Ruler and Subject

Both More and Plato have very specific views about the relationship between a ruler and their subjects. Plato’s philosopher-kings are harder on his subjects, giving them less free will because he feels that they are not well educated enough to know what is in their best interests. More takes a different view of his subjects, allowing them more freedoms because he trusts that people are good at heart and don’t need to be told how to live their lives by a totalitarian ruler. These two rather different styles of ruling are a based on the authors’ levels of trust in their subjects.

Plato’s philosopher kings are educated from birth so that they can be trusted to make decisions for the good of the state. It is through this training that he feels they are qualified to handle their power. Plato does not allow his subjects very many liberties at all. He would even withhold parts of classic stories about their gods and heroes, which portrayed them as having flaws. (Plato, 58) Plato also believes that his subjects should not be allowed to choose their own profession. He expects them to do what they are best at, regardless of if they enjoy it. He even goes so far as to say that they should take pleasure from contributing to the good of the state. This control of his subjects suggests that Plato does not think them worthy of such freedoms.

In More’s Utopia citizens are apprenticed to their fathers unless they are naturally talented in some other field or find enjoyment elsewhere (More, 34). This freedom to choose their profession shows that More feels that people are worthy of at least some semblance of equality. He also gives them some freedom to choose their own religion, a freedom that, in the context of More’s day, was unheard of. Another equality in Utopia was that everyone worked six-hour shifts (More, 34). This made sure that no citizens were overworked and everyone was paid what they were owed. Not even the rulers were paid unevenly.

The main difference between Plato and More is in their trust of their subjects. Thomas More is much more trusting of his subjects, and, as such, gives them much more freedom than Plato. Plato gives the rulers much more power because he does not trust his subjects. This difference of opinion is the cause of the opposing views on the power of rulers over subjects.

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