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Week 13

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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Janice Stein

Political Theory 13 January 2011 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 achieved). • 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. Plato’s Republic • The genre of a work is important to know when understanding the ideas behind the work. • Plato’s Republic is a dialogue. o A dialogue is an exchange of differing views. o There 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). o One 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. o Just as Shakespeare doesn’t speak to us directly, it would seem that Plato does a similar thing. o One of the characters, Socrates, makes other characters very angry (another element which makes it a drama). o To understand the human world one must understand all different types of people. • Plato shows an interaction of characters who discuss something important which affects our lives. 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. Politeaas a way of life • Is the conversation voluntary or forced? o Socrates set out to spend the day with Glaucon (someone he would want to send the day with). o His day is interrupted by other people. o They end up spending the day with these other people because they can’t pass up an opportunity to have a discussion. o The Republic begins with the weakness of reason in political life. • Philosopher Kings are the most famous “regime” of the Republic. o The 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. o Both 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 ideas. 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 o The 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 feared innovation. 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. o Cephalus in English simply means head. o Cephalus was not a citizen of Athens and a wealthy person would not live in the city. o Cephalus looks up to the gods and he wishes his sons to look up to him – in order to sustain the patriarchal society. o What positive thing did Cephalus and Socrate
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