Plato on the Human Paradox


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One of those troubling aspects Plato places in our way en route to the notion of the philosopher-king is a conception of justice as each man doing what is he is best suited to do. That is, a spontaneous ordering of crafts arises early in the Republic, namely in the First city in speech, whereby each man 'minds his own business' and carries on with his craft. This, for Socrates, seems to portray a relatively complete account of the just city, fundamentally a city of experts at work in their respective domains.

Sommerfest "Ungarn"

The paradoxical flavor only builds in intensity from here. My essential point in this paper will be to show that not only should we not get lost in trying to resolve the paradox of the philosopher-king, but that we should also not take the concept literally, that is, as an identity, but rather as a tension. In other words, the philosopher-king is a clever and deliberately paradoxical rhetorical device meant to guide our thinking back onto ourselves. Remember, the project of the Republic is to uncover the nature of justice, not to found a perfect political regime. This point seems lost on many who obsess over the practical impossibility of the philosopher-king while, simultaneously, passing over its very possible use as a potent object of hope.

Plato's Socrates constructs three cities in speech. A component Socrates will take and add to the subsequent cities in speech. Glaucon refers to this first city as a city of pigs, as it lacks the luxuries that humans, as opposed to animals, characteristically desire and subsequently have, in reality. It is too simple of a city. It is important to take note of a few things about this first city in speech prior to moving forward: a it seems to lack any political or ruling element [4] and; b Socrates describes it as the true and healthy city saying, "Now, the true city is in my opinion the one we just described - a healthy city, as it were" [5] and; c this city is harmonious and orderly.

It is Glaucon then, and his insistence, that we move to the second city in speech, the "feverish city". As Steinberger points out, "At the core of The Republic, then, is an effort to purge [in thought] this feverish city of its excesses, to restructure it to approximate the health and orderliness of the first city. The result of this effort, of course, is the concept of the Kallipolis itself, as outlined especially in books Where he falters is in suggesting that the philosopher-king is only introduced in the third and final city in speech in an effort to apply it the kallipolis to existing cities.

Thus, his claim is that the second city in speech is able to contain the "fever" by way of the guardians and their rule. Here, I agree with Duncan, " Hence, Socrates introduces the idea of the philosopher-king to try and bring the second city in speech not simply into the realm of existence, but to make it just. The second city in speech has introduced human "luxuries" which thereby cause "fever"] and also contains a political element [there are guardians but it is still not a just city.

Its project is not to merely to found a city that functions politically, but rather one that functions justly. Hence, Socrates introduces the philosopher-king in an attempt to add justice into the "feverish" city that Glaucon has insisted he engender.

Plato: Meno

Duncan adds, "The guardians [in the second city] can rule over the political approximation of the just city but they cannot make it just. In order to bring about a just city, we need to find a ruler king who is also a philosopher - the philosopher-king. Socrates insists that those who will rule best, and thus bring about justice in the city of speech, will be those who least like to rule, as they will not seek the political power and honors of ruling. Despite this, there is a paradoxical nature to the discussion that unfolds in the Republic from b to b. Socrates intends for the philosopher who has experienced the Form of the Good to return to the cave the realm of the people] and rule.

He even suggests that we might compel such philosophers to do this, as they the best suited for political rule. Glaucon objects and proposes that we may be doing them an injustice by compelling them to leave a life that is obviously better for them - the life of contemplation e.

Justice always benefits the possessor. Philosophers act justly when they consent to rule. Ruling benefits philosopher-rulers from 1] and 2]].

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Philosophers correctly judge that ruling is a sub-optimal activity for them. Contrary to the bias of modern commentary, there is nothing "'accidental" or merely occasional about the moves of Socrates here; his questioning of Meletus is intended to be an archetype and a paradigm. In order to show this point clearly, it will be necessary firstto correct three mi. To begin with, the titleof the Apology is wrong; it is not an "apology.

II, 47; D. Xenophon, Mere. Cropsey New York, , p. Arthur W.


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Adklns, Merit and Responsibility Oxford, , pp. Defenses and excuses are different things. Second, the Defense, invariably called one of the dialogues of Plato, is obviously not a dialogue but a work of forensic or protrcptic rhetoric, s The ancient view that the Defense is a "declaration" of what it means to be a philosopher e captures the surface ambiguity of the work, which is deeper than rhetoric, regarded as persuading to believe with words, and shallower than philosophy, regarded as pursuing truth with valid arguments.

The dialogues of Plato differ from the Defense in one cardinal point. The dialogues are investigations of things, not of men. It may be objected that further consideration would show that the Defense raises philosophic questions.

Plato's Articulation of The Meno Paradox - Philosophy Core Concepts

Yet as a point of departure it would be a mistake to treat a speech in defense as something other than it is, a philosophic investigation. The third false assumption is that the style of the Defense or other adduced historical evidence is sufficient proof that Plato, at the time of writing, was naive as a philosopher

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