PLSC 114: Introduction to Political Philosophy

Lecture 5

 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, III-IV


The discussion of the Republic continues. An account is given of the various figures, their role in the dialogue and what they represent in the work overall. Socrates challenges Polemarchus’ argument on justice, questions the distinction between a friend and an enemy, and asserts his famous thesis that all virtues require knowledge and reflection at their basis.

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Introduction to Political Philosophy

PLSC 114 - Lecture 5 - Philosophers and Kings: Plato, Republic, III-IV

Chapter 1. Polemarchus [00:00:00]

Professor Steven Smith: Today Republic, Act 2. And what I want to do is continue with the account of the various figures, various persons who populate, who inhabit this dialogue, and who they are, what they represent, and how they contribute to the argument and the structure of the work as a whole.

Last time, and I won’t repeat this, last time we talked briefly at the end of class about Cephalus, and Socrates’s treatment of Cephalus, the embodiment of convention, the embodiment of Athenian opinion in the way in which Socrates as it were chases Cephalus out of the dialogue, out of the conversation. We never hear from him again. And the speakers are able, presumably, to pursue the audacious arguments that will appear in the rest of the book without the oversight of the head of the household, the embodiment of conventional opinion.

And Socrates next pursues this discussion with the son of Cephalus, Polemarchus, the man who first had Socrates approached on the Piraeus. Polemarchus is described as the heir of the argument as well as the, to be sure, the heir of the family fortune. Polemarchus is what the Greeks would call a “gentlemen.” Let us just say he is a person willing to stand up for and defend his family and friends. I don’t mean necessarily by a “gentlemen” somebody who holds the door for others, or so on, but somebody who stands up for his family and friends in the way that he does.

Unlike his father however, Polemarchus shows himself concerned not just with the needs of the body as Cephalus represented, but Polemarchus is concerned to defend the honor and safety of the polis. He accepts the view that justice is giving to each what is owed, but he interprets this to mean that justice means doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies. Justice, we might say, is a kind of loyalty, it is a kind of loyalty that we feel to members of a family, to members of our team, to fellow students of a residential college, and the kind of loyalty we feel to a place like Yale as opposed to all other places. That is to say, Polemarchus understands justice as a kind of patriotic sentiment that citizens of one city or one polis feel for one another in opposition to all other places. Justice is devotion to one’s own. And one’s own is the good for Polemarchus. One’s own is the just.

But Socrates challenges Polemarchus on the grounds that loyalty to a group, any group, cannot be a virtue in itself, and he trips Polemarchus up with a very, in many ways, familiar Socratic argument “Do we ever make mistakes?” he asks Polemarchus. “Isn’t the distinction between friend and enemy based on a kind of knowledge, on a perception of who is your friend and who is your enemy? Have we ever mistaken a friend for enemy?” The answer seems to be, “Of course we have.” We all know people who we thought to be our friends but we found out that they were talking behind our backs, or that they were operating to deceive us in some way or another. Of course, it’s happened to everyone.

“So how can we say that justice means helping friends and harming enemies,” Socrates asks, “when we may not even be sure who our friends and our enemies really are? Why should citizens of one state, namely one’s own have any moral priority over the citizens of another state when, again, we don’t know them and we may well be mistaken in our assumption that they are enemies or friends? Isn’t, in other words such an unreflective attachment to one’s own bound to result in injustice to others? Socrates seems to be asking Polemarchus.

Once again, in many ways, we see Socrates dissolving the bonds of the familiar. At no other point in the Republic, I think, do we see so clearly the tension between philosophical reflectiveness on the one hand in the sense of camaraderie, mutuality and esprit de corps necessary for political life on the other. Socrates seems to dissolve those bonds of familiarity, loyalty and attachment that we all have by saying to Polemarchus, “How do we know, how do we really know the distinction between friend and enemy?”

But Polemarchus seems to believe that a city can survive only with a vivid sense of what it is. Of what we might say, what it stands for, and an equally vivid sense of what it is not, and who are its enemies. Isn’t this essential for the survival of any state, of any city? To know who its friends and enemies are? Who its challenges are? Socrates’s disillusion of that very framework, challenges, it seems to me, the very possibility of political life by questioning the question or the distinction between friend and enemy.

Although Polemarchus, like his father, is reduced to silence, it is notable that his argument is not defeated. Later in theRepublic you will see, not that much later even, Socrates will argue that the best city may be characterized by peace and harmony at home, but this will never be so for relations between states. This is why even the best city, even Kallipolis will require, as he spends a great deal of time discussing, will require a warrior class, a class of what he calls “auxiliaries.” War and the preparation for war is an intrinsic part of even the most just city. Even the Platonic just city will have to cultivate warrior citizens who are prepared to risk life in battle for the sake of their own city.

So in many ways, it seems that Polemarchus’ argument, while apparently refuted in Book I, is rehabilitated and re-emerges in its own way later in the dialogue. And we might want to think about this because it is an argument that is very important to contemporary twentieth century–important twentieth- century political theorist by the name of Schmitt who made the distinction between what he called the friend and the enemy, you remember, are central to his understanding of politics. This is an argument that comes from Polemarchus in Book I of the Republic.

Chapter 2. Thrasymachus [00:08:25]

Polemarchus is dispatched in one way or another, and this creates the opportunity for the longest and in many ways most memorable exchange in Book I, and perhaps even the Republic as a whole, the exchange with Thrasymachus who represents a far more difficult challenge in his own way than either of the first two speakers. In many ways, because Thrasymachus could be seen as Socrates’s alter-ego in some way, his sort of evil twin.

He is, how to put it? He is the Doctor Moriarty to Socrates’s Sherlock Holmes. You know, the evil doppelganger in some way.

Thrasymachus’ is a rival of Socrates in many respects; he also like Socrates is a teacher clearly. He is an educator. He claims to have a certain kind of knowledge of what justice is, and claims to be able to teach it to others. He is teaching a kind of, we will find out, a kind of hard-headed realism that expresses disgust at Polemarchus’ talk about loyalty and friendship and the like. “Justice,” he asserts, “is the interest of the stronger.” Every polity of which we know is based upon a distinction between the rulers and the ruled. Justice consists of the rules, that is to say, that are made by and for the benefits of the ruling class. Justice is nothing more or less right than what benefits the rulers, the rulers who determine the laws of justice.

Thrasymachus is, of course even for us today, a familiar kind of person. He is the intellectual who enjoys bringing, you might say, the harsh and unremitting facts about human nature to light, who enjoys dispelling illusions and pretty beliefs. He’s the one who probably would be the first to tell you there is no Santa Claus. He is that kind of hard-boiled realist.

No matter how much we may dislike him in some ways, one has to admit also there maybe a grain, if not more than a grain of truth in what he seems to be saying. And what he seems to be saying is this: we are beings who are first and foremost dominated by a desire for power. This is what distinguishes, you might say, the true man, the real man, the alpha male you might say, from the slave. Power and domination are all we truly care about. And when we get later in this semester to Thomas Hobbes, remember Thrasymachus. I’ll just say that for now. Remember Thrasymachus when we get to Hobbes. Power and domination are all we care about.

And what is true of individuals is also true for collective entities, collective nouns like states and cities. Every polity seeks its own advantage against others, making relations between states a condition of unremitting war of all against all. In the language, if I can switch to the language of modern economics, one could say that for Thrasymachus politics is a zero-sum game. There are winners and there are losers, and the more someone wins that means the more someone else will lose. And the rules of justice are simply the laws set up by the winners of the game to protect and to promote their own interests. It didn’t take Karl Marx to invent, or to discover that insight, that the rules of justice are simply the rules of the ruling class. That comes straight out of Thrasymachus, Book I of the Republic.

Well, how to respond? And again, Socrates challenges Thrasymachus with a variation of the argument that he used against Polemarchus. That is to say “Do we ever make mistakes?” That is to say, it is not self-evident, or it is not always intuitively obvious what our interests are. If justice is truly in the interests of the stronger, doesn’t that require some kind of knowledge, some kind of reflection on the part of those in power to know what is really and truly in their interest? People make mistakes and it is very possible to make a mistake about your own interests. And of course, Thrasymachus has to acknowledge this, of course the rulers make mistakes, and he tries to invent an argument that if a ruler makes a mistake, he’s not really a true ruler. The true ruler is the person who both acts on his own interest and of course knows what those interests are.

But the point that he admits is all, in a sense, that Socrates needs; justice is not power alone, justice requires knowledge. Justice requires reflection. And that is of course at the core of the famous Socratic thesis, that all virtue is a form of knowledge, all the virtues require knowledge and reflection at their basis.

But much of the exchange with Thrasymachus turns on the problem of what kind of knowledge justice involves, and justice is a kind of knowledge. If justice equals self-interest and self-interest requires knowledge, well what kind of knowledge is that? Thrasymachus contends that justice consists of the art of convincing people to obey the rules that are really in the interests of others, the interests of their rulers. Justice, in other words, for Thrasymachus is a kind of sucker’s game; obeying the rules that really benefit others largely because we fear the consequences of injustice. Justice is really something only respected by the weak who are fearful of the consequences of injustice.

Again, the true ruler, in some ways, is one, Thrasymachus believes, who has the courage to act unjustly for his own interest. “The true ruler,” he says “is one who is like a shepherd with a flock, but he rules not for the benefit of the flock but, of course, for his own interests, the good of the shepherd.” Justice, like all knowledge, is really a form, again, of self-interest.

And so one can ask, “Is Thrasymachus wrong to believe this?” And I realize I’m moving over this very quickly, but is Thrasymachus wrong to believe that?

Socrates wins the argument in Book I with a kind of, you might even say, sleight of hand. Both he and Thrasymachus believe that justice is a virtue, but Socrates says, “What kind of virtue is it to deceive and fleece other people?” Thrasymachus is forced to admit that the just person is a fool, Thrasymachus believes, is a fool for obeying laws that are not beneficial to him. But the best life, Thrasymachus believes, it doing maximum injustice to others, doing whatever you like. And with that realization, we see a very dramatic moment in Book I, even in the book as a whole. Thrasymachus blushes. He blushes when he realized that he has been defending the claim not that justice is a virtue, but that justice is something that is really a form of weakness. Thrasymachus himself seems to be embarrassed by his defense of the tyrannical life, of the unjust life.

The suggestion Plato seems to be making by making Thrasymachus blush is, despite all of his tough talk, that he’s not as tough as he appears to be, as he wants to think of himself to be. He’s shamed by the fact that he has been defending injustice and the tyrannical way of life. And so it appears, the three conversations end, Book I ends with uncertainty about what justice is. We have had three views of Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus. They have all been refuted, but no clear alternative seems to have emerged. Certainly Socrates has not really proposed an alternative to Thrasymachus in his exchange with him; he has only, as it were, forced Thrasymachus to see that the logic of his ideas, the logic of his argument that justice is in the interest of the stronger, is a defense of tyranny, and is a defense of the unjust way of life.

Chapter 3. Glaucon [00:18:59]

So all of Book I is really a kind of warm up for what follows in the rest of the book. We find out presumably what justice is. Until that point, we have no reason to really give up on our current existing ideas about what justice is. And this is where the two most important figures of the Republic begin to make their voices heard. Those are Glaucon and Adeimantus.

Glaucon tells Socrates that he is dissatisfied with the refutation of Thrasymachus, and so should we. Thrasymachus has been shamed, he has been forced to see where the logic of his argument takes him, but that is not the same thing as being refuted. Thrasymachus is really, as it turns out, a kind of girly-man who is ashamed to be seen defending the unjust life. “But why should we be ashamed to praise injustice?” Glaucon challenges Socrates. “It’s not enough to show that justice is wrong,” Glaucon says. “What we need is to hear why justice is good,” or more precisely to hear justice praised for itself. “Is there, in your opinion,” Glaucon asks Socrates, “a kind of good that we would choose because we delight in it for its own sake?” 358A. Is there a kind of good that we delight in for its own sake? And this is where the rubber hits the road.

Who is Glaucon? Glaucon and Adeimantus are the brothers of Plato, and other than their appearance in this book, there is no historical record left about them. But Plato has given us enough. In the first place, they are young aristocrats, and Glaucon’s desire to hear justice praised for its own sake indicates something about his scale of values. It would be vulgar, he believes, to speak of justice, or any virtue in terms of material rewards or consequences. He does not need to hear justice praised for its benefit, he’s indifferent to the consequences. Rather, he claims that he wants to hear justice defended the way that no one has ever defended it before. The brothers desire to hear justice praised for itself alone, and that seems to be expressive of their own freedom from mercenary motives and incentives. It reveals to us something about their idealism and a certain kind of loftiness of soul.

And certainly the brothers, we find out, are not slouches. They are not slouches at all. Although it is easy to remember that later in the dialogue most of their contribution seems to be of the form of “Yes Socrates, no Socrates,” they seem to be rather passive interlocutors. Their early challenges to Socrates show them to be potential philosophers. That is to say the kind of persons who might one day rule the city.

Of the two, Glaucon seems to be the superior. He is described as the most courageous, which in that context means the most manly, the most virile, and later Socrates admits that he has always been full of wonder at the nature of the two brothers. And at 368a, he cites a line of poetry, you’ll remember, written about them for their distinction in battle, they have been in war, they have been tested in war obviously.

They are also, and we see this from their relationship between one another, and the way they speak to one another, they are also highly competitive, super achievers. A little bit like some of you perhaps. There is quite a bit of jousting between them that you need to be attentive too. And each proposes to Socrates a test that he will have to pass in order to prove the value of justice and the just life.

Glaucon goes on to rehabilitate the argument of Thrasymachus in many ways, in a more vivid and a more expressive way than Thrasymachus did himself. Glaucon tells a story, you’ll remember, a story that he modifies from the historian Herodotus, a story about a man named Gyges who possessed a magic ring that conferred on him the power of invisibility.

Who has not wondered what we would do if we had this power, the power of invisibility? Gyges, in Glaucon’s retelling of the story, Gyges uses this ring to murder the king and to sleep with his wife, and to set himself up as king. What would you do if you had this power, the power of this magic ring, where you could commit any crime, indulge any vice, commit any outrage and be sure you could always get away with it? Why if you could do that would you wish to be just at the same time, or wish to be just instead of that? This is the challenge that Glaucon poses to Socrates. Why would someone with absolute power and complete immunity to punishment, why would they prefer justice to injustice? “Tell me that Socrates,” Glaucon asks. “If justice truly is something praiseworthy for itself alone, then Socrates should be able to provide an answer that will satisfy Glaucon’s retelling of the story of Gyges, that is certainly a very tall order.

Chapter 4. Adeimantus [00:26:09]

And that is where the brother, Adeimantus, joins in. Adeimantus has a somewhat different set of concerns. He has heard justice praised his whole life from parents and from poets and from other authorities, but for the most part, he has only heard justice praised again for the benefits justice confers both in this life and the next. Honesty is the best policy, we’ve heard Cephalus being concerned about returning to others what you owe as a way of pleasing the gods in the afterlife, and Adeimantus rightly takes this kind of argument to mean that justice is simply a virtue for the weak, the lame and the unadventurous, if you were only concerned with the consequences. A real man does not fear the consequences of injustice. Rather, Adeimantus’ concern, and he gives a very revealing image of what he takes justice to be, is with an image of self-guardianship, or self-control. He tells us at 367a that each would be his own god. In other words, we should not care what people say about us, but we should be prepared to develop qualities of self-containment, autonomy and independence from the influence that others can exercise over us. “How can I develop those qualities of self-guardianship or self-control?” he asks Socrates.

And who has not felt that way before? The two brothers desire to hear justice praised for itself, Glaucon, and to live freely and independently, Adeimantus. And that shows to some degree I think, their own sense of alienation from their own society. Or if I can put the case for them slightly anachronistically, these are two sons of the upper bourgeois who feel degraded by the mendacity and hypocrisy of the world they see around them. And anyway, what person with any sensitivity to greatness has not felt this way at one time or another?

The two are open to persuasion, to consider alternatives, perhaps even radical alternatives, to the society that has nurtured them. They are, to put it another way perhaps, not only potential rulers and potential philosophers, they may also be potential revolutionaries, and the remainder of the book is addressed to them and of course people like them.

But the speeches of Glaucon and Adeimantus, you might say the circle around Socrates is effectively closed. He knows he will not be returning to Athens that evening, and he proposes to the two brothers and those listening to the conversation a kind of thought experiment that he hopes will work magic on the two. “Let us propose,” he says, “to watch a city coming into being in speech.” Let us create a city in speech. “It is easier,” he says, “not to view justice microscopically in an individual, but rather let’s view justice as it were through a magnifying glass.” Let’s view justice in the large sense. Let us view justice in a city in order to help us understand what it is in an individual.

And this idea that the city is essentially analogous to the soul, that the city is like the soul, is the central metaphor around which the entire Republic is constructed. It seems to be presented entirely innocuously, no one in the dialogue objects to it, yet everything else follows from this idea that the city, the polis, is in the central respect like an individual, like the soul of an individual.

What is Socrates trying to do here, and what is that metaphor, that central metaphor, what function does it serve within the work? To state the obvious, Socrates introduces this analogy to help the brothers better understand what justice is for an individual soul. The governance of the soul, Adeimantus’ standard of self-control, must be like the governance of a city in some decisive respects. But in what respects? How is a city like a soul and in what respect is self-governance, the control of one’s passions and appetites, in what respect is self-control like the governance of a collective body?

Consider the following example: when we say that so and so is typically American, or typically Taiwanese for example, we mean that that person expresses certain traits of character and behavior that are broadly representative in some way of the cross section of their countrymen. Is this a useful way to think? More specifically, what does it mean to say that an individual can be seen as magnified in his or her country, or that one’s country is simply the collective expression of certain individual traits of character? That seems to be what Socrates is suggesting. Right, that’s what he’s getting at.

One way of thinking about the metaphor of city and soul together is to think of it as a particular kind of causal hypothesis, about the formation of both individual character and political institutions. In this reading of the city/soul analogy as a kind of causal relation, maintains the view that as individuals we both shape and determine the character of our societies, and that those societies in term shape and determine individual character. The city and soul analogy could be seen then as an attempt to understand how societies reproduce themselves, and how they shape citizens who again in turn shape the societies in which they inhabit.

That seems to be one way of making sense of the city/soul hypothesis, but again it doesn’t seem to answer the question in what way are cities and individuals alike. To take the American case for example, does it mean that something like the presidency, the congress and the court can be discerned within the soul of every American citizen? That would be absurd to think that obviously. I mean, I think that would be absurd. Maybe you want to argue it and we could have a discussion, but it might mean that American democracy, or democracy of any kind, helps to produce a particular kind of democratic soul. Just like, you might say, the old regime in France, the old aristocratic society existing before the revolution, tended to produce a very different kind of soul, a very different kind of individual. Every regime will produce a distinctive kind of individual, and this individual will come to embody the dominant character traits of the particular regime.

The remainder of the Republic is, again, devoted to crafting the regime that will produce a distinctive kind of human character, and that of course is why the book is a utopia. There has never been a regime in history that was so single-mindedly devoted to the end of producing that rarest and most difficult species of humanity called simply philosopher.

So, city and soul. That leads to our next topic that I want to pursue for the remainder of the class, the reform of poetry and the arts.

Socrates’s city speech proceeds through several stages. The first stage proposed by Adeimantus is the simple city, what he calls the city of utmost necessity. That is a city limited to the satisfaction of certain basic needs. The primitive or simple city, the city of utmost necessity, again it expresses the nature of Adeimantus’ own soul, there is a kind of noble simplicity in him that treats subjects as bodies or creatures of limited appetites. The simple city is little more than a combination of households designed for the sake of securing one’s existence.

And at this point, and you can hear his brother chastising him, at this point Glaucon retorts that it seems as if Adeimantus has created a city only fit for pigs, a city of pigs. Are we only such that we want to feed at a common trough? Is there nothing more to politics than that? And Glaucon says, “Where are the luxuries? Where are the relishes,” he asks. “Where are the things that make up a city?” And hereto Glaucon’s city expresses his own tastes and his own soul. The war-like Glaucon would preside over what Socrates calls a feverish city, one that institutionalizes honors, competitions and above all war. If Adeimantus, again, expresses the appetitive part of the soul, Glaucon represents the quality that Plato calls spiritedness, or thumos in Greek.

Chapter 5. Spiritedness and the Establishment of the Just City [00:37:28]

Spiritedness is the central, psychological quality of the Republic. The entire thrust of the book is devoted to the taming of spiritedness, and to the control of spiritedness. Spiritedness is that quality of soul that is most closely associated with the desires for honors, fame and prestige. It is a higher order psychological quality. It seeks distinction, the desire to be first in the race of life and lead us to seek to dominate others. We all know people of this sort, do we not? And we all to some degree embody this quality in ourselves. It is the quality that we associate with being a kind of alpha personality. This is the issue for Socrates, how to channel this wild and untamed passion of spirit or heart, how to channel this to some kind of common good. Can it be done? How can we begin the domestication of the spirited Glaucon? The rest of the book is to some degree about taming, asking the question whether Glaucon can be tamed.

And it is here that Socrates turns to his first and perhaps even his most controversial proposal for the establishment of the just city. “The creation of the just city can only begin,” he says, “with the control of music, poetry and the arts.” And this is where Plato’s image as an educator drives. The first order of business for the founder of a city, any city, is the oversight of education. And his proposals for the reform of poetry, especially Homeric poetry, represent clearly a radical departure from Greek educational practices and beliefs. Why is this so important for Socrates? Ask yourself, if you were founding a city, where would you begin?

Socrates’s argument seems to be something like this: it is from the poets and I mean that in the broadest sense of the term, myth makers, storytellers, artist, musicians, today we might say film and television producers, it is from these people that we receive our earliest and most vivid impressions of heroes and villains, gods and the afterlife. These stories, the stories we hear from earliest childhood on, shape us in some very meaningful sense for the rest of our lives. And the Homeric epics were of course for the Greeks what the Bible was for us. Maybe even is in some communities. The names of Achilles, Priam, Hector, Odysseus, Ajax, these would have been just as familiar and important to the contemporaries of Plato as the names of Abraham, Isaac, Joshua and Jesus are for us.

Plato’s critique of Homeric poetry in the Republic is two-fold; it is both theological and political. Maybe you might even say following Spinoza, that this is the core of Plato’s theological political treatise here. The theological critique is that Homer simply depicts the gods as false, as fickle, and inconstant. He presents them as beings who are unworthy of our worship. More importantly, the Homeric heroes are said to be bad role models for those who follow them, they are shown to be intemperate in sex, overly fond of money, into these vices Socrates adds cruelty and disregard for the dead bodies of one’s opponents. The Homeric heroes are ignorant and passionate men full of blind anger and desire for retribution. How could such figures possibly serve as good role models for citizens of a just city?

And Socrates’s answer is, of course, the predation of poetry and the arts in Books II and III. He wants to deprive poets of their power to enchant, and something Socrates admits in the tenth book of the Republic, to which he himself has been highly susceptible to the enchantment of the poets. We need to deprive, again, the poets, the song makers, the lyricists, the musicians, the mythmakers, the storytellers, all of them, the power to enchant us. And in place of the pedagogical power of poetry, Socrates proposes to install philosophy in its place. As a result, the poets will have to be expelled from this city. Imagine that. Sophocles will be expelled from the just city that Socrates wants to create.

This always raises the question that you will discuss in your section, whether or not Socrates’s censorship of poetry and the arts is an indication of his totalitarian impulses. This is the part of the Republic most likely to call up our own first amendment instincts. “Who are you, Socrates,” we are inclined to ask, “to tell us what we can read here and listen to?” And furthermore, Socrates seems to be saying not that the Kallipolis will have no poetry and music, it will simply be Socratic poetry and music.

And there’s another question which you would no doubt be concerned to discuss, namely what would such Socratically purified music and poetry look like? What would it sound like? I don’t know that I have an answer to this, but perhaps theRepublic as a whole is itself a piece of this Socratic poetry that will substitute for the Homeric kind.

But it’s important to remember that the question of education and the question of the reform and censorship and the control of poetry is introduced in the context of taming the war-like passions of Glaucon and others like him. The question of censorship and the telling of lies is introduced, in other words, as a question of military necessity, controlling the guards or the auxiliaries of the city, its warrior class.

Nothing is said here about the education of farmers, artisans, merchants, laborers, the economic class. Maybe, to speak bluntly, Socrates just doesn’t care that much about them. It’s okay what they listen too. Nor has anything really been said up to this point about the education of the philosopher. His interest here is in the creation of a tight, and highly disciplined cadre of young warriors who will protect the city much as watchdogs protect their own home. That is to say, recalling Polemarchus, those who are good to friends and bark and growl at strangers. Such individuals will subordinate their own desires and pleasures to the group, and live a life by a strict code of honor.

We have to ask: are Socrates’s proposals unrealistic? Are they undesirable? Or are they desirable? They are not undesirable if you believe as he does that even the best city must provide provisions for war, and therefore a warrior’s life, a soldier’s life, will require harsh privation in terms of material rewards and benefits as well as a willingness to sacrifice for others.

It would seem far from being unrealistic, Socrates engages what we might call maybe a kind of Socratic realism. Far more unrealistic would be the belief of those who argue, and I’m thinking here of names like Immanuel Kant and others from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, that one day we can abolish war altogether, and therefore abolish the passions that give rise to conflict and war. So far Plato believes, is a passionate or spirited aspect of nature remains strong so long will be necessary to educate the warriors of society who defend it.

So on that I’m going to end today and next time we will talk about justice, the philosophers and Plato’s discovery of America.

[end of transcript]

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