November 8, 2005
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.