I have never read Plato’s work personally, though I have heard of him and my IB Theory of Knowledge class did go over his Allegory of the Cave by discussion and by watching ‘The Matrix’ (Only the first one). So going into The Republic, I was rather unprepared for the amount of processing my poor brain had to do. At this point though, I am enjoying the Republic, though I am becoming steadily uneasy at the content being presented within the dialogue as it does not conform to my views on government (not that I could possibly give a good judgement on).
Having been in IB Theory of Knowledge, we briefly went over Plato and Socrates in discussion, which I am quite used to. However, the rhetoric and logic presented within The Republic astounded me and yet made sense. The reasoning was sound and I found myself agreeing with what Socrates/Plato was arguing about.
As Book 1 ended though and Book 2 began, my interest only grew. I mean, creating a perfect city in which to test their theory of justice and injustice would do that to your interest. However, as the book began to progress, my eyes went O_O and a crinkle appeared on my brow. I agreed with the points of a good polis or city such as it should not be so luxurious. As roles began to be addressed, I still agreed with what they were suggesting.
It was when they reached what the Guardians should learn and not learn that I began to become increasingly worried. I admit, my modern perspective is not allowing me to understand Plato’s view, but in my opinion, censorship of certain aspects is never a good thing. The very reason I am able to write good essays was because my parents encouraged me and exposed me to a variety of works and a variety of views. The training of the guardians, just reminded me of the Hitler Youth. Basically training dogs of the state. I also disagreed that the state would work because it was so logical. My view (though unproven) is that humans do not always think logically and therefore, they do not always do logical things. The city Plato is suggesting would work provided everybody was logical enough to understand his/her role, but humans who do not think logically would not be able to stand this city. The only way this city would possibly work, is if the humans were replaced by Star Trek’s Vulcans who are supposed to always think logically. Thus my admiration for Plato turned sour.
Yet, I also understood some of Plato’s points about the Guardians. In real life, during the time of the Roman Empire, their was an Emperor called Marcus Aurelius (You may have heard of him in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in which Maximus (Russell Crowe) announces himself as a general of Marcus Aurelius). He was in fact, as most historians describe him, philosopher turned king and was one of the most successful Roman emperors. Reading Plato actually made me realize that Marcus Aurelius’s reasons for suppressing the Christians may have possibly been the same reason why Plato is arguing for the suppression of Homeric texts (mega speculation here and going on a wild limb). The populace, or the guardians should not get ahold of the wrong information and it must be censored or in the Christians case, wiped out.
For people wondering why I said Oh the Irony in my title. Here is why. For a piece of work to be called Republic, implying a government made up from elected members of a populace, Plato’s polis, is extraordinarily totalitarian and NOT a republic, and yet this work is called Plato’s Republic. Oh the irony.
So all in all I found Plato’s Republic a very interesting read, though the content that was suggested furrowed my brow for a couple of hours.