Category Archives: Athens

Book V, 473d-e

“Until philosophers rule as kinds or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either on exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils, Glaucon, nor I think, will the human race. And, until this happens, the constitution we’ve been describing in theory will never be born to the fullest extent possible or see the light of the sun. It’s because I saw how very paradoxical this statement would be that I hesitated to make it for so long, for it’s hard to face up to the fact that there is no happiness, either public or private, in any other city.” – Socrates

From what I got from the passage was I think Socrates is giving his opinion on the then current chaos taking place within the government in Athens, surrounding the new idea of absolutism. Since absolutism is said to have been born in Athens, which Socrates had a major part in, his insight into the problem was correct. Absolutism was not working because philosophy and politics were working against each other instead of working together. Originally the idea of absolutism had to do with pursuing one’s own self-interests, but as Socrates implied, it was making cities turn evil towards other cities. In other words, by each city only working to achieve what they wanted, no city would ever be satisfied.

Also, I think to build off of Socrates speaking of no happiness “either public or private” has to do with the changes that are continuously occurring in their society and trying to keep up. Or earlier in the dialogue that “unjust” people can be happy. It is impossible for humans to find this absolute happiness if they do not even know what justice is. Which is why Socrates believes the law should come before the king. Because all should go by the same rules, it would be unjust for not all humans to be treated equally. In order for the new constitution to prosper, laws need to be set in stone. So it is clear what is right and what is wrong. That way unjust acts will gradually begin to occur less often.

 

Nikki’s post

“Surely our first and greatest need is to provide food to sustain life … Our second is for shelter, and our third for clothes and such … How, then, will a city be able to provide all this? Won’t one person have to be a farmer, another a builder, and another a weaver? And shouldn’t we add a cobbler and someone else to provide medical care? … Must each of them contribute his own work for the common use of all? For example, will a farmer provide food for everyone, spending quadruple the time and labor to provide food to be shared by them all?”

In this passage, Adiemantus and Socrates are first discussing what things are needed to sustain life. Food definitely makes sense to be first, because without it we cannot survive. Next, they mention shelter, and then finally, clothes. I agree with their ranking of priority for these things. Also, we all know that we would need more than four or five men to operate a city and keep it running. But, according to the literal reading of the passage, the four or five men would only be for the necessities.

In the second half of the passage, they say that the workers (providers) would “contribute his own work for the common use of all.” To me, this means that everyone in the city would work together to make the city run properly. For example, we cannot have the MBTA if there are no bus drivers or train conductors. We cannot be provided with food from a restaurant if there is no one doing the cooking. In the last sentence of the passage, they propose the question that asks if the farmer should provide food for everyone, even though he is the one spending more money and labor to provide that food for the public. In the modern times, that farmer would be compensated for doing the work that he does. So, if he were to spend money to provide for people, he would be getting reimbursed at the same time.

Adiemantus and Socrates illustrate this larger idea that though there may be one man for every task, there also would be that man’s contribution to society, and a particular way in which society would utilize that contribution.

Caroline’s post

“Indeed, if we want the guardians of our city to think that it’s shameful to be easily provoked into hating one another, we mustn’t allow any stories about gods warring, fighting, or plotting against one another, for they aren’t true….If we’re to persuade our people that no citizen has ever hated another and that it’s impious to do so, then that’s what should be told to children from the beginning by old men and women…The young can’t distinguish what is allegorical and what isn’t, and the opinions they absorb at that age are hard to erase and apt to become unbearable.” -pg.54 Socrates/Adeimantus

This passage brings up a few key points about education systems in cities as well as the ability of an individual to be, well, an individual once they are immersed in city life. In this day and age we are constantly being told to “think for ourselves”, that we’re unique, creative individuals. And yet Socrates brings up an idea that philosophers and educators still discuss today: the idea that we are a product of our childhood and of our environment. We really have very little say as to who we become and what values we hold as functioning members of society.

Now of course, humans are much more complex than mindless, information feeding robots however our education system often uses methods that treats us as such. Children are taught to memorize and repeat and censorship in curriculum is a heated topic when it comes to literature and discussion topics. Therefore discussions in the classroom become limited, hindering the entire purpose. With all good intentions that Socrates has in educating children to become gentle, open-minded guardians, it becomes a frightening absolute to teach children that “no citizen has ever hated another”. Is that even possible? What are the basics of fundamental human emotion and what is taught to us by the environment we live in?