Presentation on theme: " Plato’s Republic, - The State What is the subject? ‘Justice in the state’ means, what? (1) What the State ought to be like (2) What its rulers ought."— Presentation transcript:
 Plato’s Republic, - The State What is the subject? ‘Justice in the state’ means, what? (1) What the State ought to be like (2) What its rulers ought to do and be like (3) What its people ought to do, qua citizens (4) What its people ought to do about the laws (5) What its people ought to do about the State’s institutions (6) What its people ought to do to each other Plato’s view is especially about (1) - (3) Where do the answers to 1-5 come from? [My answer: from (6) - Ethics generates politics.]
 Plato’s view is especially about (1) What the State ought to be like and therefore (2) (what rulers ought to do) and (3) (what citizens ought to do) Re (1): it should have three classes (workers, soldiers, rulers) Each should do what it is “supposed” to do: workers: be sober, temperate, obey orders, while producing soldiers: keep people from disobeying the laws rulers: make the laws [hopefully, wise ones...] Citizens are to obey the law - and not try to make laws And, why is a given class “supposed” to do its thing? Hey, because that’s the way their souls are built!
 “Hey, because that’s the way their souls are built!” - Is that a good answer? Major problem: ALL souls have ALL THREE “parts” Your plumber has reason, spirit, AND appetite! At most, these distinctions would have to be difference in degree That’s surely one good reason to have our doubts about Plato’s Republic - What’s he up to? - If he’s trying to persuade everybody (You) that that individual (you!) should go along with the system, that sounds like an appeal to Reason - But if people have enough Reason to discuss that subject, aren’t they perhaps fit to rule?
 Plato’s view is distinctively anti-democratic -Why? -Because the rulers know, and we don’t! -Hmmmm! -How’d they get that way?? -(a) by upbringing and training -(b) or, genetically? (“strains of gold in their souls”) -- is there a “guardianship gene”? (Does Steven Harper have it?) Which leads to a problem: how are the new initiates to Guardianship to be selected? Not by “the people”, evidently! So, by the other guardians… (who else?) In the end, the rulers are self-selected From our point of view, this looks like a problem!
 (2) What its rulers ought to do and be like Be subject to rigorous education Be “philosophers” With a keen eye on The Good! Live communally Have practically no income And (as we saw) no families in the usual sense… Question: is this a good idea??
 On having “a keen eye on The Good!” Note: most of us haven’t seen this thing! We have only a pale shadow of a copy of it Two points about this: (1)‘the good’ is either: (a) the name of the property of being Good, or (b) the supreme Agenda of what’s good - the “sum of all good” In Plato’s allegory, it looks like (a) is what is meant. Question: will knowing what Goodness is help us find what’s good? Knowing what yellow is will help us identify things that are yellow when we see them Will knowing what Goodness is help us to identify good things when we see them? Maybe not! Example: the “good” of a baseball bat is the “property” of being able to hit baseballs Suppose we know that and only that: will we know that this bat is better than that? No: we’ll have to try them out and see, or know some more about what makes a bat capable of being a good bat
 Training of Guardians, continued The Guardians will evidently have to know Economics, Sociology, Chemistry, Military Strategy,.. And, “goodness knows” what! Just Philosophy won’t be enough! But just knowing all those sciences won ‘t be enough either. As Plato seems to have realized… Question: Is there a special “science” of Ruling? Plato talks as though there is, but the description is drastically inadequate… --- Political Science, maybe? -[Many students of Poli Sci today are probably in training for the Civil Service...] -But Thrasymachus will also find it useful to know what makes people do things -That will enable him to exploit them better! -[just as the just man could be a good thief....]
 What about the other questions? (4) What its people ought to do about the laws (5) What its people ought to do about the State’s institutions (6) What its people ought to do to each other Plato’s answers: (4) nothing. That’s the Guardians’ job. Their job is just to obey them.... (5) They should take it that those institutions are just fine (6) They should (a) refrain from injuring each other, and (b) especially, refrain from trying to do somebody else’s job [but mainly that seems to mean: don’t try to take over political power!] - Are these the right answers?
 Is The Republic a fraud? (1) Can we build a State by installing the Good Guys in power? Compare with, say, Canada: The people in power were put there by a process of election The people who cast their votes are not “experts” This doesn’t guarantee that the “best people” will rule! But, will anything else guarantee that? Probable answer: No.
 Is The Republic a fraud? (2) The famous question: “Who Guards the Guardians?” It isn’t us, according to Plato It’s just the other Guardians And what if they get it wrong??? It looks as though we’re in for trouble!
 The Decline of the State, Stages Plato has fascinating and unsettling views about the Decline of the State, -Apparently, he thinks it would decline, even if one were able to ever reach the Ideal Republic in the first place -These criticisms have a visionary power that has attracted commentators, and have worried thinking people, ever since. Here are the stages after the initial Republic: (1)Timocracy – the rule of the military (as in Sparta, or North Korea) (2)Oligarchy – rule by the wealthy (as in lots of places, sometimes including Athens) (3)Democracy – or rule by the many; and finally (especially as in Athens) (4)Tyranny – rule by the single all-powerful but corrupt dictator (as in almost every place around – and with plenty of examples since).
 Decline of the The State Plato’s Republic is an Intellectual Aristocracy -- Will it stay that way? (the stability problem) First downward step: Timocracy (rule by the militarily strong …) A “false aristocracy” will arise: “ The genuinely talented will be excluded “ardent simple-minded types better suited to war than peace will be preferred. - War, in fact, will be the leading concern But, timocratic people will burn with a secret lust for gold and silver - start to live in luxury behind high walls … stashing away their own money - but spending other people’s “Timocratic youth lacks the one true guardian : Reason” he pays attention to praise and blame, and is liable to intrigues of all sorts. He becomes a meddler, and arrogant perpetually seeking honour and envying others who have it more than he.
 Question: Is rule by the “strong” necessarily bad? (1) It’s inevitable by definition: [Government = set of persons with political power -> to rule (by force)] (2) Some “strong” people will be good (but others the reverse) (3) if exerting power is a temptation of the powerful, mightn’t it also be a temptation of the intellectual?….
 Decline of the The State: Second Stage: Oligarchy Oligarchy = rule by the wealthy Note: Oligarchy is ruled by the already (independently) wealthy - not to be confused with those who become wealthy by ruling [timocrats, e.g., do that.] [my comment: Thus, oligarchy in principle should be rule by competent business people] [More about this when we get to Aristotle] Plato’s criticism: as wealth is honored more, virtue is regarded less. those with money want to exclude others from the governing power What if you appointed ship captains on the basis of wealth rather than knowledge of the sea?!
 Rich and Poor Plato was one of the earliest to theorize a general potential “class warfare” [they’ve been at it ever since...] inevitable: the city divides into two cities, of the rich, and of the poor. “They never cease to be plotting against each other, the one ever-suspicious, the other always envious.” The lover of honour turns into a lover of money, in short. An intemperate citizenry results: Neglect and licentiousness set in. the disfranchised, of whom there are many, will suffer deprivations and, hating those who got their estates, will thirst for revolution. There will be more and more repression as the wealthy get more and more desperate.
 Questions about Oligarchy (rule by the wealthy) - As with timocracy, won’t some oligarchs be better than others? - Wouldn’t this be better than timocracy? (Plato thinks it’s worse) - (If the rich get rich through trade rather than force, wouldn’t that be good?) - If they favor others doing that, isn’t that a good thing? Ability to produce and exchange seems better for the State than ability to conquer - no? Note that Plato’s criticism is not that having a lot of money is in itself evil. Rather, it’s that it will make its possessors the objects of hatred and divisiveness And that their efforts to defend themselves will lead to trouble And that money tends to corrupt. [Is this necessary?] [to be continued…]
 Decline of the The State 3rd stage: Democracy Democracy = rule by the “mob” a “lean, muscular, and clever pauper” will arise as a leader, and he will spread contempt for the rich who rule [Huey Long?] “ all will be able to do just as they like.” no compulsion - no obligation of the competent to rule… Does someone fancy public office? He simply declares his candidacy, regardless of qualification. “Dispenses a curious sort of equality -- to equals and unequals alike!” All you have to do is declare yourself a “friend of the people” - you’re in!
 “Democratic souls”: They “don’t distinguish between necessary and unnecessary pleasures” if we try to satisfy just any old desires - we are in for trouble. All desires are not equal - some should be suppressed, others catered to... This requires wisdom “To subordinate the best part of oneself to sordid desires and a taste for flattery -- what kind of wisdom and intelligence does that display?” Plato supposes that most people don’t have much of that... - So, turning political power over to “the people” is a terrible idea!
 Democracy (continued) Liberty the democrat’s greatest good is “liberty”. If rulers try to impose any control, they are immediately denounced. “Slaves will be as free as masters” And, no thought of women doing anything differently from the men no one will deign even to hear the word ‘authority’! The main complaint: rule by the incompetent - the masses are ignorant (remember the Cave?) -and ignorance will lead to really bad rule
 Does Plato have a point about Democracy? He does! If Democracy is “rule by the people,” how can it not be rule by the incompetent?? Can it be fixed without “Guardianship”? - Can it be fixed with Guardianship?? Does having elected positions help? (instead of the mob ruling, it merely elects those who do…) Is that a good idea?? We’ll see….!
 4th and Last stage of decline: Tyranny there tends to arise “a champion, glorified and elevated by the people” - the emerging tyrant - posing as the People’s Protector. he is soon free to do everything: murdering and banishing enemies and presumed enemies, even if they are his own parents and former friends. such a man will always be on the lookout for wars to get involved with. In this person Thrasymachus says is the happiest of men - what will we find? “ruled by his basest desires, by a fierce brood of savage and imperious appetites that torment him continually” [because, of course, they can never be satisfied.] His passions drive him to the extremes of “anarchy and lawlessness” [in saying this, Plato obviously cannot mean by ‘anarchy’ no rule…. rather, he means rule by the baser elements]
 Tyranny (continued) Questions: Recall our problem with Plato’s basic theory: will the “externally lawless” also be internally so? [Might the tyrant be highly disciplined and sober?] It looks like it: Lenin? Ghadafi? … Will the dissolute and chaotic necessarily make bad rulers?? Confirming instances for Plato: many Roman emperors Disconfirming instances: Clinton? (re his sex life…) Churchill? (one quart a day of Scotch…) …
 Tyranny (continued) Questions: In any case, we need a criterion of tyranny independent of Plato’s. Just what about a ruler would qualify him as a “tyrant”? -(1) that his rule is irresponsible -[because the ruler can rule just as he pleases, there are no controls to steer him in a better direction] --> this makes it likely that the tyrant will oppress the citizens instead of helping them --> can there be a “good tyrant”? -- That’s partly a semantic question: when we say that X’s rule degenerated into a tyranny, we imply that tyrannic rule is bad rule. -(2) That people would like to kick him out but can’t (because he continually overpowers them [this is arguably what’s responsible for the first feature...]
 Just Rule and Happiness Questions: Will being a good ruler make you happy? - [maybe, but not necessarily] Will being happy make you a good ruler? - [probably not] Will the fact that a given ruler is happy guarantee that his rule is just? - [Apparently not....] Note: Originally, the philosopher was happy just contemplating the Forms and doing mathematics etc. What’s the connection between that and being a just ruler?? [Plato’s discussants raise this point, as we’ll in a couple of slides]
 Just Rule and Happiness “ The well-governed soul will value health, strength, beauty and the other goods, indeed: but only insofar as they serve to promote temperance. “Such a person values the harmony of the body only in order to further the harmony of the soul. [Question: is this true?? - It’s fairly plausible, actually...] Are these intrinsic goods? Is the “harmony of the soul” extrinsic relative to them? Or are they actually components of harmony? “similarly, such a soul will value honours, private or public, only insofar as they help to make that soul still better. Clai: “Any dishonorable honours or undeserved rewards will be firmly rejected.”
 The philosopher is preeminently the person of wisdom, deriving pleasure from that source - the unfailing joys of learning, which never bring one to any evil. “similarly, such a soul will value honours, private or public, only insofar as they help to make that soul still better. Claim: “Any dishonorable honours or undeserved rewards will be firmly rejected.” Is this for the same reason? “dishonorable honors” honor one for the wrong reasons: it means you haven’t really done the good you were honored for doing That seems not so regarding health. (Will the just man “reject health” if he gets it despite a bad diet and poor exercise? Probably not!)
 Just Rule and Happiness Glaucon: “ Evidently such a person won’t want to enter politics.” Socrates: she will want to. Especially, so as to rule over herself… The soul with truth and wisdom must want to help rule in the just city [Why is this?? You don’t need to be a ruler to do mathematics and philosophy, surely?] [“I don’t need power and glory - I’m a full professor!”] Especially, she will want to enter the politics of her own soul, so as to rule over herself, you see? And of course the soul possessed of truth and wisdom cannot refuse if it is possible to help rule in the just city as well. [question: why can’t it?]
 The Status of Political Theory - an astonishing thought: S: “In the end, you know, it doesn’t really matter whether our City exists For perhaps there is a prototype of that city somewhere in heaven, for those willing to see. Seeing it, they will declare themselves to be its citizens. Only that sort of politics will guide our full human, will it not?” - Is Plato saying that the ideas of politics are more important than the real thing?? [- So the happy, just Guardian could be a hermit after all?] [this would make political theory like chess playing or higher mathematics... But no: the point is that the “bottom line” is what Plato calls “ the politics of one’s own soul, so as to rule over oneself” It is still not clear why the good man would want to participate in ruling over the rest of the City. - Is it?
 Just Rule and Poetry In Book X, Plato launches a diatribe against poetry -or at least, “imitative” poetry (but is there any other kind?) -“all poetical imitations are ruinous to the understanding” -Reason for this: imitations aren’t as good as the real thing -The painter creates appearances: which are “untrue” -He cannot make what really exists, but only a “semblance” The “three beds” (1) painter’s: not a bed at all, but an imitation (2) carpenter’s: a particular bed (3) the Idea of Bed (the “essence”) - not created at all! The “real artist” would be interested in reality rather than imitation…. Would Homer have been a good general? [- is that a reasonable question? Do generals make good poets?] -
 Poetry The imitative artist will “ go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good or bad, and may be expected to imitate only what appears good to the ignorant multitude the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. The better part of the soul is likely to be that which “trusts to measure and calculation” Imitation imitates the actions of men, whether voluntary or involuntary, on which, as they imagine, a good or bad result has ensued, and they rejoice or sorrow accordingly. we should take counsel about what has happened [adversities], and … order our affairs in the way which reason deems best always accustoming the soul forthwith to apply a remedy, raising up that which is sickly and fallen, banishing the cry of sorrow by the healing art.
 Poetry (continued) the opposite principle inclines us to recollection of our troubles and to lamentation - [it is] irrational, useless, and cowardly the imitative poet who aims at being popular... will prefer the passionate and fitful temper, which is easily imitated As in a city when the evil are permitted to have authority … so in the soul of man, the imitative poet implants an evil constitution, for he indulges the irrational nature which has no discernment of greater and less, lust and anger and all the other affections, of desire and pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every action --- in all of them poetry feeds and waters the passions instead of drying them up; she lets them rule - There’s an “ ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry” lovers of poetry may speak in prose on her behalf: let them show not only that she is pleasant but also useful to States and to human life
 Poetry At all events … poetry … is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her … should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law. [So there, Canada Council!] Is he right? 1. Scientific prose is also “imitative” of reality - all language is 2. That the characters and plots in poetry are often fictitious doesn’t mean they don’t tell us something 3. What’s really wrong with entertainment?
 The Ideal soul This must be our notion of the just man: even when in poverty or sickness, … all things will in the end work together for good to him in life and death: And this is the way with the just; he who endures to the end of every action and occasion of his entire life has a good report and carries off the prize which men have to bestow. The theme is told in mythological form in the concluding Myth of Er. Question: why the myth?? If it’s an important truth, why does it take a myth to tell it? Especially after spending most of the Book denouncing poetry??
 I mmortality of the Soul Are you not aware, I said, that the soul of man is immortal and imperishable? we must not suppose that the soul, which is one thing, can be dissolved by any merely external evil which belongs to another fever, or any disease, or knives put to the throat, or even the cutting up of the whole body into the minutest pieces, cannot destroy the soul no one will ever prove that the souls of men become more unjust in consequence of death. But the soul which cannot be destroyed by an evil, whether inherent or external, must exist for ever, and if existing for ever, must be immortal… Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not … marred by communion with the body (etc), you must contemplate her with the eye of reason, in her original purity; and then her beauty will be revealed, and justice and injustice will be manifested more clearly we have fulfilled the conditions of the argument; we have not introduced the rewards and glories of justice, which are found in Homer - justice in her own nature has been shown to be best for the soul in her own nature. -> Let a man do what is just, whether he have the ring of Gyges or not…!
 I mmortality of the Soul We must ask, first, whether his argument is right. If evil can’t damage the soul, does it follow that it lives forever? Why? Maybe Plato is again trading on a confusion between “moral evil” and just plain evil The good man can’t be morally harmed by evil - but he can still die! [Second: Why is it important to Plato that the soul of man is immortal and imperishable?] One possibility is that he’s being sucked in by the view that in the “hereafter” we get suitably rewarded or punished for our deeds... Is it necessary to prove that? - It shouldn’t be, because Plato thinks that justice is an intrinsic good. If so, it’s good now (wherever and whenever it occurs)
 Assessing Plato Is justice “harmony”? Is social “harmony” the same thing as individual harmony? The misleading analogy of state and soul: Societies are sets of people, not organisms of which individuals are parts... So Plato’s class divisions don’t stand up… Is there an “art” of ruling which only some people can do? Can we build the state on the model of a prep school? Rulers claiming to know “the good” may be our enemies… How much difference is there between a Thrasymachian tyrant and a Platonic tyrant? Who guards the guardians? Is talk about “the good” the right kind of talk for politics? - or should we leave the good life to the people who live those lives??