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One of the most striking social phenomena of the recent past was the byproduct of believing that if no magazine. Have you ever found a song becoming a playboy or a Playgirl luxuriating in resort hotels in the company of this month's centerfold sex symbol. Why not the playboy life. He don't like life and what's pleasure is pursuit is the highest good. The life of pleasurable indulgences in the food and drink and sex and drugs and sleep and all the titillation is of the body that we can experience. Plato answers this question over and over again in subtly different ways. His point is always that pleasure is not the highest good for humans because as Plato the highest good for anything human or non-human consists in fulfilling its own nature in living up to its own nature its own form or essence and of my nature as a human being does not consist only in my bodily appetites but it consists also in the
other two parts of the tripartite form of the self. My spirit element of aggressive ambitious courageous self assertive and patriotic emotions and traits and also in my right element My power was of speech and reason. My highest good my moral good requires that I fulfill all three parts of myself in accordance with their proper home in the order their proper order is a hierarchy with a reason as the highest the most worthy elements the bodily elements the lowest and the spirit and traits intermediate between the DOS commands as Plato does not follow the several elements in his soul to usurp one another's functions. Rather Plato continues in a famous line the just man sets his house in order so that the bodily appetites do not take over the ruling position. That reason should have the good life according to Plato
is the balanced life and it delivers human happiness and a sense of well-being of the whole person. The body must be satisfied and be healthy strong and beautiful. Ambition aggression self-assertion loyalty the sense of these spirited energies must drive the selves to activity and achievement but must be directed and controlled by reason. And finally the good life as Plato describes it is sometimes called the life of reason. But Plato does not mean that the good life is that of the narrowly over intellectualized person lacking in spirit and without a strong healthy body. The good life is not the life of reason alone but only of the dominance of reason and most of the question why not live the life of pleasure. Plato on sers with his own formulation of the Greek ideal of the development of human beings who are excellent in mind
body and character. Western civilization has been in love for more than two thousand years with the Greek ideal of the good life and with Plato's version of The Good Life as a life of balance fulfilment of our complex human nature. The life of reason appetites and spirit the life of healthy honorable intelligent happiness under the sun which is the symbol of the ideal of the good the perfect principle of truth and beauty and goodness. This then is Plato's moral philosophy or his ethics moral philosophy or ethics may be defined as the branch of philosophy which studies the nature of good and evil right and wrong. Duty and obligation. Moral philosophy or ethics question such as. Is there a high as good and absolute good for human beings. Or as the song This argues are all goods relative to time and place to history and to culture. Is the good and
noble is the good rational. Or is it merely the voice of the spirited and bodily passions is the highest moral good the achieving of happiness. Or is it a performing of one's duty. We have seen that Plato does indeed affirm a highest good for man and that it is absolute eternal and immutable. And it is a noble and rational for Plato's ethics for Plato's moral philosophy what to them is the highest good for Plato the highest good for human beings is the happiness or well-being which comes from the fulfilment of the three parts of the soul under the rule of reason and for Plato's ethics What then is virtue virtue or the right conduct of life is action which flows from knowledge from knowledge of the tripartite soul from knowledge of all the forms and the idea of the good. Only the few who have such knowledge and they therefore should rightfully
control the conduct of all the other members of society and so the heart of Plato's view of virtue is still Socrates original statement that virtue is knowledge. Plato tells us that if we want to see personal morality more clearly we must turn to the state where Plato says it is written large for us to see problems of the state form a topic to which the republic is principally dedicated. The problems of political philosophy political philosophy may be defined as the branch of philosophy which studies such problems. What is the good society. What is justice in control to be vested. What is the relation of subordination super ordination between the state and the individual. Does the state exist to serve the individual or does the individual exist to serve the state. Plato's political philosophy answers these questions by building upon
his ethics his moral philosophy. Now his moral philosophy has already established the form of justice in the human soul the human individual is Jost or virtuous in so far as he or she lives in accordance with the harmonious structure of the three parts of the soul. What does justice in an individual person have to do with the state. What is justice in the state. Which is the political organization of the city. A city says Plato is a man writ large against the sky. The elements that make up a city says correspond to the elements of the individual human soul and the justice all morality of the city is the same as it is for the individual. What then are the elements of the state that correspond to the elements of the tripartite soul like the individual human soul with its three parts. Every study of whatever type necessarily has three parts he says which are its three social
classes. A producer or a military or warrior class and a governing or ruling class. And in the ideal city the republic would Socrates and his young disciples are designing each of these three classes will perform a vital function on behalf of the organic totality which is the society the producer class will provide themselves and the other two clauses within the cess of ease of life shelter clothing trade and commerce. The producer clause is made up of farmers herdsmen blacksmith fisherman cob and his ship builders shoemakers we reserve laborers merchants retailers and bankers. The producer class corresponds that to the aptitude element the element of appetite in the SOA of the individual human being as on the diagram you can see that the warrior or go of the warrior class which Plato also calls the auxiliary is. Since they aid or supplement the work of the
Guardians they correspond to the spirit element and the ruler is sometimes called the Guardians correspond to the element of reason in the soul. The members of the producer class will be drawn from that type of person in whom the bodily appetites are dominant and who live for money and what money can buy. The members of the ruling class will be drawn from that type of person in whom reason is dominant and who live only for truth. The warrior class will be drawn from that type of person in whom the spirit element is dominant and who lives for honor or for success in aggressive and courageous acts. Thus each clus in the state is parallel to a part of the soul and its function. The ruling class dominated by reason is at the top of the social order and directs and controls the two other classes. Strictly parallel to the justice of the soul is the justice of the state in which each plus
performs its appropriate function. Moni is fully under the rule of the most rational. Why should the state be ruled by an elite group of the most rational. We live in a democracy which traces its own roots back to Athenian democracy. I cannot help raising this question Plato on this question most forcefully in the dialogue called the Protagoras. When youre in ill health as Plato you go to the most competent medical specialist to the best expertise you can find. You don't ask everyone you meet on the street for advice. You don't take a vote among as many people as possible as to what their illness is or what to do about it. Why then with regard to problems of the health of the states problems of the body politic problems of the utmost political importance should we consult to get advice he says of the ignorant many plateaus point is that governing us so science is a skill that requires
specialized and intensive training log greater than math required for the training of a shipbuilder a shoemaker or a physician. What then is the training that is necessary for those who would be capable of piloting effectively and wisely. The ship of state. Plato's answer to this is his theory of the selection and education of the Guardian or ruler class. How first of all of the members of the Guardian class to be selected for membership of the ruling class is by natural capacity of intelligence by IQ as we would say Pleydell believe that heredity is the prime factor in intelligence and love for the most part the children of the most intelligent will also be of highest intelligence and the children of those who have the natural capacity only to be still mages will like their parents have the natural capacity only to be shoemakers. But Plato was well aware of exceptions Plato was very sensitive due to problems of genetics
and therefore Plato decided that the ranks of the Guardian class the elite class of the intelligent must be open to the children of all classes and that throughout the Republic in the early years of child development all children in all classes must be kept under constant observation and testing in order to identify those children who are of sufficiently high intelligence to be trained for the Guardian clause. The selection of the guardians then is from all classes by natural intellectual capacity. And women as well as men according to Plato possess the natural capacity of intelligence to become members of the ruling class. Plato stands out in the history of Western philosophy as the first supporter along with Socrates of the intellectual equality of the sexes book 5 of the republic has been hailed by the contemporary women's movement for its defense of the equality of the sexes.
There is only one difference between men and women. Plato argued and that is that males beget and women bear children. But this difference has no more to do with the capacity for functioning in the world or in the life of the city than the difference between being bald headed or having hair. Women like men have the natural capacities which will fit some women for the rule. Some women to be warriors and auxiliary. Some to be producers. Women in the Republic will therefore share in the life of three glosses what Plato would have made. How then shall the philosopher kings be trained. Their training is by education and by the experience of service to the state. Education for those selected to be guardians begins as children was strictly censored music and literature for the mind and gymnastics for the strength and health of the body. In time they will then asked send on the divided line
of knowledge to be true in mathematics astronomy and other sciences whose objects are in the intelligible world and by the age of thirty. Those who have successfully come through a series of competitive examinations and coups in themselves who have the intelligence the strength and balance of character and the bodily vigor and stamina will have completed their education on the third level of the divided line. And now for the last time the group of candidates will again be weeded out the one remaining being eligible to advance to the study of dialect on the fourth and the highest level of knowledge in which by reason alone the candidate for the Guardian CLOS will study and come to know the eternal truths which all the forms each form in itself and all in there into relationships and totality. Finally Plato's The Guardian a
lost to the good by intellectual vision and there in reaches the limits of the intellectual world of years will be devoted to training in dialectic. At this point when the candidate and training are now 35 years old they will be sent down into the caves as Plato and compelled to hold any military or other post for which the young are qualified. The purpose of the return to the table of political life from the years of study under the sun is to give them the experience of everyday politics and to see how little various kinds of temptation they will be required to spend 15 years in this probationary period. At the at the age of 50 those who have met this last test of intelligence and character will be admitted to the governing class. They will have become a philosopher again with the responsibility of governing all the individuals in all
classes as well as their own lives by the absolute truth and absolute good which they have learned through their long education in knowledge and virtue. What will their lives be like strenuously disciplined sternly self-denying yet totally inspired and dedicated to the time. Is there any training for rulership in our contemporary world like the Other than that within the Roman Catholic. Both the Guardian Closs and the military clause are forbidden by Plato to possess any private property or any money they must live men and women like soldiers in barracks with common meals and sleeping quarters. Their modest clothing and equipment will be provided by the producers the food must be restricted to moderate quantities. They are to have no family life in order to avoid any conflict between family loyalties and their loyalty to the state. The Guardian's sexual gratification
is also restricted while in the prime of life to officially designated and infrequent occasions on which the Guardians are required to mate in order to breed children to maintain the numbers of the Guardian costs. These are the occasions for what Plato calls sacred marriages which are in fact temporary sexual unions for the sake of producing children for the Guardian cause these marriages a father too important to permit them to be made on the basis of personal preference. Plato's plans for the breeding of the rulers of the Republic are utopian beyond anything foreseeable in our present society. Only our science fiction compares in boldness with Plato. Plato was thinking of breeding humans as scientifically and with as much care as his brother dogs or as we breed race horses or prize cattle. Would you be in favor of using our growing
scientific knowledge at the present time of genetics to produce humans of superior mental and physical capacity. The very mention of such a proposal is terrifying to many people today. Plato had no such fears. Plato knew that the form of the human being required a standard of excellence in mind and body. And these were the very qualities he required for the Guardian class. And so it has Socrates. In Section 459 of the republic. I see you keep sporting dogs at your house. Do you breed from all indiscriminately. Are you not careful to breed from the best as far as you can and from in their pine. No scare the amount will be devoted to reading the guardians of the Republic who will meet with whom will be
determined by the older God and the best male guardians will be mated with the best female Guardians but the guardians will not know that their mates have been selected for them to avoid their complaints. They will be told that the mating is by a lottery. This is a lie but it is what Plato calls a noble lie a lie which is rationally justified for the good of the state. The children who will be born from these matings will be raised with exquisite Taya in a communal nursery mentally defective or physically deformed or defective infants born from these maidens will be put away immediately to die in some unknown place. Is your moral sensibility revolted by this aspect of ancient Greek attitudes toward human life. Or do you agree with Plato and with many people today that in these cases infanticide is Maule and can be made humane. By contrast with the severe discipline under which the Guardian class lives
how easy the life of the producer class of peers except for governmental regulations imposed by the rulers the lives of the producers follow the old familiar patterns of home property Family and Children rest recreation and The Daily News by nature the producers love money and what money can buy. The mini says Plato in a famous phrase love getting and spending as anyone can plainly see you go shopping on Saturdays when after a week of working and getting the producer class in the United States doesn't spending packing the stores downtown and swarming over the suburban shopping centers Pleydell plan governmental regulation of the accumulation of wealth in order to maintain economic moderation in the Republic Plato was afraid that otherwise the clever of producers will get richer and the rest poorer and conflict would inevitably break out. But the Republic makes in fact the fewest demands for change
upon the producer class. They alone of all the three classes can keep gold and silver live in their nuclear family units work for the most part at their traditional occupations and they are free in their sexual activities. Each member of the producer class will be taught a trade or profession banking top and three according to his or her own capabilities and according to the needs of both of which will be determined by the guardians. So if the producer class cannot abstract concepts education with respect to the forms would be wasted on them. But they must be given another type of education as well as learning their trade. They will be taught to learn to be virtuous producers. A state propaganda agency will indoctrinate the produces with the respect and obedience for the guardians with loyalty and patriotism to the Republic and with strong work motivation music stories of heroism
fables and the graphic arts will all be used for purposes of indoctrination and governmental censorship will also be required to monitor and censor alleged stories about the gods. Poems and plays the guardians after all have the responsibility of protecting all the members of society from the insidious demoralizing attractions of some of the artists poets dramatists and musicians. Plato is morally opposed to the poet Homer portraying the gods as quarreling telling lies and seeking revenge. Plato also plans to censor slack and unmanly music. What would Plato have done with a rock n roll Elvis Presley style in book 3 of the republic. Plato says that a young man should not be allowed to see a plug in which violence seems to be commonplace. Plato would surely see the frequency of television violence as having this same effect. The
nightly showing of violence sends a message to the audience that there is nothing surprising about a violent assault or rape or homicide. In fact it is quite commonplace. And so in a sense is acceptable. Would you agree. In the current debate over the influence of television violence on children. Plato would argue for censoring all violence for adult viewing as well as for children and for two reasons. One with the frequency of television makes it a commonplace television violence makes it a commonplace and therefore somewhat acceptable and to the frequency of television violence is a stimulus to some. To perform the same violent act in their own lives. Critics of Plato's Republic the curious did of being anti democratic which of course it is. All those have accused it of being communist. Still others have called it fascist. Is Plato a totalitarian in his politics. Totalitarianism is a type of twentieth century politics which
cannot meaningfully be used to describe the politics of the ancient Greek city states in the 5th century before Christ. But in his political philosophy Plato is a political absolutist advocating the subordination of the individual to the state and vesting absolute and unchecked power in an elite group. But there are certain resemblances between Plato's political absolutism and totalitarianism of the 20th century like totalitarian governments right wing and left wing fascist and communist Plato rejected individual ism and democracy and argued for the subordination of the individual to primacy and power of the states. Like totalitarian governments. Plato denied individual rights civil liberties due process of the law and he advocated government by any lead group with unchecked power with state censorship. Thought controlled by propaganda state control of the
economy the incursion of the state into almost all areas of the private life. But Plato would have tested modern totalitarianism just as he tested it through a similar Cosas philosophy. That might makes right for Plato there was only one justification for his regimented absolutist IC state that it is founded on cool knowledge on the eternally true essence of justice. Any other justification for government. Plato would condemn as illegitimate government justified by power a race wealth ours to Craddick birth the glorification of a social club. As in communism or the glorification of a particular leader. As in fascism. Since Plato viewed his ideal republic as having absolutely true knowledge of the essence of justice of a good society and of a good human being. He believed that his Republic is intitled to absolute power and complete responsibility for making its citizens virtuous and for controlling the
entire society. Ha. Isn't that what all absolutist governments and churches have always said. Our knowledge of the truth justifies our absolute control over everyone. There are two challenges which must be made to Plato's Republic and to any other absolutist politics. First of all there is Plato claims. Absolutely true and unchanging forms of justice. Human nature. So society and the good. You think that Plato has proved this. Second who guards the Guardians. What is the guarantee that the rulers will not be corrupted by such absolute power. What provisions are made in the Republic for checking on the policies and activities of the Guardians and for removing them from office if necessary. All the western democracies have such safeguards against the abuse of power but no absolute as church or state has such safeguards and no
totalitarian government has. Plato as an absolutist has failed us here. Despite all the problems the Republic of Plato stands for as the source of the Russian A-list tradition the reason in Western Civilization Plato's Republic presents a philosophic vision of truth and beauty and goodness of the flux of changing opinion. It is Plato's love of truth and of human reason. We may yet come to know the true essence of things. Now the ideal of good itself. And with this knowledge this is the continuing. Republic. Of Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.
From Socrates To Sartre
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The Ideal State
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Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Plato V: Dualism - Plato's Politics: The idea republic modeled upon the tripartitate soul and its justice. The three classes of society, their education for their tasks. The producers, the administrators and warriors, the philosopher-kings. The Noble Lies. The status of women. "Getting and spending:" the life of the masses. The disciplined, ascetic communal life of the guardians. The planned breeding of a superior guardian class. Political absolutism. Criticism of absolute truth doctrine. Plato's politics: the guardian; who guards them? The charge of totalitarianism against the Republic.
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"From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Copyright Holder: MPT
Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #6; The Ideal State,” 1978-08-25, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #6; The Ideal State.” 1978-08-25. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <>.
APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #6; The Ideal State. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from