore, in The Republic, Plato was aimed at showing his reader the behavior and attitude of people in the utopian society, while in his work, Aristotle attempted to depict real citizens in the real world that provided him with the possibility to see in which ways they could improve themselves in order to enhance society they resided.
At the same time, the two philosophers concluded that justice could exist in an objective sense. Thus, both thinkers considered that each person deserved to have a good life despite their social status. According to Aristotle, “In democracies, for example, justice is considered to mean equality, in oligarchies, again inequality in the distribution of office is considered to be just”. Although Aristotle and Plato recognized justice as an important thing, they carried different views on it. Plato believed that justice and law were two necessary components of proper societal behavior. Unlike Plato, Aristotle underlined the significance of the polis which was an institution that combined features of state and society. It should be noted that Plato and Aristotle did not separate state from society and vice versa that posed difficulties while defining polis nowadays. Thus, polis was created in order to allow the average man to participate in the political life of the country. In this respect, this did not meet Plato's vision of class-structured society where a ruling class had total control over the political life and was the only one who could make decisions that influenced the whole society. Thereby, while both thinkers had faith in justice, each of them observed the particular phenomenon in a certain way.
Aristotle and Plato's views on government of the state also differed. Aristotle stated, “The people at large should be sovereign rather than the few best”. Therefore, here one could see the complete difference between the two works of the philosophers. While Aristotle saw an average citizen as a conscious person who had their political opinion and could participate in the political life of the state, Plato would never allow an unskilled worker to fully participate in the government of the country. According to Plato, public judgments and disapproval or approval of the rulers were based rather on their beliefs than knowledge; thus, thoughts of average uneducated citizens might lead to revolution, which only harmed the society and the established order. Aristotle viewed two reasons for the revolution to take place, namely dissatisfaction of the rich or the poor. According to Aristotle, in order to prevent revolution, the ruler should anticipate it. At the same time, Plato was prepared for the emergence of people who would violate the established order of utopia. Thus, the thinker stated that those people would break the rules. Furthermore, Plato stated that revolution could be caused by rulers who produced weak and sympathetic offspring and exploitation of the poor by the ruling class that finally caused disappointment of the majority. Thus, although Plato and Aristotle's vision of government differed, they both did not exclude the possibility of revolution and underlined reasons for its emergence.
At the same time, Aristotle felt that in order to prevent revolution, one should participate in it. Moreover, the philosopher stated that to know the causes of revolution was the same as to know the principal effect that would finally prevent the state from destruction. According to Aristotle, a good citizen satisfied with the social order in the state would not provoke revolution. Instead, they would show moderation and prudence in order to bring better future for the entire society. As for Plato, he believed that the most dangerous revolution for the state was the 'palace' one, which took place in the corridors of the palace. Plato stated that the particular type of revolution was pretty challenging for the ruling class, since while the number of the poor grew, they would like to take advantage of palace revolution. Thus, while Aristotle pondered on the nature of revolution and its movers, his opponent was scared of the possibility of revolution to take place in utopia.
Furthermore, both philosophers had certain views on the notion of liberty. Plato believed that excessive liberty for the nation was a real danger for the state. In this respect, the thinker viewed the democratic society as a source of the excessive liberty. According to Plato, “Excess of liberty, whether it lies in state or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery”. Moreover, the philosopher considered a democratic system of society with its extreme freedom a threat to the society that might lead to anarchy. In his utopia, Plato eliminated certain social disorders in order to create the perfect form of society. In fact, Plato's opinions completely differed from Aristotle's ones. The latter believed that all people had the right to freedom, which could not be extreme at any point. Aristotle observed liberty provided by democratic society as a trigger that would force people make changes. Moreover, Aristotle underlined the importance of civilized community where the average individual could easily participate in all spheres of social life. The liberty as well as justice were the political good and had to be regarded as the common interest for all equal and free people in the world. Thus, Plato viewed liberty as a threat, while Aristotle saw it as a trigger for deeds and qualitative changes.
In addition, Aristotle and Plato's opinions on the ethics and metaphysics differed. Thus, Aristotle stated that happiness required the appearance of virtue, while Plato believed that it was rather sufficient than a necessary thing for happiness. What is more, Plato believed that soul was imprisoned in the body. The thinker viewed soul and body as two separate independent entities. As for Aristotle, the philosopher stated that the body and soul were composed of matter and form, thereby being two different things. In this regard, a human being is a form, but nothing in the universe can be without matter. Therefore, Aristotle could not separate body from soul and soul from body because if he did so, nothing would be left from the person without their form. Thus, Aristotle and Plato did not reach a consensus concerning the question of form and matter.
Plato and Aristotle were two thinkers who had a certain vision of society and ideas how to make it successful and developed. While Plato was searching for philosophical truth, Aristotle attempted to understand the character of the average citizen. At the same time, Aristotle and Plato viewed different models of society to be the best ones for the prosperity of its citizens. Moreover, Aristotle did not support Plato's division of society into classes, where the upper class possessed the political power and passed it from one generation to another. In addition, Plato and Aristotle's vision of liberty contrasted. The two philosophers portrayed their ideas of how to improve the society and although their plans differed, one could notice certain similarities. Thus, both Plato and Aristotle had faith in the notion of justice and distinguished reasons for revolution. Plato and Aristotle's opinions on society and its order bore some similarities as well as differences, but the two philosophers attempted to create a better future for the societies they resided.