Platos Republic ~ part I
Written ca. 385 B.C.; one of Platos middle dialogues.
The title is a bad translation of the Greek politeia, "political or public business."
1. Platos theory of the "origin of a city" (Griffith trans. 369b)
What kind of theory is this?
Are two principles which are the basis for the social character of humans
1. No person is self-sufficient; all have basic needs (369b).
2. Each person is born with a specific aptitude for some type of work (370a-b).
For Plato, talents or aptitudes are natural.
Summary formula of Platos theory of the origin of society
needs + aptitudes + specialization + exchange of goods & services = fulfillment of needs of all & happiness
Transition to the next topic: the life of humans should go beyond a "city of pigs" (372d).
Humans desire luxuries
Leads to expansion
Leads to war
Need for an army
2. The class structure of the Republic
(1) The military - "guardians"
Their education (376c-412b) - brief glance
(2) The rulers
The best of the guardians, older, wiser, and concerned with the well-being of the whole society (412c).
(3) Workers ("farmers and [other] skilled workers" 415a)
How is the authority of the rulers to be established?
The teaching of a myth - the myth of gold, silver, iron & brass (415a)
A class, not a caste system (415b)
3. The virtues of the state
(1) Wisdom (428b-429a)
the virtue of the rulers
general knowledge vs specialized (tacitly suggested in the discussion about carpentry & farming, 428b-c)
very few have it (429a)
ultimately, wisdom is knowledge of the Ideas
(2) Courage (429a)
the virtue of the military
knowledge of what is and what is not to be feared (429b, 430b)
(3) "Self-discipline" (Griffith trans. 430d). Often called moderation or temperance (sõphrosuné)
the virtue of the workers
"mastery of pleasures and desires" (Griffith trans. 430e)
"a kind of order" (430e) - the proper order of the superior & inferior
on the level of the individual & of the state
Platos attitude toward the workers
Cf. George Orwells 1984.
(4) Justice (432b-d)
Each person ought to do that task for society which fits his or her natural aptitudes . . .
and not meddle in the affairs of others.
Connection with Platos theory of the origins of the state (433a, reference is to 369b)
Justice in the individual -- the proper & natural order within the soul of its parts (444b-d)
Cf. Platos notion of justice to the modern Western notion
Plato --> emphasis is on duty of citizens to the community & state.
Focus is on the common good
modern --> emphasis is on fairness in the distribution of rights & legal processes
Focus is on the individual
4. The three parts of the soul
The "rational element" (439d)
The "spirited element" (441a)
The "desiring element" (439d)
For Plato, just as it is important for the well-being of the state that each class does its job, so also it is important for the well-being of the individual that each part of the soul does it job.
What does this mean?
Overview of topics 2, 3, & 4
A series of parallelisms
classes virtues parts of the soul
rulers wisdom rational
military courage spirited
workers self-discipline desiring
5. The status of women in the Republic
Women in ancient Athenian Greece
Their place was in the household
Only roles outside of the household - priestesses, mourners at funerals, participants in religious festivals
Strict division of occupations by sex
Uneducated; most were illiterate
Occupations should not be based on sex (451d, e, 452a-b, 454d-e, 455d-e)
Hint that woman can be rulers (455d-e, 456a)
Woman guardians receive the same education as men (456b-c)
In the Laws - abolishment of dowries
But there are occasional misogynistic passages in the Republic (431b-c, 557c, 563b)
To the essay by Julia Annas on The Republic & feminism