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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.


In his Funeral Oration, Pericles praises Athens more than he does those that have fallen in the war.  On first reading this seems strange; it is not until going over it carefully that you see that his commentary on Athens really has to do with the kind of citizens he is trying to create.  His entire speech lays out, piece by piece, what Athens is about and how its citizens should act in order to further that reputation.

The first thing we learn about Athens is that they “ gave a funeral at the public cost to those who had first fallen in the war. It was a custom of their ancestors…” ( 2.34.1). This tells us that the Athenians, at least early on, show reverence to those that died serving their city. This takes ritual takes on even more significance when you note that in 2.43.3 Pericles refers to these same men as heroes, saying that “heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.”  Historically,  heroes are semi-divine beings, like Heracles and Aeneas, but what is important here, is that cults often sprang up to honor these men.  This knowledge, coupled with the highly ritualized funerary rites given to these men, makes a case for Athenians being involved in state sanctioned hero worship.

It is also important to note how the funeral procession worked, “ in the funeral procession cypress coffins are borne in carts, one for each tribe; the bones of the deceased being placed in the coffin of their tribe” (2.34.3).  This again points to the Athenian hero worship idea, as each of the tribes honor a particular hero in history.  More importantly, this makes each of the fallen part of something other than Athens. This could have become problematic, if citizens began to identify more with their tribe or deme than they did with Athens, and that could be one reason that Pericles chooses to emphasize what Athens is about and what it expects of its citizens.  This could also be why “any citizen or stranger who pleases joins in the procession,”  and “ the dead are laid in the public sepulcher” (2.34.4).  The former because it is a show of Athenian power and expectations, and the latter to show that no matter how the fallen identify, they, first and foremost, belong to Athens.

If the tribe system has begun to cause internal dissent in Athens, there is no occasion better suited than this to make claims about what Athens is and what it means to be an Athenian because no one would risk being impious to the fallen.  It seems Pericles is aware of this when he says “ for it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth” (2.35.2).  He goes on to say, “ On the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes to and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature” (2.35.2).  Pericles recognizes that he is the physical representation of Athens at that moment, and he uses that power to try to convince the people that they share a common identity. The quoted sections are Pericles admitting that everyone will find a flaw in his account of the Athenian identity,but they should “realize the power of Athens, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then when all her greatness breaks upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty and a keen feeling of honor in action that men  were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their valor” (2.43.1).

The thing that adds to this is that Pericles sets his oration up in such a way that it makes him seem like he is performing his civic duty rather than being slave personal motives.  He even says, “ it becomes my duty to obey the law and to try to satisfy your several wishes and opinions as best I may” (2.35.3).  If this weren’t enough, he appeals to the emotions of those in attendance that may be at odds with each other and/or the city, “ they dwelt in the country without break in succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valor,” and he seems to suggest that if the factions destroy Athens, everyone who has ever died in her name will have died in vain.  However, Pericles does seem to imply that Athens has not dealt with factions before, “ that part of our history which tells us of the military achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready valor with which either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of Hellenic or foreign aggression” (2.36.4).  Despite this being a new challenge for Athens, it doesn’t seem that Pericles thinks it is a challenge they can’t overcome, nor does he suggest that participants in the oppositions should be killed or even punished if they defend Athens,  “ for there is justice in the claim that steadfastness in his country’s battles should be as a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the the bad and his merit as a citizen more than outweigh his demerits as an individual” (2.42.3).

Pericles closes out his oration with several appeals to the masses.  He talks about the immense happiness the fallen must have gotten from knowing that they were being the best citizens they could be and all the glory that would come to them upon their death.  He also makes it a point to note that even without physical markers of the glory the fallen had won, “ there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no monument to preserve it except for that of the heart” (2.43.3). Pericles goes on to use the sacrifice the fallen made to try to cement the idea of a common Athenian identity in the hearts of those present, “ these take as your model, and judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valor, never decline the dangers of war” (2.43.4).  When he says this, Pericles doesn’t necessarily mean just the Peloponnesian War, but also the fight against faction within Athens.  In closing, Pericles seems to ask those in attendance to think about what life would be like if Athens no longer existed, “ for grief is felt not so much for the want of what we have never known, as for the loss of that to which we have long been accustomed” (2.44.2).

The Cave of Ruin

The image of the cave in Book VII of Plato’s Republic is one of the most important in all of philosophy. Though the meaning of this image is debated, in context it seems to have a least something to do with education.  Being inside of the cave seems to symbolize life without education, while being out of it seems to symbolize being educated, perhaps to the point of enlightenment.

The image begins with this, “ picture human beings in a cavelike dwelling underground having a long open pathway open to the light all across the cave” (514A).  From this, we get the sense that there may be some base level of knowledge that is inherent in people from birth, as the cave isn’t in complete darkness. It is also suggested that this kind of knowledge is acceptable, given that people are only in the cave “from childhood on” (514B).  We do not know what from what age childhood is constituted, but there are several key things that are learned or developed very early on in life, such as thinking, speaking, and walking.  The last is taken away from you as soon as you are put in the cave, “ with their legs and necks in restraints,so that they’re held in place and look only to the front, restricted by the neck-restraint from twisting their heads around” (514B).  Looking back, in the literal sense, is something one would, more than likely, learn in the period prior to childhood that is take away upon entering the cave. Clearly, this action hinders people, perhaps keeping them from being focused on forward progress, though it seems the hindrance would come from the figurative sense of looking back rather than the literal sense.  This would be particularly important for creating a city that is entirely new, as the goal would be to keep the citizens always looking forward, never back.

Next, we learn, “ for them, the light is from a fire burning up above and a long way behind them, and between the fire and the prisoners there’s a upper road” (514B).  So some of the light that we read about in 514A is from an unnatural source, which means that not all of what we learn in the period between birth and childhood is inherent and natural.  This is important because it shows that from birth, humans are impressionable, and must be put in the cave to cleanse themselves of this false,man made knowledge. However, the idea that there may be some kind of pure,innate knowledge still stands, as it seems that there is a small amount of natural light coming in from the upper road that runs through the cave.  This small amount of light gets smaller, as we are told to “ picture a little wall built along this road, like the low partitions puppeteers use to screen the humans who display the puppets above them” (514B).  At this point the amount of natural light would be miniscule, if it existed at all. Therefore, any knowledge that those in the cave would be entirely false, or would at least be controlled by someone else. This lowers humans significantly, as they are completely impressionable and able to be molded.

We get an explanation of the puppet/puppeteer image from 514B here, “ Then see the humans going along this little wall carrying all sorts of articles that jut out over the wall,figurines of men and other animals fashioned out of stone and wood and materials of all kinds, with some of the people carrying them past making appropriate sounds and others silent” (514C-515A). As we saw before, humans have been lowered significantly, but it seems they are also being taught a valuable lesson here too.  The constant passing of different shapes accompanied by various sounds or no sound at all seems to wean humans from relying entirely on associations we have made. This seems to promote the idea of knowing something for what it is rather than by its traits.  By putting people in a dimly lit cave and having them restrained, the likelihood that they would know themselves or one another, as Socrates and Glaucon point out in 515A, is low.  That would keep people from being concerned with appearance, which would address the one of the issues with common women and children.  Though this seems to be beneficial, I feel as though it would promote a genuine disinterest in other people which might lead to problems later on. Socrates says, “such people wouldn’t consider anything to be the truth other than the shadows of artificial things” (515C).  This cements the fact that humans are entirely molded by experience. Not only that, but it would also be important for the city that wants to censor what its citizens know.

 Socrates goes on to relate this to when humans are forced to stand and see, “ whenever one of them would be released, and suddenly required to stand up, and turn his neck around, and walk, and look up to the light, he’d suffer pain from doing all these things” (515C).  The idea is that is painful to be forced out of conventional thought and see things for what they really are. This is important because true education seems to take place when one can think on his own, rather than just blindly follow the directions he is given.  Being able to think independently is perhaps one of the key lessons to be learned from the image of the cave.

He follows with this, “ and because of the blazes of light, he wouldn’t have the power to get a clear sight of the things whose shadows he’d seen before” (515D). It almost seems as though Socrates is critiquing the cave on some level because he admits that taking in the natural light will be painful. Sp painful, in fact, that the people won’t want to stand and bask in the light. Being exposed to pure knowledge, to the truth, would be exceedingly difficult, if one had been exposed to only false knowledge for the majority of his life.  It seems that Socrates agrees, “ what do you imagine he’d say if someone were to tell him that he;s been seeing rubbish then, but now somewhat nearer to what is and turned toward the things that have more being, he was seeing more accurately? And, especially if, pointing to each of the things passing by, one forced him to answer as he asked what they are, don’t you imagine he’d be at a loss and believe things he’d seen before were truer than the ones pointed out to him now?” (515D).  According to Socrates, people resist the purer knowledge at first because it calls into question everything they’ve ever known.

While this is not addressed in the allegory of the cave, there are surely people that never want to bask in the light because the change it causes in a person is too radical and sudden. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these people are happier living in ignorance, but they may have no desire to learn what things truly are; it could also be the case that those who appear suited for the light of knowledge are not.  The consequences of giving a person truth are monumental, and that it is reserved for only certain people. We see later on that once a person is adapted to the truth, and it becomes his reality, its very difficult to get him to willingly reenter the darkness and ignorance of the cave.   This leaves us with an interesting problem, we have a class of people who know the truth and they don’t want to share it; we have another class that knows only falsity and doesn’t care to know more;then we have this class of people that bring people out of the cave, but teach the falsities of the cave.  If we look at this through the perspective of building a city, it doesn’t work because the people that know the truth, also feed the ignorance of the people in the cave.

Pericles’ Athenian

Pericles is chosen “by the state” as “of approved wisdom and eminent reputation” (2.34.6). However, his opening remarks seem to allude to the fact that he will not be constraining his speech to the normal mode of proceeding. Therefore, while the people perceived him as one who would follow the common identity, Pericles initially seems to lean towards shaping the Athenian identity instead. However, he spends the majority of the speech discussing the successes of Athens and its citizens.
Pericles begins the speech by saying how difficult he believes it to be to properly praise the dead and views this responsibility as more of a law that he is forced to follow (2.35). As he continues his speech it appears as though he will stay with convention by praising the ancestors early. However, by the end of his discussion about the greatness of the past, Pericles is openly admitting that he is seeking to answer a question before his gets to delivering the eulogy. He poses nationalist questions such as: “what was the road by which we reached our position” and “what was the form of government under which our greatness grew” (2.36.4).
He first discusses Athenian laws and freedoms (2.37). Pericles praises the Athenian system of laws such that they allow freedoms to pass through the society and all the way into personal dwelling. Pericles notes how this affects the nature of the city as a whole because then the citizens are not necessitated to be angry with their neighbors. Instead the society is happy being free under its own laws and does not covet or find need to analyze the life of other states. In addition, he notes that Athenians are given access to a certain level of luxury (2.38.2). Along with all of the events that are held in the city, these outlets both distract the people and provide them mode by which to indulge. For Pericles, these outlets are seen as necessary to the continued high function of the state.
Pericles believes that it is this organization of the state that allows Athens to remain such a strong military power (2.39). Here Pericles compares the military strength of Athens to that of Sparta. He sees Athens as much more complete when compared to the military strength of the notoriously militaristic Sparta. He reasoning focuses most on the education that each state provides its citizens. For Athens, the education system seems to allow men to be whatever functioning member of the state that they are by nature. Instead, Sparta uses harsh education techniques that focus only on combat and war. Pericles argues that Athen’s mode not only allows them to then have a functioning society in times of peace, but then also allows them the ability to form a multi-faceted attack in times of war. Athens is not only able deploy men by land, in various modes, but it can also look to the water for military strategies. Therefore, Pericles sees the Athenian mode as strongest because it uses the nature of the individual as a strength, where Sparta saw it as a weakness.
Following these claims, Pericles continues to make seemingly idealized claims about the city (2.40). Athenians seem to be the perfect middle way between too militaristic and too diplomatic. Further Pericles also argues that Athens’ reputation for this ability, to succeed in war and society, is often underestimated among its adversaries. He argues that their ability is shown through “mighty proofs; and far from needing a Homer” (2.41.4). On this point Pericles argues that others rely on the nature of language to persuade other peoples of their nature; where Athens has not need to manipulate language because their nature is so strong. The strength of the Athenian nature seems to be nothing without its citizens (2.42). By Pericles’ definition, “battles should be as a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections; since the good action has blotted out the bad, and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual” (2.42.3). It seems as though there may not be a best version of a man for Pericles; only that one who gives in service to his country and cover his individual nature. Therefore, to be Athenian would seem to be defined in terms of one’s contribution to the state.
At this point in his speech, Pericles has made the transition to eulogy. Therefore it makes sense that many of his claims towards forming the idea of the best Athenian are centered on one’s contribution to the military. He calls their sacrifice “the most glorious contribution they could offer” (2.43.1). Here Pericles glorifies the action of self-sacrifice for the state. He calls all the fallen heroes and claims that they “have the whole earth as their tomb…that the noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or story shall be commemorated” (2.43.2). These seem to be the examples to which other Athenians should try to achieve. Pericles also says that the spirited man will find death in patriotism much less grievous than the pursuit of cowardice (2.42.6). Further he argues that those who are left behind also benefit from “the love of honor that never grows old” (2.44.4).
By the end of the speech Pericles has spent the majority of the time speaking to how Athens is a superior state. Instead of shaping the idea of the Athenian, Pericles attempted to capture the Athenian condition for his audience. In conclusion, it seems that Pericles defines the ideal Athenian as one who uses his nature towards the betterment of the state– both in society and military endeavors. Something could be said to that fact that this speech was geared towards a eulogy for soldiers; regardless the sacrifice given to the state by a soldier seems to be the ideal for Pericles.



Book VIII chapter 1 the rulers and the ruled are debated. “But even on other occasions, men, I have often reflected that a good ruler is no different from a good father,” (8.1.1). Both types of rulers have the people being ruled best interests in mind. They are trying to do the best for each party as well as the group as a whole, whether that be in a family situation or a society. “For fathers take forethought for their children so that they never lack the good things, and Cyrus seems to me now to be giving us the sort of advice from which we could especially pass our lives in happiness. Yet there is something he seems to me to have clarified less than should be the case” (8.1.1). He then explains what he did not believe was clarified enough. “Consider what enemy city could be captured by troops who are not obedient? What friendly one could be protected by troops who are not obedient? What sort of army of disobedient troops could obtain victory? How could humans being be defeated in battle more than when they begin to deliberate in private, each about his own safety? What other good could be brought to fulfillment by those who do not obey their superiors? What sort of cities could be lawfully managed, or what sort of households could be preserved? How could ships arrive where they must?” (8.1.2). These are some of the examples that he gives as to why they do not believe that Cyrus is doing enough to protect the people like a father would a child. They want a father like figure to be ruling over them. And leading them to greatness. In obeying a ruler you gain respect and obedience. This is an important factor in keeping the peace throughout any society. “Obeying the ruler appears to be a very great good for attaining the good things, be assured that this same thing is a very great good also for preserving what must be preserved” (8.1.3).

“Before, of course, many of us did not rule over anyone but were ruled. Now all of you who are present are prepared to rule over others, some over more, others over fewer” (8.1.4). There is a distinction between those who are able to rule many, a few or none at all. “Think it right to rule over those beneath you, let us similarly obey those whom it is seemly to obey” (8.1.4). You can only rule somebody who is willing to listen and obey you. “We need to be different from slaves in this: Whereas slaves serve their masters involuntarily, if in fact we think it right to be free, we need to do voluntarily what appears to be most worthwhile” (8.1.4). Instead of living under the impression that you must do what your ruler says we want the people to feel as if they want to do what the ruler says because they know that he or she is doing what is in the best interest of the people and for the society. There should be trust between the people and the ruler and not a sense of force. “ You will find that even where a city is managed without monarchy, the one that is especially willing to obey its rulers is least compelled to submit to its enemies”(8.1.4). If the people respect the ruler and want to help contribute to the land that they live in they are more likely to do it if there is respect between one another. If the ruler is demanding to much from the people and forcing them to do things instead of incentivizing it there are less likely to help defend their society. If they feel that their option is valued and respected they are more likely to help protect against enemies.

The transfer of power and going from being ruled to ruling is difficult because power can get out of hand. If the father analogy is kept and you are showing them the right thing to do and making it worth their while to do the right the and protect the people of their land they are more likely to comply. Where if they feel used and abused they are much less likely to work with you and help in times of need against enemies.

There is a link between Socrates learning about money and benefiting off of others success and and learning from the elderly and growing from their experiences. While talking to Cephalus he sees and learns about a different way of thinking and seeing how people benefit from others. Not all people are able to make it on their own. They might need a little guidance from others who have come before them and or were more successful then them. But it is here where we learn the difference in how you are viewed from gaining money or experience from others.

I found the talk about money to be the most interesting. This is when Socrates and Cephalus are talking about old age and the importance of money. Socrates asks, “you seemed to me not to have a very strong love of money, and this is the way people are, for the most part, who didn’t acquire it themselves” (1.330C). Most people who earn their money are much more protective over it and want to spend it in ways that they feel is important to them and or their family. But when people inherit something and it is just handed to you, it may not seem as significant or important because you do not know what it took to get there and earn it. “As poets love their own poems and fathers love their children, in just this way moneymakers too take their money seriously as their own work, as well as for its use the same way other people do. So they are hard even to be around, since they are not willing to praise anything other than their riches,” (1, 330C). People who work to create or raise something have more appreciation for it in the end and in its completion. People who have earned the same amount of something that was given or handed to somebody else may not be able to appreciate it in the same way and or the person who earned and worked for it might not respect the person whom it was handed to.  They know the work that it took and the sacrifices that they made to get what they deserved, where this other person was just handed something due to family ties. “And it’s for this very thing that I for my part hold the possession of money to be of its greatest worth, not for every man but for a decent and orderly one,” (1.331B). Not everybody is deserving of the luxury that some people have worked for.

I feel that this also very closely tied to his feeling about the elderly. “I enjoy talking with those who are very old very much, for it seems to me one ought to learn from them, as from those who have gone before us down a certain road which we too no doubt will need to travel, about what sort of road it is, rough and hard or easy and readily traversable” (1.328E). Everybody eventually gets old and you mine as well learn and prepare for what you will encounter. It is worth talking and learning from people older and much older because they will have different perspectives and hopefully can help guide you through even your younger years and not just the time period that they are in at that point. Different perspectives will help to change the growing generations and mold them into the better parts of the past. “And from you especially I would be glad to learn how this looks to you, since you are just now at that point in life which the poets say is ‘on the doorstep out of old age’ whether it is a hard part of life or how you report it” (1.329A). He is asking what it is like to be dying and knowing that your life is coming to an end. Again it is a type of perspective that not everybody has and especially someone so young.

Both of theses topics help to mold different perspectives and develop the aging generation into something better then before. Money is a way to separate the hard working and the people just getting bye or people who are benefiting from other peoples success. Although in both cases you are gaining from somebody else different characteristics stick out. Learning and growing from others successes and failures to make yourself a better person and then either working hard to make a living for yourself or using your families success, name, and money to do well. There is respect to be gained from learning from the elderly and working hard to earn a living for yourself and you family.

Lindsey Pelland

Professor Honeycutt

Roots of Western Thought

March 31, 2014


Books I-IV of Plato’s Republic are centered around a discussion on justice. Socrates and his companions desire to define justice and because of this desire to discover what it is justice means and put that into words, their conversation develops and changes as they continue to find fault in their own definitions.  Although the idea of justice becomes the main focus of Republic, neither Socrates nor his companions seem to have begun their evening with the intentions of defining justice.  The whole conversation begins with the head of the house, Cephalus, discussing his old age with Socrates.

Cephalus first mentions his old age when he greets Socrates and encourages him to visit more often because he has grown too old to easily travel. He also tells ,Socrates that he no longer enjoys corporal pleasures as he used to and rather prefers the pleasures of conversation (1. 328D). Socrates assures Cephalus that he enjoys his company with the notion that, “I enjoy talking with those who are very old very much, for it seems to me one ought to learn from them”(1. 328E). In this statement Socrates recognizes a clear distinction between older people and younger people and he also separates himself from Cephalus using age as a distinction. This statement also implies that Socrates recognizes that with age comes a certain kind of wisdom that is only attained through the process of growing old.

Socrates asks Cephalus about his view on old age now that he is “on the door step out of old age” (1. 328E).  Both Socrates and Cephalus recognize that Cephalus is nearing the end of his life and therefore has a point of view unlike that of Socrates who still has many years before him. Cephalus speaks to him of how often when he gathers with other men of his age they spend their time reminiscing on days gone by and recalling their sexual escapades, drunken evenings, and feasts of plenty (1. 329B). They act as though that was when they were the most alive and now they are merely waiting to die. Cephalus however does not share this view. He mentions the poet Sophocles who said that growing old was “as if I had run away from some raging savage master” (1. 329D). Cephalus goes on to explain this by saying that old age is indeed an escape from the uncontrollable desires one faces in their youth.

Cephalus next addresses the unhappiness many people feel towards growing old. He says that the cause for such feelings is “not old age, but the dispositions of the people. For if they are orderly and peaceable, even old age is a burden within bounds. But if they aren’t, both old age and youth turn out hard for such a person” (1. 329D). In this statement Cephalus connects one’s reaction to growing old with their character. He seems to indicate that if they are at peace with themselves and who they are then growing old is bearable and even enjoyable, but if they are not then not only is old age difficult but their whole lives are.

Socrates counters Cephalus’s remarks on disposition by claiming that the reason he has taken so easily to growing old is his great wealth (1. 330A).  Cephalus concedes that being rich does indeed help but he maintains “neither would someone who is not decent, even though they were rich, would ever come to be at peace with himself” (1. 330A).  The conversation takes an important turn towards the definition of justice when Socrates asks Cephalus, “What do you suppose is the greatest gift you’ve enjoyed from possessing your great wealth?” (1. 330D). This question prompts Cephalus to discuss how when someone nears death they begin to worry and care about things that have not entered their mind for many years.  As people age they begin to reflect on their lives and the people they have wronged. Cephalus says that, “one who finds many injustices of his own in his life even wakes up often from sleep in terror, the way children do, and he lives in an expectation of evil. But to one who is conscious of no injustice in himself, a pleasant and good hope is always present to nourish his old age” (1. 331A) In this statement Cephalus recognizes that with old age comes the fear of punishment for the injustices that one has committed throughout their life. The imminent threat of death raises the question of whether or not one has lived a just life. Wealth has allowed Cephalus to live a just life because it has allowed him to pay back what he has owed and to not be in debt to any man. This leads to the first definition of justice seen in the Republic, which is “to tell the truth and give back what one takes” (1. 331C).

The first definition of justice is quickly discounted, but nonetheless it is the impetus for the rest of the discussion.  Without first discussing old age the conversation may have gone in a very different direction and the issue of justice may have never been addressed at all. Old age is an interesting place to have started this conversation and it may reveal something about the idea of justice. In growing old one reflects on their life and the injustices they may have committed and the punishment they might receive because of it.  This in itself reveals the desire humans have to live a just life and the notion that justice in itself is rewarded and injustice is punished. It also indicates that to be just is the most important part of one’s character because in the end it is the sole way one is judged.


The Justice in Lying

Socrates and the other men are conversing and believe that the gods and their tales should be eradicated from the poems and the education of young people because the gods are lustrous creatures that punish humans for the same crimes that they themselves commit. If a god, such as Zeus were to rape a woman it would be deemed acceptable, but if a human were to do it, it would be deemed unacceptable. It would be contradictory for this to be brought into the education of young people because they would hear of the gods doing things that they themselves weren’t able to do. So if there are no gods, one has to keep social order in this city in some way. Socrates introduces the noble lie as a way of keeping order in society.
In a world where there are no gods, people do not have anyone to fear repercussion from for doing bad and unjust things. If there are not any gods, then someone else has to give the population guidance. When ruling powers are established, they are to be obeyed because that is what is just, according to Thrasymachus (1.339B). To disobey the ruling body would be an injustice, even if they made a mistake in their political decisions.
It has also been confirmed that it is just for rulers to lie to those that they are ruling. Socrates states that lying is not acceptable for the average citizen, but rather “appropriate for the rulers of the city, if for anyone at all to lie for the benefit of the city as far as either enemies or citizens are concerned” (3.389B). One situation in which it is just and acceptable for a ruler to lie to those that he or she is ruling over is because of the noble lie.
When Socrates establishes who the ruling power will be, he asserts that in order “to persuade at best even the rulers themselves, but if not, the rest of the city” of who the true rulers are (3.414C). He asserts that if the necessity arises, they would have to tell “some one noble lie” (3.414C). This noble lie consists of telling the people that they are born of “the earth, that was their mother” (3.414E). This would create a sense of brotherhood within the people; a bond that couldn’t be broken by relationships, whether they be marital or otherwise. This story also establishes who is to do what in the city. The story tells the people that “the god, when he molded those of you who are competent to be rulers, mixed gold into them at their formation” (3.415A). These people made of gold are to be the true guardians. They are to be the rulers of this city. As for the auxiliaries, they “have silver in them, and there’s iron and bronze in the farmers and other skilled workers” (3.415A).
The creation story that Socrates introduces not only creates a bond between the citizens, but it tells each person what their job in the city will be and why. Socrates goes on to assert, “it’s possible for a silver offspring sometimes to be born from a gold parent, and a gold from a silver, and all the others likewise from the other” (3.415B). This will give the farmers and other skilled workers hope for the children they produce. This makes it so that their children will not always have to be a builder or a farmer, but have the potential to live up to be a guardian of the city if they are born of the righ metals.
In addition to the roles that the noble lie establishes, it also creates social order in the city. Socrates foresees an uprising from the farmers and skilled workers and adds to the noble lie that “there’s an oracle foretelling that the city will be destroyed when an iron or bronze guardian has guardianship over it” (3.415C). This will keep these members of the lower society, in comparison to the guardians, in their places and stall and destroy any uprising that could occur in the future of the republic. If an uprising were to occur, the solution would be for the auxiliaries to take care of them (3.415E).
If the gods have no concerns for humans and their affairs then this noble lie would probably be necessary. As Adeimantus asserts, “if there are no gods, or nothing among human thing is of concern to them, why should we even be concerned about escaping their notice?” (2.365D). The noble lie would be considerably useful in giving the people something to be afraid of, especially if a farmer wanted to become a guardian, or an auxiliary a craftsman through feeble desire. The noble lie would be something advantageous to the whole of the city because it would establish principles for the roles of everyone in the city.
The noble lie would eliminate the bonds of friends as well as those between families. However, it would create one family of whom everything is shared. It would establish the roles of citizens and why things ought to be that way. The noble lie would give the city dwellers a reason to serve their city and obey the laws established by the ruling power.

As Socrates, Adeimantus, and Glaucon have slowly built, and rebuilt their city in search of justice, they have seemingly focused on how to protect it, and the qualities one would need to possess in order to protect it well and justly. Upon closer inspection, however, this idea seems to contradict itself as the guardians entrusted with this task of defending the city are stripped of their identities through the noble lie, and have their educations—and by extension—their freedom to philosophize, limited and under the control of their creators. The guardians’ existence parallels the transformations of the philosophical puppies to “strong, lean dogs”(4.422d), which displays the puppies exchanging their philosophical inclinations for the strength and power of the grown dogs. Yet, this transformation, and the controlled education to restructure this change raise the question of whether philosophy should be allowed to exist at all. For if a mind is given philosophical freedom is it just, or even possible, to restrain or renege that freedom?

Early in The Republic, Socrates introduces the idea that when a puppy “distinguishes a face as a friend or an enemy” either by welcoming it kindly or barking, it demonstrates “an appealing attribute of its nature, and one that’s philosophic in a true sense”(2.376b). Socrates and Glaucon then “have the confidence to posit for a human being too, that if [a guardian is] going to be at all gentle to his own people and those known to him, he needs to be by nature a lover of wisdom and of learning . . . [and that] a beautiful and good guardian of [the] city will be philosophic, spirited, quick, and strong by nature”(2.376c). The puppies indicate a philosophically ideal guardian, however, they lack the strength a guardian would need to effectively protect a city—a problem, which the conception of the noble lie attempts to remedy.

In all its good-intentioned grandeur, the noble lie proclaims to divide the city into divisions of labor to which each individual is best suited; to make this idea more palatable to the people, the citizens are put in a division of labor by the kind of metal in their soul. A guardian would have gold in his soul—and despite his parents’ individual labor classes—would be taken away to live in a specific environment and receive a specialized education. Through the noble lie, citizens are reduced in a manner that renders very few connections with one another, except for this idea of “being molded and cultivated” beneath the soil, and the notion of all “the citizens as their earthborn siblings”(3.414d-e). Through reshaping each individual identity into a collective identity through the concept of humanity, the noble lie purports to give the guardians “brethren” to protect. A second result of this maturation and the subsequent identity loss is the shrouding of the puppies, and young guardians, philosophical inclinations created by a false sense of courage. The noble lie gives the guardians a sense of power, as their new responsibilities demand it, but the rulers of the city also create it within the guardians to make them more suitable for their job. This new collective identity instills artificial bravery in the lost puppies, and by extension, the young guardians, so that “the dogs themselves try to do harm to the sheep, acting like wolves instead of dogs”(4.416a).

Yet Socrates is understandably hesitant to leave the guardians in that state, as with their philosophical views shrouded by power, they have nothing to help them distinguish friend from foe, and nothing to stop them from unjustifiably killing the citizens. It is here that the concept of constructing an appropriate education begins to play a role. Socrates asserts that a balance of the soul consists of three “‘forms in the soul, a reasoning one and a desiring one . . . [and a] third, spirited part, which is by nature an auxiliary to the reasoning part, unless it’s corrupted by a bad upbringing’”(4.441a). It is also said that “courage is a certain kind of preservation . . . [which must be kept] intact when one is in the midst of pains and pleasures and desires and terrors”(4.429c-d). For when a dog or guardian’s reasoning has been corrupted by a false sense of courage, these things are no longer innate as they were in the philosophical puppies. Their “upbringing” or rather growth and maturity, has blackened their philosophical reasoning until it can no longer be seen and effectively used. As Socrates has previously stated, the ability to make the distinction between friends and enemies is crucial to guarding the city, however, this ability lies in “the fact that [a guardian] has learned the one, and is ignorant of the other. And indeed, how could [one] not be a lover of learning when it determines what’s its own and what’s alien to it by means of understanding and ignorance”(2.376b). Yet, the current guardian must be educated in order to achieve this—an education, which the city plans to undertake through gymnastics and music—however, they want to limit the amount of philosophy and wisdom a guardian possesses in order to maintain order and consistency among the collective state of the guardians. In theory, the combination of gymnastics and music should walk the line between “brutality and hardness, and in the other case to softness and tameness”(3.410d). Yet, music would coincide with philosophy and thought, both of which fester and grow and eventually hinder a man’s ability to take concrete, disciplinary action.

This standing idea of Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus’ ideal education must be bounded, for absolute freedom would put the collective security of the city at risk. In turn, this limits the amount of philosophy allowed to flow freely about the city—a restriction, which is undeniably difficult, if not impossible. The guardians will only be given a taste of philosophy; yet, it is only enough to allow them to make the necessary distinction between a friend and an enemy. Philosophy, however, cannot be bounded and controlled like the rest of the guardian’s education; once the philosophical seed is cultivated, a mind continues to press boundaries, until it succumbs to the desire to act on them, which is inarguably the city’s greatest fear. If the guardian’s courage does succumb to the desires to continue to philosophize, then the soul remains incomplete and unbalanced, and thus negates almost all the effort Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus exerted to create them. Furthermore, in a city searching for justice, it seems odd to place such an unjust trial—merely because of its impossibility—on individuals involved in the collective guardianship. As is stands, the only just action would be to allow unrestricted philosophizing to take place in the city, or eliminate it from the city and the educations entirely, both of which are detrimental to the city’s—and more specifically the guardian’s—success. For it seems as if Socrates’ notion of the philosophical puppy extends much farther than the simple vision of a dog; not only does it parallel the transformation of the guardians, but also the state of philosophy and justice within the city.

Rough Justice

What is justice? Why should we be just? The definition of justice is important to explore as students of wisdom and philosophy. Justice, as The Republic discloses, should not be universally assumed to be beneficial. It must be defined, since some may believe that it is better to look out for their own interests than to follow rules of right and wrong. The Sophists, who did not believe in objective truth or standards of right and wrong, viewed law and morality as a convention. Socrates must prove justice in not just a convention; it is a desirable virtue that is in our best interest to adhere to and is connected to objective standards of morality.

Is justice a certain set of acts that must be followed? We may wonder what is the reason to be just, if there is some motivation or incentive for behaving a certain way. The Greeks may have believed they would face Hades or suffer punishment from the gods for their injustices, but if the divine element does not exist, then must we be just for the sake of justice itself? Certainly, unjust men have flourished as well as perfectly just men.

According to Cephalus, justice means living truthfully, giving back what one takes, and keeping one’s legal obligations. His weak definition is emblematic of a complacent, non-philosophical conception of justice, crumbling at the slightest questioning from Socrates. His definition reduces justice to actions that should be followed so as not to fear certain consequences in the afterlife. Essentially, who you are doesn’t really matter as long as your obligations are filled. Coming from the perspective of an older man living out his last days, paying off his debts, leaving an inheritance, and righting any wrongs, seems at first to be a fair definition of justice. Socrates obviously respects Cephalus’ wisdom, but points out that this evaluation is not completely thought out. Should one return a weapon to a madman and risk acting unjustly and dishonestly (331c)? Surely the definition of justice is not to tell the truth or give back what one takes.

Polemarchus jumps in, and it is soon painfully obvious that he is a victim of convention. He adds to his father’s definition that justice means owing your friends help, and your enemy harm (332a-c).  His definition, along with Cephalus’, have the underlying principle of giving what is appropriate and rendering to each what is due. This argument is fundamentally flawed, since we may be mistaken in our judgment concerning friend or foe (334e). We are right back where we began. Polemarchus exclaims, “I no longer know what I meant” (334b). Polemarchus’ complacent and unreflective responses lead readers to feel frustrated and irritated as well.

Thrasymachus soon bursts from holding in his opinion for so long. His account of justice offers a less abstract definition and alters the tone of the debate. A fierce fighter, Thrasymachus claims that justice is “nothing other than what’s advantageous to the stronger” (338c). By the stronger, he means the ruling power in a city, regardless of political affiliation, sets up laws for its own advantage (338d-e). Soon we are exposed to Thrasymachus’ immoralist de-legitimization of justice, since the norms and mores traditionally considered just may actually hinder those who adhere to justice and benefit those who ignore it. For him, justice is an unnatural restraint on the desire to acquire and he does not see the benefits to yielding to just behavior (344b-c).

Socrates argues against this rationale, pointing out that Thrasymachus’ view promotes injustice as a virtue (349b-c). Since justice is a virtue of the soul, he reasons, and adhering to virtues mean the health of the soul, then being just would be desirable since it would lead to the health of the soul. Injustice, Socrates points out, produces faction and hatred, whereas justice produces cooperation and friendship (351d).

We are no closer to a consensus on the definition after being presented with these three weak arguments. The discussion in book one ends in a deadlock, or ‘aporia’, because it seems that Socrates can go no further with his definition. The popular, traditional thinking on justice has been torn down, so Socrates is forced to start from scratch in order to overcome the moral skepticism of Thrasymachus. Since the Socratic method is founded on building up knowledge out of one’s true beliefs, if Thrasymachus is right, then we are left without any true beliefs about justice. Socrates must abandon the old method and start from scratch if he is to define justice, by building up knowledge without resting on traditional beliefs. The burden of proof now lies upon Socrates to define justice and prove it worthwhile.

The first chapter of The Republic offers three partial definitions of justice.  The first two definitions offered by Cephalus and Polemarchus relate to their character. Cephalus is an older, established businessman, subsequently his definition of justice relates to maintaining good standing with the law and business. Polemarchus, on the other hand, has the attitude of an ambitious, young politician, his name meaning ‘leader in battle.’ His definition of helping friends and harming enemies is emblematic of his warrior spirit.

In later chapters, Socrates lays out a further explanation of justice by describing the city, which serves as an analogy of the soul. There are three classes of workers within this city-soul, the guardians, auxiliaries, and here we begin to understand the partial definitions of justice given in chapter one.  What we find is that in the city, justice means drawing from these three definitions. Once we see how the tripartite virtues of wisdom, courage, and moderation interact within the city, we can now begin to formulate a broader definition of justice. No city can flourish if its citizens treat each other unjustly, and will render individuals incapable of action, since he will be at odds with himself (352a). Socrates builds this city not with bricks and mortar, but lays the foundations of political philosophy grounded on principles of reason.

Still, there remains no conclusive definition of justice at the end of book one. Even Socrates says, “I am non the wiser” (354c), although the discussion has answered important questions about the attributes of justice. Perhaps part of the failure of the Socratic method to find definitive answers in book one allows Plato to begin subsequent chapter with a clean slate, allowing us to observe justice from a different angle.

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