Let’s talk about Plato. The classical Greek philosopher determined a lot of the things we think about thinking and philosophy way back in the 4th century BC. Let’s look at some of the tenets in Plato’s philosophy:
Plato says one of the traits of a just man is his naturally intelligent mind and that the inclination of this type of mind is to strive for knowledge. Plato says man’s mind is most commonly justice—an unjust mind is nature’s defect. This statement says a man whose mind is inclined towards justice also has a good mind. Therefore, justice is the earmark of an intelligent mind. Plato says a man who has a good, intelligent mind, also has the other qualities of a good mind including control and attention. All of these qualities combine to make a character that will not let his intelligence, his just sensibilities, and his ability to learn go to waste in not seeking knowledge.
These just men who seek knowledge, as opposed to men who seek honor or wealth, are the happiest because Plato says intelligence is a natural pleasure, but other pleasures are adulterated. Plato is speaking about how all pleasurable things seem to be good, but only the pleasure of knowledge brings full and lasting happiness, while other pleasures, such as money and honor, aren’t lasting and are usually mixed with pain. The knowledgeable man is the only man who can be happy throughout all the times of his life and the only man who is not let down by what gives him pleasure and makes him happy.
This view of happiness relates to Plato’s view of a just society because Plato defines justice in his society as keeping to themselves and because everyone is just, everyone is seeking knowledge and therefore is happy. If a person minds his own business, he doesn’t care about what his neighbor is doing, nor does get involved with his neighbor’s occupation. Also, people who mind their own business do not take other’s property. Each person minding his own business allows those who wish to pursue knowledge to do so without interference or unnecessary interruptions of having to deal with stolen property. Because everyone is just, everyone is seeking knowledge and everyone is happy. Whether recreationally, or as a job in the government or as a scholar, every person in this society is interested in gaining the pleasure of knowledge rather than the non-lasting pleasure of money or honor. Plato’s society in which everyone minds his own business is the most perfect society for seeking knowledge without interference because of Plato’s view of justice, so Plato’s knowledgeable society is the happiest society.
Along with the just society, Plato’s view of happiness also relates to the most perfect ruler for Plato’s society, the Philosopher Ruler, who seeks knowledge because he is the epitome of the just man and therefore happy. Plato uses the Philosopher Ruler as the most excellent example of the product of a just society who is happy, knowledgeable, and just. Because he is left alone and he has a naturally just mind, he studies and gains knowledge. This knowledge makes him happy. Happiness and the other qualities of a Philosopher Ruler fit Plato’s idea of the best possible ruler for the best possible society. A knowledgeable Ruler makes the best decisions for his state and his happiness allows him to make the most clear-headed decisions without letting any angry feelings get in the way.