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Plato, Republic - Revisited > Republic Redux, Book 4

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Plato continues constructing the ideal state (for the reason, we keep in mind, of understanding justice writ large so that we can understand it writ small in the individual life).

His philosophy not only of the state but of the good individual life seems to be developing. His view, for example, that the happiness of the individual is not the goal, but rather the happiness of the entire city. Material wealth does not bring happiness; the ordinary citizen (the bronze workers) are happy with what they are given, and do not want more.

While this seems unrealistic to, I think, most Westerners today, isn't it actually the state of most people for many centuries; in religiously based class systems, such as prevailed in much of Europe for many centuries, one was expected to be content with what God had given them. It was contrary to God's will to be dissatisfied with what God had decreed was one's place in the world. So perhaps for his time, Socrates wasn't all that unrealistic in thinking that this concept would be acceptable to the citizens of the perfect city.

Thoughts about this?

Then there are Socrates's four attributes of the perfect city: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. He claims his city has all of these attributes.

Finally, we return to the city-soul analogy and Plato's tripartite psychology. The city has three classes; the soul has three aspects. Is this persuasive?


message 2: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1716 comments Socrates's claim seems to be that to be just is to have a well-ordered soul, with mind and spirit and appetite all playing their proper roles. What has this to do with Cephalus's off-hand definition of justice as telling the truth and returning what's owed? It seems like we're talking about something else now. Can't some evil genius have his mind, spirit, and appetite all working together, yet pursue unjust ends?


message 3: by Dave (last edited Jan 26, 2017 06:09AM) (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Most of the time, (I think) I follow Socrates' drift but I have to confess I really struggled to understand how the virtue of courage manifests itself. In particular, I'm not sure how knowing what is and what isn't "terrible" equates to courage. Would appreciate someone throwing light on this passage (430a-b).

In the Bloom translation, it's as follows: "...they should receive the laws from us in the finest possible way like a dye, so that their opinion about what's terrible and about everything else would be colorfast because they had gotten the proper nature and rearing, and their dye could not be washed out by those lyes so terribly effective at scouring, pleasure—more terribly effective for this than any Chalestrean soda and alkali; and pain, fear, and desire—worse than any other lye. This kind of power and preservation, through everything, of the right and lawful opinion about what is terrible and what not, I call courage"


message 4: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Roger wrote: "Can't some evil genius have his mind, spirit, and appetite all working together, yet pursue unjust ends?"

Not sure if it's entirely relevant, but I read a study in the New Scientist (see https://www.newscientist.com/article/...) this week, which suggests the "Hannibal Lecter myth", as psychologists call it, of the evil genius isn't quite true. A study at St Louis University found that real-life psychopaths actually scored lower than average on intelligence tests, and were often "impulsive" and "aggressive", which suggests they often lack the harmonious balance Socrates describes in the well-ordered soul.


message 5: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments I am equating the dye as education/indoctrination/brainwashing?
Here is the Perseus translation. I hope it provides a different and helpful perspective.

[430a] and exercises of the body. The sole aim of our contrivance was that they should be convinced and receive our laws like a dye as it were, so that their belief and faith might be fast-colored both about the things that are to be feared and all other things because of the fitness of their nature and nurture, and that so their dyes might not be washed out by those lyes that have such dread power to scour our faiths away, pleasure more potent than any detergent or abstergent
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/t...

[430b] to accomplish this, and pain and fear and desire more sure than any lye. This power in the soul, then, this unfailing conservation of right and lawful belief about things to be and not to be feared is what I call and would assume to be courage, unless you have something different to say.” “No, nothing,” said he; “for I presume that you consider mere right opinion about the same matters not produced by education, that which may manifest itself in a beast or a slave, to have little or nothing to do with law and that you would call it by another name than courage.”
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/t...

A note on 4.430b: Cf. Protagoras 360 C-D, Laws 632 C, Aristotle Eth. Nic. 1116 b 24. Strictly speaking, Plato would recognize four grades, (1) philosophic bravery, (2) the bravery of the ἐπίκουροι [helper or ally ie., the silver soul class]here defined, (3) casual civic bravery in ordinary states, (4) animal instinct, which hardly deserves the name. Cf. Laches 196 E, Mill, Nature, p. 47 “Consistent courage is always the effect of cultivation,” etc., Unity of Plato's Thought, nn. 46 and 77.


message 6: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments Roger wrote: "Can't some evil genius have his mind, spirit, and appetite all working together, yet pursue unjust ends?"

Of course. But Plato seems to have made the inability to work together a defining attribute of injustice.

350d - that justice is virtue and wisdom and injustice vice and ignorance.
351d - Factions are the oucome of injustice, and hatreds and internecine conflicts, but justice brings oneness of mind and love.
353e - The just soul and the just man then will live well and the unjust ill
354a - he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who does not the contrary
354a - the just is happy and the unjust miserable
354a - Never, then. . .can injustice be more profitable than justice.


Can we think of any counter-examples? Although, I suppose if they were really good at it, we wouldn't find out about it. Glaucon says the goal of the unjust is to outwardly appear just.


message 7: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments David wrote: "I am equating the dye as education/indoctrination/brainwashing?
Here is the Perseus translation. I hope it provides a different and helpful perspective."


Thanks. The translation, "belief about things to be and not to be feared", does make it a bit clearer for me.

His definition is still a bit too intellectual for my liking. I've always thought of courage as an instinctive thing, which can be honed by action rather than thought.


message 8: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Dave wrote: "In particular, I'm not sure how knowing what is and what isn't "terrible" equates to courage. Would appreciate someone throwing light on this passage (430a-b)."

The word for "what's terrible" or "things to be feared" is deinos (from which we get "dinosaur"). It's an interesting word because its original sense is "frightening," but it evolved to mean "mighty" or powerful, and then evolved further to mean "clever" or "skillful." Plato uses this word three times in this passage; the first time it means "frightening" and the second time it means powerful: "terribly effective" (Bloom) or "dread power," (Shorey.) In the next sentence it means "frightening" again. He's playing with the word a bit.

It's also worth noting that courage is said to be based on "beliefs" or "opinions" (doxa) about what is to be feared, not knowledge.

And as a sidenote, what is the meaning of courage without fear? I've always thought courage involved overcoming fear rather than not feeling fear at all.


message 9: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Roger wrote: " Can't some evil genius have his mind, spirit, and appetite all working together, yet pursue unjust ends?

Can we ask this question of the evil city as well? Couldn't we say Athens was well-governed and functioning at the height of its powers as it was slaughtering the men and enslaving the women and children of Melos?

Or did Athens act this way due to an illness, unknown by its citizens at the time, that eventually led to its downfall?


message 10: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Jan 26, 2017 03:18AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments I need to reread this chapter, but not right now. Still cogitating. If I'm reading this chapter right, and I'm not sure I am, then S/P considers Justice/Injustice not as an attribute but as a product of courage, temperance, and wisdom. Justice when they work in harmony with one another and Injustice when they don't. In other words justice and injustice are derivative. That took me aback because I've always thought of justice as a virtue and virtues as elementary -- can't be broken down into parts.

Am I misreading this? Or is my understanding of virtue incorrect?


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Thomas wrote: "Roger wrote: " Can't some evil genius have his mind, spirit, and appetite all working together, yet pursue unjust ends?

Can we ask this question of the evil city as well? Couldn't we say Athens w..."


Hubris? How does hubris affect justice? Athenians rejected a peace offering from Sparta not too long into the war. In hindsight, a very arrogant and foolish decision. Was the city's courage, temperance, and wisdom working in disharmony? Disharmony driven by hubris?

Athens was a monster state with two lucrative sources of revenue, tribute from league members and silver from the mines. Very powerful state used to throwing its weight around. Is Thrasymachus not parroting 5th century BCE Athen's view of justice. There's a speech by an Athenian in Thucydides account of the war that embodies Thrasymachus's view. Was that over Melos?


message 12: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "That took me aback because I've always thought of justice as a virtue and virtues as elementary -- can't be broken down into parts.

Am I misreading this? Or is my understanding of virtue incorrect? ..."


Xan -- I haven't comprehended this chapter closely enough to respond directly to your question, but after spending time with Julia Annas's An Introduction to Plato's Republic last night, whose sentences, like Plato's, I can't always parse satisfactorily, I will suggest to you the possibility that your understanding of "virtue" and Plato/Socrate's statements thereon simply may not be directly comparable. Ms. Annais is helpful in identifying assumptions Plato makes that are not called out as such in his text. It is easy to not be aware one may be comparing apples and pears.


message 13: by David (last edited Jan 26, 2017 01:54PM) (new)

David | 2489 comments Lily wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "That took me aback because I've always thought of justice as a virtue and virtues as elementary -- can't be broken down into parts."

The Perseus translation seems to imply the virtues of wisdom, soberness, bravery and now justice are seperate and equal virtues contributing to the overall virtue of the State
[433c] we said that justice would be the residue after we had found the other three.”. . .
[433d]. . .“A thing, then, that in its contribution to the excellence of a state vies with and rivals its wisdom, its soberness, its bravery, is this principle of everyone in it doing his own task.” “And is not justice the name you would have to give to the principle that rivals these as conducing to
[433e] the virtue of state?
I think I share in your confusion though. What comes first, justice or the other three virtues? Do the other three virtues arise in a just state (a city built on the just each person minding their own profession), or does justice arise when you have achieved the other 3 virtues?

Building the city the way he did specifying the one man, one job principle from the start, adding lies, censorship, and approved education methods to achieve wisdom, soberness, and bravery, and then declaring justice as each man minding his own business makes me wonder if the whole building of the city the way he does in order to define justice is just begging the question.


message 14: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments A couple of random thoughts I had in relating to the book:

1) Socrates gold, silver, bronze classes reminded me of Star Trek's uniform colors. Command and helm personnel wear gold shirts; operations, engineering and security personnel wear red; and science and medical personnel wear blue. Gold shirts correspond nicely with the gold-souled guardians. Higher ranking red and blue correspond to the silver-souled helpers, and lower ranking red and blue correspond to the rest of the crew. I think Socrates would have put Spock and his logic in charge instead of Kirk with all of his passion. Of course the show is famous for consistently promoted the best of humanity with all of its passion and spirit (even lying at times) as best suited to rule and to use logic and science (and engineering) to help achieve the goals of the ship and rest of the crew (all strictly doing their appointed jobs without being busy-bodies) instead of the other way around.

2) In a less geeky vein, Thomas Jefferson at times wrote of conflicts between his head and his heart. Most people would be surprised to learn that despite his reputation for reason actually lead with his heart, but granted to reason the role of the trusted helper. It is probably one reason why his remarks on Republic and S/P in general were less than flattering at times.


message 15: by Genni (new)

Genni | 837 comments Dave wrote: "Most of the time, (I think) I follow Socrates' drift but I have to confess I really struggled to understand how the virtue of courage manifests itself. In particular, I'm not sure how knowing what ..."

I struggled with this also. He seems to be differentiating between a "normal" idea of courage and "political" courage? I don't know if this helps by my translation has the following note: Courage "..is the courage of the citizen, the courage necessary to a city. Socrates leaves open then possibility that there is a higher form of courage which is radically different from that expressed in the willingness to die at the law's command. Courage, simply, without the qualification political, cannot be based on this form of opinion. It consists precisely in the willingness to question opinions, even the most authoritative ones."


message 16: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments David wrote: "...In a less geeky vein, Thomas Jefferson at times wrote of conflicts between his head and his heart. ..."

Those like Derrida and Rosenberg, who have dealt with societies recovering from genocide and the atrocities of war, help us to understand the roles of emotion and feeling alongside reason in establishing or re-establishing notions of justice. Jefferson was one of the other leaders who instinctively integrated head and heart, even as the two fought with each other in his being.


message 17: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments Thomas wrote: "...And as a sidenote, what is the meaning of courage without fear? I've always thought courage involved overcoming fear rather than not feeling fear at all...."

Uncertain of the "truth" of this, but I have heard/read that oft young soldiers of the eighteen year old variety act courageously in situations because they do not yet fathom the possibility of death. But, I agree, courage as we think of it seems more likely to include overcoming fear than denying feeling it.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Lily wrote: "Those like Derrida and Rosenberg, who have dealt with societies recovering from genocide and the atrocities of war, help us to understand the roles of emotion and feeling alongside reason in establishing or re-establishing notions of justice ..."

That would be something I would be interested in, reading their writings on justice in the face of genocide and atrocities, I mean.

Also, Lily, you are probably right: I and S/P are most likely talking about different things when talking about virtue. (I just shared the subject of a sentence with S/P. Whoo-Hooo!)


message 19: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments Another thought:
I am left with the sense that we might be much more familiar with and accepting of Socrates' city than we might like to admit by the mere act of working for somebody else, especially a larger company. There are gold VIP's, silver management that support the VIPs, and plenty of bronze worker bees. All the various cogs and the wheels have their specific jobs to do and should mind to their own business, rebuffed when encroaching, and resentful when it when encroached upon and the stuff that hits the fan only rolls downhill and never up. Unlike the image we like to have that governments exist so its people may flourish and protect individual interests under the law, at work, as in Socrates' State, we are keenly aware that the employees exist to so the company may flourish and must make a business case for everything in order to keep any self-interests in line with the company interests. Socrates suggests that when a person is no longer useful they should be allowed to die without medical interference to preserve one's dignity. These days those that are no longer deemed useful are downsized or forced to retire. Of course we are censored in many ways we consent to and see the wisdom of: what we can and cannot say publicly or on social media or to each other, internet sites we can and cannot go to, what we are expected to tolerate and not tolerate etc. Some are lied to or not informed for the company's benefit and these are generally accepted as necessary deceptions. We are socially controlled as well. It isn't on the scale of Socrates of eugenic or breeding programs but usually dating someone at work is a bad idea and officially frowned upon if not explicitly forbidden; superior-subordinate dating is even more precarious. Of course there is the mandatory training to make sure everyone adheres to the internal as well as external regulations, and the culture, and promotes the image the company wants promoted accepted in exchange for preventing us from becoming liabilities. I suppose wisdom and temperance comes from following all the rules and leadership that guards against becoming too rich (greed) and becoming too poor (bankruptcy). I suppose a wise and sober company promotes bravery in the providing the confidence to grow it. The fevered state of Socrates, at least a version of it, seems alive and well in today's businesses and we seem OK with that.



message 20: by Lily (last edited Jan 26, 2017 12:20PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments Everyman wrote: "...It was contrary to God's will to be dissatisfied with what God had decreed was one's place in the world...."

Do you see that as a Biblical view? Specific passages?

What other ancient or even middle age or feudal or Enlightenment writings do you particularly view as confirming this world view?


message 21: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Thomas wrote: "The word for "what's terrible" or "things to be feared" is deinos (from which we get "dinosaur"). It's an interesting word because its original sense is "frightening," but it evolved to mean "mighty" or powerful, and then evolved further to mean "clever" or "skillful.""

That's great, thank you. I wish I knew some Greek to help with some of the nuance in Plato. Your account of the shifting meaning of "deinos" likely explains the origin of the "terrible lizard" misnomer for dinosaurs. It seems a better translation would be "great" or "mighty" reptile, and I think that was in fact Richard Owen's intent when he coined the term dinosaur.

I agree that courage is about overcoming fear, but where I've found difficulty is S/P's emphasis on using our opinion or judgment about what should be feared –– as if that alone were enough to constitute courage –– whereas for me the emphasis should be on the act of overcoming one's fear. I wish S/P had used a few illustrations here to explain more what he meant.


message 22: by Dave (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Genni wrote: "It consists precisely in the willingness to question opinions, even the most authoritative ones."

Thanks! Yes, this interpretation of the passage -- that the courage being discussed is more political than physical -- definitely makes more sense to me. For example, the ability to speak truth to power is definitely something I would consider courageous.


message 23: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments I wonder if the courage which is being defined here could be considered a form of righteous zeal inspired by their education demonstrated by the execution of their duties to the State? A sort of "gung ho" mentality?


message 24: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments The four cardinal virtues

Prudence: also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.

Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue; the Greek word also having the meaning righteousness.

Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation tempering the appetition; especially sexually, hence the meaning chastity.

Courage: also termed fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardina...


message 25: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "There's a speech by an Athenian in Thucydides account of the war that embodies Thrasymachus's view. Was that over Melos? "

Yep. It's at the end of book 5 of Thucydides. But the Athenians knew that was not justice. It was certainly an act of immoderation, which according to Socrates would have been corrected by, 1. A better disposition (like that of the dog-philosopher at 375-376), and 2. education in moderation (music and gymnastic.)

On the other hand, the Athenians rationalize the destruction of Melos as a deterrent to future rebellions. So, assuming this was in fact an act of injustice, was it the fault of an immoderate spirit, or mistaken reasoning? Is this the fault of the rulers or the guardians? Or both? (Or all three parts -- the bronze workers, Athenian citizens at home who consistently supported and voted for war.)


message 26: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments David wrote: "Another thought:
I am left with the sense that we might be much more familiar with and accepting of Socrates' city than we might like to admit by the mere act of working for somebody else, especial..."


Great example, David. And you're right, most of do accept this hierarchical command structure at work. Worker bees accept it because they have no choice if they want to keep their jobs; management accepts it because it's highly functional; owners because it maximizes profits. And it highlights the point that "minding one's own business" really only applies to the workers. The business of the silver and gold folk is to manage other people's business -- the business of those under them. Does Plato ever acknowledge this?

And if we accept this structure in our everyday work lives, why do we reject it in our government? (And to be fair, we accept it in our work lives only up to a point. When conditions get really bad, we organize unions.)


message 27: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments Thomas wrote: "And to be fair, we accept it in our work lives only up to a point. When conditions get really bad, we organize unions...."

Or find other work, with all the costs and sometimes advantages thereof.


message 28: by Thomas (last edited Jan 26, 2017 10:12PM) (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Lily wrote: "Or find other work, with all the costs and sometimes advantages thereof. "

Freedom! Yes. That seems to be something that Plato's worker class does not have. Or the auxiliaries, for that matter. Only the Rulers are free. The cost of freedom for workers would be loss of citizenship and exile. The advantages of freedom might not outweigh the cost.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments Thomas wrote: "Yep. It's at the end of book 5 of Thucydides. But the Athenians knew that was not justice. ..."

Yes, but I have always thought Thrasymachus meant this at least in part. If justice is whatever the stronger decides it is, then justice can be injustice and the stronger know it to be injustice.


message 30: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Yes, but I have always thought Thrasymachus meant this at least in part."

Thrasymachus has a point. Justice, however it is defined, is useless if it is just an idea without the physical strength to back it up. But he leaves strength without a guide, so strength can be delivered in any direction and still be called justice. I think what Socrates is reaching for is Justice as a kind of strength carefully controlled and guided by the Good. The ultimate difficulty, I think, is to determine what the Good is in concrete practical terms. (Destroying Melos was called "good" because the Athenians thought it would deter future rebellions and save other cities from destruction. Undoubtedly the Melians thought differently.)


message 31: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Dave wrote: "I agree that courage is about overcoming fear, but where I've found difficulty is S/P's emphasis on using our opinion or judgment about what should be feared –– as if that alone were enough to constitute courage –– whereas for me the emphasis should be on the act of overcoming one's fear. I wish S/P had used a few illustrations here to explain more what he meant...."

It seems to me that fear for humans (when it is not necessarily the immediate threat of physical harm or death, which is usually responded to by instinctual/chemical/hormonal behavior) is often of the unknown, which is why for instance racism exists - not having knowledge of who the "other" is makes the "other" something to fear. The unknown exists everywhere all the time - change always presents possibilities of the unknown and can be a very fearful thing. The possibility of an unknown reckoning for conscious behavior can be fearful.

The opposite of the unknown would be knowledge, and even if the unknown exists, knowledge about the "other," or about possible options with change (including faith or trust), or understanding what kinds of consequences might occur because of certain behaviors, provides a kind of grounding that would aid in overcoming fear and thus act courageously.

I think S/P was talking about that kind of knowledge being so imbedded throughout childhood that it becomes an understanding which is like a second nature, and would allow someone to respond with courage even tho' they might have fears.


message 32: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Waterfield's translation says the four essential qualities necessary for a community to be good are wisdom, courage, self-discipline, and morality. I kept wondering why everyone was talking about justice, which must be the word used in other translations.

I find the whole section easier to understand when using the word 'morality' (and immorality) rather than 'justice,' but that might be because I think there might be a difference in the definitions of morality and justice. Morality seems a more internalized quality, and justice seems a more externalized quality, but morality should exist in a community as well as in an individual... altho' I'm not sure it can unless the individuals are moral first. On the other hand, it seems that justice can exist in a community without all the individuals necessarily being just.

There was also a moment that surprised me in the text when S/P exhorts Adeimantus to have compassion (I think he is talking to Adeimantus) for people who "live like people who are ill, but lack the discipline to give up a way of life that is bad for them." S/P goes on to say:
"Don't be so hard on them, then: they're the nicest of people. They make the kinds of laws we mentioned a short while ago and then try to improve them, and constantly expect the next breach of contract to be the last one, and likewise for the other crimes we mentioned just now, because they are unaware that in fact they're slashing away at a kind of Hydra."
And by the way, rulers that "spend their whole lives making rule after rule, and then trying to improve them, in the hope that they'll hit on a successful formula" sounds uncomfortably familiar.


message 33: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "I find the whole section easier to understand when using the word 'morality' (and immorality) rather than 'justice,' but that might be because I think there might be a difference in the definitions of morality and justice."

Are there circumstances where justice conflicts with morality? If justice is defined as one person doing one job and minding their own business there might be some cases where a subjective morality might condone an unjust action, say for example, in the case of a conscientious objector.


message 34: by Lily (last edited Jan 28, 2017 07:45PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments David wrote: "Are there circumstances where justice conflicts with morality? ..."

Within the city-state as defined by Plato/Socrates? Or in the world as we live in it? Doesn't the response to that question depend to some extent to the boundaries within which it is being applied? For example, hasn't many a parent been moral in any practical sense of the word to individual children without necessarily being just in treatment between them? Or, another way of asking the question, how would you visual a Venn diagram relationship between morality and justice? Is either totally contained in the other or do they only overlap?

Incidentally, as an entertaining but thought-provoking accompaniment to The Republic, I suggest listening to Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. Try linking the anecdotes he tells with what we are reading here.


message 35: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "I find the whole section easier to understand when using the word 'morality' (and immorality) rather than 'justice,' but that might be because I think there might be a difference in the definitions of morality and justice. "

"Morality" in terms of right action is almost interchangeable with "Justice" in the Greek sense. Both translations refer back to Dikē , which means custom or law, with an overtone of judgement. In English there is a difference between the two terms, which I think shows the distinction that moderns make between private and public action. If Socrates had his way, there would be no difference between private and public -- the soul of the city is just the soul of the individual writ large, right?


message 36: by Janice (JG) (last edited Jan 29, 2017 12:49AM) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Thomas wrote: ""Morality" in terms of right action is almost interchangeable with "Justice" in the Greek sense. Both translations refer back to Dikē , which means custom or law, with an overtone of judgement. In English there is a difference between the two terms, which I think shows the distinction that moderns make between private and public action. If Socrates had his way, there would be no difference between private and public -- the soul of the city is just the soul of the individual writ large, right?..."

Thanks for the Greek definitions, that could explain why these two words are not necessarily aligned to my modern western thought. However, I don't know if Socrates/Plato is expecting to build a city that mirrors its individuals... I think he is using a fantasy city as the metaphor for the individual, as an analogy to better illustrate what he sees as comprising a good (happy) soul of a human being.


message 37: by David (last edited Jan 29, 2017 05:19AM) (new)

David | 2489 comments What about the lies the guardians are supposed to maintain? Are they considered both just and morally right? S/P seems to differentiate between good lies and bad lies. Is that morally acceptable then or now?


message 38: by Xan Shadowflutter (last edited Jan 29, 2017 05:11AM) (new)

Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 386 comments David wrote: "What about the lies the guardians are supposed to maintain? Are they considered both just and morally right? S/P seems to differentiate between good.lies and bad lies. is that morally acceptable th..."

Here's my probably unorthodox take.

The ethical dilemma. One can lie for good and morally justifiable reasons, while another can tell the truth for nasty and morally unjustifiable reasons. Sometimes deciding which to tell is determined by the moral context of the larger situation. Can this lead to a slippery slope? You bet.

The problem with permitting the guardians to lie is they are the only ones the constitution permits to do so, and the lying is political and not moral, although I think S/P would argue it is.

This is all probably very UnKantian. Such absolute statements as "always tell the truth no matter what," whether intended or not, remove responsibility rather than nurture it. It's something you tell a kid not an adult.


message 39: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4404 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "However, I don't know if Socrates/Plato is expecting to build a city that mirrors its individuals... I think he is using a fantasy city as the metaphor for the individual, as an analogy to better illustrate what he sees as comprising a good (happy) soul of a human being."

I think you're right about that. I'm not sure if the illustration works though. The class structure of the city depends on the truth of the lie that the rulers tell, a lie which even Socrates doesn't think is believable. What is the corresponding lie for the soul, and why should we believe it?


message 40: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments Thomas wrote: "Janice(JG) wrote: "However, I don't know if Socrates/Plato is expecting to build a city that mirrors its individuals... I think he is using a fantasy city as the metaphor for the individual, as an ...

I think you're right about that. I'm not sure if the illustration works though. The class structure of the city depends on the truth of the lie that the rulers tell, a lie which even Socrates doesn't think is believable. What is the corresponding lie for the soul, and why should we believe it?..."


Good question. I'll have to go over that section again, but I tend to believe that the knowledgable soul and the balanced person is one who knows how to examine their own motivations, and so would of course be able to tell the "good" lie told from the ruling part of the reason/psyche/soul from the "bad" lie that would more likely be motivated by the part that is emotional and passionate.

Xan mentions this as the slippery slope in comment #38, and it's true. Everybody's been put in the position of having to make the choice of telling a hurtful truth or a comforting lie, and either way may or may not be helpful. The only way I can see to choose correctly would be to examine one's own motivations in the choice. Sticking to the principle of always telling the truth could just as easily be an egoic response of self-righteousness.


message 41: by Dave (last edited Jan 30, 2017 03:35AM) (new)

Dave Redford | 144 comments Janice(JG) wrote: "I think S/P was talking about that kind of knowledge being so imbedded throughout childhood that it becomes an understanding which is like a second nature, and would allow someone to respond with courage even tho' they might have fears."

Yes, this sounds right to me.

Thinking about it in the context of Plato's tripartite system, which roughly speaking breaks down as follows:
Reason / wisdom / mind (gold)
Spirit / courage / heart (silver)
Desire / temperance / gut (bronze)

It seems, as I now understand it, that this spirited or courageous part of our nature ensures we don't give into fear, or our baser desires, and instead base our decisions on the dictates of reason.


message 42: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments For comparison, here is Cicero's introduction of the 4 cardinal virtues as the sources for moral rightness:
[1.15] 5. You see here, Marcus, my son, the very form and as it were the face of Moral Goodness; “and if,” as Plato says, “it could be seen with the physical eye, it would awaken a marvellous love of wisdom.” But all that is morally right rises from some one of four sources: it is concerned either

(1) with the full perception and intelligent development of the true; or

(2) with the conservation of organized society, with rendering to every man his due, and with the faithful discharge of obligations assumed; or

(3) with the greatness and strength of a noble and invincible spirit; or

(4) with the orderliness and moderation of everything that is said and done, wherein consist temperance and self-control.


M. Tullius Cicero. De Officiis. With An English Translation. Walter Miller. Cambridge. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, Mass., London, England. 1913.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/t...



message 43: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments Lily wrote: "Or, another way of asking the question, how would you visual a Venn diagram relationship between morality and justice? Is either totally contained in the other or do they only overlap?"

Per Thomas' helpful etymologies It seems the ancient Greeks would see morality and justice as one and the same circle, no overlapping required.

Ideally, morality and justice should exactly overlap but it seems some varying amount of overlap will forever continue to evolve. Reasons for this may be but are not limited to:
1) Justice entails a need to conserve social order that morally right actions are perceived as transcending.
2) Conflicting variability in preferred value systems.
3) A lack of prevailing wisdom.
4) Lack of prevailing courage.
5) Lack of prevailing moderation.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments David wrote: "I am equating the dye as education/indoctrination/brainwashing?"

A somewhat crude way of putting it, perhaps, but I think that's pretty much it. The (?mind? soul? spirit?) need to be prepared to receive the information about what is worth fearing (presumably enemies) and what is not (presumably non-lethal spiders).

Unanswered, of course, is who is going to be the person, or people, whose mind/soul/spirit is already cleaned so they can be capable of cleaning other. Who will educate the educators? Somebody has to go first, don't they? How do they get properly prepared, and who applies the dye to them?


message 45: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "And as a sidenote, what is the meaning of courage without fear? I've always thought courage involved overcoming fear rather than not feeling fear at all. "

Good question. As John Wayne said, "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway. " Is there courage without fear?


message 46: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments Everyman wrote: "Is there courage without fear? ..."

{Grin} I'm going to be blasphemous and play with words: "Yes, dumb-headed, stupid courage that blunders forward without considering the consequences of the 'courage.'"

But, as I said earlier, the closest I have seen writers speak of courage without fear has been in describing (some) young people in the face of death, whether by violence or illness or other source. Is that a total description of reality? I'm not sure


message 47: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4981 comments David wrote: "Ideally, morality and justice should exactly overlap but it seems some varying amount of overlap will forever continue to evolve. ..."

Dave -- I'm not sure that's true. Much of my skepticism can probably be said to arise out of your number two: Conflicting variability in preferred value systems. (I keep encountering that one from many directions -- the Trevor Noah book I cite at @34 being my current bête noire on the subject-- yes, that's a strange designation, but it is rather like one wants to be able to resist what Noah is saying, but we hear it from many points in current discourse if we are at all open to listening to them.)


message 48: by David (new)

David | 2489 comments Everyman wrote: "How do they get properly prepared, and who applies the dye to them?"

Terms like propaganda, indoctrination or the less pejorative socialization, education learning, thought reform, extreme nationalism, historical engineering, and cultural revolution come to mind.

I found this comment to be an interesting one:
In totalitarian societies where there's a Ministry of Truth, propaganda doesn't really try to control your thoughts. It just gives you the party line. It says, "Here's the official doctrine; don't disobey and you won't get in trouble. What you think is not of great importance to anyone. If you get out of line we'll do something to you because we have force." Democratic societies can't work like that, because the state is much more limited in its capacity to control behavior by force. Since the voice of the people is allowed to speak out, those in power better control what that voice says--in other words, control what people think. One of the ways to do this is to create political debate that appears to embrace many opinions, but actually stays within very narrow margins. . .As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, the debate is permissible.
Chomsky, Noam. Propaganda, American Style.
At Republic VII, 540e-541a S/P suggests his own way of starting with a clean slate to achieve his "educational" goals.


message 49: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 117 comments David wrote: "Since the voice of the people is allowed to speak out, those in power better control what that voice says--in other words, control what people think. One of the ways to do this is to create political debate that appears to embrace many opinions, but actually stays within very narrow margins. . .As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, the debate is permissible...."

My daughter the sociologist would agree with that, as would my brother who says politics is like football - fake left and go right.


message 50: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Lily wrote: "the closest I have seen writers speak of courage without fear has been in describing (some) young people in the face of death, whether by violence or illness or other source. Is that a total description of reality? I'm not sure ."

I grew up next door to a boy who had a condition where he was unable to feel pain. So he would do very dangerous things; he jumped off the roof of a shed, he put a log into the middle of a burning campfire with his bare hands, things that any person with normal sensation would fear doing and only do if it were necessary to save his life or a child's life. If I had done them, I would be told either that I was very foolish or that I had incredible courage, or both.

But the boy didn't fear these things because he had no sense that they hurt him. Did he have courage?


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