POL200Y1 Lecture Notes - Mantra, Cephalus, Polemarchus
Political Theory 13 January
Plato’s Republic: Book I
Let’s Review Locke’s Goals:
•Locke intended for his theories regarding difference to really mean that we all
become more like each other.
•The question of how to live becomes secondary or irrelevant.
o“Celebrate diversity” is a mantra held by all in today’s society.
•An understanding of life which is adverse to the modern version of life – Prof. Orwin is
not against modernity, it is a practicality of life and something we all take for granted
however, he is not so keen on post-modernity (going beyond what modernity has
•Discussing the existence of early political theorists is obviously before modern thought.
We must understand that which it hoped to negate – this is why we must understand
the ideas of early political thought. Transformative change is itself modern. Our only
purpose will be in assisting us in gaining clarity.
•Are we discussing a fusion or synthesis of early and modern thought? No.
Goal: beginning to achieve clarity between the ancient and modern thinkers.
•The genre of a work is important to know when understanding the ideas behind the
•Plato’s Republic is a dialogue.
oA dialogue is an exchange of differing views.
oThere is no dialogue in which Plato is a character.
o“Out of many, one”, a phrase which can be used to describe this dialogue. (Also
the motto of the United States of America).
oOne must learn things from more than one person and the diversity of ideas one
hears about, one is able to gain well informed knowledge. It allows one to develop
one’s own beliefs.
•The dialogue is a kind of drama. Plato is akin to Shakespeare so to say.
oJust as Shakespeare doesn’t speak to us directly, it would seem that Plato does a
oOne of the characters, Socrates, makes other characters very angry (another
element which makes it a drama).
oTo understand the human world one must understand all different types of
•Plato shows an interaction of characters who discuss something important which affects
Title: Politeia the best English word which means this word would be regime. We are
reading about a whole way of life, something which organises and pervades all aspects of
society. Politea as a way of life
•Is the conversation voluntary or forced?
oSocrates set out to spend the day with Glaucon (someone he would want to send
the day with).
oHis day is interrupted by other people.
oThey end up spending the day with these other people because they can’t pass up
an opportunity to have a discussion.
oThe Republic begins with the weakness of reason in political life.
•Philosopher Kings are the most famous “regime” of the Republic.
oThe fact that Socrates ends up saying yes to the horse racing just because
Glaucon did (failing to assert his opinion) says a lot about the philosopher king.
oBoth ports and universities are characterised by diversity (many types of people
in each place).
University is not about an exchange of goods but rather an exchange of
Ports and universities are known from innovations.
Philosophy itself began in many great seaports of the world.
•Modern society welcomes innovation (the new and improved...).
•Traditional society fears innovation
oThe best things in life are old.
E.g. First Nations see the power of restoration in things which are old.
Athens was a pre-modern society and ancient one at that, and therefore
A new goddess (not a Greek goddess) cult is being admitted in to the city.
God is introduced to Athens by the Athenians themselves rather than by
Socrates. New strange gods bring strange occurrences.
•All of the characters in the Republic are known historical figures.
oCephalus in English simply means head.
oCephalus was not a citizen of Athens and a wealthy person would not live in the
oCephalus looks up to the gods and he wishes his sons to look up to him – in order
to sustain the patriarchal society.
oWhat positive thing did Cephalus and Socrates have in common? – They both like
oCephalus likes to talk because he can no longer do the things that took his
attention when he was younger.
Those who can, do, and those who can’t do what they used to do, talk
Cephalus’ life motto.
oBut Socrates is significantly younger than Cephalus but however he has been
talking for most of his life – making him unusual from his older counterpart.
oSocrates asks Cephalus what it’s like to be old.