Tuesday, December 6, 2011

If the city in speech is Glaucon's, what city is Socrates's?


This piece will focus on two differences between the city in speech or beautiful city, taken to be Socrates’s or Plato’s ideal by many interpreters, and what Socrates and Plato a) thought about democracy and tyranny (this post) and b) about the ideal city for philosophers, a quasi-Pythagorean one, one perhaps like that of Socrates and his students in the Republic or Plato's Academy which I will trace in the next post.

My student Justin Williams who asked in the first class whether the torch race was a metaphor for the views of justice that the interlocutors pass from hand to hand, each one taking the lead, becoming more formidable, has come up with a further interesting surmise, based on an article by George Rudebush. The name Glaucon refers to the shining of the sea (thalassa) in Homer, bending into the color gray of Athena’s eyes. It is linked to the word for owl (Athena Glaucopis is owl-eyed Athena, Athena the wise). But it also has a more neutral meaning of shining (Liddell-Jones-Scott lexicon) and can thus also perhaps be the gleaming of embers.* In any case, the idea that tyranny is fired by desires – “where are the relishes?” says Glaucon, and speaking of the good, “is it pleasure?” – as well as the fierceness in the unfolding of the Republic, driven by the passions of young warriors, is symbolized in the flaring torches.

The last post explored how Plato saves poetry and Homer in the Republic despite the lengthy discussion of seeming censorship. See here and here. The beautiful city, as I will show further below, is not meant seriously almost from the start (students were probably supposed to think about what aspects of the different arguments are plausible, if any). Philosophers seeks justice, but justice may be, so I will suggest, defending democracy against tyranny. See here.

In contrast, the metaphors of the divided line, the cave and the light are, though glimmers, to be taken by students more seriously. Even in this case, there is also comedy about Glaucon who demands everything and can get little but a glimmer of what philosophy is, seeks over all to impress Socrates, to reveal himself knowledgeable when he is not, and is often toyed with by Socrates. This distinction between the arguments and metaphors for the beautiful city (kallipolis) and the wrenching ascent of philosophy from the daylight darkness of the cave to the light is, I think, one of the most important aspects for students of Plato/later readers to take in.

The Republic opens difficult paths for students both into philosophy and a descent into the city to protect it against tyranny (in the latter respect, Socrates and some Platonists like Demosthenes differ markedly from Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans). But the beautiful city (kallipolis) of the Republic is not Socrates’s or a philosopher’s vision, but Glaucon’s vision – the city of guardians – created in conversation with Socrates. As Athenians would have known and later Greeks heard from the names, many of the interlocutors are war-makers: Cephalus the arms manufacturer, Polemarchus the democratic son and heir whose names means war leader, Thrasymachus fierce fighter though the battle is largely rhetorical, and the veteran leaders in battle Adeimantus (fearless) and Glaucon (shining). This is unusual in the dialogues, distinctive to the Republic. The guardians are thus their ideal version of justice, their god, like Ares in the Phaedrus, and the psyches of the interlocutors shape the dialogue…

As Socrates puts it,

“Now he who is a follower of Zeus, when seized by eros can bear a heavier version of the winged god; but those who are servants of Ares and followed in his train, when they have been seized by eros and think they have been wronged in any way by the beloved, become murderous and are ready to sacrifice themselves and the beloved. And so it is with the follower of each of the other gods; he lives, so far as he is able, honoring and initiating that god, so long as he is uncorrupted, and is living his first life on earth, and in that way he behaves and conducts himself toward his beloved and toward all the others. Now each one chooses his love from the ranks of the beautiful according to his character, and he fashions him and adorns him like a statue, as though he were his god, to honor and worship him.” (Phaedrus, 252c-d)

To see that the guardians are, most importantly, Glaucon’s dream is to open for students the question: what city, not described in the Republic, would be the dream of Socrates?

Thus, the philosophical city is but hinted at in the Republic through the way in which the myth of the divided line and the obscure though brilliant idea of the good (the good brings everything to life in the noetic universe even more strongly the sun does in the visible universe) appear. In addition, even the philosopher-tyranny of the kallipolis is not Socrates's on Plato’s view. Socrates did not organize for such ideas in Athens, and in the Seventh Letter, in seeking to advise Dionysius in Syracuse, Plato and Dion, his best student, affirm a rule of laws.**

In contrast, philosopher-tyranny, based on a literal understanding of the city in speech or an interpretation which permits some satire but takes it basically seriously, is a path taken by Al-Farabi, Heidegger and Strauss – the latter two Nazis or pro-Nazis - but a false one. See here and here.

For instance, Strauss worked back to Plato through the Arab – Al-Farabi – and Jewish Middle Ages. He did not question the message he found in Farabi but imposed it on Plato. Note that Strauss rejects the first two proposals of book 5 on the participation of women, but takes the philosopher-king seriously.

One might say: Heidegger and Strauss were already connected with European militarism, racism, and fascism. The tendency to take the guardians literally – Heidegger thinks of the philosophers as guardians to Hitler, reduces philosophy literally to organizing (setting rules on behalf of)/soldiering for the Fuehrer in his 1943 The Essence of Truth: Plato’s Cave-Metaphor and the Theaetetus:

“We must now see if what has been said can be verified from Plato’s own presentation. With this intention we turn to the final section of book VI of the Republic. In regard to the ‘state’ (as we somewhat inappropriately translate polis) and its inner possibility, Plato maintains as his first principle that the authentic guardians of human association in the unity of the polis must be those who philosophize. He does not mean that philosophy professors are to become chancellors of the state, but that philosophers are to become phylaches, guardians. Control and organization of the state is to be undertaken by philosophers, who set standards and rules in accordance with their widest and deepest, freely inquiring knowledge, thus determining the general course society should follow.(paragraph 13, p. 73) (h/t Tracy Strong). See here and here.

Another student Luke Franklin has emphasized the regularities involved even in the rule of the philosopher-king, the banning of poetry, the rules on mating, and the like. But no regime is without rules or customs of some sort. More exactly, tyranny involves rule in general by princely decree (without laws) about the most important matters, notably the lives of citizens and alternate leaders. In contrast, a constitutional system often and about important matters, involves rule in the light of background institutions, laws and customs.

I will spell out some commonalities with Pythagoras in the next post, but first, I want to underline the deepest difference between Socrates, founder of civil disobedience, as well as perhaps Plato, with the Pythagoreans. That difference is in going down to defend democracy against tyranny. It stems from questioning about justice which is exactly what is ruled out in the education of the city in speech and helps make that city a seeming ideal of Glaucon but one with Socrates or Plato unimaginable within it. The idea that a philosopher rules obscures the fact that a philosopher cannot be reared or “bred” in this city. Scholars and philosophers have been put off seeing this by the Pythagorean/Platonic emphasis on numbers. But as I will show below, working with numbers alone will not get one to Socrates.

The “city in speech” is also at best a cave, featuring the noble lie ("a Phoenician myth"), and when considered in the light of the advocacy of censorship, an anti-educational or anti-philosophical city in this central respect. Now the idea of becoming a philosopher, of turning toward the light, exists independently of the city in speech. Dazzled by the metaphor for philosophy, Glaucon wonders why philosophers would go down. Socrates responds, the city in speech is a hive in which the philosophers must do this. They are “bred” to. But this is a feint, not, as a student might have seen, an answer. It is why the lawmakers would want the philosophers to go down, not why they would.

Why would the philosophers themselves want to do this either for the city in speech or in ordinary circumstances? Why should we make them go down, Glaucon asks, to live a worse life than the divine one they have found? Why do they not shun the cave?

Since the city in speech is rare and, mainly a satire, it is unlikely that “being bred there” could be a reason. One might, however, consider a variant of this thought: the argument of the democratic laws in the Crito that they have raised Socrates, to which he raises no question or objection; perhaps the argument has some force even in the not very just circumstances of democracy....

In addition, being a philosopher involves conversations and asking questions, following out or fashioning arguments. Perhaps it is something done by oneself - Socrates is alone among those sleeping or stirring even in this dialogue - and simultaneously needs and desires conversation (drawn by eros for the truth and for Glaucon, needing to bend Glaucon from tyranny, needing at least a community - consider also the Pythagorean way of life - to discover the truth, needing a city that tolerates philosophy as a smaller circle within it...).

In fact, philosophers, modeled by Socrates in life, do go down.

A further answer might be: to defend philosophy, they go down to fight tyranny (including the tyranny of the democrat Meletus and the defeated Athenian democracy of 399 BC; also Socrates’s civil disobedience to Critias during the Tyranny of the Thirty, his refusal to fetch Leon of Salamis to be put to death). Many have been put off from seeing this alternative because Socrates (and more sharply, Plato) were critics of democracy. And Socrates was put to death by the democracy (Athens disgraced itself, lives on in history as the city, despite its toleration at its height, which murdered its wise man). But we might think of a kind of tyranny, for instance against questioning (vital to democracy and philosophy), what we might call a kind of Ku Klux Klanism or McCarthyism or neo-conservatism or as Rousseau puts it more abstractly, a “will of all,” growing within democracy. It is incarnate in the Athenian poisoning of Socrates. Tyrannical “democracies” pit majority rule viciously against individual freedom or later, rights. Hence a well stated modern democratic theory such as Rawls’s accords the first principle of justice, the equal basic rights of each citizen, priority over others. Rawls is based on Rousseau and this thought is Rawls's adaptation of a general will.

But democracy also tolerated Socrates for 70 years and a small circle of philosophers, despite some menace, beyond that. Following Socrates, a student might ask: why not strengthen and sustain democracy against tyranny (including democratic tyranny)? For example, one might adopt a longer period for a capital trial as Socrates’s suggests in his response to the verdict in the Apology and build on this, as moderns have done, by protecting equal freedom of speech and conscience…

In addition, recall that the action of the Republic is to tame Glaucon, to persuade him not to grasp for his desires (the highest “pleasure” as he gasps foolishly about the overpowering idea of the good – the only way he can interpret his god, the good as pleasure – of course, Ares went off with Aphrodite…) or become a tyrant. Consider again the lines from Phaedrus above. Such grasping is both his bent and possibility, but he is converted to listen to, perhaps take a few steps to search for philosophy. There is little evidence in the Republic, in contrast to Polemarchus, that Glaucon himself, though clever, has taken deeply to the path. Put differently, the challenge of the ring of Gyges story here is the most formidable to Socrates and drives the dialogue, but it is Polemarchus, not Glaucon, who listens to the arguments, works at figuring out what is true.

Thus, contra the Meno, what the Republic shows is that Socrates can teach virtue even without the student becoming a philosopher. And in addition, it suggests, along with the story of Socrates, that virtue consists, in part, in going down to fight for decent or we might say, a tolerant democracy against tyranny.

In the last post, I discussed the recurring image of Achilles saying, "better to be a serf to the meanest lord on earth than King of the dead" among the seven citations from Homer nominated for censorship at the opening of book 3. I noted the striking inclusion of this metaphor to illuminate the relation of the noetic world to the cave in book 7; Socrates’s and Plato’s later invocation shows, perhaps, that it would be as useful to ban such metaphors from the philosophical and ordinary idiom of the Hellenes and others as to ban breathing…

But a second image from Homer at the opening of book 3, even more startlingly out of place, is the fourth.

He was alone with his wisdom and wit

All the others were shadows (386e)

This is the image of Socrates from the end of the Meno. On the complexity of images in the Meno (and the Symposium and Phaedrus), see here, here, here, here, here and here. One could only teach virtue to another, Socrates says there, if one were like Tiresias the blind Theban seer in Hades, who alone among the dead can see.

But Socrates is like this in the cave, literally teaching Glaucon not to become a tyrant. Recall that Socrates’s first city in book 2 is austere. Adeimantus follows his argument, answers his questions, but Glaucon bursts in and says this is but a city of pigs. “Where are the relishes?” he asks. (372c-d)

The fevered city which Glaucon wants Socrates then suggests will be a city involved in war and conquest and will thus exist amidst the rivalry of others (372e-373a):

“So we shall covet some of our neighbor’s land in order to expand our pasture and tillage. And if our neighbor has also disregarded the limits set by necessity and has given himself over to the unlimited acquisition of wealth, he will, in turn, covet what belongs to us.”

“Inevitably.”

“Then the next step will be war, Glaucon. Or do you see some other outcome?”

“There can be no other, Socrates.” (373d-e)

The city will need a military – note entirely in response to Glaucon, the leader in battle and his suggestion of violating necessity, seeking “relishes” which is not a need of Socrates or, for that matter, Adeimantus. The soldiers are guardians, dogs who bark at strangers and wag their tails at “friends.” These moves work, in terms of Glaucon’s psyche (a military leader), to cure both the vision of the fevered city and his own fever, the internal civil war or desire revealed in his graspingness for relishes, or his later gasping at the sunlike idea of the good:

“If the good is the source of knowledge and truth and at the same time surpasses them both in beauty, you must have in mind a beauty beyond imagination. Surely you cannot be speaking of pleasure.”

“Hush” responds Socrates. (509a)

Glaucon’s bending of the argument as a proto-tyrant of a fevered city is the setting which motivates Socrates’s forging of the city in speech, one of lean dogs who will be tough fighters as well as make scrawny pickings for the larger ones. In addition, since the guardians will be honored but not rewarded with money, the city avoids the class war (stasis) which divides the fevered city (think of Thucydides's account of Athens in Corcyra, or today American militarism/police-probation complex/financial casino versus the 99%…). This vision somewhat tames Glaucon, persuades him not to become a tyrant.

One is warned, however, that this turn in the argument is all a joke by the comparison of philosophers to dogs (both judge by “knowledge”…), especially in the context of Socrates’s arguments against the normal political benefiting friends and attacking enemies of book 1. See here.

Thus, the city in speech is profoundly Glaucon’s, the city driven by his questions and imaginings informed by philosophical suggestions (something not available to him without Socrates) and with the glimmer of a philosopher-king somehow as its designer and head. But it is not, as is supposed in the Popperian or even sophisticated Heideggerian misinterpretation, a philosopher’s city, let alone a just one. Hilary Putnam quipped to me recently that on my view, Heidegger is the dark side of the [Platonic] force…

Still, with this ideal image of city and the argument about how being a tyrant is a corrupt and unhappy state, Socrates defeats Glaucon’s hunger for tyranny.

One might also say, Glaucon’s ideal philosophical-tyranny is analogous to the real tyranny of Critias, Socrates’s student, that of the Thirty, which murdered 1500 Athenians. Socrates resisted that tyranny (disobeyed its direct order to join in its killing) and one leading theme of the Republic - curbing Glaucon’s taste for becoming a tyrant – shows again that Socrates did not “corrupt the youth” but healed his listeners...

As the Republic reveals, Socrates satirizes Glaucon’s and Critias’s ideal of a militarist city: hence the image of the philosopher as a dog, the censorship of poetry, the expulsion of everyone over 10 (by whom?), the wrestling of men and women naked, the prize of the most women to the best soldier (perhaps a big incentive for Glaucon who likes relishes), the encouragement of all the same habits, all the same passions, and other matters. Critias’s tyranny is mocked by the censorious city in the Republic. As Socrates is forbidden by Critias to talk to the young (see Xenophon’s Memorabilia here), so only those over 50 in the Republic and those escaping/outlasting/transforming the nocturnal council in the Laws will be licensed to have a thought.

But of course, as Xenophon reports, Socrates questions and makes fun of Critias and his fellow tyrant, Charicles

“Am I allowed, if asked where you live, to tell them?” he says.***

If the city in speech is not Socrates's idea of justice, then the idea of justice he glimpses and speaks of is more partial. Socrates does not know this idea fully, but he knows examples of injustice when he sees them. Putting people, himself included, wantonly to death, is probably included among those unjust things. For him, the shining idea or principle of justice is that which he fights for in the democracy in trying to preserve philosophy (asking questions) against tyranny.

In contrast to the city in speech, however, the other great image of the Republic, the ascent to philosophy is, though a glimmer, serious.

Ascending to philosophy - here the images of Pythagoreans in book 7 and 10 become relevant - will enable one to see in the cave, will enable one to preserve the small city of philosophers in Athens as the big city made of many smaller cities, will contribute to defeating tyranny.

Plato was tempted by the philosopher-king. This and the role of women among the guardians are serious notes or possibilities to be considered and argued about in his story of the beautiful city in and the accompanying waves of ridicule. **** Had Plato not himself engaged in journeys to Syracuse to advise the tyrant Dionysius and had not some of his best students, notably Aristotle, become advisors to tyrants, one might think that the third proposal was also satirical. It wasn’t.

Plato wrestled with finding a tyrant to advise and make decent for some years, and in the Seventh Letter, as I have suggested, proposes laws as the aim of what the tyrant, become philosophical, for instance his best student Dion who becomes briefly the ruler, offers. Note, however, how different this practical attempt was from the effectively lawless and (philosophically) tyrannical kallipolis in book 5 of the Republic.

In the Seventh Letter, Plato says that unlike Dionysius who has tossed together the facsimile of such a book, Plato, who knows most about legislation, will never write a book about it. Neither the Republic nor the Laws is in fact a book about legislation, this thought suggests, without furthering reasoning. Noticing that the ideal city in the Republic is Glaucon’s, that it has some satirical aspects, that it is not a just city on a philosopher’s vision is a start. That the rule of laws is something a philosopher-king might strive for suggests remaining in, fighting for even a democracy (philosophy here requires political leadership - as a citizen - but not literally kingship).

The best regime, philosophically speaking, is left by the Republic for students of Plato to imagine. But it is not the rule of philosophers as a separate or hostile stratum to ordinary people (that is a fascist vision a la Heidegger and Strauss). Philosophers need a regime in which they can think on their own, one in which they will not often be called upon to save or strengthen it. Yet they are called. Their physical needs are not great – recall the austere city (“of pigs”) in book 2 which is the root of Socrates' city. Xenophon's version of the Apology (his Defense of Socrates at his Trial) has a particularly haughty and mocking account of how little Socrates needs while others suffer in war or from the plague. Alcibiades's speech in the Symposium indicates also how remarkable from standing in trances for a day when camped in the army to going barefoot in the cold into battle to being a calm but fierce presence as a soldier to refusing honors Socrates was. Consider that having saved Alcibiades, he urged the generals to honor Alcibiades and not himself - it is Alcibiades's or Glaucon's city in the Republic, but definitely not Socrates's.

In The Music of the Republic, Eva Brann brilliantly suggests that Socrates's relationship with his circle of students is like that of the guardians. They sustain him as an equal (or according to his needs, which are less). He instructs them. But note that the relationship is not that of a military leader to soldiers (even though here, they are mostly by name soldiers/military leaders), but of philosophy, of questioning. What is dimly glimpsed in the Republic's cave of guardianship - how the guardians become philosophers - is in fact realized here in the action of the Republic within the small circle in a democracy who ask questions about justice, who begin to do philosophy. The philosophical way of life or circle is hinted at in the guardians' way of life, a shading of it, but is much simpler and less honored or celebrated by the city.

Democracy is certainly one main place in which philosophy flourished until Socrates reached 70 and Athens had been defeated…

The circle of those doing philosophy within a larger democracy is realized even in the action of the Republic.

That Socrates himself had even the vision of a philosopher-king is doubtful (“I do not know,” Socrates says in the Apology, “nor do I think I know”). Certainly, he made no attempt in his life to produce such an outcome in Athens (Plato’s Apology underlines this; Xenophon seems to suggest that he bred up a cohort of philosophers, and they might come to rule. Al-Farabi and Strauss, and the Straussian neo-cons in so far as they can follow Strauss beyond narrowly political instruction - i.e rule through the executive in a state of the exception, appeal to religion to gull the masses and the like - follow Xenophon).

One might also note: Socrates asks questions about justice in politics. But as my student Nick Catanzarite has suggested, from book 2 through the elaboration of the city in speech (book 5), what Socrates suggests for education is the opposite of - the Socrates of book 1, the Socrates one finds in the Apology or Crito. That character named Socrates in the later Republic often doesn’t seem to be – Socrates (he provides well-defined answers; his attitude toward questioning silences or exiles Socrates). It is here important to remember Socrates’s reputation as ironic (eiron) and to see that perhaps this is one of the things it actually refers to: the dialogue is a complicated send up of censoring poetry and forbidding questioning.****

Judging by the Seventh Letter, Plato’s view, with his student Dion, was that the tyrant Dionysius the younger, should he become a philosophical ruler, would move in the direction of giving laws. The philosophical tyrant would thus no longer be a tyrant (one who rules wisely but without laws).

Socrates and Plato mainly taught aristocratic students who despised the democracy. Starting with the defense of democracy against tyranny might have been a hard place with them. Whether that was worth confirming the authoritarians and Nazis – Critias, Heidegger, Strauss – and even Aristotle, tutor to Alexander, is another matter. The Nazi philosophers and the authoritarian Straussians would have been more obvious - and less pretentious and self-deceiving - without a gross facsimile of Plato on their lips...

Thus, Plato wanted to move a tyrant not to forge a “beautiful city,” the projected image of Glaucon in the Republic or Critias in the Thirty, but to forge, as it were, a legal monarchy. In the Seventh Letter, Plato has a particularly vivid expression about Dionysius casting a “tyrannical look”, i.e a murderous look, when he was hunting for Theodotes, 349b.

If one wants to understand Wolfowitz or Kristol or Cheney, such looks are a clue...*****

So a student, who followed like Polemarchus, might begin to imagine a philosopher-kingship in Plato which is not a martial tyranny (Glaucon’s or Critias’ or Alcibiades's city) but for a rule of laws. And one might think then that what Socrates summons his students to do is to go down into the democracy and fight for a regime that would not execute the philosophers (or democrats) for asking questions, not become in substance or form a tyranny. In that case, one would grasp the shining idea of justice and the good here and now (Socrates commonly refers to his true judges in the here and now in the Apology, or the small city of philosophers or philosophical conversation actually in the Republic). That again would speak for the defense of laws and especially for the defense of a democracy, home for the small city of philosophers, which has decent laws.

In that case, the easy affirmation in book 8 of the Republic that democracy becomes tyranny automatically because it has no laws or coherence – another of Plato’s really bad arguments – would be abridged. Democracies do have laws, i.e. the law that put Socrates to death. More importantly, they have laws to come together, whatever the citizens’ eccentricities like Socrates (democracy as the city of small cities), to defend a common good. This is also Pericles’s formulation in Thucydides and Plato and his students were well aware of it. But if democracy has laws, then it cannot – here is Plato’s, more than Socrates’s, aristocratic scorn for the asses who rub against one in the street – simply permit everything. Its equal freedom rules out that individual “freedom” which abolishes freedom, that which does not unite for the common good, that of the tyrant…

What Plato says here about democratic freedom ignores the fact that it is equal freedom. Put differently, he misses the fundamental point about democratic laws as a regime and the argument he offers is, in fact, incoherent. Plato asserts a) that democrats, lotus-eaters, are sleepy and committed to an apolitical and alegal freedom – not an equal freedom – which soon results in the abolition of democracy. But b) since such a freedom is apolitical, outside a regime, it is unstructured and barred by democratic laws of equality. Plato’s cultural argument here is mere class prejudice, a forgetting of what he thought about regimes (how regimes, through laws and spirit, shape everything; here a caricature of spirit is pitted against the laws).

The spirit of the laws in such a regime, in Montesquieu’s subsequent phrase, can perhaps nurture personal conceptions of freedom (the city of diverse cities), but the laws clash with an apolitical, state of nature, outside of a regime “freedom.” In the case of tyrannical conceptions of dominating everyone else, the laws of a free regime exclude them (require suppression of any attempt to act on them).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this cultural argument, shoved at the decent protest of the 1960s against war and segregation, alone moved Allan Bloom, Strauss’s student, a wonderful translator, but one who displays no interest in argument (Bloom, even more than Strauss, seeks to find a hidden argument in a "philosopher," but anti-Platonically does not test it out at all. It is a matter for Bloom of worship, not of thought – see his letter to Strauss, whom he likens to a magical or wise rabbi, on exactly this point (Bloom's correspondance with Strauss, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago). Translator of the Republic, Bloom is a student of Strauss, but the opposite of a student of Plato.

Note that the cultural argument is useful in generating tyranny from democracy. But it seemingly does not allow a stopping point for democracy against tyranny. This argument in the Republic, also however, contradicts the speech of the democratic laws in the Crito. There Socrates’s reasons as a philosopher for going to his death are not made clear. See here. But that he hears the voice of the democratic laws as the Corybants, of whom he was one, hear the droning murmur of the flutes is emphasized ("you may speak, Crito, if you have further questions, but you will not convince me..."). The vision of democracy in book 8 of the Republic would not speak to Socrates overpoweringly to go to his death.

I suspect here that Plato, who liked democracy even less than Socrates, got lost in mocking democracy (I think it is just a bad argument). He wanted to show a link between democracy and tyranny to warn how the one turns into the other. But he had suggested in going down that the philosopher might fight for the city of cities. He expected students to arrive at that. Some did. But obviously, many aristocratic and hungry students like Critias or Heidegger or Strauss did not, a flaw perhaps once again in his complicated arrangements, his pointing to a number of paths, the maze-like or philosophically challenging character of Plato’s art/philosophy.

Thus, in book 8, to get the descent of regimes to tyranny, Plato somewhat loses this important thread. And he also buries the hint that a tyrant of a certain kind may become, by a circle (kuklos) a philosopher-king. See here. I suppose that Plato might have planted even this error to awaken or challenge the questioning of his students. If it is a deliberately bad argument, parallel to the argument that a dog is a philosopher, then the need to reason about every argument, not just accept it, becomes more intense. But even Plato makes errors.******

To go down, as Socrates recommends, would thus be to adhere to the laws or try to change them to make democracy stand against tyranny. It is to avoid where one can the penalty of tyrannical rule. As the fate of Socrates shows, and later Demosthenes who dies fighting for Athenian democracy against Phillip and Alexander the Great, such a philosopher often does not escape being murdered for political reasons. Neither did Gandhi or King. To stand up against tyranny is the role of the philosopher in the cave. See here, here, here and here.

In the next part of this essay, I will take up what one can learn from the several mentions of Pythagoreanism in the Republic (2 direct, at least 4 indirect) about the philosopher’s hidden kallipolis or city in speech.

*Rudebush says with some certainty that gleaming, with a link to torches, is an apt translation but I could not find it in the Liddell-Scott-Jones lexicon. In “Dramatic Prefiguration in Plato’s Republic,”Philosophy and Literature, 26, no. 1 (April 2002), p. 80, he suggests:

“There is curiously a close association between Glaucon’s name and torch. The two words ‘gleaming’ – glauk – and ‘torch – lamp - come to mind together for the Greek speaker. InTimeaeus 68c, the word glaukon is defined as a color, light blue. But glaukon can also be translated ‘flashing,’ ‘glaring,’ or ‘gleaming.’ In this usage glaukon is said of what is lampron or ‘torchlike.’ For example, an ancient scholiast notes: `Gleaming’ (glaukon) and ‘glad-eyed’ are synonymous, for both apply to the ‘torchlike’ (lampron). This meaning for glaukon exists in Homer (as Liddell and Scott notice in their lexicon [sic]) and in Pindar.”

But at least contra the scholiast, Athena glaukopis - owl or gray-eyed, like the sea - is not "glad-eyed."

**Women and men wrestling naked, to make fun of the ancient Cretan practice of egalitarian bull-vaulting, is not. See here.

***Socrates mocking of Critias to Euthydemus whom Critias desired "made Critias dislike Socrates so that when as one of the Tyranny of the Thirty [the apt democratic name; originally, as introduced by Sparta, it was "the Thirty," an oligarchy] he became a legislator along with Charicles, he held it against Socrates and introduced a law against teaching the ‘art of debate.’ [logon technon, literally the art of words]. He did this out of spite toward Socrates since he had no means of attacking him other than misrepresenting him to the public by applying to him the usual layman’s allegation against all philosophers [unclear: perhaps “making the worse argument the better,” mocked in Aristophanes’s The Clouds]. I never heard Socrates do this myself, nor did I ever know anyone else to claim that he had done so.” (Xenophon, Memorabilia, 1.2, 31-32)

Socrates was also outspoken in his criticisms of Critias politically, so outspoken that Critias made a law against Socrates conversing with the young. The authoritarian persecutors in the democracy and Critias echoed one and the same charge against Socrates: he corrupts the youth. He must be silenced through a law against teaching the art of debate, the art of words…

Tyrannies – including ones emerging from within a democracy - seek to suppress philosophy. Anytus (who also fought the Tyranny of the Thirty, like Polemarchos, in the Piraeus) and Meletus have thus much in common with Critias, join with him to suppress and, finally, murder Socrates. Genuine democrats should have shunned this, as 220 who voted for acquittal did. In America, this is the tyranny of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Palmer Raids, McCarthyites and the neo-cons…

****Again, the parallel of the King’s attitude toward prince Siddhartha and its disintegration, faced with the promise of mortality even in the most beautiful or shining, is striking.

*****"And I [Plato] interposed and said by way of encouragement 'Cheer up, Theodotes; for Dionysius will never dare to act otherwise contrary to yesterday's agreement.' Then Dionysius, with a tyrannical glare at me said - ' With you, I made no agreement, great or small.'"

Wolfowitz was notorious as an intimidating dean and teacher at SAIS at Johns Hopkins during his interlude between the Bushes.

******Only Leo Strauss, who doesn’t think out arguments and is a cryptographer, believes bizarrely that master writers are those who make no mistakes. That thought is refuted by failure of example. There are no such writers...


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