Plato’s The Republic: Overview
Socrates uses the concepts of the individual, the and social es to outline the aspects of appetite, spirit-courage, and the mind. Socrates uses examples of the individual, the state and social order to outline how these aspects are distributed and how they relate to each other. The distribution of the aspects of appetite, spirit-courage and mind in individuals, their positions in the hierarchy as outlined by Plato and how individuals satisfy these determine their social class in the society.
According to Socrates the choices that and individuals with regard to which of the aspects to give primary priority determines their social class in the society. Plato also explains that although these aspects seem to take place in the background, their outcomes are detectable by the outside world. However, the way Socrates provides these distinctions implies that social class is shaped from a hierarchy which is made up of the mind as the highest followed by the spirit-courage and finally the appetite. In essence, individuals who choose to satisfy their appetites rank lowest.
An analysis of “The Republic” by Plato reveals that in a society individuals’ personality determines the social class they occupy. The masses remain, common people, because they choose to satisfy their own appetites and cannot, therefore, serve in any capacity. Soldiers seek after spirit-courage because in their capacity to protect citizens they have to be fearless. Leaders need to make decisions that affect all citizens and therefore seek after the strength of the mind.
The masses that occupy the largest group as outlined by Socrates are characterized by the satisfaction of “complex desires.” By complex pleasures, Socrates outlines that the pleasure is not only numerous but that the masses are unable to control these pleasures. According to Socrates this satisfaction of these pleasures has become a pre-occupation that an individual from the masses is unable to think clearly or objectively. In essence, the masses are not able to serve in any political capacity or become soldiers because they are primarily concerned with their appetites. Socrates points out that justice has been misconceived by the masses and that is the reason for missing the essence of true justice. In essence, Socrates implies that by virtue of satisfying their complex appetites the masses are not in a position to work in any capacity to determine justice for the state. The masses spend most of their time looking for ways to satisfy their complex appetites. In fact, Socrates compares the masses to women and children depending on the perception of society during the time.
Soldiers have the responsibility of protecting the state from aggression and to maintain law and order. Therefore, as Socrates outlines soldiers require spirit-courage to undertake their duties effectively. Soldiers have a higher social class than the common people because they pursue not selfish or individual course but the course of the state and its citizens. Socrates outlines that the justice of the state is larger than the justice of the individual. Socrates also explains that the “larger justice” is considering primarily the welfare of the state. Therefore, the soldier in his capacity operates at a higher level than the common person. In essence, Socrates seeks to explain that social classes are determined by the capacity from which individuals serve the state and the complexity of the requirements needed to serve. Soldiers need courage and they serve the masses. Socrates also explains that soldiers maintain law and order and are therefore responsible for ensuring that the appetites of the masses are kept in control. The soldier needs the courage to be able to control the masses and confront the enemy. Therefore, soldiers will always look for ways to acquire courage.
As explained by Socrates leaders seek after the strength of the mind. Socrates had a particular respect for knowledge. The fact can be substantiated when he says that “the love for knowledge which is a special characteristic for our part of the world.” In essence, Socrates implies that the quest for knowledge is the greatest desire and that is why leaders whom he has given the highest social class pursue knowledge. The common people neither require the spirit or the mind to be. Soldiers require the courage to undertake their duties. Leaders require their mind to make important decisions that will affect both the soldiers and the common people. The leader, therefore, acts as the guardian of the whole state including the soldiers and the masses. The respect of the leader for knowledge constantly keeps him preoccupied in searching for ways to acquire fresh knowledge. Consequently, leaders are more knowledgeable than soldiers and the masses.
The discourse involving Socrates and his friends reveals that social classes actually existed and how they were distributed. The use of the mind which was considered very important was a preserve of the leaders by virtue of their responsibility and their object of desire which was knowledge. The use of courage was a preserve for soldiers who were responsible for maintaining law and order and protecting the state. The quest to satisfy appetite was left for the common people. In essence, these associations and distinctions mean that society is divided into social classes by virtue of what individuals pursue in life whether knowledge, the courage of self-appetite.
Plato. The Republic. Kaye Dreams, 1945.