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 http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2g.htm 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.