The Republic of Plato Analysis Example
What is Justice? This question was presented throughout most of Plato's Republic. Without a clear definition of Justice, how can we build the ideal city and perfectly just community? Socrates let it be known the true definition of justice and what it will take for a society to live ideally. Plato's republic offered the perfect rebuttal against political idealism and how it would lead to our demise more than helping. These two contradictions of building an ideal city versus losing political idealism have the potential of being one of life's greatest questions that are still being explored today.
When reading The Republic of Plato from Book I to Book V we are drawn to the true definition of justice. Many characters fail to realize this definition is simply for "one to mind its own business"(Bloom 111). The first step Socrates lays out in building a just community is for the city to understand this and complete their everyday tasks and not involve themselves in other's work. To quote he uses the farmer, the craftsman, the carpenter, and the blacksmith and how they must work to provide for the city.
The second step is "providing for the soul of the city. In book II we learn about “musaic”; music for the soul. Poets who tell the tale not having to exaggerate the story. One other term we learn is “gymnice” (gymnastics) for the soul. We must at an early age practice these terms for us to advance in the city"(Socrates 54). The third step to build a just community is to allow the society to adopt these "four cardinal virtues that have to put into place courage, wisdom, modesty, and justice."(Bloom 105) On pages, 107-110 of The Republic of Plato sketches out where the different virtues are. The overseers are the wisest and the army has the courage and the artisans are to be modest. We must have moderation and harmony amongst the people for the city to thrive.
In book V we come across Socrates' three waves for creating the ideal city. "The first wave is men and women becoming equal. The second wave, establishing system communism for women, children, and throwing away real marriages."(140-147) "For the third and final wave is the most radical and problematic it is for the philosophers to become kings and the kings to become philosophers."(Bloom180) In book V of Plato's Republic, Socrates lays out that there will be "no gender difference between men and women in the future. As quoted "women will be able to join the military, men and women will do jumping jacks in the nude"(Bloom 137). If the people can accept this ‘modern feminist ideology' it will get us ready for the second wave building a communist society.
A communist city can be created by bringing in a degree of unity and making sure each has a certain job. The women and children will be separated and it will not be the woman's job to raise them but the city's there will be no family bonds and the children will be trained to join the army. The last and most crucial wave is the theory of the Philosophers kings. Philosophers can pick out what others cannot "the mind's eye" and do not understand the difference between what is good and what is not. The mind's eye is a symbol for being able to see the meaning of the subject. What is being expressed by Bloom, is that all people live their lives as images instead of natural truths. The city recognizes and worships the Gods' power and stories, but are unable to recognize reason.
To look deeper into the idea of the Philosopher King one must go in depth of the nature of philosophy. Having a Philosopher king is considered extreme because there has never been one in history. Philosophers have a certain kind of nature that makes them stand out. They can lay out the blueprints of building the image of the ideal city. In The Republic of Plato, it states " Those who have no clear pattern in the soul and are hence unable-after looking off as painters do" (Bloom 164). What this quote is saying is that the philosophers are the painters that look at the pattern of knowledge to make the perfect society, and see what is the idea of justice. They can paint the picture for the people to allow them to gain the knowledge needed. Unlike the rulers at the time who are unable to recognize the divided line of intelligible vs sensible; understanding an image versus seeing an image. (Bloom 190)
Political Idealism can be more of a risk than beneficial to the city. Adeimantus, one of the characters that rebuttal against Socrates ideal city asks, "how can the people gain a moral understanding?"(Bloom 167) Socrates uses many examples to oppose political idealism. It is mentioned there might be a group with the capacity of being philosophic and will run into each other, but might have a weak constitution and only engage in books(Bloom 176). Socrates tells a story of the image of the cave and sun in book VII. He expressed that "we are all in a cave together and that our necks and legs are bonded by chains and we don't understand anything and see anything.
Except for writing on the wall that represents artificial values and things. By nature, a man is drawn to the outside world and wants to be set free. His vision to see a different image and therefore questions his beliefs of what he should be doing. An excellent quote that came about is " turned toward being" meaning turning toward what is. The story then goes into detail about the man being dragged out of the cave and into the sun outside, but the question that arises is should the man go back down to the cave and tell the others of his experience with the possibility of being hated and looked down upon?"(Bloom 193-201)
This leads to the thought of the main idea of rejecting political idealism, opposing the universal. You can't change people overnight. If they are genuinely seduced they will be skeptical of the truth of what's good versus bad. The next question that arises from Glaucon, Socrates' companion in this story is, "wouldn't the people want to stay, don't they believe there is an aisle of blessing?"(Bloom 198). Socrates lets him know the people must remain up and not go back down to the cave and bring the others to the light because to help the city the philosophers must go outside the city. To conclude his theory philosophers must remain out of politics and not get involved in the necessities of the city.
Political Idealism cannot be because the philosopher can not state justice is minding its own business, but yet offer this information to the people and expect them to understand right away. How will people know the right moral values and knowledge to know what is acceptable to fulfill their duties? When Socrates says "if the philosophers must leave the city to help it" it could turn the city into chaos. The thought of having a philosopher king can be a bad thing because the philosopher does not understand what will benefit the city versus what will not and therefore can not understand what the city needs to run efficiently. If the philosopher becomes the king they might become distracted in their research for more knowledge and leave the society to wander without purpose or direction, lost to think for themselves.
The city will lose their way and forget everything they have learned and go back to their old ways. If the philosophers are to stay out of politics and let the city run itself it would allow a democratic society to form and the benefits of communism lost. The citizens will fight for power to determine who has the authority to make the laws and regulations for the city to live by. The upper-class sophist will believe they should have the control and the ordinary citizens will believe they should have a say. Plato's Republic provided arguments against living in a political idealism society and how it can lead to the demise of its city and citizens.
The two points of building a just community and ideal city versus the argument over political idealism is a topic that is still being explored today. In today's society, people are afraid of anything that sounds like socialism. Efforts by democratic governments to address the extremes of poverty and wealth so that citizens are not deprived of the basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medical assistance are interpreted as socialism. These governments are not trying to take the means of production from private enterprises nor do they attempt to interfere in private ownership.
The establishments of regulations to protect the public and the best interest of all parties in a given setting are required and should not be removed without careful consideration of the effects of their removal. An example of this is the regulations governing air pollution. A completely free market may allow industries to pursue policies that are economically beneficial to them but harmful to society. Therefore the struggle between the wealthy upper class and the ordinary individual citizens has continued throughout the ages. Societies cannot be stable with masses of people deprived of necessities. Governments are still struggling to balance the age-old questions of justice and idealism. We are still striving to find a balance between a completely free capitalist society and regulations that protect individuals and promote the good of society.
The cardinal virtues mentioned earlier in this essay are still the most important qualities that should be considered in choosing our leaders. It is the character of any candidate that should be given the most consideration. A well-trained mind that can look at problems in depth judge the effect of any action on all parties. These are the qualities that Plato's Republic wanted to convey as the requirements for leadership.
Once the philosopher has left the cave and seen the sun is an obligation to share that light with others. Those who attend university and are allowed to study in their given field are obliged to use their knowledge for the benefit of society. Knowledge should not begin in words and end in words but be applied to advance the world. All should benefit from the light of knowledge.
Allan Bloom. The Republic of Plato: Second Edition. Basic Books. 199