DEMOCRATIC IDEALS, It is quite common for us to hail democratic epitomes regarding it as the best form of governance as the form of authority rose from the graves of the Ancient Athens (the civilization which had the first democratic form). This also led to the rise of Parthenon (the assembly hall of Athens) as it grew synonymous with the democratic ethos and therefore resulted in leaders elected democratically to pose for snapshots at the remains of this monument.
But contrary to the aforementioned fact about the rise of democracy in Athens yet another contribution of Athens, specifically, Philosophy had doubts upon the working of democracies as the civilization boasted about the latter.
If we go through the sixth edition of The Republic, which is authored by another Greek philosopher, Plato has excerpts from the events of the lives of the Socrates, who is remarked as the founding father of the concept of Philosophy in the Greek civilization where he could be read condemning the idea of democracy.
DEMOCRATIC IDEALS, The bookmarks an event where the great thinker is involved in a discussion with Adeimantus, as he makes him see through the fallacies of the democratic system as he draws a similarity between the social system and a ship. He questions the latter that if he had to head out on a ship voyage, whom shall he preferably choose as the captain of his ship. Further, he gives him two options where firstly, he has the option of appointing a person as a captain of the ship who had obtained the necessary qualifications for operating the ship, and secondly, he had the choice of having any layman as the operator of his vessel. DEMOCRATIC IDEALS, Adeimantus responds to this with the obvious choice of the former, who is an experienced person to which Socrates replies that how could we accept and assume anyone to lead the nation and bear the responsibility of handling all its administrative functions.
Through this incident, the philosopher strives to make the point that to cast one’s vote in a democratic machinery is not just a matter of arbitrary instinct but rather a matter of expertise that needs to be mastered upon. He makes the point that the voters need to learn this specialty and they should be polished to excel this exercise.
Further adding to the simile of the ship, Socrates tries to issue a caution on what does giving citizens the right by birthright could be to the future of a nation as he models on a ship are sure to sink if the responsibility of the ship is on the shoulders of an unqualified person.
In an incident mentioned on the School of Life’s website, “Socrates was to have first hand, the catastrophic experience of the foolishness of voters. In 399 BC, the philosopher was put on trial on trumped-up charges of corrupting the youth of Athens. A jury of 500 Athenians was invited to weigh up the case and decided by a narrow margin that the philosopher was guilty. He was put to death by hemlock in a process which is, for thinking people, every bit as tragic as Jesus’s condemnation has been for Christians.”