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Sample Essay: Plato On Politics

The following essay was sent in by a student. Below the essay are my comments and suggestions on how it might be improved.


“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”


Plato’s Word of Political Participation Needs More Consideration in Recent Society

Politics is inserted into the general public and interacts with citizens in many ways. For instance, in an economic basis, we pay taxes to the government occasionally; in a social context, we are guided by the law for justices of what we have done; every election period, we vote and select our governors and legislators. Plato has suggested in his words the importance of participating in politics. He encourages citizens fighting for their rights and shouting out their own voices, or they might lose their chance of getting what they desire for, or at worst case, result in penalties of being ruled by inferiors, of whom should not have been the elected one, but because the majority did not vote, they are elected by the “non-silent” voters.

Plato’s word might be right in Classical Greece. One of his underlined assumptions is that democracy is perfectly practiced in nations. However, this is not true in modern period. Though some developed counties have nearly reached the standard, we shall not cross out the fact that most developing or poor countries including China, North Korea or Brazil have not practiced perfect democracy. For these countries, Plato’s statement is pseudo-proposition. Take North Korea as an example: it is not whether citizens participate in the politics or not that defines who their ruler is, because the right of ruling is controlled by only one party; general public even does not have a chance to vote or to be voted. Thus, these citizens are almost always ruled by inferiors, the minor one who holds the greatest power.

Even if we have enough democracy, it does not necessarily mean that it ends up with penalties if we refuse to join politics. It is true that ruling by inferiors may not be the best one among most citizens’ expectation; indeed, it neither is the bad one. Taking China as an example, the president is elected by the selection committee (the “minor one”); however, this does not stop China being the growing miracles in the world since 21st century. In terms of economics, China is currently the world’s 2nd largest economics and keeps on growing; in terms of political affairs, the Dragon is extending his influence in Asia and developing countries, hoping to take over the American Power. In terms of internal affairs, though corruption and inequality are still a big problem, improvements are consistently made to promote the “Chinese Dream”. Thus, though the ruler might not be elected by most citizens, it is too mean to call it a penalty for Chinese during the miracle they are producing.

In conclusion, it might be good to encourage citizens participating more in politics, to voice out their concerns, and to vote for what they want. Nevertheless, Plato’s word in today-society might be too absolute in predicting the results of being “silent”, in the fact of imperfect democracy, and that inferiors might not necessarily result in penalties for most citizens.

Sentence StructurePoor
Organisation – Good
Clarity of Expression Poor
Understanding the Quote – Moderate
Depth of Thought – Moderate

The essay is a good length, with a fine density of ideas. The sentences are concise, but the overall use of language is poor. Some of the sentences are not sentences and many would be incomprehensible out of context.

The title isn’t helpful. It doesn’t tell us any more about the content of the essay than Plato’s comment would have. In this case I would recommend Plato’s comment be printed as the title instead.

Despite the shaky use of language, the essay structure holds strong. The writer demonstrates a moderate depth of thought and a reasonable, though not perfect, understanding of Plato’s comment.

Paragraph one: The writer attempts to define politics and Plato’s statement in relation to one another, demonstrating a basic comprehension of his comment. Very good start!

Paragraph two: Plato’s comment may imply a certain felxibility within one’s political system but hardly assumes a ‘perfect democracy’, should one exist. (The writer’s argument could use some revision here) He argues that Plato’s comment does not make sense in the context of a dictatorship or single-party system, where any normal process of politics is abandoned. This is another good point which shows he has thought about Plato’s comment.

Don’t say: “Almost always”. Say “often”. If you must make the generalisation, limit it.

Paragraph three: The writer argues that being ruled by ones inferiors is not necessarily a bad thing. China is given as an example of a country that is prosperous despite a limited influence on government by its citizens. He makes a leap however, between the economy being good, and the quality of life of the people being good, assuming they are synonymous.

Paragraph four: The writer generalises the effect of being a member of the ‘silent majority’. he says that just because you don’t participate in politics doesn’t mean you’re going to be penalised. While this may be true, this student is neglecting to understand a crucial deeper meaning in Plato’s comment.

For someone with a profound ego, or any sense of self importance, even the act of being governed by a lesser mind is offensive. It is a penalty that one should not be free to decide every aspect of his own life. Some other inferior person is making the rules. We see this in the workplace – “my boss is an idiot”. It’s infuriating to feel that someone less intelligent than one’s self is calling the shots.

For the average person – yes – they will not necessarily be ruled by inferior minds should they fail to participate. Most likely they will be ruled by equally average minds. Plato’s comment, however, is coming from a place of egotism. A renowned philosopher, and well aware of it, he considered himself to be so far above everyone else that an inferior person would rule simply by his absence. He considers it unlikely that a superior or equal person to himself would be appointed as leader if he does not contribute to the process of their election.

This is the distinction you needed to make in order to get full marks for ‘depth of thought’ and demonstrated understanding of the quote.

In summary: Good structure and moderate level of thought and understanding. What this writer needs most is just more practice writing.