I am glad that Kyle just recently posted something about Brave New World. I actually just started reading this book for the first time this past weekend (simply because it has been recommended to me numerous times) and I was also shocked to see so many parallels to Plato’s Republic.
One of the biggest similarities that I found was actually in the Preface that Aldous Huxley wrote himself. Huxley discusses the practical ways in which a society similar to the one that he writes about could come into existence. Here are the things he says are need for this type of society, “First, a greatly improved technique of suggestion – through infant conditioning and later, with the aid of drugs, such as scopolamine” (Huxley 12). This is similar to what Kyle references below about the ideas Plato had about conditioning children at a young age.
Huxley also states “Second, a fully developed science of human differences, enabling government managers to assign any given individual to his or her proper place in the social and economic hierarchy. (Round pegs in square holes tend to have dangerous thoughts about the social system and to infect others with their discontents)” (12). This statement seems to align itself exactly with Plato’s concept of justice: everyone remains in their proper place. That idea remains present throughout the rest of the novel with everyone in the society being conditioned (or brainwashed) to believe that their place in society is the “best” place. I believe that Huxley is also referencing the ways that people in this society will be molded as they grow up and are taught.
As I continue reading this book, it became very clear to me that both Plato and Huxley’s societies are almost identical except for a few very fundamental differences. The first is technology. Plato obviously did not have the same idea of what was possible scientifically as Huxley did (and even Huxley would probably have changed certain things based on the technology we have today). As a result, the idea of “conditioning” children is different. Plato simply asserts that children should only be exposed to very specific ideas and stories whereas Huxley institutes an entire system of brainwashing, involving playing repeated phrases while the children sleep. Also, Huxley begins adapting the children for their specific classes before they are even born via different chemicals and environments. You could almost consider every human in Brave New World to be a “test-tube baby”.
I believe that another fundamental difference between the two societies is the ways in which the authors view them. Plato asserts that the Republic would be an ideal society and something that we should strive for while Huxley has the opposite idea. After reading the preface and some of Huxley’s other comments it is clear that Huxley believes that a society like this is inevitable but it is something that we should avoid at all costs. In fact, the plot of the actual novel centers around a character who is aware of all of the flaws in the society he lives in and attempts to escape it as best he can.
It leaves me to wonder whether or not Huxley truly analyzed Plato’s Utopia and discovered some of the flaws with the concept. Although, in Brave New World, you could argue that the society is essentially functioning in the way that Plato intended it because each person is set in their place and the society fulfills Plato’s definition of justice. I think that it would be very worthwhile for anyone who reads Plato’s Republic to also read Brave New World because it offers two very distinct perspectives about a very radical society.