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Plato Versus Aristotle on Leadership

by Dani

Aristotle was more likely to believe the truth based on scientific inquiries, which was different from Plato who believed the truth as based on reason alone. For this matter, their views on leadership are substantially diverged in a sense that the former was more likely to use practical inquiries with substantial proofs, but the latter relied on reasons alone. This concept is clear in “Aristotle’s Ethics,” where Aristotle rejected Plato’s idea of training in the sciences and metaphysics as essential components to achieve maximum understanding of our good (Radden and Sadler 168). For Aristotle, appreciation of “goods” the only thing desired to live well is friendship, fun, virtue and more (Rasmussen and Uyl 171). Aristotle said, “…and if all were to strive towards what is noble and strain every nerve to do the noblest deeds, everything would be as it should be for the common weal, and every one would secure for himself the goods that are greatest, since virtue is the greatest of goods” (Aristotle 157). This is the reason that Aristotle would most likely to agree in order to propose the idea that a leader should not enhance his own power, but create an atmosphere where followers will be able to achieve their potential. This is what Aristotle believed to be the essential point in order to live in a moral environment. Leadership is more of appreciation rather than training, and so the value of intelligence or knowledge may not be of high priority, but of what the reality speaks, which should not only be primarily based on reasons alone.   

However, for Plato, leadership with strong political sense should be strongly under the influence of intelligence and not superior force. Intelligence according to Plato leads to the achievement of the knowledge of the moral truths and the appropriate direction of political power that will serve the interest of the people.  

Plato Versus Aristotle on Leadership

At one point, Like Plato, Aristotle believed that the ethical virtues that will hinder man from corruptions are the necessary requirements of a leader, because these are essential, but complex rational, emotional and social skills (Garver 199). For Plato, based on his “The Republic” argued that self-interest should not affect the quality of leadership (Chambliss 488). It is for this reason that those leaders who are serving for the public should not engage in activities where there is a need to be actively involved in economic interests, because the danger will be to use political power and political decisions for own interests of the citizen militia, as shown in this passage: “When those terrible wizards and tyrant-makers despair of controlling the young man otherwise, they contrive to implant in him an Eros, an overmastering passion, as leader of those idle desires which divide his means among themselves – a monstrous winged drone” (Plato 298). It is also for this reason that Plato strongly recommended that economic self-interest and political power should be separated, because if they go together it will surely lead to the disadvantage of the state. In the “The last days of Socrates,” Plato was trying to provide the essential idea that a leader should adhere to moral values that are necessary to protect the interest of the majority or the state, by showing the event on how Socrates chose to stay in prison and accept his faith rather than escape and harm the people of Athens (Evans 314). “For he who is corrupter of the laws is more than likely to be corrupter of the young and foolish portion of mankind” (Plato 67).

It is clear that the two philosophers have one thing in common; they all adhered to the importance of mortal truths and values under the influence of ethical virtues, which are necessary requirements for effective leadership. What seems clear as difference in their ideas is the thought of the practicality of their approach in implementing leadership. Plato was more likely influenced by Socrates’ leadership, with more appreciation of doing things in the actual sense with respect to the actual thought he believed about. However, Aristotle’s leadership turned to be more strategic at some point, because of the discipline he received from the actual scientific influence of his experience. This is the reason why Aristotle argued that it is better to have appreciation of the specific good in every human aspect or experience rather than employing the actual training. For Plato, training one’s self not to engage in an experience where there is conflict of rules that will lead to maximizing self-interest is the most appropriate goal every good leader should initiate. However, for Aristotle, strategies are important, because appreciation of one’s leadership rule is far important than making use of that rule.   

It seems Aristotle was becoming modern, and trying to be competitive in his approach about leadership. Plato on the other hand, was under the influence of conservatism, which employs the basic idea of an idealistic view. Therefore, Aristotle was trying to be more practical or realistic, but Plato was idealistic in his point of views, especially in issue about leadership.

For me, Plato was more convincing, though he was idealistic in his point of views. If one would want to target a good leadership in the long run, Plato was more convincing, because his idea would try to minimize competition and self-interest, but would allow the society to engage in certain rules that is free from potential conflict and self-interest. It was the ideal society with ideal leadership that Plato was trying to talk about. Although both of them are convincing because primarily, Aristotle was talking about the reality or the actual setting, but his thought was concerned on how to be involved in the prevailing trend in the society and to create competitive advantage. Plato on the other hand would want to maintain the ideal society with ideal leadership, which might not be too realistic for now, but eventually as based on pure reasons and logic is actually making sense.     

On the other hand, Plato’s idea might have encompassed Aristotle’s. As stated, Plato and Aristotle were trying to promote the essential point of views of leadership like creating the best working or well-governed environment. Aristotle would want to enhance the potential of each member, while Plato aimed to enhance the society in general. This depicts that point that Aristotle’s point of views about leadership generally might have covered the point of view of Aristotle. While it might look like the two philosophers were having diverging point of views in leadership, the idealistic stand of Plato at some point covered the essential thought that Aristotle would want to expound. Therefore, it is necessary to look at the point of view of Plato as one with basic strong influence on Aristotle’s. What seems to be a significant change in Aristotle’s was the concept of looking at the realistic point of views about the things going on in the society. However, Plato’s point of view was trying to hope for a better society. It was convincing in a sense that the society at present is trying to optimize the possibility of achieving what seems to be generally good for the majority. For this reason, Plato’s ideas are not far from what the society in general expects or desires to achieve. However, Aristotle’s ideas might be the prevailing point of view in every specific organization trying to establish or implement competitive advantage. While there is a truth in this, this kind of thinking might prove to hold the idealistic stand of achieving ethical virtues, especially if competitive advantage will be the most essential consideration, specifically in the context of business or even in political setting.  

In a nutshell, the work at hand covers the vital ideas or thoughts governing Aristotle’s and Plato’s leadership. It was found that the two philosophers adhered to the importance of ethical virtues in leadership, but at some point their ideas also diverged. For Plato, the idea society is what would matter, but for Aristotle, the thought would be to understand the prevailing pattern in the society and go with it, while still establishing the importance of ethical virtues. It might be hard to implement these two ideas in the actual setting, but the idea of Plato seems to be more convincing, because it is the ultimate goal of every society that should be away from the presence of corruption, a perfect manifestation of having more value for self-interest.    

Works Cited
  • Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. NuVision Publications, LLC, 2003. Print.
  • Chambliss, J. J. Philosophy of Education: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.
  • Evans, C. Stephen. Kierkegaard on Faith and the Self: Collected Essays. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006. Print.
  • Garver, Eugene. Confronting Aristotle’s Ethics: Ancient and Modern Morality. London: ReadHowYouWant.com, 2010. Print.
  • Plato. Reginald E. Allen (ed.). The Republic. Yale: Yale University Press, 2006. Print.
  • Plato. Benjamin Jowett (Trans.). The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo. New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2011. Print.
  • Radden, Jennifer, and John Sadler. The Virtuous Psychiatrist: Character Ethics in Psychiatric Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
  • Rasmussen, Douglas B., and Douglas J. Den Uyl. Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfectionist Politics. University Park: Penn State Press, 2010. Print.

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