Research Article

DOI :10.26650/arcp.1387648   IUP :10.26650/arcp.1387648    Full Text (PDF)

Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic

Necip Uyanık

The relationship between humans and animals is a significant issue that has been addressed throughout history. In addition, the meaning of animals’ existence has been examined in ontological and epistemological contexts. This issue should also be noted for its importance in the context of ethics and politics. Therefore, to make the relationship among individuals, society, and state clear and understandable, political philosophy often focuses on animal metaphors or directly on how the sovereignty of animals passes to humans and the state. However, a single effective theory and explanation are needed for the metaphors to be fully equivalent. Demonstrating this skill, Plato often resorted to using metaphors to produce interesting examples while making deep analyses of politics, state, and society. In this respect, Plato can be seen as a great theorist with a perspective that transcends his time. The analogies he has made are both interesting and provocative. This study attempts to evaluate Plato’s animal metaphors through his Republic as a tool of a political element, one which played an important role in political philosophy. Thus, the study examines the animal metaphors used in the discussions on humans, ethics, and political theory in Plato’s Republic. The aim is to examine and draw attention to how Plato systematized his understanding of politics through analogies or comparisons. Previously, the opinions of some thinkers from the history of philosophy were consulted to investigate how the animal-human comparison had been handled philosophically. The study’s conclusion tries to show how some similarities or differences between humans and animals in the history of philosophy have been a source of inspiration in the context of theory development.

DOI :10.26650/arcp.1387648   IUP :10.26650/arcp.1387648    Full Text (PDF)

Platon’un Devlet Eserinde Siyasal Teorinin Aracı Olarak Hayvan Metaforları

Necip Uyanık

İnsan ve hayvan arasındaki ilişki tarihin her döneminde ele alınan önemli bir sorundur. Bununla birlikte hayvanın kendi varlığının ne anlam ifade ettiği de ontolojik ve epistemolojik bağlamda irdelenmiştir. Bunun yanında etik ve siyaset bağlamında da bu sorunun önem arz ettiğini belirtmek gerekir. Dolayısıyla siyaset felsefesinde birey, toplum, devlet ilişkisini açık ve anlaşılır kılabilmek için çoğu kez hayvan metaforlarına veya doğrudan hayvandaki egemenliğin insana ve devlete nasıl geçtiğine odaklanılmıştır. Ancak metaforların tam olarak karşılığını bulabilmesi için etkili bir teori ve anlatıma ihtiyaç duyulmaktadır. Söz konusu mahareti gösteren Platon, siyaset, devlet ve toplum üzerine derin analizler yaparken çoğu zaman metaforlara başvurmuş ve bu doğrultuda ilgi çekici örnekler ortaya koymuştur. Platon, bu yönüyle, çağını aşan bir perspektife sahip büyük bir teorisyen olarak görülebilir. Onun yapmış olduğu benzetmeler ilgi çekici olduğu kadar aynı zamanda da kışkırtıcıdır. Bu çalışmada siyaset felsefesinde önemli rol oynamış Platon’un siyasal bir unsurun aracı olarak hayvan metaforları onun Devlet eseri üzerinden değerlendirilmeye çalışıldı. Böylelikle Platon’un Devlet’te insan, etik ve siyaset teorisi üzerine yaptığı tartışmalarda başvurduğu hayvan metaforları incelendi. Amacımız Platon’un siyaset anlayışını, benzetmeler veya karşılaştırmalar yoluyla nasıl sistematize ettiğini incelemek ve buna dikkat çekebilmektir. Öncesinde ise hayvan-insan karşılaştırmasının felsefi açıdan nasıl ele alındığını araştırmak için felsefe tarihinden bazı düşünürlerin görüşlerine başvurulmuştur. Sonuç bölümünde felsefe tarihinde insan ve hayvan arasındaki kimi benzerliklerin veya farklılıkların teori geliştirme bağlamında ilham kaynağı olduğu gösterilmeye çalışılmıştır. 


Discussions centered on the distinction between humans and animals present themselves as a matter of ontology, ethics, and politics. Acknowledging that the subject at hand has been extensively examined across many disciplines, including psychology and logic, has been vital within several academic disciplines, ranging from mythology and religion to biology and science. To state how this question has been discussed in many contexts from psychology to logic will be useful. This study aims to evaluate how animals have been dealt with within a political framework as seen through the perspective of Plato’s Republic.

Plato provided an intriguing narrative in political philosophy through the use of animal analogies. In Plato’s Republic, he generously demonstrated his talent by making interesting analogies. For this reason, Plato undertook resistant questioning by conducting in-depth research on different topics. By employing metaphors, he turned animals into tools of production. Both philosophy and politics can benefit a lot from Plato’s meticulous attention to detail and his insistence that rulers should learn from the biological capacities of animals. One must examine the animal-human relationship philosophically to understand why Plato wanted to develop this connection. Therefore, when looking at animal assessments and inferences before Plato, humans are seen to be similar to animals while also being unique. Although this difference is accepted as having been discussed in the context of the ability to think and that Plato approved of this, why he insistently resorted to animal metaphors is a matter of great curiosity. Plato’s focus on how humans are morally and politically different from animals is directly linked to how useful humans can be to the state. For this reason, while establishing this bond, he was more interested in how humans should be successful in political institutions rather than in seeing animals as superior beings. This approach to Plato’s reasoning is not a method that has been frequently used before and is necessary for analyzing the motivations behind Plato’s work.

First of all, Plato should be noted for having criticized the Greek understanding of politics and for understanding that many things needed to be changed permanently. As a philosopher, Plato took action to do his part and tried to determine what kind of qualifications the people who would head the state should have in order for people to be governed justly. Plato contended that those the state employs must possess competence and supported this assertion by drawing upon analogies from the animal world. The metaphor he used in this regard was the horse metaphor. From his perspective, just as what each horse will do is clear, to have each state official be competent in their job and then be assigned to any other task would be inappropriate (Plato, Republic, p. 352e). In addition, this principle must be observed to the fullest, not only in state administration but also in social order, so much so that, while a shoemaker is required to deal only with shoemaking, a farmer must only practice farming as a requirement of his job. If this principle is disrupted, both the state and social order will be disrupted, and people will inevitably fall into moral collapse. Therefore, the reason why Plato resorted to animal metaphors involved a moral, political, and social issue and had a single higher purpose: to ensure and maintain order. 

While Plato’s aim was for justness in political institution, having people be aware of their talents and use them correctly was also important. The different methods he used in politics inspired many thinkers. When looking at post-Platonic philosophy, analogies to animals should be noted to have increased in political theory. For example, Machiavelli made striking analyses for the theory of the state and can be said to have also made some animal analogies, such as viewing the fox and lion as two animal species that a prince should take as examples. For Machiavelli, simply appearing as a lion or a fox would not be enough, because while lions cannot save themself from the net, foxes don’t know how to protect themself from the wolf. Therefore, to eliminate traps, a prince is required to be influenced by both animals (Machiavelli, The Prince, p. 110). As a result, the subject of political philosophy can be said to involve the desires that people try to put into practice and the uncontrollable desires from among these. Therefore, political theorists have attempted to analyze the issue with analogies using various methods. However, one must note that analogy should not always be evaluated positively. For example, while separating vitality from intelligence is reasonable in the case of dogs, it makes no sense when applied to humans (Rosen, 2005, p. 83). Therefore, while Plato’s animal metaphors work well in some examples, they seem to turn into problems in others. 

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Uyanık, N. (2024). Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic. Archives of Philosophy, 0(60), 24-41.


Uyanık N. Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic. Archives of Philosophy. 2024;0(60):24-41.


Uyanık, N. Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic. Archives of Philosophy, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 60, p. 24-41, 2024.

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Uyanık N. Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic. Archives of Philosophy [Internet]. 25 Jul. 2024 [cited 25 Jul. 2024];0(60):24-41. Available from: doi: 10.26650/arcp.1387648


Uyanık, Necip. Animal Metaphors as a Political Production in Plato’s Republic”. Archives of Philosophy 0/60 (Jul. 2024): 24-41.


Published Online31.05.2024


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