Copyright © 2013 Bruce W. Hauptli
3. Socrates begins developing the ideas behind the ideal state [368c-373e]:
Plato's Socrates takes up these challenges by looking for justice in the state1 where it may be more readily seen for what it is. He contends that once we recognize it there, we will be able to recognize it within individuals. In this section he begins to develop the initial ideas behind an ideally just state, or "Kallipolis."2 Of special import will be his claims that individuals are not self-sufficient, and that a "division of labor" is called for. He will also emphasize the importance of each individual fulfilling the role or task for which she or he is most naturally suited. As this idea gets developed in later sections of the text, it becomes one of the central notions of the work. We can call this idea his "Principle of Specialization"--that is, he claims that because a division of labor is necessary, each individual should tend to that trade (or craft) for which she or he is best suited.
368c Socrates begins his reply to these continuations of Thrasymachus' argument by developing an ideal state.
-368e The State and the individual--justice is the same in each.
--Is it? For us doesn't justice, primarily (exclusively?) obtain between and among individuals? Does it make sense (for us) to talk about justice within an individual?
-369b Origin of the State: no individual is self-sufficient.
--369b "...we aren't all born alike, but each of us differs somewhat in nature from the others, one being suited to one task, another for another." His division of labor thesis here yields, on the next page, a Principle of Specialization--[370b] each individual should do that [single] task for which she or he is best suited. This thesis is not [simply] an economic thesis!
--Note the social character of dialectic. When he says that we are not self-sufficient, he is not thinking simply of biology or economics--or so I contend. The dialectical process that is to yield knowledge is a social process, and so if we are to achieve knowledge, we must "be" social!
--Note: while he is talking about "aptness," this leads (immediately) to "singularity"--that is, to the view that each person has one talent which she or he is "apt" for, and to the conclusion that one must "do" that job. If individuals are "apt" for more than one job, or if they can simultaneously perform several, then we need to look carefully at what follows. Moreover, if there is no craft of ruling, then the argument here is going to break down.
-370d The size of state and number of tasks grows as we think of the sorts of endeavors necessary--farmers will not make their own plows, tools, clothes, or shoes.
-372e-373c "It isn't merely the origin of a city that we're considering, it seems, but the origin of a luxurious city. And that may not be a bad idea, for by examining it, we might very well see how justice and injustice grow up in cities." Indeed, it is necessary to discuss a luxurious city if we are to deal with Glaucon's and Adeimantus' points--if we are to contrast the just and unjust lives. So he "enlarges" the city adding many more "crafts."
--372a Plato's Socrates recognizes that a "minimalistic" state won't satisfy most people (who will want "...couches, tables and other furniture...all sorts of delicacies, perfumed oils, incense, prostitutes, and pastries"). As the sequel will make clear, he thinks that (a) the non-luxurious city is better, and (b) there are reasons why he believes that some [or, better, most] people will not be "satisfied" with the non-luxurious city. The challenge posed by Adeimantus helps explain why he allows for more than the "necessary" crafts (why he develops a luxurious city): if he is to show what justice is and that it is intrinsically valuable, he must allow for both justice and injustice to arise (and must explain why the latter arises).
--372b "We must no longer provide them only with the necessities we mentioned at first, houses and clothes and shoes, but we must call in painting and embroidery; we must acquire gold and ivory and all such things....That healthy community is no longer adequate, but it must be swollen in bulk and filled with a multitude of things which are no longer necessities, as, for example, all kinds of hunters and artists...." The city is increased in size and filled with a multitude of things that go beyond what is necessary for a city.
--Note: In Books VIII and IX (which are not included in our selection), Plato develops a detailed and extensive comparison-and-contrast argument that is to address the second of the major questions of the Republic: "Why is the just life preferable to the unjust one?" or "How valuable is justice?"
-374c Again he notes the need for each individual to stick to a single craft (his "principle of specialization).
4. The need for guardians--to protect our valuables and ourselves [374-376d]:
The lack of self-sufficiency thesis and the principle of specialization, when coupled with the development of a luxurious city-state, make it clear that one important role which will need to be fulfilled is that of the "guardians." Without appropriate guardians, the ideally just state will be impossible. While, of course, each role is important, Plato's Socrates will focus upon the guardians (and rulers) as it is this role that has not been properly defined and fulfilled in extant states. He believes that the sort of role and knowledge necessary for farmers, iron workers, potters, shoemakers, shepherds, etc., is already well-known and does not require investigation or discussion. The fact that we don't have just states is to be explained by the fact that our guardians and rulers are not rightly trained (and, in fact, not rightly characterized). Thus, in this section, he begins to focus upon what those who would fulfill this task must be like. The remainder of this book will largely focus upon this "class" within the state.
373e-374a The need for guardians--to protect the state ("...the city must be enlarged by a whole army").
-374e "...to the degree that the work of the guardians is most important, it requires the most freedom from other things and the greatest skill and devotion."
-375b-c The guardians must have a spirited temperament but be gentle to their people.
--375e-376c Guard dog analogy: "Then do you think that our future guardian, besides being spirited, must also be by nature philosophical?....When a dog sees someone it doesn't know, it gets angry before anything bad happens to it. But when it knows someone, it welcomes him, even if it has never received anything good from him....In what way philosophical?....Because it judges anything it sees to be either a friend or an enemy, on no other basis than that it knows the one and doesn't know the other." Thus, the guardians must have a philosophic element in their nature--they must know friend from foe! We must, then, be concerned with the sort of education they will have. Explain why it is the guardians' education he is concerned with--if something is wrong with the cobblers' education, is it as serious as if the guardians are miseducated?
Our editor leaves out a section of the Republic [376e-412] which deals with the early phases of the education of the guardians and the sorts of stories and music which will be allowed in the state. The discussion emphasizes that:
378e The young cannot distinguish what is allegorical from what is not, and the beliefs they acquire at that age are hard to expunge and usually remain unchanged. That may be the reason why it is most important that the first stories they hear should be well told and dispose them to virtue.
-The censorship that he calls for is to have a moral purpose, and it is necessary given the character of the young and of some of the individuals throughout their lives. The educational program which he outlines will train both the guardians' minds and their bodies, and it will aim to establish a harmony in their characters--it will address both their "spirited" and their "wisdom-loving" parts (411e).
389b "...truth must also be highly esteemed....though [untruth is] useful to men as a kind of medicine, clearly we must allow physicians to use it, but not private citizens....So it is fitting for the rulers, if for anyone, to use lies for the good of the city because of certain actions of the enemy or of citizens, but everyone else must keep away from them. For a private citizen to lie to such rulers is wrong or worse than for a sick man to lie to his physician or an athlete to his trainer about his physical condition, or for a sailor not to tell the navigator the truth about the condition of the ship or how he himself or a fellow sailor is behaving." [Cf., 459d.]
--In his “The Ethicist” column in The New York Times Magazine, Randy Cohen maintains that:
informed consent, central to the doctor patient relationship, requires honest doctors. A patient…can agree to a course of treatment with only a real understanding of it—impossible if a doctor simply makes things up.2a
5. The rulers, the noble fiction, and the guard dog problem [412c-417a]:
In this section Plato's Socrates distinguishes the overall group of guardians into two classes: the auxiliaries and the rulers. He also deals with several problems that both his characterization of these classes and his educational program for them seem to pose.
412e "...we must choose from among our guardians those men who, upon examination, seem most of all to believe throughout their lives that they must eagerly pursue eagerly what is advantageous to the city and be wholly unwilling to do the opposite."
-Plato's Socrates is clearly saying that in addition to having the wisdom-loving and spirited parts of their souls well-trained, the rulers of his ideal state are to have a very highly developed sense of social concern [care] (throughout their lives, he says, they are to be tested to see that they don't put their own advantage above that of the state).
-413a-e While no person would surrender true belief willingly, one may be robbed of such belief by theft, violence, or bewitchment. One may be persuaded away from the truth here or one may forget it. So, what we are looking for is the best of the best--these will be our rulers.--Here we must distinguish between and discuss the relative merits of true belief and knowledge—what makes the latter preferable to the former (according to Plato)?-414b "...isn't it truly most correct to call these people complete guardians, since they will guard against external enemies and internal friends, so that one will lack the power and the other the desire to harm the city? The young people we've hitherto called guardians we'll now call auxiliaries and supporters of the guardians' convictions." In effect, the educational process which Plato's Socrates outlines is supposed to develop individuals who have been properly educated (wisdom and high spirit), who care for the state rather than for themselves (simply). Their appetites, of course, will be controlled. In short, these individuals will have a harmony. But will they want to rule, and will the other citizens accept them as rulers?
The noble fiction:
-415 Gold, Silver, Iron & Bronze: the why of this must be discussed--does the telling of the story amount to a contradiction for Plato? Can an "ideal" [just] state be founded upon a lie? Is the noble fiction a lie?
-Think about the following line of argument regarding the "myth of the metals." Given his definition of justice, such "lying" is just because:
--justice is doing one's job,
--the ruler's job is maintaining the right social order,
--"the myth of the metals" is necessary for social order,
--therefore telling the "myth" is just.
The guard dog problem:
416 "The most terrible and most shameful thing of all is for a shepherd to rear dogs as auxiliaries to help with his flocks in such a way that through licentiousness, hunger, or some other bad trait of character, they do evil to the sheep and become like wolves instead of dogs."
-416b "Isn't it necessary...to guard in every way against our auxiliaries doing anything like that to the citizens because they are stronger, therefore becoming savage masters instead of kindly allies?"
-416b-417a -"And wouldn't a really good education endow them with the greatest caution in this regard?
But surely they have had an education like that.
Perhaps we shouldn't assert this dogmatically, Glaucon. What we can assert in what we were saying just now, that they must have the right education, whatever it is, if they are to have what will most make them gentle to one another and to those they are guarding.
....Now, someone with some understanding might say that, besides this education, they must also have the kind of housing and other property what will neither prevent them from being the best guardians nor encourage them to do evil to the other citizens." Thus, Plato's Socrates places a number of "restrictions" upon their "life-style:"
--no material wealth,
--a life where all is shared in common,
--Spartan existence (explain "Sparta" and contrast Plato's ideal state with the Spartan one.
--Relevant Consideration: it could well be suggested that the "restrictions" which Plato's Socrates places upon the life-style of the guardians may best be considered as a mechanism for instituting the continuing testing process which these individuals must undergo as we check to see that they always care for the good of the state (rather than for their own good)--cf., 412e.
Our editor leaves off a section of the text from 417c-427d wherein Plato considers an objection from Adeimantus that Plato's Socrates is not making the rulers of the city happy, since he is depriving them of the requirements for a good life (wealth, children, etc.). Plato's Socrates replies that this isn't really true, they are being provided with what really is valuable, rather than with the things people believe to be valuable. In this omitted material Plato offers an objection to what he has just asserted:
419 Adeimantus' objection:
"...you aren't making these men very happy and...it's their own fault....The city really belongs to them, yet they derive no good from it. Others own land, build fine houses, acquire furnishings to go along with them, make their own private sacrifices to the gods, entertain guests, and also, of course, possess...gold and silver and all the things that are thought to belong to people who are blessedly happy. But one well say that your guardians are simply settled in the city like mercenaries and that all they do is watch over it."-420b "...it wouldn't be surprising if these people were very happiest just as they are, but...in establishing our city, we aren't aiming to make any one group outstandingly happy but to make the whole city so, as far as possible. We thought that we'd find justice most easily in such a city, and injustice, by contrast, in one that is governed worst and that, by observing both cities, we'd be able to judge the question we've been inquiring about for so long."
--Note: given the challenges offered by Glaucon and Adeimantus (as well as Thrasymachus), Plato's Socrates can not simply try to make the rulers wealthy, wise, and happy. He must show how their possession of justice is good independent of whatever extrinsic rewards it offers. For this reason, amongst others, he can not simply set out to provide them with either advantage or happiness. He must show what justice is and show that it is intrinsically valuable. Thus, in fact (as the sequel will show), he does believe that these individuals are "outstandingly happy," but he must show what their happiness consists in, and why all should want it (if they can attain it).
--Here we should reflect again on the passage at 347b regarding Plato’s Socrates’ response to the question: “Why rule if one doesn’t benefit [in the sense that Thrasymachus intends the word]?” Of course the response is that one does it because one cares for the city and one’s fellow citizens, and because one would suffer if a less qualified individual rules. In short, the wise will rule because it is their responsibility to do so.
In this section of the text, Plato's Socrates characterizes the four main virtues which the ideal state exemplifies. He is introducing us to the wisdom, courage (or bravery), moderation, and justice which are essential if a state is to be well-ordered. The next section will introduce the same concepts within the soul. Later discussions clarify, elaborate upon, and further develop the ideas introduced here. With these two sections we have the initial answer to the two main questions of the Republic--both the nature and the value of justice have been sketched.
427e Plato's Socrates claims that the ideal state sketched so far has four important virtues: wisdom, bravery, moderation, and justice:
-428c Wisdom: "Is it because of the knowledge possessed by its carpenters, then, that the city is to be called wise and sound in judgment?"
--429 "...a whole city established according to nature would be wise because of the smallest class and part in it, namely, the governing or ruling one. And to this class which seems to be by nature the smallest, belongs a share of the knowledge that alone among all the other kinds of knowledge is to be called wisdom."
--Question: Why does he say that this class will be, "by nature" the "smallest one?" Is his claim here a "logical" or an "empirical" one? While, it may seem natural within the state that there be fewer "rulers" than "auxiliaries" or "workers," why should this be so in the ideal state? Suppose all the "work" (including the protection work) could be done by slaves or machines, could everyone (else), then, be rulers? Note, also that when we speak, in the next section, about the individual, we can again ask "Why is this "part" of the soul the "smallest?"
-429b Civic Courage and the soldiers (or auxiliaries):
--429c Plato's "definition" of `civic courage': "...the power to preserve through everything its belief about what things are to be feared, namely, that they are the things and the kinds of things that the lawgiver declared to be such in the course of educating it." Clearly what he is speaking of here is not (at least not simply) what we normally call courage (just as the wisdom he speaks of is not what that word might normally connote). The "virtue" he is speaking here he called "high-spiritedness" when using the guard dog metaphor. What he has in mind is more than "intestinal fortitude," and at 430c the definition is said to apply to something called "civic courage." As we shall see even more clearly in the next section, what Plato has in mind here is not one of the appetites but, rather, a particular sort of passion (or emotion).
--In her The Therapy of Desire, Martha Nussbaum helps us see what sort of thing is being discussed here when she says that: "emotions" is the more common modern generic term, while "passions" is both etymologically closer to the most common Greek and Latin terms and more firmly entrenched in the Western philosophical tradition....what I mean to designate by these terms is a genus of which experiences such as fear, love, grief, anger, envy, jealousy, and other relatives--but not bodily appetites such as hunger and thirst--are the species....This family of experience, which we call emotions as opposed to appetites, is grouped together by many Greek thinkers, beginning at least with Plato, and his account of the soul's middle part.3
--In his Varieties of Moral Personality, Owen Flanagan maintains that the six basic emotions are: anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise.4
-430e Moderation "...a mastery of certain kinds of pleasures and desires."5
--431 Self-control and the rule of the better part of the soul over the worse.
--431c-d Plato's Socrates talks of finding "...all kinds of diverse desires, pleasures, and pains, mostly in children, women, household slaves, and in those of the inferior majority who are called free." He contrasts this with "...the desires that are simple, measured, and directed by calculation in accordance with understanding and correct belief [which are found] only in the few people who are born with the best natures and receive the best education." In the ideal state, "...the desires of the inferior many are controlled by the wisdom and desires of the superior few".
--These passages suggest what I will call the "aristocratic reading" of the text. They suggest that the inferior many are constitutionally incapable of self-control (and, thus, must have control imposed externally upon them). These passages should be contrasted with 518c: "...the power to learn is present in everyone's soul...the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body." The latter passage suggests what I will call the "democratic reading" of the text which suggests that even the inferior many are capable of self-control (though to be believable, this reading will have to allow that it is unlikely that they can impose this self-control unless they receive significant assistance). Critically considering the text and trying to decide which reading is the right one helps one understand the whole text better.
--Note, also, that in this passage women are compared with children and household slaves in terms of the role of the appetites in their souls. Plato explicitly takes up the role of women in his ideal state in a section omitted by our editor [451d-456c], and a study of his remarks there shows that he explicitly allows that women could be rulers (could do any of the jobs, trades, or crafts in the state). The explicit argument he offers there seems to make this sort of passage we are currently confronted with inexplicable, however, and we are left with an interpretive problem: what is his real view of [the capabilities of] women?
--432 Moderation is a kind of harmony and must infuse the whole state--unlike the other virtues, all of the citizens must have a great deal of this particular virtue!
433 "Justice...is exactly what we said must be established throughout the city when we were founding it....We stated...that everyone must practice one of the occupations in the city for which he is naturally best suited."
Notes:--433e "...the power that consists in everyone's doing his own work rivals wisdom, moderation, and courage in its contribution to the virtue of the city."
--434 "...the having and doing of one's own would be accepted as justice."
--Injustice and meddling (in others' tasks)--attempting to perform a task for which one is not naturally suited.
--Philosophical Aside: Plato's view here implies that we each have one particular "job" which we are suited for. Is this something he has successfully argued for? What he says may make more sense when he speaks, below, about justice in the individual. But, according to him, what is true of justice in the individual is also true of justice in the state (and vice-versa). Thus, if we don't accept that there is a single, particular, objective job which uniquely suits each individual, we must reject some of what he says here!
--Note: In his "Plato's Euthyphro," Peter Geach maintains that a "definition" may not be what we need: "the style of mistaken thinking...may well be called the Socratic fallacy, for its locus classicus is the Socratic dialogues. Its influence has, I think, been greater than that of the theory of Forms; certainly people can fall into it independently of any theory of Forms. I have myself heard a philosopher refuse to allow that a proper name is a word in a sentence unless a "rigorous definition" of `word' could be produced; again, if someone remarks that machines are certainly not even alive, still less able to think and reason, he may be challenged to define `alive'. Both these controversial moves are clear examples of the Socratic fallacy; and neither originates from any belief in Forms.
Let us be clear that this is a fallacy, and nothing better. It has stimulated philosophical enquiry, but still it is a fallacy. We know heaps of things without being able to define the terms in which we express our knowledge. Formal definitions are only one way of elucidating terms; a set of examples may in a given case be more useful than a formal definition."6
--Note: one of John Dewey's criticisms of Plato is also relevant here: "were it granted that the rule of the aristoi would lead to the highest external development of society and the individual, there would still be a fatal objection. Humanity cannot be content with a good which is procured from without, however high and otherwise complete that good. The aristocratic idea implies that the mass of men are to be inserted by wisdom, or if necessary, thrust by force, into their proper positions in the social organism. It is true, indeed that when an individual has found that place in society for which he is best fitted and is exercising the function proper to that place, he has obtained his completest development, but it is also true (and this is the truth omitted by aristocracy, emphasized by democracy) that he must find this place and assume this work in the main for himself." Robert Westbrook elaborates upon this saying: "for the democrat, the realization of the ethical ideal must be entrusted to the self-conscious, freely willed actions of every individual in a society. A good that an individual did not self-consciously recognize and pursue for himself was not a good; men could not be forced to be free."7
1 While our translator and editor use the word `city', I will use `state' as it will be more natural for us--we do not conceive of cities as self-sufficient political unities, but clearly, this is what is intended. In this era of internationalism, perhaps `state' does not carry the relevant connotation completely either, but clearly Plato intends by his term a self-sufficient political unit of individuals. Back
2 Cf., C.D.C. Reeve's "The Naked Old Women in the Palastra: A Dialogue Between Plato and Lashenia of Mantinea" in the 1992 Hackett Catalog (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992). Back
Randy Cohen in his “The Ethicist” column in
The New York Times Magazine
3 Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1994), p. 319. Back
4 Cf., Owen Flanagan, Varieties of Moral Personality: Ethics and Psychological Realism (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1991), p. 41. Back
5 As our translator and editor note, the Greek word here (sophrosune) has a wide meaning carrying the connotations of "...self-control, good sense, reasonableness, temperance, and (in some contexts) chastity. Someone who keeps his head under pressure or temptation possesses sophrosune. Back
6 Peter Geach, "Plato's Euthyphro," The Monist v. 50 (1966), pp. 369-382, p. 371. Back
7 Robert B. Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell U.P., 1991), p. 42. Back
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File revised on 02/21/2013.