As it is known, the father of Political Philosophy, Socrates, did not compose any written works himself. Instead, his students Plato and Xenophon wrote the majority of dialogues pertaining to Socrates and his teaching. In particular, in Plato’s Republic, Plato sought to capture Socrate’s finest moments whilst discussing questions like “What is justice? Why should we be just?”. He argued for the basic reforms of political society with Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, and Polemarchus’s father, Cephalus. The argument was more or less an articulation of thought and belief, even though it had started as a brief argument. Socrates had the challenge to prove the legitimacy of justice and the fact that it is worth pursuing. His main idea, however, was to correlate the just city with the just man. What does it mean to have a just city or state, and how does that pertain to becoming a just individual personally? He also introduced the principle of specialization which for all intents and purposes was a way to allocate each individual with a sole purpose in life not violating that purpose and going outside the scope of it.
To start off at the beginning, Socrates proposed and defended “specialization. ” It was his way of saying that people have natural abilities and vocations in which they should flourish and thereby not meddle in other people’s vocations. People must be attuned to these natural inclinations so as not to create a havoc and imbalance in the just city. The mechanic must only fix automobiles, the farmer must only farm was the basic idea of this. Consequently, if people have these natural-born inclinations and skill then there must be some hierarchy in the just city establishing who does what. These, Socrates deems, are producers, guardians, and philosopher-kings or rulers. Craftsmen, seamstresses, farmers, and doctors would be considered by Socrates to be under the producer’s class because they produce goods, objects, even services for the city to enjoy. However, Socrates makes it a point to say this is a healthy city because these people only produce necessities needed for life such as food, shelter, and clothes. Glaucon does not respond well to this calling it a “city of pigs” because, according to him, people have not only the desire of the necessities of life but also outside desires which encompass art, music, rich food, and luxurious surroundings. These unnecessary desires are vital to life and he wanted to bring this to Socrates’s attention.
The next step in the dialogue is to create a city with not only the necessary desires but also those of luxurious value. What this means is that occupations such as barbers, beauticians, merchants, actors, poets, tutors come into play and create an abundance of wealth in the just city. This extra wealth, in turn, necessarily leads to wars, and so a class of warriors or guardians (police essentially) becomes of crucial and important value. The point of the guardian class would be to promote peace and protect the just city from outside sources as well as from within corruptness. The producers absolutely could not act as the guardians of the city because this would violate the specialization rule.
The next argument Socrates put forth in creating a just city was the possible notion of protecting kids from outside influence by screening what they heard and played with since birth, so as not to influence them in a negative manner cementing bad habits into them. He specifically mentions the young guardians-in-training, the young police officers, but because as an infant it is hard to distinguish which class they would fall under in several years, the screening of stories had to happen everywhere - in the entire city. He was afraid if stories would not be monitored, kids would grow up to have an irreverence for truth and a propensity for dishonesty. Socrates compares the souls of people to sheep, a constantly grazing entity. If sheep are placed in a field of poisoned grass, they consume this grass little by little, thereby eventually sickening and passing away. Similarly, Socrates stated, if these souls that are future police officers, military sergeants, and generals would be surrounded with unwholesome influences, then gradually their souls would take these in and sicken them withering away and killing their potential and true calling. Following this logic, Socrates does not limit himself to dictating the specific coursework that will be given to the guardians at training but he also dictates what will be allowed into the cultural life of the just city as a whole, something in 2018 we would call impeding on the first amendment.
Socrates rules out all poetry and art and leaves only the hymns of the gods and eulogies for the famous at the disposal of the citizens of the just city to “enjoy. ” He limits painting and architecture in order to, again, preserve and limit education so as not to negatively influence souls. In discussing love, or specifically erotic love, Socrates ruled it out in the just city. He said that sexual intercourse serves no useful end, however, heterosexual relations are permitted in the just city for the sole purpose of procreation. Socrates also said that the health’s of a man soul is totally contingent upon the desires he aims to fulfill. The desire for physical pleasure, for instance, is not worth pursuing and therefore is not fulfilling, according to Socrates. So if a wise man has thoughts and lustful desires in the just city, he must forego these and transmit his physical desire and thirst into something more useful – a longing for truth and goodness. Smith says that controlling these appetites allows us to achieve “a level of balance, self-control, and moderation”. Socrates also believed that guardians who have valor and bravery should be awarded with the right to have sex with whomever they please, a sort of “recreational sex” the author calls it.
Also, the women that do have children for procreational purposes, may not know their children. The children get raised in the community, specifically in common daycare centers. The purpose was so that nobody could claim anything as “mine” but rather as “ours. ” Sounds a little familiar, perhaps a little communist or fascist? At the core of Socrates’s proposal for a just city was the equal education for men and women alike. His point was not to say that men and women are similar in every respect, rather he was saying that both sexes are capable of doing all jobs and thus are able to compete with each other (men v. women). Socrates is perhaps the first figure in history to champion for women’s rights and get them out of the household system.
The tripartite soul is what relates to the just city. It is what correlates with every aspect of life in the just city. The three parts of the soul that Socrates defines are reason, spirit, and appetite. The three classes of society within the city are producers, guardians, and rulers. Just as political justice depends on everyone following their role and class and not stepping outside of it, Plato believes individual justice starts in the soul and it must have order as well. Smith calls the city “the soul writ large, ” and therefore, the three social classes merely point to three parts of the soul. When appetite, spiritedness, and reason cooperate, the soul is just doing its job to balance the individual and make them wholesome. However, in order for that to function how Socrates thought it should function, reason must absolutely rule the spirit and the appetite. In this same way, in the just city, the philosopher-king rulers preside over the guardians and the producers keeping them in check. “The city and the soul each appear as a pyramid rising from a broad and flat base to a peak of perfection, ” says Smith. What Socrates points to is that even though all of us may possess some traits out of each category of the tripartite soul, only one will be dominant. In this way, some people will have more appetites than others, and some will dominate in having more spiritedness.
To conclude the reform rhetoric of Socrates, he was quite the martyr for free thought, political philosophy in particular. He was accused of corrupting the youth’s mind and of being impious towards the gods because he proposed so much of what was foreign to them: a just city with no family ties, no personal property, no sexual relations except to procreate, equal education for both men and women including exercising naked in gymnasia, the screening and censoring of poetry and stories, and of course, the specialization of every citizen to one specific role or vocation. All this seemed totally bizarre to the people of Athens yet Socrates claimed that it would produce a just city and make sure that justice prevailed in every aspect of life. The philosopher-kings who would be in charge would make sure of that.