Book8

The politics of Plato’s Republic Book VIII.

We move from aristocracy, wisdom loving, and controlled desired for reason, and eventually end up with tyranny, money loving, and the uncontrolled and violent expression of our desire for physical goods. The tyrant is the final expression of the uncontrolled nature of unjust desire- violent and feared, he lacks the understanding to enojy what he takes by force, and he lives in constant fear of those whom he oppresses (Everyone else).

Aristocracy, timarchy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny. The descent from one system to another indicates a certain kind of corruption of the soul/society. We move from aristocracy, wisdom loving, and controlled desired for reason, and eventually end up with tyranny, money loving, and the uncontrolled and violent expression of our desire for physical goods. The tyrant is the final expression of the uncontrolled nature of unjust desire- violent and feared, he lacks the understanding to enojy what he takes by force, and he lives in constant fear of those whom he oppresses (Everyone else). Movement away from a perfect government is a movement away from reason- first towards honor, then bypassing honor, and becoming increasingly anchored in money-loving (satisfaction of unnecessary desires above all else).

The kinds of souls are wisdom loving, honor loving and money loving. As the soul moves towards honor loving, the lack of understanding changes the way in which honor is expressed. Perhaps, instead of the expression of courage in confronting those situations that require violence and conflict, the honor loving soul instead drives towards conflict at all price, irregardless of its ‘reasonableness’. As one then moves away from honor loving to money loving, the kinds of action one undertakes and the reasons for them change. There is a shift in perspective- people come to believe (the family analogy p 545) that power derives from having money rather than being honored.

Q: The move from aristocracy to timarchy- if aristocracy is perfect, how can it degenerate?

A good question- perhaps here we can find a solution in the briefly mentioned issue of number. As Socrates sees it, while the ruling class remains small there is nothing that can distract if from maintaining the ideal society in just ways. However, once this number (how many is not specified), the ruling class loses its focus, allowing for the possibility of corruption. We may then have a case where success brings about its own downfall- new births and newcomers overwhelm the ability of the established educational/selective/training system to train/select sufficient numbers of qualified guardians; this then would force the ruling class to ‘bastardize’ its governing class by including those with bronze souls within its ranks.

Q: The movement from oligarchy to democracy- the French (but you can use your own country's) revolution is a basic template.

A ruling class is bleeding the millions of those who are in the producing class, to such an extent that these eventually rise, revolt, and establish a new form of government givng them more rights. However, at some point, one of the elected representatives decides to keep power, kills his competitors, and claims absolute power, leading to tyranny.

Questions: Plato would have us believe that Democracy is worse than oligarchy or timarchy-really?? How can we agree with that? How do we even make sense of that?
Why does Plato insist on having the downfall of society illustrated by the generational changes that occur in one family?
Society/Family/individual Soul- these keep on coming back as reflective of each other- we put the question aside in book II, but at this point we should discuss it. Is this a valid analogy? Why or why not?

you do not have to agree with the way that Plato categorizes various kinds of government, or the reasons why he thinks some are better than others. However, you should understand his ideas before telling me why they aren't good. Furthermore, as with all new ideas that you discover— you should try to see the ways in which they are useful to you in understanding the world you live in. This doesn't mean that you will find exactly what Plato describes, but that you can find elements of his five forms of governments in the structures we see in teh world today.

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