question 1 04/11/2013
1. "The philosophers have only interpreted the world ...; the point, however, is to
change it." (Marx, Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach ). How adequate is Marx's
characterization of "the philosophers" to Plato? To Machiavelli, Hobbes, or
Locke? (Discuss Plato and any ONE of these three modern thinkers.)
In Marx’s interpretation of change he neglects to recognize the essential component of Plato
argument, which is on order to effectively change the world you must first have a clear understanding and
interpretation of it. This interpretation must be understood as the objective understanding of right and
wrong, or just and unjust. In contrast the Machiavellian lens would partially align with Marx in the belief that
the philosopher could never rule because the philosopher themself is ruled by the concepts of just and
For Marx the philosopher is just an idealist, and it takes more then ideals to change the world. This
differs from Plato, who proposes that it is the Philosopher that by understanding and interoperating the
world has the tools necessary to change it for the better.
To begin, by employing the lens of the philosopher Plato you see that it is believed that the
philosopher is the only one capable of understanding and thus changing the world. The first reference to
this point, by Plato, is the metaphor of the stargazer and the Captain of a ship [Plato pg168]. This metaphor
demonstrates that the ability to pilot a ship cannot be dependent solely on the ability of keeping the ship
afloat, being able to steer it effectively, and manage a crew. In order to be an effective pilot or true pilot you
must have an understanding of navigation and direction, which according to Plato is held by the stargazer.
By understanding the stars he can effectively guide the ship and thus the parallel is being able to
understand and interoperate the world is the only way in which you will be able to guide it or change it. The
true pilot must be both the manager and commander of the ship and the stargazer, just like the philosopher
is must be the individual that understands the world (the stars and seasons) and has the ability to change it
(command the ship and its crew). It is by this means of rational thought that Plato believes that the
philosopher is the only one that has the understanding and ability to change the world as desired by Marx. Secondly, through a Machiavellian lens the philosopher cannot be the ruler/prince, he is the advisor
of the prince, and thus has no real ability to shape or change the world. Unlike the philosopher, the prince is
not overtly concerned with the concepts of just and unjust, he maintains power through fear, as it is safer to
be feared than loved as the prince [Machiavelli pg51]. By assuming the delicate balance of the lion and the
fox [M pg 61] he is able to change the world/city as he sees fit. However, like the philosopher the prince
must be an educated individual [Lecture] and is not completely impulsive in their decisions, by
understanding the past and its outcomes they learn to make decisions that will avoid undesirable ends
[Lecture]. In the end the Prince understands the role of the philosopher, but is not inclined to follow the
advice of the philosopher, for the philosopher is an idealist who does not maintain the ability to rule the city
because they are ruled themselves by the concepts of just and unjust.
In conclusion, Marx and Machiavelli would agree that it takes more than idealistic concepts of
philosophers to effect change on the world, it takes a combination of education and ability to decided when
to be guided by the just and when to necessary to be the unjust. In contrast, Plato believes that it is only the
philosopher that is enlightened enough to not only understand how the world needs to change, but also
employs the tools necessary to accomplish his ends. The philosopher to Plato is the enlightened one that
was able to emerge from the shadows of the ‘cave’ [Plato pg211].
Version 2 "The philosophers have only interpreted the world ...; the point, however, is change it." (Marx,
Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach ). How adequate is Marx's characterization of "the philosophers" to
Plato? To Machiavelli, Hobbes, or Locke? (Discuss Plato and any ONE of these three modern thinkers.)
The Answer to the question:
Both Plato and Machiavelli disregard the merit in ruling. Plato claims that he can change the world if people
saw the use of philosophers. He uses the example of the ship and the analogy of the cave to support that
people find philosophers useless. While Plato understands that he cannot change the world due to the view
on philosophers in ancient times, he still claims that philosophers can be the best rulers and can change
the world if given the chance. Machiavelli, a modern thinker believes he can in fact change the world and
writes an instruction manualtype book to do so. Machiavelli’s ultimate goal towards a better world is full
control of power. This maintains peace and security in a populace, through the instillation of fear of course.
The Church divides power in principalities and it is this variable that must be eliminated to consolidate pure
power within a principality. Despite Plato and Machiavelli’s thinking which could change the world in theory,
as philosophers, they are simply useless.
Socrates’ city in speech can only be possible if the philosopher is the king.
Through metaphors such as the Cave analogy, the philosopher can never lead society towards
This is different from modern thinkers because classical thinkers understood they could not change the
world. In the past, these classical thinkers were often crushed by society. They are compelled to question
the opinions that the city holds sacred and assumes to be true. Thus, gaining the support of the entire
populace was often a useless endeavor.
The rule of the philosophers depends on the ideal regime, and in turn this same ideal regime must depend
on their creation by the ideal thinker, a philosopher. The fact that the philosopher and regime depend on
each other to come into existence means they are both impossible in reality.
ex. Plato’s regime – His utopian city is split into different classes, his regime being “made of gold” or top
In light of this argument, it is only the philosopher who can form an ideal regime because they see far more
clearly than the rest of society in the imperfection of things.
Ex. USA believes their regimes are just. They cling to opinions and the way of life these opinions support.
The philosopher is a lover of wisdom and sees past this all and thus, only he can create the utopian regime.
The philosopher does not dwell on good things but rather good in itself. Socrates believes that humans live in the realm of opinion; since they cannot distinguish between beautiful
and justice images in relation to beauty and justice in itself. This is because humans are shackled to
conventions such as habits, interests and passions. Thus, they live in the realm of opinion instead of
Opinion is more valued over the truth
Like the Matrix, the education of the enslaved people is completely opinionated, as they can never see the
true objects and only the shadows of such that are casted on the wall. Would you rather live in a world like
this – of false pretenses – or know the truth? Only by realizing we live in a world of false pretenses can be
brought to the true world.
The freed slave could not be happy once he was rejected from his cave society by knowing the real truth to
the objects. This completely proves that the philosopher is willing to sacrifice all that matters to him to live a
life of truth. Characteristics such as this brighten the idea of a philosopher king.
Why Philosopher should be king
Looks away from the particular, changeable things and look at permanent universal things; he alone is
competent guardian of the city because he can guide in light of the truth.
Philosophers are special in the sense that they look past the pursuit of ruling the city or making it rich, but
rather in an endless pursuit for the truth
Philosophers are indifferent to sensual pleasure and thus to all the temptations of injustice
Why Adeimantus disagrees with the Proposition (p.167)
The philosopher’s eye is never on ‘our city’ and its concerns/fears/enemies but more rather on a city in
speech, which existing in thought requires not to be policed, fed, maintained or defended. This is not the
type of ruler people should want to rule a city.
On that note, the philosopher only cares for the universal and permanent; this is everywhere yet nowhere
specifically at the same time.
Adeimantus is skeptical of a man that is agreed to be useless to run a city. However, Socrates’ defends the
‘useless’ philosopher as being the fault of the current ruler in place. In order to support Socrates’ argument
that philosophers are useless only because the city refuses to make use of the, Plato’s infamous Ship
analogy shall be used. The sailors fight for control over the helm, not for the purpose of having the best pilot, but rather for the
purpose of having the title. The philosopher, which is the stargazer in this case, is the only one competent
to plot the ships course, but neither the owner or the sailor will ask him to do so. The owner is ignorant and
cannot decide who the best sailor is since they are all claiming their skill.
As nobody seeks the help of the stargazer and stargazer himself is too proud to offer himself up, he
becomes content on continuing to philosophize and learn more because rule does not interest him.
Socrates and Adeimantus both agree that the philosopher is useless, and only when he rules will the city in
speech be recognized.
The whole purpose of his book is to subvert the Church and not actually to become King.
His work actually considers regimes that exist in reality (not just in thought)
Point #1: only concerned with effectual truths
Truth is not for the sake of knowledge, but rather for the sake of power
Imagined truths are best way to harness power. Christianity’s supposed truths allow it to control millions of
Point #2: church is an impediment to political power
No ruler can truly rule b/c his power is always divided with the Church
It is impossible to deter power from ecclesiastical states b/c subjects of the Pope do not even think of being
governed by him. Furthermore, rebelling against the pope is much like rebelling against God, a blasphemy
no Catholic aims to accomplish.
Unlike Plato, Machiavelli is attempting to directly change the world by providing his reader with an
instruction manual concerning how to rule properly. This is due to the fact that in Machiavelli’s Italy, the
strength of rulers have greatly weakened relative to its recent past.
all principalities are now mixed due to the power of the Church
in order to consolidate full power in which peace and security are provided to the populace, there cannot
be a division of question 2 04/11/2013
2. Outline Machiavelli’s understanding of virtù , as described in Chapter 15 of The
Prince and elsewhere in The Prince and The Discourses . Then, compare and
contrast Machiavelli’s understanding of virtue as instrumental with Plato’s
conception of virtue as tied to human flourishing.
Machiavelli’s understandivirtù as described in the teachings of the Prince prescribe a
balance between all that is good and those qualities which are less desirable. Machiavelli believes that it is
to your benefit as a ruler to act virtuous when it is beneficial to you and maintaining your power as a leader,
however when being virtuous will lead to your dissolution as leader then it is in your best interest to act
wicked. Virtù is in fact a skill to be employed by Princes that will lead to their success as such.
When comparing Machiavelli’s understandingvirtù as an instrument to maintain power, with that
of Plato’s interpretation of virtue as what is inherently good, one can draw on several fundamental points of
distinction. While both believe that their versionvirtù and virtue are necessary for a leader to possess,
their fundamental interpretations of the concept are vastly different. According to Machiavirtù seems
to be more of a fluid concept, a skill that evolves with each situation as opposed to a guiding set of
characteristics, which should be employed as a constant. Plato’s interpretation of virtue is based on ideas of
the just and unjust, the good and the bad, and a balance of the 4 Cardinal virtues – moderation, courage,
wisdom, and justice, which are controlled by the three parts of the soul, rational/reason, spirited, and
appetitive/desire. Where both Machiavelli and Plato agree that virtue is a balance, they differ in what the
balance consists of. Plato neglects to mention anything alluding to violent or ‘wicked’ behaviour, as
Machiavelli does with regards to acquiring or maintain power – it is safer to be feared than loved. Another
difference between these two philosophers and their ideas ovirtù/virtue lies in the ends of the concept.
For Machiavelli,virtù is a skill employed for maintain or acquiring power that must be skillfully balanced in
order to effectively lead the masses. It encompasses all that is human the good and the bad, the lion and
the fox. For Plato, it is also a balance, but one of a different kind. Plato evirtue as possible the
contouring of the self, the internal balance of moderation, courage, wisdom, and justice, as controlled by
reason, spiritedness, and desire. For Plato it is the proper balance of these virtues that will lead to
prosperity and stability of the city in question.
In conclusion, Machiavelli’s understan virtù is employed as a skill that when executed
correctly will help the Prince maintain and acquire power as long as the Prince is careful in the ration of
good and wickedness. For Plato, virtue is also a balance, however it comprises of different characteristics
and it is employed as more of a constant set of guiding principals. question 2 04/11/2013
Outline Machiavelli’s understanding of virtù, as described in Chapter 15 of The
Prince and elsewhere in The Prince and The Discourses . Then, compare and
contrast Machiavelli’s understanding of virtue as instrumental with Plato’s
conception of virtue as tied to human flourishing.
To Machiavelli, fortune is a complex ideology so it takes on different meanings across the book. He ideally
talks about it in Chapter 15, Chapter 7 and Chapter 25.
Chapter 15: most important and revolutionary chapter of the prince
M attacks the philosophy before him and offers the solution
He lays out the moral transformation of moral philosophy
M admits to doing something NEW! He doesn’t admit this ANYWHERE else
What M is attacking?
Who is M attacking?
1. What is M attacking?
M goes to the effectual truth (reality) and attacks those who focus too much on imagination
M attacks all previous thinkers of envisaging a world of men who work and proper behaviorthe real problem
with these highminded standards is that they are dangerous! To M there is a direct correlation between
moral goodness and weaknesshigh moral standards lead to basic human nature in the good life but it is at
a cost of the mere life. The good guys are good preoccupied with being good to not have time to defend
themselves e.g. Aristotle’s virtues….
With M he teaches its good to be bad, with him private vice is can lead to public virtue.
2. Who is M attacking?
He attacks two groups:
1) philosophers of Ancient Greece: Plato and Aristotle e.g. when M talks about “imagined republics” BUT
soc’s city of speech is intentionally imaginative, so its important that we realize man’s limitations and get us
back to reality. question 2 04/11/2013
2) He also criticizes St. Augustine: he criticizes the city of godit teaches the life on earth is the one of guilt
and suffering, and only by suffering we will get rewards in heaven: Christian perspective. M argues against
this, M thinks its imp to see contentment in what is here and now in this earth. So M says we strive for
contentment here on this earth, rather than on heaven.
So M’s break with tradition is important because today’s political thinkers take his ideas and ‘run with them’
e.g. Hobbes says M is a revolutionary
Ch 15 summary:
M’s works offer a reinterpretation of the works we did before
Chapter 15 of the prince, where M breaks from the tradition of political philosophy. He breaks the tradition of
1) philosophy of ancient Greeks 2) theology of the Christians who is Augustine
Ch 15 is where M lays out his moral transformation of political philosophy
He emphasizes the worth of moral badness, he teaches its sometimes good to be
bad. This is contrasting to Plato and A’s views
M’s teaching is complicated, he says while it is good to be bad, you have to
maintain the appearance of goodness!!
He lowered the standardshe taught that man should not aim so high to achieve moral goodness, he can
achieve moral badness
Machiavellich 7: prince
In chapter 7, M provides the story of the failure of Cesera Borgia. On the outset it seems like Borgia is
Machiavelli’s successor however Machiavelli displays his example to show us why he ultimately failed at a
prince, because his reliance on the Church’s fortune
Fortune in this situation is that Chesra is born into a situation; he got what he got from someone else. But is
this what M attacks Chesra for? No, at the end he comes down from him no being able to maintain his
Cesera’s story: he puts his power in use + uses cruelty to kill Romerio Diorco but ultimately he fails, doesn’t
make good use of his virtue,
Cesera’s failure: he was successor for pope after his father but Chesra’s big mistake was that he made the
wrong man the pope, he let Julius become pope after his dad. M’s subtle meaning: Cesera should have
kept ANYONE by becoming pope so destroying the papcy + killing all the cardinals
According to M, Chesra expected from Julius gratitude. He counted on the churches virtue. So according to
M, Ches has too much faith in the virtue of the church. His ultimate error was that he was partially
immoral and NOT wholly wickedness! M critsizes that he didn’t become wholly wicked question 2 04/11/2013
The lessons of Ch 7: the real fortuna is understood as ones reliance on the religious
and temporal powers of the church. Ches failed because he relied on the spiritual and temporal
powers of the church so the goodness of the church. Ches was good on relying on the
temporal powers but where ches failed was counting on religious powers of the
Chapter 25: reintroduces the topic of fortune
In Ch 7: fortune had to do relationship with the church and papacy and Chesera have kept for anyone
In this chapter he identifies fortune with god!
By the end of chapter 25 the meaning of fortune changes again! Its final meaning
Suddenly fortune has to do with ones own personal character, and is something
not external, so selfpreservation.
M says that “fortune is a woman who you should beat down and command”
M says fortune is commanded by force
M intended this statement to be shocking and distracting!
The imp thing about this is that fortune is a strong implication that it is man’s ability to control
nature for man’s needs and wishes! so you conquer, use and abuse nature.
if you have fortune, you have the ability to control nature for your own benefit/selfpreservation
Highlight: the best man can gain comfortable self preservation. He made man aware that he controls his
fate. We should not forget M’s self preservation in terms of fortune, he has bad fortune! “a great a
continuous miliginy of fortune he says”
Machiavelli uses ancient greek philosophers e.g. Plato and Aristotle both began with the best way of life, so
M used this as well. Yet M ultimately rejects the principles of classical antiquity because those principles do
not provide sufficient ground for emancipating the secular world from the church
Plato’s republic be 4 central virtues of Republic, Socrates proceeds to try to determine the essential virtues
that may be said to characterize it (the Four Cardinal Virtues): justice, wisdom, moderation and
Wisdom lies with the guardians because of their knowledge of how the city should be run. If the guardians
were not ruling, if it were a democracy, say, their virtue would not translate into the virtue of the city. But
since they are in charge, their wisdom becomes the city’s virtue.
Courage lies with the auxiliaries. It is only their courage that counts as a virtue of the city because they are
the ones who must fight for the city. A courageous farmer, or even ruler, would do the city no good.
Moderation and justice, in contrast to wisdom and courage, are spread out over the whole city. Moderation
is identified with the agreement over who should rule the city, and justice, finally, is its complement—the
principle of specialization, the law that all do the job to which they are best suited. question 2 04/11/2013
Later in the book, he indicates that real virtue must be founded upon knowledge, suggesting that virtue
based on habit or belief and not knowledge will fail when the going gets very tough.
Question 2: Machiavelli and Plato’s virtue
According to Machiavelli, the prince should not be concerned with virtue
Men don’t live their life virtuously, they must “safeguard” the state by any means, and harbor bad
characteristics if necessary
If vices (harsh enactments against others) are to be done, then they must be for the proper interest of the
The prince should not be afraid of condemnation from others, he must do what he thinks is right.
Virtue: qualities that are praised by others (generosity, compassion, piety)
Cruelty, dishonesty, these could work if it’s benefitting the state
The prince should worry about the effect on the state, and not its moral values.
Virtue is a state of the soul, the “excellence” of the soul
Thrasymachus and the virtue of justice, very important
Talks about how being just hinders virtue because of the fact that conventional morality requires that we
control ourselves and live without desires
Further explained by Glaucon, when he talks about the story of the ring of invisibility. Gyges takes the ring
and kills the king, marries his wife, and takes the throne.
The point here is that one could simply do anything he wanted without fear of punishment, and there
doesn’t seem to be a point in being just, and therefore no virtue
Plato explains that the just person is a harmonious soul, properly to the person’s benefit.
On the other hand, the unjust man’s soul without the virtue, is “at war with himself,” so even if he could
satisfy his desires, his lack of inner harmony prevents his chances of becoming virtuous
Comparison question 2 04/11/2013
They both agree virtue is needed to create a good civilization. However, they are different that Plato wants
to interfere with other people to make their lives more virtuous, while Machiavelli believes that they should
be left alone in order to gain their support for the state, not to appease the people, since he cares more
about the state than them. However, this leads to another difference. Machiavelli’s view of a ruler does not
care much for people, but Plato on the other hand, does. Machiavelli makes claims (through Discourses on
Livy) about virtues for a Roman Republic. Plato supported a benevolent dictatorship. question 3 04/11/2013
Exam Question 3: According to Thomas Hobbes, what is justice? Compare and
contrast Hobbes's understanding of justice with that of Thrasymachus in Plato's
**Remember that Plato had aspired to the rule of reason in the soul and rule of knowledge in the state
Hobbes subverted that theory in order to emphasize human selfishness and competitiveness (From
obbes’ Leviathan – What is Justice
Leviathan , Chapter 15: On the laws of nature
With the idea of laying down one’s right, Hobbes develops an idea of justice and covenant
Third Law of Nature we should keep covenants once we make them as a matter of justice; injustice means
you do not keep your covenant
Injustice means you don’t hold your covenant; breaking what we oblige ourselves to do in contracts by
Justice and injustice therefore are not qualities of the individual soul, as Plato would suggest, but of the law
They come into existence only through an intentional action by people who make contracts and either abide
by them or don’t
Covenants are enforced by the laws of the sovereign and this is what we define as either just or unjust
Law is the source and guarantee of justice
The whole idea is that when you lay down your right to something, you declare that you wont hinder
someone for using it freely
Leviathan, Chapter 15: The fool
Hobbes calls the person who will choose to disobey the sovereign and social contract because they think
they will get away with it “the fool”
A good example of the fool would be Thrasymachus himself; he is an example of the person who will
always be tempted not to follow what is “just” because of the belief that life will be more fruitful if you can get
away with being “unjust”
lato’s Republic , Thrasymachus’ Conception of Justice
The Republic , Book I, Justice according to Thrasymachus is the advantage of the strong man; it will
always be the advantage of the ruler at the expense of the ruled
Believes that everyone should produce as much justice as they should get away with question 3 04/11/2013
Thrasymachus believes that injustice is more profitable than justice because it allows men to indulge in
relishes they would not be permitted to have under following what is just (what leads to Glaucon’s entering
of the conversation in Book II)
Injustice is noble and good, and justice isn’t
In general: If Thrasymachus looked at justice in a Hobbesian perspective, he would not see the necessity
in maintaining a covenant if he is able to get away with breaking it. Ultimately, if you had the upper hand
and were the one of the “strong”, you would have the advantage.
According to Thomas Hobbes, what is justice? Compare and contrast Hobbes's
understanding of justice with that of Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic .
In Hobbes’ state of nature there is neither justice nor injustice. This is because the state of nature
exists in a constant state of war of all against all and any action is justified in the pursuit of selfpreservation.
According to Hobbes, where there is not a common power, there is now law and in the absence of law there
is no injustice or justice. Justice and injustice are not naturally occurring but rather become present with the
creation of society.
In a society, justice stems from the laws of nature. Hobbes defines injustice as the breaking of a
covenant that you have committed to. Anything that is not unjust is just. In order for justice to exist, there
must be a coercive power to compel men equally to fulfill their covenants. This common power establishes
the commonwealth and property which allows the creation of valid covenants.
Hobbes differentiates between justice as it applies to men, and as it applies to actions. When
justice is applied to men it signifies the conformity of manners to reason. When applied to actions it also
indicates conformity to reason but for individual actions. A just man takes care to ensure all his individual
actions are just.
Thrasymachus defines justice as the advantage of the strong. As justice is defined by law and the
strong control the law, it is the strong who benefit from the law.
Compare: question 3 04/11/2013
Both Thrasymachus and Hobbes connect justice to law. For Hobbes it is the existence of a
common power and the creation of laws that leads to the existence of the concepts of justice and injustice.
Thrasymachus holds that it is the law that defines justice and therefore those who control the law are the
ones in society who benefit the most and have their interests served by justice. The two thinkers agree that
it is the existence and substance of law that substantively defines justice.
Hobbes would disagree with the statement that justice only serves the interests of the strong. This
would undermine the purpose of the creation of the commonwealth as all decisions about the law are
consented to by everyone through their covenant giving up their rights to the sovereign. Therefore in
Hobbes’ theory justice should not privilege one section of society over another.
Hobbes: Chapters 8 & 15
Plato: Tutorial notes from lecture two question 4 04/11/2013
Essay Question #4 question 4 04/11/2013
The Role of the Family for Plato and Locke
The role of the family in Plato’s The Republic is absent, the city is seen as one big family instead of
individual families because distinct families reduce loyalty to the common good leading people to promote
only the good of their own family, in contrast Locke argues in the Second Treatise of Government that the
family is necessary in order to educate and raise children until they reach maturity and gain the ability to
reason for themselves.
Plato’s Role of the Family (Plato’s discusses the family in Book IV and V)
For Plato there is no such thing as distinct families, everyone is born from the same mother (the Earth) and
they are all therefore brothers and sisters. This unity allows for the stability of the state because no one will
have their own family interest’s to promote, their family is the state and therefore their interests are equal to
the good of the state. Festivals are held where rulers choose the best auxiliaries and allow them to marry
and conceive in order to ensure the best possible offspring (this is done by ticking the people into believing
there is a lottery system and that there are not being bred for the purest offspring). The children are
immediately taken from their mothers and raised collectively by nurses, therefore the children are all the
offspring of all the mothers, no one favors one child over the other, and all the mothers are equally mother
to all the children. This system eliminates possible conflict, everyone in the city is a collective family and
their interests are all shared, the younger generation is not likely to rebel against the older generation
because they are their parents and the older generation will not likely fight the younger generation because
they are their children. Socrates claims the greatest evil is that which splits the city apart and makes it
many instead of one. Consequently he claims the greatest good is that which unites the state and makes it
one. For Socrates the traditional idea of individual families causes fractions in the city, whereas when the
traditional idea is dissolved and the idea of the city itself as one big family replaces it then the people will all
equally respect each other, avoid conflict, and nothing will be seen as their individual possessions or
feelings but the shared possessions and feelings of the city.
Locke’s Role of the Family (Locke discusses the family in chapter VI) question 4 04/11/2013
Locke claims that the city is very individualistic, the family is formed of individuals and they do not have
common needs but instead pursue their own interests. The woman and man come together in marriage for
mutual benefit and to conceive children. The parents have equal power over the children and children are
obliged to follow them until they reach the age of maturity, which Locke states is 21. Children are not born
with the ability to reason, and therefore they cannot direct their own will, they need someone, their parents,
to reason for them and to will for them. This is the duty and the cause of parents. The power that parents
have over their children arises from that duty which is incumbent on them, to take care of their offspring,
during the imperfect state of childhood. Parents have this duty until the child develops reason and this
reason shall take the place of the parents. After the child has reached maturity the parents no longer have
any power over them except that children are expected to honor their parents since they were the ones who
birthed and educated them, and the children must be kind to their parents because this is the only way to
ensure they will receive their inheritance. The idea posed by Locke is that if you educate people in a certain
way, as individuals, they will continue to be individualistic once they are no longer under the authority of
their parents and this is what allows for the continuation of the civil state.
Comparing and Contrasting the Views
Locke and Plato are similar in the sense that they both view the role of family as necessary to teach the
people, if you educate the people in the way you want then they will continue to act in this way. In the
Republic, Socrates argues that the people must be told the noble lie which includes the idea that they are
all one family born from the same mother and that they are all born with different metals inside them which
decides what class they will be a part of in society. This way of educating the people allows for the ultimate
unification of the people and also allows for social mobility. For Locke, in contrast to Plato, the family
educates people in individualism, which is fundamental in Locke’s picture, allowing all people to act in
pursuit of their own good.
The biggest differences between Locke and Plato is that for Plato the traditional idea of family is dangerous
for the city, it causes division and reduces the peoples’ loyalty and devotion to the common good. For Locke
the family is good and teaches the people how to behave in accordance to the rules of the civil state. Plato
fights for ultimate unity whereas Locke wants ultimate individualism. This makes the roles of family for them
Version 2 question 4 04/11/2013
4. Compare Plato and Locke on the proper role of the family in human life.
Reading Sections from Plato on family: 383d, 329b, 343e, 366c, 378c, 382e, 415a,
457c, 491c, 494b, 521a, 538a, 560a, 572e