Friday, February 28, 2014

Plato's Republic / Upon Reflection

I haven't had time to re-read the Republic, but I have had time to ponder it.

Let this image stand for several things.  One, the Greek ideal of beauty and truth. (See the Hellenized David.) We'll also remember that Plato would have whipped the youth above  into shape, and with sufficient indoctrination and gymnastics, they would definitely not have looked like the post-McDonald's David.  In fact, this second David is about as un-Greek as they come. 

In contrast, the Bible does not lay such stress on physical beauty. Prophets had all sorts of short-comings.  The Messiah was going to be distressing to look at.  Moses could not speak.  Many of them started out as shepherds. -- Diet was strictly controlled but exercise was probably had naturally with all the manual labor and walking and riding around, as well as fighting off enemies.

Alright, this for slightly goofy introduction.

What does Plato mean to me now?

While some of the secondary commentaries, as far as I  have peeked at them, say that Plato's Republic is a bit of a hodge-podge of ideas, and he is certainly not being clear on the role of women;  still, I find it actually unified in many respects.  And this is how I would summarize it:  Tyranny is bad.  The Public Tyrant is the most unhappy person in the world.  Immorality does not pay;  you will be badly sorry for it and the most unfortunate of all creatures.  Take responsibility for how you live.  Apply some good taste and some morality to your life.  Also balance it with beauty, music, literature and exercise.  As with the individual, it goes with the State.

Under this overarching idea with have sub-ideas.  All of it is really an attempt at rooting out immorality and promoting a vigorous society, thereby.

1.  In older age, how do you want to look back upon your life?  Is it better to be good and poor, than comfortable with a unjust riches gathered through favoritism?

2.  What is the difference between the King and the Tyrant?  How is a good King formed and how is a Tyrant formed?  What should be the education of the youth?  What is it like to live under either a King or a Tyrant (or other forms of government)?  Who will be happy?  The good or the bad?

3. Warfare, dialectics and philosophy are necessary.

4.  Women are supposed to participate in all of the above.  Upper class women, should be free from child-care responsibilities, yet, they also should have children at the front of the war, so they can learn warfare.   And so on. -- As we said, what he says about women makes not much sense. 

5.  The ruling class should be well-educated.  They should refrain from love of gain, be free to focus on their callings.  Ruling requires good thinkers with backbone and philosophy.

6.  Those who seek honors and riches in this life while indulging in frivolity and favoritism are putting their focus on the wrong things.  There is something higher and better than these paltry, worldly pursuits.  Justice is much better.  Seek it.

7.  The Greek gods and their stories seem to be too sordid for Plato.  The constructive stories only should be retold.  Homer's Iliad seems to be some kind of Bible, with the qualities of oracle and authority.  Other stories, on the other hand, that do not build up the youth properly, should be banned.  There is quite a lot of censorship and control advocated.  Poetry, or certain kinds of it, seems to be in opposition to decent philosophy.


There, that is what I got out of it.  

We see that  Plato is really trying to improve things.  He sounds like a kind of decent Reformer, in places.  Of course, he is a Pagan, and there is a lot he does not understand.  We cannot blame him entirely for that sort of thing.

It seems to me that he would have approved of the Christ.  Here we have a King who sought what was higher, a kingdom, not of this world; one who sought justice and did it without tyranny.  He showed the way through his suffering and dedication, righteousness and morality incarnated.  I think if Plato had known Him, he would have followed Him.  No wonder the Greco-Roman world was ready to hear about Christ.  It only had half-baked philosophical ideas about this ideal ruler and State, while the gods where a complete mess. 

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