Book III, The Republic

9.1.2 Purifying the Feverish City: Stories about the Gods & Heroes (386a-392a)

To continue purifying the Feverish City of luxury, they next reflect on the stories young guardians, if they’re to become courageous,1 philosophic, and moderate, should hear about gods and heroes.

So that the young guardians don’t develop a harmful fear of death that enslaves rather than liberates,   stories about Hades should praise it (386a-387b). The “lamentations and pitiful speeches of famous men” are also prohibited for this reason (387c) since a decent person–one who “is most self-sufficient in living well and […] has the least need of anyone else”–doesn’t regard death as something to be feared for oneself or for others2″(387d). Hence, prospective guardians should be taught to ridicule such accounts so that  “they’ll consider the things described in them to be unworthy of mere human beings like themselves” and so “that they’ll rebuke themselves for doing or saying similar things when misfortune strikes” (388d).

To cultivate moderation and self-control, any stories discouraging obedience and temperance in relation to pleasure (e.g., for drink, sex, food, etc.,) are also be expunged.  “These stories are harmful to people who hear them, for everyone will be ready to excuse himself when he’s bad, if he’s persuaded that similar things both are being done now and have been done in the past […] we must put a stop to such stories, lest they produce in the youth a strong inclination to do bad things” (391e).

Only the rulers of their city, moreover, will be permitted to use those (noble) falsehoods that are “useful to the people as a form of drug” for the good of the city. Non-rulers must not use any falsehood “because for a private citizen to lie to a ruler is just as bad a mistake as for a […] sailor not to tell the captain the facts about his own condition or that of the ship and the rest of its crew” (389c).

9.2 Purifying the Feverish City: Stories about Humans (392a-c)

Socrates and his interlocutors suspend their discussion about the stories which ought to be told about humans, agreeing to return to this after they’ve determined what justice is, “and how by nature it profits the one who has it, whether he is believed to be just or not” (392c). This move is necessary. If they agree to prohibit stories where unjust people are depicted as happy and just people are depicted as unhappy they will take for granted the answer to the question driving their inquiry (392a-c).

9.3. Purifying the Feverish City: the Appropriate Style of Stories
Next, Socrates and Adeimantus consider how the permissible stories should be told. This discussion centres on a distinction between the first and third person narrative points of view (POV).  Whereas the third person POV is non-imitative, in that the author writes like an eyewitness to the story, the first person POV is imitative for the author writes as if they were a character in their story (the Republic is an example of this). Stories told to the guardians should, for the most part, be non-imitative. The principle of specialization means the “craftsmen of the city’s freedom” (i.e., the guardians) must exclusively guard the city (395b). Because they can only do what contributes to the city’s freedom, any imitations they partake in must be initiated from childhood and they can only imitate “what is appropriate to them, namely, people who are courageous, self-controlled, pious, and free, and their actions”3 (395c).

The rationale for this is intuitive but needs explications. Because “imitations practiced from youth become part of nature and settle into habits of gesture, voice, and thought” the young guardians must only imitate good characters. Indeed, “they mustn’t be clever at doing or imitating slavish or shameful actions, lest from enjoying the imitating, they come to enjoy the reality” (395d). The fear that the young guardians will imitate bad characters explains why young guardians must not imitate mad people, cowards, bad people, vulgar craftsmen, etc. (396a-b).  Indeed, willingness to imitate anything of such a nature is a sure sign of inferiority which reveals immoderation. Moderate people will only imitate “the words or actions of a good person in his narrative […]” (396c). “He’ll imitate this good man most when he’s acting in a faultless and intelligent manner, but he’ll do so less, and with more reluctance, when the good man is upset by disease, sexual passion, drunkenness, or some other misfortune. When he comes upon a character unworthy of himself, however, he’ll be unwilling to make himself seriously resemble that inferior character […]. Rather, he’ll be ashamed to do something like that, both because he’s unpracticed in the imitation of such people and because he can’t stand to shape himself according to a worse pattern. He despises this in his mind, unless it’s just done in play” (396c-e).

The final result of this conversation is expulsion of “non-austere”, “pleasure-giving” poets that fail to be “pure imitator[s]” of decent people from their city to protect the young guardians (397e-398b).

9.4 Purifying the Feverish City: Musical Modes & the Regulation of Meter
The harmonic modes and musical rhythms appropriate for the young guardians are considered next. The modes and rhythms in questions are to “fit the words” of the stories the guardians are permitted to hear (398d). Hence, consistent with the previously established patterns, they are to be appropriate for a good character–i.e., one that is moderate and courageous.

The young guardians are only to hear music in the Dorian and Phrygian modes for only they appropriately imitate someone acting with moderation, self control, and understanding in any circumstance (399a-b). All instruments except except the lyre and the cithara (both of which are appropriate for use in the city) and the pipe (which is appropriate for the shepherds of the countryside) are prohibited because they aren’t conducive to moderation, self-control or understanding.

Such provisions might rightly sound extreme but Socrates thinks they are important for they aide in the purification of unnecessary desires and luxuries from the Feverish City (399e).

Although Socrates and Adeimantus agree to suspend their discussion on precisely which rhythm befits a character  “who leads an orders and courageous life” (399e) for lack of knowledge, they pursue an illuminating digression which explores the effects of good and bad rhythm on character which highlights the overall purpose of the Socratic education of the young guardians. Good rhythm, we are told “follows fine words and is similar to them, while bad rhythm follows the opposite kind of words and the same for harmony and disharmony” (400d) since the style and content of a work of art “conform[s] to the character of the speaker’s soul” (400d). Hence, “fine words, harmony, grace, and rhythm follow [the] simplicity of [a] fine and good character that has developed in accordance with an intelligent plan” (400e) and “gracelessness, bad rhythm, and disharmony are akin to bad words and bad character, while their opposites are akin to and re imitations of the opposite, a moderate and good character” (ibid.). Because these effects apply to all the arts, Socrates cautions that the type of supervision discussed hitherto in Books 2 and 3 is not limited to the poets. So that the guardian are not raised on “images of evil” that will corrupt their souls, all craftsmen should be forbidden from representing “a character that is vicious, unrestrained, slavish, and graceless” (ibid.). Thus, so the young guardians will become healthy, and learn by habit to recognize and welcome reason, their city’s lawmakers, therefore, are tasked with the job of searching for and nurturing craftsmen that are naturally suited to creating things that are fine and graceful.

9.5 Purifying the Feverish City: Physical Training
The guardians’ physical training curricula is compared to their curricula in the arts. Both types of education require simplicity and produce health: the former produces a health in the body analogous to the health of the soul (i.e., moderation) produced by the latter (404e). Because of these shared objectives–namely, health–the physical training curricula thus follows the same patterns as the arts curricula.

Their physical training curricula will make the young guardians (or “warrior athletes”) like “sleepless hounds” able “to endure frequent changes of water and food […] without faltering in health” (404a-b). The guardians will learn to use physical training to awaken “the spirited part of [their] nature” rather than to gain physical strength. To prevent illness and promote optimal health, the young guardians will consume a simple yet nutritious diet. They will avoid food that causes inflammation, sweets, Attic pastries, Syracusan and Sicilian style foods and will eat roasted rather than boiled meats for convenience. Because of these objectives, this curricula significantly diverges from the traditional method of training athletes which leads to sluggishness, illness, and an unhealthy obsession with bodily image (404a). Lastly, for “it would be absurd for a guardian to need a guardian” we’re told that the prospective guardians are to avoid intoxication (403e).

9.6 Purifying the Feverish City: The Role of Physicians and Doctors (405a-410a)
This discussion leads into another about the proper function of doctors of the body (i.e., physicians) and the soul (i.e., judges) in their “Purified City”. When the education goes awry skilled doctors and judges are needed (405a) by everyone. This need for judges is particularly shameful for those claiming to have been raised like “free men” (ibid). For the imposition of justice by others implies one is incapable of managing their personal affairs (405a-b). It is also shameful because the role of doctors, moreover, should neither be to treat preventable illness that arose through poor lifestyle nor treat incurable illness whether they arise in the city or the soul.

Because each member of a “well-regulated city has his own work to do,” each lacks the “leisure to be ill and under treatment all [their] life” (406c). The principle of specialization means that, when ill, craftsmen and the working poor are to be treated for short-term illness or left to die (406-d-e) for one’s life is devoid of any profit when one is prevented from doing their own work (406e). The principle of specialization also has implications for the rich whom are to be virtuous in regards to the health of their bodies (407a-b). Specifically, they are to avoid “excessive care of the body” (407b). This too violates the principle of specialization since an obsession with the appearance of one’s body “makes any kind of learning, thought, or private meditation difficult” (407c). The afflicted is “always imagining some headaches or dizziness and accusing philosophy of causing them” (407c).

To avoid such excesses, medicine should be reserved “for those whose bodies are healthy in their natures and habits but have some specific desires” (ibid.). People should be cured of their diseases and quickly resume their lives so as not harm the affairs of the city. Those “whose bodies are riddled with disease” should not be treated because they will be unable to profit themselves, or the city on account of their inability to live a “normal life” (407d-e).  Because medicine is meant for those that are “by nature sick and licentious” such people should be denied treatment (408a-b).

On the Distinction Between Good Doctors and Good Judges
Next, Socrates uses a discussion about the distinction between a good doctor and a good judge as a springboard into a conversation about good and bad souls.

Good doctors, whom “treat the human body with their souls,” are not only adept at their craft but have had lifelong contact with “very sick bodies” and, being “by nature”, unhealthy have had personal experience with many illness. Good judges, by contrast, whom rule other souls with their own, cannot have had lifelong contact with vicious souls or injustice. Unlike the good doctor, the good judge’s ability to evaluate other people’s injustices does not come arise from their personal experience (408e-409a). Because one “cannot treat anything well, if it is or has been bad itself”, the good judge needs to be pure and cannot have any “experience of bad character” during its youth (409a). This is why good people are often mislead by unjust people during their youth: “they have no models in themselves of the evil experiences of the vicious to guide their experiences” (409a-b). So as to have the opportunity to acquire such a model, a task which requires knowledge, the good judge is necessarily of advanced age. They have learned about injustice “as something alien” to their soul and can recognize it as “bad by nature […] through knowledge” rather than through experience.

Because the soul of the good judge is necessarily good, the good judge is good. What a good soul is can be understood in its distinction from a bad or vicious soul. The bad soul, guilty of many injustices, is guided by the shameful and evil models within themselves. Although they perceive themselves as clever criminals and even appear as such  in the company of similar others, good judges regard them as stupid “and ignorant of what a sound character is, since he has no model of this within himself” (409c-d). Because the bulk of their time is spent in association with of those with extremely questionable character, a bad person would neither recognize a virtuous person nor an evil person. Because the naturally virtuous acquires knowledge of virtue and vice through education, they are likely to become wise unlike the bad person (409e).

On these grounds, Socrates and Glaucon agree on legislation which institutes the method of medical and judicial practice they’ve discussed. While care ail those whom are “naturally well endowed in body and soul” will receive care those with incurable illness in body or soul don’t fare as well: those with “naturally unhealthy” bodies will be left for dead and those “incurably evil” souls will be executed (409e-410a).

This eugenics policy in conduction with the education in the arts and physical training which “produces moderation” the young guardians are to receive means that members will be wary of using the craft of judging (to settle disputes, etc.,) or medicine except where it is absolutely necessary.

Education is for the Soul

In the conclusion of this section on the young guardians’ education, Socrates reveals that their curricula in the arts and physical training is designed to better the soul by harmonizing the spirited part of the soul with the rational. It is designed with the guardians in mind since to be guardians they must be both spirited and philosophic. The problem with existing educational curricula is that with an exclusive focus on either the arts or physical training, they fail to achieve this harmonization. Yet, lifelong education in physical training divorced from the arts (poetry and music) leads to savagery and toughness. Without training in the arts: “Whatever love of learning he might have had in his soul soon become[s] enfeebled, deaf, and blind, because he never partakes of any discussion or any of the rest of music and poetry, to nature or arouse” the philosophic part of his soul (411d). He becomes “a hater of reason and of music” and lacking the power to use persuasion, he “bulls his way through every situation by force and savagery like wild animal, living in ignorance and stupidity without either wisdom or grace” (411d). Lifelong education in poetry and music, divorced from physical training likewise has a negative effect: it leads to softness (cowardice) and over-cultivation.

Courageousness, moderation, and thus order within the soul is produced if, by contrast, the spirited part of the soul is properly cultivated and harmonized with the philosophic part. A god, Socrates asserts, supplied music and physical training “for the spirited and wisdom-loving parts of the soul itself, in order that these might be in harmony with one another” (411e). “[T]he person who achieves the finest blend of music and physical training and impresses it on his soul […] is […] completely harmonious” (412a). Exactly “this sort of person” is required “as an overseer in our city […] if indeed its constitution is to be preserved” (412a).

Who is to rule and who is to be ruled? (412b-414b)
But even though each member of the guardian class has received the same early childhood education, and are thus moderate, not all guardians are the same in terms of their psychic qualities. The question Socrates and his interlocutors addresses which guardians should rule. It is established that guardian-rulers must be (412c):

  • Older than the ruled
  • The best guards of the city
  • Knowledgeable
  • A lover of the city

To test for numbers 2, 3, and 4, guardians will undergo a series of examinations designed to determine which members can remain true to the ethical principle which prescribes that guardians must do what is best for the city. The ability to remain true to this belief demonstrates that one loves their city above all else and thus that they care about it more than others. It is rooted on another belief: that one’s advantage (or disadvantages) is bound up with the health of the city.
One of the objectives of these examinations is to determine whether examinees are likely to be voluntarily or involuntarily deprived of their beliefs.

  • Voluntary Deprivation of Belief: One is voluntarily deprived of a belief after one learns that it is bad (i.e., false). One cannot be voluntarily deprived of a good (true) belief.
  • Involuntary Deprivation of Belief: One is voluntarily deprived of a good (true) belief after one comes to hold a bad (false) belief that one’s good (true) belief is false. One cannot be involuntarily deprived of a bad (false) belief.

The distinction made between voluntary and involuntary deprivation turns a distinction between the good (i.e., truth) and the bad (i.e., untrue). Being deceived of the truth–that is, believing in something false–is bad whilst possessing the truth–that is, believing in something true–is good (413a). Guardians that can be involuntarily deprived of their beliefs through persuasion, forgetfulness, compulsion (i.e., through pain or suffering) or deceptive-magic (i.e., through the spell of pleasure of fear) are disqualified from rulership. Because the best guardian of the city cannot be involuntary deprivation of their beliefs, is gracious, a good guardian of himself  as well as the arts he has learned, rhythmical, and harmonious (413c-414a).

To distinguish between those members of the guardian class that qualify for rulership and those that do not Socrates calls the former “complete guardians” and  later auxiliaries or co-rulers (414a-b). The former “will guard against external enemies and internal friends, so that one will lack the power and the other the desire to harm the city” (414b). The latter, which include both young people and those that were not selected as rulers, will be “supporters of the guardians’ convictions” (414b). The auxiliaries, finally, are co-rulers in the sense that wield authority over the third and largest class of craftsmen and because they are also tasked with helping the complete guardians protect the city from in/external threats.

The Myth of the Metals (414
To naturalize the rigid and hierarchical division of labour (and authority), and to create a sense of attachment to their city, its members are to be enchanted with a noble falsehood (see: 382a) designed to foster harmony within city. This noble falsehood, the Myth of the Metals, has two functions:

  1. To create a familial-like bond amongst the rulers, soldiers, and the rest of the city and engender a sense of attachment to their city. To do so, Socrates proposes to attempt to persuade them that their early education was: “a sort of a dream, that in fact they themselves, their weapons, and the other craftsmen’s tools were at that time really being fashioned and nurtured inside the earth, and that when the work was completed, the earth who is their mother, delivered all of them up into the world. Therefore, if anyone attacks the land in which they live, they must plan on its behalf and defend it as their mother and nurse and think of the other citizens as their earthborn brothers” (414d-e).
  2. To persuade the rulers (if possible) and the other members of the city to accept their position within the class hierarchy (i.e., in order of authority: complete guardians, auxiliaries and craftsmen). To do so, the people will be told:”The god who made you mixed some gold into those who are adequately equipped to rule, because they are the most valuable, He put silver into those that who are auxiliaries and iron and bronze in the farmers and other craftsmen. For the most part, you will produce children like yourselves, but, because you are all related, a silver child will occasionally be born from a golden parent, and vice versa, and all the others from each other. So the first and most important command from the god to the rules is that there is nothing that they must guard better or watch more carefully than the mixture of metals in the souls of the next generation. If an offspring of theirs should be found to have a mixture of iron or bronze, they must not pity him in any way, but give him the rank appropriate to his nature and drive him out to join the craftsmen and farmers. But if an offspring of these people is found to have a mixture of gold or silver, they will honour him and take him to join the guardians or the auxiliaries, for there is an oracle which says that the city will be ruined if it ever has an iron or a bronze guardian” (415a-c).

To institute their city, the guardians should choose a suitable place in the city to establish a camp “from which they can most easily control those within, if anyone is unwilling to obey the laws, or repel anyone  outside enemy who comes like a wolf upon the flock” (415d-e). Within this camp, the guardians are  to live modestly in domiciles suited for soldiers rather than money-makers to prevent the auxiliaries “from doing evil to the sheep and becom[ing] like wolves instead of dogs” (416a). These provisions, which include prohibitions on all private property, the possession of silver, gold or currency of any sort, the sharing of wives and children, etc., in conjunction with their education, are designed to ensure that the auxiliaries are friendly and gentle rather than savage to their fellow citizens whom they guard and are to view as their allies because they pay for their upkeep (416b). Socrates hopes that the Myth of the Metals will also provide the ideological cover needed to convince the auxiliaries (and the rest of the guardian class) to modestly–unlike the craftsmen for whom no such proscriptions are imposed–and to refrain from acquiring those external goods (e.g., gold and silver) which pollute the soul.

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