I’m really enjoying reading the Republic right now. I like reading things I disagree with because I can feel clever with my sort of pseudo-intellectual criticism. However, it was only at around books 4 and 5 that I began to look really closely at what i’m sure is going to be discussed a lot in the next week, and that is the very Orwellian, fascist-esque (that’s not a word is it) nature of Plato’s perfect city. The whole book reads as a very well planned doctrine, and I imagine Plato hunched over a writing desk, getting excited imagining people using it as a model for all the real cities in the future. Socrates demonstrates an interesting logical tactic, and there were a number of ideas near the beginning that had me agreeing and such, but as I progressed into this book a lot of things began to come together in an ominous way.
In the eyes of Socrates (and therefore Plato, I would guess) an ideal city is based on strict censorship of stories, ideas, religion, music, and citizens relations. The Guardians must “guard as carefully as they can against any innovation in music and poetry or in physical training that is counter the established order.” and “considerable use of falsehood and deception for the benefit of all they rule.” This in itself is an immense, massive, gigantic issue that so many people have grappled with forever: Does one group of people know what is best for the group below them? Can benevolent dictatorships ever work, even if the leaders truly believe they?
One main difference in Socrates idea as opposed to a regular fascist state, and something that could be seen as a conflict in his ideology, is that he wants his citizens to be knowledgeable. If they are knowledgable, they will understand that the way they are living is the way that is best for them. This, like a vast majority of arguments I read in “The Republic” is a realistic idea in theory, but when you factor in that humans are, well, human, it seems fairly realistic. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Sometimes I felt like Socrates assumed were too human, and that our humanity is so standard and ongoing that it can become some sort of formula. I do agree that as a race we humans have become fairly predictable, and looking at similar cities to the one Socrates creates, I can predict that this one might fail.
Soon enough I got to selective breeding, the use of terms like “superior and inferior class”, and the idea of parentless children being controlled by the state. My sentimental self wanted to say something cliche like “what about love?” The last thing I thought was interesting was the fact that this “perfect city” is still going to be one of war. hmm. I’m of a particular mindset right now about this book, but i’m only halfway and it’s likely that during our discussion my opinion will radically shift. That’s what’s been happening the last few classes, in any case.
I really look forward to it