Monday, October 31, 2005

Opulent Wealth alongside Blissful Ignorance of the Capitalist Illusion

In a discussion of the future of the city they have just created, Socrates, Glaucon and Adeimantus turn to a discussion of the future of the city. In this city, Socrates claims, the current guardians that they have chosen will eventually have to choose new leaders, and it is in this choice that the evolution of the city will happen. As new guardians are chosen for the city, the fundamental nature of the city and its rulers will change, in an inevitable cycle of five regimes. The cycle includes five regimes beginning with aristocracy, the government of the noble and selfless guardians, turning into timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. This cycle is an inevitable and self-fulfilling prophecy, and to prove its validity we can apply it to the situation of the United States of America.
The United States is a city just like the republic outlined by the party-goers in Plato’s Republic; however, we cannot apply a cookie-cutter label to our governing system as defined by the five regimes, because elements from all five of these types of governments accurately apply to our own government. Additionally, our country goes through cycles, or fluctuations in different aspects of a citizen’s life and the country’s political system in which a different regime more effectively describes us at each particular time. In our current situation, the regime that most closely describes us is the system of oligarchic ruling, in which the desire for satisfying the necessary appetites through money is the motivation for our rulers.
Defining our country as one of Socrates’ oligarchies is not a radical or new statement: it has been widely recognized throughout the history of our nation that the role of wealth is a big one in our governing. When examining our rulers, we see that the great majority of these men all have similar backgrounds of inherited socioeconomic privilege that cause them to have the views and the policies that they institute. Society as a whole has come to recognize and enforce the idea that wealthy men make the best leaders. This is a primary characteristic of the oligarchy that Socrates describes: “Instead of men who love victory and honor, they finally become lovers of money-making and money; and they praise and admire the wealthy man and bring him to the ruling offices, while they dishonor the poor man.” (551a).
However, it is not just the corresponding leader of the oligarchy, who values money-making highly, who reinforces the governing system of oligarchy. It is the governed people, who, in an oligarchic system, have a value system based on money, not on virtue or honor. The consumerist and money-making culture that is pervasive in our society today is evidence of our being most closely related to an oligarchy: with the message that making money is the most important thing you can do in life, the citizens are trained to believe that those who possess the greatest accumulation of wealth, even if they didn’t earn it themselves, are the most successful people, and therefore the best leaders. As a society, we must strive to be aware of who we admire and praise as good leaders, because it is not always true that the wealthiest people make the best leaders, as is illustrated in this exchange between Socrates and Adeimantus including this reference to the ship of state: “… ‘if a man were to choose pilots of ships in that way, on the basis of property assessments- and wouldn’t entrust one to a poor man, even if he were a more skilled pilot-’ ‘they would make poor sailing,’ he said.”(551c)
One of the faults of the oligarchy that is mentioned by Socrates is the existence of a dual-natured city: on one face there is the city of wealthy leaders who highly value money and feel threatened by the poorer classes of society, and on the other face of the city there is the lower class of people who do not have a lot of money, and therefore no say in the governing of the city. The discontentment and hate that comes from the poor and is directed towards the wealthy establishment of government in the city can be a cause for much instability and problems for a successful ruling of the country. Additionally, the mistrust that the wealthy has of the poor, because they know that the poor are jealous of their position as governors and property owners, is a harmful force for the overall health of the nation. An example of this in the United States is the ever-widening wealth gap that shows the largest consolidation of wealth in the hands of certain individuals that has ever occurred in the history of our country, while the number of Americans that cannot pay for basic necessities expands every year. Situations such as union protesters becoming violent and murdering a factory owner, or a wealthy capitalist building into his large estate a complicated security system with guard dogs and armed guards show the existence of these two cities, and the forces that drive them.
In conclusion, the United States is most accurately described by Socrates’ five types of government and leader as an oligarchy. This is because of the high priority that we assign to money in terms of our culture, and in choosing our leaders. An election these days is simply a money contest: whichever candidate can personally spend or raise more money in order to convince the ruled classes to vote for him will win the position in public office that they desire. The poor have little to do in the whole process other than being persuaded to cast their vote one way or another, but nonetheless still for a wealthy candidate. Moving through this state in the history of our country, next we are scheduled to become a true democracy, which is not a pleasant place at all. In this democracy, the free will of the people will be exercised as everyone has complete “freedom” and even the skewered version of law and order that we now reap the benefits from in this country will shrivel up and cease to exist, leaving every citizen helpless and fending for themselves.

The Evolution of the Regime

According to Socrates, there are five “regimes” that can be used to show the model of a city. The first regime could be called “timocracy or timarchy (545b).” This regime is “a certain middle between aristocracy and oligarchy (547c)” The final establishment is that of democracy, which is discussed in length as it is the primary objective (so it seems) of this Republic. Aristocracy is the rule of the philosopher kings, timocracy is being ruled by honor, oligarchy is when one is governed by money, and democracy is by the rule of the people. Finally, tyranny is the will of a single man or judge that imposes his will over that of the public.
The government of the United States of America stands fast as a prime example of an oligarchy. This regime is “founded on property assessment…in which the rich rule and the poor man has no part in the ruling office (550c).” Socrates explains how a ‘treasure house full of gold’ is the destructor of the honor-based timocracy that degrades into oligarchy as the greed of men and their desire for more property leads them to corrupt their previous system of honor and pursue this quest. The very basis of the United States government, the Constitution, is founded on the idea of protecting an individual’s right to private property. In the original drafts of the Constitution, instead of protecting an individuals right in a pursuit of happiness, it instead protected their right to pursue and maintain private property.
There is no single better example in all of the history of the world of Socrates’s explanation of a son being born under his father and following in his footsteps in an oligarchy than the succession of the Bush family to the presidency with one term removed. The ‘inheritance’, as some would call it, shows the ultimate example of the transmission of wealth and power through this oligarchy. “When his son is born and at first emulates his father and follows in his footsteps, and then sees him blunder against the city as against a reef and waste his property as well as himself. He had either been a general or had held some other great ruling office, and then got entangled with the court- suffering at the hands of sycophants- and underwent death, exile, or dishonor and lost his whole substance (533b).” This seems to be an extreme example of the failures and uncertainties of the first Bush administration, but the late 80s- early 90s proved a time of stress and setbacks for the nation that saw the election of a democratic president for the next term. This election of Clinton showed the frustration of the people with George Bush Sr. and their willingness to change; however, George W. Bush’s rising to the throne of American power in 2004 simply proves the nature of our oligarchic system.
Finally, the most unfortunate element of the oligarchic system is that it degrades next into a tyranny. We can see the beginnings of this system as the US government integrates fascist measures, from the CAPS II profiling system to the series of reforms that makes up the Patriot Act. We have no bright future to look forward to before we can undergo and overthrow the tyranny that awaits us; it is a necessary evolution of the regime to once again reach the universally balanced and just oligarchic system that we left behind.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Where Does the United States Stand?

October 30, 2005

According to Plato there are five different kinds of governments and they go through a cycle from aristocracy to timocracy then oligarchy then democracy and finally tyranny. He thinks aristocracy is the best kind of government, rule by philosopher kings, like the perfect city; therefore the aristocratic man is “both good and just” (544e). This is the best kind of government to have, and tyranny is the worst. So where is the United States on this scale? The United States does not fall directly under any of the five types of government because it is very difficult to classify one government under one category. This is due to the fact that governments do not appear in pure forms. In Plato’s Republic, Plato offers the reader guidelines to help understand what form of government we are participating in, and the form our ancestors took part in.

Plato describes the rulers of an aristocracy as being the: “Best in philosophy” (543 a). He continues that: “They were to train for war and act as Guardians over the community, in return for which they were to get their keep as their annual wage, and devote themselves to the care of their fellow-Guardians and the whole state” (543 c). Plato’s aristocrats placed the interests of the state above personal agendas, and did not have excessive amounts of money. According to Plato’s criteria, the United States was initially founded as an aristocracy. Although the United States did not duplicate Plato’s form of rule, many similarities can be drawn between the two systems. Both groups of rulers had the interests of the state truly at heart. In the Preamble to the Constitution, crafted by the founding fathers, they had the nation’s interests at heart, working to: “Promote the general welfare,” and: “Establish justice” (Ron Nimblett 2001).

But, the founding fathers weren’t exactly just scraping by financially like the majority of early Americans. Many of these aristocrats had great financial wealth, not as extravagant as the current administration’s holdings, but greater still than the average citizen. This varies from Plato’s aristocracy, where the guardians had very low incomes. This wealth amongst the rulers is what makes the United States stand out from Plato’s true form of aristocracy.

Unfortunately today, the somewhat aristocratic government has vanished, replaced by an oligarchy. Plato defines an oligarchy, as: “A society where it is wealth that counts, and in which political power is in the hands of the rich and the poor have no share of it” (550 d). Any individual who claims that the system is not an oligarchy, must look no further than the president himself and his staff to view the oligarchy in motion. “No US administration in nearly a century has been dominated to such an extent by personnel drawn directly from the executive suites of American big business as that of George W. Bush” ( One must look no further than the Bush tax cut to view this administration’s priorities to promote big business and the wealthy one percent of America. In Bush’s proposed tax cut for the rich, it is estimated that Bush’s cabinet members will save $5 million to $19 million apiece in estate taxes. Unlike at the founding of the United States, it does not feel like the current administration has the best interest of the nation as a whole in heart.

Although the members of the current administration are very intelligent, they are by no means philosophers. The president’s Yale degree is proof enough he’s not some geek of the street, but his C average suggests that he didn’t exactly spend all his time studying and be labeled what we would call a genius. But at the same time, the president, in his own way is a genius. What I mean by this is that if he were really as stupid as everyone seems to think he is, how did he persuade the majority of people that he was the right man to lead the United States for two terms running?

While the Bush administration, as well as the founding one, were very different in form, they both preached to be democracies. According to Plato, a democracy: “Treats all men as equal, whether they are equal or not” (558 c). This was certainly not the case during the founding of America where African-Americans were only regarded as three-fifths of a human being. We still do not live in a democracy. If we all had equal rights, the level of education amongst African-Americans living in the projects, would not be at the level which it is at today. Plato comments that: “A democracy is the most attractive of all societies, the diversity of its characters, like the different colors in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive” (557 c). Throughout American history, the government has created an artificial ideal known as democracy, simply so that they can keep their preferred form of rule intact; this is in fact one of the greatest noble lies, we believe in it so much that we are willing to go to war over the protection of our “democracy

why are the many bad?

October 30, 2005
Book VI

According to book six in The Republic of Plato Socrates defines how and what causes and defines the corrupt or bad person, the many. According to Socrates, virtues also shared by the true philosophers such as courage and moderation have an awful affect on the soul, “each one of the elements we praised in that nature has a part in destroying the soul that has them in tearing it away from philosophy. I mean courage, moderation, and everything we went through.” (491 b). In order to rationalize this form of reasoning of seemingly contradiction Socrates adds “goods corrupt it (soul) and tear it away-beauty, wealth, strength of body, relatives who are powerful in a city, and everything akin to these.” (491 c) Meaning, that these virtues of moderation, courage and such are all good things until they become corrupt through this new concept of goods. Thus, this seemingly ambiguous concept of having a set of virtues be the bases of the true philosopher and having them also be the bases of the fake and corrupt person who steals the title of a philosopher makes perfect sense; if moderation and courage are practiced correctly then one is a good being, but if these virtues are skewed or meddled with then one becomes bad, through the corruption of their virtues.

Concerning the meddling of these virtues, the source most sensibly originates from the same place and time period in which the same virtues of true philosophers are obtained and put into practice correctly, one’s upbringing. During this crucial time in one’s life, if one were to receive a bad education they are most likely to do horrible things; evidently through Socrates “if the nature we set down for the philosopher chances on a suitable course of learning, it will necessarily grow and come to every kind of virtue; but if it isn’t sown, planted, and nourished in what’s suitable, it will come to all the opposite…” (492 a) Through this excerpt of dialogue, Socrates brings across the notion of education, parenting, and nourishment; all being closely related with respect to the quality of one’s virtues. It is stated that if the quality is questionable, then the ideal of producing a philosopher has failed miserably because consequently the results from one’s faulted upbringing is the opposite of that of a philosopher.

This brings up the issue of the ideal versus the reality. Concerning any city or state as a whole the ideal can never be holistically achieved, even though some might have come impressively close, but when the scale is brought down to the individual; the ideal is near impossible to be achieved. Thus, there are very few true philosophers in the city, the ideal, because the many have become corrupt along their path to success. These things are plainly evident through Socrates words “look at the corruptions of this nature (true philosopher’s) and see how it is destroyed in many, while a small number escape-just those whom they call not vicious but useless.” (490 e) Logically, through the reasoning of how a small number escape corruption along their journey to being a true philosopher there are few good citizens. Does this mean that everyone else in the city is bad? It depends on the intensity in which you are focusing on in a scale, for of course everyone in the city is not vicious and evil, yet being aside from evilness does not always provide the certificate of being a good citizen.

According to Socrates, not all citizens become evil to the extent of being opposite to a philosopher, fault due to the lack of their education’s influence and nature. Socrates raises an excellent point “a weak nature will never be the cause of great things either good or bad…” (491 e) The point presented here explores the idea that if ones education, upbringing, and nature are weak so they have never fully obtained any strong influencing bases on virtues and such, one has the inability to conduct impressively good or bad deeds. Many have this mediocre style of upbringing as apposed to highly influential ones, but through the eyes of Socrates, these people are still considered ‘bad.’ Thus, the many are bad.

The reason why the many are bad is evidently due to falters in the nature and upbringing of one’s life dealing with concepts such as virtues and values. When one “does not lose the keenness of his passionate love nor cease from it before he grasps the nature itself of each thing which is… knows and lives truly, is nourished…” (490 b) he becomes a true philosopher, something that only rarely is achieved, and thus the many are bad, through the eyes of Socrates.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Realization of the galaxy

Nick LaClair

Book Seven of The Republic of Plato clearly illustrates the classic metaphor of someone being blinded from reality, and then revealed to a unfamiliar new world. We see this as the subjects have lived in the cave their entire life, completely uninfluenced by any true reality. They are restrained, and stare straight ahead only able to see the shadows from the figures in back of them illuminated by fire. These subjects witness these shadows and interpret them as the true reality, blinded by the cave and its darkness. We see in book seven this metaphor has become quite famous even in the big budget film industry.
The allegory of the cave has become a very popular metaphor used in many hit movies that form a appealing and exciting plot. These movies have in fact become so popular that many of them lye at the top of the charts. Men in Black was released in 1997 containing that famous metaphor.
Men in Black is the story of one secret agency blinding the world from alien activity on the planet earth. The people of earth think they live in a reality modeled after ours today, but in fact, like the allegory of the cave, what the people know to be reality isn’t the truth. This agency affectively assigns jobs and disguises to the aliens so they are able to blend into the real world. These aliens live and work among humans silently, completely undetected to the people of Earth. So what these people really know to be true, a society of humans interacting with each other having absolutely no knowledge of alien existence and of active planets, becomes completely incorrect when a character named Jay discovers the truth. Jay has been nominated to become a agent of the Men in Black because he is the “best of the best” of the LAPD. He becomes Agent J and is introduced to this reality, when he sees stick like aliens drinking and serving coffee sitting in the Men in Black lounge. It is at this point when he realizes that everything he has known, like the subjects of the cave, is nothing of the truth. Similar to the people of the cave, who exit absolutely stunned and blinded by the light, fascinated by reality, agent J is speechless and stunned. It seems as if the agency The Men in Black acts as the restraints similar to those of The Republic which bound the subject of the cave down only able to look straight ahead. It also seems that the people of the earth are blinded by the truth and are only able to look one direction, which is enforced by MIB. The Allegory of the cave is affectively used in Men in Black to show one story of a man released from the cave and let out into the real world to discover the vastness and beauty of it.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Awakening, by Kate Chopin- Not Just a Feminist Masterpiece

The allegory of the cave is reflected in many media outlets, from fiction novels to the next blockbuster hit. The idea behind the allegory of the cave is a universal theme that comes up often in nearly all societies. Certainly Plato was not the first to bring up the idea behind the fire in the cave, yet he put it into terms that are most fitting. Without even realizing it, the writers of The Matrix, or Blast from the Past, created their own allegory of the cave on the movie screens. In these more recent adaptations of the cave, modern techniques were used to create a fanciful version of the basic idea that we are all blind to the light of the universal truth.

In The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, tells the tale of tale of a young woman blinded by the Creole society she lives under in the late 19th century. The novel progresses through her own awakening to the light of the ultimate truth; which Plato named from the sun. The many feminist undercurrents that beneath the pages of the book suggest that this removal from ignorance also removes oneself from the constrictions of the society we live in.

As Edna is raised in the Creole society of New Orleans, in the late 19th century, she is imprinted with their own cultural, moral, and ethical views. She is an angelic wife with two kids and a wealthy husband yet she feels that she is missing out. The story follows her own path as she raises her own awareness of the true issues in her society. Her transformation is complete when she breaks all contact with her family and lives on her own. The novel is closed with Edna’s suicide and the end of her quest towards her own personal peace.

There was nobody to come and help the protagonist up from the cave, instead she had to break her own chains, climb out of the cave, and adjust to the illuminated surroundings that filled her senses. The woman, Edna Pontellier has her, “eyes full of its beam and be unable to see even one of the things now said to be.” As Plato says in line 516a, Chopin is featuring a character that is experiencing the distress of being pulled into the beam of sunlight and knowledge.

Many feminists point to the protagonist’s treatment as a woman as the reason for her great awakening, however the truth lies deeper than that. The knowledge and understanding that she gained about feminism is merely one aspect of the changes that went took place. The enlightened spirit that Plato references has gained the understanding that is required to lead and to philosophize. Plato and Chopin both recognize that this release has never been achieved by a single person or any society. In a prophetic statement, Chopin kills Edna just as the protagonist’s transformation was nearly complete. Edna chooses to do this simply because she has lost all reason for living; without the pressure to gain further knowledge she has no reason to live.

The Awakening is the struggle to reach the ultimate reality that has eluded man-kind since the beginning of time. The rise and fall of Edna Pontellier is the rise and fall of a philosopher. With her education also came her destruction, and in the end, the society was never the better. This novel speaks more about the primeval drive towards this knowledge than to any contemporary movement. The allegory of the cave is mirrored in this text and yet again is left unresolved.

Self-Destructive the Human Race is

October 24, 2005
Book VII The Cave

Can we ever know the difference between what is true and the image of what we perceive to be true? The truth is never something that we can grasp without effort; otherwise, it wouldn’t be the truth because in reality we must search for virtue. Truth does not come to us nor will it ever. We must comprehend the absolute meaning of truth by looking for it. However, if we are never aware of our misguided interpretations of the perceived truth we will never be able to understand the light, as Plato submits to. This leads us to think that what we are in a lifelong pursuit of is something that is beyond the capacity of the mind.

We are living in a society in which the search for absolute truth is useless. Within the cave that we are living in today in which we call home, the search for absolute truth has been twisted by its connections to wealth and power. It is even possible to blame the entire capitalist, but really any society, as the largest chain holding us within the cave. If it weren’t for society wouldn’t everyone dedicate their entire lives to the search for absolute truth? Because, according to Socrates, those that have stepped outside of the cave and seen the sun will be obligated to go back into the cave to free the others. If society was not blinded by other meaningless goals then wouldn’t we as a society be able to reach the light?

In the ideal society everyone would be looking for the exit to the cave. And, if enough people reach the exit, wouldn’t we have just solved the problem of the cave? Once there are enough people outside the cave living under absolute truth it would be possible to start a society anew. And the children born into the light would then be what? If all these preceding steps were taken what would be next for the society? Would it be able to function in this way? Eventually the society would grow.

Growth and expansion is what holds any organism in the universe back from living out its years under ultimate truth. This is seen as we examine the human race. It all had to start out somewhere, and for this exorcise we will imagine that all of a sudden there were two humans. These humans would not have to grow up under the shackles of society or in a dark cave. No, they would be living under the sun bathing in the ecstasy that consumes every living moment.

Now comes the bad part. In order for the human race to survive the couple must have children. And thus begins the formation of the cave. Because as soon as the first child is born the parents will have some influence over how the child perceives the world. Just imagine this process multiplied over the entire span of human life on the planet earth. It is nearly impossible at this point to see the light. We have been influenced by so many different people that we are not even in a cave; instead, we are living in a bottomless abyss from which there is no escape. Humans and all life in the universe is self-destructive in this way.

Just imagine, we have gone from living directly under the light where absolute reality was at our very fingertips; all the way to the point of no return, where society has dug a hole so big that even at the moment we are burning fossil fuels and using up our resources in order to pollute the atmosphere therefore allowing for less and less sunlight to reach our eyes. We are slowly, but at an increasing rate, building the cave that will inevitably be the doom of our entire race.

In order to bring this ranting a little more back to Plato and the Republic. According to Plato, Socrates held mathematics in the highest regard. I would just like to point out the arguably the very best mathematicians of our day our working under NASA and are the closest to, through their use of mathematics, reaching ultimate truth; if by definition ultimate truth is the ability to see sunlight, and achieve this state of ultimate reality.

In conclusion, according to the Allegory of the Cave and the philosophy of Plato and Socrates, all life is self-destructive with a very good example being the human race. To look beyond this, for those who are trying to climb up the walls of the hole we have dug ourselves into, your attempts are futile; if you really wanted to save the earth and the other organisms, you would eliminate the virus: take out the entire human population and hope that when the next virus comes around that they will be so smart.

The Allegory of Truman

The Allegory of the Cave
Travis Larkin

Book VII outlines the most famous metaphor in the novel and philosophical writings in our human history. The allegory of the cave is this metaphor, it tells of a dark scene in which a group of people has been living since birth. They live in this dark cave bound so they cannot look side-to-side or even behind but are forced to stare straight ahead constantly. Behind these people there is a fire and many statues. The fire manipulates the statues and cast shadows for the bound people to watch. These shadows represent the most reality the people have ever seen and they dare not think there is more to the outside world. At a certain point a prisoner is freed from his bonds and forced to gaze directly into the flames. The initial exposure to the bright light blinds and brings pain to the eyes, but afterwards the once prisoner has become accustomed he realizes that the shadows were only “copies” of the statues created by the flames on the wall. Now the prisoner is taken from his sanctuary in the cave and thrust into the real world outside. The sunlight, like the flames, burns his eyes and he sees little but eventually his eyes become accustomed and he begins to see real objects in the world and he understands the reality of his situation and what has happened to him. This is an allegory for understanding and ultimately the effects of education. Education is represented through the flames of the fire and the sunlight. Education in this allegory is empowering and ultimately leads to the ultimate reality of understanding.
A modern example of the allegory of the cave is set in the film The Truman Show. Truman has been living in a made up world. Ed Harris is the creator/director of The Truman Show which is a television show dedicated to the life of Truman Burbank. Ed Harris has created a world for Truman to live in so he never knows that his entire life is dedicated to the production of a television show. Truman lives his life in the darkness of the cave if you will. He has never done anything real and only lived the life that has been laid out for him. The difference with the Truman show is that he has no one to free him from his bonds and show him the light. He must do this for himself, although he does have several hints along the way to his situation. Ed Harris plays the facilitator of the Truman Show, similar to the ones who fed the fire in the allegory of the cave. He built the superdome in which Truman lives and is responsible for keeping Truman from finding the truth of the situation.
Truman eventually begins to find flaws in the virtual reality that Ed Harris has created for him. He begins to question the environment around him and wonders if there is really something else out there. He begins to try to escape the cave but is very unsuccessful in his attempts. Eventually he commandeers a ship and runs it into the edge of his world. He steps out of the cave, for that is basically what it is. He has never scene true sunlight only manmade skies and sunlight. When he steps out into the real world it is identical to the first experience of man stepping from the cave. It is blindingly bright and a painful and shocking experience to understand that everything he has ever known has been a lie and a falsehood. He steps outside and experiences the ultimate reality of understanding.
The allegory of the cave relates to modern life and human experience in every facet of our world. What makes the allegory of the cave such a beautiful and famous metaphor is its ability to truly apply to every person’s life in so many ways.

Reaching For Balance-

In Book Seven of The Republic of Plato Socrates illustrates the idea of a cave where individuals are secluded from the world of light and learning. Not able to see what is real but only what is selectively illuminated onto a wall. These people are pawns and interpret what they see as best as they can. He discusses this allegory of the cave as a means to talk about a different style of education. An education that teaches people how to think beyond their sensational way of processing thought to that of an intellectual.
Individuals are selected from the group in the cave at random, and exposed to the world of truth. This education is then based on a select group with the capability to understand and think intellectually, thinking with a larger perspective, in search of the ultimate truth. This truth may or may not be found, however, more important is the journey taken in the quest for the truth and the education acquired during that journey. Once they have learned all they can of the exterior of the cave they return to the cave in order to teach truth. The cave however is void of real truth; instead a censured truth is projected on the wall and accepted as what is because it's all that is known. Once the learned return to the cave they will have the capability to convey intellect upon those who are limited to sensational thinking, thinking what is projected on the way is what is real.
Because, “The ones that summon the intellect…are all those that don't at the same time go over to the opposite sensation. But the ones that do go over I class among those that do summon intellect, when sensation doesn't reveal one thing any more then the opposite…”(523c.) Therefore when those in the cave that have left are balanced and have seen both what is sensational and intellectual. With this type of education the one who have experienced both are worthy of being named capable philosophers; people who will share the truth with the population teaching them the differences between sensational thinking and intellectual thinking.
In a modern test such as the popular children's story, “Peter Pan” a similar concept can be applied. However instead of the population moving from sensational way of thought to intellectual, it is opposite. The Children form “Peter Pan” are brought into a world that is unlike what they have ever seen before. They are brought into the world of sensation. It is a world of imagination and freedom. Juxtaposed to the realistic world, which is the world of intellect. They are educated in how to have fun once more and avoid growing up. In the Cave or in society they are programmed to mature into responsible individual who are not capable of letting their imagination soar and be free. They arte programmed to forget about sensational though and focus on Intellectual thought. However once they fly free of the cave they become exposed to a world where reality does not interfere with desire.
According to Socrates neither of these ideals are better then their counter part in accordance with the betterment of the society. An optimal ideal would be for the two ideals to be balanced, so that intellect and sensation are equally learned. In the allegory of the cave Socrates shows this. However in “Peter Pan” an extreme is reached and balance is what the children are seeking.

The Allegory of the Bourne Identity

Continuing the discussion about education, Socrates begins telling the story of prisoners kept under a very specific set of conditions. These prisoners are kept shackled so that they may only face the wall of a dark cave that they are in, and all they see throughout their lives are the shadows of what passes by on the road above the cave and blocks the sunlight from entering the cave at that precise moment. This allegory of the cave includes the story of a man who leaves the cave and experiences the true world, not a representation of the world as he and his fellow prisoners saw it on the cave walls. In a real world situation, the allegory of the cave is very relevant, due to the figurative nature of all elements of this story. A real world situation I have found that embodies many of the principles contained in the allegory of the cave is the blockbuster movie The Bourne Identity (2002).
It may seem that applying the lessons Socrates teaches us in The Republic to an action flick are a degredation of this classic text, however, doing this is in fact just the opposite. To apply Socrates’ allegory of the cave to an action flick shows just how remarkably relevant and accurate The Republic is, even to this day. In The Bourne Identity, we see Jason Bourne, masterfully played by Matt Damon, wash up onshore in mainland Europe, unsure of who he is, and how he got there. Jason Bourne’s situation throughout the movie is similar to that of one of the prisoners of the cave: he lacks a real understanding of the situation he is in. Due to his amnesia, Jason Bourne must accept what he hears from the news or what he hears from people he meets along the way as truth, because he knows no else and has no personal experience to draw upon. At this point Jason Bourne’s understanding of truth is what he is told and what is given to him.
As a prisoner trapped in the cave of ignorance, Jason Bourne is desperately trying to leave the cave. Due to the physical danger of arrested or killed, this process of discovering his surroundings and the ultimate truth is expedited, because there is a certain sense of urgency to discovering truth when your life depends on it. The process to discovering not only how he got to the situation that he is in, but who he really is, is a very similar situation to that of a prisoner attempting to leave the cave. Because of the confusion that surrounds everything that is happening to him, Jason feels the need to find the ultimate truth and leave the cave of ignorance that his life resembles currently.
In using the allegory of the cave to criticize and analyze the Bourne Identity, we can understand the actions of all characters in the movie. For those that want to keep Bourne from figuring out who he is and what assasination mission he was on while that fateful accident occurred, it is in their best interests to keep Bourne in the cave. As long as Jason Bourne is in the cave and ignorant about the ultimate truth of his job and the situation of the CIA, he is not dangerous. A Jason Bourne that has an understanding of his surroundings, similar to the prisoner who leaves the cave, combined with deadly skills makes for an undesirable combination on the part of the CIA. However, leaving the cave and experiencing ultimate truth, as well as understanding his situation in the true light of outside the cave, is very beneficial to Jason Bourne. By leaving the cave, he will be able to understand why his life is the way it is, and what he must do in order to protect himself and guarantee a life of happiness free from danger.
By drawing comparisons between a recent action flick and The Republic, we are enriching our current culture. The lessons contained in this book, as told by Socrates, Glaucon, Adeimantus, and other men participating in this discussion, tell of universal situations that can always further our understanding of our world. By analyzing a contemporary movie in this manner, we are not only gaining an increased understanding of our modern world, we are gaining a rich understanding of past philosophers and history. Just as Plato wrote an account of the rich discussions between very perceptive and philophical men of the time, we are writing an account of the philosophical discussion that is happening today in our world.

Trapped in virtual reality

Nick LaClair

Book Seven of The Republic of Plato clearly illustrates the classic metaphor of someone being blinded from reality, and then revealed to a unfamiliar new world. We see this as the subjects have lived in the cave their entire life, completely uninfluenced by any true reality. They are restrained, and stare straight ahead only able to see the shadows from the figures in back of them illuminated by fire. These subjects witness these shadows and interpret them as the true reality, blinded by the cave and its darkness. We see in book seven this metaphor has become quite famous even in the big budget film industry.

The allegory of the cave has become a very popular metaphor used in many hit movies that form a appealing and exciting plot. These movies have in fact become so popular that many of them lye at the top of the charts. The Matrix is an example of a blockbuster hit that made 27.8 million dollars at the box office the first weekend, and It contains the classic example of the Allegory of the cave. The Matrix tells the story of one person, Neo who is meant to lead a movement to tear down the Matrix and reveal the true reality to the inhabitants of the world. In the movie machines have taken over and control the surface of the earth where the sky is black, and humans are forced to live underground. But the matrix does not exist on earth. It is a cyber world acting as a program to control the minds of humans for one goal. That goal is the control of human energy which these machines depend on. The Matrix was created by the machines as a dream world which is a curtain pulled over the eyes of the inhabitants of the world. In the matrix the only way the curtain can be pulled up is from others outside the matrix.

The Matrix is simply meant to restrict all the people from the truth and reality. The people live in the matrix, much of which resembles our world today. The people of the Matrix don’t know of any other reality, only what is presented to them as does the subjects of the cave in book seven. Only when the subjects of the matrix are pulled from the program do they discover the truth. The same reactions of Neo and the other characters freed by the matrix act very similar to those of the cave. The world is somewhat too much to bear for the subjects and is most surprising.

The Matrix shows a more complicated version of the Allegory of the cave as it deals with software and advanced technology, and the ropes are the only technological restraints of the cave that tie down the subjects forcing them to look straight. These inhabitants of the matrix are tied down mentally only allowed to look in one direction: toward virtual reality.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Kyler Robinson

Perhaps the most famous section of The Republic of Plato, The Allegory of the Cave has the universal theme of drawing out knowledge that can be seen in many current movies and literature. Coming out of the darkness into knowledge of the “real world” is something that perhaps everyone wants to achieve, from ignorance to knowledge. The famous story The Wizard of Oz encompasses this idea as the various characters are searching for things that they don’t fully understand and ultimately come to understanding.
Dorothy is the first character who finds herself pushed into the shadows by the munchkins. Trying to return to Kansas she is told that the only way is to return is to follow the yellow brick road to the wizard of Oz. The munchkins, like the people in the shadows, talk about their perceived dances of what is real and talk about it as reality. Although ultimately she has the power to return with just the ruby slippers, it is the clouded concepts of reality that persuade Dorothy to go to the wizard.
In a similar fashion the scarecrow is searching for a brain because he is told that he does not have one. While this example could be misconstrue as similar to the allegory in that he wants knowledge, it is instead that he has a brain but the shadow reality in the Oz society that makes him believe otherwise. The tin man and lion also go through similar transformations where they believe that they are lacking important components only because their shadowed reality makes them believe in that manner. The shadow is continued to be spread even by Dorothy where she tells the fallacy that the wizard of Oz can solve any problem.
But we see that these are all untrue with the unveiling of the man behind the curtain. As Toto pulls down the curtain, all of these fallacies are shattered and each of the characters are brought out of the shadows into the bright light of the fire. Like the person who felt pain from withdrawal from the shadows, each panic slightly and are lost with nothing to follow.
While the wizard of Oz turns out to be a counterfeit, he never the less saves the day, pointing out the shadows that they followed and bringing them out into the light. He points out that the scarecrow must indeed have a brain. The tin man must also have a heart as he cares for his newfound companions and the lion demonstrated courage against the wicked witch of the west. Each character has the traits that he was missing in the misguided reality of the shadows cast from the fire and they see that the light and truth only when the come directly to the fire.
While the wizard of Oz is the one who uncovers these fallacies it is also crucial to note that he is indeed a part of the problem, the puppet master who casts the shadows. Though in reality he is a little, old man, he makes himself into something much larger through the use of the wizard, who makes a false reality for the people to fall into. When his bluff is uncovered we see his puppetting skills also come with knowledge attached to it.
The Republic of Plato is related to so many things in society both past and present. Just as remarkably its influence reaches from policy making decisions to pop culture. While each of the characters come out of the shadows in The Wizard of Oz a powerful statement is made with the smartest character creating the shadows for society to follow. This all knowing figure would likely have continued his influence in society, corrupting minds with false ideas had it not been the group in their quest to find the wizard. In this ironic twist it seems that we to must ask whether the quests that we follow are dictated by the shadows of an ultimate puppet master who casts shadows or if they are guided by the light of truth.

Opening Eyes: The Allegory of the Cave in Book Seven

The allegory of the ‘cave’ in Plato’s Republic is best represented in contemporary cultural contexts by an oppressive government’s policies in maintaining its power by leaving its peoples out of the reality of the decision making and political processes that keep them bound to their blindness. The ability to see, by light or otherwise, is a common theme in this book which is used to express the enlightenment of an individual or population in regard to these processes.
Socrates makes this abstract concept of sight a theme used to infer one’s enlightenment. “Sure…the sight, with respect to the one, possess this characteristic (of seeing what is) to a very high degree. For we see the same thing at the same time as both one and as an unlimited multitude (525a).” Sight is, therefore, something that every individual among the masses possesses. It is the sole means of their very own direction and enlightenment in life; their only chance to observe their surroundings; the politics and processes that occur around them, and thereby take action based on their findings.
However, in order to break away from this cave, “our guardian (must be) both warrior and philosopher (525b)”. S/he must employ sight to enlighten them self as a philosopher and simultaneously use the “arts of calculation and number (525b)” to prove them self a warrior. In this same sense, they must take their knowledge that they gain from their observations and use it to change their surroundings. This application of knowledge and skill is embodied in the Platonic representation of astronomy. “There…by the use of problems, as in geometry, we shall also pursue astronomy; and we shall let the things in the heaven go, if by really taking part in astronomy we are going to convert the prudence by nature in the soul from uselessness to usefulness (530b).”
We are, on many different levels and in many varying respects, trapped deep inside this cave every single day of our lives. The increasingly secretive and unknown workings of our government and national security system immediately jump to mind, but it is important to avoid losing sight of the macrocosmic qualities of this Republic. Inside our own minds and our lives as individuals, we most often happily sit or perhaps occasionally thrash violently about in our personal darkness. The movement toward purchasing local food is the product of many individuals returning from the ‘light’ which allows them the realization of its benefits and future ramifications. A young man or woman feeling that they are destined to be a guardian in their own right despite their desperate financial situation and leaving the constraints of society behind them. Even, perhaps, one finally giving up on their long-time job because they finally open their eyes to how unhappy it makes them.
Those that resist the darkness and try to reach the light must not only bring their enlightenment back to the masses, however, they must convince them of its validity and apply it toward a positive change in society. “Take a man,” says Socrates, “who is released and suddenly compelled to stand up, to turn his neck around, to walk and look up toward the light; and who, moreover, in doing all this is in pain and, because he is dazzled, is unable to make out those things whose shadows he saw before…don’t you suppose he’d be at a loss and believe that was seen before is truer than what is now shown (515c)?” Such problems face the man who questions his religious faith in a spirit that cannot be seen or heard, his government that sends him to a war for oil, or his country that holds him desperately in his socioeconomic place with no hope for improvement.
Activists of our modern times that brought the fire back to those still facing straight ahead in the cave could be men like Ché Guevara, George Washington, or a woman like Cindy Sheehan. These individuals not only were able to run ahead to the light, they brought it back and were able to spark up followers that refused to stare at a wall any longer. While ignorance may seem like bliss for these blind men and women, it truly cannot compare to the enlightenment experienced by those that lived happily in the aftermath of a revolution like the one that created the United States. Some keep fighting, like our peace protest movement that refuses to abandon its perpetual cause of stopping armed conflict and war. All are examples, however, of an individual opening their eyes for the masses; in interest of creating their own Republic.

The Allegory of the Cave

Book 7 of The Republic of Plato is called the allegory of the cave and is about believing in a truth for your entire life and then “having your world rocked” and realizing that what you have accepted as the truth is not the truth and that everything you know is actually different.
A great example of this is the movie Pleasantville. In this movie the characters are living in black and white in a “perfect” middle class neighborhood. Everything is happy all the time and we would consider the emotions that they feel to be very “numb” but to them it is simply normal, and anything else would be completely out of the ordinary. Throughout the movie different people in Pleasantville being to experience different “truths” as they experience these truths (in this case really emotions) their world begins to burst into color, symbolizing their freedom and their “enlightenment” because they now know the real truth.
Specifically is the example of the mother in Pleasantville. She is a stereotypical 50’s housewife. She cooks for her children every morning, welcomes her husband home from work every evening and cooks and cleans all day long. She experiences her “enlightenment” when he daughter who is already enlightened suggests that she take a bath in the bathtub. This mother, who has never experienced true comfort and relaxation, finally decides to take the bath and after experiences these true feelings burst into color.
Another example is people who are educated by one person their entire life. For example, I recently saw an episode of Primetime where there were two 12 year old White Nationalist girls who sing rocks songs in order to recruit people for their cause. These girls are home schooled and all of their education comes from their White Nationalist mother who is incredibly racist. She teaches her daughters only one side of a truth and because they are only educated through their mother they know no other ideas of truth. Their ignorance keeps them devoted to the White Nationalist cause but if they had a traditional education and were shown both sides to every story then they may reconsider their beliefs.
In the allegory of the cave the prisoners are taken out of their cave and made to experience real truths. They have been accepting shadows of images on the wall as truths for their entire life and they know nothing else. As they are shown (the first prisoner the actual objects that were casting the shadow and the second prisoner the actual world) these real truths they are forced to leave behind their acceptance of a particular truth and have to broaden their view in order to believe and accept the new truths.
The allegory is all about educating ignorance that people have and showing them that there is “more out there” than they know and that they have been brought up on. It shows that when people limit themselves to one truth, or one belief their entire lives and refuse to explore other ideas (or are forced not to) they are just like the prisoners in the cave. The truth they believe is only a fraction of the truth and because they haven’t been able to see the entire picture from all sides and angles they are stuck in their ignorance accepting something to be true that is not necessarily true at all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Picking Ourselves a Pilot

In Book VI of Plato’s Republic, we see Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus beginning a discussion about who the rulers of their city should be. After a discussion of who is a philosopher and who isn’t, they agree that they must now have true philosophers as leaders. Socrates’ depiction of a sailing ship as a micro chasm of the city is a very powerful image in showing how leaders come to have power, and the concept of gaining power illustrated from this metaphor of the ship and pilot is a very relevant idea to politics in the modern day.
In describing the interpersonal dynamics of the crew and a deaf captain aboard a sailing ship, Socrates clearly illustrates how certain people gain power, and how those people are then viewed by the public or as Socrates calls them, the ruled. The pilot of the ship is the most qualified at reading the winds, the currents of the ocean, and the weather in order to navigate and run the ship smoothly and successfully through the rough water. However, because he has some physical handicaps, each member of the crew feels that they should be the pilot because they each want to hold that position of power and prestige aboard the ship. Their desire for this position is purely a desire for the status attained by being the pilot, not an actual desire to rule because they want to what is right for the rest of the crew and the ship. Even though they do not have the best intentions for the ship in mind, they do have their own interests in mind, and this motivates them to work hard to convince others they should be the pilot. In tricking the qualified pilot and becoming pilot themselves, these crew members are now in a position where they are not knowledgeable about running the ship and are not effective leaders. Their only perceived success is in becoming the pilot and giving off an image of confidently handling the ship, not actually being a skilled pilot.
The concepts shown by Socrates provide a basic cautionary tale about people seeking power, and those who will be ruled. The situation shows someone rising to power through deception and flash, but without any actual skills or abilities to lead effectively. The physically handicapped pilot was cast aside and marginalized in the running of the ship, even though he was the most skilled at the job of being pilot. Because he did not play the game of politics, however, he was replaced by a more agreeable, presentable, and convincing sailor who wanted to be pilot for their own gain.
This situation is much more relevant than it may seem at first read. Although in its context in The Republic, Socrates is using this image as a tool for knowing more about the philosophers they will pick as leaders for the ideal city, this concept of who actually becomes a leader is very important to our daily lives. In modern day politics, we often see the most flashy, outspoken, social, and emotionally convincing candidate run with vast support from the public, and often win, even though he is not the most qualified candidate on a skill-set basis. However, the ruled can often be deceived by people who really want to obtain power, and this is exactly what happens to the crew of the ship whose qualified pilot is replaced with a sailor who has his own gain on his mind.
A power grabbing situation as we see it on Socrates’ ship in The Republic happened yesterday during our class elections. Originally designed to be a system in which students can represent the interests of their class and clearly voice the opinions of members of their core group to the faculty and other classes, the student council elections are often filled with candidates running out of personal interest. While it is not the same for everyone what tempting personal benefit stands to be gained from having this position, many people see it as an opportunity for themselves. Instead of running with the best interests of the group in mind, many people in the class wide elections run because they just want to do it and be known as a part of the student government. However, when they are put into this position, it may become clear that being part of a government is not something they are qualified at, or they may be able to hide their incompetence by burying their faults into a complicated system of bureaucracy. As a member of the ruled, but very possibly in the near future being one of the pilots of the student body, I just hope that we were able to make the right choices in terms of substance and skill, not based on subjective opinions of people.

Socrates' Feminist Activism

Note to Rob: this paper was in fact written on time for Friday, October 14th. My blogger information was unaccessible to me and I recently took care of this technical issue. However, if my word isn't enough, email records will back me up. Now onto the fun part...

In Book V, Socrates and Glaucon begin a discussion about the roles of women and children in their city. In discussing how the birthing and raising of children will be managed, inevitably the subject of a woman’s role in the city is raised. Glaucon states that men and women are so different in their fundamental nature and abilities, but then goes on to say that they must participate in the same duties for the benefit of the city, so that the whole population may be utilized. In analyzing the passage where Socrates and Glaucon proceed to analyze this contradiction that they both agree with, it can be determined whether Socrates is a feminist or not. A common definition of feminism according to Merrian-Webster Dictionary is “organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests”. Therefore, by advocating for women to play an equal part in the classes of society, such as being guardians, Socrates characterizes himself as a feminist in Book V.
While Socrates is not a clear feminist in the sense that he argues for complete equality between men and women as pertaining to their roles in society, or how society views them, it is clear that he wants some form of equality to exist between men and women. By explaining to Glaucon why women and men must receive the same education, and eventually why the most fit of them must take part in the guardianship of the city, Socrates is indirectly advocating on behalf of women’s rights and interests. In thinking about the benefit to the city, Socrates realizes that having women participate in all of the classes that men are part of will be very positive. In this sense, Socrates is a feminist, because he is arguing to have women participate in society on an equal level with men, and this equal participation is in the best interests of women’s rights and interests.
However, it may be argued that because Socrates uses biological essentialism to distinguish men from women, he is not a feminist. While it is true that Socrates and Glaucon agree on biological differences between men and women, by saying that a woman is generally less able than a man in all areas. However, Socrates qualifies this statement by putting it into the context of the three classes of guardian, auxiliary, and producer by saying that while a woman belonging to one particular class may be less competent than a man of her similar class, she is still more competent or valuable to society than a man of a lower class. So, in using biological essentialism to distinguish between the abilities of men and women, it may seem that Socrates is not a feminist because saying women are not as competent as men would not seem to be in the best interests of women’s rights or interests. However, by thinking about the benefit of the city as a whole, Socrates is keeping in mind the interests and rights of women as he is arguing to include them in the three classes so that they may be of use to the city, and to themselves.
In conclusion, it is shown through the discussion between Socrates and Glaucon in the beginning of Book V about the roles of women and men in the city that Socrates is a feminist, because he is advocating for the rights or interests of women. By arguing to include them in all activities that men take part in, Socrates is acting on the behalf of women so that they are allowed to play an active role in contributing to the city. While Socrates does acknowledge biological differences between the competency of men and women by stating that men are superior at accomplishing every task than women, he still has the interests of women in mind by saying that women with differing abilities fit into the three class structure of the city, and that some women are in fact better than men at certain tasks, even though the man of her similar class will always be better than her at their task.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Feminist Criticism of The Republic.

Many of Plato’s ideas about women’s roles in society are extreme for his time. His reformist ideas push for equality between men and women in every role of society, from the military to the guardians. While this is a feminist argument, it is undermined by Plato’s belief that women are inherently weaker than men of equal standing. In Plato’s time women were not allowed to partake in military activities, vote, nor take part in political discussions. In Plato’s republic women would be raised to an equal level as men in all things.

In today’s age the term Feminism can have a plethora of different meanings. Strictly from the dictionary Feminism is relatively simple it is: “1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, “and, “2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests” Plato’s advocation for the equality between the sexes clearly fits the first definition. In The Republic this is necessary for a truly just society. In Plato’s own society that he lived under this however was not the case. Women did not enjoy have of the rights that Plato advocated for.

In Ancient Greece women were relegated to spending the majority of their time in their households. Any task that was required them to leave the house was usually given to a male member of the house hold. Enjoying sporting events, going to the market, or socializing outside of one’s house was prohibited. This is reflected within The Republic. Women never participate in any of the philosophical discussions with Plato and they are rarely thought about by the men. Plato is only led onto his discussion of women’s roles after Glaucon off handedly brings up the subject. These things undermine Plato as a feminist. While Plato is just acting as a part of the society that he lived in, he is doing nothing to change his society. He is talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Since the suffrage movement in our own country, women have been enjoying many of the rights that they are theirs. The reforms made to our own constitution in the 19th Amendment in 1920 reflect many of the ideals that Plato argues for in his Republic. Even so, as a society we are still in the infancy of this ideal. It has been less than one hundred since our reforms; a blink of an eye when looking at the life of a civilization. The reforms that have been implemented in our own culture and the ones being pushed by Plato are all pro feminist movement ideologies.

As illustrated in 451d through 452d Plato believes that women not only should participate in the same activities as a man but also be trained and taught next to them. During Plato’s time these ideas were bombshells to the pre-established notions about the place of women. This argument speaks to Plato being an avid feminist in every way however just several lines latter in 455d thorough e, he destroys much of his own credibility in a feminists eye. “…but in all of them woman is weaker than man.” What Plato is referring to is known as Biological Essentialism in modern feminism and is frowned upon. Plato cannot be a feminist if he is undermining the basis of their arguments by saying that women are inherently worse than men. While Plato is certainly reforming the social structure in Greece, it is not possible to call him a true feminist. By arguing that women will always be worse than men is completely counter to feminist’s claims of complete equality with men.

Defining a Cause - Feminism in Plato

In book V of The Republic of Plato Socrates and Glaucon discuss the idea of women entering the society of the ideal city and what their place should be. Taking a holistic view of the entire city and its wellbeing they venture into a realm of uncertainty and challenge. This discussion lends itself very readily to the idea of feminism. Socrates is arguing for the introduction of women in the society of men and Glaucon is questioning the idea. Because Socrates is arguing on the behalf of the women it can be misconstrued that he is a feminist. However, according to, “feminism largely focuses on limiting or eradicating gender inequality and promoting women's rights, interests, and issues in society.” Based on this modern societal idea of what feminism is it easy to say that Socrates is not a feminist.
In book V Socrates begins the argument by making an analogy to dogs, saying that, “Do we believe the females of the guardian dogs must guard the things the males guard along with them and hunt with them, and do the rest in common;” or otherwise. Glaucon agrees that “Everything in Common…except that we use the females as weaker and the males as stronger.”(451d.) This is the first section that indicates that women are weaker and therefore inferior.
Because Socrates believes that women are in fact inferior. However, Socrates is able to break the argument down further that biological essentialism, relying on physical traits, and instead focuses on the pure nature of each person whether man or woman. He believes that though women are inferior to men by all standards they still can be part of the society based on nature alone. Socrates explains that “there is no practice of city's government which belongs to a women because she's a woman, or to a man because he's a man; but the natures are scattered alike among both like animals; and in all, but in all of them women is weaker than man. (455d.)
Therefore women have a place in society because they posses certain natures that are better then their male counterparts. This same statement can also be said of men, however because in certain instances each can have a nature that is better then the other they are both essential for society.
Furthermore as the book progresses Socrates explores the importance of woman for the means of procreation. However instead of promoting women's rights as would be most probable if he was a feminist Socrates instead states that: “ All women are to belong to all these men in common, and no woman is to live privately with any man.”(457d.) So that these women will be used as possessions that belong to all men in common, and not be their own but belong to a population of men.
As the argument expands Socrates and Glaucon realize that in order to keep their healthy and strong they will need to practice sexual selection. In order to determine which men should be allowed to spread the most seed they select war as an instrument of measure. They say that as the men fight and fight well they should be rewarded, and respected. “And presumably along with other prizes and rewards, the privilege of more abundant intercourse with women must be given to those of the young who are good in war or elsewhere…”(460b.) Here again women are a thing that is used as a prize and reward, not in the interest of the woman but for society as a whole.
Because of the many slanders and opinions that Socrates has against the feminine gender it would be unfair to say that he is a feminist. He does not have women's rights, or interests in mind. Nor does he desire to limit gender inequality in his society. Instead he wants to find the best place for women to act as efficiently as possible beside the male guardians.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Could Socrates be a feminist?

The discussion of the female sex occurs frequently in Book V of The Republic of Plato. This discussion leads the reader to a decision which is if Socrates would be considered a feminist or not. Many of his ideas may seem to be driven by a feminist perspective, but in the end he only truly believes in similar abilities of men and women if they are educated in the right fashion.
Socrates initiates these discussions of women in the city on this note. “ For human beings being born and educated as we described, there is, in my opinion, no right acquisition and use of children and women other than in their following path that along which we first directed them“. Glaucon agrees with this idea. But then, Socrates reveals another idea that could alter the situation they have just agreed upon. He asks, “Do we believe the females of the guardian dogs must guard the things males guard along with them and hunt with them, and do the rest in common; or must they stay indoors as though they were incapacitated as a result of bearing and rearing the puppies, while the males work and have all care of the flock? Everything in common, he said. Except that we use the females as weaker and the males as stronger.” So at that point in the discussion, it is revealed that females could potentially become equal to the males abilities according to Socrates and Glaucon. This passage shows the idea of semi equality of women and men in the city excluding the idea of physical strength.
Socrates and Glaucon have arisen the philosophy that women are capable of having everything in common, as well as work, and guardianship. But the one idea that they make clear during this dialogue is that the males are stronger and the females are weaker. Socrates clearly doesn’t say this to present the idea that women are inferior to men in this perfect city, but that inevitably they are weaker but still may do these same tasks. It is also later addressed on page 130 that women must be taught the same things as men, which they say are gymnastic and music, and must be taught so that those skills could be used in the same manner as men.
Socrates and Glaucon have then found that the female class can share the same natures as the male class. They later on begin to discuss that idea, but in relation to war. This phrase expresses the two men’s respects for women even on the battlefield, as they say , “women who thus made the finest beginning also be likely to make the finest ending.” This phrase shows the consideration and respect for the female class even on a war level. Socrates’ respect for the women’s capabilities continues to grow throughout Book V.
The idea of two different natures which are the men and women, arise and are addressed of how they are able to do the same things, even though they are so different. “Now, we agree that one nature must practice one thing and a different nature must practice a different thing, and that women and men are different. But are asserting that different natures must practice the same things.“ Socrates has stuck at present we with the philosophy that different natures are more or less equipped to do different things in the city. But, In this case, Socrates shows his respect and faith in all females to execute the same tasks as men of the city, when women have different natures. Even though the two are contradicting themselves that different natures must do similar tasks, they both agrred on it. “ Oh, Glaucon, the power of contradicting art is grand”. He even considers them to be the same in respects to war, if they are educated in the same fashion.
I would not consider Socrates to be a feminist. He just merely believes in similar equality of the two sexes. He depicts the obvious differences of nature such as strength in Book V. The idea that men are stronger than women has been cemented in conversation. Both men believe this. So then in theory, said by Gluacon, all the men should take all of the duties because they are better. Socrates disagrees with this notion, not proving that he is a feminist, but by showing the women’s importance in the city and how some women are apt at medicine and some not, and those who are should practice what they’re best at. It is also agreed that women and men have very different natures but women should be able to guard the city. It seems that Socrates agrees with the fact that men are stronger than women physically, but still believes in them having the same capabilities.

Socrates as a Feminist: A Qualified Statement

Plato’s vision of a society is one that promoted equality in the sense that any human had an equal potential to advance to their proper place in society. One who was sufficiently balanced and learned could become a guardian, one who was not worthy of this title for their failure to achieve the requirements of mind and body. His standards of ‘gold, silver, and bronze’ are applied not at birth as they may be in a capitalist society like our own, but instead are determined by the value of a human to society.
Socrates addresses the issue of women’s place in society with a new look at women’s inherent strengths and weaknesses, but effectively qualifies this statement by stating that they should have an equal place in society. A woman, he claims, should belong to men of society in general: “All…women are to belong to…men in common, and no woman is to live privately with any man (457d).” Women are also, he states, weaker than men; at least in regards to being a guardian of the City. “Men and women, therefore, also have the same nature with respect to guarding a city, except insofar as the one is weaker and the other stronger (456a).”
It may appear that these views make Socrates an anti-feminist in the sense that he does not believe in the inherent equality of women. By one definition of feminism (, Socrates’ statements about biological essentialism separating women as a physically and in some respects psychologically weaker group of humans would make him an anti-feminist. By this definition, belief in complete equality is the only way for one to be a feminist.
However, his opinions surrounding the position of women in society would make him a feminist by an extended definition of feminism. “That they’ll (women) carry out their campaigns in common, and, besides, they’ll lead all the hardy children to the war, so that, like the children of the other craftsmen, they can see what they’ll have to do in their craft when they are grown up…every animal fights exceptionally hard in the presence of its offspring (466e).” Although this sounds like a particularly vicious act, Socrates places women on the battlefield with their male counterparts. This revolutionary idea, when placed in context, makes him an advocate of women’s equality in society, despite his ideas surrounding biological essentialism. This makes him a fervent feminist by the times of ancient Greece and even today, where women cannot even join most branches of our military.
In conclusion, it is impossible to say whether Socrates is a “feminist” or not, because a statement on either side must be qualified. He believed that women should be able to attain the same status in society as men, even as guardians; however, he qualifies his own statement by speaking of the inherent weaknesses (especially physically, which is an important aspect of any person, especially a guardian) that women share. True to his theory of merit-based equality, however, he maintains throughout the book that women should be given every opportunity that men are to achieve status and importance in the City.

Is Socrates a Feminist?

Rebecca Bernstein
October 13, 2005
Response To Book 5
Feminism revolves around true equality. True equality is the idea that every single element in the lives of men and women are equal. Feminism ignores genetic differences and their biological consequence. Socrates has radical thoughts about the roles of women, and believes that they are, in most ways, equal to men. However, he also acknowledges a difference in the nature of men and women. Because of this acknowledgement his is not a feminist, according to the definition of feminism.
I think that the ideas that Socrates had about women are revolutionary for his time period. However, in Greece, women were taking roles equivalent to men such as warriors. He recognized the abilities of women in this area, and so, naturally proclaimed that they should be allowed to participate in the same activities as men. He saw that they were valuable in a certain way and wanted to use that for all it was worth. Although here he puts women on the same level as me he states in this section that women are inferior to men in all ways, including intellect. He must, therefore, believe that although women do have something to offer the city, they do not have “as much” to offer as men.
It is evident simply from my class that women and men are in many ways very similar. I feel as if I am on an equal level with the males in my class. However, sometimes being the only girl in math class is a challenge because I do not pick up on the mathematical concepts as quickly as some of the guys. On the other hand, I pay attention to details and am often grammatically correct. This is something I think a lot of the guys from the class lack. Although we are given an equal opportunity to excel because of our biological differences we stand out in different areas. I am also one of the only seniors not to take AP Physics. I took the other science class because I knew that I would be able to learn better and do better in a class that was based more on biology and less on mathematics. Although many women do excel in math it is a well-known fact that on the whole men do better in mathematics than women.
Although Socrates appears to be a feminist in the book because he states that women and men should be given the equal opportunity he also recognizes biological differences between men and women and considers women to be inferior to men. A true feminist wouldn’t recognize these differences. A true feminist believes that men and woman are perfectly capable of exactly the same things – regardless of their differences physically or biologically. Plato also categorizes people into groups rated on their intelligence and states that even the most intelligent women are less intelligent than the smartest men. He breaks up women into three categories, and he cannot really believe that all women are inferior to all men or else he wouldn’t create these classes. For example the guardian women are superior to men of the two other, lower classes, but they are inferior to most of the men of their own class (the Guardian class.) Overall, Socrates is not a feminist by the definition of feminism today. He may have been considered a feminist in his time period because of his ideas about equality between men and women. However, he was simply attempting to use all of the assets of all of the people in a society in order to maintain his perfect city. Because of his acknowledgment of women as innately inferior to men in intelligence he is not, by today’s standards, a feminist.

A Feminist in Greece?

A Feminist in Greece?
Kyler M. Robinson

Socrates is a great thinker and his philosophies can be applied to nearly all aspects of modern and past society. While his ideas often challenge traditional thinking, in respect to the feminist agenda he is unfortunately lacking. People may often mistake Socrates as being a feminist because he gives equal education and roles as guardians to both men and women, but, when it comes down to it, Socrates uses biological essentialism to state that women are inherently inferior to men.

Before laying down the biological essentialism, Socrates examines why we use women different than men and how to set both to the same usefulness “If, then, we use women for the same thing as the men, they must also be taught the same things.”[1] He then on to say, “Music and gymnastics were given to the men… Then these two arts, and what has to do with war, must be assigned to the women also, and they must be used in the same ways.”[2] But why must each gender participate in the same roles?

From Socrates previous analogy of the different types of people; gold, silver and bronze; we see that that each person in society is born into a set position but if they demonstrate the special abilities may also move between each position and become guardians so that their God-given art might benefit the entire society. Using this same reasoning, why not let women also participate in all activities if they so possess the strengths necessary for that activity. By using only men, you cast off the potential abilities of about half of the population, and by setting them aside you would also contradict Socrates’ theory that a society must have guardians –based not on birth rights or class – lead the city because of merit and abilities.

But don’t these social positions naturally place Socrates in the feminist model? They do fit into the overall agenda of the feminists by giving equal opportunity to women and men alike but Socrates does not ignore the fact that women and men are different – a key point that goes against the feminist position that men and women are the same at every level. Socrates accurately looks at the differences and states “Compared to what is habitual, many of the things now being said [men and women practicing and being educated together and equally] would look ridiculous if they were to be done as is said.”
The most definitive factor showing that Socrates is not a feminist comes from his comment, “Woman participates according to nature in all practices, and man in all, but in all of them woman is weaker than man.”[3] This statement comes after defining that both can participate and be taught in the same manner but goes to a biological essentialism-style argument that states that there is a definitive difference whereby women are always weaker. Does this mean that Socrates is an antifeminist? Absolutely not because many of his ideas further women’s rights, but clearly he is not a feminist. It is his ability to see the benefits that women can bring to society that allow him to further their rights, not a zealous approach that argues because its “the right” thing.
[1] 451d
[2] 452a
[3] 455d

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Socrates: Feminist?

Travis Larkin
Is Socrates a feminist?

In book five, Socrates radically states that women should receive the same training (geometry, gymnastics, and music) as men in society. For this reason it is the common misconception that Socrates is a feminist. He supports women and argues that they should have active roles in the republic. He is not after them to have active roles in society because he is a feminist or believes they deserve it because of centuries of uneven status in society. He sees that men and women are the same except for physical strength, and he knows that they will all fall into one of the three parts of the soul making them either spirited, rational, or appetitive, and the city will find uses for them. He recognizes and believes in biological essentialism and sees that even though women are not as strong as men they are a vital part to the city and its success.
Socrates analyzes women on the whole and sees them to be of use in a perfect society. While not as strong as men they must be allowed to participate in the Republic. He states that there is no one thing that only women or only men can do in the republic, “there is no practice of a city’s governors which belongs to a woman because she’s a woman, or to a man because he’s a man…but in all of them woman is weaker than man.” (455 c) Socrates radically speaks against gender roles that are still relevant in today’s world. He states that no career or task is suited solely for man or for woman. In today’s world women are paid less than men, until recently were not allowed in combat, are still not drafted, and continue to fight these gender discriminations. Sounding ike a true biological essentialist, Socrates states that men are physically stronger then women, and typically this is true. I really like this point of view that no one task is a job that can only be done by one sex, i.e. men can cook and women can fight, but there are certainly tasks which are rightfully dominated by one gender. Army’s were full of men because men are proven to be stronger on the whole than women. Socrates is not a feminist but instead a biological essentialist who has believes that even though men are stronger than women, it doesn’t mean that women should be denied participation to their full potential.
Socrates is no feminist, in my opinion he is more of a realist in that he speaks the truth. Still, he was so radical for his time that his ideas can still be seen at play in issues in modern times, such as woman’s suffrage and woman getting paid less then men for the same job. I believe the quintessential example of Socrates’ philosophy on women occurred during WWII. Almost every able man had been drafted into service leaving the American economy without a workforce. This is where women proved their competence and stepped into jobs thought once to be male-only professions and proceeded to run the American economy for the extent of the war. Rosy the Riveter was a popular female role model who represented a strong woman who worked the factories of America. Women also showed their competence in Socrates’ ancient component of training in gymnastics by forming the Women’s Baseball League and entertaining the country. Unfortunately these women were told to go back to the kitchens and retain their position of housewife when the men returned home and the gender roles which had been broken were reformed.
Socrates was not a feminist by any means. He was a very smart and perceptive man who recognized the true abilities of women instead of seeing the stereotypical image portrayed by society. If only there were more men like Socrates we could break the gender roles that have kept woman down up until this very day.