America in the Eyes of Some Philosophers

It would be interesting to speculate on how today's America would have looked like to some of yesteryear's philosophers. Plato, for example, who elaborates his political theory in the Republic, discussing questions such as "what is a just state" and "who is a just individual

The ideal state, according to Plato, is composed of three classes: the economic structure of the state being maintained by the merchant class, its security needs by the military class, and political leadership by the philosopher-kings. The relatively classless society of America would thus have shocked Plato. He would have admired the importance placed on education by the American society, though.

Voltaire, the 18th century French writer and philosopher was a leading proponent of enlightenment and opponent of religious bigotry. He was a brilliant, satirical wit who attacked the religious clergy of his time. The freedom of religion and the separation of church from the affairs of the state in America would have been a source of satisfaction to the Frenchmen. He would probably not have been able to resist a dig (or two) at some of our leaders of today. (Count yourselves lucky, Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld -- Voltaire died in 1778!)

Bismarck, an ultra-conservative and a believer in the divine right of the monarchy to rule a country would have been dismayed to observe the emphasis on democracy and majority rule in America. The Prusso-German statesman justifying an increase in the Army once observed that, "the great questions of the day will not be settled by speeches and the majority decisions...but by blood and iron." He would probably have given two thumbs-up to the ultra-hawks in the Bush administration who believe in military solutions to all the troubles of the world.

Karl Marx, who believed that the capitalist system was condemned to be overthrown by a worldwide revolution of the working class and replaced by a classless society, would have been dismayed to observe the thriving 'capitalist' American economy. The phenomenon of the transformation of a predominantly industrial society dominated by the manufacturing industry into a service-based economy would have intrigued the German political philosopher and thinker. The development of the American economy and society has most certainly not followed Karl Marx's script for an industrial society.

America's Future

We must not forget that the secret behind America's success since its independence has been the diversity of its culture provided by continuing waves of immigrants who, unencumbered in an environment of freedom, have injected vitality and freshness in the system. In my opinion, our society and the nation will continue to develop and prosper if it sticks to its motto of E. Pluribus Unum (From many, one). This process of creating one society out of many different backgrounds has been an ongoing American tradition. An American-French immigrant, Crevecoeur, observing the phenomenon first-hand wrote "The American is a new individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men."


In this essay we have attempted to look at America through the eyes of others -- the would-be immigrant, people of different races and nationalities from around the world as well as some philosophers from the past. While doing so we have touched upon the basic ideals and principles on which the American society is based. It is important to remember those principles even in times of adversity since the correct principles are timeless.


Fowlie, Wallace. "Voltaire." Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002

Johnson, Paul E. And Nancy Woloch. "United States (History). Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002.

Nash, Gary B. "United States (Overview). Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002.

Klepp, Susan E. "United States (People)." Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002.

Plato." Article in Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002.

John Locke first elaborated his ideas on politics in his Second Treatise of Civil Government in 1690.

Klepp, Susan E. "United States (People)." Article in Encyclopedia Encarta, 2002

Plato." Article in Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002

Nash, Gary B. "United States (Overview). Article…