Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog #11 - Plato's Ideal Society - Impossible or Improbable? Neither?

We've spent a little more time on Plato's ideal society this semester than I have in past semesters; maybe b/c this time around the world seems to be crumbling around us with roiling stock markets and the Big 3 impending collapse. Where better to look than the past when the future looks so bleak, right? Well, maybe we can learn something.

Several criticisms were brought up of this ideal society:

1. Where would the innovation come from if everyone be content? Doesn't innovation come from competition and competition come from peoples' desire to be better?

2. Why do they need soldiers if everyone is content? Is it just for protection from other city-states? Or, did Plato ever intend for this city to exist? If that is the case, why are the soldiers really there?

3. What kind of guarantee is there that the philosophers will rule in everyone's best interests? Is there an impeachment process? Can the peasants overthrow the rulers?

4. In the interests of specialization, what if you get bored with your job? What if you don't want that job? What if that job that you do best is NOT something you love doing? To use an example from 4th hour, I might do math really well, but that doesn't mean I want to be an accountant.

5. Is there no social mobility? What if we don't like the class that we're born into?

This link gives a good, brief synopsis of the first four books of the Republic in which this society is described. I have countered many of these arguments in a devil's advocate style by appealing to one of Socrates' questions - courage, justice, virtue, wisdom, moderation, beauty.

The question before you is: Can Plato's society be fixed to make it more ideal to fit a 21st century American audience? Why or why not?

Things to ponder while answering this question: Is Plato's society so incompatible with American ideals and tastes and traditions that it cannot be fixed?  Can Plato's society work for people of another country? What would you have to fix in order for it to work in America? Could it work on a national or state level or could it only work on a small scale? If it only works on a small scale, what's the use?

**After reading a few of the responses, it seems to me that Americans are too individualistic to give up some of our freedoms or luxuries for the greater good of society.  This will be a topic - the greater good vs. the desires of the individual - as we go on through the semester.  

Due Friday, December 12. 200 words minimum.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Squashed Philosophers

Here's a pretty neat website called Squashed Philosophers - - it has abridged versions of the greatest philosophers' best works. It includes many of the people we are going to study.

If you're looking for #10, scroll down farther.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blog #10 - Questions of Socrates

Due Monday, December 8 - 200 words

We discussed four of Socrates' big questions about life Thursday and Friday:
- What is virtue?
- What is courage?
- What is beauty?
- What is justice?

What I would like for you to do is to pick one of these big questions and take a moment to consider where you see it lacking in American society.

If you choose virtue, where in American society is there a huge need for virtue? What about beauty? What part of American society could become more beautiful? In what sense? Who in American life could use a little (or a lot more justice)? Which Americans need to show more courage in our tough economic times? Why? (these are sample questions to get some ideas flowing - I figure that you can come up with something yourself).

Editor's Note - I don't want to influence this too much, so I'll refrain from including pictures or quotes or anything else. I've included links to Wikipedia or quotes on courage in case you're stuck on a topic. You DON'T have to pick the same topic that you personally discussed in class, but if you want to, that's fine.