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1. Plato’s Seventh Letter, 326b. (translated by L.A. Post)

2. Plato. The Republic. Translated by Allan Bloom (second edition). ©1968 (1991). Basic Books (Harper Collins Publishers). Book II, 375e.

3. Republic. Book II, 379a.

4. The conflict between philosophy and poetry is a common theme within a literal reading of much of Plato’s work, but may be more of an ironic complaint than a directed assault on the musical arts. In the Phaedo, Socrates says, “I reflected that a poet, if he is to be worthy of the name, ought to work with imaginative themes, not descriptive ones, and I was not good at inventing stories.” 61b (translated by Hugh Tredennick) And yet, this comment is followed by an intentionally imaginative depiction of what the soul finds after death. The initial rebuke of poetry is most likely a warning that tales ought to be woven self-consciously, with a nod to the essentially symbolic nature of language (such that the substantive import of allegorical discourse is emphasized above the peculiarities of any given articulation), rather than a paradoxical attack on story-telling in general.

5. These things are clear when Socrates says, “Further, truth must be taken seriously too. For if what we were just saying was correct, and a lie is really useless to gods and useful to human beings as a form of remedy, it’s plain that anything of the sort must be assigned to doctors while private men must not put their hands on it.” And again, “It’s appropriate for the rulers, if for anyone at all, to lie for the benefit of the city in cases involving enemies or citizens, while all the rest must not put their hands to anything of the sort.” Republic. Book III, 389b.

6. Socrates says, “... the overseers of the city must cleave to this, not letting it be corrupted unawares, but guarding it against all comers: there must be no innovation in gymnastics and music contrary to the established order; but they will guard against it as much as they can,.... For they must beware of change to a strange form of music, taking it to be a danger to the whole. For never are the ways [i.e., modes of turning] of music moved without the greatest political laws being moved,...” Republic. Book IV, 424c.

7. Republic. Book IV, 425b.

8. ibid., 425c.

9. Referring to those who continuously set down rules and change them, “thinking they’ll get hold of what’s best”, without attending to their way of life, Socrates says “Isn’t it charming in them that they believe the greatest enemy of all is the man who tells the truth — namely, that until one gives up drinking, stuffing oneself, sex and idleness, there will be no help for one in drugs, burning, or cutting, nor in charms, pendants, or anything of the sort.” Republic. Book IV, 426a.

10. Recalling the place held by the noble lie, and the necessary role of sanctioned lies generally in the maintenance of a lawful administration, as well as the entailed susceptibility of such a constituency to unlawful lies, Socrates says “[The soldiers] should receive the laws from us in the finest possible way like a dye, so that their opinion about what’s terrible and about everything else would be colorfast because they had gotten the proper nature and rearing, and their dye could not be washed out by those lyes so terribly effective at scouring, pleasure — more terribly effective for this than any Chalestrean soda and alkali; and pain, fear, and desire — worse than any other lye. This kind of power and preservation, through everything, of the right and lawful opinion about what is terrible and what not, I call courage...” Republic. Book IV, 430a.

11. Echoing his Seventh Letter with startling precision, Plato has Socrates say that “Unless the philosophers rule as kings or those now called kings and chiefs genuinely and adequately philosophize, and political power and philosophy coincide in the same place, while the many natures now making their way to either apart from the other are by necessity excluded, there is no rest from the ills for the cities, my dear Glaucon, nor I think for human kind, nor will the regime we have now described in speech ever come forth from nature, insofar as possible, and see the light of the sun.” Republic. Book V, 473d.

12. Republic. Book VI, 499b.

13. Socrates says, “Now the men who have become members of this small band [of philosophers] have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession it is. At the same time, they have seen sufficiently the madness of the many, and that no one who minds the business of the cities does virtually anything sound, and that there is no ally with whom one could go to the aid of justice and be preserved. Rather — just like a human being who has fallen in with wild beasts and is neither willing to join them in doing injustice nor sufficient as one man to resist all the savage animals — one would perish before he has been of any use to city or friends and be of no profit to himself or others. Taking all this into the calculation, he keeps quiet and minds his own business....” Republic. Book VI, 498d.

14. Republic. Book VII, 520c.

15. This is nowhere clearer than when it is said “...that city in which those who are going to rule are least eager to rule is necessarily governed in the way that is best and freest from faction, while the one that gets the opposite kind of rulers is governed in the opposite way.” Republic. Book VII, 520d.

16. Aristotle. The Politics. Translated by Carnes Lord. ©1984. The University of Chicago Press/ Chicago. 7.2, 1324a25.

17. Politics. 1.2, 1253a1.

18. Politics. 7.1, 1323b30. Aristotle later phrases this unity even more directly, saying, “That the same way of life must necessarily be the best both for each human being individually and for cities and human beings in common, then, is evident.” 7.3, 1325b30.

19. Politics. 7.1, 1323b1. This is interesting to view in combination with his further observation, “... that everyone strives for living well and for happiness is evident. [...And] happiness is the actualization and complete practice of virtue, and this not on the basis of presupposition but unqualifiedly.” (7.13, 1331b40 & 1332a10) Such comments share significant features with Plato’s, concerning the inevitable insufficiency of opinion, in Book VI (505d) of the Republic. (see below)

20. This, and the following counter argument are stated when Aristotle admits “...[The supporters of philosophy are] correct in saying that the way of life of the free person is better than that involving mastery. This is true: there is nothing dignified about using a slave as a slave; giving commands concerning necessary things has no share in the noble things. [...However, to] praise inactivity more than activity is [...] untrue. Happiness is a sort of action, and the actions of just and moderate persons involve an end for many noble things [or conditions].” Politics. 7.3, 1325a25.

21. Cf. Republic, Book VI, 498d, note 13.

22. Politics. 7.3, 1325b10. [emphasis mine]

23. Politics. 7.14, 1332b25.

24. Aristotle, content for the time being with showing the possibility of a wider realm of active knowledge (to ultimately include something of philosophic investigation), says “the active way of life in not necessarily to be regarded as being in relation to others, as some suppose, nor those thoughts alone as being active which arise from activity for the sake of what results, but rather much more those that are complete in themselves, and the sorts of study and ways of thinking that are for their own sake. Acting well is the end, so it too is a certain action; and even in the case of external actions we speak of those who by means of their thoughts are master craftsmen as acting in the authoritative sense.” Politics. 7.3, 1325b15. [emphasis mine]

25. Politics. 7.13, 1332a35.

26. “Since the end is evidently the same for human beings both in common and privately, and there must necessarily be the same defining principle for the best man and the best regime, it is evident that the virtues directed toward to leisure should be present; for, as has been said repeatedly, peace is the end of war, and leisure of occupation.” Politics. 7.15, 1334a15.

27. This is most directly reported by Aristotle’s comments concerning the increased necessity of philosophy among those who are at peace and are materially affluent. For those at war it is no large surprise that they will prefer justice and moderation among their friends. He says, “For war compels [men] to be just and behave with moderation, while the enjoyment of good fortune and being at leisure in peacetime tend to make them arrogant. There is, then, a need for much justice and much moderation on the part of those who are held to act in the best way and who have all the gratifications that are regarded as blessings [...]. For these will be most particularly in need of philosophy and moderation and justice to the extent that they are at leisure in the midst of an abundance of good things of this sort.” Politics. 7.15, 1334a30.

28. Politics. 7.15, 1334b25.

29. This may at first seem a rather rash assertion. Spiritedness is normally associated with the motive desire, much in the way will (in contemporary thought) often appears to refer simply to that want or desire which drove the person to act. The reading of thymos as the moral emotions, and auxiliary of moral reasoning, is supported generally, but finds particular support in Book IV, 440c (of the Politics).

30. Republic. Book V, 479a.

31. “So, when in someone they [the desires] have flowered toward learning and all that’s like it, I suppose they would be concerned with the pleasure of the soul itself with respect to itself and would forsake those pleasures that come through the body — if he isn’t a counterfeit but a true philosopher.” Republic. Book VI, 485d.

32. Republic. Book VI, 505a.

33. Republic. Book VI, 508e.

34. Republic. Book VII, 518a.

35. Republic. Book VII, 518c.

36. Republic. Book VII, 524b.

37. Republic. Book VI, 487a.

38. Republic. Book VI, 505e. Immediately preceding this observation, Socrates calls into question the presumption that the many are forever satisfied with mere appearances: “Isn’t it clear that many men would choose to do, possess, and enjoy the reputation for things that are opined to be just and fair, even if they aren’t, while, when it comes to good things, no one is satisfied with what is opined to be so but each seeks the things that are, and from here on out everyone despises opinion?” Republic. Book VI, 505d.

39. Republic. Book VII, 523c.

Fundamentals of Political Theory
PHIL-505-01, Georgetown University
Fall 1991
(© David Foss, January 7, 1993)

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Last modified August 27, 1998

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