University High School
Instructor: Lee Fallon
The Republic: The Alright, The Bad, and The Even Worse
The Republic: The Alright, The Bad, and The Even Worse
The Republic by Plato proposes what he believes should be included in any ideal state, whether they are good ideas or not. He proposes many aspects that he thinks will provide stability in the lives of the Republicans. These good ideas are few and include education, a constant size of the state, and equality. Plato suggests some ideas that I believe should be included in any ideal state; however, he proposes many undesirable ideas, such as undeveloped points, job inequality, failing to address natural emotion, and immoral ideas.
Plato has many admirable ideas in his ideal state that should be adopted by all. First of all, The Republicans value the education of their youth very highly, mentally and physically. This will produce smart, physically strong, and competitive kids who will eventually be adults in the future, and they will rinse and repeat this advantageous process. This idea can be seen from Plato as, "And if being so educated they follow on the same track in their physical training, they will, if they choose, succeed in never needing a doctor except in real necessity" (Plato 108). Therefore, they take each kid's education extremely seriously, as they should. I do not think that anyone is going to argue against the value of education, so this is undeniably a good idea to have in any ideal state. Additionally, Plato has a great idea of keeping the size of the state-regulated. Plato says, "' The state should, I think,' I replied, 'be allowed to grow so long as growth is compatible with unity, but no further.'" (Plato 124). This means that the state will be a constant size and the people will be able to live comfortable inside the state's borders without the need for expansion. Although I do not agree with how they keep the numbers constant, which I will talk about later, I definitely support the idea that there will not be any guesswork in the state and the numbers of people will be predictable and constant through the years, which will provide stability. We can see an example of this working if we look to the popular TV show, The Legend of Korra, where the Air benders in Air Bender Island have a defined space that they are allowed to live in and maintain a constant population. Similar to The Republic, these Air benders are philosophical and do not attack other nations to increase the size of their borders, they are very defensive people as well. Going with that point, another advantage of the ideal state is how the Republicans deal with war. They pit the enemies against each other and talk their way out of battles, instead of fighting. This genius idea keeps their people alive and their money in their pockets since they do not have to fight these often-pointless wars. Finally, the only other good idea that Plato has, can be seen as, "' They should share all duties, though we should treat the females as the weaker, the males as the stronger" (Plato 160). In this quote, Plato is saying that men and women are able to participate in the same jobs as one another, even though women are still seen as the weaker. This means that there is at least some sort of equality in the state and if men and women are able to have the same jobs, the entire society will be able to prosper instead of just the men doing the jobs, as we have seen in the past for countless other societies. Overall, Plato has shown us a few great ideas that should be adopted for any ideal state.
Some of Plato's ideas flat out do not make any sense and are not developed well enough. First of all, the way he defines justice in the ideal state does not satisfy me. Plato's definition of justice is basically, "stay in your lane and do your job", which frankly does not make any sense to me. I think that justice should have something to do with people committing wrongdoings or crimes and being unjust should not mean not doing your job, because there are more important aspects of the ideal state to address than people not performing their duty. Plato never mentions any type of punishment in The Republic and the only time he ever addresses it is as, "if one man is angry with another, he can take it out of him on the spot, and will be less likely to pursue the quarrel further" (Plato 180). Therefore, it sounds like Plato is saying that the Republicans are taking the law into their own hands. Having everyone doing their own thing and punishing each other as they see fit will only create chaos and unruly people in an ideal state which is why Plato needs a better definition of justice to be able to rule over these folks. Another aspect of Plato messing up his ideal state can be seen in his talk about the cave. This cave simile has a lot of holes in it and I would go as far to say that the philosophers are only leading the people from one cave into another cave, their own cave. I defend this bold statement by bringing up the Magnificent Myth and saying that the Philosopher Kings are only lying to the people to protect the stability of the state. This is a horrible idea on the PK's part because there could be some Bernards or Johns or Helmholtzs that bring down the ideal state and see through the cap. Overall, Plato made many large mistakes regarding some of his definitions and explanations which exposes some of the cracks in his so-called ideal state.
Plato fails to address the employment inequality in his ideal state. We know that people are supposed to do the job that they are destined to do and that is it. However, what does someone do when they are destined to perform a job that nobody wants to do. For example, if someone is supposed to be the designated trash man, one can not blame him for not wanting to perform their job. Also, Plato mentions no kind of pay for people; therefore, if people just do their job and everyone gets compensated equally no matter their job, someone is always going to be mad because they have a harder or worse job than someone else. Another example, if someone is a taxi driving and pretty much gets to chill all day and someone else is a manual laborer or a scientist working around the clock, but they are all paid equally, the ones who have harder jobs will obviously be upset. Therefore, there will always be a demand for easy jobs, because no one wants to be the trash man, and no one wants to be the scientist who gets paid the same as the trash man so there will always be a competition for the easiest job possible. Overall, Plato failed to recognize the job inequality in his ideal state and the envy that other people will have for these easy jobs.
Throughout his proposal for an ideal state, Plato somehow forgets about the prominence of human nature. First of all, women are not going to want their child, who they carried around for nine painful months, to become the property of the state as soon as it is born. Also, parents may not have it in them to 'downgrade' their own child to a lower class if need be. We can see this idea as, "If one of their own children has traces of bronze of iron in its make-up, they must harden their hearts, assign it its proper value, and degrade it to the ranks of the industrial and agricultural class where it properly belongs" (Plato 117). Therefore, parents are forced to give up their baby because family is prohibited in the state, but in human nature comes family, which makes this a silly condition and near impossible to enforce. Another example of human nature being overlooked is when Plato describes the Republicans working out naked. He says, "... to see the women taking exercise naked" (Plato 169). However, if the men and the women are working out naked, they are naturally going to want to shtupp. Even though they are not allowed to do such acts, there is no way of preventing it since people will naturally be attracted to each other. It was a goofy idea for Plato to even think of this in the first place, and regulating sex is a bad idea (which I will get to later). Not only does Plato regulate sex in his ideal state but he is tempting his people to do the deed anyway by having them work out naked, so it would have been smarter for him to just have people workout with clothes on AT LEAST. The last bad idea related to human's natural inclinations is the fact that people want all the power they can get, and they envy people in powerful positions. There can only be a limited number of PKs in the ideal state, but these are the people in the state that are in power and get to make all of the decisions. Most people are going to want to get a piece of this power and try to become PKs and possibly neglect their own job, which would only hurt the community. Although it is important to mention that the life of a PK is to live without private property and they do not live in the nicest houses, people are still going to envy the power that comes with the job. Especially people with crappy jobs, like that poor trash man, are going to see the PKs not doing much work and having all the say and the trash man is going to want some of what the PKs have. This would also upset some of the PKs because they see everyone else with their nicer stuff and private property, so they are going to be jealous too. Overall, it seems that Plato did not realize the power of human nature, which is an important part to any society.
Finally, Plato suggests some completely foul thoughts in his ideal state that simply need to be addressed and can not be included in any actually ideal state. The first, and the most rancid idea that Plato cooked up, definitely has to be when he talks about rewarding sex. Plato says, "And among the other honors and rewards out young men can win for distinguished service in war and in other activities, will be more frequent opportunities to sleep with women; this will give us a pretext that most of our children are born of that kind of parent" (Plato 171). Therefore, only people that earn sex in war are able to reproduce. This is to try to regulate the desirable traits in the society, but people are going to want to have happy fun time anyway and go behind the back of the PKs, creating even more problems. Also, only letting people with desirable traits reproduce is called eugenics and it is kinda frowned upon, especially after the Nazis tried and failed to use it with a similar selective breeding process. Not to mention that during the mating festivals, someone could be banging their sister which would make the baby his son and his nephew at the same time! Plato, failed to realize that this will produce more messed up babies that will have to be thrown away. This brings me to my next point about the hillside babies. I do not think that I really have to say any more about this. Everybody knows that throwing away defective kids is a no-no. The parents will also not be too fond of the state taking away and throwing their child which goes back to human nature and parents wanting to take care of their child. This is seen as, "the children of the inferior Guardians, and any defective offspring of the others, will be quietly and secretly disposed of" (Plato 171-172). If they have to do it 'quietly and secretly' then it is most likely something they should be doing. Finally, it is messed up how the doctors refuse to take care of people who are unable to work or have a terminal illness. Plato says, "he has a job to do, and if he does not do it, life is not worthwhile" (Plato 104). Therefore, the doctors only take care of people who have a chance at healing and getting back to their job, and the people who have chronic and terminal illnesses are neglected. This does not sit right with me. Picture this, you get diagnosed with cancer and are in horrible pain and the doctor says to you, "tough luck, man, get back to work though". This probably would not make you feel too good either, so how can Plato say something like this. This would cause people who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and their families and friends to lose faith in the state which would take away from stability. Some of Plato's aspects of the ideal state are very immoral and should not be practiced in any state, ever, and they would only cause more problems than they would solve.
Overall, I will not deny that Plato has some good ideas about the ideal state, and they would definitely work; however, I would say that he has more undesirable ideas about what should be included than desirable ones. We care about him because when we try to create our own ideal society it is important to examine other ideal societies to see what works and what might not work as well.