Plato and Lao-Tse: Comparison of Ideologies
Lao-Tse and Plato were the philosophers of different times and countries and had diverse views on human nature and a perfect state. From then on, their ideologies can be comprehended through their works “The Tao Teh King or The Tao and Its Characteristics” by Lao-Tse and “The Allegory of the Cave” from The Republic by Plato.
Lao-Tse considered that Tao was the best way to the cognition, and the greatest ruler was that who did not interfere the natural process of life. On the contrary, Plato viewed an ideal governor as a wise philosopher with an ability to gain new knowledge. Both thinkers decided that the ruler had to be just and fair; however, these notions diverged in their meanings.
According to Lao-Tse, the sage should not have too much knowledge; Plato’s ruler has to be intelligent and be able to use his knowledge for the good. In his work “The Allegory of the Cave,” Plato tells about the state of ignorance and makes the readers think of new knowledge differently. The more a person knows, the better it is for that person and his or her state.
In Lao Tse’s vision, knowledge often prevents the ruler from the right governing. Though Lao-Tse’s political view seems to be simple to the rulers and the nation, and Plato’s ideology expects the ruler to be a wise sage, the aim of both philosophers is the same - to make the whole state happy. Lao-Tse considers that the great ruler has to be still and inactive so that he does not harm the nature of things: He who acts (with an ulterior purpose) does harm; he who takes hold of a thing (in the same way) loses his hold. The sage does not act (so), and therefore does no harm; he does not lay hold (so), and therefore does not lose his bold. (But) people in their conduct of affairs are constantly ruining them when they are on the eve of success. If they were careful at the end, as (they should be) at the beginning, they would not so ruin them (15). By these words, one can see that the most appropriate way to govern the state is not to make unnecessary actions. Such actions are those that have no concrete purpose, no clear meaning. It is better to do nothing than to do something wrong. On the contrary, Plato (as well as Socrates) writes that people need to move their heads and look around to learn something new and do something meaningful. Lao-Tse supposes people who weaken their aspiration when they see that success is close to them, will not succeed at all. The aim of the ruler is to keep calm and not be like other people. He does not need to wish something that other individuals wish, and he should stop at the thing, which is passed by others (Lao-Tse 15). The sage has to be invisible and inaudible …