Friday, September 23, 2005

Education of the Republic vs. VCS

The educational system of the Republic of Plato is designed to create the perfect humans to inhabit the perfect city. Socrates discusses this issue with Adeimantus and Glaucon in book three, and also begins to resolve the issue of who shall be admitted to the perfect city. As well as the idea of admittance, he focuses on the children and what means of education shall be taught to them. He then discusses in detail the artist education, and physical side of education that is required for the populous of the republic, and how even the best imitators mustn’t be allowed, but true practioners of what they pursue.
“Isn’t it for this reason that its only in such a city that we’ll find the shoemaker a shoemaker, and not a pilot along with his shoemaking, and the farmer a farmer, and not a judge along with his farming, and the skilled warrior a skilled warrior, and not a moneymaker along with his war making, and so on with them all? True, he said. Now, its seems if a man who is able by wisdom to become every sort of thing and to imitate all things should come to our city, wishing to make a display of himself and his poems, we would fall on our knees before him as a man sacred, wonderful, and pleasing; but we would say that there is no such man among us in the city, nor is it lawful for such a man to be born here. We would send him to another city.”
The importance of the city is discussed by Socrates, Adeimantus, and Glaucon in book three. In the previous books only the type of people that would be there were mentioned, but nothing of their specifics in education and wisdom were ever described. They continue that idea and express their personal philosophies of education.
The elements that make up the educational system of the first city are very strict. Socrates educational system consists of the teaching of one art to one person. This art can literally be art and poetry, or any form of a job which requires great dedication. Socrates mentions the teachings of poets and how they must be taught good disposition. These are expressed as requirements to be worthy of good poets in the city.
“Must we, supervise only the poets and compel them to impress the image of the good disposition on their poems or not to make them among us? Or must we also supervise the other craftsman and prevent them from impressing this bad disposition, a licentious, illiberal, and graceless one, either on images of animals or on houses or on anything else that their craft produces? And the incapable craftsman we mustn’t we, rather look for those craftsmen whose good natural endowments make them able to track down the nature of what is fine and graceful, so that the young, dwelling as it were in a healthy place, will be benefited by everything; “
The educational system in the Republic of Plato is based on similar and different values then Vermont Commons. The Republic focuses on subjects like poetry as well as the Vermont commons school, but the intensity of Socrates’ requirements for completely good disposition somewhat doesn’t exist at the school, because the school likes to make habits of good disposition frequent with the students but not force it completely upon them.” Hence, good speech, good harmony, good grace, and good rhythm accompany good disposition, not the folly that we endearingly call ‘good disposition’, but that understanding truly trained to a good and fair disposition.” Students at the Vermont Commons school are trained to a good disposition, not at a level of any of the republic but a good disposition nonetheless. Teachers try to impose good habits on students which include things like good rhythm. Good disposition exists in both educational systems which is a very strong relation between the two.
The educational system of the Republic also refers to education as training. Training the mind, which includes requiring intellect, but also the act of training the body.
“If we gave adequate care to the intellect and turned over to it the concern for the precise details about the body, while we, so as not to talk too much, showed the way only to the models, would we be doing the right thing? Most Certainly. Socrates believed that the body also must be maintained, while Glaucon agrees.
At Vermont Commons, gymnastic seems as a minor focus of the school. As it is a college preparatory school, they dedicate 2 hours of one week to physical activity. Even though Socrates doesn’t mention any time for physical activity in the republic, he does mention ones dedication to the body and has it must also be trained with the mind. Socrates would not approve of the physical education at the Vermont commons school.
The system of the Republic also “trains” certain people for certain tasks. They must be trained differently to successfully serve their purpose. This means different education. One example is the guardians of the republic. Their gymnastic was considered an important factor of being a guardian as well as the idea of no emotion, so that guardians would do the just thing, or perform the just action with no affect on the emotions of the guardian. They must be desensitized in the republic to fulfill their role and become a true guardians. These certain jobs also come with a great amount of rules that must be taught for the city to become a working system. In the case of the guardians, one of the rules was not to be drunk. “Now we said that they must keep away from drunkenness. Surely its more permissible for anyone, other than a guardian, to be drunk and not to know where on earth he is. Its ridiculous if a guardian needs a guardian. “
The idea of strictness and staying in the boundaries of your job is heavily payed attention to by Socrates.
Surly the boundaries of the Vermont commons school do not stretch this far, but boundaries are still emphasized throughout the school. The Vermont commons school has a strict policy on drinking, and does emphasize emotion which every student is encouraged to use in the school.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Diversity of Knowledge- To Think or Not To Think

In book three of The Republic Socrates plays with the idea of education in the ideal city. They discuss the differences in styles and the importance of certain types of subjects and the effect that can have on an individual and a cities development.
Education varies throughout the world, throughout the US, The state of Vermont, and even Burlington. However as you travel from a more general sample to a centralized local sample you can get a better idea of the general type that is preferred in an area. However, the question is what is really the best or even what is better then the other. In Vermont we are very accustomed to learning from a generally liberal viewpoint. We are taught about evolution and not creative science and the like, we believe in what science says and question the bible. However just because that is our local norm is the better or the best out of all the types of view that people take across the world?
Would it be better to learn something else, or a compilation of all we can, sampling from different ideologies and societies. Plato discusses this very theme in book three. He takes a guardian and wonders what is the best type of education for that type of individual. What it is that would best prepare a person that will be guarding in the future. What type of education can prepare people in the most efficient way possible?
Plato discusses with his peers about the idea of imitation. Concerning the art of language and its influences and effects on people.
“Or haven't you observed that imitations, if they are practices continually from youth onwards, become established as habits and nature, in body and sounds as in thought.”(Plato, 395c)
Whether it is more beneficial to be able to imitate, or think. At the Vermont Commons School we learn the fundamentals of thought process. Our education is not based around facts and figures as many of our peers in the public system are accustomed to. Instead we become able thinkers. We have the ability to imitate and/or recite facts and figures, however we also are able to think about the connection between those facts and figures and create a path the evolves into a deeper understanding.
Plato discusses this similarly. However put most simply it is decided that to be able to imitate is less complicated and therefore more efficient. Therefore the questions posed by society are not discussed but it is rather just accepted that those who have a certain title should stick to that title and not bother with thinking. This proves fatly though because a person who is able to think is also able to decide the differences between good and evil, justice and injustice, to be able to discern and understand such concept lends itself for a more advanced society.
Alternatively this can also be self-destructive. Because as the thought process evolves the questions can become more complex and people can question different opinions. This can end in a war, which in a way was the original creation for guardian, however is not necessary.
Education is such an impotent part of our society, especially the society that it has evolved to be. In a diversified world it is important to consider the importance of knowing how to think and how to analysis situation that you might find yourself in. Knowing only what pertains to you field of knowledge can lead you down narrow road. Even in college when the ask you to pick a major they have still created a curriculum that is diverse so that you can be educated and well rounded at the same time.
Plato argues that to create a society that it is most beneficial to purge the society or the city of any non-related subject. That it is beneficial to purge the city of certain kinds of art because that type can me misinterpreted and misunderstood, creating unwanted messages that can ruin the creation of justice. To essentially create a city that is without flare, or diversity, that sticks to the bare minimum with one end in mind. This seems to be the best way to achieve a set end, as the understanding of a perfect justice system. However as a by-product the city as a whole will suffer because of the monoculture that has been created. Because the people will not be able to think they will end up much more like robots controlling machinery then humans controlling a living environment, which is reality.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Platonic Approach to Education

The system of education that is laid forth in Book Three is based on personal experience and identification with the ideas and practices of the educational material. Socrates primarily speaks of education as it fits in with his city vision. Most notably, he discusses the roles of the individuals within the society (doctor, guardian, etc) and how although these courses are specialized in nature and end, there are some consistent principles that should guide the education of these people. The purpose of this Book is to outline these methods and means of learning.
First, Socrates states the significance of a man’s passion in his willing and capability to do his job well. In consideration of the selection of guardians, Socrates states: “A man would care most for that which he happened to love…and wouldn’t he surely love something most when he believed that the same things are advantageous to it and to himself…we must select from the… guardians the sort of men who…look as if they were entirely eager to do what they believe to be advantageous to the city” (412). Socrates here states that a) guardians must realize that their service to the city is also advantageous to themselves and b) they must be the most passionate spirited in their service possible.
This first theory by Socrates is reflected in the philosophy of the Vermont Commons School. Our School is sure to apply all knowledge to the real world and even make interdisciplinary examples when possible; it does not teach empty knowledge, but rather prepares students for the real world with engaging and often fun experiences such as the research and service projects or our encounter weeks. This builds spirit and excitement around the prospect of education and finding a role in society while simultaneously building an understanding of the world and how our influence over the conditions of this earth will prove to be advantageous or disadvantageous for ourselves. This direct relationship between our involvement (and how we choose to involve ourselves) in the current state of affairs and the output being a good or bad thing on a personal level is displayed through our ecologically and earth science-based curriculum.
The other important point that Socrates made in specifying the system of education for his ‘city’ concerned the personal identification and background of a person with a specific role. Socrates uses the role of a doctor in his ‘city’ to demonstrate this point: “Doctors…would prove cleverest if, beginning in childhood, in addition to learning the art, they should be familiar with very many and very bad bodies and should themselves suffer all diseases and not be quite healthy by nature. For I don’t suppose they care for a body with a body…but for a body with a soul” (408e).
This personal identification with a role in society based on a commitment to a field of study or aspect of our culture is an aspect of education that is often overlooked in conventional systems of education. However, at the Vermont Commons School, we remain true in our Platonic conformity once more as we are taught that every living creature has a personal investment in the our surroundings. Our investment is in our neighborhood, in our cities, in our environment, and in any community in which we exist. Our specialized programs such as research and service and our ecologically-based curricumlum help develop this identity and strengthen these bonds of the students. Our community-wide activities also boost this cohesion within the smallest but certainly not least important level of community as well: within our school.
By reading Book Three, I was able to make some important realizations and criticisms concerning the conventional educational system in our country. In addition, I saw the Socratic virtue of Vermont Commons; it undoubtedly stands in the spirit of Platonic theory concerning education and learning. Everything from the setup of the chairs facing pupil and teacher as equals to the style of classes where we are driven to our own conclusions through questions and real-world applications of learning contributes to this atmosphere. As outlined in this paper and the entire of The Republic, these virtues contribute to a positive and strong academic environment based on these ideals of the Republic.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Jon Lange: Education of Plato vs. VCS

What is the perfect education? According to Plato the perfect education is based around totalitarianism. In numerous sections of the reading, one infers that Plato believes censorship and even propaganda were best for the state. While this is coherent with his belief that the good of the state overrides everything else, Plato does not see that censorship impedes upon education.
While discussing education, Socrates states that: “The beginning is the most important part of every work and that this is especially so with anything young and tender. For at that stage it’s most plastic, and each thing assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it” ( 377b). Socrates believes that the early years of a student’s life are the most important in the art of forming him into a successful man. He also articulates that at the early stages of life, a child’s thoughts are shaped most easily, and shall be by anything he comes in contact with. Because of the child’s mind’s ability to be shaped and reshaped, Socrates asks rhetorically: “Shall we so easily let the children hear just any tales fashioned by just anyone and take into their souls opinions for the most part opposite to those we’ll suppose they must have when they are grown up?” (377 b). Socrates believes that censorship is best for the individual, which is in turn, for the betterment of the state.
By controlling which stories are told, Socrates is in essence controlling the propaganda. And by demanding that stories which are not in the best interest of the state be removed, Socrates is partaking in censorship. This censorship of certain works of literature is displayed in the beginning of book III. Socrates argues that the seven quotes of Homer and other poems should not be used to educate. He argues: “It’s not that they are not poetic and sweet for the many to hear, but the more poetic they are, the less they should be heard by boys and men who must be free and accustomed to fearing slavery more than death” (387 b). Socrates is fearful that the poems might inspire the student to be afraid of death, and not be brave in battle. He therefore does not want the guardians to be educated by using these poems. Socrates is impeding upon a student’s education by not giving him all the possible resources to help understand an issue such as death.
To bring us back to everyday society, there is almost an unlimited amount of freedom in the way of teaching education. In the public schools there comes a rubric of education, every student encounters the same challenges in the same way; and the techniques to teach them are all the same; all designed for the average student. As an average per capita, students are able to excel under these conditions, but for most students they slip by with minimal effort, care, and enthusiasm. For the average student, the potential for excellence is lost in this sort of a rubric, but this potential can be revealed through methods used in some private schools.
Then again if everyone were to attend private schools; wouldn’t those simply turn into present day public schools? Not necessarily, they could still utilize private school teaching techniques; or there could be an increase in schools, resulting in an increase in faculty. These are all ideal goals, or should be ideal for any real society.
Ideally, the teacher and student can obtain maximum performance through strong student-teacher relationships, fluctuation in teaching styles, and a low student to teacher ratio creating a more frequent one-on-one friendly atmosphere. Besides this, the school or class as a whole should further their bond with each other through non-educational activities and settings of the, “norm,” according to the student and teacher. In some cases, students are left out or are discriminated in a way because their learning styles and backgrounds do not comply with those of the public schools. Through this discrimination it can be noted that tension and frustration builds between the student-teacher relationships, so it becomes a more of an, “us vs. them,” based community; “us,” being the subjects, and, “them,” being the distributors of knowledge. In Chumbawamba’s song “Education;”
Education is a powerful tool
And it's in the hands
Of the people who rule (Chumbawamba, “Education”)
This is an excellent example of children feeling overpowered by the people(teachers) who have the ability to make choices about the content being taught: censoring. What the subjects/children want is to be able to think for themselves. These students are not receiving the individualized education they need to perform to their full potential in life. The student and teacher should feel a degree of comradeship to one another in order for them to trust each other and take risks in the classroom.
Through these bonds and friendship, both students and teachers alike will carry these values home with them and they will reflect through their everyday practices, thus improving the overall status of society. People all around should be taught to value the morals that people as individuals choose to value, in order to obtain a better, more educated society.
Ultimately this is the ideal education which one could offer a population, for a perfect education does not exist. There is no perfect education, for if there was one, it would have to be specifically designed to fit a specific individual. But this is not possible. Nearing this goal, it can be resolved by increasing the number of schools and their teaching styles. By doing this, the individual can pick a school which best fits him or her so that they can explore their individuality with more freedom because their path has somewhat narrowed in their favor. It’s the idea of putting those that are most homogeneous together so that ultimately you are getting closer and closer to fulfilling each individual’s specific needs.
The Vermont Commons School has done a wonderful job in creating an environment for education to flourish and work up to his/her own full potential. This prosperous atmosphere best fits the enthusiastic individual who enjoys learning and being active in and around the greater community. The Vermont Commons School achieves these goals through creating a community involved the pre-discussed strong student-teacher relationships. This can be obtained through everyday school life, after school activities, or through encounter weeks. Once the comforts of camaraderie are set, the individual is allowed to then proceed in finding and identifying themselves through experiences and interactions with the society around them. There is not a perfect education, for it is seen through the modeled society and through the reality of the world that there are different values and morals within a population. One can customize the ideal education for a specific society and make a conscious effort to turn that into a reality, but even in that, one has to further narrow the focus to a group of individuals with a common learning style. In Conclusion, Socrates was only thinking of education in terms of bettering society, what he did not take into account was the individual’s potential: thus leaving no room for adaptation and change, something that is essential in the real world and arguably required, as well, in the ideal world.

Education Systems, Platos World and Ours

The great issue that Plato was struggling with in regards to an educational system was the idea that every tale or poem that a young person heard would imprint its own hidden meaning in the youngsters head. The great tales of Homer were all poorly constructed lies that mislead a young listener into believing things that were not true.

“Don’t you know that the beginning is the most part of every work and that this is especially so with anything young and tender? For at that stage it’s most plastic, and each thing assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it,” proclaimed Adeimantus.

This leads Plato and Adiemantus finding an extreme solution to this difficult conundrum. By removing all art from their city they are allowing its citizens to have another privilege to think for themselves. This is not practical in today’s world where television, movies, and the radio are constantly making stabs into our unconscious. A more holistic solution to this issue is see these things for what they truly are.

In opposition to Plato’s beliefs, the Vermont Commons School has the philosophy that to overcome the hidden subliminal messages around us everyday, you must be taught to see these messages for what they truly are. Plato and VCS agree with the fact that n all written, spoken, and painted artwork it cannot be helped that there is a certain bias. At VCS, we believe that artwork is an undeniable part of our lives that make us humans. In Plato’s world, there would be no poems to give cheer to an audience or even to make them cry because it is impossible to escape a lie when composing them.

From the very beginning VCS is striving to give its students the tools to interpret the world around them. An intense language arts program leads students to a culmination in a study of the very thing that Plato hates; the underlying themes present in every novel. This is not just one semester of studying to have this ability. From the very first novel we read, we were taught not to see the text, but to see what was in between the lines. Our education continued in every aspect of our school environment, not just one academic field.

Like most students at VCS, it was not surprising to hear Cara speak of the fallacy of the truly nonbiased piece. As students, we had come upon this understanding after seeing the power of omission in books such as Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States. Attempting to address the issues that are set forth in the Republic, Zinn addresses the issue up front and admits to his readers that he is very biased. He is biased because of where he grew up, who taught him in kindergarten, even the person rocking him to sleep as a baby is guilty of creating a bias.

Most importantly however, he asks the readers to recognize this bias and to accept it. This is the same belief that VCS attempts to instill upon its students everyday. In biology we are taught to not only look at what is causing an animal to go extinct but, rather the entire system that is in and to recognize each element for what it is. In much the same way, we are taught in language arts to take a text and analyze each piece to decipher the underlying messages in the book. This is the only way that we can mold our own minds to what we believe and not to the beliefs of the Fox Media Corporation or the beliefs of National Public Radio.

Plato’s city is neither practical nor entirely beneficial to its citizens. By destroying that which may subvert our youth, we are taking away one of the biggest things that make us human. Denying our creative talents is not the solution to any real world application. At VCS we are not taught what to think, or filled with facts and information. Instead we are taught how to think for ourselves with logic and understanding and embrace or challenge the issues in our world. This is what not only sets us apart from many learning institutions but also against Plato’s ideal city.

Who is better able to philosophize? The young or the old?

The Republic of Plato contains many philosophies and the philosophers who create them. The philosophers of the Republic of Plato express in depth interpretations of the world that reveal their amazing intelligence. These interpretations are argued and rebuttled, especially by one philosopher named Socrates. Socrates refutes many of the arguments stated by Polemarchus and Thrasymachus in book one, and typically asks them questions to either correct their argument or lead them on the correct path of knowledge. The Republic of Plato has presented these conversations that reveal the character and knowledge of the philosophers of the time. But still an interesting question can be derived from this book. Who can philosophize best? The young or the old? The conversations of Plato have given many hints to find the correct solution to this question.Philosophers have developed their opinions, beliefs, and knowledge of reality throughout their lives. Typically these philosophers have developed their principles over time. They have been educated over many years to develop into wise philosophers. Socrates, describes In book one the value of learning from others. “Thrasymachus: Here is the wisdom of socretes; unwilling himself to teach, he goes around learning from others, and does not give any thanks to them. Socrates: When you say I learn from others, you speak the truth Thrasymachus; but when you say I do not make full payment in thanks, you lie. This conversation between Thrasymachus and Socrates takes place In the middle of book one, which is merely one argument of how socretes has obtained his great intellect. This conversation shows that even a great philosopher such as Socrates learns from others, which takes many years of life, that many philosophers have experienced.Philosophers have always been diverse, from ethnicity and race, to age. The most important element that reveals the abilities of all philosophers is age. Age defines the experience of ones life, which creates educated and wise philosophers. Age has allowed the great philosophers of the past to pursue the investigations of the modern world, with much experience of life and its values. Typically long life means more educated human beings, more interactions with the world, and a greater amount of time which to ponder the concepts or reality. This greater amount of time has allowed philosophers of the past to become much more of an influence on the world.But, Young philosophers have a unique quality which separates themselves from old philosophers. This quality is a modern mind that can relate with present situations and events. A young philosopher also is typically more recently educated than an old philosopher, even though the old learn throughout their lives. Recent education can mean meaningful wisdom. This wisdom could mean better intelligence of the modern methods and reality, which plays a role in the investigations of all philosophers. This quality is useful to create new positions and opinions of philosophers, which can bring new ideas into the world. But in terms of productiveness and value, these young philosophers cannot match the experience of life and the world that these old philosophers have used.Many old philosophers have taken the time to research and discover many important thing of this world, while investigating which has developed their knowledgeable opinions. The time lived by these philosophers has allowed them to investigate reality and the world constantly which makes for more educated opinions and thoughts. Experiencing many things is a task that must be completed to become a great philosopher. To succeed as a philosopher you must develop wisdom and intellect, which consumes much time in ones life. Young philosophers typically haven’t been privileged enough with time and experience to do so which limits their comprehension to the ideas, of someone such as Socrates. After reading book one of The Republic of Plato, and using basic logic I have come to the solution that older philosophers are best prepared. They have experienced time, and many more things that would make them better fit to philosophize compared to the youth. The idea of time was forever important to shape the ideas of great philosophers.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fear Guides Justice

What keeps a person from going out and doing harm to their enemies is the fear of consequences that society has placed on such actions. Fear is an element that can over rule a persons desire because it What keeps a person from going out and doing harm to their enemies is the fear of consequences that society has placed on such actions. Fear is an element that can over rule a persons desire because it can be reasoned as having stronger consequences. can be reasoned as having stronger consequences.
If a child desires candy from the store but has no money there is no defined barrier that the child can see to tell them not to take the candy. They desire it and therefore why not take it? However their parents (society) has given them a mental guidebook to abide by that tells them not to steal. Because if one steals there will be a consequence that is worst than any pleasure that candy can cause. This example of a consequence is situational, however desires can be suppressed by thinking about the consequences.
Freedom is a large desire that all people intuitively have. Our society has created a consequence for those who cannot reason through desire, or would rather face the consequences that suppress that desire. Jail is a large consequence that society has created. And for those individuals who desire too much the death penalty has also been instituted.
However, there are loopholes in the societal guidebook, deemed the law, which people can turn too. Similar to the ring of Gyges from The Republic of Plato there are ways in which people believe that that are immune to the consequences. First of which, is the ideology that they cannot be detected and therefore made responsible. To have escaped from consequences and fulfilled their desire would be the ultimate. However society has also created barriers toward this type of behavior. The church as a baseline for all consequences created the idea of ethics and the afterlife, if you break the laws of the church you get sent to hell. This consequence is the result of being ethically wrong in your actions. To be ethically wrong in fulfilling ones desire makes the desire itself null. Because no matter what one does they are always feeling ethically wrong.
There are also different levels of consequences. There are government levels as well. Those who have a powerful political position or multitudes of money can be exempt from governmental consequences. By bending the law through politics and wealth one can obtain any desire that one wants and feel no consequences. This however, is based on only the governmental level. When taking into consideration the ethical level of consequences one has to rely on personal responsibility. Socrates believes that personal responsibility cannot be relied on. This is very true, because in any situation a person can dismiss their action as null. It is more difficult to pass of a cities idea of ethics and consequences. That is why Socrates uses a larger population for his discussion in book two.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Laws and Punishment

Indeed for a society to function properly there must be repercussions for every action, be it for better or for worse. The function of rules and codes of conduct allow society to function properly as it enforces the justice dictated by the rulers. While anarchy appeals to some, with a society that doesn’t enforce punishments, the benefit for all of society is slim to none. It becomes clear that the most fundamental aspect is the laws and enforcement of laws, otherwise a government cannot function and its people are left to the whims of any thug that comes along.
As is clear with any functioning society there are levels of rules that are in place that protect the interests of the polis. This set of laws allows society to function because of several reasons, the most important is that it puts limits on the activities of the people by declaring what is acceptable and what clearly is not. Thus people will not have to deal with the variables of what other people are comfortable with, instead it is what society itself has deemed as comfortable, as what society has decided is acceptable. This allows for daily activity to flow in a regular manner. But what are laws that have no basis or substance behind them? Are they merely philosophies devised to adhere to if one agrees with the philosopher? Indeed without reprications laws will not be adhered to except by those who are truly just and who cannot be corrupted when disregard for laws happens around them.
A recent example of the difference with properly functioning society with laws has the codes dissolve comes with the recent Hurricane Katrina. The society in South was working fine, the commerce function and the population remained complaint with laws and respect for basic rights of their fellow neighbor. Following the disruption of police and law officials the codes that were in place were disregarded as people looted their neighbors and shot at government officials.
This points to the fact that when there are no consequences or perhaps when there are not people who can enforce consequences, small but significant groups of people disregard the basic laws and codes and effect the property and rights of the entire population.
The Republic of Plato also looks at the disruption of a just man in the story of the rings of Gyges. Upon becoming invisible, there were no repercussions to any of his actions and so he raped the queen and killed the king and thus took over power. Is this what a healthy society should have? By far not this instability cannot be looked as a benefit for anyone except the unjust man who feels that there is nothing wrong with his actions, its for his benefit so who cares.
The reason that laws and punishments must be in place is from the human nature of selfish, self-propelled desires, that is thinking for the benefit of only ourselves and not looking at the common good for all people. Thus we must have reasons to act for the common good of all people. While incentives or a pat on the back may indeed be enough for some, the vast majority of people are not equipped to function in this manner and unjust actions pour out of them, even when they mean no harm from it. Thus the ideas of justice to be served as rules and punishments for infractions allows the society to function over a long period for the overall benefit of the entire population.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's Not a Little Voice in the Back of our Heads...

In Book II, as Socrates continues his discussion of the concept of justice with another young man named Glaucon, an anecdote of absolute power is told. The story of the Ring of Gyges follows a young shepherd who finds a ring that gives him powers making him equivalent to a god among men. With the power to make himself invisible, the young shepherd does as he pleases, and eventually takes over the kingdom in which he lives by seducing the Queen and murdering the king. This story serves as an example of the manner in which an average person would act if all restrictions on their behavior were removed: the young shepherd acts without worry of the consequences, because no one can see him committing any of the crimes he is involved in. However, in a real life situation, the average person does not commit crimes to the extent of this young shepherd, because of the structure of the societies we live in. More specifically, most people do not kill people that anger or insult them, because of laws that exist in countries and worldwide organizations.

It is with the consideration of institutions of law that people do not murder their enemies at any point, but another part of the reality of law is that when the threat of being caught is reduced, many more people are willing to commit crimes, and sometimes those crimes can even be sanctioned by law. The story of the young shepherd illustrates a situation where someone is free to act as they please without fear of consequences, and they act in ways that are harmful to others. The opposite situation is true for a majority of the world’s population: they live in societies where laws or social agreements exist so that people do not act in ways that are harmful to others, and if they violate these societal rules, then society labels them as criminals and they are given an according punishment.

As a member of an organized society of law, I am unable to do harm to my enemies most of the time. If someone has done some injustice to me, I am not allowed to take justice into my own hands and do what I think is right as a punishment; ideally the system of laws that we call our government will take care of that for me, and it is illegal for me to act without the consent of the government. There are some notable exceptions to this statement, and these include self-defense laws, enlisting in the military, or other forms of civilian empowerment. All of these exceptions, however, are not examples of a situation where I could do as I please to my enemies, they are merely situations where the government has deemed it appropriate for me to act in a way that is harmful to other humans, and essentially given me a license to kill or harm. Outside of these notable examples, the law in our society does not tolerate people harming others because they feel threatened by their enemies.

The presence of laws and social accords does not always prevent people from harming other people that they see as enemies. Because a law itself cannot be effective at eliminating or requiring a certain type of behavior, many people will violate a law if they think there will be no consequences. This is where enforcement is necessary. However, enforcement, whether through trained officials such as police officers, or just citizens reporting on each other to the government, cannot always stop all types of illegal activity. While many crimes are committed in the heat of the moment, such as domestic murders inspired by marital issues, the majority of crimes committed involve perpetrators who have weighed the consequences of their behavior, and feel that they have a good chance of not being punished for their actions. Without enforcement, no laws will be followed by a majority of a population, because the human desire to do what is right for oneself is too powerful. We see this in the anecdote of the shepherd; a young man commits adultery and murders a king because even though his actions are considered “wrong” by society as a whole, he knows that he cannot be caught, so he commits the crimes.
Drawing upon the debate between Socrates and Glaucon, as well as a working knowledge of the society we live in, I can conclude that the reasons I do not go out and harm my enemies are not choices that I have made based on my own free will, but they are influenced by the existence of a legal system. Also, other considerations may include what other people think of me, because even if I am not penalized by the law for harming people, peoples attitudes towards me will be very different if I am seen to be destructive and hurtful, so for these reasons my enemies are mostly safe from my retaliatory actions, unless I ever join the army of police force.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Social, Moral, and Ethical Inhibitors in the Modern Age

We live in a radically different society from the time of Plato and Socrates lived. The changes that have come about since then have changed the way that people deal with their problems and issues from day to day. Certain actions are permitted while others are not. The control that is placed on every citizen has been continually developing since the beginning of time. The most influential of our animal instincts have trickled down into a social conduct book that every person must adhere too.

The repercussions from breaking these rules are sufficient to hold nearly every person in the system. The main forces that are carrying out these repercussions are the government and it’s military in the most extreme cases, the person’s socio-economic class, and general opinion and reputation of the group or person in their community. Adeimantus asserts that the only reason that people are compelled to do justice is to win favor with the gods and the people around them with good reputations. “However they don’t praise justice by itself but the good reputations that come from it.” This is the main influence stopping people from acting with injustice.

In our present society, this has taken on a broader scope and is now applied to a number of issues. The great stigma against harming your own personal enemies has been placed in the conduct rule book because it will undermine the power with in our own unity and patriotism. From the time of birth few people question this rule and those that do are removed from society in order to stop the spread of violence any further. This policy is purely economics. It is necessary to protect every contributing member in our society to continue our economic advancement.

The first and primary tool that our government uses to control our actions is the threat of physical repercussions. The most common repercussion comes in the form of jail time. We have set apart places in our country to put the individuals that cannot adhere to the social conduct rules. Doing harm to others in our society, even if it is your enemy, can lead to years in a penitentiary. By publicizing many of the extreme cases brought before our legal system, the government creates the strong opinion that this is the worst of punishments.

In the new television series Prison Break on fox, prison life is portrayed as being one step above animalism. Huge fights between each racial class break out for no other reason except that the inmates can. By spreading this opinion throughout our culture, we are doing more to stop acts of disobedience than any other thing. The fear of these places has become great enough to stop all but the most intent on doing harm or the craziest. Moving away from the physical repercussions, you find many economic drawbacks as well.

There are very few punishments in the U.S. legal system that does not include some form of economic punishment. These come most often as fines or tickets that a person must pay. With minor infractions such as breaking the speed limit the government uses tickets to enforce their will. This is largely effective as a simple ticket can cascade into higher insurance premiums for many years to come. Fines are used to enforce patent and copyright laws, big businesses, and minor infractions. For the larger violations such as harming somebody there are still economic punishments.

Even after release from a penitentiary back into society, your felony will follow you wherever you go. Simple tasks such as finding a job will become much more difficult and it is unlikely that you will ever be treated fairly in the workplace. This is because of the opinion of convicts and felons that has been imprinted on us since we were children. After doing harm to a person your reputation becomes marred. In the early years of our countries existence we had public floggings and even executions. This spectacle was done to reinforce the fear of committing a crime and the anger against those that have.

In many ways the opinion that people have of you after committing such an act is the best deterrent. The government may force you to leave your community for many years but if you are able to return it is unlikely that you will be accepted back among them. The loss of the human connection, that most of need, is a horrible punishment. This combined with the other forms of punishment put us in a fear mindset. We will not do something unless we fear it more than the punishment handed to us by the government and the people around us.

Doing harm to somebody even if they are your enemy is not acceptable in our society. The punishment afflicted to those that do not heed the many warnings will find themselves in a place that is both unforgiving and extreme. Socrates and Plato did not have the social institutions at work and it seems like fulfilling their idea of ‘harm your enemies but not your friends’ has become more difficult since then. These tools are manipulated to ensure that we do the best for our society and economy but not necessarily what is most just.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Doing Harm To Our Enemies: The Just vs. The Unjust

Why do harm to your enemies when you know that all it would give back to you is the characteristic of being unjust? The way society is formed brings forth this fear for all that is unjust because no one person wants to be known as being unjust. Society has made it so that everyone who wishes to be just will not do harm to their enemies because that would be the unjust thing for them to do. This lies true for everyone except for those who wish to be unjust; for to be unjust one must first have the impression of being just if for the sole reason of being able to do total unjust things.
For fear of what society would think of them, the just man would not simply go out and do harm to his enemies because this act would be unjust. There are probably tons of people who at the moment would want to harm George Bush. If there were no restrictions and we lived in a total state of anarchy, for one there wouldn’t be someone in power such as George Bush, but if we were in total anarchy there would be nothing that would stop me from doing something so unjust as to kill George Bush. Now if this were to be done today in our society, I would be killed. Although some people may have agreed that they didn’t like the man, and would have thought bad thought about him and claimed him as their enemy, to do something so unjust as to kill someone would be unforgivable. This aspect of society holds the just man back from doing such things.
Something of the opposite is true for the unjust man. They will create this aura of justness about them and using this idea of just will climb the social ladder until they are the ones in power. With power comes the ability to be and do unjust things.
Let the unjust man also attempt unjust deeds correctly, and get away with them, if he is going to be extremely unjust. The man who is caught must be considered a poor chap. For the extreme of injustice is to seem to be just when one is not. So the perfectly unjust man must be given the most perfect injustice, and nothing must be taken away; he must be allowed to do the greatest injustices while having provided himself with the greatest reputation for justice. (361a-b)
This is the way that Glaucon believed it to be. But it wasn’t just him because after he was done he had Socrates believing the same thing( that is until Glaucon’s brother gave a different argument). But Glaucon fully believed that the unjust were the ones in power. He was very straightforward with his thoughts in believing that in order to be perfectly unjust you must first be viewed as perfectly just. This idea of being perfectly just, this aura, is given to people in power which is why Glaucon goes on to describe how if the unjust are in power then “he is capable both of speaking persuasively and of using force, to the extent that force is needed. (361 b)”
Glaucon also, using the same basis for his argument, described what it was to be a perfectly just man. It was simple that in order to be perfectly just a person must first seem totally unjust. It allows in many ways for the lowliest person who appears to be the most unjust to be, in reality, the most just man of them all. If you take this idea and stretch it a little bit. You are able to apply it to many people from our past. One that comes to mind is Jesus. He, who has so much talked about him, as far as I can tell was thought to be so unjust in his doings that he was actually killed. But in reality, for some people, this was only an act of showing how just a man can really be.
This all comes back to what keeps someone from harming their enemies through the connection of society. Everything comes back to society. In order to be unjust you must appear just, in order to be just you must appear unjust, and in order to harm your enemies you have to commit an unjust act. Society is what bound Jesus, a just man, to being condemned for what others thought were unjust actions. But what society teaches you is that it all goes back to who’s in charge. Because whoever is in charge gets to make the rules that a society is run by. And according to Glaucon those who are in power are most likely those who are wholly unjust. This makes a cycle that has remained strong throughout history. And although it has saved us from doing harm to our enemies, it has done little to contain those that are truly unjust who wield the power of society.

The Avoidance of Conflict: What Stops Us from Going Out and Doing Harm to Our Enemies?

In the global community today there exists a dynamic that reflects centuries of what would now be considered unjust and tyrannical imposition of one's views upon another. The very fabric that keeps the world intact is woven with the strings of power; if we were to philosophically remove all notions of the stronger ruling over the weaker, our global political systems would decay so quickly that it would be impossible for any measure of control to be maintained. Our political systems and the theory of democracy may seem to be the "control" that keeps a man or a nation from doing harm to his enemies, but this is not the case.
Since even before the dawn of man, one theory has remained true: the stronger, the aggressor, always is able to force their will over subservient creatures. The very laws of physics that determine our universe prove the truth in this statement; the solid object with more inertia is always more likely to continue on its way uninterrupted until an opponent more formidable in stature or energy can stop it. One may examine the biological evidence behind this statement as wolves submit to the biggest and strongest amidst them as their alpha, or even the very most primal and basic struggle that continues to remain keystone to our existence; that of the most fit sperm being admitted to fertilize the egg.
This constant struggle against one's competitors of a goal or "enemies" as they shall be called from here on grows more distant from our everyday lifestyles as our systems of government continue to improve the quality of life and remove conflict and increase regulation. However, the world is held together by the assumption based on all of history that if harm is done to an enemy, it shall be retaliated, either immediately or distantly. If, as happens in rare instances, the chance of retaliation is absolutely impossible, then the "enemy" will be removed from existence immediately. This further supports the theory that humans do not do harm to their enemies in fear of some sort of retaliation.
Examples of this retaliation are usually increasingly immediate and easily understandable as a smaller population is examined. For example, the retaliation faced by an ancient Great Plains native for attacking an enemy tribe would be a counterattack, or the damages sustained during the original skirmish. Today, our society emulates this retaliation in our legal code as a man who sets fire to his neighbor's house finds himself isolated from society for the rest of his life.
On a grander scale, the assumptions remain the same; they are simply more complicated because the decisions they make concerning doing harm to enemies impact them for years, decades, even centuries to come. The strife between Israel and Palestine stems from ancient conflict and each side continues to retaliate against their enemy today as they remain locked in a perfect example of the perceived consequences that keep man from doing harm to his enemy. The consequences of harm to one another on this global scale come in many forms; deaths of individuals being the most concrete though harshly realized form. Political and economic consequences of the conflict can take many years to surface, and this is another measure of retaliation that is feared on a global level.
In conclusion, the longwithstanding reasoning behind men avoiding the attacking of an enemy lies in the fear of retribution. An animal injured in a fight over territofy will likely not live to see another moon, a country that declares war against the world will likely not be offered a seat on the UN security council nor included in global trade as the world moves forward. Although this may seem like a primal and antiquated system of supressing violence, it has always been the most reliable and is hardwired into the brain of every living species, thus making it the reasoning behind the avoidance of every conflict. These risks of retribution are only engaged when circumstances compel one to commence an attack; however, this is a separate set of philosophies.

What Keeps The Peace?

What prevents people from bringing harm to their enemies?


The choices we make in our lives dictate the kind of human being we are. Everyday we will are confronted with choices that have both just and unjust options. The unjust choice is often the one that would most benefit one as an individual and therefore would be the simple choice for many because humans on the majority are self involved. The choices a person makes are kept in check by the consequences of our actions. Even though a person may wish to harm their enemies, they usually would never do such a thing because the consequences keep them in check. People are kept from harming their enemies by the code of conduct and consequences set up by the society they live in.
Plato brings up the allegory of the Ring of Gyges to support the fact that with no consequences people would be unjust and reckless. This is the myth of a poor farmer who finds a powerful ring which can turn him completely invisible just by wearing it. In other words he is free of any consequences because no one can see him and immediately he kills the King and commits adultery with the Queen. These are two of the most heinous crimes even today and this man committed them without remorse and ruled the kingdom. The simple fact is when he saw himself free of consequences or anyone knowing it was him then he acted for his own good as any man would. Then Socrates presents the hypothetical situation of there being two identical rings; one given to the unjust man and another to the just. The result would be the same the men would act without remorse or fear of consequence and murder, rape, and steal. Without the threat of retribution unjust acts become much easier to commit on ones conscience. A man’s reputation becomes marred by acts of injustice to others in his society according to Socrates, “he would become most wretched to those who were aware of it (the acts of injustice)” (360,d) In the case of the ring of Gyges the farmer was invisible so there was no consequences to his reputation of being a good man because no he performed his actions secretly with no one knowing his identity. One reason the internet today has come to be know, among other things, as a cesspool of moral decay involving online gambling, pornographic material, and illegal dealing is because of the status of secrecy that the internet gives people. When people know that their identity’s is secret it allows them to release inhibitions they would otherwise keep to themselves without worry about their otherwise pristine reputations being ruined. The internet, by removing the consequences of real life with a shield of confidentiality, lets people be unjust as much as they wish. It is in many ways a modern day equivalent to the Ring of Gyges, it makes people invisible through secrecy and people act in ways online that they would never in person with no fear of their actions or what may come of them.
My old school, Mount Mansfield Union High school, had an extraordinary amount of vandalism done to it over the years. To name a few incidents; tomato sauce thrown every where, doors spray painted pink and fences destroyed and worst of all two years back windows were smashed to the extent of $10,000 damage. These were angry youth doing harm to their enemy, in this case the high school. Most people are too afraid of the consequences of vandalism, for example expulsion or charges being pressed, and therefore do not bring harm to their enemy. In these cases the students were sure they couldn’t be caught because of lack of security and surveillance. To all appearances they were wearing there own rings of invisibility to the authority that would generally keep them in line. They feel the same effects that the farmer felt when he experienced the true power of the ring of Gyges. Recently in an effort to put an end to this rampant vandalism the school authorized and installed seven surveillance cameras. The reign of the vandals came to a direct end and no vandalism has since occurred. The fact is we as humans are prevented from bringing harm to our enemies by the societal codes of conduct that are established. Only in secret do we tend to do unjust acts and harm our enemies. This secrecy is represented by the Allegory of The Ring of Gyges and the secrecy means our reputations stay untarnished.
The fact is humans are afraid of persecution. Everyone knows the codes of conduct that society has set up for the general population and it is expected of the people to follow them. The reason humans don’t openly hurt their enemies is fear of retribution and to protect there reputations which are precious in today’s world. People resort to secretive and destructive behavior which has no consequences until they are caught and in the words of Socrates himself “the man who is caught must be considered a poor chap.” (361, a)

What Keeps The Peace?

Travis Larkin
Reflection #2
What prevents us from bringing harm to our enemies?


The choices we make in our lives dictate the kind of human being we are. Everyday we will are confronted with choices that have both just and unjust options. The unjust choice is often the one that would most benefit one as an individual and therefore would be the simple choice for many because humans on the majority are self involved. The choices a person makes are kept in check by the consequences of our actions. Even though a person may wish to harm their enemies, they usually would never do such a thing because the consequences keep them in check. People are kept from harming their enemies by the code of conduct and consequences set up by the society they live in.
Plato brings up the allegory of the Ring of Gyges to support the fact that with no consequences people would be unjust and reckless. This is the myth of a poor farmer who finds a powerful ring which can turn him completely invisible just by wearing it. In other words he is free of any consequences because no one can see him and immediately he kills the King and commits adultery with the Queen. These are two of the most heinous crimes even today and this man committed them without remorse and ruled the kingdom. The simple fact is when he saw himself free of consequences or anyone knowing it was him then he acted for his own good as any man would. Then Socrates presents the hypothetical situation of there being two identical rings; one given to the unjust man and another to the just. The result would be the same the men would act without remorse or fear of consequence and murder, rape, and steal. Without the threat of retribution unjust acts become much easier to commit on ones conscience. A man’s reputation becomes marred by acts of injustice to others in his society according to Socrates, “he would become most wretched to those who were aware of it (the acts of injustice)” (360,d) In the case of the ring of Gyges the farmer was invisible so there was no consequences to his reputation of being a good man because no he performed his actions secretly with no one knowing his identity. One reason the internet today has come to be know, among other things, as a cesspool of moral decay involving online gambling, pornographic material, and illegal dealing is because of the status of secrecy that the internet gives people. When people know that their identity’s is secret it allows them to release inhibitions they would otherwise keep to themselves without worry about their otherwise pristine reputations being ruined. The internet, by removing the consequences of real life with a shield of confidentiality, lets people be unjust as much as they wish. It is in many ways a modern day equivalent to the Ring of Gyges, it makes people invisible through secrecy and people act in ways online that they would never in person with no fear of their actions or what may come of them.
My old school, Mount Mansfield Union High school, had an extraordinary amount of vandalism done to it over the years. To name a few incidents; tomato sauce thrown every where, doors spray painted pink and fences destroyed and worst of all two years back windows were smashed to the extent of $10,000 damage. These were angry youth doing harm to their enemy, in this case the high school. Most people are too afraid of the consequences of vandalism, for example expulsion or charges being pressed, and therefore do not bring harm to their enemy. In these cases the students were sure they couldn’t be caught because of lack of security and surveillance. To all appearances they were wearing there own rings of invisibility to the authority that would generally keep them in line. They feel the same effects that the farmer felt when he experienced the true power of the ring of Gyges. Recently in an effort to put an end to this rampant vandalism the school authorized and installed seven surveillance cameras. The reign of the vandals came to a direct end and no vandalism has since occurred. The fact is we as humans are prevented from bringing harm to our enemies by the societal codes of conduct that are established. Only in secret do we tend to do unjust acts and harm our enemies. This secrecy is represented by the Allegory of The Ring of Gyges and the secrecy means our reputations stay untarnished.
The fact is, humans are afraid of persecution. Everyone knows the codes of conduct that society has set up for the general population and it is expected of the people to follow them. The reason humans don’t openly hurt their enemies is fear of retribution and to protect there reputations which are precious in today’s world. People resort to secretive and destructive behavior which has no consequences until they are caught and in the words of Socrates himself “the man who is caught must be considered a poor chap.” (361, a)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Ian Johnson: Youth vs. Age

There has been a great debate over who is best to fundamental issues that affect the basic principles that we live by. The youth population argues that they have the sharpest minds, while the elders say that they have the experience necessary to see the answers to all of the questions. Undoubtedly our society is much more oriented towards the older population. This is based on the accumulated knowledge off many people from the beginning of our species. Because of many reasons as people age they grow in wisdom and are better suited to make these important decisions.
The terms of elderly and youth are a bit misconceiving. It is possible to have somebody of 100 years of age be less perceptive and wise than a teenager. The maturity of a person’s mind is the true judge of your wisdom. Maturity is ranking of intellect, age, and experiences. The key to this definition is age. In theory as your age increases so will your intellect and experiences. In this way older people are best suited to interpret justice and injustice in our society. The youth’s inability to grasp this concept leads directly from the fact that their minds have not developed completely. Just as they believe they can make the best decisions for themselves, they believe that they can make decisions about the meaning of justice the consequences that this idea has on society.
The elderly population can see through many of the biases that are placed on us during our youth. By controlling what we see and hear, they can influence every opinion and decision that we believe is our own. As you grow in age, you begin to learn of the world from outside of the bubble. Only then is it possible to make decisions about what is and what isn’t justice and what action is required from it. The best way of interpreting our society and the rules that make the fences in it, is by patient observation only available to those who have reached a level of maturity not know in the early stages of your mental lives.
By having a wealth of knowledge gained from experiences and interactions with people older people can develop independent opinions separate from their friends, family, and even the imprinted opinions that plague the young in mind. Older people can cite actual incidents and scenarios whereas the youth in our population can only stipulate on these events. Plato mocks Thrasymachus for his know-it-all attitude as Plato proves over and over again the fallacy of this belief. For each suggestion of the true meaning of justice by Thrasymachus, Plato is able to turn his arguments against him by forcing Thrasymachus to examine his society himself.
The examination and questioning of the world around us is what leads to the knowledge necessary to interpret justice. As you grow older, it allows you to gain more and more knowledge about the world around, and therefore the ability to best make decisions about the meaning of justice. This belief is at the heart of Plato’s teaching method. By forcing Thrasymachus to examine and question the society he lives in it, Thrasymachus’ mind is aging.
From a biological perspective, your youth is an extremely busy period that leaves little space for such unproductive things as contemplation and examination. Our drives to survive and reproduce distract us from the issues that need to be addressed properly. As we age each these drives that once filled our time as youth become less and less urgent. Only when we can truly devote our time to these studies can questions about justice be addressed properly.
Plato and Thrasymachus represent the differing opinions in this debate of youth versus age. Thrasymachus resents that Plato acts as if he were all knowing or rather of a higher intellect than himself. To show this he rebels against much of what Plato shows him and assumes in many instances that he has made the right decision. In this way the youth will never admit to the fact that it is best to leave such discussions to their elders and this debate will never be resolved even when it is clear that one side is dominant.

PLATO: BOOK ONE

Is justice the will of the stronger? In my opinion, justice is absolutely the will of the stronger. If the stronger individual in an argument (stronger physically, mentally, financially etc) really wants to get his or her way then they without a doubt will overpower the weaker. However, a physically stronger individual will not always “win” when arguing with a mentally stronger person. Strengths come in different ways. The physically stronger person would undoubtedly win in a fistfight, but the mentally stronger person would probably leave the mentally weak stammering.In The Republic of Plato by Allan Bloom Thrasymachus mentions to Socrates “And you are so far off about the just and justice, and the unjust and injustice, that you are unaware that justice and the just are really someone else’s good, the advantage of the man who is stronger and rules, and a personal harm to the man who obeys and serves.” (Bloom, 21.) Here he talks about the fact that a stronger man will take a just situation and, perhaps even unintentionally, but simply by following his own self-interest, make that situation unjust. A weaker man may be perfectly just, however, he may end up living an unjust life because he cannot stand up to the stronger man, and therefore cannot overturn the stronger man’s idea of justice.It is clear from the first book of The Republic of Plato that every person has a different idea of what justice is. Since there is no universal definition of justice the justice that the “masses” have to consume is the idea of justice that whomever is in the highest position of power (ideally the strongest individual) has. However, this stronger individual, as explained by Thrasymachus, will more than likely choose a definition of justice that benefits his personal interest.Justice as the will of the stronger is evident in such recent events as the Michael Jackson trial, or the OJ Simpson trial a few years ago. Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson are financially strong individuals with the resources to hire mentally strong lawyers. Who knows what true justice was in these cases. However, because they were capable of presenting the strongest arguments they were able to skew justice and convince the jury that they, in fact, were innocent. These are examples of individuals using their strengths to create a justice that perhaps not all of us believe, but that because of the systems in place we are all forced to accept.It seems that also in politics whomever has the strongest political machine, which is the result of having the most funding, gains the most power. These powerful individuals then spread their definition of justice to the population and regardless of what the population believes as their personal definition of justice because they are in a weaker position they are forced to accept the definition of the stronger. For example, my Uncle Ronald, who is gay and is legally married (in Canada) to my Uncle Alex (his partner) may have to move out of the United States because his partner Alex is from Canada and can’t get a permanent visa to the United States because the marriage between Alex and Ron doesn’t count as a true marriage. This is not their, nor my idea of justice. However, because it is just in the eyes of the President, who is in the highest position of power, and therefore the strongest, it is the “justice” that we have to accept.Currently I am quite concerned about the Supreme Court, which is the ultimate justice making organization. Although we’re supposed to have checks and balances imbed into our governmental system President Bush and his cronies will have the true say in who sits upon the court and, therefore, the definition of justice the country must swallow. Although there are some of us who are opposed to this definition, we are forced to accept it.At least, we are living in a democracy, where we are free to protest definitions that we do not accept. We have the freedom of media which allows us vibrant discussion of different views on justice. Although these protests often bear fruitless results they bring attention to potential injustices and help us keep the definition of justice that our “power figure” has in check. Take a look at the Arab world where religious fanatics want to stifle any questioning of their definition of justice, people want to be able to speak out and have the right to question and disagree with the ideas of those in power. Sometimes the “weak” are not as weak as they appear. As Margaret Mead is famous for saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”

Kyler Robinson: Justice

Kyler M. Robinson
Comparison Philosophies
Rob A Skiff
September 6, 2005



When posed with the question “what is justice?” Socrates instead pushed the question back onto the gathering of young men. Of these young men, the most clear and, in my opinion, most exacting understanding of justice comes from Thrasymuchus. He breaks justice down to the will of the strongest or powerful. While agreeing with this concept, though Socrates himself does not, I think it is best to examine what the terms of this concept hold.
It seems that the idea of the will of the strongest works best when the whole overbearing task of defining justice is brought down to what is justice in society or how justice can be brought into practice. In this way you break down the barriers of good versus bad that most often stems from the side of the conflict you are on. From this stand point I found the nearly everyone I asked failed to give me the same definition for when I posed them the question as to what justice is. Indeed Mark Lucey went as far as to say that justice was an arbitrary concept that humans created that bears no real meaning. This indeed gets to the heart of the argument. Justice is only arbitrary when it is left to be defined by the polis.
When a word with as much weight as justice is left to the masses to decide many ideas can come out leaving the real true answer unfound. When you say your answer is not valid you may even infringe on a concept of the justice of casting off an opinion. But before you cast my opinion off as just some rant let me bring the question back to Thrasymuchus’ thesis. When it is so very clear that the polis cannot come up with an answer or definition, it should be the governing body that decides the rules and codes behind the term. This governing body (the powerful) defines the laws of the society and the rules for daily conduct. It is only natural that they also define the tenets that surround a far-reaching concept such as justice.
The case where perhaps this is best shown is in a democratic society where the governing body fairly represents the population but has the foresight to look beyond themselves and their own goals but look at the function of society and where laws are governed by society and what is socially acceptable. While society itself can spur notions of justice to apply to various specific conflicts but lack all-inclusive definitions. Thus, like all things, the governing body must steer its people towards some goal and fit justice in with it. The creation of laws and punishments for infractions of those laws, a system to judge whether or not these laws have been violated; this is the way that justice can happen in a society.
Indeed this model can be magnified just as you can zoom out on it and still have it ring true. Thus allowing for checks wherein the replications of an action can be brought into what a larger group finds whether or not it fits into the justice model with the codes and statutes attached to it. If it meets the code well it is indeed just, if it does not than the case must bring consequences against the defender. And furthermore if the general population feels that the current rules and regulations attached to the justice of the given conflict does not ring true to the overall goals of society their governing body may well change the rules to better fit different situations. Perhaps this shows the great importance of precedent in courtrooms. It is always about the overall society with respect to a specific case.
Going back to the notion of this definition of justice being served as specific to general let us take a certain situation, very specific. The situation can be analyzed by many groups, starting locally, the local area may set its verdict based on traditions of the region but again that verdict might not be truly just. You can then back it out to a larger region, to a country and see if it fits a stringent set of rules and conduct codes of the society and then you may yet let justice be served.
Justice cannot be random and emotionally charged. Justice must be dictated by strict guidelines for if it is not dictated by guidelines it merely breaks down to become one person’s opinion. Instead it should be brought more to scientific exactness. Reason and logic based on codes set for by society. And who controls society? It is the powerful and the strongest. These leaders who truly lead, that is who have a God-given art of leadership must thus set for the rules and social codes so that society may well function.
“And what about the pilot? Is the man who is a pilot in the correct sense a ruler of sailors or a sailor?”
“A ruler of sailors”
“I suppose it needn’t be taken into account that he sails in the ship, and he shouldn’t be called a sailor for that. For it isn’t because of sailing that he is called a pilot but because of his art and his rule over sailors.”
“True,” he said.
“Is there something advantageous for each of them?”
“Certainly” (341c-d)

This seems to point back to the fact that not everyone is ready to be a pilot, to be a leader. Instead it is necessary to have people who have an art of leadership. Leadership establishes rules and conduct for all of society and therefore it should be of no surprise that these rules and conduct feed back into justice of a society where rules and conduct for violations of the rules and conduct also apply. This allows society to function and allows for consequences in every violation, which also reflects consequences for every situation in life, which ultimately reflect society.

Unto Each Their Own

Chris Reed
September 6, 2005
Response: “Are the young or old better equipped to philosophize?”


- Unto Each Their Own -


The Republic of Plato immediately addresses the issue of age affecting the quality of one’s philosophy. Plato makes Socrates’ views plain on this subject: “For my part, Cephalus, I am really delighted to discuss with the very old…since they are like men who have proceeded on a certain road that perhaps we too will have to take, one ought, in my opinion, to learn from them what sort of road it is (328e).” However, in his next series of explorations of this topic, he goes on to debunk his own view on this theory of the ‘wisdom of the old’.
It is true, as Socrates states, that an older individual has most often had the chance to see more of the world. This life experience provides them with a strong basis for their personal convictions and shapes them based on their findings. Socrates might even argue that this time spent as a conscious being would refine them and their sense of philosophy. However, every individual is only best-equipped to create and follow their own individual philosophy in life, and no other is more qualified nor equipped to impose a philosophy upon a sentient creature than itself. Cephalus promptly reports on Sophocles, a poet who in his old age felt liberated from certain evils as his sex drive diminished as is characteristic with age: “’Sophocles…can you still have intercourse with a woman?’…’most joyfully did I escape it, as though I had run away from a sort of frenzied and savage master (329c).’” Any young man would scorn Sophocles’ philosophy as simply a negative effect of old age, his impotence saving him from such a ‘master’. The young, it seems, would be best left to create their own philosophy, which would most likely not label the influences of desire as being under the influence of a savage master.
Thus, the theory of any sentient being having a better sense of philosophy than any other is completely awry. Wisdom and life experience only justly refines and tunes one’s personal philosophy. There is no justice nor logic in any being having their personal philosophy, no matter how ‘learned’, imposed on another on this or any basis. This philosophy for the preservation of individuals’ rights to create, deny, or live by their own set of morals and personal beliefs is a philosophy that most closely adapts the ideals and bases of modern-day anarchy.
The concept of a government or other ruling body (perhaps best embodied by the degeneration of the Greek Republic into a kingship in The Republic of Plato) inherently violates the idea of free spirit and philosophy on a personal basis. Thus, the concept of anarchy is set forth as the ultimate goal for human satisfaction, as it allows one to be only governed by their own morals and principles.
In inherent violation, too, of this idea is the concept of religion. Religion sets forth morals and other philosophies to its ‘followers’, but this contradicts the idea of every being having the best preparation to create their own personal philosophy. Religions and governments could have been created as humans sacrificed some areas of their fates as individuals to be protected in a covenant of relatively like-minded individuals. As soon as a band of hunters was formed and they began to delegate who must hunt, where, and when, these personal philosophies were infringed upon. A pact, agreement, or covenant regarding the definition or administration of morality, rights, laws, or justice stands against my theory of ultimate self-satisfaction being achieved through self-guidance as each person being their own best philosopher.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dan Letovsky: Unscripted Remarks, September 2005

In a heated yet civilized debate portrayed in the early scenes of Allan Bloom’s The Republic of Plato, an attempt to define justice is made. This in depth discussion of the concept of justice consists of Socrates and a crowd of younger and arguably less wise men. During the back and forth questioning between Socrates and other participants in the debate, Thrasymachas becomes frustrated with Socrates’ method of discussing justice. As he stands up to address not only Socrates but the larger group around him, he begins by insulting Socrates and the way he is participating in the discussion. After the outburst against the present questioning that is happening between Socrates and Polemarchus, Thrasymachas presents his own definition of justice: “I say that the just is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.” (338 c) Thrasymachas’ statement brings about a new debate centered around this issue, but not only in Plato is this a debated statement: in the modern day world, the issue of whether the will of the authority, is always the just thing is constantly brought up and discussed. In today’s world, with widespread media and internet access, a discussion similar to the one between Socrates and Polemarchus would be a commonplace thing; in a themed blog, forum, or chat room, any number of discussions over justice can exist. However, throughout most of human history, the degree to which the average person could communicate with other people around the world was very limited. This lack of mass communication meant that whoever controlled access to large groups of people would have a huge advantage in spreading their message and their way of thought. The party that generally has this power to access thousands of people can be a government or a ruling economic class, a group that Thrasymachas refers to as “the stronger”. The “stronger” that Thrasymachas refers to is a group with an advantage over others, a group that is in control and sets the rules. The statement that justice can be a tool used by the stronger in order to maintain their power is true. However Thrasymachas implies that whatever the stronger group lays down as a so called form of justice is always the just thing. Here, we must make a distinction between what we will call practical or real justice, and true justice. Practical justice is a term that can be applied to a system of laws or standards that is laid down by a ruling class or government. This form of justice exists so that a government or group of people can maintain order among a larger population. It includes laws, standards, and social contracts that everyone in that society is supposed to follow. If everyone in society plays by these rules, the society will run with a certain degree of order, and there will be advances in the common good. However, these laws that exist for the common good are not always in the best interests of certain individuals, and are not always the embodiment of true justice. True justice, a term which I will not define specifically, but can be thought of as the most universally right principle, rarely exists in modern societies. Justice, the definition of which Socrates and Polemarchus are trying to describe by their discussion, would not be functional in a society of many people. To do the just thing for everyone is impossible, because of the varying needs and desires of all people. So, a compromise needs to be reached, and this compromise is generally a set of rules that people must follow in order to be part of society. Practical justice, the compromise between all elements of society, is the most functional form of organizing people, because it represents justice in terms of the common good. Thrasymachas, in stating that justice is only a tool by which a stronger group of people stays in control was mistaken, because justice is so much more. While it is true that a dominant party may exist that presides over society as a whole, making decisions that affect thousands of people, justice is not the tool they use to control people, it is the vehicle by which they attained their power. The influence of practical justice, or a compromise by all elements of society, has caused the existence of some dominant party, and they are merely exercising their will to the fullest until they no longer serve the common good.

Collin Hamilton: Young vs. Old Philosophers

Collin Hamilton
September 6, 2005
Plato class
Paper 1

When considering if it is more advantageous for older individuals to teach or younger persons, one needs to consider the points in which each can contribute to the student. Because older people have had more experience they have more insight and experience to contribute. On the other hand young people can add their pure opinions that have not been tainted by the world’s bias. Younger people can offer a viewpoint that has not been altered by outside sources. But instead is very pure and strictly from the persons mind as they think. An older person will teach things based on the way that they have live and what influences have been in their life. Therefore what they teach can be influenced by other factors. It is also important to be specific when making the delineations between a younger, middle and older individual.
Knowledge is also crucial when determining a better teacher. In most cases and older individual will have had the time to become more learned and therefore the better teacher. However this can be confusing when trying to determine delineations between what is young and pure and what is considered and older individual. In an ultimate setting the most advantageous teacher would be both, pure and experienced.
A younger person can have stages in which they go from a pure state of opinion to a state that is a combination of purity and other’s influence and then to an older individual who has become influenced and is no longer pure. To be pure would mean to have your own opinion based on no knowledge that has been acquired elsewhere. When a young child is asked a question the answer most often does not have a lot of research put into it. The answer is based around that child’s view about what is right and wrong.
Teachers who are in that middle stage, having pure thoughts combined with some of life’s experience. This type of teacher would be the best because they will be able to relate to both groups of people, both the young and the old. This middle stage would also be the best teacher because that person would have enough experience to relate to the older people and understand their thought process. Meanwhile they will still have retained enough pure thought to understand and manipulate the thought process of a younger person. In addition to these attributes, a middle person should have enough knowledge and understanding of current events and fads, therefore also contributing to their teaching ability.
Socrates and his friends are young and are able to use the experiences that they have to teach each other. And yet they still have their own pure views of the would that they argue with each other.
If an older individual was asked the same question they would put a lot more thought into the answer and draw on their experiences through out life to answer the question. In most cases because of the people’s multitude of experiences they will have a very opinionated answer. Their answer can also be affected by where they live, how they were brought up, and among other thing their financial status.
In Plato Cephalus considers old age as a classical older individuals would. When asked about his view about old age he recites what his friend Sophocles had said. That “…old age brings great peace and freedom from such things. When the desires cease to strain and finally relax, then what Sophocles says comes to pass in every way.” This is a combination of Cephalus’s experiences, and the opinion of Sophocles; using those tools that old age can provide Cephalus is able to teach about old age.
To look at all of these age groups in comparison one would see that those considered younger can be classified as children, those who are middle would be younger, and those who are older individuals are correctly named. Therefore, younger individuals are most capable at teaching all age groups.

The Best Interpreters of Justice

Reflection Paper #1
Comparative philosophy
Rob Skiff
8/6/05
Travis Larkin


In book one of The Republic of Plato, a discussion between Socrates and his hosts begins. The purpose of this discussion is to come to some agreement on a definition of justice. Socrates refutes every one of his host’s attempts at a definition by finding contradictions in their arguments. Socrates is older, and some would say wiser, than Polemarchus and his father Cephalus. At the end of book one, the argument has come to a stand still without having reached a definition of justice. It is clear to me that the eldest generation is better at defining and understanding justice because they have had more experience in life.
Cephalus starts by giving a definition of justice as simply being a good and honest person. Having lived a full life and grappled with the question of justice through his many life experiences, Cephalus has a clear understanding of how justice works in the world. These experiences have left him with a good sense of the world and what is right and wrong. This knowledge can only be gained through experience and that comes through age leading me to think that the old are better fit to interpret justice. While Cephalus’ definition is not perfect it is a good starting point. Socrates is a wiser man and refutes this definition by using the example of returning to a mad man a weapon which is legally his. Perhaps, it is the just thing to do to relinquish the weapon to its rightful owner, but it would also put innocent lives in danger to arm a mad man and therefore making it unjust as well. Socrates’ standpoint is that of an older man who has lived life and has truly experienced justice and injustice at work. At this point Cephalus retires to tend to the sacrifices and leaves his son, Polemarchus, to argue in his stead.
Polemarchus lays out an entirely new argument about justice. He says that true justice is “doing good to friends and harm to enemies.” In my opinion, this very basic definition speaks to the immaturity and impulsiveness of the young. Just because somebody is your friend it does not make them a good person. They could, in fact, be an enemy to someone else and this would contradict Polemarchus’ argument. His argument is too subjective and therefore does not hold up universally as a definition of justice. For example, everyone has friends who are not perfect and could be described as “bad kids” or undesirable friends by others. If you were to help these people and harm your enemies, who could be considered decent people by others, you would by Polemarchus’ definition, be practicing injustice. The fact the Polemarchus makes this assumption and does not see the loophole in his definition speaks to the inexperience of the young and their inability to truly understand justice.
Currently President Bush has nominated John Roberts, a fifty year old relatively inexperienced judge to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. A position of monumental power in shaping and interpreting the justice the populace of the United States knows and will know for the next thirty to forty years. John Roberts will hold the position of the quintessential judge who will interpret our constitution while molding legislation for many years to come. The fact that he is fifty years old, when most of the justices are in their seventies or eighties, and has only had two years of experience as a judge make many people worry as to his qualifications for such and important post. I believe these worries are well placed for older more experienced people are better at understanding justice. A relatively young man with little experience should not become the chief judge of our judicial branch of government. In order to truly understand justice you must have lived life and earned the experience to interpret right from wrong. I believe our country’s leaders should make their choices concerning such important judges more carefully.
A younger person has not lived life or experienced what is needed to interpret and understand justice fully. Only the older people who have lived their lives and know what they are really dealing with when concerning justice should be allowed to interpret it in any setting. Cephalus and Socrates are the elderly figures in this argument and they prove to know the most on the subject. Cephalus lays down his idea in a fair and good definition that has but one fatal flaw and Socrates refutes everyone’s ideas and will not reveal the true definition of justice but waits for the others to come upon it. The most experienced in life which are elders should be the interpreters of justice because they have been through life and experienced many situations which dealt with justice and right and wrong. This is a sort of experience which younger people may believe they have because of their natural immaturity, but can only truly be gained through living life. This is why, in my opinion, the oldest and most experienced people are the wisest and are the most qualified to interpret justice.

Allan Bloom and the Conservative Mind

The following is an article on our translator of the Republic. It give a good summary of the critical issues that Bloom raised in his book the Closing of the American Mind. In light of the current state of education it is worth looking at.

Allan Bloom and the Conservative Mind
By JIM SLEEPER
Published: September 4, 2005 in the New York Times

CONSERVATIVES in 1987 may still have been basking in Ronald Reagan's ''morning in America,'' but nothing prepared their movement, or the academic and publishing worlds, for the wildfire success of Allan Bloom's ''Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students.'' Amid a furor recalling that over William F. Buckley Jr.'s ''God and Man at Yale'' in 1951, Bloom indicted liberal academics for betraying liberal education. His attack sold more than a million copies.

Who on an American campus could ignore Bloom's accounts of Cornell faculty groveling before black-power student poseurs, or his sketches of politically correct administrator-mandarins and ditzy pomo professors? What dedicated teacher could dismiss his self-described ''meditation on the state of our souls, particularly those of the young, and their education''? Some thoughtful liberals found themselves reading ''The Closing'' under their bedcovers with flashlights, unable either to endorse or repudiate it but sensing that some reckoning was due. Conservatives championed Bloom then, of course, and they invoke him still. Roger Kimball, the managing editor of the conservative New Criterion, writes in an article, ''Retaking the University: A Battle Plan'': ''Traditionally, a liberal arts education involved both character formation and learning . . . to produce men and women who (as Allan Bloom put it) had reflected thoughtfully on the question 'What is man?' '' Kimball charges that the ''adversary culture of the intellectuals'' has taken over universities, an accusation echoed across a growing web of conservative campus activists, including Daniel Pipes's Campus Watch, which tracks the utterances of leftist professors on the Middle East; the Collegiate Network, which trains combative conservative student journalists; the Intercollegiate Studies Institute of conservative campus organizations; and David Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, whose ''Academic Bill of Rights'' -- which would subject professors to student grievances against political discrimination -- is now before several state legislatures.

But everyone seems to have missed the elephant in the room: Bloom's ostensibly conservative meditation in fact anticipated and repudiated almost every political, religious and economic premise of Kimball's and Horowitz's movement. Conservatives who reread Bloom today are in for a big, perhaps instructive, surprise.

Far from being a conservative ideologue, Bloom, a University of Chicago professor of political philosophy who died in 1992, was an eccentric interpreter of Enlightenment thought who led an Epicurean, quietly gay life. He had to be prodded to write his best-selling book by his friend Saul Bellow, whose novel ''Ravelstein'' is a wry tribute to Bloom. Far more than liberal speech codes and diversity regimens, the bêtes noires of the intellectual right, darkened Bloom's horizons: He also mistrusted modernity, capitalism and even democracy so deeply that he believed the university's culture must be adversarial (or at least subtly subversive) before America's market society, with its vulgar blandishments, religious enthusiasms and populist incursions.

''The semitheoretical attacks of right and left on the university and its knowledge, the increased demands made on it by society, the enormous expansion of higher education,'' Bloom wrote, ''have combined to obscure'' the universities' mission ''to maintain the permanent questions front and center'' and ''to provide a publicly respectable place . . . for scholars and students to be unhindered in their use of reason.''

Some conservatives may insist they are saying exactly that. But Bloom warned that liberal education is threatened as well by ''proponents of the free market,'' whose promise of social well-being ''no longer compels belief,'' and by religious belief that, ''contrary to containing capitalism's propensities, as Tocqueville thought it should, is now intended to encourage them.''

Bloom argued that our capitalist economy and liberal-democratic order turn civic virtue to mercenary ends. To cultivate ''the use of reason beyond the calculation of self-interest,'' he contended, ''it is necessary that there be an unpopular institution in our midst that . . . resists our powerful urges and temptations.'' That unpopular institution was the university. Surveying with nuanced regret what he saw as the failures of religion and of the Enlightenment (whose rationalism had collapsed into fascism or Communism), he hoped to rescue a classical Greek pedagogical tradition that wove eros and intellect into the love of knowing and the love of natural virtues.

Conservatives who reread Bloom will also discover that the 60's left reminded him of the right-wing hordes his mentor Leo Strauss had encountered in Europe in the 30's: ''The fact that in Germany the politics were of the right and in the United States of the left should not mislead us. In both places the universities gave way under the pressure of mass movements'' whose participants, full of animal spirits and spiritual animus, undertook ''the dismantling of the structure of rational inquiry.'' Yet Kimball and Horowitz themselves are trying to rouse a mass movement of alumni, the public and legislatures to ''take back'' the university.

''Many parents are alarmed, rightly so, at the spectacle of their children'' coming back from college and jettisoning ''every moral, religious, social and political scruple that they had been brought up to believe,'' Kimball cries. But Bloom wanted reason to overturn familial and religious commitments, if necessary, to forge deeper attachments to truth and civic-republican virtue. Try to imagine Bloom's seconding Kimball's praise for ''the rise of conservative talk radio, the popularity of Fox News . . . and the spread of interest in the Internet with its many right-of-center populist Web logs'' as ''heartening signs'' that conservatives are becoming ''a widespread counter to the counterculture'' of universities.

Similarly, Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights would force professors to teach scholarly work opposed to their own. Most already do that, but it's hard to imagine that Horowitz, or his conservative allies, want Milton Friedmanite free-marketeers to be required to tell their packed economics classes about Daniel Bell's claim, anticipating Bloom, that our economy had led to ''corporate oligopoly, and, in the pursuit of private wants, a hedonism that is destructive of social needs.''

Bloom wanted liberal education to resist both ''whatever is most powerful'' and the ''worship of vulgar success.'' True openness, he said, ''means closedness to all the charms that make us comfortable with the present.'' He disdained professors who strive to become counselors to the king and forget that ''the intellectual, who attempts to influence . . . ends up in the power of the would-be influenced.'' And he lamented the emergence of new academic departments like mass communications and business management, which ''wandered in recently to perform some job that was demanded of the university.'' A few years ago, a great university's government department (not mine) nearly abolished its foreign-language requirement for Ph.D. candidates because ''rational choice'' whiz kids were touting a great new, universal language -- computer English. An eminent conservative scholar and one of his formidable leftist colleagues rolled their eyes empathetically and voted together against the initiative.

Horowitz and other conservative activists know very well that Bloom didn't reduce what he saw as liberal education's crisis to a contest of left versus right: ''I don't want the universities to be conservative,'' Horowitz himself protested recently to The Chronicle of Higher Education. ''I want them to be academic, scholarly.'' The magazine reported, however, that his small board of directors included John O'Neill of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That can't be kind of the truth Allan Bloom had in mind.