Watching the Great Books episode on Plato's Republic got me started thinking on how our culture would be different if suddenly its cultural requirements were imposed upon the United States. For this blog, we'd have to suspend our disbelief about the probable mass confusion / rebellion that might explode across the nation while transitioning from freedom of expression and protected 1st Amendment rights to a society where poets and writers bow to reason (to borrow a phrase from the video).
Bertrand Russell divides up Plato’s Republic into the three neat sections. You may find his simple outline helpful:
1.Books I-V: The definition of “justice” and the Utopian Republic
2.Books VI-VII: The definition of “philosopher” and Philosopher Kings as the ideal rulers
3.Books VIII-X: Discussion of the various forms of government (their pros and cons)
Ghost stories might make our leaders too nervous if they're exposed to them. I guess it's time to stop the remakes of Friday the 13th and Halloween. Because if the leaders are too scared, then the warriors / guardians might be as well. But what happens if a warrior loses a friend in battle, is that warrior allowed to grieve?
"Reflect: our principle is that the good man will not consider death terrible to any other good man who is his comrade... And therefore he will not sorrow for his departed friend as though he had suffered anything terrible... Such an one, as we further maintain, is sufficient for himself and his own happiness, and therefore is least in need of other men...And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of fortune, is to him of all men least terrible... And therefore he will be least likely to lament, and will bear with the greatest equanimity any misfortune of this sort which may befall him."
In essence, when a warrior would lose a friend or family member, he/she wouldn't take a moment to grieve b/c in the whole scheme of things, that person was just one human. But what about comedy?
"Neither ought our guardians to be given to laughter. For a fit of laughter which has been indulged to excess almost always produces a violent reaction... Then persons of worth, even if only mortal men, must not be represented as overcome by laughter, and still less must such a representation of the gods be allowed..."
So, apparently no comedy. Sad. What about fiction, you ask? I wondered the same thing myself. Socrates equates fiction w/ lying and only reserves that "right" to doctors and the State:
"Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have no business with them...Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.
But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow sailors."
And in the interests of truth? How does lying work in the best interests of truth? I'm still not happy w/ Socrates' answers with this one.
As for crime / mystery stories, I'm in agreement with him:
In the end, my question is, how would our American culture change if Socrates had his way about the arts? Provide specific examples by using points listed above and songs / TV shows / artists / movies from our culture today.
Due Monday, December 13. Minimum 200 words.
1. Plato's contribution to society - specialization / division of labor - http://mises.org/daily/2490
Online books, Book III, Plato's The Republic.
Plus, a great quote from a cool movie:
"BILL MURRAY: “What did you study?”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: “Philosophy.”
BILL MURRAY: “Yeah, there’s a good buck in that racket.”
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: “Well, so far it’s pro bono.”
Lost in Translation (2003)