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  • 6/11/2013

Classic Theories of Happiness (Plato)


Classic philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Farabi believed that the purpose of government is to pursue goodness, virtue and happiness of people. They believe that in addition to maintaining order, security and safeguarding the rights of citizens, the government is obliged to help people achieve virtues. The government should ensure the happiness of people through creating a society in which people live happily.

Explaining Plato’s theory about the purpose of government, Coplestonsays: The purpose of state is not merely to provide economic needs. Because man is not merely an “economic man”‌, but the government exits for their happiness and to assist them to have a good life based on the principle of justice. This necessitates education, because the people of the country are rational being. But not any education, merely true education that ensures the Good.

Those who run the country, those who determine the principles of education and assign various tasks in the country to different members of the society must possess knowledge of the Good, or in other words, be philosophers.[1]

Plato’s view is explained according to the following points:

1. Plato believes man to be rational and non-material

2. The Good and happiness of man corresponds with his existence, therefore man’s good and happiness is a non-material issue.

3. Only few people can know ultimate good and happiness. 

4. Only philosophers are capable of knowing the true Good.

5. The duty of government is to assist people attain true goodness and happiness

From Plato’s point of view the obligation of government is not limited to providing the society’s material needs; correct education and leading people towards happiness is also one of the main duties of the government, which only philosophers are capable of doing it. Therefore only philosophers deserve to rule.

Ahmad Niazi, graduate of Qom Seminary and Phd student of Al Mustafa international university

Source: political science journal, No. 3

[1] Ahmad Vaezi, Islamic government, p 31-32.

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

Other links:

The Concept of Theocracy

The Purpose of Government

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