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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Updates

So, increasingly this is becoming a personal blog as opposed to a collective, and I am fine with that, but I am just typing to inform anyone who reads what my (Cole Dutton's) upcoming project's are.
I will be doing the occasional piece here; I hope once a week to post a 500-800 word piece. Although, I have found my topics increasingly difficult to identify. In addition the Conservative Standpoint book, which was drafted on this blog will be edited toward the aim of self-publishing, along with an extensive poetry and short story collection, which I may post snippets of here.

Meanwhile, I will begin to write for conservative political website Thee Westerner, which you may find here. I may also occasionally contribute to Return of King's which has taken a more traditionalist stance in the last couple of years. During all this I hope to begin drafting my third novel, which will hopefully result in a finished, and serious manuscript for submission by August, but who knows, all will depend on the fatigue of work, which is a 12 hour a day affair over the summer.

That's where I am at, and I appreciate all the readers and the time they take or took to read, what is already on this blog, and I promise to not abandon it completely. I have always been poor at writing on contemporary issues, and I prefer longer efforts a blog is, perhaps, the opposite. So my apologies, but I enjoy the time spent here regardless.

--Cole Dutton.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

A Short Exegesis on John Locke: John Locke and the Question of Virtue in English Liberalism


This a short exegetical essay. The question it attempted to answer was what replaces virtue in the political philosophy of John Locke. What is the alternative binding force political society. It was written for a political theory class and I hope that those interested in more specific material will find it interesting. 
Virtue was a key component of political discourse and theorizing for thousands of years. From Plato to Machiavelli discussions of virtue, and the different conceptions of the meaning of virtue, were key to political and philosophical dialogue; however, in the 17th century Thomas Hobbes and John Locke initiated a change in the way individuals understand politics: they no longer considered virtue. Instead of virtue numerous alternative concepts take the place of the notion; I argue that the concept of virtue in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government has been replaced by a model of mutual reciprocity based on natural reason as a means to recognize the shared domains of creation, freedom, and property. Each of these elements exist pre-politically and none of these concepts require virtue, as a fundamental element of a normative political philosophy, rather they require only that individuals share mutual understanding of what constitutes their shared interest in the form of consent and reciprocity.
The basis of this argument originates in Locke’s interpretation of what constitutes nature and its relationship to political society. It is the state of nature that creates the initial conditions for political society because in the state of nature we have a pre-existing right to both ourselves and our property; coupled to our natural right to ourselves and property, is the law of nature as theorized by Locke.[1]
The law of nature is the law of reason, and holds that man shares equally in reason, which makes the order of nature intelligible and the shared condition of man recognizable.[2] The example punitive measures exercised against foreign persons informs the relationship between persons regardless of association with the political commonwealth.[3] Without the law of nature, the law of reason, one who transgresses against the commonwealth could not be punished because he would not be a party to the social contract; however, if his transgressions are against the law of reason and natural right, his mutual subordination to the local law becomes evident as all are obliged to enforce the law of nature. Such measures would be impossible were it not for the shared capacity to reason that allows for collective punishment of those who do wrong even within the state of nature because men know that it is in their own interest to prevent the exploitation of their neighbors’ resources as well as their own. Locke informs individuals of the ‘right of preserving all mankind.’[4]
This reciprocity underlies the basic assumptions of human relations. The individual acts in his own interest, but the interest of the individual is, broadly speaking, shared in common with the collective. It is man’s natural rights in the state of nature that determine the limits of civil government and allow for man’s ‘common refuge which god hath provided,’[5] and it is man’s natural reason, which makes it possible to share civil relations in the absence of political society while likewise making the convergence of men into a civil commonwealth a remedy for the ‘inconveniences of the state of nature.’[6]
It is the state of nature that is the frame of reference for Locke. It is not the ideal, but it is the origin of political relationships, for it is the capacity to exist in consideration of mutual equality that enables man to see the benefit in association.[7] Locke admits as much when he asserts that even in nature man, as well as ‘independent governments,’ partake in political relationships through compact that do not, necessarily, divorce them from the state of nature.[8] A fundamental element of the natural state of man is the inherent ‘perfect freedom’ shared by men.[9] This natural freedom precedes political convergence and is not defined in terms of what one ought to do, in terms of virtue, or what one can do, but rather by the limits of mans’ natural right. Our natural right being to self-preservation of ourselves and our property, this shared right checks the relationships between individuals and ensures that someone who impinges on such rights abdicates his own prerogatives in relation to his own natural right.[10]
This natural state of liberty changes when it is placed into a social contract between the community and the individual, but emphasized further by the fact that such sacrifice is only in the context of voluntary consent;[11] it is wilfully given by the individual, not taken, and not preceded by the commonwealth.
Locke extends these limits upon the individual, and therefore the natural protections of liberty, through his understanding and interpretation of revelation. To Locke all are equal by nature, and this principle extends to creation itself. Men are alike in their descent from Adam, and they are limited by the inability to determine their relation to the first man, therefore men are naturally equal insofar as they cannot identify the most direct descendent of Adam among human beings.[12] This obligation to creation is likewise tied to stewardship of the common stock, created by God, in that man may not diminish it for his own gain.[13] Individuals, to Locke, have no right over creation at the expense of others; this absence of right of creation is demonstrable, both in terms of property, we are not entitled to spoil it, ‘[h]e was only to . . . [use] them before they spoiled; else he took more than his share and robbed others,’[14] and in terms of the natural relation between parent and child, whereby Locke asserts that family, through consultation with ‘reason or revelation,’ has no natural dominion over children once they reach the age of majority and reason. It is only the nature of ‘natural birth’ in contrast to the spontaneous creation that produces the dependency of children, and once the child’s potential is reached the parental authority ceases.[15] The fundamental component of the relation between parental authority and the child is that a child is a creation of god, and not of man. ‘Adam and Eve, and after them all parents . . . by the law of nature [are] under . . . obligation to preserve, . . . the children they had begotten, not as their own workmanship, but the workmanship of . . . the Almighty;’[16] therefore, the child is only bound to the parents by custodianship, not absolute dominion by virtue of the way in which the child enters the world.
The same reasoning applies to the way Locke comprehends the relationship between man, labour, and private property, which only exists for the increase of ‘convenience’ and ‘comfort.’[17] The principle relationship of man to creation and divinity exists through the acquisition and cultivation of the private property through ‘mixture’ of man’s labour with the land in its natural state.[18] The object of labour upon the land is not simply acquisition, but rather the genesis of something previously not extant. Locke asserts as much when he maintains that the land in its natural state is of ‘little value, without labour.’[19] In this way man acts in a godly fashion, through the exercise of creation on his own accord, and serves the mutual benefit of others. These relationships serve as exemplars of the shared relationship between the individual and creation through revelation, not simply because the arguments Locke makes are couched in biblical exemplars, but also because each example serves as an affirmation of the shared relationship between man and God’s creation.
Locke’s interpretation of private property is therefore innovative since it reframes the understanding of possession in a non-exclusionary fashion; for Locke private property is not zero-sum but to the benefit of all,[20] and man uses the law of nature to inform him of the shared mandate to preserve it as formalized in the commonwealth. In the political society, individuals abdicate their right to judge in their own cause, and instead place their judicial rights in the community, which becomes an indifferent ‘umpire’ that eases the relations and expands the capacity for mutual protection.[21] Political society then, to Locke, is an apparatus bound through reason as a tool to increase the efficacy of the mutual obligation to defend the private property acquired through mans labour.[22]
Political relations then are only understood by individuals in the context of consent.[23] This is because the state of nature is no longer one of incomprehensibility; conversely, it is an ordered state governed by the law of nature that defines the natural right of men. It is through this understanding that the state of nature is no longer one of war by necessity, but one of inconvenience. This interpretation is stated explicitly when Locke claims, ‘we have . . . [a] plain difference between the state of nature and the state of war. . . . Men living together according to reason, without a common superior . . . is properly the state of nature’ It is only when one trespasses against the law of nature in the absence of a ‘common superior’ that is the state of war. [24] If the state, as Locke asserts, is one of reason, order, and mutual intelligibility, then then the compact of political society is subject to adherence to the same criteria established prior in the natural state. The state of nature then becomes a default.
In Locke’s model mutual consent becomes the means by which people enter a political society, the society itself being outside of nature, and not having its basis in man’s natural state. This being the case, political society is no longer self-sufficient, but instrumental, and in this way considerations of virtue begin to show their irrelevancy because the political society itself, absent its own nature, is not directed toward a singular end. This interpretation of what motivates the formation and maintenance of political community is in direct conflict with the virtue theory of the predecessors of English Liberalism and in turn raises the question of what constitutes the best government in relation to the natural right of individuals: what binds a society not directed toward considerations of the virtue?
The maintenance of the civil compact comes from utility. The acquisition of commodity and surplus for the individual benefit keeps man invested in the society, but this accumulation is more thoroughly enabled by the protection of the government. Locke expresses this sentiment when he first askes why the individual will abdicate his freedom, and responds with the principle that our freedoms in the state of nature are uncertain and precarious claiming,‘[t]he enjoyment of the property he has in this state is very unsafe.’[25] Locke highlights the defects of the state of nature each of which is remedied by the establishment of political society: firstly, the lack of a legal standard unbiased in interests and common to all; secondly, the absence of dispassionate judges; and thirdly, the state of nature, by virtue of isolation and informality, lacks the ‘power to back and support the sentence . . . and give it due execution.’[26]
However, the mandate of protection assigned to the political society is not limited strictly to the domestic sphere, but instead finds itself likewise employed through the Federative element to protect the community against conquest and the state of war initiated from beyond the society.[27] To Locke the political society being a unified body, composed of individuals but recognized as one, is singular in relation to its counterparts; the Federative element being assigned a broad entitlement conducts itself distinctly from the Legislative and Executive due to its need to respond to exterior threat and the vicissitudes of relations with mankind in general.[28]
Therefore, to Locke, men remain in the political society predominately to better protect their property: ‘lives, liberties, and estates.’[29] Being a tool of mankind, government is an expeditious method to ameliorate the natural insecurity of the state of nature, and it is by this means that man chooses to associate in a formalized community and surrender his right to act as judge in his own cause.[30] To Locke, it is not virtue that binds us, but rather the fact that we cannot as individuals fully actualize collective security without the institutions of formalized law and collective enforcement.
The flaws, or inconveniences of nature, make it difficult for individuals to protect and procure surplus on their own behalf, to ‘secure enjoyment of their properties,’[31] and this in turn limits the well being of mankind in its entirety. For it is only the security of labour and the establishment of currency that permits the growth of commodity and comfort.[32] Meanwhile, if men are confronted by actions or impositions of one political society upon another they cannot secure what is best from themselves without the institutions of government there to represent on behalf of the whole as one body in the state of nature; without a singular body acting on behalf of the whole in the form of the Federative, mankind is imposed upon due to a natural power disparity originating in the natural condition of mankind by virtue of his isolation. Locke asserts this implicitly when he speaks about the foundation of new commonwealths both in history and revelation by individuals not bound to the paternal authority and recognizes that those who establish such ‘petty’ dominions were ‘swallowed’ by the ‘stronger or more fortunate.’[33]
It is from this relationship between man, natural right, and the law of nature, that political society is formed. In turn, political society as a utility directed toward the benefit of the whole, and with recourse to the state of nature, means Locke’s political society is not constituted and bound in the same fashion as his predecessors. No longer are the ends of political society constituted within, but rather, without, and already inherent in man’s natural state of freedom, equity, and reason.[34] The law of nature instructs mankind about his potential for recourse to the state of nature, and in turn, gives cause for the restoration of the state of nature once the Legislative, Executive, and Federative bodies cease to function toward the common benefit.[35]
Locke then substitutes virtue for improvement of the communal comfort and permits the dissolution and reconstitution of the government. This dissolution can come about through opposition to usurpation and tyranny; one being the acquisition of power in absence of the consent of the ruled, and the second being the assertion of power toward the ends of the individual increase at the expense of the community.[36] This is when the government acts in a fashion inconsistent with the law as assigned by the consent of the community who are bound in contract with the government.[37] Furthermore, the replacement of the illegitimate government is justified in cases of the alteration of the legislative, whereby laws are made by individuals not assigned to do so by the consent of the society ‘they make laws without authority . . . [and] the people are not . . . bound to obey;’[38] in addition, the government is to be dissolved and the natural state restored when ‘the supreme executive’ abdicates its duty to enforce the laws of the political community; finally, the government is to be reconstituted when the government ‘act[s] contrary to their trust,’ this is the case when they invade the property of their subjects and dispose without appeal to the consent of the public of the ‘lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people.’[39]
Locke’s de facto assertion that the government is not directed toward virtue indicates that mankind’s ends are not to be determined and directed through the joining of political society, and instead of creating a normative political philosophy creates a positive one that is constituted only under considerations of its utility in relation to the common good as composed of consenting individuals working together in reciprocal obligation to best secure themselves and the fruits of their labour. It is this interpretation of the civil society that adds a new level of fluidity in government not found prior to English Liberalism. Locke’s philosophy becomes one of not what should be done to best realize the ends of mankind by living a virtuous life actualized through community, but alternatively, a philosophy were efficiency and security define the adherence to the political compact and the obligations of the individuals within it. Locke’s political society does not instruct the individual in the pursuit of virtue, but rather leaves individuals free to support each other in pursuit of their ‘lives, liberty, and estates’[40] through living in accordance with a more efficient realization of the principles of the law and right of nature, which is intelligible to mankind through the shared capacity to reason in the state of nature, which informs them of their common relation to creation, freedom, and property.
This conception determines mankind’s adherence to civil society leaving secondary questions of what form of society would develop in absence of virtue. Locke’s political society provides safety, efficiency, and fluidity, but it does not instruct the community about the constitution of the best citizens. To Locke mankind lives for ‘secure enjoyment of their properties,’ and government is dependent on comfort being self-sufficient.[41] Government then, is functional in the absence of virtue, but it is not clear that it is in anyway more fulfilling than in the state of nature, it is only more amenable to comfort and convenience.



[1] John Locke, Second Treatise of Government: An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government, in John Locke Political Writings, ed. David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003), 262-263, 274.
[2] Ibid., 263-264.
[3] Ibid., 265.
[4] Ibid., 266.
[5] Ibid., 272, 304-305, 307, 373-374.
[6] Ibid.,267.
[7] Ibid., 263, 304.
[8] Ibid., 268.
[9] Ibid., 262.
[10] Ibid., 265.
[11] Ibid., 309.
[12] Ibid., 261.
[13] Ibid., 280.
[14] Ibid., 284.
[15] Ibid., 287-288.
[16] Ibid., 288.
[17] Ibid., 273-274,279.
[18] Ibid., 274-275, 277.
[19] Ibid., 279.
[20] Ibid., 279.
[21] Ibid., 304-305.
[22] Ibid., 305.
[23] Ibid., 309.
[24] Ibid., 267, 270.
[25] Ibid., 324.
[26] Ibid., 325.
[27] Ibid., 336.
[28] Ibid., 336-337.
[29] Ibid., 325.
[30] Ibid., 324-325.
[31] Ibid., 310.
[32] Ibid., 285-286.
[33] Ibid., 320.
[34] Ibid., 262-263.
[35] Ibid., 262, 337, 340.
[36] Ibid., 362-363.
[37] Ibid., 364.
[38] Ibid., 370.
[39] Ibid., 373.
[40] Ibid., 325.
[41] Ibid., 310.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A Short Exegesis on Plato. Plato’s Republic Book II: When Physis and Nomos Fail



This is an essay original written for a Political Theory class, and though it is formal, as far as blog posts go, it is something I hope some of you may find interesting. If there are any Plato enthusiasts forgive any obvious ignorance, this essay was a product of my first reading of Plato's Republic and by no means am I familiar with his Oeuvre however, it did receive an excellent mark from a scholar who's primary focus is Plato. 


Tension governs the second book of Plato’s Republic, tension between the natural, metaphysical, and social world, which each lay claim to being the chief stimulus of justice. The book focuses primarily on the way the individual responds to both exogenous and endogenous factors influencing them toward both justice and injustice. Glaucon and Adeimantus present these arguments, each man embodying a different insufficient cause for justice: Glaucon represents the nature of the individual and man as a whole, and Adeimantus bases his own arguments upon a traditional customary interpretation, which states that of the external reputation and benefits propel just behavior.
Socrates however, cannot establish a satisfactory argument in response to his two interlocutors, so he includes them in the construction of an analogy: the Just City. Socrates goes through the city and establishes the basic components required to make the city function in an orderly way, but Glaucon confronts him because his city does provide for a decent lifestyle for its inhabitants. This leads to the construction of a more complex city, the City in Fever as Socrates calls it, an inchoate representation of the soul. He then goes on to suggest that such a city is needs to both expand and protect itself and in so doing introduces the class of Guardians.
In order to educate the Guardians, Socrates insists that the poetic understanding is not adequate because it portrays the gods as capricious and their priests as facilitators of subornation, and therefore not sufficient role models for the Guardians. In so doing, he invalidates the poetic understanding justice as a means to govern the soul.
With these causes placed in doubt Socrates initiates the search for the cause of the just soul. Each argument, one based on Nomos the other Physis, fails. This leaves the source of justice as something intrinsic. Socrates therefore begins to establish justice’s origins as something internal and independent.
The first of the arguments presented to Socrates is an expansion of that offered by Thraysmachus. Glaucon believing that Socrates was ineffective in refuting Thrasymachus’s assertion that justice was to the advantage of the stronger asks for a more definitive response.[i] He sets out to prove three different statements: first the definition of justice; second that “all who practice [justice] do so unwillingly, as necessary but not good;” third, that unjust men live an unfulfilling life in contrast with just men.[ii]
 Glaucon insists that it is man’s natural condition to behave in an unjust fashion because this behavior provides him with the greatest rewards. He states his positon explicitly in the passage “give each, the just man and the unjust, license to do whatever he wants. . . . We would catch the just man red-handed going the same way as the unjust man out of a desire to get the better; this is what any naturally pursues as good, while it is law [nomos] which by force perverts it to honor equality.”[iii]
In addition, he contends that any man who could resist those temptations would be supernatural.[iv] In corollary, he states that the truly just individual would find his peers would mock him who clandestinely.[v] However, Glaucon recognizes that such a society of unjust men acting to exploit one another would cause immeasurable chaos. This alternative must be the veneer of justice, as an adaptation to society.

This alternative is a basic social contract theory. Specifically he relies upon the proposition that “the bad in suffering injustice far exceeds the good in doing it; so that, when they do injustice to one another and suffer it and taste of both, it seems profitable . . . to set down a compact among themselves neither to do injustice nor to suffer it.”[vi] Glaucon continues to describe the just behavior as a mean, between the worst outcomes, suffering injustice, and the best thing, which is doing injustice.[vii]
To buttress the theory that no man is just at a naturally, he refers to the Tale of the Ring of Gyges. Gyges with the ring on his finger he turns the collet inward, and turns away from the nomos, and toward his nature abjuring himself of obligations pressed upon him by his position in the community; Gyges, upon recognizing the ring’s power, immediately proceeds to do harm, taking what the desires and making himself king therefore increasing worldly position.[viii]
Relating the analogy back to the physical world, Glaucon states that to prove justice is truly better it must be just independent of appearances, and therefore stripping the external benefits of justice is necessary. He suggests that a perfectly unjust man will be so skilled in his unjust arts that he has the means of appearing just and in fact he has tools to enhance his “reputation for justice.”[ix] Even if such an unjust man is uncovered, he has the tools to repair his state. One of these tools is rhetoric, which if the meaning once extrapolated serves as a form of invisibility for those skilled in the art of Sophistry. This likewise establishes that justice is accessible only to the individual himself. The seeming can never with certainty be said to match the being; instead, our perception of other is always conjecture. Glaucon challenges Socrates to show that justice leads to a better life for the man assailed by exterior hardships, that despite all his suffering, the truly just man will live a happier life.[x]
Before Socrates can offer an effective rebuttal, Adeimantus intercedes in support of justice, but supposes that all just conduct is a derivative of the desire for rewards and reputation. Adeimantus suggests that the true reason that men are just is that their family bids them toward justice, for the purposes of reputation and reward, and that men are afraid of the wrath of the gods.[xi]
Adeimantus states that the families refer to the conventional knowledge of the poets, who say that the gods reward those who behave in a noble fashion for their conduct. He cites Hesiod and Homer as common purveyors of the idea that the just will be rewarded by the gods, and because a man’s peers and the gods could reward the just man then the unjust man’s monopoly reputation and reward is broken.[xii] In this way, he shifts the source of just conduct from nature and onto the external world composed of the community, family, and the gods. He notes that, “the wages of the gods [extend] yet further. . . . For they say that a holy and oath-keeping man leaves his children’s children and a whole tribe behind him. So in these . . . ways extol justice.”[xiii] He explains that the unjust reside in Hades and are punished there. “Thus, those penalties that Glaucon described as the lot of the just men who are reputed to be unjust, these people say are the lot of the unjust.”[xiv]
A problem arises out of this however; because the poets offer the unjust, an escape from their punishment as man can turn aside the god’s displeasure simply through the offering of lavish gifts. This is precisely the relationship between Cephalus and the gods observed in the first book.[xv] Adeimantus claims that the poets are happy to honour the unjust who have built up worldly things and to bypass the unfortunate or impoverished. “Most wonderful of all these speeches are those given about gods and virtue. They say that the gods, after all, allot misfortune and a bad life to many good men too, and an opposite fate to opposite men.”[xvi] Adeimantus notes that the gods do not offer or provide good or bad things in relation to the behavior of the men who receive blessings. The priests (who are blessed) offer their services to the rich both as a means of harming their enemies and as bridge to forgiveness. Through the correct sacrifices and propitiations, the priests can in turn void the injustice of the rich man.[xvii]

Adeimantus asks how this capacity to sway the gods and how these poetic stories, as well as the father's instructions, to avoid a poor reputation, harm the boys who desire to grow up as just men. This is because they are not getting a true cause for justice, but rather an impoverished reasoning devoid of inner motivation. To Adeimantus the current justification for just conduct is insufficient, and leaves only confusion, he argues that to young men, “the seeming overpowers even the truth.”[xviii]
This argument places doubt upon the gods, and suggests that the nomos is failing the mass of people conflicted about justice. If Adeimantus is representative of the bronze souled, and in turn the appetites, then the Grecians are in crisis. Adeimantus says, “But surely it isn’t possible to get away from the gods. . . . But, if there are no gods, or if they have no care for human things, why should we care at all about getting away?”[xix] Afterward Adeimantus suggests that through the poets we know that if the gods are real we can manipulate them through sacrifices too. Adeimantus suggests that only those with a divine or godly nature can deny the advantages of injustice, and that injustice is beyond anyone to avoid.
At this junction Socrates is left perplexed; he has no adequate or immediate response to the arguments proposed by Glaucon and Adeimantus, and so he turns to the construction of the city in speech as a way to determine what makes justice desirable. He relies on the city, as being an amalgamation of men, who are in themselves not self-sufficient, but the city will be, and in this way not only can he provide an outline of self-sufficient city but a self-sufficient soul in turn and potentially derive justice from it.
In this way, Socrates and Adiemantus begin establishing a city that is small and harmonious with no greater parts than are necessary, and where a bucolic existence perpetuates itself eternally.[xx] Glaucon however, sees such a city as inadequate, and suggests that such men would live like pigs.[xxi] What Glaucon means is not only are they living only for the sake of sustenance, but also that such an existence brings them no closer to defining justice because it leaves men leading lives, which are meaningless, devoid of any form of purpose. They have no temptations, desires, appetites, or excitements through which their nature maybe tested. This is important not only because such a base city would be inhospitable in terms of leisure and pleasure, but also because no true person lives a live free from those desires and pleasures. The hedonistic and erotic impulses reside in all souls, therefore the soul represented by such a city is incomplete, and not an appropriate response to the accusation that injustice is beneficial. Socrates acquiesces to Glaucon’s demands, and they establish the Feverish City. In this way, the city has to get bigger, more complex, and harder to govern, more real.
Socrates asserted prior that it is easiest and best for men to specialize because each has his own nature, and that he is best “minding his own business for himself.”[xxii] However, in order to do their own jobs effectively and work within the city, it is necessary for men to know their place. In order for a man to know his place, he must in turn know himself, and be able to govern himself. To govern yourself a level of security is necessary, and this entails the introduction of a new element to both the soul and the city the thymos and the Guardians.

The Guardians bring the soul to a more complete state; they also increase the complexity of the soul and the city, because the Guardians though superficially similar to the bronze souled in the city in reality, are entirely different, in both their nature, and their purpose. “To each one of the others we assigned one thing, the one for which his nature fitted him . . . thus doing a fine job.”[xxiii] The Guardians represent in part the volatility of the soul. Thymos and the and the Guardians place the soul and city at risk of harming itself, and Plato will spend the rest of the book outlining the means through which the Guardians will submit to the requirements of the city rather than endanger it. To describe the ideal Guardian, Socrates pulls from the definition of justice proffered by Polemarchus, “gentle to their own and cruel to enemies.”[xxiv] This form of justice is sufficient for the Guardians because the city as it stands is yet to be complete and the Guardians are simply another component.
This raises a contradiction, because “a gentle nature is opposed to a spirited one.”[xxv] However, upon examination of “noble dogs” conceivably the best bred, most intelligent, and most amiable to training,. Socrates and Glaucon conclude that in fact, a dog who is spirited could potentially know strangers, and be obedient toward what is familiar. This entails that the dog must in turn be capable of discrimination and knowing what is unknown and known to him, and therefore such a spirited nature does not reside in opposition to friends or philosophy.[xxvi] By introducing philosophy here, Socrates does something else: he sets the Guardians, imperfect and driven by spirit as they are, apart from the rest of the residents in the city, the capacity to philosophize must be part of their soul, and this love of learning, places them closer to the form of the good.

The Guardians who do not know the good, but can know the familiar and the just from the bad and the foreign are in essence a bridge between the bronze souled, and the yet to come gold souled who will be the natural governors of city and the soul. Because the gold souled, the philosophers, have the capacity for calculation and knowing and therefore may direct the soul and the city toward the good.
In order to bring the thymos and in turn the Guardians into line with their respective habitations Socrates and his interlocutors examine education. Specifically, they examine those lessons provided by the poets and curate them because those who are young are most malleable. The society will tutor the malleable young in the “fine tales” as a means to instill good prior to exposition to the truth in the actual world.[xxvii] W
hen introducing the Guardians to education Socrates makes the implicit assumption that the tales will affect the souls. In this way, the prior tales were inadequate because they provide no orientation or proscription. To Socrates the poets tell tales that are “a bad representation of what gods and heroes
are like.”[xxviii] He goes on to describe how the biggest of lies, the origin of the Greek deities, was not a fine lie. “[The story] how Uranus did what Hesiod says he did. . . . And Cronos deeds and his sufferings at the hand of his son, not even if they were true would I suppose they should be so easily told to thoughtless young things.”[xxix]


The danger of the tales is they do not provide a moral or ethical compass. The poets propagate no specific value system, yet a specific group of values, a fixed belief in justice of a specific nature is a necessary foundation upon which the individual can gauge their beliefs and relate their own acts augmenting their ability to govern their actions through an internalized group of lessons.  I argue Plato saw immense capacity for human rationalization, and is himself trying to buttress the soul against its capacity to reason on erroneously. By instilling the right lessons early on then they will become a referent.
The education of the Guardians leads the way toward a deeper problem. Socrates and his interlocutors create a void. Before the close of the book, the conversation leads to the nature of the gods and whether the gods capacity for change. In the dialogue on education Socrates suggests that it must not be admitted or said that the “gods make war on the gods” or that the Guardians of the city make war on it and they must consider it “most shameful to be easily angry with one another.”[xxx] Socrates concludes that a god must be good and he cannot act contradictory to his own nature, as the poets maintain. Therefore, the god “is not the cause of everything; rather it is the cause of things that are in a good way, while it is not responsible for the bad things.” Therefore, the god is not the cause of bad things.[xxxi]
With this in mind, I ask what does this mean for the soul? I contend that first it places the onus for bad things strictly on the components of the soul and the city, but it also establishes two connected premises: first that the most just are least altered by external things, and secondly that no one willingly makes himself worse. Socrates and Adeimantus say as much, “does anyone, either god or human being, willingly make himself worse in any way at all?”[xxxii] This statement is contingent on the soul knowing itself and through contemplation being able to act toward its own interest.

By establishing self-knowledge as an aspiration, Socrates implicitly suggests that such a goal is tenable. Plato suggests that both man and god are foolish to alter themselves and that it will necessarily take them away from their art and their nature
In book II, Adiemantus and Glaucon give extensive monologues articulating their doubts about the desirability of justice. Each man gives his account in a different fashion; one says that nature is not just, and the other says that external relationships expressed through both the gods and man are insufficient to motivate the individual toward a just life. Though Socrates does not offer an immediate answer to the brothers, he builds an analogy to explore the soul and from here, he begins the process of introducing various elements to the city. By bringing in the thymos and the Guardians, he must make them submit to the needs to soul in its entirety, and not permit spirit alone to motivate them. In doing so Socrates further questions the education offered by the poets and leaves a void. A fault in the soul does not cause the absence, but rather the insufficiency of nomos and physis as a cause catalyst for just conduct. It is in this way Plato states an ethical axiom that to discover true justice we must find its origin in the soul not the external or natural forces of the world, and that true good, and the knowing of it can only be uncovered through the soul acting in a harmonious and philosophical fashion.




[i]Plato, the Republic, Trans. Allan Bloom (Basic Books, 1968), 35 357b.
[ii] Plato, the Republic, 357b.
[iii] Ibid., 359c.
[iv] Ibid., 359b.
[v] Ibid., 360d.
[vi] Ibid., 358e-359a.
[vii] Ibid., 359b.
[viii] Ibid., 360a.
[ix] Ibid., 361a-b.
[x] Ibid., 361b-d.
[xi] Ibid., 362d-363a.
[xii] Ibid., 363a, 363c-e.
[xiii] Ibid., 363c-e.
[xiv] Ibid., 363e.
[xv] Ibid., 330e, 331d.
[xvi] Ibid., 364b.
[xvii] Ibid., 364d.
[xviii] Ibid., 365c.
[xix] Ibid., 365e.
[xx] Ibid., 372a-d.
[xxi] Ibid., 372d.
[xxii] Ibid., 370a-b
[xxiii] Ibid., 374c
[xxiv] Ibid., 375b-c.
[xxv] Ibid., 375d.
[xxvi] Ibid., 375e.
[xxvii] Ibid., 376e-377b.
[xxviii] Ibid., 377e.
[xxix] Ibid., 377e.
[xxx] Ibid., 378c.
[xxxi] Ibid., 379a-c.
[xxxii] Ibid., 381c.