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Book 5 Notes from The Republic

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The Republic Book 5

Thus, Socrates concludes, the city described must be good, and all others evil with respect to both the administration of the city and the organization and character of the human soul. This perversion takes place in four forms. As he is about to list them, Polemarchus and Adeimantus interrupt. They say that Socrates is trying to fool them by not speaking of childrearing and mating. They think this because Socrates said that everything is shared in the city, yet they would not agree with sharing wives, and demand that Socrates speak about this matter further. Socrates is reluctant. He had thought that he was done with investigating the city, and he does not want to return to that part of the discussion. However, he is encouraged to do so and does, starting with the fact that the people with the nature and education that have been described for the city have only one right way of possessing and treating their women and children. He begins by describing the lifestyles of female guard dogs, and stating that they are expected to hunt and guard, just like the males. However, they must have had the same upbringing. Thus, women must be raised and educated just like men. Even though this may seem ridiculous according to current culture, it is the logical approach. It must be kept in mind that the city was founded on the concept that each person excels at one thing, and that "each person must tend to the business that accords with his nature." Book 5, pg. 117, line 453b However, a woman's nature is different from a man's, so it must be shown that they can perform similar tasks. Thus, it must be discovred in what ways women's natures are different from men's and in what ways they are similar, so that they may perform the same tasks.

Socrates begins by stating that natural ability is simply the ability to learn something quickly. He then shows that it is apparent that each of the sexes is better than the other at certain things. For example, women are better than men at weaving and cooking. Thus, "the various talents are scattered throughout both sexes, and by nature women take part in all pursuits, as do men, except that in all of them the woman is weaker." Book 5, pg. 120, line 455c With this in mind, it must also be established that some women have different natures than others, resulting in the fact that some women can be guardians, living with men, whilst others can't. However, their workload shall be lighter, as they are the weaker sex. Should any man laugh at them, he will be ignorant, as he does not know what he laughs at; it is believed that "the helpful is beautiful; only the harmful is ugly." Book 5, pg. 122, line 457b

Next, Socrates moves on to discuss the law that women and children shall be common, that none shall live privately with another, and that parents and children shall not know each other. He first discusses how this is advantageous to the city and how it shall be implemented, and then if it is possible. He begins this by saying that they must create the most sacred marriages in the city. Defining sacred as 'most beneficial', he goes on to say that in order to find what the most beneficial is, the mating and breeding of other, highly-regarded species must be considered. Thus, he probes Glaucon to describe how his best hunting dogs and fighting birds breed. Glaucon says that the best of them breed with the best. Socrates points out that this is the way every animal does it, and so it must be the best way. Thus, they will develop a prime herd by allowing their best men to come together with their best women as often as possible, and their worst men to come together with their worst women as seldom as possible. Then, the offspring of the best must be reared. However, this must be kept a secret from all, except the rulers, in order to prevent civil war, and in order to keep the city happy. To do this, there must be certain festivals where the brides and grooms are brought, and where there will be sacrifices and hymns composed by the poets of the city. However, the lottery must be fixed so that the worthless people will blame their luck, and not the rulers, every time they are not chosen. The men who prove good in warfare and other skills will also have unlimited access to the beds of women. In this way they may have more children than others.

As for the offspring, those of good parents will be looked after by nurses in an area of the city, whereas those of inferior parents, or any who are deformed, will be hidden away. As for nursing, mothers will be brought to the pen where they will nurse babies, not knowing which is theirs. All other duties will be left to the nurses.

It is then decided that a woman's prime is from age twenty to age forty, while a man's is from his 'sharpest running peak' until age fifty-five. With this in mind, anybody not in their peak is not allowed to have children. They will be punished if they do so, as will anybody who tampers with eligible women without being paired by the ruler. Children of these unions will be unauthorized and considered bastards. After their prime, men may couple with anyone they wish, except women related to them. However, any children conceived in this time will not be reared by the state and will be the responsibility of the father. Any man should recognize the position of father with any child born between seven and ten months after he shared a bed with the woman. Any children of the same man will call each other brother and sister, and cannot sleep together unless the oracle at Delphi consents. Thus, Socrates finishes with this part of the argument.

He now moves on to confirm that this is the best method for the regime the city is following. It is first established that there is no greater evil than something that tears the city apart, and makes many out of it, instead of one. Also, the best-governed city is one where everybody shares everybody else's pleasure and pain, and works like a partnership. In this way, if one person is hurt, everybody suffers. Now, the city is examined to see if it works like this. The first thing that is discussed is what the rulers and citizens will call each other. Here, it is established that the citizens will call the rulers "preservers" and "allies," and the rulers will call the citizens "wage-payers" and "providers." Rulers will call other rulers "fellow guardians." Furthermore, they all regard each other as family. However, these are not only names of belonging, as people must act according to their names. Thus, everybody feels they belong in the city, and everybody has the same things in common, and thus they call the same things "mine." This will make them partners in pleasures and pains. This is caused by the fact that the guardians have wives and children in common, as discussed. Thus, it can be seen that the possession of common wives and children leads to unity in the city and is essentially the cause of the greatest good for the city.

Furthermore, the elders will be directed to rule and punish the young, and the young are never to disrespect the elders. There are two strong guardians to protect against this: fear and shame. "Shame forbids molesting a parent, and fear warns that the others will rush to the victim's defense as his sons, brothers and fathers." Book 5, pg. 130, line 465b Thus, all these laws will ensure that the people live in peace with each, and will prevent them from the little evils the materialistic life attracts them to, such as borrowing. In this case, the guardians will be happy since they are ruling a wonderful city.

Now, it is necessary to see whether it is possible for people to have the kinds of partnerships discussed. The philosophers begin by discussing war, saying that, just as with any skill, children must watch and learn before they practice it. Thus, the children must help in the preparations for war. Also, just like any other animal, the guardians will fight harder if their children are around. However, in order to protect them, the fathers will select which wars they are to watch and keep them from the very dangerous ones. Also, in case the war does not turn out well, the children must be well equipped to flee, and thus horses must be ready for them. The children shall also witness that cowardice will have a person sent to become a craftsman or a farmer, and that courage and the best fighter will be rewarded greatly. When a good fighter dies, he shall be acclaimed a hero and shall be buried as a spiritual, divine man should be.

When fighting other Greeks, the captured people must not be enslaved, and it must be preached that it is wrong to enslave people of your own kind, that only barbarians may be enslaved. Also, the practice of stripping the dead, and preventing their people from collecting and burying them must be stopped. Another thing that must be stopped is burning their villages - the only thing allowed to be taken is the crop. As for civil war, nobody must be killed when attacking the other side except the few people who started the dispute. Also, nothing must be destroyed or burned.

Glaucon now insists that Socrates describe how such a city should be governed. Socrates says that he will do this by examining the rulers of the current day and seeing what they are doing wrong. His first suggestion, which makes his audience angry, is that nobody will be happy "until either philosophers become kings or those now kings and regents become genuine philosophers." Book 5, pg. 138, line 473c Socrates begins defending his argument by clarifying what makes a philosopher. The first thing he establishes is that when people love something, they love the whole, and not the part. Next, he says that knowledge and opinion are both (different) powers, where knowledge pertains to what is, and opinion conjectures. Since knowledge is what is and opinion cannot be what is not, but also cannot be what is, it must be in between. Through this, it can be seen that lovers of beautiful things, without seeing the beauty itself, are lovers of opinion; whereas those who embrace each thing itself that is are philosophers.

Topic Tracking: Knowledge 3

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