PHL 101 – February 2-8, 2011
What is the nature of morality as opposed to immorality? Only knowing that can we figure out whether
morality really is better. Socrates proposes that we turn our attention from morality in the individual to
morality within a society – there morality will appear on a “larger scale” and it may be easier to perceive
it. (We may wonder, of course, whether this key analogy between individuals and communities is a good
* * *
S begins by imagining a kind of “social contract”: individuals come together to form a community
because they aren’t self-sufficient. “People become involved with various other people to fulfill various
needs, and we have lots of needs, so we gather lots of people together ... And then we call this living
together a community” (p.59).
Can you think of any other reason why communities form, asks S? This seems to be a rhetorical question,
but maybe we can think of other reasons. For example, maybe people naturally feel kinship and affection
for their families?
S introduces a principle of specialization:
i. “Different people are inherently suitable for different activities”, ii. People will do their work
better when they specialize in only one job. (p.60)
* * *
The state S imagines is very simple. It provides for people’s needs, but there are few luxuries. Glaucon
calls it a community of pigs.
S concedes that luxuries can be introduced, but he describes this as a change from a “healthy” community
to one that is “bloated and distended” (p.64) – one that will require more doctors.
This seems to be meant both literally and metaphorically. The more luxurious state that G wants will
require real doctors, but also “doctors” whose skills tend to metaphorical illnesses. Maybe the Guardian
class that S describes are doctors in this sense: they’re needed to manage the social illness of greed,
which leads to “symptoms” like war and conflict.
S thinks the second city is unhealthy because it is organized to serve the desire for luxury, for more than
the bare necessities provided by the first city. This is strange, since the ideal city that S will describe later
in the book, the city ruled by Guardians, is in fact a development of this second city. So it’s as if S thinks
that the ideal city = the best kind of diseased city you can have.
In studying the growth of this second city, we’ll be studying “how morality and immorality take root in
communities” (p.64). What kind of ideal is this, then? What is going on?