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Plato was a writer, a thinker and a teacher. He stands with Socrates and Aristotle as one of the shapers of the whole intellectual tradition of the West. “He came from a family that had long, played a prominent part in Athenian politics, and it would have been natural for him to follow the same course. He declined to do so, however disguised by the violence and corruption of Athenian political life, and sickened especially by the execution in 399Bc of his friend and teacher, Socrates.”

Plato sought a cure for the ills of society, not in politics, but in philosophy. It is because of this political instability in Athenian society that Plato wrote his famous book, “The Republic”, and arrived at his fundamental and lasting conviction that those ills would never cease until philosophers become rulers or rulers become philosophers. He believes in the “ideal State”. To Plato, it seemed natural that competence should be the qualification for authority. The ruler of the State should be one who has the peculiar abilities to fulfill that function. Looking at history, the world can boast of some rulers who had natural competence, rulers who are philosophically inclined and these same rulers gave a good account of themselves when they ruled. Some of these great rulers are Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Martin Luther King Junior of America, Mahatma Gandhi of India, kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Ken Saro Wiwa etc. These great men of history distinguished themselves as prominent and reliable personalities during the difficult periods by helping to bring under control, moments of hardships and difficulty. During the most difficult moment for the Igbo’s (Biafran War), Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu stood as a giant between the poor and helpless Igbo’s and their armed enemies. He left everything he owed, believing to die for his people. Nelson Mandela of South Africa showed what is takes to be a great leader, by choosing to be on the side of his people, and remain in prison to being on the side of the enemies, and becoming free.

Taking a look at the situation in Nigerian politics, it seems that we (Nigerians), like the Athenians, are faced with the same leadership problems. Our today leaders have proved to be incapable and philosophically uncritical. This has seriously affected us negatively both socially, politically an economically. With Plato’s Republic, all hope is not lost on our political leaders. Since Plato’s Republic was written in order to arrest the political quagmire in Athens, we hope that Nigerian leaders will become philosophers. “Plato’s idea of rulers becoming philosophers or philosophers becoming rulers is a positive idea.”[2] It has helped towards the development and liberation of many countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, India, etc. He had through his Republic, saved many societies, countries, from difficult moments or early extinction. It is highly commendable. Plato, through the Academy, which he founded, trained young men who are to be philosophically sound, so as to be qualified to become future philosopher kings.

[1] Plato, The Republic, Desmond Lee, Great Britain, Haze Watson pub. Ltd.1980, p. 1

[2] Ibid p. 2



Plato, one of the greatest philosophers of the world, was born in Athens in the year 427Bc, of a distinguished Athenian family. His father was named Ariston, and his Mother, Perictione.

Plato came from a distinguished family with many political connections. Through his stepfather, he had a link with Pericles, who gave his name to the great age of Athenian history. Plato received the normal education of a Greek boy, learning to read and write and study the poets. More important, he grew up in a city of war. The Peloponnesian War, which began just before his birth lasted until he was twenty-three, and ended in defeat and humiliation of Athens. “During the later course of the Peloponnesian War, (it was highly probable that Plato fought at Arginusae in 406), it can hardly have failed to strike Plato that the democracy lacked a truly capable and responsible leader, and that these were easily spoiled by the necessity of pleasing the populace.” [1] Plato’s final abstention from home politics no doubt dates from trial, and condemnation of his Master and friend, Socrates; but the formulation of his conviction that the ship (State), needs a firm pilot to guide her, and that this pilot

must be one who knows the right course to follow, and who is prepared to act conscientiously in accordance to that knowledge, that can hardly fail to have been laid during the years when Athenian power was passing to its eclipse[2]. Plato applied himself to the study of painting and writing poems, dithyrambics at first and afterwards lyric poems and tragedies. He lived in the flourishing period of Athenian culture, and must have received a cultured education. His relatives in the Oligarchy of 403/4 urged Plato to enter the political life under their patronage, but when the Oligarchy started to pursue a policy of violence and attempted to implicate Socrates in their crimes, Plato became disgusted with them. Yet the democrats were no better, since it was they who put Socrates to death and Plato accordingly abandoned the idea of political career. Plato was present at the trial of Socrates, but was absent from the death-scene of his friend and master, due to an illness. Here is Plato’s account, in his seventh letter, written when he was an old man, of his experiences during these years when he was a young man of about twenty-eight. Here is the account;

“I had much the same experience as many young men. I expected, when I came of age, to go into politics. The political situation gave me an opportunity. The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown and a committee of thirty given supreme power. I thought of they were given to reform the society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. They tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright men them living, by bringing him

forcibly to execution. When I saw all these and other things as bad, I was disgusted and drew back from the wickedness of the times”[3].

Plato founded the Academy in 285Bc, near the sanctuary of the hero, Academus. The Academy may rightly be called the first European university, for the studies were not confined to philosophy proper, but extended over a wide range of auxiliary sciences like Mathematics, astronomy and the physical sciences, the members of the school joining in the common worship of the muses. “Youths came to the Academy, not only from Athens itself, but also from abroad. Plato, through his Academy, aimed at producing statesmen and not demagogues”.[4] Besides directing the studies in the Academy, Plato himself also gave lectures and his students took notes. It is important to note that these lectures were not published, and that they stand in contrast to the dialogues, which were published works meant for “popular reading. We possess Plato’s popular works, his dialogues, but not his lectures Until his death in 348/7Bc, he (Plato) lived in Athens, where he continue his activities in the Academy. He died at the age of eighty.

1.2 What Is State; This is a question that is not easy to answer because, the state has been conceived of in different ways and from varying perspectives. It will therefore

be necessary to attempt an elucidation of the concept of the state in general. Thus, its characteristics, and its aims as buttressed by its functions with a view to disambiguating it. Some people have conceived of the state via its characteristics and nature, while others have conceived of it in terms of its functions and aims. To answer the question what is a state, we will try to describe what the state is in terms of its characteristics and in using the Aristolian principle of the “function category” (Aristotle, Nichomeclean Ethics) and how it function to achieve its aim.

In the history of political philosophy, there have been two broad notions of the state. First, is the classical notion, which sees the state in minimal sense? The second is the modern notion, which sees the state in an ultra minimal sense. “In this case the state performs the limited functions of preventing theft, fraud and promotion of contract and agreements, and guards against the use of force”[5]. This conception can be interpreted in two ways. It could mean what the state was in classical sense. This conception in any case would be anachronistic and obsolete because such conception no longer tallies with modern state structure, with its complexities of functions and problems. This conception should be understood to mean what the state ought to be 

in his ideal sense. If this were the case, such a conception would be unrealistic. “This is because to give only this function to the state is not at all that is needed to confront

most of the problem it is likely to face in modern sense especially within the context of international legal political and economic systems”[6].

The state now performs or is expected to perform from a moral perspective, redistributive function, which makes it transcend a mere minimal sense. Moreover, the ability to perform more than minimal function is one of the basis for moral evaluation of a state in the international scene. To some extent therefore, Nozick’s conception is either morally unrealistic or simply amoral in that sense. In this discourse we have decided to uphold the modern conception of the state, a view which sees   that state, as performing or being expected to perform more than mere prevention of fraud and theft, the enforcement of contracts and agreements, and guarding the use of force. When a community as a group of people, desires political independence, it becomes a nation. When it finally gains that political independence, it becomes a state. Any political independent group of people is a stat. Usually a nation state is made up of people occupying a definite territory, sharing a common language, common customs, traditions, religion, and race. In the modern world, such a nation state is very hard to come by. The reason being that, even in the apparently

homogenous nations, there are differences which might be such that the issue of a common language, the people of Ugboha may not have much in common with the people of Iruekpen senatorial zone even though all of them speak Esan. A state can be defined as politically independent, territorially defined, group of people, possessing a government that is subordinate to none other, and monopolizing the coercive instrument of compulsion in the enforcement of its decisions. It has been asserted that though there may be differences in the functions, aims and nature of the state, there are still certain basic characteristics that are common to all the states, which either jointly or singularly designates them as states. Liberal individualists want to insist   on defining a state as or something reminiscent of ‘a people living in a given territory under one law with a single governmental system extending to all of them, and to no one else, are then members of a state. “But the state as an institution does not embrace all the roles in which they are but only political or legal roles”[7].

1.3             Theories Of The Origin Of State

Many thinkers have been concerned with discovering how state originated. Perhaps, this quest stemmed from the perplexing questions; has anyone the right to govern?

Many answers have been given but for easy understanding, we shall discuss them under the following heading: the speculative and historical theories. The Speculative include; Divine Theory, and Force Theory. The Historical Theories include: Social Contract and Natural Theory.

1.3.1. The Divine Theories

 The Divine theorist believer that the state is in a way divinely ordained and as such demands absolute obedience from all within its confines. He wrote lucidly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained by God.” One is understandably reluctant to accept this command in its entirety. What of the powers of field marshal Idi Amin Dada, when he was the undisputed ruler of Uganda? What do we say of the powers of Emperor Bokassa, the sole ruler of the short –lived Central African Empire? Did God also ordain these? After all, as they lasted, they were one of the powers that be. It follows from the above, that if we accept this view of state, we are asking for absolute and dictatorial government in which the rights of the citizens are completely ignored. In fact, to stretch this further, individuals have no right to assert their rights because they have none, and they cannot revolt against an unjust government because God ordains it. Perhaps, this type of doctrine is best suited to the colonized peoples, who must,

like sacrificial lambs, follow their colonial masters. Having said this however, it will not be out of place to stress the point, which, this theory tries to make, though in a most unwelcome way. No government in the world over can last long unless the governed regard it as a vital aspect of their lives and frown at its overflow. In a way, government should be regarded as a sacred cow to be challenged and overthrown only in very serious cases.

1.4 The Social Contract Theories

The social contract theorists were group of philosophers who believes that men, at a point in time, freely (out of their volition) agreed to bind themselves together under a government and each person is duty bound to keep to the terms of this agreement. One may make haste to ask; why is this theory called social contract theory? The theory is so called because it depicts the element of mutual agreement. We shall discuss three of the theorists in this chapter.

1.4.1 Thomas Hobbes And Social Contract Theory: A Review

Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher preferred an absolute government to the political instability and near anarchy that characterized the England civil war period[8]. Hobbes lived in about 17th century in England, when civil war occasioned by political

and class differences, devastated the country and made life insecure for everybody. He therefore, imagined from insecurity and brutality accompanying the civil war,

what the world would be like without order government. In his words, man’s life was nasty, brutish and short. It was a state of insecurity and a state where might was right. As can be seen from Hobbes description of the state of nature it was in fact a description of the civil war period.

In Hobbes opinion, man realized that the only way out of his problem was to surrender to his natural rights; his right to rule himself to a leviathan and every other man was to do the same. The leviathan then became absolute ruler. The rule of the leviathan could not take its character unless the surrender of natural rights was

absolute and irrevocable. What is important to note is the contact between them and the leviathan. This means that they had no rights and the leviathan had no obligations. The leviathan’s power was absolute and the subject has no right to revolt. This was precisely what Thomas Hobbes wanted to achieve. He felt that the British people had no right to revolt against their king. What strikes one first about Hobbes’s theory of the state is that he approaches the subject not from a historical point of view, but from the vantage point of logic and analysis.

1.4.2 John Locke And The Social Contract Theory

John Locke (1632-1704), lived through the “Glorious Revolution of 1688” and used the same social contract theory to prove that the English people had the right to

overthrow King James II and invite William of Orange to take over the throne. In his Second Treatise of Government, Locke begins his political theory as Hobbes did, with a treatment of ” the state of nature” But he described this condition in a very different way, even making Hobbes5  the target of his remarks. `

For Locke the state of nature is not the same as Hobbes ‘war of all against all”. On the contrary, Locke says, “men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with the authority to judge between them is properly the state of nature”. Put differently, Locke drew a picture of a state of nature in which man had certain natural and inalienable right to freedom of life and property.[9] Man’s problem was not how to escape from the state of nature, but rather how to maximize the enjoyment of all the rights that nature had given him. He made an agreement, this time not with his fellow man but with the sovereign’s authority. The agreement made was in two folds. It was binding on both the sovereign and the subjects. Hence the sovereign‘s power was limited to the terms of the agreement, and as long as he protected the lives, property and freedom of the subjects, the subjects would continue to accept his authority. But once the sovereign failed to perform this crucial function, the subjects were free to seek alternative arrangement. Hence, the agreement is limited and revocable. Locke was, therefore, calling for a constitutional government not as absolute government as Hobbes. Yet both men used social contract to arrive at two different systems of government.

1.4.3. Jean Jacques Rousseau And The Social Contract Theory

In J.J Rousseau’s social contract, man surrendered himself and all his rights absolutely but not to an individual, not even to the government which is only an agent of the sovereign[10]. The sovereign is the ‘General Will” of the people or the community or the state as a collectivity. By making this absolute surrender, each man secured for himself, true liberty because, the interest of the community is the real interest of each of us, even though sometime we tended not to see it as such. Rousseau regarded social contract as an art of association or union by which men decide to leave their original state and establish together in a new form of life, with the purpose of preserving their person, freedom, and properties and realizing themselves to the fullest[11]. The social contract in Rousseau’s arrangement is obviously a solution of sort to a pressing problem of malaise that men encountered at a critical point in time.

Succinctly, Rousseau formulated the problem thus;

The problem is to find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force, the person and good of each while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before.[12]

The above is to say that the problem which social contract sets out to solve is clear. To this end, Rousseau was quick to observe that for the above to be possible,

Each of us puts his person and all his power in common, under the supreme direction of the General will and in our corporate

capacity, we receive each member as an individual part of the whole.[13]

The dynamics of Rousseau’s social contract implies that act of association creates or plays up moral and collective body when is called in his terminology, the state when passive; the sovereign when active and a power in relation to other bodies like itself.

Who is this sovereign one may ask? The idea of the sovereign according to JJ Rousseau is more or less a metaphysical entity hence; it is not visibly identifiable in an individual in the state. The sovereign, in Rousseau’s scheme should not be interpreted to mean Monarch or legislative capacity. In this vein, the sovereign is not the government, which, if it is admitted, may be tyrannical; it is more[14] or less metaphysical not fully embodied in any form of visible organs of the state. It follows in the light of the above, that individuals in so far as they are parties to the social contract are indeed members of the sovereign. How can this be?

1.4.5 The Force Theory

The fullest expression of this theory is found in the saying that “Might is right”. It traces the origin of the state to conquest and coercion. The powerful ones impose their rule over the weaker ones. Hence, the state is essentially evil because it is borne out of injustice. One of the characters in platonic Dialogue endorses this view.

Government exists principally to protect the interest of the dominant group in the society. Consequent upon this, they enact laws in their own interest and punish and coerce those who do not obey and conform simply because, they possess the power to do so. Karl Marx also sees the state in this light. To him, the state is nothing but the executive committee of the bourgeoisie. This state is therefore, nothing more than a machine for the oppression of one class, by another. One fundamental fact of all governments is being preached by force theory. Government, no matter their characterizations, governs according to their own conceptions of what public interests are. These public interests as they see them invariably turn out to be the interest of the governors themselves. It is an indubitable fact that by our human nature, it is often very difficult for us to clearly draw clear- cut line between our private or class interest and the interests of our community.

As part of the contribution of this theory is the timely warning it gives that government tends to govern according to their own interest and that more often than not, they do not pretend to justify their rule. Therefore, every effort should be made to keep governments within limit. On the other hand, the force theory exaggerates the selfish propensities of human nature. Certainly, men are selfish, but under certain conditions or circumstances, human selfishness can be controlled. However, not all men can allow their selfish interest to override their concern for public interest. By characterizing all human beings as utterly selfish, the force theory sows the seed of mutual distrust between the governors and the governed. As a follow up, it should be noted that where honesty is not rewarded and appreciated, definitely, corruption would be promoted.

1.5 The Natural Or Organic Theory

The Natural theory of the origin of state is associated with Aristotle. This is so because, he sees the family as the association established by nature for the supply of  man’s everyday wants. In the process of time, the wants and needs of the family transcend the subsistence and immediate reach of the family. Several families then unite to advance their common interests. An association of families unites to form villages as their wants multiply. In like manner and for the same purposes, several villages came together to form a state. Hence, the state has its origin and justification in the expanded needs of the families that make it up[15]. The state is then the creation of nature, and is by nature a political animal, born to live in the state. Man, family, villages are all parts of the state.   A thorough understanding of this theory brings out clearly the point, that man’s nature has not at any time, given him any choice between

government and no government this question has been settled by man’s nature once and for all. Man lives and exists only in a state. Outside the state, he has no life. In addition, the theory highlights the importance and sacredness of the state as the preserver of man. Man should, therefore regard the state with due respect and should do everything required of him to ensure the survival and prosperity of the state. On the negative side, the theory presents a too simplistic view of the state and so leaves out of the account, the rights and obligations of the governors and the governed. It therefore follows th

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