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Greek Legacy in a Contemporary Democratic State Essay

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Updated: May 6th, 2021


Democracy is the best protection of the rights and interests of all classes of people in a given state. This is because under such a government all the people have a voice and share in improving their rights as well as furthering their interests. This is viewed as a superior form of governance of all other forms because the rights of every citizen are secure from being disregarded by any person who seems to be able to habitually dispose to be capable of standing up for them. This system postulates that a measure of personal liberty and consideration of all classes in an equal manner (Samons, 2007). This paper explores the role of ethics in making a citizen the foundation of a contemporary democratic state by focusing on the Greek legacy to ascertain some of the responsibilities of a citizen in achieving a democratic state.

Politics of Plato and Aristotle

The ethics and politics of Aristotle have remained to be one of the most memorable regarding the ancient democracy of Greece. Aristotle has argued that ethics serves as a purpose of finding the ultimate purpose of human life, thus demonstrating the emphasis on teleology (Samons, 2007). This is because ethics is a practical science whose main concern is not knowledge, but for the application. This, why ethics s viewed as a cornerstone of any successful democracy. This may be one of the reasons that the application of ethics bestowed upon citizens in Ancient Greece led to its success, and to be referred to as one of the best democracies of its time. However, Greek had its unique interpretation of ethics. This may be, in part, because of the many philosophers that existed at the time like Aristotle and Plato.

According to Aristotle slaves are meant to be ruled, and therefore have no equal rights as the citizens of a particular state. However, he asserts that individuals are meant to participate in every aspect of the government, and, on the other hand, the government should work to promote a good life for all of its citizens. Therefore, given the fact that only citizens are supposed to participate in the building of the state, and this excludes all the slaves as well as aliens.

Ethics of Plato and Aristotle

The word democracy was coined from Greek words demos which means people and Kratos which means rule. This defines the political system that had its roots in the city-state of Athens which has given way to a form of governance that is being witnessed in most of the current nation-states; the US was the first nation to adopt this system of poof governance. However, Cartledge and Edge (2009) assert that no democracy has come in close resemblance to the ancient Greek democracy which emphasized the significance of citizens in achieving the best form of governance. This is because the US has a liberal democracy as opposed to the Greek democracy that was a direct democracy that had provisions that all citizens participate in all major policy decisions. Aristotle asserts that the role of ethics was that diversity was to be valued mostly because unity could be achieved through differences. However, this notion applies more to contemporary times than ancient times. Aristotle also believed that it was the task of any given country to cater to the educational needs of its citizens that would shape them and transform them into eligible citizens that would create a foundation for democracy (Cartledge and Edge, 2009).

Relevance to the contemporary democratic states

However, Plato criticized this form of citizenship that only acknowledged the citizens of the state but not all others that formed the slaves, women, and resident aliens. This led to the participation of only a tenth of the population who fully participated in the democratic government. Plato envisaged having a homogenous constituency that accommodated all classes of citizens to bring out a powerful democracy. This was in contrast to many Christian political theories that rooted for unity as a sign of a strong democracy where unity achieved through homogeneity is stronger than that one achieved through difference. This notion was also shared with Plato who likes the religious groups was a major critic of Aristotle.

Therefore, this political philosophy from Plato has had an impact on the modern political philosophy which is still faced with problems of the ancient times (Hovdelien, 2011). However, it also brought out the value of ethics in politics in creating a successful democracy, for this only emanates from the citizens who are morally educated. Plato believed that the important goal in any man’s life was a good life that was to be founded on good morals that enables one the judgment as to what is good or bad. Therefore, given that Plato and Aristotle believed that ethical values were primarily concerned with ensuring the well-being of every man, and that means the well-being of the entire government. This, therefore, amounts to the fact that the good morals of citizens enhance democracies by making them better.


Plato’s thought on democracy as preconditioned by law stems from the fact that if citizens are ethical, then they will follow the laws and this will be a sign of good governance. In most cases, he claimed that law was a necessity for good governance and not a mark of good governance as argued by Aristotle (Hovdelien, 2011). This means that he dismissed the Christian political theories who believed in wisdom as one of the major contributors of good governance, for those theories were personalized He, therefore envisioned that good governance should come from the rule of law mainly because it has an impersonal quality. This was one of the foundations of successful democracies where governments were formed by people for everything was conducted through law.

This was excellent. All the rights of all the citizens were respected because everyone was under the law. This seems to be the core of successful democracies where everyone is capable of free life that cannot be undermined by anyone no matter the social classes. This was against the Christian religious theories that took into account the existence of classes that were taken as important in the well-being of every society. Therefore, this notion of Plato has turned out to be influential in contemporary democracies. This is because it laid the basics of rule of law that now is the backbone of many of the known successful democracies in the world led by the US. It is, therefore, important to note that ethics are important in determining the success of any given democracy. This is because democracy is all about people, and if people are moral enough to observe the rule of law, this guarantees a good democracy. This is to means that the success of democracies is measured by the morality of their citizens.


Cartledge, P. & M. Edge (2009). “Rights”, Individuals, and Communities in Ancient Greece’ in R. Balot Ed. A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought Malden, MA, & Oxford, 149-63.

Hovdelien, O. (2011). “Post secular consensus? On the Munich-dialogue between Joseph Rat zinger and jurgen Hanbermas”. Australian eJournal of Theology. Vol 8, No 2 pp 107-117

Samons, L. J. (2007). What’s Wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American Worship. California, University of California Press.

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IvyPanda. "Greek Legacy in a Contemporary Democratic State." May 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-legacy-in-a-contemporary-democratic-state/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Greek Legacy in a Contemporary Democratic State." May 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-legacy-in-a-contemporary-democratic-state/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Greek Legacy in a Contemporary Democratic State'. 6 May.

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