Posted: March 9th, 2023

Why were the Ancient Greek philosophers distrustful of democracy?

The Ancient Greek philosophers were distrustful of democracy due to their belief that it was a system which allowed the majority to make decisions regardless of whether those decisions made sense or not. This is evidenced in Plato’s “Republic,” where he states: “Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” (Plato, trans. 1892). The idea that democratic systems do not ensure wise decision-making was also echoed by Aristotle in his work “Politics” (Aristotle & Rackham 1944). He argued that democracy could lead to short-term results for individuals rather than long-term results for the community as a whole.

Furthermore, Ancient Greek philosophers were also distrustful of democracy because they believed it did not provide enough power to rulers or leaders who were better equipped with experience and knowledge necessary for making sound decisions on behalf of the entire population. For example, according to Xenophon in his work “The Constitution Of Athens” (trans. 1937), Athenian democracy only provided citizens with limited powers compared to what tyrants had during their rule over Athens: “For under Aristocrats there was no law but their own pleasure; whereas now all matters are discussed openly…and anyone can make proposals” (Xenophon 1937). This sentiment was shared by Plato who famously stated: “One man cannot practice many arts with success.”(Plato trans 1892) Consequently, the Ancient Greek philosophers saw the risks associated with leaving decision-making up to citizens without access to expertise in certain areas such as politics or economics.(Hansen 1999).

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Why were the Ancient Greek philosophers distrustful of democracy?

Additionally, Ancient Greek thinkers were weary about democracies due its tendency towards mob rule through strong feelings rather than careful consideration – something they deemed dangerous as it gave rise potential violations against human rights.(Fowler 1993). As highlighted by Thucydides in his work History Of The Peloponnesian War (trans 1972): “The people have always some scheme of empowerment or other going on; schemes promoted partly from selfishness and partly from mistaken notions…”(Thucydides 1972 pg 20) According this view held by Thucydides any attempt at empowering citizens through democratic means would be ultimately futile if these same citizens lacked prudence when deciding on matters pertaining public policy.(Luraghi 2010) Ultimately then the fear amongst Ancient Greek Philosophers regarding democracies centered around how easily swayed public opinion could be manipulated into supporting measures unfavorable for society at large .

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In conclusion then the reason why ancient Greeks Philosophers tended to be distrustful when discussing topics related democracy stemmed largely from their belief that it produced bad decisions through lack of experience among its citizens ,it often led potentially oppressive policies based upon collective emotions instead sound logic ,in addition democrats avoided allotting adequate power unto experienced individuals capable ensuring wise governing practices .

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