In this post, I will simply share some crazy thoughts on problems I have observed in the republic and how I would make improvements.
The first problem is basing your city on lies, like the sex lottery and myth of the metals. Although they are “noble”, it is still trickery and not a just act. In my opinion, beginning a city with injustice will not make it just. For example, most parents pass on their religion to their children. From a young age they are taught to believe. Parents, as the philosopher kings, would claim that since they are too young to make the choice to believe, it is permissible to teach them because it is for their own good. Wait, what? I realize now that through my whole childhood raised as a Catholic I never, until very recently, asked the question: Do I actually believe this? Is this something I accepted as being true without ever really exploring it on my own? I have come to understand that choosing to believe in this myself makes the belief stronger and more meaningful. Now that I have realized this, I have began testing my beliefs harder than I ever have in my entire life. How could Socrates stop this from happening in his republic? Wouldn’t it be possible for someone to question his lies? It is just not right to feed people information that they, number one, don’t get a choice to believe and number two, is a complete lie! Now religion has obviously NOT been proven a lie and I am NOT implying that at all. But it does compare to how people in the republic are not given a choice. Plato just assumes that all people are not smart enough; he doesn’t even give them a chance. Also, I also realized that in Socrates’ attempt to destroy imitative art he has created his own imitative art as a foundation for the city. The myth of the metals is a classic example of imitative art in Socratic terms. The myth is an imitation of Socrates’ teachings on justice in the city. The imitation is even farther from the truth than the classic example we used in class of a painting of a table. The myth is an extended metaphor that captures the essence of Socratic justice but it is a complete and total lie. Socrates is using a poetic tool as a framework for fostering ignorance of true reality. When put to his own philosophical standards, he is not doing very well.
My second problem with the ideal republic is that it seems to ignore the fact that most other societies in the world will not change with them. The Republic attempts to operate as if all corruption and injustice is eliminated, but this is not possible. Other cities will still be corrupt. Some may say the ideal city is built to defend itself from the corruptions of the outside world. Okay then, lets say that the republic exists, a well balanced society where everyone is in their place and the souls are balanced, just as Socrates describes. Well if the city is balanced, then the different occupations will be split percentage wise between the population. Well lets say the republic has a huge army of a quarter of their population. Well, that’s pretty decent in terms of defense. Okay, lets say a nearby country, with about the same population, turns into a mecha-sparta tyrannical empire. Let’s also say its just far enough away that Athens will be unaware of their military operations. Well lets say this Spartan empire has more than 90% of their population trained to be highly intelligent, veristale killing machines. What do you think the republic would think about its balanced society now? This all appears to lead to the conclusion that Plato’s repbulic ignores the fact that corruption and imbalance will still exist in the world. Plato’s repbulic would only survive in a world that was completely just and good. Another possible confutation may be that the balanced society promotes greater happiness so it is worth the risk of being destroyed. Well if you are accepting that from the beginning, that your society will most likely be conquered anyway, why try to create one? Why not come up with a better one?
Here is my republic: Rather than create a society where everyone has one task, I propose a republic in which people would be trained to learn multiple skills while having one main focus (sounds a bit like college). However, these are not “jacks of all trades” who are spread thin and become average at a mass array of skills. Instead, these people are masters of a predetermined list of basic skills. They are completely versatile humans. First, you need to create this basic set of skills. My list is similar to Socrates’ list. These include things like philosophical/self improvement, military/physical training, language mechanics, writing, music, math and sciences, history, and others (possibly religion, although this would not include the myth of the metals). The key difference in this list and Plato’s is that everyone learns these skills, not only one. The value of learning each skill is fostered in each student to promote hard work and enjoyment in what one’s learning. This list is routinely refined through the years ahead. After this, an educational plan, similar again to Plato’s, is created. This system orders the teaching of these skills to balance the teaching of the secondary skills while promoting the primary skill as the most important. As a result, instead of creating people who are only good at one thing, everyone would be capable of doing multiple things at a high level, while still having a main job like in Plato’s republic. This is a better option because it reaps the benefits of all the citzens talents, since it is quite possible for someone to be multi-talented, something Socrates ignores completely.
So if Sparta attacks my republic, we have 100% of the population locked and loaded. I know this may seem ridiculous and silly, but these thoughts have been fighting to come out in a Thrasymachian fashion for a while. So here there are, I’ve expressed my thoughts about the republic on the blog.