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The Republic (Plato)

Context
o Speakers: Socrates, Glaucon, Adeimantus, Polemarchus, Cephalus,
Thrasymachus, and Cleitophon.
o Ancient Greece, Athens; published around 380 B.C. Told through Socrates
perspective
o Justice beyond power.
o Credited with the birth of Totalitarian politics (Examples: Fascism, Nazism, etc.)
o Motivated by Athens loss of Polynesian War at the end and the educational
state of Athens to write The Republic.
o Platos academy First form of Formal Education?

Book I: Visiting Piraeus; Returns from religious festivals!


o Spoken through Socrates who sets out to answer two questions:

What is justice?

Why should we be just?

Book II:
o Goods
I.
II.
III.
o
o
o

can be divided into three classes:


Things we desire for harmless pleasure and enjoyments.
Things are desirable for their consequences and results.
Goods that are desired for both their own sake and what we get
from them as a result.
Gyges acquired a magic ring of invisibility and used it to seduce the queen,
assassinate the king, and take his kingdom.
If a just man and an unjust man are given similar magic rings, they both would
indulge in all their materialistic, power hungry and erotic urges. (360,b)
No one is just for the sake of being just; people are just to preserve and bolster
their reputation and reap rewards in the afterlife (363, a)

Book V:
o Platos 2 approaches to justice

To each his own!

Four constitutions of the city and soul (or cardinal virtues):


I.
Wisdom
II.
Courage
III.
Self-control/moderation
IV.
Justice
o Platos Three Waves:

Females should be reared and educated alongside men and take on the
same political roles. (451/d)

The offspring g of the best will be deposited to nurses and offspring of


the inferior (460/d)

Philosophers should be granted as roles of guardians.


o Philosophers must be lovers of truth and truthfulness/wisdom

He CANNOT think much of human life!

Must have GOOD MEMORY!


o Current philosophers are useless because they havent been raised properly
(487/d,e)

Men with potential are quickly preyed upon

They are rushed into politics for financial gain!


o Ship allegory

Captain Ordinary citizens

Sailors Politicians

Stargazer/Navigator Philosophers
o Paradigm of philosophy and political change

You should have a vision of an ideal society


o Forms! What are forms?

Significance of Allegory of the Cave in The Republic

Education or propaganda?

Book VI (484-513):
o

Book VII:
o Allegory (story with hidden meaning) of the Cave: It illustrates the
effectiveness of education on the human soul.

Plato distinguishes people who mistake sensory knowledge for the


truth and people who really do see the truth.

There is a cave with three prisoners tied to rocks so they


cannot look at anything but the stonewall in front of them.
They have been tied there since birth and have never seen
outside of the cave.

There is a fire that projects shadows onto the walls of the cave;
therefore the prisoners regard the shadows as being reality.

One of the prisoners escapes and learns that everything in the


cave was not a reality then returns to the cave to inform the
other prisoners.

The prisoners threaten to kill the escapee for attempting to set


them free.
o

Curriculum for philosophers


I.
Arithmetic

Arithmetic has a great elevating effect of compelling the soul


to reason about abstract numbers, and rebelling against the
introduction of visible or tangible objects into the argument.
Those well versed in arithmetic are generally quicker in other
avenues of knowledge.
II.
Geometry

III.
Solid Geometry

IV.
Astronomy

V.
Music

Music has kindred elements of rhythm and harmony. It was the


counterpart of gymnastics.

Book VIII (543-570): Begins chapter by conversing with Glaucon on the perfect
State.
o Socrates begins chapter with a brief summary of the perfect State

Wives and children are to be common in pursuits of education.

No one is to have any ordinary possession; and should only be paid


from the citizens.
o Socrates introduces four unjust forms of the state; they are described at stages
which outline the demise of the state:
I.

Timocracy (Timarchy) is the government of honor and virtue that


arises from an aristocracy (the best form of government.). The
accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals leads to the
ruin of Timocracy; they invent illegal modes of expenditure. The great
mass of citizens becomes lovers of trade and money.

II.

An oligarchy (plutocracy) teems with evil. It is a government that


rests on the valuation of property, in which the rich have power and
the poor man is deprived of it. With oligarchies, there is division of
state into one of poor men and the other of rich men. An oligarchy may

degenerate into a democracy. The rich will begin the practice of


lending money with high interest to the poor to increase their wealth
that will prompt a revolution from the poor class.
III.

A democracy naturally follows oligarchy but is very different. A


democracy has an insatiable thirst for freedom that leads to the
neglect of the proper ruling, which sparks another revolution lead by a
tyrant.

IV.

o
o

Lastly, a tyranny (despotism) is the worst and most disordered forms


of the State; it spring from democracy. The tyrant executes both the
good and bad as ell as his friends and enemies. To prevent people from
conspiring against him, he frequently incites wars.
All political changes occur from the division of actual governing power.
Socrates differentiates between necessary and unnecessary pleasure.

Necessary pleasures are the pleasures we CANNOT get rid of, and of
which the satisfaction is to benefit us. The oligarchic man is ruled by
necessary desires.

Unnecessary pleasures are those we can train ourselves to


overcome. The democratic man is overcome by unnecessary desires.

Book IX (571-594):
o Socrates continues to characterize the tyrannical man.

The tyrannical man is the son of the democratic man.

He is driven by lust and lawless desires and develops habits of


excessive spending and soon comes into debt.

After spending his own fortune he look to spend the fortunes of his
parents. If they dont give it to him, he will manipulate and deceive
them. If his attempts fail, the man will resort to killing his parents.

His insatiable desire to feed his urges; he is a slave to his desires.

The tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship.

Private tyrant versus Public (political) tyrant

Public (political) tyrant has to be master of others when he is not


master of himself.
o The individual soul, similar to the state can be divided into three principles
(580d):
I.
Learning/Reasoning Man
II.
Honor Lion
III.
Appetite/Lust/Desires Beast
o There are also three classes of men, each of whom take greatest pleasure in
that which they value the most:

Wise man (Lover of truth)

Brave man (Lover of honor)

Rich man (Lover of profit)


o Difference between real pleasure and illusory pleasure

Book X (595 621):


o Socrates begins by denouncing poetry and imitation.

Poets are just imitators who pretend to expert on topics and events in
which they know very little about.

The Republic (Plato) Reading Questions


Books VI-X
1. Platos description of democracy as a corrupt constitution is a conceptual
caricature; it is designed to fit into his narrative of political decline rather
than to be a wholly accurate historical portrayal. Nevertheless, it reveals
Platos views about the central elements of a democratic constitution and
way of life. What are they? And what is it about democracy that, to Plato,
makes it a dangerous yet beautiful society?
The democratic state is the result of the poor conquering their oligarch opponents.
The love of wealth and the spirit of moderation cannot exist together in citizens of the
same State to any considerable extent (555,b). Under a democracy, magistrates are
commonly elected by the masses. According to Socrates, democracy is characterized
by freedom and frankness. Democracies are also full of disorder and dispensing of
equality.
2. What disease afflicted both oligarchy and democracy leading to the downfall
of each? What does it suggest about Platos view of the principal cause of
political decline?
Overabundance and excessiveness are the primary catalyst for the fall of oligarchies
and democracies. An insatiable desire for material wealth by the oligarchs results in
the revolution between the wealthy and poor classes that breeds the democratic state
from the decline of the oligarchy. An excessiveness of liberty and freedom leads to the
fall of democracy and birth of tyranny.
3. Why does Plato wish to banish poetry from the city?

Aristotle Politics
Context
Politics literally means things concerning the polis.
Greece was made up of city-states (poleis), each with its own autonomous
government. The polis consisted of citizens, slaves, non-citizen manual
laborers (mechanicals), children, women, and immigrants.
The citizens governed the city while slaves, mechanicals and women did the
work to provide the necessary food, equipment for society and shelters. The
polis called for Greek citizens to voice their opinions in large deliberative and
judicial assemblies.
Aristotle (384 B.C. 322 B.C.) argued that the Greek polis was the highest
form of human association and all of his arguments were based on the polis
were the only sensible form of sensible political system.
Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great who unified all of Greece and
assimilated it into his empire, thus rendering the independent poleis extinct.
Terms:
o Polis: Small, sufficient and independent Greek city-state governed by
its citizens, the elite class.
o Koinonia: Roughly translated to association; it is defined as a
sharing in common.
o Politeia: Has two meanings:
It translated directly to Constitution.
Secondly, it describes an entity translated as a constitutional
government.
o Demagoguery: The worst type of democracy, according to Aristotle.
The will of the people supersedes law. A charismatic leader, or
demagogue, takes control and becomes a tyrant. Because he speaks
the voice of the people, and because the people are sovereign, the
demagogue has complete autonomy.
Book I
Every state is a community and every community is established for the
purpose of good. The state, or political community aims at the greatest
degree of good.
Organizational units of people:
o The household

o The village
o And the city
The parts of the family are:
o Master and slave: The slave is like a living possession or and
instrument and the servant takes precedent over all other instruments.
o Husband and wife:
o Father and children:
Household management is art of getting wealth or the art of acquisition.
Property is part of the household.
There are different form of rule:
o The rule of a household is a monarchy because every house is under
one head.
o Constitutional rule

Book II

What form of political community is best for all?


Members of a state must either have:
o All things or;
o Nothing in common;
o Or some things in common and some not.
A state is not made up only of so many man, but of different kinds of men;
for similar do not constitute a state.
A city only comes into being when the community is large enough to be selfsufficing.

Book III
Who is a citizen?
o A citizen is NOT a citizen because he lives in a certain place nor
because he has access to courts of law. A citizen who hold public office
and share in the administration of justice.
o The definition of citizenship differs under each form of government.

o Citizens share in the administration of justice, and maintain a position


in judicial or legislative office for an indefinite period of time.
o In the city-states, a Citizen holds a definite position in office.
o The state is a body of citizens sufficing for the purposes of life.
o The original definition of a citizen does NOT apply to the first
inhabitants of land.
o While citizens of a city-state may differ, all citizens are focused on the
salvation of the community.

The perversions of government:


o RoyaltyTyranny (Interests of the sole Monarch)
o Aristocracy Oligarchy (Interests of the wealthy)
o Constitutional Government Democracy (Interests of the
indignant/needy)
Democracy is said to be the government of the many but what
if the many are men with property and have the power
in their hands?

Machiavelli The Prince/ Political Discourse


Context

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