the Unsustainable “Ideal City’

After reading the Republic and learning it in class and then reading the Clouds and its criticism of Socratic thinking, I realized that a lot of his perfect city is, I believe, grossly unrealistic. First, I think that the fundamental idea of the city, that everyone has one given task or role that they do and then contently and happily do only that one role or stay in their place for the rest of their life. I think this ideal is so pointless because it goes against fundamental human nature and evolutionary survival nature. To me, it seems very natural that humans always strive for more and have achieved a consumerist society like we have. Always striving for more, always wanting more is how one survives. A lion cannot be content with just one kill for a few days or else it starves along with its pack, so an innate need and drive for more food. If a lion is more adept and hunting than normal, the lion will keep hunting because of this drive, because of the possibility that there will at some point be a lack of food, thus the lion must stockpile when he can, and being that he is more adept at hunting, he will then deplete his food source, causing the lack of food, which perpetuates his stockpiling behavior. Humans have taken this drive, this behavior and translated it to unnecessary desires as we have deemed those desires necessary to our survival. More money means more food, thus better survival, so we create a drive for money. Technology is supposed to make us more productive in our lives and nice furniture is supposed to make our living spaces more restful, both translating to a higher ability for survival so we then create a need for them and then we buy them to excess. I think this drive that we have within would be a fatal flaw to Socrates’ ideal city, as I don’t think he could be able to get this drive out of us through education. I think this drive would cause people to move between their stations and be discontent with their given station and realize that maybe they would be better off if they were in a different job. The ‘Myth of the Metals’, while maybe keeping them in their place for the time being would not keep a person happy with their allotted place. A person can very well be adept at something but not enjoy it, and if this task that they are good at is chosen as their place, then they will become unhappy, which will translate as a poor state of survival, and try to relieve that discontent in some manner or other that will then create injustice. If a cobbler hates making shoes, he will start to wonder if he would be happier as a tailor. Knowing what you are doing does not make the task any more enjoyable or make the person any happier. Believing he has a soul of bronze does not keep this thought from happening. And if that thought appears the action to appease that though will eventually follow as the drive will somehow manifest itself in the citizens of the city at some point, making this ideal city unsustainable and unrealistic.

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One Response to the Unsustainable “Ideal City’

  1. slee192 says:

    Reading this post made me realize how powerful we are as humans. Whether we believe in religion or theories of science, we all know that we have all started with nothing like we have today, but look at how far we’ve come now. I completely agree with how Socrates world is not as ideal as he makes it sound. As humans, we try to grasp something farther than we can reach, which makes us so advanced. I believe that if we had followed the rules of Socrates, we would not stay stagnant. It’s because of those people who come out of their comfort zone that we unveil so many mysteries, and it is because of these people that we are able to live like how we do today. Like the lion analogy that you have mentioned, I feel that unlike Socrates’ had said, a little greed does help. A greed for discovery allows knowing so much more than we think we are able to. Therefore, I believe that Socrates’ ideal is quite unrealistic as well.

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