Plato in today’s society – A thought experiment.

These were the two questions that I came up with to prompt discussion for Plato’s “Republic”. Although the discussion went on a tangent, I record my initial train of thought below.


  • What kind of society would we have today if Socrates’ censorship of heroes’ flaws or the god’s wrongdoings were employed?

Plato’s need for control parallels a very dictator-style rule that would be frightening to many of us today. Particularly, his strict restrictions on poems and other forms of creative freedom and expression would cause outrage among individuals today. The significant effects of creating a perfect society (Plato’s Kallipolis) would then mean the eradication of all existing humans who do not conform to Plato’s standards. As such, it seems evident that Plato’s ideals are far too theoretical to be actually carried out.

How true is this? In our current society, is there not already partial censorship of what type of person or body type is shown? Many studies have shown that exposure to television (and thus advertisements) have increased likelihood of developing depression and reducing self-esteem, especially in women. This warped ideal of a “beautiful” body today not only affects the viewers but also the models, many of which have to conform to unrealistic and possibly life threatening standards.

Arguably, censorship “for the greater good” has been used in the past as well – think back to Stalin’s cult of personality. Even today, South Korea has strict censorship over almost all aspects of life including television, journalism and the internet.

It is important to note that we are taking the extreme examples in an attempt to highlight what a Plato-esque rule may lead to, but to say that we have experienced a complete replication of Plato’s kallipolis wouldn’t be true. Perhaps we have, to some extent, already been under the heavy censorship that Plato depicts. However, Plato’s kallipolis could only be successful in a world without pre-existing ideals, but in our current society, the opposition from the masses means that Plato’s perfect kallipolis would never come to fruition.

  • In Book 2, Socrates calls a city of producers – ones who only produce what is necessary – a “healthy city”. To what extent do our materialistic desires today make our cities “unhealthy”?

[Discussed in less depth]

Creating more than necessary perhaps can be attributed to an evolutionary psychological response: one example being the concept of feast or famine. Throughout the ages, humans have undergone famine – periods of time where food is scarce and have thus adapted so that they have ways to preserve and ration food. Thus, Plato’s suggestion to produce only what is necessary may then seem counterintuitive to the survival of the human race.

Instead, Plato’s suggestion may emphasize that man is greedy. Only when there is more produce than necessary will there be conflict between humans as the ‘extras’ are seen as valuable luxuries. In Plato’s mind then, the conflict between men for resources is labeled “unhealthy”.

There are many examples of this in the real world (money, education, food/water) and Karl Marx would suggest that the rich or the bourgeoisie managers have the power to maintain their hold over the majority of resources compared to the poor proletariats. Instead of this, Plato provides a more communistic approach, one where everyone shares.

Even so, I have trouble seeing how this would be sufficient enough to stop the greed of man?





Blake’s use of the perfect symmetry and the not-so-perfect asymmetry in creating a graphological double entendre in “Introduction” (Songs of Innocence)

In my essay on Blake’s “Introduction” in The Songs of Innocence, I focused on the use of colour scheme and religious symbolism that relate to the overarching themes of purity, Boehme’s contraries and the consequences of human creativity. Due to word limit and possible confusion, I omitted my discussion on the use of symmetry and will thus record my thoughts on it below:

Illustration for "Introduction" from Songs of innocence

Illustration for “Introduction” from Songs of innocence

Much research claims that the human mind is attracted to symmetrical figures, whether this is with architecture or other humans. Often, the immaculate and heavily detailed bilateral replication means that symmetry is associated with perfection.
How does this affect the companion engraving to Blake’s illustration of “Introduction” in The Songs of Innocence? Although there doesn’t seem to be much content graphologically, the use of symmetry at first glance is evident. As an experienced engraver, Blake subtly alludes to the idea of perfection through the use of symmetry. The clear and even contrasting distinctions in colour – particularly between the dark green vines and the light blue background create clear barriers or divisions that are mirrored on both sides reinforcing this symmetry. Whereas artists may use multiple axis’s of symmetry to connote perfection, note that the use of symmetry here is only on a vertical axis due to the use of colours.
As a romanticist that was often critical of religious institutions however, and one of the first authors that mixed both graphology and typography, Blake utilized his illustrations in order to forge a more subtle meaning behind his composition. A closer inspection of the illustration reveals that the illustration is not as symmetrical as it seems from the first glance. The top of the vines split in different directions and different tones are used to highlight them. Moreover, the figures drawn within the spiraling vines are distinct and individual from one another, further highlighting the sense of asymmetry.
In my essay, I explain how the boy on the cloud is a divine being of some kind, and Blake uses colour in the introduction to criticize the linear view of the Gods. Blake may have believed that the Gods themselves should not always seem pure, as there are contraries in everything. This is reproduced in this illustration – not only does the “Introduction” have significant religious symbolism and may be Blake’s written commentary on the Gods, but the illustration also doubles as Blake’s visual commentary. In particular, the use of the vertical axis emphasizes the upward flow of the illustration, where upward is often connotative of heaven or the God’s domain. Moreover, the shift of colours from blue to white as the viewer’s eye moves upward reinforces this claim as white is often symbolic of purity, and thus the Gods.
Whereas symmetry is symbolic of perfection, asymmetry can be symbolic of imperfection. Blake seems to suggest visually then, that the Gods should not be viewed purely as absolutely perfect and divine but also imperfect. Through the understanding of Blake’s beliefs during the context of production, we can unveil a more complex and contrary understanding of his illustration.

Note: for some reason copying this from word doc. means I can’t really change the indentation – sorry about that!

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