Foundations of the American Experience
Socrates demands in the Republic
that three sweeping reforms, or
waves of change, must occur to
usher in the ideal state question
Of all the questions posed to the class only one question really made me think. Socrates had a grand ideal for a city of sorts and how he, with his fellow philosophers, would plan it out. All of the ideas they came up with for their city, like physical training and a specific education for the guardians made sense. After he started down the path of planning for the guardians, his fellow philosophers mentioned the common people. Socrates knows this will be one of the hardest sells. So he breaks his ideas into waves of change that must take place in order for his city to be a success. This is where the ideal citys blue prints start to break down. Of the waves or blue prints, the first wave is where he states the idea of common tasks for both men and women, or equality of the sexes. That is to say, he recognized a physical difference but wanted to make the sexes as equal as possible. The second wave is women and children are to be held in common. This means that there cannot be marriage and what we recognize as family. He wishes to break down the nuclear family while allowing only select individuals to reproduce to get the highest quality of workers. Lastly, the third and final wave is that the king must be a philosopher. The whole book of The Republic was building up to this point. Socrates was building a city where he and his cronies will get to be kings and everyone else is led to believe they are the best for the job of king.
To build a great city one must start with sound blue prints that have been checked for flaws and quality building material. This is very logical. First you have your basic farmers, craftspeople, and herds people. After that, you have sales people, cashiers, builders, ironworkers, and special goods makers. The next progression would be soldiers, merchants, and artisans. Now that you have good solid building blocks of a city, you can start the building process of walls and such of your ideal structure. The structure of the city is the most important. How you draw up the blue prints, the revision of each and every drawing, and the execution of each plan to this city will decide how long the city will last through time. Socrates and his fellow philosophers were trying to build the best dwelling for their city.The roof was in the process of being build, what with the education they decided the guardians would need, and the idea that they would have to be physically fit and well as mentally fit, but they were missing the blue prints for the walls. This is where the three waves of reform come into play. This is where they plan the non-guardians, bricks if you will, placement in their houses blue prints.
The first wave, or drawing that will establish the first basic idea in Socrates plan is the idea that both men and women can and will share in all tasks. That is to say, that there is no assigned roles for males and females.That means if a woman has the qualities to be a guardian then she must then be educated the same as the men in the city. Socrates proves this through the following quote, So one woman may have a guardian nature and another not Therefore, men and women are by nature the same with respect to guarding the city Then women of this sort must be chosen along with men of the same sort to live with them and share their guardianship it isnt against nature to assign an education in music, poetry, and physical training to the wives of the guardians Its rather the way things are at present that seems to be against nature.
(Morgan, p. 99)
But it is more then just equality of the sexes. Socrates wants men and women to train their minds as well as their bodies together. This means classrooms shared by both. Gymnasiums shared by both. Even music rooms will be shared by both males and females in the drawing. Even Socrates knew this was a problem for the general public as well as his fellow philosophers. This wave goes against the common thought of Socrates time because the majority of people felt men should do more than women should. Though some of the philosophers took to the idea rather quickly, Socrates had to convince most of them to his way of thinking. First he took on the idea by arguing that arent we in this ridiculous position because at that time we did not introduce every form of difference and sameness in nature, but focused on the one form of sameness and difference that was relevant to the particular ways of life themselves? We meant, for example, that a male and female doctor have souls of the same nature. (Morgan, p. 99)
He meant that previously himself and the other philosophers discussed the idea of a person of a particular type of soul suited for carpentry shouldnt try to be a plumber because that wasnt what he would be well suited for. Socrates wishes that the skeptical philosophers apply this same logic to women as well as men for then they would see that the souls of women wanted to do the same things the souls of men did. They wanted to learn the same crafts, ideas, or physical training that the men would need to learn to be successful in their born into field of work.
He had another roadblock from the philosophers by way of the physical training of the women for a chosen field of work. In Roman times, men would work out with out the hindrance of clothes. The philosophers in this discussion were concerned about the need for the women to practice and train in the nude as well. Socrates eased their mind in this way: I think that, after it was found in practice to be better to strip then to cover up all those parts, then what was ridiculous to the eyes faded away in the face of that argument showed to be the best. (Morgan, p. 97) This is stating that when the end result is a better body, then the bits and pieces that make up the body, male or female, will become irrelevant.
After Socrates overcame that blue print revision for a wall in his ideal city, he brought up the next blue print for the next wall. This one was of his structure of the family in his city. He felt that all children and women should be held in common, and given to the men who were of like nature to the women. They would live in a common dwelling and eat a common meal. The only problem he foresaw was the men and women wanting to .. be driven by the innate necessity to have sex with one another. (Morgan, p. 101) Socrates thought to over come this problem by a lottery. He would have a lottery to pick what men and women would be allowed to have sex. These chosen men and women will not have one partner, but will switch partners. This would be hard for the people of Socrates time as well as people of our society today to accept this new, radical idea. It is hard for people to forget the current structure of society and accept something like this.
Now the lottery wouldnt be a true lottery. The guardians would fix the lottery so only the strongest, cleverest, or most beneficial to the city will get to breed. He felt you could manipulate the general population with festivals and sacrifices to bring brides and grooms together in sacred marriage bonds. There would be poems and songs that would establish the importance of these festivals to help the unpicked brides and grooms to feel unlucky instead of cheated.
He also wanted the children to be raised communally so he could pick and choose which children will be reared and which children would be hid<den> in a secret and unknown place (Morgan, p. 102) and left to die. Since this practice of infanticide was common place, he and his fellow philosophers didnt really see a problem with this practice.
Socrates goes on to explain that it is important for the people of the city to view it as the best city, and to love it with all their passion. If there is marriage and romantic love, then the love for the city will be divided between the family and the state. Instead of this romantic love, people of the city should have brotherly love, or love for the state and only the state. Also the people of the city should have love for wisdom and true knowledge because all of these types of love would unite the city to the greatest possible extent.
The last blue print Socrates needs to explain to the other philosophers was the easiest of them to get okayed.In this drawing, the wall for the city would be build for a king. Or, rather, built up for who Socrates felt should be a king. The only problem Socrates had was the people. This would be a tough sell for the people of Socrates time to embrace because the majority of these people did not like the actions of philosophers, and for them to be ruled by philosophers would be hard for them to accept.
Socrates goes on to explain that a philosopher loves everything, and has true knowledge. They have entered the realm of forms and they understand everything through knowledge and not opinion or senses. A king as a philosopher can therefore tell differences of the roles in the city because he or she is wise. These philosophers are the only people who actually know what justice is, and can therefore watch to make sure the city is run in the proper manner. As Socrates says Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize cities will have no rest from evils nor will the human race. And, until this happens, the constitution weve been describing in theory will never be born to the fullest extent possible or see the light of the sun its hard to face up to the fact that there can be no happiness, either public or private, in any other city (Morgan, p. 110). The philosophers are the only ones that can see the light and have an understanding of what it takes to have a just city and the things that need to be done for the city to be run properly. If the city has philosophers as kings, it is only then that the city will have true justice and it is only then that the city will be as close to Socrates model as possible. And that is why he had all of these blue prints if you will, to show the possibility of his city.
All of these blue prints bring into question the feasibility of Socrates ideal state when it comes to getting the common people to go along with this plan. It is extremely hard for anyone in societies around the world to simply drop everything and completely change their lifestyles to try and enter a theoretical city. In order to get this city started and as close to theoretical as possible, lies would be told. Socrates tries to get around these lies by calling them other things such as myths, or noble falsehoods when, in actuality, they are still lies. The first lie explains to the people why they must live as they do, and it also explains why they are in the classes that they are in. The second lie tries to hide the truth from its population through the lottery system and will make the city more intelligent and moral. These lies are the basis of the city, and without them the city cannot be established in real life because people would not accept the city. If this is an ideal state, then why does Socrates need to tell lies to its people to keep it running?
These are just a few problems in Socrates Republic. Most of his points could be enacted if they were taken singularly enacted of if they were gradually introduced. But if all of the plans were to be built exactly as shown, the people or material as I was calling them, will start to break down. Or, if the problems were big enough, a total breakdown of the entire structure.
Morgan, Michael L.. Classics of Moral and Political Theory. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.