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Pre-Modernism
Plato & The Republic


'The safest general characterization of the European philosophical
tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.'
-Alfred North Whitehead
 

Πλατωνος
Plato

  • Born to a wealthy family in Athens in 429 BC,

  • died there @348BC

    • father was of noble lineage [an ancestor had been king of Athens]

    • mother related to an architect of Athens' constitution.

    • 'groomed' for political service [a sort of Athenian Kennedy.]

    • grew up during the Peloponnesian War (431-404), which Athens lost

      • 404-403= Tyranny of the Thirty; Plato lived through it and knew that one of the tyrants had been associated w/Socrates

      • 399= Death of Socrates; caused Plato to turn away from Politics to pursue philospohy.

      • 388- Plato travels to Sicily (3 trips) to mentor Dionysius II, unsuccessfully.

      • 386= Plato founds the Academy in Athens; remained open until @80BC

      • Wrote a series of dialogues, all of which survive, usually divided into 3 periods:

        • early= more historical portrait of Socrates; always in aporia (no answer)

          • incl. Apology, Euthyphro, Crito

        • middle= Socrates as main charcter, but signs of development of Platonic doctrines

          • incl. Republic, Symposium

        • late= minimal influence from Socrates, elaborate Platonism.

          • incl. Timaeus, Laws

      • 380= writes the Republic.

         

The Republic

  • In Greek: πολιτεια

    • But no 'sep. of church and state' in ancient Greek culture,

      • the πολις is everything- politics, religion, way of life.

      • the book is about life in total, not some aspect.

  • Traditionally broken into 10 books or chapters, with 4 major themes/sections:

    • Book I: the prologue; diff. from the rest, more like other dialogues; probably circulated independently.

    • Books II-IV: The construction of the just city.

    • Books V-VII: Who is the philosopher?

    • Books VIII-X: The problems with other regimes.
       

  • The setting is @ 410- just before the overthrow of Athens by Sparta.

    • at the Piraeus- the port city of Athens,

      • where resistance against the Thirty had been centered.

      • a seaport with a diverse/foreign population.

        • 2 key questions:

          • Is democracy worth fighting or dying for?

          • Is diversity a good thing for a city?
             

    • Begins: 'I went down to the Piraeus with Glaucon...'

      • Soc. goes 'down' into the 'cave' of politics-

      • foreshadows the dialogue's most famous image.

         

  • The Main Characters:

    • Socrates- You know who this guy is by now, right?

    • Cephalus- wealthy old man; non-citizen of Athens; appears briefly in Book I; presents 1st definition of justice; his family lost everything during the tyranny of the thirty.

    • Glaucon- named after 1 of Plato's brothers; a young man spirit-driven, but willing to lend Soc. a sympathetic ear.

    • Adeimantus- also named after a brother of Plato; contributes briefly.

    • Polemarchus- son of Cephalus, 'inherits' his father's argument, proposes the 2nd def. of justice; died in the resistance against the Tyranny of the Thirty.

    • Thrasymachus- A Sophist; Socrates' principal opponent; he offers a definition of justice that is difficult to refute, it takes Soc. 9 books to do so.

       

  • Book I: Three definitions of Justice are presented

    • Cephalus. an old man who was a womanizer in his youth, Soc. asks him, 'what is it like being old?'

      • he is glad- he's past his youthful passions and can focus on doing what is just, in order to secure a pleasant afterlife.

      • Soc. asks, 'What is justice?'

        • Ceph. responds, 'Justice is telling the truth and paying your debts.'

          • an example, rather than a definition

          • [would I return a weapon to a friend who had become mentally unstable? Would I tell him why I wasn't giving it back?]

        • Cephalus' character is ironic-

          • he sees himself as more reasonable (philosophical) b/c of his age- in fact, he is less so b/c of it.

          • He is too near death to change the course of his life, and he cannot face the prospect that he has lived a lie.

        • But Soc. is not unsympathetic to him-

          • He has acheived a degree of success between that of his father and grandfather- he represents an understanding of moderation.

    • Polemarchus. defends his father's honor by 'inheriting' his argument. he presents the 2nd definition:

      • 'Justice is giving to others what is owed.'
        (a quote from a poet)

      • amended to: 'giving to others what is fitting,'
        or 'doing good for friends and harm to enemies.'

        • [Addresses Soc.'s example- truth telling and returning the weapon are not 'doing good' for the friend]

      • But more problems:

        • People can mistake friends for enemies, and vice versa.

        • Makes a just man of limited use.

        • Turns justice into a type of expertise- which implies knowledge of its opposite.

        • Can a just man ever harm anyone? [not with respect to virtue, but...]
           

    • Thrasymachus. a Sophist & relativist, he offers the 3rd definition:

      • 'Justice is the advantage of the stronger'

      • Amended by Clitophon: 'Justice is whatever the stronger believes to be to his advantage.'

         

  • Book II: The relationship between city and soul.

    • Glaucon, an honor-seeking youth, curious about philosophy, enters the debate.

      • He demands a definition of justice,

      • not just a refutation of others.

    • Proposes 3 kinds of good things:

      • 1. things good for their own sake, like art.

        • [i.e., things we enjoy w/ harmless consequences, like a painting or a harmless amusement/pleasure. But would Soc. think a work of art does not have consequences on the soul of the viewer?]

      • 2. things good both for their own sake & their consequences, like knowing, seeing, being healthy.

        • [i.e., things that both are good in and of themselves (knowledge better than ignorance, sight better than blindness, health better than sickness) and capable of bringing about other 'goods' when used as intended]

      • 3. things good only for their consequences, like medicine

        • [i.e., things seen as 'necessary evils' so to speak- we put up with them b/c they bring about goods that make them worth enduring. (Ever been to the dentist?)]
           

    • Glaucon thinks justice is in cat. 3, [good for consequences only.]

      • explains legend of Gyges' Ring-

        • a shepherd who finds a ring that makes him invisible,

        • he uses it to seduce the queen of his land and kill her husband the king, taking the throne for himself

        • his point:

          • People are not just by nature; quite the opposite.

          • to be unjust but perceived as just ( to get whatever one wants but be respected by others) is the best possible condition,

            • to be just but perceived as unjust the worst.

          • But all agree that to suffer injustice w/o recourse to revenge is badder than pursuing injustice w/impunity is good,

            • and most know they lack the power to do the latter anyway,

            • so they agree to be just essentially out of weakness.

          • justice is νομος ('law' or convention), not φυσις (nature).

      • Glaucon challenges Soc. to show that Justice belongs in cat. 2.


 

    • Recall that for Soc., the true self is the soul, not the body.

    • He suggests an analogy: The city is like the soul 'writ large.'

      • knowing what makes the city just will illuminate justice in the soul.
         

    • Soc. imagines a 'first city,'

      • labor is divided acc. to ability. The farmer farms, the builder builds. Each does what he is best at.

      • no military, no gov't, no luxuries [also no meat!]

      • [is this really Plato's ideal city?

        • do the luxuries/leisure of civilization contribute to the spread of cynicism and sophistry?]
           

    • Glaucon rejects it. Not enough 'relishes,' or luxuries.

      • Soc envisions a city that accounts for this:

        • it needs a warrior class, to conquer land [to pasture animals used for food.]

        • but they may pose a danger to their fellow citizens, so-

        • a guardian class must rule over it, & they must be properly educated.

           

  • Book III: Education of the ruling class.

    • 2 components:

      • gymnastics- physical conditioning for the body

      • 'music' for the soul.

        • not merely music, but literary culture, dance, drama...
           

      • b/c the young are impressionable, the city's storytellers must be censored.

        • art, stories, poetry, myths, songs must conform to the city's political purposes

          • [think about this- do these things ever really NOT conform to the city's purposes?]
             

        • What cannot be permitted?

        • Homer & Hesiod.

          • Their gods are guilty of adultery, patricide, incest, etc.

          • Their stories encourage rebellion against authority & tradition.

          • & portray death as a bad thing, to be dreaded.

            • how will the guardians be fearless in the face of death?
               

          • Essentially- stories in which 'happy men are unjust and unjust men are happy' must be banned- they make injustice appealing.
             

        • More to the point:

          • There is a nature to these arts, an inherent message,

          • emphasizes and even celebrates chance, change, conflict, disorder, chaos, rebellion, rejection of tradition, experience over wisdom…
             

        • Soc. claims that music, rhythm, and rhyme or poetry (as well as literature, drama, film, television…) have a tremendous power.

          • They bypass the rational aspect of the soul, which seeks the Good;

          • they plow deeper, laying hold of its innermost depths.
             

        • Thus 'music' (etc.) can corrupt or enrich.

          • It is morally neutral, but can be –and seems most often to be- used for immoral purposes (perhaps because it can bypass reason?)

          • If it has a corrupting nature, reason will not be able to resist it, and the character of the person will be affected.
             

      • Does music have this kind of power?

        • Pay attention to the relationship between the music & the message...

 

  •  The Noble Lie (Noble Myth?)

    • One of the most controversial aspects of the Republic

      • has led some to accuse Plato of totalitarianism.
         

    • In the Just City, there is harmony between all citizens, b/c all seek the best interests of the city as a whole. Why?

      • b/c each sees their own interests as identical to those of the city. To do what is best for the city is to do what is best for one's self. How? Why?
         

    • All citizens will be taught a myth, a 'likely story':

      • All are born of the earth itself,

      • each has a soul composed of a certain metal: bronze, silver, gold.

        • gold souls= guardians
          [the wisest, rulers]

        • silver souls= auxiliary (warriors)
          [police, military; they assist guardians in ensuring obedience to their rule]

        • bronze souls= merchants
          [engaged in commerce; their obedience to the law ensures their prosperity]
           

      • citizens will assume they cannot escape the nature of their souls, and accept the class into which they are placed.

      • The guardians esp. must be loyal to the state, so

        • no private property or private homes

        • no traditional families-

          • they share spouses and children,

          • never knowing which child is theirs, so taking care of all.
             

  • Doctors & Lawyers...

  • [Remember that Soc. thought the guardians would require an education in both gymnastics and music.]

    • What does he say about the health of the citizens of his city?
       

  • He claims that the need for many doctors and lawyers is an indication of a regime's failure.

    • esp. the case w/ democracy.
       

  • a consequence of both

    • corruption of the soul through unhealthy music

    • corruption of the body through unhealthy diet.
       

  • B/c democracies by definition are tolerant of different opinions and treat them all as essentially equal, they suffer the consequences of moral relativism:

    • Defining right and wrong is not really possible,

    • there is an abundance of lawyers whose job is only to successfully defend their clients,

      • not necessarily to pursue or uncover the truth.

  • They are Sophists, and sometimes, when they succeed in 'making the weaker argument the stronger,'

    • they convince the jury that the accused is not responsible for an action they clearly committed,

    • b/c they are 'diseased.'

  • Thus, more doctors will be necessary to 'diagnose' and 'treat'
     these new 'diseases,'

    • which have been created merely to rationalize behavior for which we do not want to take responsibility.

  • [One wonders what Socrates would think of the modern practice of Psychiatry.]

  • Not so in the Just City.

    • When people are inclined to act justly, the need for lawyers and jurors is minimal.

    • Illness due to 'an idle life' will not be treated.

    • Only wounds and easily curable diseases in the otherwise healthy and active will be treated.

    • Nor will those who have a body that is sick by nature be treated.

      • Those who are not fit for treatment will be allowed to die.

  • Medicine is a privilege, not a right.

    • Only those who can contribute to the betterment of the city are worthy of it.

  • Here, Soc. clearly clashes w/ Western Judeo-Christian Ethics.

    • We see human dignity as inherent, and all life as a gift over which we are 'stewards,' and obligated to preserve.

  • For Socrates, only a life lived rightly is a good life.

    • 'The unexamined life is not worth living.'
       (-Socrates, from Plato's Apology)


  • Book IV: Back to the main point- The City is the soul 'writ large.'

    • What is learned abt  justice in the soul of the individual from the kallipolis (καλος beautiful or good; πολις city) Soc. suggests?

    • The ideal city, properly ordered, will be perfectly good.

      • i.e. virtuous; exemplifying the four cardinal virtues:

        • Wisdom- b/c the Guardian class is governed by reason to make laws for the benefit of the whole,

          • and it is only free to philosophize to the extent that it assumes the obligation to rule.

        • Courage- b/c its soldiers will fight fearlessly to protect the city in return for glory,

          • but only when it has been deemed necessary to do so by the Guardians, not simply in the unrestrained pursuit of glory as an end in itself.

        • Moderation- b/c all citizens restrain desire for the sake of harmony in the city,

          • knowing that failure to do so will weaken the city's ability to preserve and support the fulfilment of the desires they are permitted to pursue.

        • Justice-…what is left? What remains of Soc.'s description of the kallipolis not accounted for by the previous virtues?

    • Whatever that is, Soc. suggests that it should be what we call 'justice.'

      • he offers an amazingly simple definition: 'minding one's own business,' or 'knowing one's place.'

      • More properly:

        • Each person does what he or she is most naturally suited to do, not seeking power, privilege, position beyond this, thus

          • ensuring that those most suited to fulfill the responsibilities of each class are in that class -and understand why they would want to be in it- and

          • protecting the city from factionalizing.

      • Is the city like the soul? Socrates thinks it is.

        • If so, then it is tripartite. Like the city, it has three parts:

          • Reason (=truth-seeking)

          • Spirit (=Fame-seeking)

          • Desire (=Pleasure-seeking)


 

  • The just soul, like the Just city, is properly ordered:

    • Wise- b/c it is ruled by Reason.

      • Truth is sought, embraced, acted upon; and none of this is distorted/derailed by irrational emotion or ego.

    • Courageous- b/c Spirit serves Reason and controls Desire.

      • fears of pain/shame are appropriately controlled and channelled; overcome when they hinder truth-seeking, heeded when they support it.

    • Moderate- b/c Desire submits to the combined powers of Reason and Spirit rightly directed.

      • the desire or need for pleasure is controlled when its pursuit will compromise, corrupt, distort what is truly good for the soul, pursued when it nourishes, strengthens the soul.

    • Just- b/c in the reason-directed soul, each part 'minds its own business,' so harmony is maintained.

      • The Just soul knows that Spirit unrestrained sacrifices truth and pleasure for ego; Desire unrestrained sacrifices truth and honor for physical gratification; but if Reason dominates and truth is pursued, that which is truly praiseworthy and truly pleasing can be attained.

  • Thus, in the individual, Justice is a type of harmony or health.

    • An unjust individual is one whose soul is factionalized-

      • one part of the soul is in conflict with another.

      • Therefore, injustice is a disease of the soul.

  • Conclusion: Justice, like health, is good both for its own sake (harmony in the soul) and for its consequences (harmony in the city).

    • This is what Soc. told Glaucon he would prove it to be at the start of Book II.

  • [The factionalized soul in contrast with the rightly-ordered soul:

    • The Desire-led soul

      • will sacrifice both spirit and truth for the sake of pleasure.

    • The Spirit-led soul

      • will sacrifice pleasure for fame,

      • but it will also sacrifice truth.

    • The Rational soul

      • is truth seeking,

      • and will always sacrifice fame or pleasure for the sake of the truth.

    • Examples?

    • We might consider athletes, actors, and musicians to be Spirit-driven.

      • They accomplish tremendous achievements for the sake of the fame it brings them.

        • But are they truth seekers?

        • Are they especially virtuous?

    • We might consider addicts to be Pleasure-driven.

      • little or no concern for

        • the damage addiction causes the body (truth).

        • the contempt 'society' might have for their behavior (honor).

      • Do others fall into this category? Corporate CEOs? Politicians?

         

    • Who would be Reason-driven?

      • In the kallipolis, this is obvious- the Guardians.

      • But in a democracy such as ours, would it be possible to know? ]

    • Now the issue of music/drama/literature makes more sense:

      • the Spirit/Desire parts of the soul are influenced most directly by 'music.'

      • 'Music' causes these parts of the soul to rebel against reason, producing disharmony, factionalism, unhealthiness, disease (dis-ease) in the soul.

    • From Soc.'s perspective, our distinction between 'freedom of expression' and 'censorship' is nonsensical,

      • rather: The distinction is between a city ruled by its philosophers (lovers of wisdom)

      • or ruled by its 'musicians.'

    • In the just city, 'music' submits to reason, and serves to nourish virtue in the soul.

    • But if the city is ruled by its poets or by music, what will be the impact on the souls of its citizens? What kind of life will they lead...?

    • for Soc. one is only truly free if reason is not corrupted by emotion or distorted self-interest.

    • so, submission to the non-rational will of the poet is not freedom; it is a form of slavery.

  • PLEASE NOTE: There is no connection between a rightly-ordered soul and 'IQ.' Soc. is not suggesting that philosophers are necessarily 'smarter' people;

    • they do not always 'win' arguments. (sophistry, remember?)

    • they do not impress with their accumulation of knowledge or wisdom. (they claim to love it, not to possess it)

    • they are people in whom the proper character has been cultivated.

    • Consider:
      'Entire ignorance is not so terrible or extreme an evil, and is far from being the greatest of all; too much cleverness and too much learning, accompanied with ill bringing-up, are far more fatal.'
      (-the Athenian Stranger, from Plato's Laws)


       

  • Book V: Who is the philosopher?

    • Adeimantus is not convinced that the traditional family can be eliminated and the sex drive controlled in Kallipolis.

      • Why does it matter?

      • eros, misdirected, is a powerful force against reason.

      • How to minimize its power?

    • Soc. says it can be done, if 3 things happen:

      • (1) no gender 'roles,' no discrimination on basis of gender; minimized gender distinction.


(husband and wife in scene from THX 1138)

 

      • (2) Maximization of children born to gold-souled citizens.

        • a fake lottery will be established, making people think their mates are chosen at random, but it will be fixed.

        • a form of eugenics?
           

      • (3) Only philosophers will rule.

        • Who is the philosopher?

        • The 'lover of wisdom.'

          • But to truly love a thing, one must 'love all of it,' not just part.

          • ['I love my wife b/c she is smart and beautiful...'

            • no...I love intellect and beauty, and my wife only to the extent that these manifest themselves in her.

            • to love my wife is something different, and requires loving all of her.]

        • Soc. contrasts the philosopher w/ 'lovers of sight' or 'lovers of hearing.'

          • they may appreciate a beautiful sight or sound,

          • but they cannot see past the particular to appreciate 'beauty itself.'

        • The philosopher knows that there is such a thing as 'beauty itself,'

          • as well as things that 'participate' in beauty,

          • and he sees both w/o confusing the 2.

    • The Theory of the Forms:

      • Remember Parmenides?

        • distinguished 2 'realms'- the existing and the non-existing.

          • the existing is that about which we can think or speak,

          • the non-existing can be neither thought or spoken about.

      • For Plato:

        • that which is is the knowable (we can have genuine knowledge of it)

        • that which is not is the unknowable (of which we are ignorant)

        • but there is a third 'realm' between these-

          • that which 'both is and is not' (of which we may hold opinions or beliefs, but not real knowledge)

        • The entirety of the physical world falls into this category.

      • The theory:

      • For Plato, to speak of Beauty Itself, apart from any beautiful thing, is to speak of the Form of Beauty,

        • and Forms are the only things that can be the objects of genuine knowledge,

        • the only things we can truly know.

      • Look to right of the front of the classroom, and name the thing that had to be open in order for you to enter this class.



Now, tell me what this is:







      • If you answered "a door" to both, you'd be wrong-

        • to your right is a door,

        • but above is a picture of a door.

        • we may refer to both as "a door" informally in everyday speech, but we know better.

      • This is a distinction we make in the objects of knowledge, and a common one-

        • between a thing and an image of a thing
          (which is itself also a thing, but in a different class of things from the class of things of which the image is an image of)

      • Plato proposes another such distinction, not commonly made:

        • between a physical example of a thing,

          • and the form of that thing.

      • Difficult, but consider an analogy (NOT an example):

        • An architectural blueprint for a building,

        • and the building itself.

          • the blueprint is a sort of plan for the building,

          • without the materials out of which the building is made.

          • the plan can be employed to make various particular examples of buildings that conform to it,

          • but w/diff colors, locations, etc.

        • Or, think of the distinction between the Euclidean definition of a line (or circle, cube, sphere...)

          • length w/ no breadth.

          • and a line (circle...) drawn on the board.

          • the physical example approximates the definition-

            • it 'both is and is not' a line.

            • it has some features but lacks others (not perfect)

            • it has some things not part of the definition (not pure)

          • these distinctions help to clarify the theory,



      • a distinction between qualities present in things & the qualities themselves:

        • a beautiful painting & Beauty Itself

        • A just man & Justice Itself

        • beautiful painting=particular, Beauty Itself=universal.
           

        • A painting is beautiful to the extent that is participates or partakes in the form of beauty.
           

      • A form is superior to a particular both ontologically and epistemologically.

        • A particular relies on the universal for its being (ontology).

        • recognition of a particular requires reference to a form,

        • so our knowledge of the presence of the form in a particular requires a degree of knowledge of the form itself (epistemology).
           

Universals
Objective
Absolute
Unchanging
Singular
Transcendent
Intelligible
Knowledge
'Being'

Particulars
Subjective
Dependent
Temporary
Multiple
Physical
Sensible
Opinion
'Becoming'


 

  • The Third Man Problem-

    • here's the rub-

      • Plato thinks that for each quality in which a particular participates,

      • there is one form (ie one form for Man, even though many participating particulars)

      • But is the Form of Man itself a Man?

        • Plato seems to think it might be...but if so,

        • then does the Form of Man + all particular instances of "Man-ness" = a new class of things possessing the quality of being Man,

        • thereby necessitating another Form to explain the quality they all possess in common? (ie, another Form of Man, or a "third man"?)

        • If so, is this new form also a Man? Wait, then...

      • Worth noting- this variation of the problem is presented by Aristotle, and it is part of his justification for rejecting the notion that Forms have any independent existence apart from Particulars, but it is merely his own example of the problem first pointed out by...

        • ...Plato himself, in Parmenides.
          (it's not unsolvable)

  • Books VI-VII: Plato's Allegories

    • Allegory 1: The Realistic City is Like a Ship…

      • Captained by someone ignorant of the art of navigation.

      • The crew realizes that the captain is incompetent and ultimately powerless.

        • They rise up against the captain and seize control,

        • and replace the captain with a new one from among their ranks,

        • But he is no more skilled than the previous captain at navigating to their intended destination,

        • dooming the cycle to repeat itself.
           

      • Meanwhile, the navigator, who is capable of putting the ship on its proper course, is too busy staring up at the stars-

        • He lacks both interest in taking control of the ship

        • And the power to do so.
           

      • In the Realistic City, philosophers (navigators) are NOT rulers.

        • In fact, the city is hostile to them,

        • And they are not interested in ruling to begin with.
           

    • Allegory 2: The Sun & The Good

    • Knowing the Form of the Good is of the 'greatest importance.'

      • Nothing else has value without it. (What would 'good' as a value judgment mean?)

      • It must be understood in order to be authentically identified in anything else.
         

    • Many people think they know the Good but do not:

      • Wealth? It can be used for both good and bad things. It is morally neutral.

      • Pleasure? It can actually be harmful or unhealthy.
         

    • When we realize that something we once thought was good is not, we have recognized that a higher standard exists.
       

    • So, what is the Good?

      • Soc. offers no definition,

      • but he describes a 'child' of the Good.
         

    • He proposes that reality can be divided into two 'realms'

      • The visible and the intelligible.

        • The visible realm contains that which is sensible.

        • The intelligible realm contains things that are known to the intellect, but not 'sensed.'
           

    • sight is unique among the senses-

      • it requires something external in order to be useful.

        • What? Light.

        • Light enables us to see the things of the visible realm.

        • What is the source of all light? The Sun.

        • Not only that, but the Sun is actually the 'source' of all life (becoming).

          • All living things need it.
             

    • The intellect is to the intelligible realm what sight is to the visible realm.

      • It requires something external in order to be useful.

      • What? Truth.

        • Objective, absolute Truth is necessary for the things of the intelligible realm to be intelligible (the Forms).

      • What is the source of all Truth/knowledge? The Good.

        • Not only that, but the Good is the source of all the Forms (being).
           

    • So, the Good Is Beyond Being.

    • Can the Good really be known? More specifically, can it be defined? (Can we put limits on its meaning?) Socrates thinks not.

      • Again, like the sun, we cannot gaze directly at it for too long, we can only glimpse it briefly.

      • But we can be nevertheless aware of the omnipresence of its reality.

      • We know the sun not because we see it, but because we see everthing with it- it illuminates the physical world.

      • We know the good not because we "see" it, but because it makes everthing else intelligible- it illuminates the intellect.

      • And it cannot be defined, because the concept of defining (so essential to the elenchus or dialectic) is a truth-seeking method,

      • hence, it is a derivative of the Good, and cannot be turned around upon it.
         

      • Desriptors can be appllied to it, but not a definition.

        The Good is

        • the source of all being, all truth, all knowledge, all value,

        • but it is beyond all these things.

        • It is perfect and eternal, and can only be known partially...

    • Allegory 3: The Divided Line

The Form of the Good

Cognitive Activity

Object of Cognitive activity

Intellect


 

Forms


 

Thought
 

Mathematical Objects
 

Trust
 

Sensible Things
 

Imagination

Images


  • Start at the bottom:

    • Images depend upon Sensible things for their existence.

      • Ex: A shadow of a tree depends on the tree itself,

        • but the same cannot be said in reverse.

      • So Sensible things are ontologically superior to images.

        • Images are a product of imagination,

          • which does not necessarily reflect reality accurately

          • (art and literature again, along with Socrates' critique of poets and artists in Apology)

    • Sensible things are images of mathematical objects.

      • It is the universality and order of mathematics that makes the Sensible things understandable.

        • so, mathematical objects are superior to sensible things.

        • we 'trust' our senses as the means by which we learn about sensible things.

        • but the sensible world is only an image, relative to the mathematical world.

    • And yet mathematical objects are themselves images of the Forms.

      • They are universal, timeless, and objective.

      • Thus, they point to the Forms,

        • but they are not the Forms themselves.

        • Mathematical truth is abstracted via the intellect (thought) from the material (sensible) world (physics, for example)

      • Many people go this far up the line, but are tempted to descend back down at this point.

        • They fixate on the realization that mathematics can be applied to practical advantage in the sensible world (the natural sciences), and go no further.

    • But the philosopher presses upward,

      • realizing that Forms are actually images of the idea of the Good,

      • and the Good is the ultimate object of genuine knowledge.

      • the Good can only be understood by means of the intellect.

    • To know or 'glimpse' the Good is to know the underlying structure, the very foundation, of all reality, all existence.

      • Only when this knowledge is achieved to the extent possible can the philosopher then descend,

      • in an effort to educate others about the intelligible nature of all reality.

      • [Clearly, not a materialistic metaphysics.]

  • Allegory 4: The Cave

    • explains Plato's theory of education

    • Spiritualized by early Christians as an allegory of the ascent to knowledge of God.


The Cave & The Truman Show:

Which Character Would You Choose to Be? Which Would Plato Choose?
 

Truman?

Meryl?

Audience Member?

Christoff?

 

  • In brief:

    • Soc. asks Glaucon to imagine-

      •  a cave where prisoners are shackled in chains so they cannot see anything except that which is directly in front of them-

        • the wall of the cave.

          • They are kept this way their entire lives,

          • They know no other reality.

          • They are "like us."

    • Behind them is a raised platform w/ a wall,

      • Behind the wall are men w/ stick figure puppets,

      • And behind those men is a fire.

    • light from the fire causes shadows of the puppets to be cast on the wall in front of the prisoners.

      • This is their reality:

      • Shadows of images of objects cast on a wall.

    • Behind the fire & platform is the ascent to the exit of the cave.

      • Light from the sun shines in,

      • but not into the depths of the cave.

      • So the prisoners are not aware of it.

    • Imagine that one of them is set free…

      • He has not used his muscles or eyes,

      • so he endures pain to become aware of the puppets, their masters and the fire.

    • Some might turn back, content to avoid pain and return to their seats.

      • Imagine that one finds the strength to go on,

      • and realizes that what he once thought was real was merely a shadowy illusion.

     

    • If he escapes the cave altogether?

      • He will be blinded by the light of the sun, initially, but as his eyes adjust, he will see

        • First, shadows of things on the ground,

          • or reflections in water.

        • Then, the things themselves,

        • Then, gradually, he will "glimpse" the Sun.

    • This allegory encompasses everything Socrates has said in reference to

      • the Tripartite Soul,

      • the Sun,

      • and the Divided Line.

  • How? And what does it mean?

    • The cave is the physical world-

      • the world of sensible things.

    • The shadows are images of sensible things-

      • the world of imagination.

    • The world outside the cave is filled with shadows of "real" things of which the puppets are images-

      • the world of Mathematical Objects.

    • The real things, illuminated by the sun, are the Forms.

      • The Sun itself is the Good.

    • There are three "levels" to the Cave-

    • occupied by those whose soul is characterized by different desires:

      • Those controlled by Appetite stay in their chairs, finding the alternative painful.

      • Those controlled by Spirit stay on the platform, exercising control over the rest of us.

        • They are "above" us, and see no need to make further sacrifice and risk losing their status to go further.

      • Only those controlled by Reason will make the full journey-

        • only the true philosophers.

    • The Cave


    • But there is more…

      • What must the philosopher do once illuminated by Truth?

        • He must be compelled -even against his will- to return to the Cave, to release others.

        • But his eyes have adjusted to sunlight,

          • and the return to the cave is disorienting,

          • he is blind.

        • When he seeks to release others, he looks to them like a fool, clueless, out of touch.

        • How will they listen...?

        • The Allegories, related

 

 



     

  • Book VIII-X: It Won't Work

    • Returning to the city/soul analogy, Soc. explains why the Kallipolis won't work-

      • The clean slate is not humanely achievable.

      • Could it be just to exile or kill off those who might resist the necessary change?

        • But how many political/social movements emphasize influence over youth as a key to success?

        • 20th Century Communist regimes (esp, the Soviet Union, but also Vietnam, Cambodia, North Korea, China) relied upon the extermination -by the millions- of those considered resisters.

        • [In 1984, Orwell's anti-sex league was made of youth- young girls, specifically.]
           

        • The irony: Socrates knows that youth are too emotional and impressionable,

        • but this could be put to advantage by the guardians
           

      • The state will not be able to control the sexual impulse (1984, Gattaca…The Truman Show?),

        • and the lottery will fail.

        • the eugenics program will fail and the guardian class will be corrupted.

    • Consider:

      • Moses, Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, etc.

      • How many of these prophetic/messianic figures came from oppressed or "inferior" classes?

      • Do they suggest something about the capacity of the human spirit to rise above mere biology? [is there such a thing as 'the human spirit' from a 'merely biological' perspective?]

      • Does that suggest something about merely biological/scientific attempts to define humanity?

      • Did Plato already see this?


    • Plato describes the degradation of the Just city through a series of increasingly inferior regimes (The 'Regime Taxonomy')

    • Each regime is compared to a type of family structure/relationship,

      • w/the father representing the regime's ideology,

      • and family disharmony explaining its failure.

      • Aristocracy, 'rule by the best' (the Just City)

        • Aristocratic Man (lover of excellence)

        • Cliff in Crimes?

          • loves excellence more than wealth or fame,

          • his wife resents his single-minded passion for wisdom,

            • she longs for greater wealth and honor.

          • The son of Aristocratic Man is torn by his love for both parents,

            • and wishes to honor both, so he decides to compromise:

            • He becomes a lover of honor, but not of wealth.

      • Timocracy, 'rule by the spirited (or honor-loving)' (Sparta)

        • the virtues of the soldier are the guiding principles of the rulers.

        • completely committed to victory and conquest,

        • but its rulers realize that their power gives them the ability to amass wealth,

          • which they do in secret.

      • Timocratic Man lover of honor

      • Lester in Crimes?

        • His overriding desire is to be honored by his fellow citizens,

          • but secretly he also desires wealth.

        • not principally concerned with the education of his son,

          • who recognizes the conflict in his father's soul,

          • and watches his father become poor in his quest for honor.

          • He vows not to suffer the same fate,

            • and becomes a seeker of wealth.

      • Oligarchy, 'rule by the (wealthy) few'

        • A regime divided into essentially two classes:

          • The powerful who control all wealth,

          • and a powerless poor.

        • They are in permanent conflict;

          • both are obsessed with wealth

          • and have sacrificed virtue for their obsession.

        • The rulers are both unwilling to pay for an army

          • and afraid of arming the poor,

          • so they are vulnerable to rebellion from within.

      • Oligarchic Man lover of wealth

        • His obsession is money,

        • but to keep it means he cannot spend it.

        • He is enslaved to it, a pitiful figure.

        • He is neglectful in the raising and education of his son,

          • who is therefore undisciplined

          • and follows the passion of the moment, or "whimsy."

          • He considers himself entitled to whatever he desires.

      • Democracy, 'rule by the people (or the many)'

        • Freedom is celebrated;

          • the right of each citizen to a measure of privacy is guaranteed and protected;

          • diversity flourishes;

          • all citizens are viewed as equals.

        • But no concept of excellence or virtue (aside from Tolerance) can emerge.

        • Wisdom and tradition are not prized,

          • instead the regime is youth-obsessed.

        • The ultimate outcome is moral anarchy, relativism.

        • Leaders gain power by flattering the citizens,

          • not on the basis of their actual ability to lead.

          • Eventually, a demagogue appears, an "expert flatterer."

      • Democratic Man

      • Judah in Crimes?

        • He completely lacks character,

        • has no desire to seek wisdom,

        • and lacks respect for all authority out of ignorance,

          • rather than being able to discern when such authority is or is not just.

        • He either lacks a concept of virtue and excellence,

          • or the one he has is warped and misguided.

        • All of his passions appear to him to have equal value.

      • Tyranny, 'rule by an autocrat'

        • At first, the demagogue appears to be a hero to the citizens.

        • He acquires bodyguards to ensure his protection,

          • reassuring the people that his safety is in their best interests.

        • Then he eliminates those who oppose him.

          • They disappear or are murdered.

        • He makes incredible, utopian promises to the citizens,

          • such as the forgiveness of all debt-

          • but it comes at the cost of their freedom.

        • Eventually he can trust no one and becomes intoxicated with power.

          • All who disagree with him must die.

        • He is an animal- following the worst of his instincts.

      • The Tyrant

      • Jack in Crimes?

        • He is enslaved to his passions,

        • devoid of virtue or character,

        • brutish, authoritarian,

        • and will accept no criticism.

        • The preservation of his own power is his chief concern.

        • He is the mirror opposite of the philosopher.

    • it turns out that Kallipolis is itself a 'Form'- of the perfectly just city

      • but, like all things in the 'sensible' world,

      • it can never be fully realized

      • it cannot last and must therefore decay.

    • So, is Plato a Utopianist, or is the Republic actually a warning to those who try to impose their Utopian visions on others in this world?

  • Book X: Some final thoughts:

    • Poetry, again:

      • consider the way a table is copied by a carpenter and a painter.

      • both make reference to a particular, but-

        • the carpenter makes measurements and abstracts a mathematical model from it.

          • he 'looks to' the Form through the particular.

        • but the painter needn't do so.

          •  he only imitates appearance, w/ no ref. to Form.

      • This is also the problem w/poets (Homer)

        • they don't have to know anything about virtue or morality,

        • they need only produce convincing 'portraits' of virtue.


      • Again, consider the filmmaker who can put convincing characters at the service of any idea/ political perspective, etc.

        • they are knowledgeable about filmmaking,

        • not necessarily about the idea.

      • A poet need only know about poetry to talk convincingly about virtue.

        • unlike a dr., who must know medicine to be a good dr.

    • 3 levels of understanding (rel. to div. line); that of a thing's

      • user, who possesses knowledge (επιστεμε)

        • b/c she knows purpose

      • maker, who possesses right opinion (δοξα) or right trust (πιστις)

        • b/c she understands how it works

      • imitator, who lacks knowledge or right opinion

        • b/c the image is a product of imagination, at the bottom of the divided line.

    • Now consider a stick that appears bent in water-

      • sight and reason disagree about what is real.

      • and, Soc. says, no part of the soul can disagree with itself, but it can disagree with the other parts (disharmony)

      • if the reason seeking part "takes in" the truth,

      • then some other part "takes in" the illusion.

      • so such images appeal to parts of the soul other than reason. (i.e. spirit, appetite)

      • if poetry is like such images, then so does it.

    • why does this matter?

      • Contrast-

        • (1) hearing in the news abt parents who learn of the death of their child

        • (2) receiving the news abt the death of of your own child

        • (3) watching the especially moving portrayal of the death of a fictitious child character in a movie.

      • In each case, the same thing has happened- a child dies,

      • but the response of the irrational parts of the soul is different-

        • we might even be more emotional abt (3) than (1).

      • but in all 3 cases, the reason-seeking part will draw the same conclusion(s)

        • pondering the nature of suffering, questioning divine justice, speculating about death and beyond, etc.

      • but the irrational parts will treat the same thing as important in one case, trivial in another.

      • This does not mean the suppression of or detachment from emotion,

        • it means subjecting emotion to rational evaluation, rather than succumbing/ indulging.

        • but poets/playwrights/filmmakers prefer the opposite-

          • the "realistic," "complicated," compelling and interesting character runs the full range of emotion...

          • and the viewer is enthralled by actions and behaviors we would never approve of in our own lives...

          • and each indulged impulse or emotion is strengthened.

        • Plato actually thinks that the image in the painting/poem/play has a seductive quality,

          • a "charm" that lures the viewer to prefer them over the real, or over objects of knowing that lead to truth.

    • Worth noting:

      • Paul in 1 Cor 13 applies this distinction to knowing itself

        • (i.e. knowing how to know or what is worthy of knowing)

        • he claims that love (αγαπη) is necessary for knowing the purpose of knowing-

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