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Πολιτεία The Republic is where Plato lays down his ideas of an ideal state and its rulers Plato s Utopian state is one which is just and his ideal rulers are philosophers so far as I understood Being my first philosophic read, I don t claim to have fully understood Plato s ideas Presented as a series of dialogue between Socrates and Plato s brothers Adeimantus and Glaucon, in eleven parts Plato step by step forms his ideal state Part I and II , its rulers Part IV and Part VII , their education, women s position Part VI and the position of art and poetry Part X in the new state Although some of his views are far fetched and absurd, many of them are thought provoking And if you examine carefully, you will see the truth of many of his view points, especially those relating to imperfect societies discussed in Part IX.I really enjoyed Plato arguments although I cannot say that I agree with them all There are many insightful views though at the same time, given the long years between the time in which it was written and which it was read, some of the arguments are absurd according to modern standards Plato s Utopian state is one that cannot be realized in reality even Plato had his doubts about it ever being in existence But on close examination on various governance in the world we see instances where views of Plato having been adopted Taking all these into account, it is no wonder that the Republic is regarded as the cornerstone of western philosophy The translation I read was done by Sir Desmond Lee I found it easy to read There were many explanatory notes within that really helped me to understand the text, although I cannot say I fully understood everything Overall, I loved the read, and am really happy to say that finally one of my long reading wishes is fulfilled. Is the attempt to determine the way of man s life so small a matter in your eyes to determine how life may be passed by each one of us to the greatest advantage1.344d I propose therefore that we inquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them2.368e 369aThe Republic An ApologyThe safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to PlatoAlfred North WhiteheadThe Famous Republic The Republic is either reverenced, reviled or just plain ignored Though it keeps resurfacing, it has been pushed back often, being accused of bigotry, racism, elitism, casteism, anti democratic nature, the list is endless But it is beyond doubt, one of the preeminent philosophical works and has been quoted, referenced or adapted by almost all of the major thinkers since The ideas of Socrates have had an afterlife that is as long and varied as the thousand year journey envisioned for souls in the famous Story of Er It is impossible to catalogue the full list of impacts but Whitehead s quote introductory to this review gives adequate flavor The practical influence of Republic isdifficult to gauge than its impact on the theorizing of later thinkers over the centuries, individuals have discovered in Plato s works the inspiration for undertaking political or social or educational reform and have used it as the springboard for much revolutionary thought, and deeds.Republic has inspired in addition to all the expository analysis, also countless creative interpretations, which have shaped our vision of future possibilities, limits and of extremities Many depictions of both utopian societies and their dystopian counterparts, ranging from Thomas More s Utopia to Jonathan Swift s Gulliver s Travels to Aldous Huxley s Brave New World to George Orwell s 1984, have their roots in the ideal city brought to life by Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus Contemporary films such as Gattaca and The Matrix may not owe direct inspiration to Republic, but they participate in a long tradition of artistic works that ultimately trace their concerns back to the political, social, and metaphysical issues raised in Republic.But in spite of all this, the original work retains a reputation for being difficult and hard to penetrate This has meant that the scholars haveor less appropriated this brilliantly composed treatise, and that is a pity There is great suspense in every page as you eagerly try to work your way through Socrates arguments anticipating now, guessing now, failing now, but always on the edge of your seats at the sparkle of his wit and wisdom The dialogues are constructed with an almost unbelievable care and subtlety The drama is breathtaking and all pervading, even in the stock responses to theoretical or rhetorical questions One is never allowed to sit and absorb passively, but is forced to constantly interact with the dialogue It is as much fun to read as a Shakespearean drama.The Offensive RepublicNow, to examine some of the reasons why The Republic offends modern sensibilities Much of the contemporary discomfort with Plato s state arises from his countenancing of censorship, a rigid caste system, etc But these are in a way unfortunate misunderstandings A close reading of the text would make clear that these catch all descriptions of Plato s state are not as representative as they are made out to be For example, the caste system that is first to get blamed is hardly a rigid hereditary system, but a strict meritocratic system that is muchequal than anything that we have seen till date It involves a strict battery of tests similar to the aptitude tests of today based on which every individual is to be judged and opponents of IQ tests may relax these are meant to be muchpractical examinations.Also, the popular rendering of the title as The Republic itself is unfortunate, giving it an obvious political and ideological overtone In the manuscripts and ancient citations, the title of Republic is given as Politeia Constitution or Politeiai Constitutions Peri dikaiou literally, concerning that which is just is sometimes listed as an alternative title.The Misunderstood RepublicI had planned on giving a blow by blow defense of the most reviled aspects of The Republic, but that is not the point I wish to make here The primary mistake in criticizing The Republic is to assume that it was meant to be a political treatise in the first place It is not The whole argument begins from a question of identifying what Justice is and whether it is beneficial to live a Just Life This is the crux Why and How to be Just and What is this Justice anyway That is what Socrates wants to explore He takes detours in this exploration He uses metaphors of State as larger manifestation , of Caves, etc But they all lead us back to the same basic question.To identify this basic concern, we need only look at the complex structure of the dialogue itself Republic s narrative is structured in an almost circular pattern This circular pattern is complex, evoking the narrative patterns of epic poems such as Iliad and Odyssey Most basically, the dialogue s two main concerns defining justice and ascertaining its relationship to happiness are treated in two corresponding sections books 2 4 and books 8 9 that are interrupted by what is nominally a series of digressions in books 5 7, and 10 These nominal digressions, of course, create the dialogue s most memorable metaphors, but they are meant to be digressions that add to the core Not the other way around.At its most basic level, Republic is an effort to forge a consistent and meaningful redefinition of Justice The aret that is explored lies in nothing outward, but rests solely in the mature reason and regard for what is beneficial to the soul Not all the details in these allegories stand up to logical analysis, but they are not meant to This is made clear by the fact that The Republic s interlocutors repeatedly draw attention to the incomplete, provisional, and at times unsatisfactory nature of their treatment of justice, happiness, the ideal political community, the theory of the ideas, the cognitive faculties of human beings, etc The inadequacy of the method we are employing is acknowledged at 4.435c d, at 6.504b d and in many other places.The Personal Constitution A Constitution of the Perfect LifeThe Perfect State sketched out which is the stub of almost all criticism is only an approximation devised to arrive at the Perfect Man, and that is why the so called bad aspects can be deemed acceptable The mistake, as stated already, is to see it as a purely political treatise while it is in fact a treatise on justice and how to live the perfect life the Constitution of a perfect lifeHe will look at the city which is within him, and take heed that no disorder occur in it, such as might arise either from superfluity or from want and upon this principle he will regulate his property and gain or spend according to his means In the end, the state is not fleshed out enough to really form a complete constitution for any state that can exist in reality and not just as an idea But the psychological part it is curious how this part has generated so much less criticism, in comparison is we return in the end and all the way in between to the original question of how an individual should order his life what his virtues should be It is a political critique piggy backing on a personal enquiry and hence any commentary of it cannot treat them differently Censorship, slaves, aristocracy are all wonderful aspects in an individual but not palatable in a state to modern eyes Hence, we can only criticize that the greater to smaller equality is not well realized i.e from state individual But then Socrates, as above, is always eager to make the point about the provisional nature of his metaphor which is only meant to incite thinking and not as an answer that is just not the way to deal with true lovers of truth, with true philosophers Cheeky counterproposal by the reviewer s alter ego Or all the personal stuff is just a convenient cloak for the political criticism that is the real purpose After all, we cannot forget the historical milieu in which Plato composed it He had enough axes to grindIndeed, thewe approach certain aspects of the text from analytic and conceptual standpoints, thewe find that Socrates and his companions make innumerable assumptions and leaps of logic that is not satisfactory or fully justified Each of these can be fairly scrutinized and contested, and have been We may raise any number of questions about its relevance to our experiences and value systems Much of Republic, especially its political philosophy, argument for Censorship and Social structuring, is at odds with modern ideals some readers will doubtless be dissatisfied with, among other things, its unapologetic elitism and naive almost laughable confidence in the integrity of philosopher rulers Some, however, may find that its critique of ancient Athenian society opens the door to meaningful questions about contemporary cultural practices and priorities And evenmeaningful questions on how to organize our inner impulses and constitution.Philosopher, Be ThyselfWe need to understand that the Platonic Dialogues, in principle, are not meant to represent a simple doctrine that can be followed, they instead are meant to prepare the way for philosophizing They are not easy guide books to follow They require work from the reader, above and beyond the ideas presented That is one of the reasons for the dialogue nature in which they are structured Plato s overarching purpose in writing the Republic was to effect a change in his readers similar to the change that Glaucon and Adeimantus undergo at Socrates hands in the fictional world of the dialogue This purpose can be summed up in the word protreptic, from the Greek protrepein, which means turn someone forward, hence propel, urge on, exhort Plato uses literary art, which in his case includes but is not limited to philosophical argument, to move his reader toward a greater readiness to adopt a just way of life.The dialogues are thus intended to perform the function of a living teacher who makes his students think One must philosophize to understand them One must look at the microcosm of the dialogues as well as the macrocosm of the world that we inhabit simultaneously to understand them It is in this process that the dialogues assist, insist and themselves provide a training in.We can only conclude by asking questions, in the true spirit of the dialectic method Can we then say that we are convinced, that justice, as defined by Socrates, is something intrinsically valuable Are we convinced that the just man can be happy even if he does not enjoy a reputation for justice, nor any other material benefit, in this life or after OR Have Socrates and his companions persuaded us that the ideal city state they describe in Republic is truly the best political community possible Do we believe that Socrates himself thinks so Is that what we take away from such a deep examination of how to live our lives Or do we let the Story of Er guide us back to the truer motives of the interlocutorsI really do not know as yet, but whither the argument may blow, thither we go Plato s The Republic , is a great but flawed masterpiece of western literature, yes it makes sense, mostly, some of it I am the wisest man in the world because I know one thing, that I know nothing , said the smart man Socrates Plato is writing for Socrates, his friend and teacher Late teacher, since being forced to commit suicide by the uncomfortable citizens of Athens the famous poisoned cup of hemlock , for corrupting the minds of youth Socrates didn t believe books were as effective as lectures, big mistake Socrates advocates complete state control of everything, land, schools , businesses, homes, and even children to be taken away from their parents and raised by the state In other words, an early form of communism Plato agreed but Aristotle didn t , he knew only parents would love their children , which kids need Most of the book is dialogues between various men as how to establish a perfect state Socrates Plato wanted Greece ruled by philosopher kings With a professional army to back them up An unreachable goal, as 24 centuries later, has shown Greed is the primary motivation of the human race, but people keep on trying to reach the elusive Utopia , and failing forever Socrates the wise man, was correct. The Republic, PlatoThe Republic is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning justice, the order and character of the just city state, and the just man It is Plato s best known work, and has proven to be one of the world s most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically 1976 1335 1348 648 1368 1379 1383 1384 1392 1353 10 549 10 . Halfway through now and the ability to see the book as a metaphor for civic and personal moral development becomes difficult The book is only useful if you are tracking the history of ideas, which I am not The state Plato describes here is one that is highly prohibitive in almost every aspect Arts and culture are severely controlled for propaganda purposes There is a complete inability to view open, transparent government as an option The guardians must be lied to and deceived constantly if they are to develop correctly Moreover, to establish what we might call a footing for his premises, there is an overwhelming amount of presumption on the part of the author Much of the reasoning seems specious It strikes this reader how Plato did not have a long and detailed historical record to call on as we do There are many assumptions, for instance, with respect to the education of the guardians, that shows a weak grasp of human psychology The guardians should, in effect, be shielded from badness and wrongdoing if they are to develop the appropriate appreciation for virtue Well, if they re not exposed to badness, how will they know it when they see it Other aspects of guardian nurturing and education, too, are severe if not totalitarian by today s standards First, the very sick are to be left to die This was of course a sign of the times Medicine was primitive But there is not an iota of compassion about those left to die This, indeed, would connote softness, something not wanted in our guardians, who are to be simultaneously brave and happy, not unlike the family dog Plato actually says that The overwhelming import of the reading so far has been to show me how very far we as a culture western have come in thethan 2,400 years since Republic s composition As Martin Luther King Jr said, and I paraphrase, the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice I stopped on p 134, unable to finish To use a line from Candide, the book fell from my hands AC says I should not be reading this translation at all but G.M.A Grube s So I will My re reading of this for my university course has led me to the same conclusions I found when I first read it a couple of years back, except this time I am fortunate enough to have understood it better than last time My conclusions being that Plato, and through him Socrates, was very intelligent, believed he wasintelligent than everyone else no matter how many times he declared himself unwise and very much loved to talk Socrates, in particular, must have been very fond of the sound of his own voice.You can t give a book that revolutionised philosophy any less than 3 stars, even if about 70% of it features many generalisations, jumping to bizarre conclusions, and claims without good reason And yes, Plato and Socrates had some brilliant ideas all thebrilliant because they came up with them first but they don t measure up to today s version of rational thinking Good, but outdated I suppose the best thing about their ideas was that they laid the foundations for the next 2000 years of Western philosophy and politics Gender Equality And, though hardly feminists, Socrates and Plato were some of the first to publicly suggest that education should be equal to both genders apart from military training and that women should have as large a political role as men, seeing as they make up half of society Go early Greek gender equality Though I suppose the line whining and crying as if they were but women or something to that effect kind of pisses on that feminist bonfire Oh wellJustice So here s some of the reasons why The Republic fails Firstly, Socrates the character assumes that because one example demonstrates a certain type of relationship, then this idea can be applied to all When he is arguing with Thrasymachus about justice, Thrasymachus says that justice is whatever the rulers decide it to be and that they use this power for their own good and the weaker i.e the subjects get screwed over Socrates then uses the example of a physician who is stronger than his patients but his agenda is only to help them Well 1 Even if a physician selflessly helps his patients, this does not prove that rulers have the best interests of their citizens in mind There is not a naturally occurring relationship between the two.2 As Thrasymachus goes on to point out, the physician is doing it for his own benefit because he is paid to do the job.Stupidity ContradictionsSo then Socrates starts with the bullshit that doesn t get refuted because the author is on his side, of course He says that the physician is divided into two roles that of physician and that of moneymaker yep So, basically the two are separate and have nothing to do with each other um, I beg to differ You see Some of the arguments are ridiculous He also goes on to contradict himself later by stating that rulers do get a reward for ruling money If he had maintained his previous argument, then they should have done it anyway for the simple benefit of their subjects and moneymaking should be a separate thing entirely.Agent vs Act VirtuePlato and Socrates talked a great deal about justice being an agent virtue and not just an act virtue They believed that it wasn t good enough to act justly, you had to have a good soul as well Makes sense until you get to where you judge people based on them having a good soul or not and just how do you do that Person A do you have a just soul Person B oh yes.Person A Phew, let s be friends And they have a very warped view of what makes a person good just A just man values wisdom above all else does he I imagine a person who likes to make friends with the super smart individuals and disregard the rest to be a bit of an ass Don t you I ve gotten into the habit of dividing up the books I ve read by whether I read them before or after Plato s Republic Before The Republic, reading was a disorganized activity much the same as wading through a sea of jumbled thoughts and opinions I had no basis from which to select books, except by how much they appealed to my na ve tastes But after reading The Republic, it was as if the entire intellectual landscape was put into perspective Reading became a focused activity, meant to engage with certain questions Question is the key word here because, in the end, that s what Plato is all about asking the right questions, the important questions All academic disciplines are organized around a few basic questions what is the nature of human cognition what are the fundamental laws of the universe and in The Republic, Plato touches on almost every one of them That s why shelving the book in the philosophy section doesn t quite do it justice An exhaustive list of the disciplines touched upon in this dialogue would be massive epistemology, metaphysics, psychology, eschatology, political science, economics, art, literature, music In fact, it would be easier naming disciplines that aren t touched upon.That s how Plato lit up the intellectual landscape for me By posing these questions in their most basic forms, and attempting answers, he makes it clear which questions are the important ones in life, and how difficult they are to answer And that s why Plato s Republic is the quintessential classic It has everything a classic should have a unique perspective, brilliant ideas, engagement with perennial issues, and a charming writing style It is the greatest book of perhaps the Western tradition s greatest thinker I don t care who you are you should read it.Nevertheless, there are some perplexing and frustrating things about Plato For one, it is extraordinarily difficult to figure out where Plato stands in relation to his work Unlike almost every later philosopher, Plato didn t write didactic works He puts his ideas sometimes conflicting ideas into the mouths of the people of his day The result is a kind of double confusion To what extent are the ideas expressed by Socrates actually Socrates s To what extent are they Plato s To what extent are they anyone s Perhaps Plato was just fond of playing intellectual games and creating philosophical pocket dramas.Added to this is a kind of subtle irony that creeps up in several of his dialogues In Phaedrus, Plato has Socrates complain about the evils of writing yet Plato obviously loved to write One of Plato s most influential ideas is his theory of forms yet one of the most influential arguments against the theory was put forward by Plato himself In The Republic, as well as elsewhere, Plato repeatedly equates knowledge with goodness, and falsity with evil yet he proposes to found his entire utopia on a massive lie And again, in this book Plato puts forward one of the most famous arguments in history against poetry and the arts yet Plato was one of the most artistic of all writers Plato proposes to banish the myths of Homer and Hesiod then Plato ends his magnum opus with his own myth You see these contradictions again and again, which leads you to wonder how many of his arguments are meant to be taken seriously What s , some of the arguments put forward in his dialogues are it must be said frustratingly stupid, relying on false analogies and several other types of fallacies This would be no mystery if he was a halfwit But the quality of his writing and the originality of his ideas make it clear that he was a genius This again makes you wonder if he is putting forth his ideas in earnest.There are many complaints commonly lodged at Plato and his pupil Aristotle Liberals criticize his hatred of democracy and freedom Moralists complain that he embraced slavery A friend of mine once told me that his philosophy professor called Aristotle the father of racism Scientists such as Carl Sagan disparage Plato s anti empirical and mystical tendencies Nietzsche and his followers condemn Plato for dividing up the world into self evident good and bad The list of complaints can be extended almost endlessly And, it should be said, there is some justice in all of these criticisms But just you try and found an entire intellectual tradition spanning thousands of years, and see if you do any better In Plato, I find something so valuable that it could outweigh every one of those criticisms Plato s celebration of thinking for its own sake argument for the sake of argument, debate for the sake of debate Too often, we consider intellectual activity as merely a means to some desirable end how rarely we consider that thinking is its own reward Vigorous thought is one the keenest joys in life And that is why Plato is so valuable, why he still has so much to offer our world perhaps nowthan ever A note on justice Even though Plato spills much ink in trying to prove that justice isdesirable than injustice, I think the real solution is in Glaucon s speech in Book 2, where Plato manages to hit upon the solution provided by game theory It s worth quoting at length Many have believed that to do injustice is, by nature, good to suffer injustice, evil but that the evil is greater than the good I.e The evil suffered from injustice is greater than the good gained from acting unjustly And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither hence there arise laws and mutual covenants and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but the lesser evil, and honored by reason of the inability of the men to do injustice.This view purportedly the common view of justice is game theory in a nutshell Cheating your neighbor is for you the biggest positive, since you get their resources without having to work But being cheated is the biggest negative, since you lose both your resources and the work you invested in procuring them Creating laws to abolish cheating is a sort of compromise avoiding the pain of being cheated at the expense of the gain from cheating That, to me, seems like the most logical explanation of justice.This is just one example of why it s rewarding to read Plato, because even when he s wrong, he s right. It s been far too long ago since I read this to write a critical review, however, it should be required reading for all students in America at the very least Oh how far we have strayed. All the criticisms of Plato are valid He raises straw arguments He manipulates discussions unfairly He doesn t offer realistic solutions And so on.But he is still, and for very good reason, the most influential philosopher in Western civilization He makes people think Most authors we read today are trying to persuade us to agree with their point of view Plato, not so He wants you to disagree with him He wants you to argue with him He wants you to identify the fallacies in his arguments and some are deliberately fallacious In short, he wants you to do the most difficult intellectual exercise there is He wants you to think, and to think deeply The other thing to realize about Plato is that he is an exquisite poet and craftsman There is nothing accidental about what he writes there is nothing superfluous Even the most minute seeming points are there for good reason Part of the joy of reading Plato for the third, fourth, fifth time is to see each time a bitabout what he is doing and why he is doing it, to come closer to appreciating his extraordinary genius and encountering everdeeply this incredible mind. Presented In The Form Of A Dialogue Between Socrates And Three Different Interlocutors, This Classic Text Is An Enquiry Into The Notion Of A Perfect Community And The Ideal Individual Within It During The Conversation, Other Questions Are Raised What Is Goodness What Is Reality And What Is Knowledge The Republic Also Addresses The Purpose Of Education And The Role Of Both Women And Men As Guardians Of The People With Remarkable Lucidity And Deft Use Of Allegory, Plato Arrives At A Depiction Of A State Bound By Harmony And Ruled By Philosopher Kings

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