Plato’s Republic: Book III

In Book III of The Republic, Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus extend the concept of the kallipolis introduced in the preceding conversation, establishing several key ideas about the ways in which it is necessary to educate and train the souls and bodies of the city’s “guardians”, how the three classes of peoples within the city are decided and maintained, and finally, the particular life-styles of the “auxiliary” class.

The Book begins with a continuation of the discussion at the end of Book II regarding the content of the stories to which the guardians are to be exposed in the early stages of their training in music and poetry. Socrates points out that, in order to be courageous, the guardians cannot fear death, and therefore, the stories which they hear should not include lamentations, mourning, or anything that denounces the afterlife as terrible or scary, especially if the account comes from a hero figure. The guardians must learn that it is shameful and cowardly to “groan and lament” at their misfortunes (Grube/Reeve 64). He also makes it clear that stories should be told to increase an individual’s capacity for moderation – that is, the ability to control themselves and their desires.

Next, after bringing up and then quickly dropping the topic of what kind of content should be included in stories about human beings (as opposed to gods and heroes), Socrates begins to investigate into the style of stories and music/poetry that should be allowed in the city. In telling a story, he holds, the narrator may either speak in his own voice, or as someone else, namely a character in the story. The latter would be extremely controversial in the society of the kallipolis as it requires one person to imitate another, which would contradict the idea that each person should be only what they are best suited to be by nature: themselves. Such poets would not be allowed in the city – the poet must only be allowed to narrate a story in the third-person. Likewise, in music, only certain “modes” and rhythms are permitted. It is concluded that a proper education in music and poetry is important – “since [the person] has the right distastes, he’ll praise fine things, be pleased by them, receive them into his soul” (78).

The focus of the discussion is then turned to the physical training of the guardians. Socrates brings up the distinction between the type of physical training done by athletes and the type that would be pursued by the soldiers and warriors of the kallipolis. Athletes (those of Ancient Greek times, supposedly) rely too much on an abundance of food and a strict and orderly “regimen” to keep the condition of their body stable. If they were to be inconsistent with this lifestyle for even a short period of time, their bodies would quickly go into shock. The philosophers agree that, in order to make the bodies of the guardians truly strong and able, they must train them to be able to survive significant changes in condition (i.e. no food, suddenly much colder or warmer) “without faltering in health” (80). Both types of training, it seems, contribute to the well-being of the soul, as they provide a sort of harmony that makes a person neither too rough and savage nor too soft.

A brief debate is also brought up in Book III regarding the role of medicinal doctors and judges in the city. First, we learn that it would be “shameful” if the people of the kallipolis were so incapable of dealing with their own lives themselves that they relied on the constant care and supervision of doctors and judges to keep them healthy and to sort out their problems. But of course, doctors and judges are necessary installations in a city, and so, Socrates seeks to define what a good doctor and a good judge is. However, since the young people of kallipolis will be practiced in moderation, they won’t be needing doctors and judges that much anyways.

The philosophers then jump into how the ruler of a city is chosen, describing the traits which that ruler must have and the methods by which such a person must prove these traits. They also rename those guardians which are not rulers as auxiliaries and come up with a “useful falsehood” (the Myth of the Metals, in which people are ranked by which metal they are born to have in their souls) to try to prevent people from falling out of moderation due to power-hungriness and to keep them from feeling disappointed.

Finally, the Book concludes with a detailed description of how the auxiliaries in the city would live. None of them could have private property or their own living space, they would all have to sleep and eat together, their pay would come only from taxing other citizens, and they would not be allowed to handle gold or silver. The reasoning behind this is that, otherwise, they would be “hostile masters of the other citizens instead of their allies” (93).

Personally, I find that a lot of the clauses made by this supposed “constitution” are extremely radical and even kind of scary. I mean, seriously? A law against quoting people??? A law against rhythms??? I’d really like to know what type of political system this would be defined as. Is it communism? Philosophical kingship? Where is the individualism? the expression? the ability to control ones own life?

If true justice in a whole requires all of its parts to become robots, then I’d rather not waste my time with it.



Odysseus vs. the Modern Hero

If people nowadays find it difficult to understand why, as little as 30 years ago, fashion had them wearing neon leg warmers as a part of their everyday attire, imagine how much our views have changed since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Back then, it was considered to let random strangers into your house, offer your daughters for marriage at 14 years old, and even to let other people bathe you, among the many things we would consider very odd in our times. It is not surprising then that, because culture and society have evolved so much, many of our ideals and definitions of virtue are different as well.

In Homer’s time, Odysseus would have been regarded and celebrated as a great hero and warrior, and is very consistent in both character and story with the title of epic hero, which he shares with figures such as Beowulf from the Old English poem. But from a modern perspective, he doesn’t seem nearly as heroic as he is made out to be.

It seems that, in multiple cases, Odysseus failed to fulfill a very important criterion of modern heroism: putting the lives of others before your own. While I do not know much about his deeds at Troy, I am fairly confident from the account of his journey back home that Odysseus was not an expert at this. Many of his shipmates died on the way back home to Ithaca – were eaten by monsters or fell into the trap at Helios’ cattle-packed island – mainly as a result of Odysseus’ inability to convince them to do the intelligent thing, or otherwise, the fact that he didn’t really try in the first place. He also sends many of his men out “exploring” on potentially dangerous islands and most of them do not come back. A modern hero would take the risk upon his own shoulders and be more willing to sacrifice his life for his comrades rather than the other way around. Odysseus also makes many rash decisions that are often not well thought out. He almost gave himself away while disguised as a beggar multiple times, which threatened both his life, the life of his son, and the lives of his loyal friends.

Finally, it is quite evident that Odysseus relies on other people’s help ALOT throughout The Odyssey. He does not escape from Calypso’s island until the gods themselves convince Calypso to let him go home. Even then, she helps him build a raft and gives him food for the journey. He then lands on Scheria where Alcinous’ hospitality gets him to the next place, and so on. He requires Hermes’ flower to avoid getting turned into a pig by Circe. The only time he really solves a problem is when he is able to escape from the Cyclop’s cave by his own wit. Aside from that instance, however, he is constantly under the watchful eye of Athena who keeps him out of too much trouble and makes sure he doesn’t stray from his path home. She makes him “beautiful” and “strong” when he needs it, and makes him look like a beggar when it is necessary as well. There is simply too much “god-power” helping him out, whereas we appreciate strength that comes from within in a modern hero.

Although this was not a very detailed assessment of “heroism” in The Odyssey, I hope that I have at least made some sense and that you will not judge me too harshly. Farewell for now,


Allow me to introduce myself:

You look lost. Can I help you with something?

Oh, you’re here to meet me? Really? That’s new. Well, congratulations: mission accomplished. No?

If you’d like a proper introduction,  I’m afraid one doesn’t exist; but if you try next door at my friend — still no? Wow. Alright, I suppose I will try my best if you’re really interested.

Let me begin by saying hello. Nice to meet you. My name is Iva. You may recognize me as the person who skateboards to school and eats cold lentils for lunch using the container lid as a utensil because she is too lazy to wait in line to get her food microwaved and is too disorganized to remember to bring a fork. I spent way too much time writing this post when I should have been studying. If that doesn’t sum me up well enough, please don’t be angry. If you really want to know more about me, I will try to post more things later on (unless I happen to forget, which is the most likely scenario). For now, I must go attempt to read Genesis and Fear and Trembling while I wait longingly for dinner time so that I can procrastinate some more.

Until then,


Introductions: Take 2

I apologize for my previous post where I failed miserably to introduce myself. I shall try again.

If I start at the very beginning of my life, I’m afraid my story will be quite a repetitive one that I’m sure you’ve heard before. We all started out more or less the same, and were born (for the purposes of equality and human rights and so on) pretty much the same. The only things that really matter in deciding the course of events that  follow in our lives are where we were born, when we were born, and to whom.

In my case, I will mention that I was born in Belgrade, Serbia to two very loving, dedicated, and supportive parents. My age does not matter, and I hope that nobody ever finds out how old I am because that will add unnecessary awkwardness to everyone’s lives. I moved to Canada when I was 2 and a half, and then did as most children do growing up: went to school, played with friends, poured water on keyboards and sofas (what, kids don’t do that anymore?), etc..

I must say that I was very into sports when I was young, and also at a great advantage due to the fact that I was an average of a head taller than everyone else and half as skinny. Not much has changed since then – I still love sports (and if I don’t do something active at least every two hours, I get really squirmy) and I’m still taller than almost every other girl – except that I’m not as skinny.

Fast forward to today. I have absolutely no idea what my passions and talents are, but among the many things I like are: cooking, dancing, watching movies, pretending I’m in musicals (especially Grease and Hair), painting rocks, dressing up in my mom’s clothes, playing piano, starting (but never finishing) books, writing really deep poetry and laughing at it the next day, and being fascinated by things.

I chose to attend Arts One because I wanted to discover myself through reading about other people’s experiences, and I thought it might help me figure out what I truly love, would die for, and couldn’t live without. My greatest fear is that I will fail to get out of it everything that it has to offer me and that I will toil away into oblivion doing readings and writing essays with no foresight, thought, or respect for what I am experiencing.

I hope that I have done better than last time at expressing myself and that you now know at least a bit about me.

Thank you,


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