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PLATO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Analogy of Soul and City In the

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PLATO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY Analogy of Soul and City In the Powered By Docstoc
					                                   PLATO
5. POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
     a. Analogy of Soul and City: In the Republic, Socrates proposes that the
         nature of the city (polis) could be viewed as analogous to the
         hierarchical nature of the soul. A healthy political entity would then
         appear to be similar to a healthy human soul, i.e. a soul that was
         ordered properly.
     b. Virtues in the Soul: A healthy soul is “just” when reason rules and
         spiritedness and appetite are subordinate to reason. When reason
         rules we could then say that the virtue of “wisdom” is present in the
         soul. When the spirited part is submitted to reason it possesses the
         virtue of “courage.” Lastly, when the desiring or appetitive part of the
         soul is only acting on the desires ordered by reason, we can say that it
         is “moderate” or “temperate.” When all the virtues are present in the
         soul, that is to say, when each part is doing its proper job and not
         meddling with the job or function of another part, the soul is in
         harmony with itself, which for Plato means that the virtue of “justice”
         is present.
     c. Justice: The Republic is an investigation of “justice.” Several
         definitions of justice are given throughout the dialogue.
         Thrasymachus, the Sophist, famously proclaimed that “might is right.”
         Other options include “minding one’s business” and “giving to each
         person what is due to that person.” In the soul, virtue is present when
         the parts mind their own business.
     d. Justice in the City: The interlocutors then propose that the city is the
         “soul writ large,” meaning, the two are analogous. Thus, the city
         should be ordered like the just soul, and this happens when each part
         or function of the city does its function only and doesn’t meddle with
         other parts. Like the soul, a city is just when the wise rule, the spirited
         warriors are courageous, and the workers or artisans submit properly
         and do their jobs. A blacksmith is a worker, not a ruler. It is best for
         the blacksmith to fulfill the duties of being a blacksmith and not try to
         make political decisions.
     e. The Just City in Speech Only: Socrates and his friends create this just
         city “in speech.” They do not think that this utopia is a possibility for
         politics. The just individual is possible, the just city is not. The just
         individual is the philosopher. Why? Well because only the philosopher
         is ruled by reason, and thus truly wise. By dedicating one’s life to
         knowledge, one can become fully virtuous. This, for Plato, appears as
         a possibility. Now consider how this would work given the analogy of
         soul and city. It would then follow that the just city must be ruled by
   philosophers. A city is just when “philosophers are kings and kings
   philosophers,” as Socrates famously says. Yet, is this a possibility?
   Would the Plato who wrote the Apology and witnessed the execution of
   the wisest man in Athens move from trying to protect philosophy to
   openly proclaiming that only philosophers should rule? It seems rather
   unlikely. That is why we can say that, for Plato, the ideal political
   regime only exists in “speech” or in “thought.” Unfortunately, many
   readers miss how comical the Republic actually is.
f. The Comedy of the Republic. This famous dialogue is simultaneously a
   great work in political philosophy as well as a great comedy. Plato,
   perhaps, was looking for a chance to get back at Aristophanes by
   creating a far more comic story. Instead of Socrates floating around in
   the clouds, and rumps being taught astronomy, Plato proposes, via
   Socrates, that we should consider how the just city (ruled by crazy
   philosophers of course) would contradict the everyday, ordinary lives
   of all the citizens. For example, in order to ensure that each “part”
   does its job, children would have to be separated from their parents
   and raised according to their skill. An artisan family might produce
   both a future philosopher and a warrior. The children must be
   separated and educated accordingly. Now, this is obviously a joke. The
   underlying problem is that a city being ruled by reason only removes
   most of our desires and defies our individual “thymos.” It would be
   more rational to separate children, but that would violate the dynamics
   of the family. Parents want to raise their children in private.
   Philosopher-kings demand that everything be examined by reason, i.e.
   that everything be “public.” But most people need privacy, and they
   want their marriage, family life, religion, and social interaction to be
   within their own private sphere. Reason simply demands too much.
g. Political Regimes: It should be apparent that this ideal regime isn’t
   very democratic. For Plato (and for Aristotle as well), an aristocracy
   where the virtuous or wise rule is the most rational and just regime.
   But, as we noted above, such a regime is highly unlikely because no
   one wants to be ruled by a bunch of crazy philosophers and most
   philosophers have no interest in ruling anyways. If “wisdom” can’t rule
   then what about “courage”? A timocracy is a regime where honor
   rules, not wisdom. Unfortunately, Plato thinks that the offspring of the
   honor-loving rulers would most likely devolve into a lower kind of
   regime, an oligarchy (or, plutocracy). This kind of regime is ruled by
   a few individuals mostly concerned with attaining wealth. This sounds
   pretty bad, but Plato still considers it to be a more just regime than
   democracy, which is the rule of the “demos,” or the many. Lastly,
   there is a tyranny (or, despotism). A tyrannical regime is ruled by a
   tyrant. That is to say, someone who manifests the lowest and basest
   part of the soul, the appetitive part. A democracy is the rule of many
   desires; a tyranny is the rule of one desire, and is bound to be
   disastrous.
h. Which is the Best Regime? If Plato thinks that the best regime, an
   aristocracy, is impossible, what would be the next best option? Let me
   suggest that Plato (and any philosopher) would not be in favor of a
   timocracy, an oligarchy, or a tyranny. Why not? Well in a timocracy,
   anyone who is not an artisan or worker would be forced to spend all
   their time training for battle. Like the Spartan young men, childhood
   and adulthood both would be simply about preparing to fight to defend
   the honor of the city. An oligarchy would also limit the freedom of
   many citizens by forcing them to work to acquire wealth for the rulers.
   And, of course, a tyrant would expect every citizen to be busy doing
   whatever the tyrant wants done. In other words, all three of these
   regimes limit the freedom of the individual. But, there is one “unjust”
   regime that doesn’t do this, i.e. democracy. Democracies are unstable
   and at times probably dangerous, especially for the philosopher. But, if
   many ways of life are deemed equal, the philosophical way of life is
   protected. One could spend one’s free time doing philosophy and have
   one’s privacy respected. It seems that this is the best option for the
   philosopher. By “minding one’s own business” the philosopher can
   flourish in a democracy. Historically, we can conclude that this is
   exactly the reason why philosophy flourished in Athens. After Socrates’
   death, many schools of philosophy began all over the city including the
   followers of Plato and his famous student Aristotle, as well as the
   Stoics and Epicureans.
i. Conclusion: Plato, thus, is a kind of political conservative, in the
   “classical” sense. He embraces a “natural” inequality. The just
   aristocratic regime would demand that everyone be made equal, in the
   sense that property, children, education, etc. would all be under the
   control of the rulers and wealth would be distributed equally and fairly
   according to the wise decision-making of the philosopher-kings. Since
   this is impossible, Plato appears to be skeptical of the possibility of
   ever having a true “political revolution.” Revolutions appear to be in
   vein, and probably end up in despotism. It is better to maintain the
   status quo of democracy and not stir things up too much. Wisdom may
   not be able to rule because, like with the “cave” and “ship” people will
   resist the one with wisdom. The best we can hope for is moderation.
   Passion and thymos will always rule, but if we can moderate these
   things as best as possible we can enjoy a good deal of political
   stability.

				
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