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Just a few things that we haven’t discussed sufficiently for my liking:

-Remember at the end of Book 5 (480a) that the philosophic life is distinguished from the philodoxic life.  I think the implication here is that the philosophic life is to be distinguished from all other, non-philosophic lives.  This has important implications for the types of souls and regimes discussed in 4 and in 8; it isn’t just the case that an aristocracy is different than an oligarchy.  An aristocracy is essentially different from an oligarchy (and from all the other regimes).

-At the end of 4 (445d), the good regime is described as either an aristocracy or a kingship.  I think Book 7 shows us why it is only aristocracy by Book 8; at 540a-b, we are told of how each philosopher is compelled to return to the cave/city “when his turn comes” to “drudge” in politics.  In other words, the rule will rotate.  The best regime cannot be a kingship because otherwise there would be no philosophers at all in the proper sense (i.e., no one outside the Cave looking at the Sun).

-Remember that the implication of the Cave seems to be that every human world is an artificial world; the city is a made world.  This speaks to the importance of art (techne): arts are ways of understanding.  Philosophy seems to be the art of arts, i.e., the art which deals with natural (non-made) things.  This is why it requires a special type of artisan (a philosopher) who studies those things as his particular business.

-How does someone first get free of the Cave?  There is an implication that no one can unchain herself.  This further implies that there is no natural desire (i.e., no eros) to leave the Cave–there is no longing for truth.  Is this true?  Or has something been overlooked?

-Remember the conditions for the possibility of the best city as they are gradually explicated: kings must become philosophers or philosophers must become kings, while all those currently doing one or the other must be excluded by necessity (5.473d); the city must obey (6.499b); everyone over ten years old must be expelled from the city (7.540d-541a).  It is worth asking whether the second and third steps (and there may be others) are expansions of the first or outright modifications.

-Remember that Socrates asks whether the founded city is Greek and that Glaucon replies that it must be (5.4703).  But note that later (7.541a) Socrates tells Glaucon that the rustication (keeping every over age 10 out) is the quickest and easiest way to establish the best regime in the “nation in which it comes to be” (7.541a).  The word here is ethnos, which means nation, tribe, or people.  I think the implication by this point is that it would not necessarily have to be Greek; the best city could arise in some other ethnos beyond the Hellenic.

20 Responses to “Further Thoughts on Republic 7 and previous”

  1. mebane12 says:

    In reference to the point of someone being able to free themselves from the cave, I never got the impression that the people chained in the cave had a strong desire to unchain themselves. Perhaps I misread this section, however I was under the impression that there was not a large desire to know the truth because the idea of truth had not been expressed to them. Had the people been told that the figures were not real or that the light was artificial, they might have questioned why this was, or what else is not true or real. I think that there was eros in a different way… not necessarily a natural desire to leave, but a natural desire to live as they were and understand what surrounds them. Because they were born and raised in the cave environment, how could we expect them to understand without prior knowledge of the outside world what they were missing and not experiencing? To these people the shadows and fire are what they know, so I do not think there is a specific longing for truth about the unknown, outside world. How do we know that they even know of its existence before any of them are allowed out? I think there is not a natural desire to leave because the idea had not initially been put into their heads and for as long as they had existed, the cave was what they knew so there was no reason to challenge that belief or ‘knowledge’ as they knew.

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