Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Jedi Knights of Plato's Republic

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor"

"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi"

"The Senate will decide your fate."

"I am the Senate!"

"Not yet."

"It's treason, then."



In the final move against democracy Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has chosen to remove the Jedi Council from power. The worst fears of the Jedi Council become real when Palpatine crowns himself emperor. Everything that the Jedi Council stands for is in jeopardy as Palpatine gains more and more power in the senate. This is a turning point for the Republic, from this point on it will be only referred to as the Empire, a tyranny born from the ashes of a democracy of corruptness and pestilence. The Republic has entered its own twilight phase of its life, where just as Socrates has predicted, the lifecycle of the government has gone from its middle age years of democracy and into the death thralls of tyranny under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

The panning shots of the Senate and the great city around it shows a hustling a bustling city of commerce and activity. The skies are clear and sunny and the Republic is at the height of its trade and commerce. The skyline of the city could be the projected future of New York or Chicago, with the towering high rises, and crammed feeling of a city. Even the senate has become corrupted by the wealth and commerce around them. They are no longer guardians of the Republic; instead they merely use the system to their own ends. This was highlighted in the episode 2, when the Trade Federation attempts to rebel and become directly involved in politics.

In the democracy under the republic, the Jedi Council serves as the guardians. They are taken from a young age and brought up with the ideals of the Republic in mind. They serve to protect the Republic from people such as Chancellor Palpatine. They are the same guardians that are outlined and used in The Republic of Plato. The Jedi are not allowed to have any emotional contact or family ties for their entire lives, because of this Jedi are found when they are young enough to not have made any of these ties. Anakin differs because he has ties with his mother when they bring him into his training. The Jedi are also the war leaders of the Republic planning and managing the battles and wars. The gymnastics and training that the Jedi have are what brings them fame throughout the galaxy and on the movie screens, but there is also another side of the Jedi mindset. The intellectual premise of the Jedi is not often discussed yet make up a huge part of their mindset. Kenobi knows where to draw the line between good and evil because of his own philosophies. This makes him the perfect philosopher guardian that rules from behind the scenes instead of in the limelight. The same issues that Annakin is grappling with are constantly coming to light in our own time.

The United States is showing many of the same symptoms that plagued the Republic just before it fell into the tyranny of the Emperor. The emperor’s cravings for power came out of an engineered and never ending conflict that was controlled by Palpatine. This war that nobody can win, goes on and on, and strikes fear into the hearts of the populace is very similar to our own war on terrorism. Even our political leaders have told us that it is impossible to win this war in the conventional means, and that no amount of fire-power can combat the underground dealings of a terrorist group that is not affiliated with any places or governments. Even so, our leaders have asked for more power than has ever been granted a single person, in the form of the patriot act. This legislation sounds vaguely familiar the emergency powers that were granted Chancellor Palpatine by Jar-Jar Binks in Episode 2.


While it has not been proven there are some scholars and intellectuals that speculate about whether the entire conflict with Al-Qaeda has been manufactured because of the many powers that were subsequently given to our commander-in-chief. Just as Palpatine was behind the entire war with Count Dooku, there could be more sinister plotters than Osama Bin Laden behind 9/11. “You’re either with us or against,” said Anakin and Bush. Seeing as this is coming from an evil Sith-lord it does not bode well for the intentions of Bush.


The fall of the Republic is the classic story of a democracy moving to a tyranny. According to Plato’s Republic, it is a natural part of any government and it is just a matter of time until every society picks up despotic ideals. Plato’s theories about the need for power and the corruptness found in a democracy all hold true in the present in our own society, in the past in Plato’s time, and even in the future in the time of Galactic empires.

"In the name of the Galactic Senate of the Republic, you are under arrest, Chancellor"

"Are you threatening me, Master Jedi"

"The Senate will decide your fate."

"I am the Senate!"

"Not yet."

"It's treason, then."



In the final move against democracy Supreme Chancellor Palpatine has chosen to remove the Jedi Council from power. The worst fears of the Jedi Council become real when Palpatine crowns himself emperor. Everything that the Jedi Council stands for is in jeopardy as Palpatine gains more and more power in the senate. This is a turning point for the Republic, from this point on it will be only referred to as the Empire, a tyranny born from the ashes of a democracy of corruptness and pestilence. The Republic has entered its own twilight phase of its life, where just as Socrates has predicted, the lifecycle of the government has gone from its middle age years of democracy and into the death thralls of tyranny under Supreme Chancellor Palpatine.

The panning shots of the Senate and the great city around it shows a hustling a bustling city of commerce and activity. The skies are clear and sunny and the Republic is at the height of its trade and commerce. The skyline of the city could be the projected future of New York or Chicago, with the towering high rises, and crammed feeling of a city. Even the senate has become corrupted by the wealth and commerce around them. They are no longer guardians of the Republic; instead they merely use the system to their own ends. This was highlighted in the episode 2, when the Trade Federation attempts to rebel and become directly involved in politics.

In the democracy under the republic, the Jedi Council serves as the guardians. They are taken from a young age and brought up with the ideals of the Republic in mind. They serve to protect the Republic from people such as Chancellor Palpatine. They are the same guardians that are outlined and used in The Republic of Plato. The Jedi are not allowed to have any emotional contact or family ties for their entire lives, because of this Jedi are found when they are young enough to not have made any of these ties. Anakin differs because he has ties with his mother when they bring him into his training. The Jedi are also the war leaders of the Republic planning and managing the battles and wars. The gymnastics and training that the Jedi have are what brings them fame throughout the galaxy and on the movie screens, but there is also another side of the Jedi mindset. The intellectual premise of the Jedi is not often discussed yet make up a huge part of their mindset. Kenobi knows where to draw the line between good and evil because of his own philosophies. This makes him the perfect philosopher guardian that rules from behind the scenes instead of in the limelight. The same issues that Annakin is grappling with are constantly coming to light in our own time.

The United States is showing many of the same symptoms that plagued the Republic just before it fell into the tyranny of the Emperor. The emperor’s cravings for power came out of an engineered and never ending conflict that was controlled by Palpatine. This war that nobody can win, goes on and on, and strikes fear into the hearts of the populace is very similar to our own war on terrorism. Even our political leaders have told us that it is impossible to win this war in the conventional means, and that no amount of fire-power can combat the underground dealings of a terrorist group that is not affiliated with any places or governments. Even so, our leaders have asked for more power than has ever been granted a single person, in the form of the patriot act. This legislation sounds vaguely familiar the emergency powers that were granted Chancellor Palpatine by Jar-Jar Binks in Episode 2.


While it has not been proven there are some scholars and intellectuals that speculate about whether the entire conflict with Al-Qaeda has been manufactured because of the many powers that were subsequently given to our commander-in-chief. Just as Palpatine was behind the entire war with Count Dooku, there could be more sinister plotters than Osama Bin Laden behind 9/11. “You’re either with us or against,” said Anakin and Bush. Seeing as this is coming from an evil Sith-lord it does not bode well for the intentions of Bush.


The fall of the Republic is the classic story of a democracy moving to a tyranny. According to Plato’s Republic, it is a natural part of any government and it is just a matter of time until every society picks up despotic ideals. Plato’s theories about the need for power and the corruptness found in a democracy all hold true in the present in our own society, in the past in Plato’s time, and even in the future in the time of Galactic empires.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Politics in Pop Culture


Kyler Robinson

Politics in Pop Culture

The first time I saw Star Wars Episode III I was immediately impressed by the opening scene and incredible cinematography throughout the movie. Underneath those special effects and sub par acting, there is great political commentary that has been one of the incredible parts of the entire Star Wars series. In each of the installments, the seriousness of political debate has been great. Whether Episode I where we saw the issues of slavery and poverty in a desert climate to the original trilogy that explored the concept of a small rebel group in a struggle and ultimately defeating a great superpower. While this latest installment may seem quite appropriate with a plot that appears lifted from the news, it seems that it is unfair to say that it is contemporary politics. Instead it seems reasonable to realize that the political debate – which has concerned the same ideas even in Episode I and II – is merely the final installments of a series that was started long, long ago in a galaxy far away.

While Episode III is clearly the plot that was to bring the original series in camaraderie with the recent Episode I and II, it is important to note the similarities – and differences – as to better understand where our current politics are and possible grave conclusions and consequences that come out of misguided decisions. While some would say that the Chancellor Palpatine is in fact an allegory of President Bush because of increased authority through emergency powers, relating it to the controversial Patriot Act that has increased Executive powers, the very events that lead up to these powers can be traced back to Episode I where Padme – representing democracy – discusses the ideas of governments with Anikan and indeed even when it was released in 2000, which you may recall as pre 9/11 and pre war in Iraq and terrorism, there were indeed wars in Star Wars. And the reason for this fictional war? It allowed a dialogue about democracy and the abilities and competency of the senate who did little to stop the invasion by the droids and Trade Federation. Even the emergency powers in Star Wars Episode II that came out in 2002 given by the otherwise useless Jar Jar Binks would have been well scripted and even acted before the Patriot Act was even conceived at the end of 2001.

While discounting the fact that these ideas are not scripted entirely out of contemporary politics never mind being an attack on President Bush, the very fact that they are in pop culture demonstrates its usefulness at reflecting potential issues that can occur in society. Perhaps it is a demonstration instead of the far-reaching arms of the concepts in The Republic of Plato, the natural progression between the various forms of governments and oscillation and struggle in between. From the corrupt nature of the senate in the movies which leads – perhaps reforms for the worst (does this sound like any third world revolutions) – into a tyrannical empire. The emergency powers too show the dangers and perhaps brilliance that occurs when a government can turn support of ones country into the unwavering allegiance to its every decision without question. The very nature of all of the political dialogue in the entire Star Wars series is a great at showing and sometimes reflecting social and political issues, but just because it appears similar, doesn’t mean that its an attack on Bush. I bet Lucas is laughing while running to the bank with his $3.5 billion - mean he already said it wasn't an attack.

A fictional tale? Or something more?

Nick LaClair
Comparative Philosophy
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith clearly illustrates the scenario of the transformation of a democratic man to a tyrannical man. Even tough hard to believe to many hardcore fans, as many Star Wars fans view the film as an attraction of the imagination, it symbolizes much more of what could happen throughout our political system of the United States. From the first reactions of Anakin Skywalker that seemed tyrannical, which stemmed from his desire for revenge in Episode two when he slaughtered the village which kidnapped his mother, the democracy and aristocracy in him seemed to slowly disintegrate. His emotions seemed to escalate to the point where they were used as power, when his emotions ran out of control making it impossible for him to make the logical decision. His emotions and mind was then molded to become tyrannical by the very man he has always admired.

As we see in Episode III the senate and the Republic falls. All democracy known to the universe has disappeared when the corruption of one individual rises to control the chosen one, Anakin Skywalker. This action represents the corruption mentioned in Plato, which will eventually push the political system into the series of cycles. The actions of the tyrannical men of Episode III pushes the Republic into a tyrannical state, named “The Empire”. The executive branch of the republic eventually causes this action, where a member of the executive branch (Emperor Palpetine) gets even more power by a means of national security. The situation against the evil of the universe and their creation of the deathstar must be acted upon, as immediate emergency powers are given to one corrupted individual Emperor Palpetine. These powers are than given from somewhat an uneducated and clumsy individual named Jarjar Binks in Episode II when the Emperor claims he is to use this power to create a grand army of the Republic. This is exactly what the corrupted emperor wanted. By being given this authority, he had control over the army, and over the senate. He used the army to turn against the Jedi slaying virtually all of them making it easier to begin the transition into an empire, or a government of tyranny.

This situation can also be considered possible for the U.S., as corruption could exist in the most unexpected places similar to in Episode III when the true identity of the Sith is revealed to the Jedi. Today we see multiple members of the executive branch, instead of just Palpetine, that are very able to perform a similar action of tyranny. The scenario of a ruler requesting emergency powers as a means of national security seems as more of a hint shown by George Lucas of what could be possible of our political system in the future instead of just a fictional battle of good vs. evil.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Tyranny of the Empire

Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith raises numerous questions about the state and future of our country today, as well as invoking themes from Plato’s Republic in its critical analysis of our government and domestic policies. The symbolism and imagery employed spoke to the destruction of a just democracy and its degradation into a tyranny under Emperor Palpatine’s rule. Even more importantly, it carried a strong warning for America’s future, especially in a world of fear and uncertainty potentially leading to a tyrannical executive-driven government.
The first aspect that Star Wars touched on was the evil of granting executive power to an individual. Palpatine’s ascension to ultimate power was obtained by creating a war to engineer the Republic’s vote to his continued time in power, and to grant him further ‘emergency’ powers that gave rise to his reign over the Empire. The emperor created the war that inspired such fear in the people that they submitted to his authority, no matter what the costs were, in exchange for protection. This could be likened to the current-day situation in our country as many see it; the never-ending specter of a global ‘war on terrorism’ may be a way to divert attention and resources elsewhere while holding a fearful country back home hostage with programs that increase executive power such as the Patriot Act.
The climactic battle between Yoda and Palpatine metaphorically takes place in the vacant senate chambers. In his power-thirsty rage, the Emperor smashes the empty seats and strews them across the room in an attempt to crush Yoda. This struggle is symbolic of the decisions that are made with the power granted to an executive, such as the President. The abuses that may be committed in the absence of a proper delegation are not to be underestimated; this could be representative of prisoner treatment outside the United States and of foreign combatants, such as the disputes arising from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The most chillingly symbolic image of the movie was perhaps Padmé’s speech to Anakin. “You have become exactly the thing you vowed to fight,” she tells him. Indeed, Anakin has epitomized the tyrannical man: his lust for greed has corrupted his entire view of the world and destroyed his sense of truth and justice. This is exactly the eventual plight of the United States as it degrades toward a tyranny if its path is not diverted; the very founding ideals upon which the country was based are being overridden and overlapped even as this paper is written. The individual freedoms and rights that the Constitution has guaranteed for centuries are now being rolled back over the process of a few years; Americans being held as enemy combatants are now no longer granted the rights guaranteed to them by their Constitution. Nearly every amendment and clause can be broken in the name of national security, and this trump card is being applied more than ever as individual freedoms shift toward a greater executive power.

Desire is a Man's Best Friend?

Socrates delves deeper in his search for justice by expressing his views on the idea of the three different parts of the soul, rational, spirited, and desire. In the previous book, book VIII, Socrates looked at the evolution of government in a society; moving from the aristocracy, to the timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and ending in the tyrannical government. There he argued that each these governments are parts of a system that stems form the ideal government, aristocracy. From aristocracy the governments begin to alter becoming more and more corrupted and further from the ideal, where truth is the guiding force for rule. Instead however ones personal desires become the guiding force, which eventually consumes the ruler, and devastate the government. When desire becomes the pilot of the government the ruler themselves becomes a tyrant. The tyrant is a person who is ruled by his or her own personal desires and means in mind.

A tyrant “is transformed out of a democratic man (571a)” and is a man who lets his appetite, or desires take over the other two parts of his soul. A person who begins to dream about desires and before they know what is happening their desires become a reality because their dreams have evolved in to a concrete idea. To begin with there is “some terrible, savage, and lawlessness form of desire in every man, even in some of us who seem to be ever so measured (572b).” Therefore in every one of us there is a part, a part of the three, which can be allowed to escape and run rampant.

In a recent Hollywood film called the Hulk this very concept is explored. The protagonists desire is genetically manipulated so that as he feels anger he becomes something un-human, a monster with un-human strength. As his desires, or his emotions are triggered he becomes a monster that is ruled by “rage” and “power” and the “freedom”, which both allow. He becomes a slave to his anger and is able to break free of societal restraints that have always agitated him. Upon reflecting on his action he discusses how he likes what happens to him. “What scares me is that when it comes over me I totally loose control, I like it.” He becomes a tyrant, a slave to his desire, his anger, unable to control what he does, but also unable to deny his desire to continue with his tyrannical behavior.

The question one must ask is once there is a tyrannical man is it possible to change that man back to a partially just man. Or is it then possible for the heir the tyrannical man to be just. It is then left to the two parts inside of that man to overcome the tyrannical state. This will happen when his tyrannical part has overexploited his desire and is left to rely on his calculating (rational) and honorable (spirited) to be stronger and resurrect the tyrannical state creating a system that is just and good.

The First Galactic Empire of America

In Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, we see the story of how the Republic is transformed into the Galactic Empire. Setting the tone for the next three movies of the original Star Wars series, this epic movie contains the story that answers all the questions about how the galaxy came to be ruled by a tyrannical empire. The claim that any moviemaker produces his work with the sole intention of entertaining audiences, especially in the case of the Star Wars series, shows an ignorance of history and of modern times. However, to understand how Star Wars, specifically Revenge of the Sith, is relevant to our current political situation as well as past political models, we need other tools.
The tools we can use to analyze this episode of Star Wars are the cycle of societies and leaders that Socrates describes in The Republic and a working knowledge of current events. In episode three, the story is told of how a government and a society move from the democratic stage of existence into the tyrannical stage. The leader that causes this change is Emperor Palpatine, who engineers a conflict so that he can gain more personal power. Although this was an engineered conflict authored by Palpatine, it shows the justification for the existence of a tyrannical leader and a more heavy-handed government. In a move to expand executive power, Palpatine continually requests more emergency powers from the senate, a move that, viewed through a Socratic lens, would show the tyrannical man gaining more power for himself and to satisfy his evil desires as the society moves away from democracy.
In order to make Star Wars relevant to our current state as a nation, we need to focus on a few critical events and trends. The events would include anything relevant to The War on Terrorism or lawsuits involving executive power. The War on Terrorism is simply a crusade by the Bush administration to eliminate terrorism worldwide. Arguably, this is an engineered conflict because terrorism has always been a part of the working of our globalized world, and it cannot be eradicated completely. U.S. Presidents have had to deal with terrorism in the past, and have done so on an individual basis, by responding to threats as they are received, not creating a world-spanning campaign to completely eradicate any form of dissent to U.S. foreign policy. In this sense, the Bush Administration has created a conflict in order to expand their influence over the country, similar to the manner in which Palpatine drains the power of the democratically elected senate in order to gain more personal power through the use of an engineered war.
The role of the executive is a consistent theme among The Republic, Star Wars, and the situation of the United States today. We see that in both Star Wars and in the United States, there is a push on the part of the executive branch to gain more power for themselves and take away the influence that democratic elements of the society have in ruling, and this trend is described accurately by Socrates. In the description of the tyrannical man and how he comes to be the leader of a democratic society, Socrates claims that a tyrannical government arises out of the need for security. So, both Emperor Palpatine and Emperor Bush… or, President Bush create situations where the public sees a need for security, and will accept power being placed in the hands of one man so that they can be safe from perceived threats. However, a tyranny takes place when these are engineered or over exaggerated threats. Add into the mix an ignorant public, and a society focused on greed, flash, and material possessions, a tyrannical government will thrive in exercising its right to rule. Scenes of life on Coruscant where people are attending night clubs, and the general tone is of flashiness are representations of the shallowness of American culture today, which promotes ideals of instant gratification and blissful ignorance. In conclusion, when we examine the similarities between the story told in Star Wars and the United States of America today, many connections become clear. Whether or not George Lucas intended to paint a subtle portrait of the dark path that the United States is walking down today is not clear, however as individuals in a democratic society we can draw our own conclusions and write about them so that the public can hear our opinions. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Letter to George Lucas

Dear George Lucas,
While watching your film Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith in my comparative philosophy and religion class I came to many new and different conclusions. I watched this film with a new perspective on it. When I had first watched Episode Three the first day it was out in the theatres I picked up on some of the obvious social and political parallels with our modern world, but I was really more excited by the fact that another Star Wars film was coming out and I was watching it. Watching it a second time around after reading The Republic of Plato and really paying attention to the subtleties of the film I picked up on many things. I wanted to know how you personally feel the political situation of the United States of America and The Republic of Plato influenced the film.
If you do not know it well, The Republic of Plato is basically the story of a singular argument of what is justice, the perfect city, and the ultimate destruction of the Republic/perfect city. In this Republic the guardians are men who are selected at a very young age and taken from their parents. They are trained in music, gymnastics, and geometry and are the protectors of the republic. In your story line the Jedi are selected at a very young age, taken from their parents and well educated, and they are the guardians of the Republic. It’s interesting to find such clear connections with such an ancient text.
Also, Chancellor Palpatine is the perfect example of the tyrannical man from The Republic of Plato. The tyrannical man is a man ruled by his lawless desires. These lawless desires draw men toward all sorts of ghastly, shameless, criminal things. Palpatine desires power no matter the consequences. He cares not for who must suffer and almost destroys a whole way of life when he removes the Jedi from the Republic. He uses corruption and lies to change the Republic into an empire and sees no wrong in his actions because “good is a point of view” after all.
Modern political tones definitely rang true to me at least in this film. I was amazed how this film could be seen as anything but a political commentary on current U.S policy. The entire take over by the empire is due to more executive powers granted in a time of war by an unknowing senate. Looking to the situation that we are faced with in our country I see the U.S. congress granting the administration more powers in a time of war through the patriot act. I see Vice President Dick Cheney asking for the CIA to be exempt from anti-torture legislation because we are at war. Lastly I see a harsh future, which revolves around the quote “as long as there is an enemy the fighting will continue.” Our country has been moving from country to country lately or evil doer to evil doer always fighting someone because weneed it in order for the administration to stay in power. Before the war President Bush’s approval rationg was falling and he was expected to be a one-term president. When at war his approving skyrocketed and led to his reelection and ret. General Grievous could be Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or whoever is next on the list. As Anakin said, “your ether with me or you’re my enemy” just as President Bush stated in a recent State of the union, “your either with us or against us” and as we know only evil men or Sith deal in absolutes. I think Padme’s line “Maybe we have become what we most fear” is strangely prophetic of the future of our country. How can we fight around the globe for democracy while we limit and restrict it at home?
I would love to hear your views on my opinions and how you felt Episode Three: The Revenge of the Sith was influenced by this text and our modern world. Thank you for your time.
Sincerely, Travis Sky Larkin

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why Perfection?

November 8, 2005
Book IX-X

Throughout The Republic of Plato, we are taught a methodology that will help us develop a system of thinking to better our soul and bring us closer and closer to the truth. Thus, when the individual becomes a more just person because of this “enlightenment,” it will further the society, as a whole, to reach perfection. In other terms, as the individual becomes a more just person he/she will become less imperfect, making the social order become less faulty. However, this impulse that society creates to reach perfection will never reach its endpoint. We as individuals and as a whole cannot have perfection, but that does not mean we should impede our search to better our selves and discontinue our goal, which is to find the ultimate truth. On the other hand, is the truth, true? By chance, what if there is no ultimate, one truth? The theory of this truth could just be a fabrication that is created in our minds in order for us to better ourselves. For instance the ultimate truth could be a noble lie designed to make our society and the individual have justice instead of injustice; to better and improve the individual and the society.

The ultimate truth is a goal that is set down for us to achieve, but what if there is no ending point, no pot of gold at the end of the line? A circle for instance is a geometrical shape that is 360 degrees around and has a radius of x that is equal from the center point to each point around the circle. This is a description of a perfect circle, but in reality, a place where we deal with “the muck of the world,” we do not have this perfect circle. Instead, we must strive to achieve it, and each time we do so, we reach a more and more ideal shape. This would be the more sufficient alternative than not trying to make something “advanced.” In terms of “is there one truth,” an individual has a different understanding, even more complex at times, than another individual would have. Each truth is significantly different, and might never be sought out for. Everyone has his/her own methods of reaching and acquiring that truth, but can it be possible that these, or more correctly saying the truth, we search for is just a concept we learn through out the courses of our lives to improve our existence and purposes in life? It is a set goal that is established for the individual and the society to become nearer to being complete.

The fact that we have this concept, or belief, that there is one truth gives the individual something to attempt to find. Each chapter of our lives, and each time we gain more knowledge and experiences, we enlighten ourselves by simply understanding a new level of what is good and what is bad. Each step of the way, we believe that we are coming closer to the light, not always realizing though, the more this happens the more we improve our continuation of life. All we have in life is this “goal” that we base our path on. Furthermore this goal, which is finding and searching for what the ultimate truth is, will only help us to become more just. This ultimate truth resembles a noble lie in that it is created for every individual in order for them to find their own way of making themselves be of justice rather than injustice.

Plato speaks of the perfect society and the perfect individual and what must be done in order to achieve such a thing, but then he admits that it is impossible to achieve perfection such as this. “What is most surprising of all to hear is that each one of the elements we praised in that nature has a part in destroying the soul that has them and tearing it away from philosophy. I mean courage, moderation, and everything we went through.” (491 b). What Plato is referring to here is that in every individual there is something that will corrupt the soul, making it impossible to reach perfection. Besides, if we think reasonably, once we reach this so-called “perfection,” won’t we believe that there will be no need to even contemplate on bettering, and making the society and the individual even more just? If this happens to be so, then the needs for improvement won’t be looked upon as “incomplete.”

There are two extremes in life. However, one cannot have or be either. They cannot be perfect for it is impossible. In every individual there are many things, like desires, that can ruin excellence. “Now consider how many great sources of ruin there are for these few.” (491 b). Yet an individual cannot do the other extreme, which is doing nothing to become better, and instead only focusing on self needs and wants. He/she will never make any difference if they choose not to do anything or only try to make perfection. If one suddenly realizes that they will never be able to create the perfect system of society, or they can never be perfect themselves, then they might come to the conclusion of “what is the point of life if there is no way of being perfect?” This will ultimately lead one to believe that they shouldn’t do anything anymore if they are never going to reach their goal. However, this does not solve problems, and moreover it does not generate an even more just person. One cannot just focus on their wants and needs because then nothing will get improved or “revised.” That is why if we have something that compels us to try and acquire a better existence, these two extremes will be eliminated and moderation will be discovered.

It is always better to do something rather than nothing. When looking at it in terms of improving oneself, to make them more just, it is better to strive to enrich the soul than not to. Why though, and what would be the point? These are questions that are frequently asked and are legitimate when an individual realizes they can never reach the perfection of their goal. However, one should not just give up all hope and only decided to live for them because then nothing gets accomplished. Plato explains that if one turns to self-needs, and chooses not to better them selves, only bad will result from this situation. “Being a monarch, will lead the man whom it controls, as though he were a city, to every kind of daring that will produce wherewithal for it and the noisy crowd around it—one part of which bad company cause to come in from outside; the other part was from within and was set loose and freed by his own bad character.” (575 a). What Plato is stating here is simply that being in a state of only focusing on what the desires of one are can only result in evils.

Looking at the situation from a personal standpoint, I have always been able to do pretty well in school, but I know that at times I will fail. However, this does not stop me from trying to achieve that “perfect grade/ultimate truth.” When I receive a mark that is below my “goal,” I learn that I can always improve myself and better myself with this situation. Moreover, I have also come to a truer understanding of what my goal actually is, and have discovered that it is not about receiving the grade, but it’s about understanding the information, and appreciating it. This does not mean that I won’t work as hard though. It means I will look at the situation differently, and come to a conclusion that perfection is not the answer, but neither is doing nothing. Rather, working to better oneself for the sole reason of getting that much closer to perfection. But the point is to learn from the process, not to get caught up with idealistic goals for the future.

Democracy, (Oligarchy), Tyranny and the Economy

Kyler M. Robinson


The tyrannical man in the United States can be found everywhere. It lives in all of us, our desires that drive us past reason and logic, relying on the craving and eros. The desires of the tyrannical man seemingly mix with the oligarchic one, desires for money. While it seems perfectly clear that a man in Socrates’ tyrannical mold is unfit to be an all-powerful leader; the unification of each tyrannical person comes under the umbrella of the democratic state where everything can be formed.

This does not mean that democracy is a bad form of government as Socrates’ pupils are cultivated from the democratic state. “This is why Socrates is attracted to those dangerous men, the potential tyrants, who are products of democracy”[1] This kind of government seems the most practical in practice as an aristocratic one in the nature of Socrates is not realistic. The idea of Socrates the pilot is fostered by the democratic nature of his society much as today’s thinkers, regardless of their philosophy, can pursue their ideas in the democratic United States.

The democratic nature of the US is perhaps a product of the economic markets that drive the country. And as we have seen, it is perhaps the best way for the country to be directed. Perhaps it is in these modern times it should be the economy who drives the trends because ultimately it comes back to money or economic benefit for a system to work.

There is of course one problematic point where capitalism and democracy may end up clashing. That is when a majority of the citizens, with their inward thinking ideology, try to resist capitalistic values through democracy, instead going towards more social goals. Provided that the governments can resist moving towards one extreme or another, it seems that capitalism and democracy (and oligarchic people within the democratic state) will continue to be an effective couple. However if the government leans too much to the people with their socialist tendencies “The emerging polity might still be “democratic”—but that would make it no less dysfunctional and, at the extreme, hardly any less tyrannical.”[2]

We have seen this point in American history already during the early 20th century. As big business in America produced monopolies and huge concentrations of wealth, a large percentage of the population threatened to overthrow the capitalistic system and the government adopted the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. This is a case where a compromise between social and business values managed to save the capitalistic system within a democratic state. In a way we can look at the oligarchic people and see how it can be balanced with social issues within a smart democratic state that is able to look towards preservation and overall growth.


[1] Allen Bloom “Interpretive Essay” pg. 425

[2] “The Future of the State” http://www.economist.com/surveys/displayStory.cfm?story_id=850929

Monday, November 07, 2005

The tyrannical men of the world

Nick LaClair
The tyrannical man is clearly depicted in the beginning of Book IX. This tyrannical man is shown as carrying out criminal acts, which primarily are described as sleeping with your mother and murder. These are the lawless desires described that lye within the tyrannical man. These desires are described by Socrates to have existed within us for eternity, and it is just a simple matter of which who will dream these unlawful desires at night and who will let these desires emerge during the day in reality. Socrates’ analysis of the tyrannical man relate to much of what we interpret today as tyranny, as well as his beliefs of isolating these figures from the city even though its declared as part of an inevitable cycle. Murder represents much of what our judicial system is trying to prevent today. Just as Socrates declares this action obviously as unlawful, we do as well. The tyrannical man is born in our society today just as he was in the time of Socrates.
The analysis of becoming this tyrannical man is very similar to the processes we know today. First this tyrannical man is born from a father of democracy. This father of democracy contains these unlawful desires but keeps them bottled up, and the lawful decisions along with love are planted upon the son. This love is described as a type of drone by Socrates the initiates the sons will for tyranny. By this time the household cannot bring their son back into the light, because he is motivated by the very same element that the household has depended on which eventually creates a transition along the cycle to tyranny. This man then begins to love the relishes of life, and see the world through a comodification lens, and begins to borrow money which he cannot pay back. When he doesn’t pay back his debts, he doesn’t receive any more borrowing privileges. The situation of this man needing to borrow money drives him mad as he is forced to use physical actions to succeed in grasping his unlawful desires. These physical actions then lead to the most unlawful things known to Socrates, which includes murder.
The transformation into a tyrannical man is seen in all areas of the United States. We see this transformation in all types of households which drive the sons of democracy mad and into tyranny. There always is a “mutant”, one born of different genetics that basically represents a person that looks nothing like their parents. In this situation, the mutant has become the tyrannical man. This man is not only motivated to perform his unlawful desires by love and the traditions of his household, but also by the common luck of the draw. The luck of the draw is heavily influenced by the cycle of government. The inevitable cycle cannot by stopped. We know this. Even in the perfect city multiple flocculation’s will occur and it would be impossible to maintain a aristocratic state. These mutants which are the tyrannical men pop up in all places even in our society today, born in democratic houses and are driven to unlawful actions by the very values the house and family was built upon. These unique men existed in the time of Socrates and will continue to exist for eternity.

Desire is a Man's Best Friend?

Socrates delves deeper in his search for justice by expressing his views on the idea of the three different parts of the soul, rational, spirited, and desire. In the previous book, book VIII, Socrates looked at the evolution of government in a society; moving from the aristocracy, to the timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and ending in the tyrannical government. There he argued that each these governments are parts of a system that stems form the ideal government, aristocracy. From aristocracy the governments begin to alter becoming more and more corrupted and further from the ideal, where truth is the guiding force for rule. Instead however ones personal desires become the guiding force, which eventually consumes the ruler, and devastate the government. When desire becomes the pilot of the government the ruler themselves becomes a tyrant. The tyrant is a person who is ruled by his or her own personal desires and means in mind.

A tyrant “is transformed out of a democratic man (571a)” and is a man who lets his appetite, or desires take over the other two parts of his soul. A person who begins to dream about desires and before they know what is happening their desires become a reality because their dreams have evolved in to a concrete idea. To begin with there is “some terrible, savage, and lawlessness form of desire in every man, even in some of us who seem to be ever so measured (572b).” Therefore in every one of us there is a part, a part of the three, which can be allowed to escape and run rampant.

In a recent Hollywood film called the Hulk this very concept is explored. The protagonists desire is genetically manipulated so that as he feels anger he becomes something un-human, a monster with un-human strength. As his desires, or his emotions are triggered he becomes a monster that is ruled by “rage” and “power” and the “freedom”, which both allow. He becomes a slave to his anger and is able to break free of societal restraints that have always agitated him. Upon reflecting on his action he discusses how he likes what happens to him. “What scares me is that when it comes over me I totally loose control, I like it.” He becomes a tyrant, a slave to his desire, his anger, unable to control what he does, but also unable to deny his desire to continue with his tyrannical behavior.

The question one must ask is once there is a tyrannical man is it possible to change that man back to a partially just man. Or is it then possible for the heir the tyrannical man to be just. It is then left to the two parts inside of that man to overcome the tyrannical state. This will happen when his tyrannical part has overexploited his desire and is left to rely on his calculating (rational) and honorable (spirited) to be stronger and resurrect the tyrannical state creating a system that is just and good.

The Sinking Ship

The allegory in Book IX of the tyrannical man being a direct descendant of his democratic father is an example that can be seen in many present-day and historical figures of government. An important and pertinent story to fill this analogy is the current state of the United States of America in contrast with its beginnings as drawn out by the founding fathers.
It is by no mistake that these patriots have always been referred to as ‘fathers’. Their proud son is the country of the USA, but the analogy continues with the Platonic reference of the abandonment of democracy in favor of a tyrannical despotism. This transformation occurs as the son is corrupted by “desires- overflowing with incense…wines and all the pleasures with which great societies are rife (573a).”
There is no better example of a great country so ‘blessed’ with these relishes as the modern United States. Every aspect of life is abound with relishes, Socrates’ wine and incense are our cars, inexpensive gas, housing standards, and abundance of food and quality of life. However, it is by these relishes that this ‘great’ society has corrupted and distanced itself from the original wishes of the founding fathers.
When Madison, Jefferson, Washington, and the rest of their clan fathered the United States, their ideals were based on individual freedoms and the limitation of executive power that would, in their own words, foster tyranny. Many feared that even creating a federal government with the power to tax the people would lead to this tyrannical and executive-driven state of affairs. Their democratic ideals still echo and resound throughout the country’s present-day handling of internal and foreign matters. However, the echo is becoming increasingly hollow and distant as the country follows the destiny that is to be fulfilled by any democratic government: it eventual descent and conversion into tyranny.
“Recall the character we attributed to the man of the people,” commands Socrates. “He was presumably produced by being reared from youth by a stingy father who honored only the money-making desires while despising the ones that aren’t necessary but exist for the sake of play and showing off (572c)”. In protecting the individual rights of every single American to own property, vote, and generally have a say in the state of affairs, the founding fathers were essentially setting the country up to an inevitable demise. The capitalist system that rose from these individual freedoms has manifested itself in the ship’s sinking under the specter of tyranny. The signs are abound: from the shift to executive power and the consolidation of wealth to the country’s participation in a war abroad that it doesn’t want, we are sinking further every day.
The unfortunate aspect about this transition is that is, according to Socrates, absolutely necessary before we may arrive once again at a healthy restructuring of our government systems. Most importantly, one must never hold the blame of this change on a single individual. It cannot be accredited to the founding fathers, George Bush, or even the people of the US today. Instead, it is a systematic change, characteristic of all democratic governments: “Let’s not be overwhelmed at the sight of the tyrant- one man- or a certain few around him; but, as one must, let’s go in and view the city as a whole, and, creeping down into every corner and looking, only then declare our opinion (576d).” A holistic approach is the only way to interpret the progress of our country toward this end.

Bush the Democratic, Bush the Tyrannical

The discussion of the tyrannical man is the focus of Book IX of as Socrates and his young friends analyze how the son of a democratic man evolves into a tyrant. This situation is one that, like all other anecdotes and stories told by these philosophers, can be applied to any modern day figure that is similar to the theme of the book. The tyrant, as Socrates describes him, is raised in the household of a democratic man, or the type that is described to be a leader of a democratic society. The effects of servants and other people who wish to fulfill their unnecessary desires at the expense of the wealthy democratic man corrupt the son of this man, however, making him have less self control.
The anecdote of how the tyrannical man comes out of a democratic home is one that can be applied to a number of situations, specifically any leader who follows their father in their reign over a certain country or group of people, then becomes even more tyrannical than their ancestors. A more relevant example to our country today is George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, whose father was also president a mere eight years earlier. In contrast to each other, George Herbert Walker Bush can be called Socrates’ democratic man, and George W Bush can be called the tyrant.
To understand the viability of this comparison between our current leaders and the leaders described by Socrates, we can look at the issues the United States has faced with another powerful country in the world, Iraq. Beginning with the Gulf War in the early 90’s, when Bush assembled a worldwide coalition to fight the advances of Saddam Hussein, Iraq and the United States have been at odds, and different presidents have dealt with this situation in their own ways. Bush Sr. dealt with the conflict with Saddam in a manner that showed the high value he placed on public opinion and the world view of The United States. As the tyrannical son learns from what he perceives to be weakness on the part of his father, Bush Jr. was taught by people around him to take a more aggressive stance on Iraq, eventually invading the country, and utilizing the full force of the U.S. military to back up his cause.
The allegory of the tyrannical son being corrupted to believe in instant gratification and satisfying his unlawful desires, no matter what the consequences, is clearly exemplified with the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Acting on the advice of so-called advisors, who in reality are powerful agenda-pushing agents who were left over from the father’s rule over the United States, Bush Jr. acts out his desire to solve the problems with Iraq in a way that would supposedly give him instant gratification of his desires. These desires are arguably unlawful, including pushing the American way on foreign countries, being opportunistic in the search for more profitable oil contracts, and other bases to store U.S. troops and weapons in order to exert influence from those areas.
In conclusion, to further prove the relevancy today of The Republic, we can apply the description of the tyrannical man to our president. During the days of his fathers presidency, Bush Jr. witnessed the unsuccessful way that Bush Sr. ran the country, resulting in losing his bid for reelection, and failing to finally take care of the threat of Saddam Hussein to our country. After being influenced by advisors claiming to believe in the best interests of the country, Bush Jr. was encouraged to act out a situation where he can fulfill any unlawful desires that may put him at odds with the American public or the rest of the world, the true definition of a tyrant.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Changing Forms of Tyranny

Tyranny, a word surrounded by fear, mistrust, and hate. The use of this word brings images of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and now the face of Saddam Hussein. The word can be used to slander an enemy or to incite hate among the masses. In a world where we can see and hear the results of the greatest despots over the radio and television, there is nothing that, as a society, we fear more than falling into the hands of a tyrant. This fear is as much part of our lives as is our love of our country and our devotion to our family.

The most famous tyrants of our time are very similar to the types that are cited by Plato. However, the tyrants of Socrates time differ from the tyrants of our recent past. The premise for which one becomes a tyrant seems to have changed since then. Plato argued that the reason a person becomes a tyrant is because the feed the non rational side of their mind. Plato talks of these “unnecessary pleasures and desires,” as being the lion that is inside every person. Plato uses the analogy of a multi-headed beast that is inside of every one of us to describe the constant conflict between the rational side of our mind that makes us humans and the unnecessary desires that make up the savages beasts inside of us. Only by feeding one side of the beast does it grow and take over. Plato uses this analogy to explain why justice will create justice and the same for injustice. That when you feed one side of the beast it will grow ever larger until it is the only thing left. At first a person will steal money from their parents however over time they will begin to break into houses and steal from more and more people.

Hitler, Pol Pot, and even Stalin however do not fit this form. They have all been dubbed tyrants by the writers of history, yet they did not rise to power in search of personal wealth and desires, instead they came to power under the premise of making a better society or utopia. They ends that they took to achieve this is the reason that they have been marked as despots. Their policies lead to the deaths of nearly 50 million respectively and were responsible for larger conflicts that killed millions more. Pol Pot was striving to create the perfect utopia in Cambodia and the peace and happiness of all those in his society. His own personal gain in such a situation was not he precedent factor for his many harsh actions.
It is apparent that the definition of a tyrant has changed dramatically between Plato’s time and our own. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the current definition of a tyrant is “a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally.” This is not the same as those that “wake up in sleep when the rest of soul- all that belongs to the calculation, tame, and ruling part of it- slumbers, while the beastly and wild part, gorged with food or drink is skittish and, pushing sleep away, seeks to go and satisfy its dispositions. You know that in such a state it dared to do everything as though it were released form, and rid of, all shame and prudence.” In short Plato is referring to the release of our inner self which is normally kept locked away and is only able to show itself in our sleep and dreams. Plato is analyzing the character while we now define a tyrant by his actions.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Inevitable cycle

Nick LaClair
The Republic of Plato establishes a solid formation of the five types of government discovered by Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimentus. The five types begin with aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and then ending with tyranny. These five types of government are based on the idea of political statuses, and their transitions between one another and how it will affect the perfect city is heavily discussed, or more importantly how a status like timocracy could arise from. Right after justice has been found, and the argument of politics is about to begin, he commences on this note, which lays down the foundation of the city’s government. "All right. This much has been agreed, Glaucon: for a city that is going to be governed on a high level, women must be in common, children and their entire education must be in common, and similarly the practices of war and peace must be in common, and their kings must be those among them who have proved best in philosophy and with respect to war. "543a
The idea of the impossibility of a stable government has been reached in the conversation, because Socrates refers to the idea that chosen rulers overtime will lead to futuristic mistakes. For every new ruler, there becomes another mistake being made.

These mistakes will be placed on the city transforming it through different stages where the next stage is worse than the other, being enforced and driven by the faults of the new rulers governing the city. These faults can be described as rulers wanting private property, which is expressed in The Republic as property assessment, which doesn’t preserve the old order. So when a new ruler emerges to govern the city, his desires will be fulfilled wrongfully thus transforming the city’s political status to one even worse than before. The only stage Socrates can agree upon is timocracy, which would include some desire of money, love of honor and victory, and being more focused on war than peace, because too much peace can lead to your destruction. This timocractic ruler will be caught in the middle of the cycle, able to govern the perfect city.

The sway of cycles expressed in The Republic also relates to the sway of stages seen by the United States. Many political icons in the past and currently have placed America through a series of cycles. America today has been flocculated through an oligarchic cycle, being focused and concerned only with money, which is influenced particularly by the oil industry. Even the actions of current political icons such as George Bush could be anticipated as a way he has placed us on the cycle due to the war on Iraq. Some see the war as blood in exchange for oil, which basically is a war for money and power. Oil can be considered as the most profitable market today, and if an action such as this can be considered to be for the desire of money, it would be the greatest action anyone is history has done to place there own country through the status such as oligarchy. These are the very actions that have gone through the discussions of Socrates, Glaucon, and Ademinentus, which they claim are "the bad decisions" that push societies through this cycle. But this is not only one example of oligarchy today. The idea of globalization and trade has become so important throughout the world to create desire for wealth and power. Since globalization began in the world countries have literally raced to the top to ultimately empower their country. These actions have all become driven by the desire of money and power. The government of the United States seems to be quite stable in the oligarchic cycle, as the desire for money grows which infects all of its citizens. Success has today been defined by your wealth, so a country, and even a person will stop at nothing to get it.

America the Beautiful

Kyler M. Robinson

Socrates breaks governments into five distinct categories: aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. Government is not a stagnate phenomenon that remains strictly to one of these categories; they move back and forth through the various types of governments as the values of one slowly digress into another. In book VIII “Socrates sketches the outlines of a political science”[1] that, while being based on a perfect model city that cannot exist, can still be applied to compare current administrations and governments to the ideal one. In the modern world perhaps there is no better government to examine as the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world.
While Socrates would best be placed in the category of an aristocratic man, having a passionate pursuit of knowledge for knowledge sake, and in many ways that’s what is reflected in his perfect city: the aristocracy of the guardians. It seems clear however, from the insulation of government from the people initially that the Founding Fathers could fall into this category at times. The insulation can be seen with the creation of the constitution where all members were sworn to secrecy and the insulation of the senate to be elected not by a state’s people, but rather their elected state legislation. But it seems that even these men could balance other regimes into their creation of the United States.
Democracy “is probably the fairest of the regimes,” states Socrates, “Just like a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues, this regime, decorated with all dispositions, would also look fairest.”[2] However it is the lead by the masses thus and the “regime’s sympathy and total lack of pettiness in despising what we were so saying so solemnly when we were founding the city.”[3] This seems to be a strong component in modern politics where democracy is playing a large roll to persuade the public for support of a particular politicians agenda for either election or passing a bill. While it does look to be the best regime in that “it contains all species of regimes, and it is probably necessary for the man who wishes to organize a city.”[4]
Democracy, which dispenses “a certain equality to equals and unequals alike,” assumes that everyone has the ability to rule while indeed it is not the case. As with a ship it is necessary to have a skilled pilot to steer the rest of the sailors. Yet it seems that democracy is not the only regime that prevails today. Oligarchy has a significant influence in the world market as globalization and trade influences the decisions of governments.
Allen Bloom rightly states why oligarchy is so appealing and important. He describes the reason that it is so important as “It is no accident that in the list of regimes the central one is oligarchy, for in its pursuit of money, it incarnates the concern of the real city.”[5] Money and the economy are transcendent health indicators of a nation or market. It is therefore little surprise that in the wealthiest nation in the world we value it so greatly.
Democracy and oligarchy are the two regimes that have fused together to dictate our society. Each set of values is critical to our government and also critical to the way that the United States citizens view their world. While it is clear that neither is perfect, they seem to be a relatively stabile and beneficial model in comparison to all other current regimes that are in practice. Perhaps the best component of democracy is that it allows a broad range of ideas to be expressed that, if the leaders are capable, will guide the country.
[1] Allen Bloom “Interpretive Essay” pg 414
[2] 557c
[3] 558b
[4] 557d
[5] Allen Bloom “Interpretive Essay” pg 420