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Lindsey Pelland

Professor Honeycutt

Roots of Western Thought

April 21, 2014

 

In Book V of Plato’s The Republic, Socrates introduces three waves that will need to place in the City. The first wave states that both men and women will receive the same education because there is no difference in their nature. In the second wave it is stated that all women and children shall be held in common. This would essentially eliminate marriage and the entire concept of family. Yet, to those in The Republic, the most upsetting and scandalizing is the third wave. The third wave claims that there shall be Philosopher kings and queens.

Socrates introduces the third wave by describing it as the “biggest and most crushing” (472A). Although it seems acceptable by modern standards at the time it must have been utterly unthinkable considering the method in which Socrates brings it up to the others. In order to make a city such as the one they are describing possible Socrates believes that one change could create the City they speak of. This change would be to have “philosophers rule as kings in their cities, or those now called kings and supreme rulers genuinely and adequately engage in philosophy” (473C). Socrates believes that in order for a city to be philosophically inclined philosophers must lead it.

The first question that arises from Socrates’ claim that philosophers should rule the city is the question of what a philosopher is. Their quest to define what a philosopher is begins with the idea of love. Socrates says that, “when we claim someone loves something, if it’s being said correctly, it has to be clear that he doesn’t love part of it and part not, but is devoted to it all” (474C).  From the idea of love, Socrates transitions to desire. He states that like love, when someone desires something they desire all of it, not parts of it. A philosopher, a desirer of wisdom, must therefore desire all of wisdom.  Socrates identifies this kind of person as one who seeks to learn about everything, not just specific fields of knowledge.

Glaucon counters this point by stating that many people are lovers of learning and lovers of the superficial arts but they are not philosophers. Socrates agrees with this and states that the true ones are the “lovers of the sight of the truth” (475 E) He expands on this concept with many examples that eventually lead to the differentiation between lovers of opinion and lovers of knowledge, the latter being the trait of a philosopher. Socrates states that knowledge is to “discern the way what is is” and “opinion accepts a seeming” (478A).  They sight a clear distinction between knowledge and opinion in that knowledge is truth and opinion is not by nature truth, although it can be.

In their discussion of what a philosopher is, there is no mention of restriction on gender Therefore the answer to whether or not there is a potential for Philosopher queens is found earlier in Book V.  In the discussion of the first wave in fact Socrates brings the others to conclude that men and women are of the same nature. He uses the examples of different professions to prove his point by saying that “ with a male doctor and a female doctor we meant that it’s the soul that has the same nature” (454D).  Socrates makes it clear that the distinction between two souls is not based on gender but rather the profession that person takes on and what they seek.

The conclusion that men and women are of the same nature and therefore have similar souls is important because it opens up the possibility of women philosophers and therefore opens up the possibility of women rulers. Because the philosopher is a soul seeking truth and knowledge and there is no distinction between a female soul and male soul, the philosopher can be either female or female. The Republic does not exclude women from being philosopher and therefore does not exclude them from ruling in The City.  Although it does not specifically allow for it, through the description of a philosopher and the equalization of education between men and women it seems that the concept of a Philosopher Queen is entirely plausible in The City.

 

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