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					          Plato
Carson Holloway, University of
         Nebraska
Plato’s Historical Context
   Political philosophy’s origin occurred around 400
    B.C. in the city of Athens.
   Socrates, the first known political philosopher,
    considered human things as opposed to the pre-
    Socratics who focused on the fundamental
    principles governing the universe.
   Socrates scrutinized the human condition by
    seeking common opinions about political and
    moral subject matter and then submitted these
    opinions to rational scrutiny through a dialectical
    method.
Plato’s Historical Context - Continued
   Plato recorded the activities of Socrates in a series of
    dialogues that are still appreciated for their beauty and
    wisdom.
   Plato was part of an aristocratic Athenian family, some of
    whose members were dedicated to overthrowing the
    Athenian democracy.
   He traveled late in his life to the island of Sicily and tried
    unsuccessfully to reform the rule of the Syracusan tyrant
    Dionysius II.
   He founded a school of philosophy in Athens known as the
    Academy and Aristotle was one of his students.
Plato’s Historical Context
   Plato focused on the problem of the relationship
    of the philosopher to his community.
   The philosopher’s quest for truth about political
    things places the unquestioned opinions
    necessary for the community’s survival into
    jeopardy.
   Plato’s Republic attempts to reconcile the
    philosopher and the community by showing how
    the interests of the city (polis) and the philosopher
    can be harmonized.
The Dialogue versus the Treatise
Plato’s political philosophy is expressed in a
  number of dialogues, in none of which
  Plato appears as a speaking character. In
  contrast, most other political philosophers
  have used treatises: straightforward
  arguments advanced in the author’s own
  name and voice. What might be the
  strengths and weaknesses of each
  approach?
The Ethics of the Republic
   Inquiry into Justice
   The choice of dialectic over rhetoric
   Definitions of Justice
       Cephalus – Paying one’s debts
            What about giving an insane man a weapon?
       Polemarchus – Doing Good to Friends and Harm
        to Enemies
            Do we not make something worse if we harm it?
The Ethics of the Republic -
continued
   Definitions of Justice
       Socrates – According to Polemarchus justice
        would lead just men to make other men unjust by
        harming them.
       Thrasymachus – Injustice is more profitable than
        justice.
       Socrates – Injustice destroys people’s ability to
        work towards a common enterprise; similarly
        injustice disrupts the individual.
The Ethics of the Republic -
continued
   Socrates subdues Thrasymachus, but his
    victory is built upon the analogy of ruling as
    an art.
   Socrates gives justice a victory without
    defining it.
   New definitions of justice.
       Glaucon – Justice is an onerous task pursued for
        gain rather than for its own sake.
Justice in the Ring of Gyges, from the
Republic, Book II
   Glaucon advances his argument about
    injustice by using a tale of a magic ring that
    would bestow invisibility upon its
    possessor.
   Even if just a man had this ring, he would
    act unjustly, and if he did not everyone
    would think he was an idiot though they
    would praise him to his face.
The Ethics of the Republic -
continued
                            Class       Virtue       Soul
   Founding a city in
                            Artisans    Moderation   Desire
    speech to find the
                            Guardians   Courage      Spirited-
    nature of the soul.                              ness

   One man and one art,    Rulers      Wisdom       Reason

    minding one’s
    business as the
    definition of justice
   If reason rules, the
    soul is in order.
The Ethics of the Republic -
continued
   The just order of the soul is the source of
    just order of the city, but how do we know
    that reason will not be unjust?
       Allegory of the cave - Reason is grounded in the
        Good that is beyond bodily desires.
       The pursuit of justice is connected to the
        happiest life, the life of the philosopher.
       Tyrants are the mirror image of the philosopher
        and are ruled by desires and are unhappy.
The Cave Analogy, From the
Republic, Book VII
   The allegory of the cave illustrates how
    gaining knowledge about what is true would
    make one seem like a madman to those
    who remained acquainted with the world of
    illusion. The man blinded by the sun (the
    true, good, and beautiful) would not be
    competent when returned to the world of
    the shadows (the world of opinion).
The Ethics of the Republic -
continued
   A tension exists between the philosopher
    and the community.
       Socrates was sentenced to death by the city.
       The community is deluded by opinions that are
        like shadows in the cave.
       The philosopher is likely to be perceived as mad
        in stead of as a savior.
The Philosopher versus the Tyrant
While many think that power will ensure their happiness,
 Socrates teaches instead that true happiness is found in
 wisdom or knowledge, especially knowledge of the
 highest things. In a sense, the most powerful person,
 the tyrant, is the weakest, because the disorder in his or
 her soul makes him or her powerless to be happy.
 Does Socrates’ argument ring true? Would we count
 Saddam Hussein a happy man if he had been able to
 live out a complete life as rule of Iraq?
The Nature of Politics
   The purpose of the community is to provide
    citizens education in virtue.
       Education (Paideia) – Is character formation.
       Virtue (Arete) – Habits necessary for community
        and the highest activities of the soul.
   Plato attacks traditional politics in works like the
    Gorgias by assaulting the goodness of rhetoric
    when it is not wedded to philosophy.
The Nature of Politics - Continued
   The Apology is the dialogue where
    Socrates deploys rhetoric to convince the
    city that his philosophy is not impious and
    corrupting, but holy and virtuous.
   Socrates is convicted but he almost
    succeeds and the success of Plato’s
    Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum indicate
    his death was persuasive for his cause.
The Nature of Politics - Continued
   Socrates’ sentence also indicates that
    some people are closed to virtue.
   Philosophical statesmanship will be
    concerned with education.
       The training of guardians of the city will require the
        harmonizing of spiritedness to protect the city and
        gentleness towards fellow citizens.
       Gymnastic and music are a part of this education, but
        music gains special attention.
The Nature of Politics - Continued
   The Greek definition of music includes rhythm, harmony,
    melody, speeches, poetry, and literature.
      Socrates rejects the stories in the Iliad and the
       Odyssey because they contain gods animated by
       unruly passions. They should be censored
      Rules for good poetry

         The divine is not the source of evil.

         The gods will not change form.

         The next life should not be disparaged
The Nature of Politics - Continued
     Rules for good poetry (continued).
          Guardians must not grieve excessively.
          Guardians must be truthful, but rulers may violate this rule.
           Socrates uses the analogy of the doctor and the patient to
           make this point.
          Guardians must be moderate with control over desires and
           obedience to rulers.
          Plato’s critique of his culture and its excessively spirited
           ideal of manliness shows philosophy can transcend its
           culture to bring about human flourishing.
          Bad actions will not be shown in poetry. Imitation has moral
           consequences.
Censorship, from the Republic, Book
II
   Socrates documents the injustices
    chronicled by Greece’s greatest poets
    including Hesiod and Homer.
   Censorship is initially advocated as a
    means of protecting the young.
Imitation and Narration
What would Plato likely think about the movies,
 television shows, and music produced by
 America’s entertainment industry? Would he
 say that it is too willing to imitate excessive
 passions and wicked behaviors? Can a good
 story be told by narrating but not imitating such
 things? To what sort of moral standards, if any,
 should creative artists be held? Who, if anyone,
 should enforce those standards?
The Nature of Politics - Continued
   Socrates believes the right rhythm and harmony or the
    wrong rhythm and harmony have moral consequences
    for the city.
   The good city’s music education is to produce graceful
    citizens.
   Morality is bound to what is beautiful.
   Music education edifies the citizen and turns them
    toward higher things. Appropriate music is a form of
    lawful play and produces law abiding citizens.
Music, From the Republic, Book III
And therefore, I said, Glaucon, musical training is a more potent
  instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their
  way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily
  fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly
  educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and
  also because he who has received true education of the inner being
  will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature,
  and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and
  receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he
  will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth,
  even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason
  comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his
  education has made him long familiar.
Law and Character
Over the last 50 years or so, American law
 and culture have sought less and less to
 form character with a view to moderation.
 At the time there has been an explosion of
 laws and regulations trying to govern the
 conduct of individuals and institutions.
 Would Plato see a connection between
 these two trends? Would he be correct?
The Nature of Politics - Continued
   The moral education of the Republic is
    insufficient and requires assistance in the guise
    of a noble lie.
       All citizens are brothers and sisters from the earth
        though they are not completely equal.
       Those who rule have more gold mixed in their souls,
        whereas the guardians have more silver, and the
        craftsmen and farmers have bronze and iron. Even a
        reasonable city needs a myth of divine sanction.
The Noble Lie, From the Republic,
Book III
(Socrates speaking to Glaucon) how then may we devise one of those
   needful falsehoods of which we lately spoke-just one royal lie which
   may deceive the rulers, if that be possible of the rest of the city?
What sort of lie ? he said.
Nothing new, I replied; only an old Phoenician tale of what has often
   occurred before now in other places (as the poets say, and have
   made the world, believe), though not in our time, and I do not know
   whether such an event could ever happen again, or could now even
   be made probable, if it did.
How your words seem to hesitate on your lips!
You will not wonder, I replied, at my hesitation when you have heard.
Problems of Politics and the State
   Founding the city in speech reveals the gap
    between true politics and “real” politics.
   Limits need to be placed on the guardians
    accumulation of property to prevent them from
    exploiting their charges. Communism is
    necessary for the establishment of true politics.
    Socrates suggest three waves to establish a city
    dedicated to human happiness.
The Problems of Politics and the
State - Continued
   Three Waves
       The equality of the Sexes – gymnastics should be
        conducted together and the most fit for the role of
        guardians should be selected regardless of gender.
       Community of women and children – No private
        families are to exist and sexual lives are to be
        governed by a rigged lottery.
       Philosopher Kings – Those who appear to be useless
        are the true navigators.
Gender Equality, From the Republic,
Book V
I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals,
   if they are carried out, being unusual, may appear
   ridiculous.
No doubt of it.
Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of
   women naked in the palaestra, exercising with men,
   especially when they are no longer young; they certainly
   will not be be a vision of beauty, any more than
   enthusiastic old men who in spite of wrinkles and
   ugliness continue to frequent the gymnasia.
Sex and Work
Many human societies have tended to assign different social functions
  to men and women. In recent generations, however, many
  developed nations have moved away from a sex-based division of
  labor toward opening all vocations to whoever can demonstrate an
  aptitude for them, regardless of whether they are men or women.
  That is developed countries seem to be adopting notions of nature
  and justice similar to those advanced in Book V of the Republic.
  Other political philosophers, however, like Aristotle and Tocqueville,
  have defended a sexual division of labor as natural, arguing that
  men and women tend generally to have different emotions and
  moral dispositions that suit them for different tasks. Are there
  important natural differences between the sexes that have
  implications for how society should be organized?
The Abolition of the Family
Is the private family an impediment to justice because it is
   a powerful source of partiality and conflict, as Book V of
   the Republic suggests? Or does the family serve the
   city well by fostering natural bonds of affection that can
   later be extended to the whole community, as Aristotle
   argues in the Politics? Can a plan to abolish the private
   family succeed, or will it necessarily cause so much
   frustration that sooner or later people will reject
   communal arrangements.
The Problem of Politics and the
State - Continued
   Karl Popper interprets Book V as an
    indication of Plato’s commitment to
    totalitarianism.
   Leo Strauss interprets Book V as an effort
    to deflate utopian political aspirations.
   Darrel Dobbs interprets Book V as effort to
    reform the individual’s soul by fostering a
    sense of responsible detachment.
Policy Blueprint, Cautionary Tale, or
Thought Experiment
Should the institutions discussed in Books V
 and IV of the Republic be understood as a
 program for political reform, as a way of
 illustrating the practical costs of an
 excessively idealistic commitment to
 justice, or as a way of revealing the proper
 order of the soul?
Plato’s Contribution: the Critique of
Democracy
   Democracy is like a many colored cloak decorated in all
    hues.
   Democracy allows for the search for the best, but it is
    not the best.
   Democracy’s emphasis on freedom makes it soft and
    unwilling to impose good behavior.
   Commitment to equality fosters a certain lawlessness of
    the soul and in the city.
   This disorder paves the way for tyranny.
Plato’s Contribution: the Critique
of Democracy - Continued
   Freedom creates economic differences.
   Industrious and rational become rich and the rest become poor.
   The poor use democracy to try to alleviate their poverty.
   The rich become enemies of democracy to protect their wealth.
   The poor appoint a tyrant to protect their interests.
   The tyrant oppresses everyone in the city.
   The American constitution with its protection of property rights and
    checks and balances owes much to this critique of democracy.

				
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