observation

Learning Goal: I’m working on a philosophy discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

Books 4, 5, 6 of Plato’s Republic

Book 4 begins with Adeimantus asking Socrates to defend his account of the city. The life of the guardians and auxiliaries does not seem to be a very good or enjoyable life. These men will live simple lives without any material possessions or wealth, all while the craftspeople, the moneymakers, get to have all the fun and luxuries. Socrates obliges and provides an answer at 420b-421c that goes like this: Remember, we’re trying to construct the best city that is happiest overall; we are not trying to conceive a city where happiness is concentrated in just one part. Besides, it’s foolish to judge any whole by how its parts are on their own. Moreover, the guardians are as happy as they need to be in order for them to do their job. For theirs is far more important than other crafts, so those other jobs can tolerate some sub-standard products, but not so with the guardians. If the guard becomes corrupted, then the city falls.

Corruption has two sources: wealth and poverty. Wealth makes a person lazy and less likely to work or to do well. So production slows and/or quality decreases. Poverty corrupts because it prevents a person from having the resources necessary for doing his job well, so production is slow and/or quality is low. The way that wealth and poverty corrupts has a tendency to lead towards conflict and warfare. Specifically with the concern that if the guardians have no money, how will they defend the city against other cities led by the wealthy rules? Socrates finds this an easy problem to resolve. The just city’s guardians would be professional and well-funded by taxes, and they can’t be bribed by other cities since the guardians have no need for money.

Those wealthy cities aren’t really as strong as they appear. The true unity of the just city, Socrates claims, makes it the only city worthy of the name. All these plausible opponents are not truly cities, because they are not one, but many. That is, there is such wealth inequality that there is division within division of rich and poor. So among the rich, there are rich and poor, and among the poor, there are richer and poorer, etc. Because of the animosity that grows from such inequality, these so-called cities can never be unified: someone will always be trying to get the better of the other, making them weaker than the just and unified city of the guardians. Socrates is claiming that class inequality and class warfare always harms and weakens a political unit (a city, or a whole nation).

The guardians must protect against this division within the city by preserving the founding principle of one person, one job. This division is due to a city’s becoming too small or too big. By ensuring that the city is self-sufficient, the guardians keep the threat of division at bay. Part of their task is to ensure the principle of one person, one job is maintained by being ready to take different-souled children away from their parents so that the metals do not mix. Perhaps that Myth of the Metals would be effective at this job.

This, of course, Socrates points out, is just another instance of how all the laws of the city are in service to one: the guarding of education. For this, all things in the city must be arranged such that “friends have all things in common.” So long as education is preserved and no innovation is introduced, the city should only grow in strength and wisdom.

Since innovation must be avoided at all costs, children are to be encouraged to play in a lawful as opposed lawless manner. Remember, as Socrates puts it at 425bc, “the starting point of a man’s education sets the course of what follows too.” Taking this principle to heart, Socrates says it isn’t worthwhile to go through all the other laws about contracts, markets, and judicial procedures. Either men will figure it out by sticking to the original

constitution, or they’ll spend their lives constantly re-writing the laws in the vain hope that they’ll eventually get it right this time. Likening such men in law to the rich hypochondriacs, Socrates states at 426a, “they believe the greatest enemy of all is the man who tells the truth — namely, that until one gives up drinking, stuffing oneself, sex and idleness, there’ll be no help for one in drugs, burning, or cutting, nor in charms, pendants, or anything of the sort.” As far as religion goes, Socrates notes that men have no idea about the divine, save for what little is said in the Noble Lie.

With this, at 427cd, the city is founded. So where is justice?

It is agreed that the city is perfectly good, and that if the city is perfectly good, then it must be wise, courageous, moderate, and just. Ancient Greece commonly regarded these virtues as the most important, and Socrates and his friends assume this. Socrates suggests that if the first three can be identified, then the fourth, justice, must be what is left. So by a process of elimination, Socrates hunts down and discovers the first two with relative ease.

Socrates discovers wisdom in just a few in the city. At 428c–d, Socrates asks, “Is there in the city we just founded a kind of knowledge belonging to some of the citizens that counsels not about the affairs connected with some particular thing in the city, but about how the city as a whole would best deal with itself and the other cities?… It’s the guardian’s skill.”

Just as the guardians are the wisest and where wisdom is found, the auxiliaries are the bravest and where courage is found in the city.

From 430d–432b, moderation is discovered but not in the same way as the first two cardinal virtues. Instead of moderation being found in a specific class within the city, it is a relation between the classes (430e–431b). Consider how many different crafts there are in the multitude, all the various desires to be met. Contrast that to the few functions of the guardians and their simple pleasures in learning. Through the leadership by the few of the many, moderation or self-control of the city is attained, as “a kind of harmony… that stretch[es] through the whole, from top to bottom of the entire scale, making the weaker, the stronger and those in the middle… sing the same chant together” (431e–432a).

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Socrates then looks for justice in the city (432b–434d). Socrates realizes that justice is visible, saying at 433a “That rule we set down at the beginning as to what must be done in everything when were founding the city… is… justice… that each one must practice one of the functions in the city, that one for which his nature made him naturally most fit.” Socrates continues at 433a–b “…that justice is the minding of one’s own business and not being a busybody, this we have both heard from many others and have often said ourselves.” At 433b, “the practice of minding one’s own business… is justice.” In fact, justice makes the other three virtues possible because justice is what is at the start of the city. Since the four virtues are connected, and the work of wisdom, courage, and moderation are as important as each person doing his own job, it seems that this function must be justice. At 433e, we are told that it is just that “no one have what belongs to others, nor be deprived of what belongs to him.” At 433e–434a, “the having and doing of one’s own and what belongs to oneself” is justice. Socrates has discovered the true meaning of Cephalus’s idea of justice.

Now consider what this conception of justice implies. Within a class or similar souled people, very little harm is done to the city if a carpenter tries to become a shoemaker or vice versa. But, as Socrates says at 434a–b, “when one who is a craftsmen or some other kind of money-maker by nature, inflated by wealth, multitude, strength, or something else of the kind, tries to get into the class of the warrior, or one of the warriors who’s unworthy into that of the adviser and guardian, and these men exchange tools and honors with one another; or when the same man tries to do all things at once – then I suppose it’s also your opinion that this change in them and this meddling are the destruction of the city.” And at 434bc, “Meddling among the classes, of which there are three, and exchange with one another is the greatest harm for the city and would most correctly be called extreme evil- doing.”

And so, at 434c, Socrates concludes, “the money-making, auxiliary, and guardian classes doing what’s appropriate, each of them minding its own business in a city” is justice.

With the city founded and justice identified within it, the time has come to use this large model to find justice within the soul itself.

Socrates makes some careful distinctions in order to discern whether the soul has a tripartite structure, just like the city. He argues that for each particular desire or appetite there is one particular thing for it. For example, if you’re thirsty, you have a desire for drink and only drink. That is, thirst is not for a good drink or a bad one, just a drink. Another desire would be for the goodness or badness. Keeping this in mind, Socrates argues, you often stop drinking even though you still may be thirsty: you still want more to drink but you stop because you have prevailing reasons to do so. For instance, you may want to share, or you have to be somewhere else and don’t have the time to finish drinking. And so, Socrates concludes at 439c–d, we have a distinction between desire and reason.

The soul, then, has at least two parts. Does it have a third that somehow corresponds to spirit? Socrates notes how the nobler the person, the more does his or her spirit align itself with reason to overcome desire, making it possible for someone to undergo any difficulty in the name of justice, for instance: but it also makes one’s spirit boil if injustice is suffered.
At 441a–c Socrates points out how animals and young children are full of spirit, but they do not calculate and reason. Therefore, spirit is not identical to or a part of reason.

Thus, the soul has three parts: reason (for wisdom), spirit (for courage), and appetite (for pleasure).

Reason rules; spirit wars. Harmony is reached between the two through education. This harmony then masters the desires. At 442a-b, Socrates says, “And these two [reason and spirit], thus trained and having truly learned their own business and been educated, will be set over the desiring – which is surely most of the soul in each and by nature most insatiable for money – and they’ll watch it for fear of its being filled with the so-called pleasures of the body and thus becoming big and strong, and then not minding its own business, but attempting to enslave and rule what is not appropriately ruled by its class and subverting everyone’s entire life.”

Having found the cardinal virtues in the city, can we find them, Socrates wonders, in the soul? Courage is found in the spirited part; wisdom in the rational. At 442c–d, Socrates says, “Isn’t the moderate because of the friendship and accord of these parts – when the ruling part and the two ruled parts are of the single opinion that the calculating part ought to rule and don’t raise faction against it?” So the virtue of moderation is possible when the parts of the soul work together, not against each other.

Is there justice anywhere in the soul? Socrates reminds us of the characteristics of the unjust man: that he spends too much money, robs temples, steals in general, betrays, breaks his oaths, cheats on his wife, neglects his parents, and fails to care for the gods. Socrates at 443c–444a describes justice in the individual soul: “But in truth justice was, as it seems, something of this sort; however, not with respect to a man’s minding his external business, but with respect to what is within, with respect t o what truly concerns him and his own. He doesn’t let each part in him mind other people’s business or the three classes in the soul meddle with each other, but really sets is own home in good order and rules himself; he arranges himself, becomes his own friend, and harmonizes the three parts, exactly like three notes in a harmonic scale, lowest, highest and middle. And if there are some other parts in between, he binds them together and becomes entirely one from many, moderate and harmonized. Then, and only then, he acts, if he does act in some way – either concerning the acquisition of money, or the care of the body, or something political, or concerning private contracts. In all these actions he believes and names a just and fine action one that preserves and helps to produce this condition, and wisdom the knowledge that supervises this action; while he believes and names an unjust action one that undoes this condition, and lack of learning, in its turn, the opinion that supervises this action.” From this it follows

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that injustice in the soul is a civil war within, “a meddling, interference, and rebellion of a part of the soul against the whole” (444b).

Socrates concludes this analysis with an analogy between virtue and health, and vice and disease. Since the just man has an excellent soul, his body will also become excellent. An unjust man, with his bad soul, will have a bad body. Therefore, the just man is stronger and mightier than the unjust man. It is better for a person to be just and do justice.

Book 5 begins with Socrates talking about five regimes and their corresponding souls. He names just one, the only good regime, which is aristocracy or kingship. But before he can get into the four bad regimes and souls, Polemarchus interrupts Socrates. Polemarchus and the others accuse Socrates of passing over an important part of the argument: what are the lives of women and children like?

Socrates says that women should receive the same treatment and education as men. It seems the only difference between the two is with regards to reproduction. Does that imply that women can’t have the same jobs as men? Socrates rejects that idea (453e). The guardians, male and female alike, should get the same education and do the same job. Since there is nothing special to being a guardian that has anything to do with being male or female, one’s sex or gender won’t determine one’s function. What does matter is one’s ability to perform the job. Since women are typically not as strong as men, women will usually serve in functions where significant upper-body strength is not necessary. Otherwise, there’ll be no difference – women will equally serve in the military, as rulers, and work in any profession. To say that women and men have different natures that demand they have different jobs is as absurd as saying that the amount of hair on a person’s head has anything to do with a man’s ability to do his job. The only difference between men and women is with regard to sexual function and reproduction. With regard to all other matters, sex and gender have no bearing on a person’s ability to do a job. Thus, the women with gold and silver souls have the same education and same responsibilities as the men with gold and silver souls.

However, this means that women must live as the men do, if they are to fulfill their responsibilities as auxiliaries or as guardians (457c–d). “All these women are to
belong to all these men in common, and no woman is to live privately with any man. And the children, in their turn, will be common and neither will a parent know his own offspring, nor a child his parent.” Parents won’t know who their children are; and children don’t know who their parents are. This way of life makes a good fit with the Myth of the Metals. If guardians can’t figure out who their own children are, then they can’t give their children any special treatment or ensure that they become guardians too. Instead, all children have to go through the same educational and military training to test their souls.

Socrates says that the guardians “live a life more blessed than that most blessed one of the Olympic victors” (465d). And the guardians will display the greatest virtues.

The traditional practices of warfare are then criticized. Instead of enslaving prisoners, they will be spared and corrected. There will be no plundering of corpses and no burning of the land. This is especially so if these opposing forces are Greek: for all Greeks are kin, so it is not truly war, but faction. War is the name given to hatred of the alien or barbarian (470b). Such an army that views itself as one strong and unified family would be a very intimidating force. Victory is practically guaranteed.

One final matter has to be settled. At 473d–e, Socrates says, “Unless… the philosophers rule as king or those now called kings and chiefs genuinely and adequately philosophize, and political power and philosophy coincide in the same place, …, there is no rest from ills for the cities… nor I think for human kind, nor will the regime we have now described in speech ever come forth from nature, insofar as possible, and see the light of the sun. This is what for so long was causing my hesitation to speak: seeing how very paradoxical it would be to say. For it is hard to see that in no other city would there be private or public happiness.”

Socrates is reasoning like this. The guardians have complete power over the city. They are held responsible for doing what is best for the city. They are entrusted with making the laws of the city. Finally, they must preserve the harmony of the city. Basically, the guardians are supposed to be the experts in establishing and upholding justice in the city.

As for philosophers, genuine philosophers like Socrates have no power over cities. However, they possess the wisdom to determine what justice truly is, and why it is in fact best for all people, living as citizens in a city, and keeping harmony in their own souls. Philosophers can figure out the overall structure of the just city and they can predict what kinds of laws would be best for a just city. Basically, the philosophers are supposed to be the experts in determining how to uphold justice in a city.

Why would we need two different professions basically working on the same job? That makes no sense to Socrates. And why would we have two professions, both knowledgeable about justice, yet one having power and the other having no power? That makes no sense either. The worst outcome is that these two separate professions get into conflict with each other. That would happen if the guardians weren’t as good at philosophy as the philosophers. But why should we allow that to happen? The smart answer is obvious: we really aren’t talking about two different professions! There is only one genuine profession involved here: the profession of philosophy. The guardians must also be the best philosophers. They must receive the finest training in philosophy from their elder guardians, and teach philosophy to the best students coming up through the ranks.

Socrates defends the need for these philosopher-kings. He notes that when anybody desires anything it is a desire of that whole thing, not some part of it, but all of it. “The philosopher is a desirer of wisdom, not of one part and not another, but all of it” (475b).

If the philosopher-kings can genuinely know what is virtuous and just, then there would be a single profession of experts on that kind of knowledge. Is such knowledge really possible? Socrates launches into a discussion of knowledge.

True, there are many opinions about politics and justice. Such diversity about what is cannot be knowledge, for knowledge is of what is and always is: of what is unchanging. But this views and opinions can’t be ignorance either. For ignorance is of what is not. To repeat: knowledge is of what is (reality) and ignorance is of what is not (just appearance). These in- betweens must be something else; they are opinions. Opinion cannot be knowledge because knowledge depends on what is (476). So opinion and knowledge are different powers or abilities or faculties. So, if knowledge is of something and ignorance is of nothing, then“opinion… opines neither that which is nor that which is not” (478b). So at 478e, Socrates says, “it would remain for us to find what participates in both – in to be & not to be – and could not correctly be addressed as either purely and simply, so that, if it comes to light, we

can justly address it as the opinable, thus assigning the extremes to the extremes and that which is in between to that which is in between.”

The common people all believe different things about the same things. Some may find this one thing, x, to be ugly while others find it pretty. So x is somewhere in-between: people opine about it (479c-d). But the philosopher sees this x as what it participates in, in this case, the form of the Beautiful, which is the same everywhere and when. Therefore, the philosopher has knowledge, which is unchanging and not an opinion, which is changing.

In Book 6, Socrates explains what knowledge is, and how to tell the difference between knowledge and ignorance.

Socrates attacks the status quo of Athenian education: the sophists. They miseducate the young by appealing to the opinions of the masses. They put on a public show that entices the youth who then go on imitating them – sophists can argue each side of an issue and be equally persuasive. Such sophists and their students, who would become public officials, resort to any lengths to get what they want, and when they fail to persuade, “they punish the man who’s not persuaded with dishonor, fines, and death” (492d).

In a democracy, people all think that their own opinions are knowledge, and the leaders of the people flatter the people, and tell them that they are wise. That only spreads ignorance and corrupts the souls of democratic people. Philosophers can only hide from politics, avoid the common people, and discuss philosophy among themselves (496a-e).

But philosophy can know what knowledge is.

Knowledge is always True.

Knowledge is about the Real.

The truly real cannot be described by knowledge that contains a contradiction, or suffers from a counterexample (506).

The Socratic method to verify knowledge is this: Start from a definition of a thing, and change it to eliminate contradictions and prevent counterexamples – when that definition no longer contains any contradictions, and there are no counterexamples, then that definition knows what it is talking about – it is knowledge of something real.

Socrates introduced a metaphysical-epistemological spectrum. At one extreme is ignorance, which is of what is not. At the other is knowledge, which is of what is. Between ignorance and knowledge is opinion. Between nothing and being is becoming. At best non- philosophers have opinions about what comes into and out of being. That is, they opine about changing things, about appearances but not reality. Philosophers, however, are the ones who know and what they know is what is: they know the truth about reality.

Let’s start by comparing hearing and seeing (507). In order to hear, there are only two things required: sound and ears. If there is no sound, the ears have nothing to hear; if there are no ears, the sound will not be heard. Does vision work the same way? If there is nothing to see, then the eyes have nothing to see; if there are no eyes, then that which is to be seen won’t be seen. But consider this: if you’re put into a dark room, can you still hear? Yet you

cannot see. Indeed, you can see if there is a third thing, right? All we would have to do is turn on the lights in the room, and your eyes will be able to see the things that are to be seen. So whereas hearing requires just two things, ears and sounds, vision requires three things, eyes, things to see, and light. Since the Sun is what makes all light ultimately possible, Socrates argues, the Sun is what makes the visible possible.

The Sun makes sight possible, but the sun is not sight itself. From this, Socrates claims, it follows that the Sun is good. Without the Sun, our eyes do not see; without sight, how can we act? We are blind to the world and any action we take is necessarily out of ignorance. If there is only a little light, then we see only a little and act out of opinion about what there is before us.

This connection between the visible and the intellectual goes deeper. Not only is the Sun good for the body in that it affords us bodily activity, it is clearly connected to how we understand the visible world. At 508e–509a, Socrates says, “what provides the truth to the things known and gives the power the one who knows, is the idea of the good. And, as the cause of knowledge and truth, you can understand it to be a thing known; but, as fair as these two are – knowledge and truth – if you believe that it is something different from them and still fairer than they, your belief will be right. As for knowledge and truth, just as in the other region it is right to hold light and sight sunlike, but to believe them to be sun is not right; so, too, here, to hold these two to be like the good is right, but to believe that either of them is the good is not right.”

Furthermore, just as the Sun makes generation, growth and nourishment possible but is not identical to generation, growth nor nourishment, the good makes possible knowledge and truth but is not identical to them. The sun exceeds them “in dignity and power” (509b).

Socrates now moves to the Divided Line illustration (509d-511e).

He first divides the visible from the intelligible. So we have two unequal segments, one visible, the other intelligible. Then he divides each of those segments according to the ratio by which the first division was made. At the bottom of this line, the bottom segment of the visible region, are images. These include shadows, and reflections (or other similar sorts of appearances) in water and mirrors and other shiny objects. The next segment, above the images, are things. These include animals, plants, and all other artifacts. Note that these things are what produces the shadows and reflections that make up the images.

The upper division of the line is the region of the intelligible. Its lower part, above the world of things, is composed of mathematical objects. Just as we use elements of the visible realm to achieve specific goals in the intelligible, we use this lower part of the intelligible realm to produce artifacts in the visible realm. The highest realm reverses course away from ends to beginnings, away from the visible to the purely intelligible.

Corresponding to the contents or objects of each of these levels are the habits of mind, so to speak, that deal with each. At the bottom one imagines images, so we call this habit imagination. Next are things over which we have many different opinions which we must trust. The mathematical objects are neither images nor things trusted but things properly thought. Finally, intellection is behind dialectic and the forms.

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Here is another way to depict Plato’s Divided Line:

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And another version:

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Now, consider the significance of this for politics, which seems to be the art of always changing one’s opinion on how to organize public affairs. But also consider what this means for how you conduct your personal or private affairs. Consider your lives on the Internet, where you present yourselves in ways that may not clearly or easily mirror how you are in person. Consider how you interact with others on the Internet, especially those whom you’ve never met in person.

Books 7 and 8 of Plato’s Republic

Book 6 elaborates on the nature of the Good by first drawing analogy between the Sun and the Good; where the former makes vision possible but is not identical to but is greater than vision, the latter is greater and more magnificent than what it makes possible, the whole of being and the knowledge of it. To continue how this worldview works, Socrates moves to the Divided Line from the Sun Analogy by playing on this parallel between the Sun and the good. In Book 7, Socrates uses his Allegory of the Cave to explain further what he means concerning the kinds of knowledge.

The Divided Line

Starting from the bottom, the fourth lowest level is for false images, which the imagination is interested in. There is no agreement among people about them – each person sees them very differently.

The third level is for ordinary material objects, which we accept because we can perceive them. There is some agreement about them among people, but perspectives still divide the opinions of people.

The second level is for mathematical objects, and truths about them are knowable by anyone who uses reason, so there must be agreement among all people.

Finally, the first level is for the Forms – the things than the intellect knows are real because they pass the highest test for knowledge (such as Justice).

Plato suspected this his readers would find these stories somewhat difficult to understand, so to help his readers understand what he was after he developed one of the most famous and most influential thought experiments: the Allegory of the
Cave (514a–516b).

“Next, then, make an image of our nature in its education and want of education, likening it to a condition of the following kind. See human beings as though they were in an underground cave-like dwelling with its entrance, a long one, open to the light across the whole width of the cave. They are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them, unable because of the bond to turn their heads all the way around. Their light is from a fire burning far above and behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a road above and behind them. between the fire and the prisoners there is a road above, along which we see a wall, built like the partitions puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets… Then also see along this wall human beings carrying all sorts of artifacts, which project above the wall, and statues of men and other animals wrought from stone, wood, and every kind of material; as is to be expected, some of the carriers utter sounds while others are silent… They’re like us. For in the first place, … such men would have seen [nothing] ofthemselves and one another other than the shadows cast by the fire on the side of the cave facing them… [as would be the case] about the things carried by… If they were able to discuss things with one another… they would hold that they are naming these things going by before them that they see… And… if the prison also had an echo from the side facing them… whenever one of the men passing by happens to utter a sound… they would [not]

believe that anything other than the passing shadow was uttering the sound… Then most certainly, such men would hold that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of artificial things…”

This allegory is striking. Plato is arguing that humans effectively live in a world of mere images and shadows, mistaking mere appearances for the truth about reality. Living our lives in the dark, entirely ignorant of how the world truly is, humans have been living a dream, without any idea that what they believe to be the truth is far removed from reality.

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Socrates continues at 515c, asking about the prisoners,

“Now consider, what their release and healing from bonds and folly would be like if something of this sort were by nature to happen to them. Take a man who is released and suddenly compelled to stand up, turn his neck around, to walk and look up toward the light; and who, moreover, in doing all this in pain and, because he is dazzled, is unable to make out those things whose shadows he saw before. What do you suppose he’d say if someone

were to tell him that before he saw silly nothings, while now, because he is somewhat nearer to what is and more turned toward beings, he sees more correctly; and, in particular, showing him each of the things that pass by, were to compel the man to answer his questions about what they are? Don’t you suppose he’d be at a loss and believe that what was seen before is truer than what is now shown? … And, if he compelled him to look at the light itself, would his eyes hurt and would he flee, turning away to those things that he is able to make out and hold them to be really clearer than what is being shown?… And if someone dragged him away from there by force along the rough, steep, upward way and didn’t let him go before he had dragged him out into the light of the sun, wouldn’t he be distressed and annoyed at being so dragged? And when he came to the light, wouldn’t he have his eyes full of its beam and be unable to see even one of the things now said to be true?… Then I suppose he’d have to get accustomed, if he were going to see what’s up above. At first he’d most easily make out the shadows; and after that the phantoms of the humanbeings and the other things in water; and, later, the things themselves. And from there he could turn to beholding the things in heaven and heaven itself, more easily at night — looking at the light of the stars and the moon — than by day — looking at the sun and sunlight… Then finally I suppose he would be able to make out the sun – not its appearances — in water or some alien place, but the sun itself by itself in its own region – and see what it’s like.”

Now imagine yourselves what this experience must be like. Once you saw that the Sun was indeed the source of much beauty and truth, from the passing of time, the change of seasons, the visible, and everything within the cave, how would you relate to life before leaving the Cave and now? Would you want to return to the Cave? Plato argues that a person who had left the cave would rather “undergo anything whatsoever than to opine those things [in the cave] and live that way… that he would prefer to undergo everything than live that way” (516d–e). Now imagine that you had to go back into the cave. How would you adjust? How would the others react to you? At first, it would be difficult to see, and what little you could see, you’d probably be mistaken about and seem like a fool to the cave dwellers. They would find your sense of things, in light of your experience leaving the cave, to be corrupted, “that it’s not even worth trying to go up… And if they were somehow able to get their hands on” you, they’d kill you — especially if you tried to free them too (517a).

At 517b–c, Socrates begins explaining the meaning of this image. He says, “this image as a whole must be connected with what was said before. Liken the domain revealed through sight to the prison home, and the light of the fire in it to the sun’s power; and, in applying the going up and the seeing of what’s above to the soul’s journey up to the intelligible place, you’ll not mistake my expectation, since you desire to hear it. A god doubtless knows if it happens to be true. At all events, this is the way the phenomena look to me: in the knowable the last thing to be seen, and that with considerable effort, is the idea of the good; but once seen, it must be concluded that this is in fact that the cause of all that is right and fair in everything — in the visible it gave birth to light and its sovereign; in the intelligible, itself sovereign, it provided truth and intelligence — and that the man who is going to act prudently in private or in public must see it.”

Consider some of the consequences of this conception of education Plato puts forth. First, how does a person educated in this manner relate to the ignorant and unlearned? Especially as the educated person is adjusting to living among the masses, there will be great disagreements about many things, especially the nature of justice. So the educated person ends up spending more time in court defending himself against people who have only experienced the shadows of justice. Second, as Socrates puts it at 518b, “education is not

what the professions of certain men assert it to be. They presumably assert that they put into the soul knowledge that isn’t in it, as though they were putting sight into blind eyes.”

At 518c, Socrates gives the Platonic alternative that “this power [of sight or education] is in the soul of each, and that the instrument with which each learns — just as an eye is not able to turn toward the light from the dark without the whole body — must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is and the brightest part of that which is. And we affirm that this is the good.”

From this Platonic orientation of education and striving toward the good, Socrates reminds us that the cardinal virtues are more like the body than the soul: they enable bodily action. Yet prudence is more than bodily action, it is a specific way of engaging the world with keener sight and keener ability. Depending on the uses to which that individual puts his talents, however, either great good or great evil can be done. To cultivate the appropriate orientation in an individual with such physical gifts is just the problem we encountered from the start. How to create perfect guardians, that is beings both physically and intellectually sound and in harmony?

The problem is restated at 519b–c: “…those who are without education and experience of truth would never be adequate stewards of a city, nor would those who have been allowed to spend their time in education continuously to the end — the former because they don’t have any single goal in life at which they must aim in doing everything they do in private or in public, the latter because they won’t be willing to act, believing they have emigrated to a colony on the Isles of the Blessed while they are still alive.” In other words, the intellectuals are living a blissful life contemplating theory; whereas the cave-dwelling men of action never ever both with theory yet always engaged in praxis. The philosopher-king needs to be both theorist and practitioner.

The job of the founders of the city “is to compel the best natures to go to the study which we were saying before is the greatest, to see the good and to go up that ascent; and when they have gone up and seen sufficiently, not to permit what is now permitted… To remain there… and not be willing to go down again among those prisoners or share their labors or honors” (519c–d). Glaucon is immediately concerned that this requirement is an injustice to these best of men, for it decreases their happiness: they won’t be as happy as they could be if they stayed above the cave, basking in the sun.

Socrates again reminds Glaucon and the others that the point isn’t to make one person or one class of people happiest; but to do what it takes to make the city as a whole best and happiest. So, if in order to keep faction from developing and to keep harmony among the classes going, the guardians must return to the cave, so be it. Their education must be such that they understand this and return willingly into the cave. Such men are the truly rich who rule: not rich in money but rich in soul.

Such persons must be suitably educated. So what is the nature of their education, to be very precise? Consider the following lines of argument: First, Socrates asserts that there is no “other life that despises political offices [more] than that of true philosophy… But men who aren’t lovers of ruling must go to it [they must be rulers]; otherwise rival lovers will fight” and bring division to the city (521b). Second, Socrates states that “the turning of a soul around from a day that is like night to the true day; it is that ascent [out of the cave] to what

is which we shall truly affirm to be philosophy” (521c). And so the study of the good is philosophy. Yet as has been said again and again, this study must be of use to warriors.

Now let’s get precise. The study of the good is undertaken in order to draw the soul from becoming to being, from appearance to reality, from opinion to knowledge. Gymnastic does not do this: for it “is wholly engaged with coming into being and passing away. For it oversees growth and decay in the body” (521e). Music is a slight improvement because it focuses directly on the soul; but it educates through habits, namely their cultivation through mechanical repetition. So there is not exactly any understanding going on. Is there anything common to all the specific crafts that could be useful for the study of the good? All arts, it seems, require basic mathematics: that is, the ability to calculate and to number. Without these abilities the warrior would be ineffective. Indeed, the human being would not be fully human: what separates humans from the rest of nature is their capacity for reason. But if this capacity is never fulfilled or exercised, a human is never fully human.

In order to determine whether number belongs strictly to the visible or to the intelligible, Socrates considers how thought comes out of the visible. When you a see your finger, you simply sense it; you never think about or compare it to its opposite. After all, what is the opposite of a finger?! It seems non-sensical to consider that. But when you look at three fingers next to each other, the sight brings about a host of unified opposites: right/left, big/small, thick/thin, etc. Whenever a sensation is of something that brings about this unity of opposites by which it is necessary to relate according to a standard or ideal, mere sensation is inadequate to the task, but thought can do it. So in order to consider whether something is tall or short, heavy or light, that thing needs to be related to a standard by which height or weight is determined. This standard is not something visible or sensible. But it is intelligible. So what about number?

Socrates argues that whenever anybody sees the one, its opposite also comes to mind: the many. So just as hot and cold are unified opposites, so are the one and the many. This unity and the visible effecting thought through the relation of one and many brings about the very shift in the soul from appearance to reality, from opinion to knowledge — in short, toward contemplation of the truth. Therefore, the guardian as both warrior and philosopher, must study mathematics.

This study of mathematics, however, is done not because it is useful for trade and warfare. The study of pure mathematics is performed precisely because it brings about pure knowledge. It does so by leading the student to the study of number itself, which is ultimately an indivisible unity. Contrast number as indivisible unity with the use of number in trade: trade breaks the large coin into many smaller ones. Notice how the need for unity in the soul and city is expressed here as is the viciousness of money.

Counting and being able to add and subtract are just the beginning of mathematics. After all, it is just one dimensional: the number line just moves in a single direction, left-to-right, or up-and-down but never both. Geometry moves in two directions, left-to-right and up-and- down. Many people may think that the warrior especially needs to study geometry because of the obvious practical benefits, from setting up a tent to strategizing a battle plan. While it is true that geometry has its practical effects, the point of study for the guardian is not to learn only these practical parts but the whole of geometry. At 526d–e, Socrates says, “Itmust be considered whether the greater and more advanced part tends to make it easier to make out the idea of the good. And we say that this tendency is possessed by everything that compels the soul to turn around to the region inhabited by the happiest part of what

is…” In other words, the pure study of the whole of geometry continues the process of turning the soul away from appearance to reality. If, at any time, its study compels one to look at becoming, it is no longer a suitable study.

Pause and consider what the whole study of calculation and of geometry seems to be implying. Calculation is concerned with proper order and sequence; but it is still and fixed. Geometry is an extension of the proper ordering and sequencing of calculation into an organization – so consider how a line becomes a triangle, a square, a circle – but this organization continues to be still and fixed. It also lacks depth. If calculation is 1- dimensional, and geometry 2-dimensional, then the next level of study should be 3- dimensional. But for the ancient Greeks this science of depth is undeveloped, so it is passed over quickly. The next level, the four-dimensional, comes in two forms, astronomy and antistrophe. Astronomy has to do with the visible, antistrophe with the audible. Astronomy is the study of 3-dimensional objects moving through space in time. Antistrophe is advanced musical study. What do these two have to do with each other?

To study the heavens is to study and understand the work of the craftsman who created them according to what is – remember that the sky and seasons change – they become – and are never the same and eternal. So as geometry and its problems are means, stepping- stones, to reality, so is astronomy a stepping-stone, a hypothesis to what is. So astronomy isn’t really about the visible but about the intelligible. What about antistrophe?

Where astronomy used the visible as the means to the intelligible, antistrophe uses the audible as the means to the intelligible. There are harmonies in music, and that is what antistrophe studies. Harmonies are the audible equivalent to the movements of the planets and stars. In fact, Plato is referencing the Pythagorean belief in the Music of the Spheres – through contemplation the Pythagorean can hear the sounds of the heavens and resonate – become harmonious with – the divine.

Such harmony is ultimately achieved through the Journey of the Dialectic. From 532b–d, Socrates reminds us, “the release from the bonds and the turning around from the shadows to the phantoms and the light, the way up from the cave to the sun; and, once there, the persisting inability to look at the animals and the plants and the sun’s light, and looking instead at the divine appearances in water and at shadows of the things that are, rather than as before at shadows of phantoms cast by a light that, when judged in comparison with the sun, also has the quality of a shadow of a phantom – all this activity of the arts, which we went through, has the power to release and leads what is best in the soul up to the contemplation of what is best in the things that are, just as previously what is clearest in the body was led to the contemplation of what is brightest in the region of the bodily and thevisible.”

Intrigued, Glaucon wants Socrates to characterize dialectic; but Socrates refuses, saying that Glaucon isn’t ready for that. Instead, Socrates contrasts dialectic and philosophy with all the other crafts. Every other art or inquiry or skill deals with being from a specific perspective, for a specific purpose, and in a specific way. So a carpenter and a blacksmith both deal with being, but their thoughts are different as are the things they use and make. The philosopher, through dialectic, is concerned only with Being insofar as it is Being: with reality as a whole, not broken into various parts. It follows then that as inquiry moves up the line and out of the cave, the hypotheses, the stepping-stones, are thrown away and destroyed, for they serve not only as a way up and out but also as a way down and in. The philosopher insofar as he practices dialectic cannot be distracted by the multitude, by things, by images. He

must be with the Forms, with Being Entire. And so the person “who grasps the reason for the being of each thing” is dialectical (534b).

From this, we get the qualities of a good student. He or she is someone who is not only physically strong but has a strong soul that can endure the turning of the soul away from the shadows to the sun. This Qualities journey is far more difficult than anything done with the body, be it gymnastics or war. It is more difficult because in those bodily affairs it is both body and soul, whereas the study of music, mathematics, and dialectic is not only just the soul at work, it is the work of the soul cultivating itself. We are reminded that this lack of courage is what brings slander to philosophy: for those who only half-love it, by either loving gymnastics alone or study alone do not properly cultivate themselves and end up either vicious or useless.

How then to prevent this fate? How to educate people with gold souls so that they can become their fullest potential as guardians? It must begin very early in life with work that is fun and playful, not forced. Study cannot feel like drudgery from the start. In having young children play, the guardians can observe the true nature of each child, and better evaluate the soul and assign work accordingly.

From birth to about 17 or 18 years old, the silver and gold souls study music, poetry, physical training, calculation and elementary geometry. The next two to three years, these young souls perform their compulsory military training. That is, they are active warriors. The most successful of these warriors move on to study for the next ten years geometry, astronomy, and antistrophe. About the age of 30, the best of these students begin their training in dialectic. After five years of dialectical study, the very best spend the next 15 years back in the Cave as the guardians in the city, managing the city’s affairs. When these guardians have reached 50 years of age, they can retire and spend their days in contemplation of the Forms, of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. In life and death, they will receive the greatest of honors.

Book 7 closes with a return to the practicality of bringing about a city ruled by philosopher- kings.

At 540e–541a, he says, “All those in the city who happen to be older than ten they will send out to the country; and taking over their children, they will reare them – far away from those dispositions they now have from their parents – in their own manners and laws that are such as we described before. And, with the city and the regime of which we were speaking thus established most quickly and easily, it will itself be happy and most profit the nation in which it comes to be.”

Such harmony is ultimately achieved through the Journey of the Dialectic. From 532b–d, Socrates reminds us, “the release from the bonds and the turning around from the shadows to the phantoms and the light, the way up from the cave to the sun; and, once there, the persisting inability to look at the animals and the plants and the sun’s light, and looking instead at the divine appearances in water and at shadows of the things that are, rather than as before at shadows of phantoms cast by a light that, when judged in comparison with the sun, also has the quality of a shadow of a phantom – all this activity of the arts, which we went through , has the power to release and leads what is best in the soul up to the contemplation of what is best in the things that are, just as previously what is clearest in the body was led to the contemplation of what is brightest in the region of the bodily and thevisible.”

Intrigued, Glaucon wants Socrates to characterize dialectic; but Socrates refuses, saying that Glaucon isn’t ready for that. Instead, Socrates contrasts dialectic and philosophy with all the other crafts. Every other art or inquiry or skill deals with being from a specific perspective, for a specific purpose, and in a specific way. So a carpenter and a blacksmith both deal with being, but their thoughts are different as are the things they use and make. The philosopher, through dialectic, is concerned only with Being insofar as it is Being: with reality as a whole, not broken into various parts.

It follows then that as inquiry moves up the line and out of the cave, the hypotheses, the stepping-stones, are thrown away and destroyed, for they serve not only as a way up and out but also as a way down and in. The philosopher insofar as he practices dialectic cannot be distracted by the multitude, by things, by images. He must be with the Forms, with Being Entire. And so the person “who grasps the reason for the being of each thing” is dialectical (534b).

From this, we get the qualities of a good student. He or she is someone who is not only physically strong but has a strong soul that can endure the turning of the soul away from the shadows to the sun. This journey is far more difficult than anything done with the body, be it gymnastics or war. It is more difficult because in those bodily affairs it is both body and soul, whereas the study of music, mathematics, and dialectic is not only just the soul at work, it is the work of the soul cultivating itself. We are reminded that this lack of courage is what brings slander to philosophy: for those who only half-love it, by either loving gymnastics alone or study alone do not properly cultivate themselves and end up either vicious or useless.

How then to prevent this fate? How to educate people with gold souls so that they can become their fullest potential as guardians? It must begin very early in life with work that is fun and playful, not forced. Study cannot feel like drudgery from the start. In having young children play, the guardians can observe the true nature of each child, and better evaluate the soul and assign work accordingly.

From birth to about 17 or 18 years old, the silver and gold souls study music, poetry, physical training, calculation and elementary geometry. The next two to three years, these young souls perform their compulsory military training. That is, they are active warriors. The most successful of these warriors move on to study for the next ten years geometry, astronomy, and antistrophe. About the age of 30, the best of these students begin their training in dialectic. After five years of dialectical study, the very best spend the next 15 years back in the Cave as the guardians in the city, managing the city’s affairs. When these guardians have reached 50 years of age, they can retire and spend their days in contemplation of the Forms, of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. In life and death, they will receive the greatest of honors.

Book 7 closes with a return to the practicality of bringing about a city ruled by philosopher- kings. Socrates explains that such rulers “will provided for their own city” in the quickest and easiest say. At 540e–541a, he says, “All those in the city who happen to be older than ten they will send out to the country; and taking over their children, they will reare them – far away from those dispositions they now have from their parents – in their own manners and laws that are such as we described before. And, with the city and the regime of which we were speaking thus established most quickly and easily, it will itself be happy and most profit the nation in which it comes to be.”

Book 8 begins with a summary of the argument thus far, so that Socrates may return to what he wanted to address at the end of Book 5: the five regimes of city and soul. The first one is the healthiest and what we have been talking about all along. The aristocracy, literally “rule of the best,” who, in this case, are none other than the philosophers, since they are the ones who have escaped the cave’s shadows, freed themselves of the bonds of ignorance, and bathed in the divine light of the Good. The remaining four regimes are increasingly worse in health and subsequently in degree of justice. In order of devolution, these regimes are timocracy (rule of the honor-loving), oligarchy (rule of the money-loving), democracy (rule of the freedom-loving), and tyranny.

At 545a-b, Socrates reminds us of what started this entire inquiry in the first place when he says that by going through these four regimes, “we may be persuaded either by Thrasymachus and pursue injustice, or by the argument that is now coming to light andpursue justice.”

Recall that for Plato change is either from worse to better or from better to worse. If the aristocracy is the best, any change would necessarily have to be for the worse. What would bring about any change? The straying away from virtue, surely. In other words, instead of there being harmony in the city or soul through the wisdom of courageous action in minding one’s own business, there is deviation from the good and the whole of virtue. This brings about faction and with it change. As divine as the guardians are, they are nevertheless fallible. They will inevitably make a mistake in either pairing two people to mate or in scheduling the mating.

The children of such errors in judgment will not be as good as their parents. At first, this may not make a difference in the rule of the city, but eventually over time, be it an entire life or several generations, this slight errors will accumulate into a significant difference in how the city operates. Faction will rise. The aristocracy will become corrupted.

This corruption will ultimately be the result of the metals mixing: people with different souls will copulate and produce hybrid children. Instead of having a child with a bronze soul and a child with a gold soul, there’ll be bronze-gold hybrids (and every other permutation). If there is this mixing in one soul, then there will be a pulling between the base desire to make money and satisfy the appetites and the rational desire to do and be good. That is, the highest part of the soul (the rational) and the lowest part of the soul (the appetites) will pull at each other, causing the soul to compromise by having the middle part rule. The spirited part of the soul or city will then be torn between the virtue of aristocracy and the vice of oligarchy, between the divine and the money-making.

What sort of person is this exactly? A compromised one in all respects: he loves the higher pleasures of speeches and reason, but he is incapable of performing them so he only listens. He loves to have money, but he never spends his own. How does such a person come into being? Plato points to a pattern that we’ll see in each devolution. The father-son dynamic. In this case, the father of the timocratic youth is a good man but lives in a corrupt city. As such, he is not a ruler, does not have much wealth, and doesn’t receive honors from others. His wife is dissatisfied with her husband and complains about his inadequacy to her son. She says his father is lazy, cowardly, and a simpleton. Yet he sees his father as someone with an intellect who minds his own business. But this youth also spends time around people who do not mind their own business but feed their appetites. This youth is pulled between two extremes, the rational and the appetitive. Emboldened by his mother’s criticisms, he seeks

honors and recognition for his victories in court and in war. He’ll defend himself against accusations when his father wouldn’t; he won’t succumb to the basest of desires because he is rational, but his reason won’t control the desire to be recognized by others.

Since the guardian class is no more in the timocracy, everybody has private property and thus private bank accounts. People start saving money. Since it costs money to fight wars and go to court, those who love virtue and honor don’t have as much money as those who just save. Eventually, those who just save have far more money than the timocrats. And the laws begin to change to honor the rich, and virtue and honor are no longer valued. Eventually, the laws state that in order to hold any political office you need to have so much money. This effectively divides the city into two: the rich and the poor. The poor become like stingless drones, begging for a handout because they’re incapable of doing anything to get ahead. Those with the stingers, however, use force to keep everyone else down.

A man turns from honor to money when he sees his honor-loving father lose everything for the sake of protecting his honor. The son is afraid because poverty is not easy. So in response the son does all he can to save money, enslaving his spirit and reason so that all he thinks and does is for the sake of making more and more money. Such a man and such a city would be very hesitant to spend any money for fear of losing it and not remaining rich. So when it comes to war or fighting for one’s personal honor, not much money is spent, and victory is not achieved; but the man or the city remains rich.

Just as the city is really two at war with each other, the man’s soul is not harmonized but one part oppresses the others, producing the appearance of justice. This is especially so when it comes to contracts. The oligarch keeps his word not because it’s the right thing to do but because he’s afraid of what will happen if he doesn’t, namely, he’s afraid of losing his money if he wrongs another.

Let’s pause and consider the differences between the virtue-loving aristocracy, the honor- loving timocracy, and the money-loving oligarchy. Which of these would you prefer to live in? Why? What examples from today can you give of aristocracy, timocracy, and oligarchy?

If the insatiable good of the oligarchy is to become as rich as possible, then the adults will make laws to get as rich as possible. Among these laws would be ones that force the youth to take out loans in order to get started in life. Thus the adults get rich off of the youth, while the youth become poorer. But to get the youth to want to take out loans, the rich adults need to get them to spend money. But on what? Surely not education in the Platonic sense. But why specify? Why not give the youth the opportunity to do whatever they like? Give them complete license to do as they wish. In doing so, these rich drones fail to see that they’re making the stingless drones, the beggars, grow in number. These youth are soft and lazy; they have no taste for any work; but they do want to do whatever they want with their stuff. But such a city full of beggars is also a city full of diversity. For each person pursuing whatever he wants produces many different tastes and indeed people of many different backgrounds. After all, the rich will want to make the city open to all who are interested in spending their money there. But eventually the rich get too few in number, too rich, and too greedy. The masses begin to realize that they could do things differently than having to subscribe to the laws that keep them poor and the few rich.

And so, at 557a, Socrates explains, “democracy… comes into being when the poor win, killing some of the others and casting out some, and share the regime and the ruling offices

with those who are left on an equal basis; and, for the most part, the offices in it, are given by lot.”

…The aristocracy will become corrupted.

This corruption will ultimately be the result of the metals mixing: people with different souls will copulate and produce hybrid children. Instead of having a child with a bronze soul and a child with a gold soul, there’ll be bronze-gold hybrids (and every other permutation). If there is this mixing in one soul, then there will be a pulling between the base desire to make money and satisfy the appetites and the rational desire to do and be good. That is, the highest part of the soul (the rational) and the lowest part of the soul (the appetites) will pull at each other, causing the soul to compromise by h

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