Feed on

In Book X of Plato’s Republic, Socrates finalizes the discussion of the soul with an analogy of “nesting bowls”, which in many ways is strikingly similar to the analogy of the divided line. Socrates tells us in Book VI “‘that for the four segments of the line there are these four kinds of experiences that arise in the soul’” (6.511d) and in Book X, that each knob “‘fitted in just like bowls nested into one another, with another, third one the same way, and a fourth, and four more . . . eight knobs in all’” (10.616d-e). The first four segments relate to the breakdown of the visible and the intelligible, and then into clarity and obscurity, whereas the subsequent four experiences are active insight, thinking, trust, and imagination. I have said previously, that the divided line never seemed to be indicative of the analogies like the ship of state, the three waves, the sun, and the cave, but rather that the divided line seemingly suggests the foundational structure of the book, and by extension, the soul. In Book X, Socrates seems intent on showing his audience the complexity of the soul. If this is true, then Books I and X would be omitted, as they introduce and conclude these discussions, the divided line in Book VI would be “‘the shaft [in], which was driven all through them through the center of the eighth’” (10.616e)—or simply, the divided line as the spindle—leaving eight Books to form rings around the remaining parts of the metaphysical soul. Therefore, Plato transforms what was initially a Euclidian understanding of the form of the soul, into a modern-day Copernican, or perhaps Ptolemaic, understanding of the soul.

The original divided line seen in Book VI is commonly understood as a piece of Euclidian geometry, in which a line has “no breadth, and a plane figure as having no depth” (Sachs Footnote 114), so it is curious, how it could become a spherical component as what Copernicus depicts in his works. Yet, Socrates does not claim that his nesting bowl planetary theory is spherical; it is circular, most definitely, but seeing as it is theory, it cannot be given legitimate spherical components. Regardless, Socrates’ analogy must have heavily inspired Copernicus’ later works, and most likely Ptolemy as well. Using this idea, however, it is possible for a line to connect to its other end, because Euclid also does not reduce a line to a merely straight entity. He defines a straight line as “a line which lies evenly with the points on itself” (Euclid 1. Defintion 4). By this definition, we could make a spherical line out of the perceived straight and flat divided line.

Returning, however, to the conceptual, rather than structural form of the nesting bowl analogy, brings us to the divide between the four segments and the four experiences. Omitting Book I leaves us with a form that seems to split evenly, for the best clarity, between the two categories. Rather than alternating between segment and experience, it seems as if the subdivisions of the four experiences—active insight, thinking, trust, and imagination—relate to the Books II through V, whereas the four segments—visible, intelligible, clarity, and obscurity— rise into more complex and conceptual arguments in Books VI—using the sun analogy—through IX. This is a reasonable progression, as Socrates’ explanations are analogy, familiarity, and visual based, therefore, Socrates may not have been able to effectively communicate the conceptual segments before demonstrating the four experiences first.

Seeing as many of the books recycle topics such as education, happiness, justice, tyranny, philosophy, and collective properties, it is appropriate that these issues translate to a circular, or perhaps spherical form in which the soul is represented. The educations are not entirely cyclical as they introduce new topics important to the soul, but the foundations of those topics are recycled from previous books. In this way, the Euclidian lines from the divided line analogy can connect to themselves to create Copernican rings around the spindle, especially as Euclid’s definition of a straight line does not prevent it. Yet, Plato and Socrates would argue that every repeated piece of information is necessary, as it would have been omitted otherwise. This is true, as each time a topic is brought up again—from the experience category to the segment, and more conceptual category—a slight change is permitted. This change, as we have discussed, allows for the same foundation, but with a new, and more complex, elaboration on the same theme; a topic brought up within Books II through V is more conceptually developed in Books VI through IX.

In this way, the form of the soul may be outlined. Each new idea, either discovered or outlined in more detail in eight of the Books, adds to the city-soul analogy, and therefore adds another ring or another vital component to the existence and function of the soul. Through this, the Euclidean, linear form of the divided line transforms and connects to itself to create Copernican rings surrounding the center of the spindle of the metaphysical soul.

Plato’s Republic closes not with an argument but a myth. While this choice may seem odd, it serves to bring a balance and unity to the dialogue as it reflects back to the interaction with Cephalus in Book I along with other myths and images throughout the dialogue. The connection to Cephalus is particularly noteworthy because of similarities between the first soul to choose his next life and Cephalus. The link between the two could serve as a warning that even seemingly just souls are in danger of choosing too hastily. Instead, in order to identify and select a good and just life, a soul must use seek and scrutinize and, above all, know what it is that makes a just life, a discovery that is made through philosophy during the course of discussion between Book I and X. Effectively, by calling to mind Cephalus, the Myth of Er compels us reevaluate his account of the afterlife, and consider the possible consequences of a life without philosophy.

The souls in the Myth of Er seem familiar in their apparently human appearance and their activities of greeting and talking with each other. This familiarity is heightened by descriptions of their conversations which correlate closely with scenes in Book I. Er describes the conversations between the souls returning from their “long journey” through the afterlife (614e). The souls are described as “[greeting] one another, “lamenting” their misfortunes, “[recollecting]” their experiences (614e-615a). These phrases call to mind the initial conversation between Socrates and Cephalus. Upon Socrates’ arrival, Cephalus “greeted [him] right away” and they begin to converse just like the souls recognizing each other in the field (328d). Also, just as the souls ask each other about their respective journeys, Socrates asks Cephalus about old age and refers to it as going “down a certain road” (328e). In Cephalus’ response to Socrates he talks about conversations he has had with his friends. Those conversations include “[complaining]”, “[singing] a lament” and “reminiscing” about their youth, all of which closely parallel the lamenting and recollecting Er describes (329a-b).

Moreover, the two scenes are connected by the idea of blaming the wrong causes for their misfortune. In Cephalus’ account of his talks with his friends he claims that they “seem to” not “be blaming what is responsible” when they blame old age for their troubles (329b). He believes it is rather “the dispositions of the people” that cause their experience of old age to be difficult for them (329d). This comment about their misallocation of blame is echoed in the myth; however, it is not during the conversation between the souls but later when the souls choose their next lives. The first soul who chooses a life that includes “eating his own children”, blamed “luck and divine beings” rather than himself (619c). In both cases external causes outside of the individual’s control are originally blamed, when it is the individual themselves who is responsible. This similarity seems distinctly important as philosophy is concerned with understanding the true causes of things. Moreover, the soul who assigned blame to the incorrect cause is also described as “[beating] his breast and [lamenting],” which exactly mirrors Socrates’ description of the state that poets create (619c, 605d). Poetry, then, is interconnected in this inability to determine cause and choose a good life. As poetry is accused of causing an individual to feel more “pity” for their “own sufferings”, it changes their disposition to one less likely to view themselves as the cause of their sufferings, much like Cephalus’ friends who blame their old age instead of themselves. Curiously, the episode with Cephalus explicitly mentions a poet, Sophocles, but but the poet is singled out as one who does not blame old age for suffering.

Taking all these similarities into consideration, one effect is that they compel us to reevaluate Cephalus’ previous account of the afterlife in comparison to the account that Socrates lays out. Cephalus says that “fear and care [came] into him” once he found himself close to death, and that the “stories… told about… Hades” now “twist his soul with a fear they are true” (330d-e). This fear is noteworthy because it ultimately disallows him from hearing or participating in philosophy as he must leave to “take care of the sacrifices” when the discussion is beginning. His fear is based mostly in ignorance. Given that he, and everyone else, are ignorant of the underworld it is easy to jump to frightening conclusions. However, instead of seeking knowledge, learning, or philosophy to assuage his ignorance, he seeks only to assuage his fears by using his money to offer sacrifices to the gods in hopes of a reward or lessening of punishment.  Sacrifices, however, have no effect in the view of the afterlife presented in the Myth of Er. It is only the actions taken in life, either just or not, that determine if the soul is sent to below the earth or up to the heavens (614d). Following that the fate of the soul is determined by their own judgement, not a judgement cast upon them. In other words, after the soul is judged they are then asked to judge, and this second judgement requires a soul to be able to discern for itself between many varied lives.

From there, the connections between the scenes asks us to wonder what life Cephalus, and perhaps even his friends, would choose as they are the ones who would face the decision the soonest. The first soul is connected to Cephalus and his friends due his blaming external forces for his failure in judgement, but he also displays other similarities. Socrates describes him as “participating in virtue by habit, without philosophy” (619c). This description resonates with Cephalus since he, too, is explicitly shown to be without philosophy as the dialogue intentionally begins with him opting not to partake in philosophy. Another parallel can be drawn from the fact that the first soul chooses the life of a tyrant (619b). Previously in Book IX of the Republic, the tyrannical man is characterized as being ruled by his desires. This sentiment was preceded by Cephalus’ description of both himself and of his friends when he appreciatively comments that old age is when “desires stop straining and slacken” (329d) A comment indicating that earlier in life they were in the thrall of their desires to some extent (329d). This same sentiment was shared with Sophocles who escaped sexual desires “most happily indeed” as if “from some raging monster” (329c). In effect, it is easy to imagine Cephalus making the same mistake of the first soul in choosing too quickly, and while Cephalus does not make the mistake of blaming external causes as the reason for his difficulties, he does make the mistake of judging that sacrifices can cause him to be saved from punishment in the afterlife. This oversight may be even more detrimental because this is the fear that has prevented him from practicing philosophy, and he will be ill-prepared to recognize a good life from among the lots set out to choose from.

Ultimately, the all important task laid out in the Myth of Er is to determine what is and what is not a good life. Such determination requires seeking, scrutiny, and knowing what it is that constitutes a good and just life. This is portrayed in the myth by Odysseus who is described as  going “around for a long time looking” for the right life to choose (620c). This sounds similar to another interaction from Book I in which Thrasymachus describes Socrates as someone who “goes around learning” (338b). Thus, Odysseus’ method of selection seems to be philosophical, or at least Socratic, to some degree. This idea is furthered by the life that Odysseus selects. He searches specifically for “a quiet life of a private man”, a description that matches Socrates’ depiction of the model philosopher living in the city who “keeps quiet and minds his own business” (620c, 496d). The life Odysseus chooses also, of course, matches the earlier characterization of the just life as “doing what’s properly one’s own and not meddling in other people’s business” (433a). This latter connection is particularly important because it is identified as the just life through philosophy. As such, philosophy is a method through which the meaning of a just life can be discovered, and thus allow a soul to correctly identify and choose one when the time arises. For it is not enough to carefully investigate the lives and read them closely, one must know what a good life is in order to select it.

One last parallel between Odysseus in the Myth of Er and Socrates’ conversation with Cephalus is the idea of release. Before explaining Odysseus’ choice of life, Socrates’ specifically includes the information that the soul of Odysseus’ had found “relief from it’s love of honor” (620c). This phrase again calls to mind the words of Cephalus and Sophocles who are also grateful for their “release” from sexual desires (329d). The difference, however, is that the release of the latter was caused by aging rather than intentional mastery and moderation. On the other hand, Odysseus’ was released due to his “earlier labors” (620c). It is this distinction that ultimately seems to make all the difference when choosing a good and just life.

The Republic both begins and ends with ideas of justice in the afterlife. Not only does this provide a balance and unity to the work as a whole, but the connection between the Myth of Er and Cephalus is also a connection between the afterlife and our own lives. By relating the two the myth relates back to the world of the living and the choices that we make. Cephalus leads a relatively just life, but it more out of fear and habit than virtue. Additionally, it is a life devoid of philosophy, as Plato intentionally emphasizes by Cephalus’ exit from the conversation. As such, Cephalus may be prepared for his judgement in the afterlife and be sent on the thousand year journey through the heavens, The second judgement, however, the one he must make by himself for himself, is one he is unprepared for. He does not know, and has not asked, what a just life is, and so he is not prepared for the all important task of determining one from among the many and varied lives available.

Socrates asserts that naturally, men are physically stronger than women, which would lead one to believe that he held the beliefs of the typical Greek man of his time. However, he also asserts that men and women can both be philosopher kings and queens, which would lead one to believe that he believed in equality between men and women. Although Socrates would allow both men and women to be philosopher kings and queens, he did not believe in equality between the sexes.
A recurring idea amongst students and educators alike in the modern day is the idea that Socrates was a man that had progressive ideas for his time. Although, in the soul, he would allow for men and women to work together, in the real world he would not. In the city-soul analogy, Socrates proposes that women rule alongside men. In regard to their education, he suggests that “it’s not contrary for women among the guardians to be assigned to music and gymnastics training” (5.456B). However, he argues that although the men and women will work alongside one another as guardians, they would “treat the women as weaker and the males as stronger” (5.351D). This would lead to some sort of deprivation of justice among the women because they would not be treated the same physically as the men. Their souls would be dealt with in a similar manner, but their bodies would be dealt with as if they were a weaker being solely because of one widely apparent physicality.
Another proposal put forth by Socrates is that women and children be shared in common. This is something agreed upon between Socrates and Glaucon (8.543A). If the souls of men and women were equal, then men and women would be shared in common rather than the sharing of just women in common. Also, amongst these children are young boys who will one day be men. If these boys are being shared in common, then there has to be a certain age at which they are considered men and aren’t shared in common anymore. This is not an age that Socrates gives specifically or that any of the other men propose to consecrate a specific age at which boys become men and aren’t shared in common among the lesser women who will be shared in common even when they are young girls.
As Socrates describes the fall of a monarchy to a tyranny, he describes the rearing of a tyrannical man. He describes what seems to be the fall of the monarchy as “his dear old motherland” (9.575D). Once he establishes the tyranny, the description of his birth country changes from a “motherland” to a “fatherland” in which he will punish the people under him if they do not give way to him (9.575D). Once the tyrant established more power, the adjective used to describe his country of origin changes from a feminine adjective to one that is masculine. This is the one that is stronger. Socrates purposefully used this verb in order to clarify any doubts that he was for feminism.
In a latter description of the tyrant, Socrates outlines the tyrant as a man “confined in a prison” (9.579B). Whilst in this prison, the tyrant “lives like a housewife and envies the rest of the citizens when any of them get to go out and see anything good” (9.579B). This confirms the subtle assertion made earlier by Socrates when he established that men and women were completely different. He wants women to stay in the house. Socrates wants for the women to be like prisoners in their homes and envy the people who walk in the street.
Socrates downs women when speaking of Homer and the other poets. He illustrates the heroes told of in poems of Homer as men who basically throw temper tantrums. They don’t behave like men. The characteristics of a man are being “able to stay calm and bear it, feeling this to be what belongs to a man, while the other response, which we were praising before, is that of a woman” (10.605E). If men and women were truly equal, then both would receive praise and neither would be given the attributes of being cantankerous and whiny.
Later in the text, Socrates clarifies that the body and the soul are two different entities (10.608D). If the body and the soul are two different entities, this would make his statement about women in the city being guardians null and void because the idea of justice in the city was simply an analogy for justice in the soul.
Women in this city were fictitious characters that Socrates never really dreamed would come to be reality. During his time, a woman’s place was in the home raising her children and doing house chores. In the dialogue, this is the description that Socrates commonly brings up of women after he declared that they would be philosopher queen in the city. This wasn’t a real dream of Socrates. If society were run by Socrates, or even Plato, women would set back two thousand years.

Lindsey Pelland

Professor Honeycutt

Roots of Western Thought

May 13, 2014


What is it with couches and tables?

In Books II and X of Plato’s Republic couches and tables are specifically used as examples. These items are used specifically and intently as examples in the feverish city and of imitation. It seems as though there is something about these two items in particular that represent something to Socrates, or else he would not have used them.

In Book II, Socrates and his companions have established what they call a “healthy city” (372 E). The healthy city is one almost entirely devoid of any type of material luxury. Glaucon first mentions bringing couches into the city and as soon as he does so Socrates says “We’re examining, it seems, not just how a city comes into being, but a city that lives in luxury” (372 E). Socrates immediately places couches into the category of luxury, an aspect of the feverish city.

Couches and tables are the first things to be added to the healthy city to transform it into the infected one (373 A). After these things are added along with other assorted luxuries the city is forced to expand. There must be room for those who create all of these things.  Perhaps this is a reflection of Socrates thoughts on those who create things and the creation of imitations.

In Book X Socrates it has been established that imitation corrupts, yet what exactly imitation is has yet to be more fully explained. So to start off his comparison, Socrates uses couches and tables. He states “there are two looks to these artifacts, one for a couch and one for a table” (596 B). Socrates goes on to explain “it’s with his eye on the look of either artifact that a craftsman makes couches in one case and tables in the other…presumably none of the craftsmen craft the look itself” (596 B). A craftsman creates things but he is only able to create imitations. It seems as though Socrates is implying that it is impossible to take the look of a thing and bring it to being in the material world in a truthful way. The look of a thing is a singular thought or idea that cannot be recreated exactly.

Socrates goes on to discuss appearances and the way that a painter creates only the appearance of what he has painted. This is connected to couches because as Socrates says, “ if he doesn’t make the one that is a couch, he wouldn’t be making something that is, would he, but something that’s like a thing that is without being that?” (597 A).  Couches are merely objects that appear to be something that they are not. This implies that all material objects are appearances of things that they are not. If something appears to be what it is not than it cannot be considered the truth. Therefore it is a lie. Using this logic it would seem that all material objects and indeed especially couches and tables are lies.

Philosophers seek the truth and since lies are in direct opposition to the truth it makes sense as to why the feverish city is so sick. How could a Philosopher seek the truth in a city filled with imitations and lies? Luxury is filled with imitations and therefore luxury seems to be the materialization of untruths. Couches and tables are simply the beginnings of luxury and the beginnings of lies.

Couches and tables represent the beginnings of luxury, which is the collection of imitations. Imitations are not the truth and a Philosopher seeks only the truth. Living in a city of imitations would only cloud the philosopher’s view of the truth, making the city unhealthy. Socrates uses the images of couches and tables because they are seen everywhere by everyone and most would not even consider them a luxury, but Socrates makes it very clear that they are.

Descent into Tyranny

In Book Nine Socrates opens the discussion by explaining to those around him how a tyrant comes into being, and how erotic passion and the desire for unnecessary things play a role in this.  He starts by returning us to the idea of the democratic man who now has a son, this son who is now indulging in his fathers unnecessary desires will become a tyrant because he does not have the same influences as his father. Essentially what is being explained to us is a ladder that descends into deeper and darker things as you go through the generations. The democratic mans father would have been an oligarchical man which is why is son is a democratic man and the democratic man’s son will be a tyrant. This is only the beginning of the man’s descent into tyranny.

While the origins of the tyrannical mans birth are important, as Socrates would have us to believe it is only the foundation for why the man becomes a tyrant; the real catalyst is when someone, possibly a drone implants erotic and slothful desires into him (9.572E). This erotic passion leads to feasts, revelry, celebration, and all sorts of things. This is bad because as Socrates points out “doesn’t a drunken man have a certain tyrannical way of thinking?” (9.573C). This has some truth in it, a drunk person no longer holds to normal social standards, they revert to a more basic behavior. This is different for everyone and for a man raised by a democratic man this would lead to tyrannical behavior.  This leads to even worse behavior, it as if we are once again seeing how the slow descent into something worse.

Socrates tells us that the next logical step is that as a result of this drinking and partying the son will run out of money with which to pay for his desires. Having run out of money he will go to his parents looking for help. Socrates says the first thing the man will try to do is cheat his parents out of everything (9.574B).  He will ignore their resistance and after cleaning them out of everything he will move on. The idea that the son would rob from his parents is unthinkable to Adeimantus, whom Socrates is talking to. To Socrates this is just another “step” towards becoming a tyrant for this man.

Having been rejected by his parents he resorts to stealing what he needs, he starts committing crimes and eventually becomes a living nightmare. To Socrates this is a tyrant; because he is so driven to get money and has stopped caring about others his friends abandon him. Once he is alone he is unable to fulfill his needs and lives in fear. Socrates says this when he brings up the idea that “someone who’s most a tyrant for the longest time also have been in truth the most miserable person for the longest time?” (9.576C). This appears to be the final step towards becoming a true tyrant; once you are alone it is easier to control others and enslave them, even if you live in constant fear of them.

This change from supposed normality to tyranny occurs all starts because the man’s father is a democratic man. What is interesting is the process of the descent, starting all the way back to the man’s father. What is surprising is that a man would go to such lengths for this erotic passion and his partying habits. It is hard to believe that partying drives him to do these unspeakable things, it is possible that because I have not experienced this first hand I am unable to truly comprehend the idea behind it. How you are raised as a child does influence your life quite heavily, and if a democratic man raised this tyrannical man than his fathers views on the use of unnecessary things would rub off on him and become a bigger problem. Thus we get the progression from democratic men to tyrannical men just as we saw the progression from oligarchical men to democratic men.

A Cyclical Education

Plato believes that education is a cycle. One who is perceived as an educator or a philosopher teaches his students, and in turn, he is educated by them as well. This is exemplified in the allegory of the cave. The teacher goes into the cave in order to allow the student to come into the light. Once the student comes into the light, he goes back into the cave in order to inform his educator about something new that he had discovered while in the sun. Socrates is the original liberator and educator of Glaucon, Adeimantus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus. In turn, they all help to further the education of Socrates.
In the allegory of the cave, someone comes into the cave and brings another person into the light. It is possible that the person freeing the other person of his bonds temporarily takes his place in order to allow the other man to see the real light. One can understand this as the person thought originally to be the teacher forces their student to learn, and in turn, they take the place of the student, for they learn something as well. This continues in a cyclical pattern in the education of both men.
Socrates describes the liberation of the slave in the cave as a man who “would be released, and suddenly required to stand up, and turn his neck around” (7.515A). Socrates also explains that “education is not the sort of thing certain people who claim to be professors of it claim that it is,” but rather a turning. (7.518B, 7.518C). Because education a turning and the slave is forced to “turn his neck around,” this can be interpreted as the student being educated. When he returns to the cave, those who are currently prisoners see no need to go out into the sun with him because “after having gone up above he returned with his eyes ruined” (7.517B). One could understand this as the original teacher not having a need to explain himself once again because his lesson had been learned once the student entered the light. When the original student tries to educate the original teacher, he meets some resistance from the teacher.
Throughout the entirety of The Republic, Socrates discusses the city-soul analogy with men who are not philosophic, but rather average Greek citizens. They engage in a platonic dialogue in which Socrates asks a question and one of the men answers him. After answering one of his questions, the man may go on to ask Socrates a question, in which he will answer. This is shown as Socrates proposes the idea of introducing new forms of education into the city. On the subject of astronomy, Socrates asks Glaucon “Shall we make astronomy a third [form of education], or doesn’t that seem right?” (7.527D). Glaucon responds “It does to me anyway” (7.527D). Later, Glaucon goes on to ask Socrates a question in which Socrates has to respond. When they speak about education again, Glaucon asks Socrates to tell him what the Muses will say about their choice in education in which Socrates gives him a full explanation of what he believes they will say (8.547A, 8.547B). This is significant because it reveals that Glaucon, Adeimantus, and the other men are not the only ones learning from this experience. It shows that Socrates is learning as well.
The education of Socrates and his students is more subtle than that of the prisoner in the cave and his liberator. It has taken Socrates at least seven chapters to explain the city-soul analogy as well as ask the other men about the soul and at least seven chapters for the group of men to come up with different questions and different situations to ask Socrates to explain.
It may be understood that all of the men have the ability to be the liberators when Socrates says “So our job as founders,’ I said, ‘is to require the best natures to get the study we were claiming earlier is the greatest thing’” (7.519C). They all must have liberating abilities because Socrates calls them the “founders.” All of the men in the dialogue have the capability to educate other people, and in turn, be educated themselves.
Socrates came into the dialogue being looked up to as an educator. He came to find that he went down into the cave and back out into the sun several times throughout the dialogue. With the help of key characters, such as Glaucon, Socrates’ head was turned and he received a new education.

Advantages of Infantrymen

In the preface Machiavelli states that “It is not impossible to bring the military back to ancient modes and give it some form of past virtue.”(preface. 10) In the Art of War the two men who are speaking, Fabrizio and Cosimo pay every close attention to the differences between infantrymen and cavalrymen, both ancient and modern.

Fabrizio Colonna, a military man makes the statement that” the sinew of armies without any doubt is the infantry” but also a king must make his infantrymen happy in times of peace and war because “ a more dangerous infantry is not found when than that which is composed of those who make war as their art.”(1.82-83) Cosimo Rucellai, who has no military experience   makes the claim that unlike cavalrymen, the infantrymen can be used even in times of peace because foot soldiers are always needed to guard a city, “all men of arms remain with their provisions … many infantrymen stay in the guard of cities and fortresses; so that it seems to me that there is a place for each in time of peace.”(1.95) This claim that Fabrizio then denies by implying that a city would only keep cavalrymen,” keeping men- at – arms is a corrupt mode and not good” (1.99), Fabrizio continues to discourage this practice by pointing out that the men in ancient times would have a cavalry in times of war but would disband and send the men “to their homes to live off their arts “in times of peace. (1.104)

Next Fabrizio speaks of where the soldiers should come from. He begins by stating that a principality or republic should recruit “soldiers from its own countries be they warm or cold or temperate.”(1.123) The troops should come from one’s own because the next option would be to hire foreigners, but the problem with that is that” foreign arms can do more damage to the public good more quickly than one’s own.”(1.173) He goes on the pronounce that “it is better to select them from the country, since they are men used to hardship, raised amidst toils, accustomed to being in the sun, fleeing the shade, knowing how to work a tool, … and being without astuteness or malice” (1.141) By them he is speaking of the infantrymen and that the cavalry should be selected from the cities because coming from cities, they are not used to the hard labor like countrymen.

Looking to the ancients as an example of great infantrymen Fabrizio says that “the Romans divided their infantries into heavy and light armed” (2.2), based on what arms they carried. Fabrizio most emulates the Romans because “Roman arms, with which they occupied all the world. When asked by Cosimo who is superior the ancient Romans or modern Germans in their modes of fighting, to which Fabrizio states that” The Roman without a doubt.”(2.35) He affirms this reasoning by explaining why modern armies should model themselves after the Romans,” you will find in the German ability to beat cavalrymen … but a great disadvantage when it fights with an infantry armed liked the Romans.”(2.43) The Romans were great because of the way their army good defeat both cavalrymen and infantrymen, where the Germans could only overpower a cavalry. (2.44) However, “a good infantry must not only be able to withstand cavalrymen, but it must not be afraid of infantrymen.”(2.67) Another reason why infantrymen are superior to cavalrymen is because of their “natural virtue”. (2.86) The drawback of an infantry is that they are more corrupt than cavalrymen.

Going into further detail about who should become a cavalryman and how they should be trained, Fabrizio said that modern people should look to the ancients because “the levy was made from the wealthiest, having a regard for both years and the quality of man” but he later more specifically speaks of the Romans when he declares “I would imitate the Romans … give them heads in the mode in which they are given to the others today, and I would arm and train them.”(1.266) Cavalry are needed in an army but only second to infantry, because” cavalrymen cannot go every place like infantrymen. They are slower to obey than infantrymen when their orders happen to vary” the second part is because cavalrymen also have to maintain a horse as well as follow orders.(2.87-88) Lastly Fabrizio says that any army should contain cavalrymen but” as the second and not as the first foundation of one’s army. They are necessary and useful for scouting, overrunning, and wasting the enemy’s country”(2.79) A plus for cavalrymen is that they are less corrupt,” Of horse I want to say nothing but… this part is less corrupt”(7.185)

All in all a  modern army that wants  to follow in the footsteps of the ancients should have both an infantry and cavalry, but make sure that the infantry comes first because they are the sinew of armies. That being said, cavalrymen do have their purposes, and they are less corrupt compared to infantryman. Lastly Fabrizio paints a picture of where a king or republic should levy their soldiers from; cavalry being drawn from the country and cavalrymen being drawn from cities.


The Myth of Er

In the final paragraphs of The Republic, Socrates concludes with a religious and philosophical picture of the afterlife. The myth is about a “stalwart man,” Er, who was killed in a war (but doesn’t really die) and taken out of this world to witness the journey of departed souls. He watches an eschatological system which rewards just souls for their good deeds in heaven for one thousand years, while unjust souls pay the penalty for all their misdeeds in hell for the same amount of time. Those who displayed impiety towards the gods and parents, tyrants, or murderers suffered even greater punishments (615a). Each soul must then choose its next life, which is based on a lottery. Only those who were philosophical know how to choose just lives when they are reincarnated. After Er’s vision, he returns to his uncorrupted earthly body and acts as a messenger to describe all he had seen.

Socrates concludes his dialogue in surprising fashion. After defining justice and declaring it the greatest good, he exiles poets from his best city. “Imitative poets introduce a bad polity in the soul of each person in private” by encouraging us to sympathize with the characters and indulge in ignoble emotions (605c). Poetry reflects unjust inclinations, and is strong enough to corrupt even decent people, because they follow along in empathy and take it seriously (605d). Socrates offers both his most profound criticism of poetry, and yet becomes expressly “poetic,” a few lines later by telling tales of the afterlife in the Myth of Er. In particular, Book X is the most consolidated example of the ambiguity and difficulty of Socrates’ attempt to look at questions that turn back on themselves and answers that cancel each other out.

The Myth of Er occurs at the end of a section that condemns poetry and imitation, so what role does this story play in the larger framework of The Republic? In one sense, Socrates is trying to teach that the choices we make and the character we develop in this life will ultimately have consequences after we die. The genuine habituation of the pursuit of the philosophical life and appreciation for the worth of wisdom will work to one’s advantage no matter how successful or powerful in this life. In this tale, Socrates pits an education based on philosophy against a traditional education based on epic poetry. He displays the philosophic life by relating to its rivals, the poets, thought to be knowledgeable and wise, and gives them a dose of their own medicine, so to speak. Socrates’ manifesto of life and death could be a type of revamped poetry, aimed at radically opposing traditional Greek tales.

Additionally, this type of poem allows Glaucon and Adeimantus to hear the praises of justice without canceling itself out. Adeimantus says that “of all those who claim to be praisers of justice…there is not one who has ever praised justice other than for the reputation and honors…But as to what [justice] itself does with its own power…no one has ever, in poetry or prose” adequately praised it (366c). Glaucon and Adeimantus want both poetry (praise of justice) and criticism, in addition to both poetry and philosophy. Before telling the tale of Er, Socrates asks Glaucon if he will “put up with it if [he] says the very things about [the just people] that [Glaucon] said about unjust people.” (613d). As such, the argument will return to the praise that justice is due, with the ability to “tell the truth and give back what one takes” (331D) and by “doing good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies” (332d).

Socrates’ use of the myth could be to illustrate that the rewards of the pursuit of justice in life continue with us to the afterlife. In order to show the importance of being just or unjust, he must argue for the immortality of the soul. If the soul ended in death, then punishment or reward in this life would be the only consequence. This shows some personal responsibility for one’s own fate. While the lottery of lives is left up to chance, no one can blame the gods for their fate (617e). With this myth, Socrates also reasons out the possibility that chance, rather than knowledge and understanding, might determine one’s condition in life.

The argument in favor of justice and the pursuit of philosophy appeals to rewards, which the just will receive in the next life. This argument, however, was previously discarded in the beginning of The Republic when Glaucon and Adeimantus specifically asked Socrates to define justice without using reward and punishment as factors. Why does this seemingly contradictory tale appear? One reason could be, since Glaucon and Adeimantus are incapable of philosophic virtue, Socrates gives them an incentive to pursue their own unique sense of virtue. Those who are not philosophers by nature will fluctuate between choosing good lives and miserable lives in the after life, because they don’t understand what makes a good or bad life. While civic virtue is desirable because it brings harmony and order to the soul, philosophical virtue seems to be more important because it imitates the Forms and consorts with them. Socrates again illustrates the necessity of a philosophic life, since a person must take responsibility for their choices, whether in this life or the next. The myth illustrates that people can willingly choose to be unjust because of their ignorance, so a philosophic life is the only cure.

Plato may also use the myth as a way to provide some sort of balance and symmetry to the work, by reflecting back to Cephalus and Socrates’ conversation in the beginning of the book on the nature of old age and the approach of death. In Book I, we meet Cephalus and learn that he is not interested in philosophy, but deems pleasing the gods through sacrifices important. As a counterpoint to Cephalus’ story, the myth tells of the future tyrant who “came from the heavens, after he’d lived in an orderly polity in his previous life, participating in virtue by habit, without philosophy” (619c). In a similar manner, Cephalus’ soul has been ruled by his appetite and love of wealth, instead of being ruled by rationality and order. According to Socrates’ myth, although Cephalus is a good and just man, he will probably not choose his next life wisely because he lacks philosophical reasoning. As such, one reason for the inclusion of the myth may be to focus on the harmony and order in the city/soul, ending a rhythm created earlier and reflecting back to the beginning of the story.

Another instance of harmony and rhythm are shown in scenes of descent, and the myth contributes to the continuity of the rest of the book by recollecting certain themes from the text. The Republic begins and ends with the image of descent. The Greek word kateben, “went down”, appears in the opening line as Socrates “went down…to Piraeus with Glaucon,” and again when Er descends into the underworld, as the myth is a tale of  “going down.” Eva Brann argues that the omission of the article the before Piraeus is unusual, and thus suggests a journey to the Land Beyond, a place of the dead (or at least shades and shadows), an image that fits in with the descent conjured up by the dialogue’s beginning.

Preceding the final myth, Socrates defines his philosophic view of the immortality of the soul as the central impulse that might determine one’s destiny. In brief, “what is innately bad for each thing and is its particular badness is what destroys each thing, or if that doesn’t destroy it, there’s no other thing that could still corrupt it” (609b). Injustice, intemperance, cowardice and ignorance are vices that are bad for the soul. However, badness doesn’t destroy the body (609e) and injustice and other evils aren’t enough to “kill and destroy a soul” (610e) or else tyrants, murderers, and such types of people would not live for very long. Therefore, Socrates comes to the conclusion that the soul is immortal, but has to be seen in truth, not “deformed by its association with the body and other evils” (611c). In connecting immortality and philosophy, the myth emphasizes the soul and its choices. But on a deeper level, the soul also is at faction and holds opposite opinions, and man is “divided…and at war himself with himself in his actions” (603d). The soul has the unnatural capacity to survive injustice and evil, unlike most other things that are destroyed by their own badness (610e). Here we see the soul in a purgatory of sorts,  given a democratic choice between a time of mortality, and a time of immortality. It is a choice that must be made without the help of teachers, philosophers, or mentors: the individual soul alone must choose.

The first man chooses from thoughtlessness and gluttony, rather than philosophy, and becomes a tyrant who eats his own children (619c). However, he didn’t blame himself, but blames luck, divine beings, and everything else but himself. Odysseus is the last to choose, and chose a quiet life of a private man, since his soul had found relief from its love of honor (620c). Perhaps there is a deeper nature besides choice, in that the soul may contain deep-seated lawlessness or attraction to virtue that no amount of knowledge or philosophy could change. Everyday we face ordinary choices, of who we want to become or what mark we will leave in this life, and Socrates warns that repetitive practice of making these choices may become clouded over by habit or honor. Ordinary choices are imitations or reflections of the important choice presented in the Myth of Er: the choice of the next life is extremely serious and determines all subsequent choices. The fist man to decide in the myth had once chosen a life of virtue, but neglected to include philosophy. The possibility is not necessarily that we would make the wrong choice, but that we would choose superficially.

Lastly, after the souls have chosen their lots, they drink from the river Lethe and forget everything (621a-b). The serious choices that the souls had to make are overcome by forgetfulness and ordinariness, and here the myth offers another lesson. Philosophy in its pursuit of knowledge and greatness can make our souls capable of choosing wisely in the end, and can save us from shallowness. “The tale was saved and didn’t die; it could save us too, if we’re persuaded by it, and we’ll get past the river Lethe in good shape without a stain on our soul” Socrates says (621c).

In Socrates’ manifesto; divinity somehow governs the universe, including us mortals; we are responsible for our choices we make in this life; and luck plays a certain role in the determination of human destiny, but it is far from being decisive and has a limited effect on humans. “If we…believe the soul is immortal and able to keep itself in the face of every evil” Socrates concludes, “we’ll always keep to the higher road and pursue justice with good sense in every way, so that we might be friends to ourselves and to the gods, both while we remain here in this place and when we carry off the rewards for it like athletes on their victory laps” (621d). The implication of the myth shows that at least some of our troubles, which may seem to happen by bad luck, are really a result of our choice and prevents us from being captivated by the power of chance.

Keeping the Mode

Fabrizio and Cosimo have a conversation in Book I where they discuss how to build and control a good army. Cosimo questions Fabrizio on how he would rebuild and create a new army; what kind of people would be best, what ages they would be, what skills they would have, and so on. Fabrizio seems to have a pretty good grasp on the answers to these questions and Cosimo mainly agrees. On the question of how to control an army, rebuilt or totally new, it seems to take them more time to get on the same page. Cosimo seems to worry about militia take over, where Fabrizio seems to think that is a problem of poor ruling and composition not a problem of every militia.

For making a new military Fabrizio says “I would take them from 17 to 40 years”(1.144). This age range is best for a new military because it brings in the youth, whose ambition was appeals to, and it brings in men with age and experience to instruct the youth. When rebuilding an army Fabrizio says “I would take them from 17 years so as to supplement it” (1.147). This is because he would already have those with experience and it is much easier to break a man into a different way of life at 17 than it is at 40. As for the kind of men Fabrizio would take he makes a very large divide in that “those on foot should be selected from the country and those on horse should be selected from the city” (1.142). Those from the city do not know the ground will enough to play to its advantages and disadvantages. These faults make men from the country better to select for military service and men from the city only useful if there are no more men from the country according to Fabrizio.

As for how to control a military Cosimo worries that the kind of military Fabrizio describes would need force to stay together and to much force leads to revolt. Fabrizio combats this idea and proclaims that a military needs both force and willingness to exist. He explains that as soldiers “they must be drawn through the respect that they have for the prince, where they fear his disdain more than present pain” (1.167). Fabrizio agrees with Cosimo “that by force nothing is ever done will” but only in the situations of complete force, because it makes for discontent (1.161). When soldiers are in discontent they do not strive for excellence of the matter. To overcome discontent soldiers also have to be willing. To much willingness however means there is no force to keep the form, if soldiers are told they can do whatever they want they won’t fill out the right form to keep the mode. Armies are not conquered because they are bad but because their mode has not kept the right matter and form and therefore the mode has not preformed to its fullest potential.

In Machiavelli’s Art of War we are told of the good man, who seems to be one that practices war, but does not make it his art.  We are also told that the current time is one of great corruption, so it would seem like one that had practiced war enough that it had become an art would be very useful and would be able to keep what was his in order.  It seems, however, that this is not the case in the eyes of Fabrizio Colonna. For Fabrizio, war “ is an art by means of which men cannot live honestly in every time, it cannot be used as an art except by a republic or a kingdom. And  the one and the other of these, when it was well ordered, never consented to any of its citizens or subjects using it as an art, nor did any good man ever practice it as his particular art” (I.51).  It would seem that allowing a republic or kingdom to use war as its art would lead automatically to tyranny, however, Fabrizio seems to think that the fear that would be instilled in the people would be enough to keep them honest while keeping the governmental body intact.

According to Fabrizio the reason, the art of war can only be practiced on a large scale is “ he will never be judged good who engages in a career by which,  by wanting to draw utility from it in everytime, he must be rapacious, fraudulent, violent and have many qualities that of necessity make him bad” (I.52).  So the key to a republic or kingdom seems to be that it has good citizens, or that the citizenry is numerous enough that the traits that make them bad are distributed enough that they are not dangerous to the kingdom or republic. Fabrizio also seems to think that the reason the heads of the kingdom or republic don’t turn tyrannical is also tied up in this, as he says, “nor can the men who use it as an art, the great as well as the small, be made otherwise, because this art does not nourish them in peace. Hence they are necessitated either to plan that there not be peace or to succeed so much in times of war that they can nourish themselves in peace. And neither one of these two thoughts dwells in a good man” (I.52-53).

So not only is it important that the attributes that make man a warrior are well distributed throughout the kingdom or republic, it is also key that the head of this kingdom or republic be a good man by nature and those, apparently, come from extended periods of peace, as Fabrizio says, “ from wanting to be able to nourish oneself in every time arise the robberies, the acts of violence, and the assassinations that such soldiers do to friends as well as enemies. And from not wanting peace to come the deceptions that the captains use on those who hire them so that war may last. If peace does not indded come, often it happens that the heads, being deprived of their stipends and living, set up a flag of fortune without restraint and pillage a province without any mercy” (I,53).

This essentially means, that in order to have a good man that would also make a good leader, peace must occur because after long periods of fighting a turmoil, war becomes the art of the people and a solid kingdom or republic must be lead by good men, who by nature do not make war their art.  It seems as though Fabrizio thinks that during long periods of war, and for a short period of time after one of these periods, there cannot be a good man at the helm of a country as he is used to war, and has likely been involved in it, and therefore is not a good man as it is all he has known.  He says, “ if one were to consider their life and the order of that republic, one would see in it many things not impossible to introduce into a city where there was still something good” (I,31). He goes on to suggest these remedies, “ to honor and reward the virtues, not to despise poverty, to esteem the models and orders of military discipline, to constrain the citizens to love one another, to live without sects, to esteem the private less than the public, and other similar things that could easily accompany our times” (I,33).  This begins to sound like the third city of Plato’s Republic, as in order to implement some of these things there will have to be strict guidelines that are presided over by a group of people.  These remedies also seem to suggest that many things will have to made common, since that would be the only way to live without sects and to esteem the public more than the private.  It doesn’t seem that Fabrizio find this a problem, as he says, “ these modes are not difficult to persuade [men of] when one thinks about them much and they are entered into by due degrees. For in them truth appears so much that every common talent can be capable of it”(I,34).  He says something about leaders that make the remedies seem acceptable and not tyrannical, “ whoever orders that thing plants trees under the shade of which one resides more happy and more glad than under this” (I,35).  With this Fabrizio spins the tyrannical seeming remedies much more accessible, and also paints the leader that implements them in a positive light.

It seems that for Fabrizio the key to a good man is extended periods of peace, but also a leader that seems, and not necessarily is, a good man. Without a leader that is at least perceived to be good, the kingdom or republic wouldn’t be possible, nor would a good man.

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