The Views Of Plato And Aristotle On Private Property And Wealth

Private property has always been a coveted acquisition of wealth throughout the west’s history. Private property, in the realm of philosophical thought, can trace its roots back to Plato and Aristotle. These two philosophers both acknowledged the right of citizens to own private property, but their implications for the practical aspect of property differ in one critical way. Most notably in Plato’s ideal ruling class, “the guardians” from his writings in, “The Republic”. Central to both of their beliefs is that private property is fundamental for society as being a cradle for the common good. Out of this, “telos” or progress can be further achieved. Aristotelian theory surrounding wealth is that wealth is not a bad thing, but was a serious threat. Wealth, when acquired can be an overall good for the community at large. The community for Aristotle was key in his concept of society in the “polis”. But wealth can also cause corruption when citizens begin to idealize money and wealth acquisition as, “the one aim and everything else must contribute to that aim”.

Platonic theory does not reject the concept of private property. However, it does reject the notion of private property for the ruling class of, “guardians” who are supposed to have no worldly desires that influence the way in which they safeguard the people's trust. Wealth and private property can in many ways be linked to each other and for Plato, the one’s in charge of ruling should not have that corrupting influence on them. Aristotle and Plato’s insights into wealth show that this has caused issues in society ever since the early days of government and democratic rule. Not only that, but early human development to create a just society. I believe that society does indeed benefit from a communal aspect, where people are working towards a common goal. Instinctively though, humans do pursue an appetite for luxury goods in the form of capital and materials. Humans can never really stop or be satisfied with the basic needs that we have as Plato suggests. We’re always seeking more. This can result in exactly what Plato said would happen when we ignore the reason part of our soul. An insatiable desire begins to build, and out of this comes different levels of political organizations that reflect in many ways, what society at the time is wanting to achieve. In a democracy, appetites can flourish, as reflected by Plato’s sentiments in, “The Republic”. My thoughts on this follow Plato’s, because once democratic rule is established, especially one with universal suffrage, people will see that they have power, though limited in scope. Once that power is realized, there can be political motivation to feed their material and monetary appetites. Out of this great corruption can ensue.

The most just view of private property and wealth is Aristotle’s, because of his emphasis on property being the tool for which life is maintained. The family is a key component of republican virtue and I agree to this. To me, life is filled with relationships, and all relationships are independent of the others. For example, the way I talk and interact with my grandmother is significantly different then how I talk and interact with my best friend. The home is the foundation of relationship and a home rests upon private property. Without it, it would be hard to foster this kind of dynamic. Personally, communal living as Plato proposed would be too hard to create because of the tensions that can come from a shared living space, thus giving more importance to an individual right to own private property. The family dynamic not only teaches an individual relational skills, but also teaches a hierarchy of authority from which can be a learning environment for many important lessons in civic virtue.

I believe that if wealth acquirement becomes greater than the values of civic virtue within a household, then the good virtues of an organized community will fall apart.

31 October 2020
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