Ideal City in “The Republic” by Plato

The ideal city portrayed by Plato represents a complex account of the relation between nature and nurture, the state and population, society and governance. Describing an the ideal city, Plato underlines that people are all born with physical and intellectual equipment that makes them suited to perform some tasks better than others. The model of the ideal city involves ideas of justice and nature, human relations and labor relations.

Plato portrays that the ideal city consists of three social groups: workers, guardians and philosophers. Each of them hands certain natures that they cannot alter. Plato explains that attempting to do what people are not fitted to do by nature will only make them miserable. On the other hand, the tools people are handed at birth are not sufficient to guarantee that they will excel at the particular function nature assigns people. For that, education and training are necessary. Human natures must be nurtured if they are to bear fruit. Plato believes this to be as true of philosophy as it is of soldiering, farming, or weaving.

Plato gives a special attention to the idea of justice and its role in the idea city. He state that those who rule do so by making and enforcing laws. Justice is obedience to those laws and injustice is disobedience to them. Since those who make the laws are not fools, and since they make laws that work to their own advantage, justice turns out to be the advantage of the strongest. “Two virtues remain to be discovered in the State–first, temperance, and then justice which is the end of our search” (Plato 1996).

Plato describes that since most of people are not self-sufficient even in providing themselves with the requisites of physical survival, a role of the city is to produce them. The city incorporates a division of labor for the provision of food, shelter, and clothing. Plato underlines that people are more productive if they secialize in one thing rather than try to excel at many things, Socrates sets up the city as a community of interdependent shepherds, farmers, carpenters, weavers, cobblers, black smiths, traders, shopkeepers, and so forth. Socrates agrees that the city he has described would be a truly healthy one and that to admit luxuries into it will. “Men of the governing class, are habituated to lead a life of luxury and idleness both of body and mind” (Plato 1996).

The only function he indicates early on is that the overseers are to educate the auxiliaries. Good soldiers must be fearless and ferocious, Socrates says, but these same characteristics should not be turned against the population the auxiliaries are supposed to protect.

The task is to make the auxiliaries into junkyard dogs, who are ferocious toward outsiders but gentle toward their owners. This can be done only through proper training, and Socrates lays down the principles for such training; in an actual city it would be the overseers who put them into effect. It seems, then, that the overseers, or rulers, are introduced only to train the auxiliaries, who, in turn, were introduced only because luxuries were admitted in the city.

Plato argues that the members of the various classes should stick solely to the business for which they are suited by nature and not meddle in the functions of the other classes. There is an element of truth to the commonsense notion that justice means giving to persons what rightfully belongs to them; in what Plato regards as a deeper conception of justice, however, what “belongs” to a person must be interpreted to mean the tasks assigned to that person by nature.

If the auxiliaries get interested in making shoes or ruling, they are not going to be good soldiers, and courage is undermined. Plato underlines that If philosophers occupy themselves with building houses or developing battle strategies, they are not going to be able to rise to knowledge of the truth, wisdom suffers, and the whole social structure based on that wisdom comes tumbling down.

Plato supposes that in idea city women should not be excluded from the ranks of the auxiliaries or overseers, which is rather audacious, given that women in ancient Greece fared no better in public life than they have in subsequent societies until very recently. Plato’s argument is that although women differ by nature in some aspects from men, those aspects are not relevant to the functions they would perform as auxiliaries or overseers. The potential to fill these roles is endowed by nature, but it is not linked to gender, he says, anymore than baldness is linked to the capacity to make shoes. Some women are not fit to rule, but then neither are some men.

My idea city differs from the Plato’s idea of the perfect state. In contrast to Plato, my city is a City of Sin. Its president is a young beautiful woman at her twenties. The main similarity between ideas is the tyrant and the philosopher of Plato, finite and mortal as they are, both seem to be seeking communion with something that is infinite and immortal, a communion that will finally overcome their finitude and mortality. Utterly lost to himself, the tyrant pathetically and futilely seeks this contact in love, while the philosopher seeks the same sort of contact through the contemplation of ideal forms.

Plato underlines: “You will admit that the same education which makes a man a good guardian will make a woman a good guardian” (Plato 1996). If rule by philosophers and the reasoning part is not possible, rule by auxiliaries and the spirited part is next best; and if rule by these is not possible, then rule by craftspeople and the appetitive part is the only possibility remaining. If one’s primary aim is to achieve knowledge, other activities, including the quest for honor and the satisfaction of the appetites, must be limited. The quest for honor is not as worthy as the pursuit of knowledge, but it nevertheless requires sacrificing other values.

My ideal city is a modern city aimed to deliver pleasures and entertainment to all citizens. It has a beautiful beach, a bar, club, school, hospital, post office, etc. In my ideal city people has to work only 3-4 hours per week. Everything, from good to entertainment, is very cheap. The similarity with Plato is that his description assumes that people want only to live, when actually they want to live well. People want not only basic foodstuffs but relishes and other condiments, not just basic housing but fine furniture, and not just clothing but jewelry. In short, people want luxuries. If it is honor you want, you may have to give up being rich.

The pursuit of wealth, a desire of the appetitive part of the soul, is less worthy than the pursuit of knowledge or honor, but even it entails sacrifice. Recognizing that people are not all equipped by nature to gain access to the truth, and that even those who do have the capacity must receive special training, people institute a division of labor. Farmers will be farmers, carpenters will be carpenters, weavers will be weavers, and soldiers will be soldiers.

And philosophers, not having to worry about growing food, building houses, making clothes, or defending the city, will be afforded the opportunity to ascend through rigorous training to the apprehension of the truth. They will then govern the rest of us in the light of that truth. The organization of the city makes philosophy possible, and philosophy makes living according to the truth possible.

In my ideal city a special role is assigned to guardians. The Sin City has a university of guardians. People will have to take a test like SAT to enter university. Education lasts about 10-15 years from 8 years till 22 year, when a person passes the final exam to graduate. In contrast, Plato proposes that children be removed from their biological parents to a common nursery immediately upon birth. “Men and women are to have a common way of life such as we have described–common education, common children; and they are to watch over the citizens in common whether abiding in the city or going out to war they are to keep watch together” (Plato 1996).

Plato devises a scheme for defining generations, in which all children born within certain time periods, unaware of who their biological parents are, will treat each other as brothers and sisters. Socrates states: “Let our city be accounted neither large nor small, but one and self-sufficing” (Plato 1996). The policy seems to fit within his general political vision.

In sum, in the ideal city while individuals must serve society, society, in turn, exists to serve individuals. Plato wants people to live according to nature. He apparently suspects, however, that many persons are not naturally going to accept that the stations they happen to occupy in his ideal city are the stations they ought to occupy by nature.

Works Cited

Plato. The Republic. Transl. by Benjamin Jowett. 1996. Web.

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