In the Republic, his most comprehensive dialogue, Plato presents an ambitious plan of political reform, suggesting that philosophers come into power and rule the state. Plato’s ideal republic is a great and fully organised school, which is in charge of its citizens’ fortunes from their infancy and aims at constructing a stable and balanced whole, where each citizen deals only with what suits his natural predisposition. The greater part of the citizens only receives elementary education and is led toward particular professions. A small part of men and women (the latter having full rights in the Platonic republic) continue their education and become the “guardians” of the city, those in charge of its security. From this small group very few individuals are judged suitable for specialised scientific and philosophical studies and it is to them that ruling of the city is assigned. Handworkers, guardians and philosopher-kings are the three classes of Plato’s republic. Poets will be banished from the city, because philosophy is put forward as a new kind of education, aiming to form a new type of man, and for this reason it promotes educational ideals that are incompatible with the ideals of poetry.
The goal of Plato’s philosophy is to transform political institutions and people’s moral understanding; it is basically a political philosophy. Plato’s philosopher will not attempt to isolate himself and abstain from the public sphere, preferring his personal salvation. What comes first is the salvation of the entire city. The just republic succeeds in combining all its parts and bringing them into balance. It is “ideal” because, even though is does not actually exist, it can serve as a model for shaping the conscience of actual living people.