Thursday, April 27, 2017
Government is but a Philosophy; Installment 2
Now that we have established Plato’s distaste for the principles of democracy, let us take a look at his ideal government. In “The Republic,” Plato’s goal is to lay out his beliefs on what a “just” city should look like. But what is just? Even Plato’s depiction of Socrates struggled with this question. Reading this work, you will notice him giving several different definitions of the ideal. I am sure if you asked 10 of your friends today that same question you would have 10 slightly different answers. The character of Socrates’ clearest definition comes from looking at his just man’s soul. Plato breaks the soul down into three separate parts. This is known as the tripartite soul http://www.scandalon.co.uk/philosophy/plato_tripartite_soul.htm. The three parts are as follows; the rational (love for truth), the spirited (love for honor), and the appetitive (love for pleasure). For one to be just, the soul must have its parts in proper arrangement. A just soul is completely directed toward filling whatever knowledge-loving desires that reason produces. Therefore, his just man is ruled by a love of wisdom and truth. Theoretically, he will not be controlled by desire, greed, or lust for honor.
In Book I, Thrasymachus argues that justice is in the interest of the rulers. In every government, the rulers make the laws and enforce justice. Without a method to delve into one’s soul how are we to know one’s desires? Since Plato’s just man is a lover of knowledge and seeks to only further that knowledge would that make him the most qualified to rule? Plato would say yes. He proposes a rule by the Philosopher King. One man to control all. He makes some very disturbing propositions under the rule of his Philosopher King. https://www.britannica.com/topic/philosopher-king
One of the proposals that stands out the most is his idea on population control. The guardians are the best of the best in his society. One could call them his nobles. He elects a time period of every year (festivals) where guardians can have sex with as many women as they choose in hopes of increasing the noble population. Children born outside of these festivals are subject to death. His preference though, is to abort the children before they see “the light of day.”
Another notable proposition is the censorship of poetry. Poetry’s aim should be to control the guardians. Poetry should not spark uncontrollable laughter, should not present the underworld as bad (so that the guardians are not afraid to die), should promote a sense of truth-telling but an ability to lie when needed, should promote discipline…etc. To add to his censorship, he proposes a myth to be told to the citizens. The myth states that people are born with different metal within them. Rulers are the only ones born with gold, thus the only fit to rule. Therefore, no one should question those picked to rule.
Is this all starting to sound familiar to you? Totalitarianism, censorship, noble race… Think back to a time in history where much of this idea actually took place. My thought while reading “The Republic” was Hitler. Hitler (lover of knowledge) the King, Nazis the guardians, mass censorship, and the cleansing of the population…is there not a resemblance? I will let you decide. http://darwinianconservatism.blogspot.com/2010/01/nazi-philosophers-plato-fichte.html
Audiobook for anyone interested