Guide Escape From Phalaris: An Odyssey Through The Creative Process in Brief Meditations

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Three points are deserving of remark in what immediately follows:—First, that the answer of Socrates is altogether indirect. He does not say that happiness consists in the contemplation of the idea of justice, and still less will he be tempted to affirm the Stoical paradox that the just man can be happy on the rack. But first he dwells on the difficulty of the problem and insists on restoring man to his natural condition, before he will answer the question at all.

He too will frame an ideal, but his ideal comprehends not only abstract justice, but the whole relations of man. Under the fanciful illustration of the large letters he implies that he will only look for justice in society, and that from the State he will proceed to the individual. His answer in substance amounts to this,—that under favourable conditions, i. That he falls into some degree of inconsistency, when in the tenth book A he claims to have got rid of the rewards and honours of justice, may be admitted; for he has left those which exist in the perfect State.

Still he maintains the true attitude of moral action. Let a man do his duty first, without asking whether he will be happy or not, and happiness will be the inseparable accident which attends him. Secondly, it may be remarked that Plato preserves the genuine character of Greek thought in beginning with the State and in going on to the individual. First ethics, then politics—this is the order of ideas to us; the reverse is the order of history.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

Only after many struggles of thought does the individual assert his right as a moral being. In early ages he is not one, but one of many, the citizen of a State which is prior to him; and he Edition: current; Page: [ xxxii ] has no notion of good or evil apart from the law of his country or the creed of his church. And to this type he is constantly tending to revert, whenever the influence of custom, or of party spirit, or the recollection of the past becomes too strong for him.

Thirdly, we may observe the confusion or identification of the individual and the State, of ethics and politics, which pervades early Greek speculation, and even in modern times retains a certain degree of influence. The subtle difference between the collective and individual action of mankind seems to have escaped early thinkers, and we too are sometimes in danger of forgetting the conditions of united human action, whenever we either elevate politics into ethics, or lower ethics to the standard of politics.

Interpretive Frames (Part I) - Imagining Reperformance in Ancient Culture

The good man and the good citizen only coincide in the perfect State; and this perfection cannot be attained by legislation acting upon them from without, but, if at all, by education fashioning them from within. He knows not how to answer them, although he is afraid of deserting justice in the hour of need. He therefore makes a condition, that having weak eyes he shall be allowed to read the large letters first and then go on to the smaller, that is, he must look for justice in the State first, Jowett and will then proceed to the individual.

Accordingly he begins to construct the State. Society arises out of the wants of man. His first want is food; his second a house; his third a coat. The sense of these needs and the possibility of satisfying them by exchange, draw individuals together on the same spot; and this is the beginning of a State, which we take the liberty to invent, although necessity is the real inventor. There must be first a husbandman, secondly a builder, thirdly a weaver, to which may be added a cobbler.

Four or five citizens at least are required to make Jowett a city. Now men have different natures, and one man will do one thing better than many: and business waits for no man. A city which includes all this will have far exceeded the limit of four or five, and yet not be Jowett very large. But then again imports will be required, and imports necessitate exports, and this implies variety of produce in order to attract the taste of purchasers; also merchants and ships. In the city too we must have a market and money and retail trades; otherwise buyers and sellers will never meet, and the valuable time of the producers will be wasted in vain efforts at exchange.

If we add hired servants the State will be complete.

Additional Context

And we may guess that somewhere in the intercourse of Jowett the citizens with one another justice and injustice will appear. Here follows a rustic picture of their way of life. They spend their days in houses which they have built for themselves; they make their own clothes and produce their own corn and wine.


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Their principal food is meal and flour, and they drink in moderation. They live on the best of terms with each other, and take care not to have too many children. Then Jowett the fine arts must go to work—every conceivable instrument and ornament of luxury will be wanted. There will be dancers, painters, sculptors, musicians, cooks, barbers, tire-women, nurses, artists; swineherds and neatherds too for the animals, and physicians to cure the disorders of which luxury is the source.

And this is the origin of war, which may be traced to the same causes Jowett as other political evils. Our city will now require the slight addition of a camp, and the citizen will be converted into a soldier. But then again our old doctrine of the division of labour must not be forgotten. The art of war cannot be learned in a day, and there must be a natural aptitude for military duties. There will Jowett be some warlike natures who have this aptitude—dogs keen of scent, swift of foot to pursue, and strong of limb to fight.

And Edition: current; Page: [ xxxiv ] as spirit is the foundation of courage, such natures, whether of men or animals, will be full of spirit. But these spirited natures are apt to bite and devour one another; the union of gentleness to friends and fierceness against enemies appears to be an impossibility, and the guardian of a State requires both qualities. Who then can be a guardian? The image of the dog suggests Jowett an answer.

For dogs are gentle to friends and fierce to strangers. Your dog is a philosopher who judges by the rule of knowing or not knowing; and philosophy, whether in man or beast, is the parent of gentleness. The human watchdogs must be philosophers or lovers of learning which will make them gentle.


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  5. And how are they to be learned without education? But what shall their education be? Is any better than the old-fashioned sort which is comprehended under the name of music Jowett and gymnastic? Music includes literature, and literature is of two kinds, true and false. I mean that children hear stories before they learn gymnastics, and that the stories are either untrue, or have at most one or two grains of truth in a bushel of falsehood.

    Now early life is very impressible, and children ought not to learn what they will have to unlearn when they grow up; we must therefore have a censorship of nursery tales, banishing some and keeping others. Some of them are very improper, as we may see in the great instances of Homer and Hesiod, who not only tell lies but bad lies; stories Jowett about Uranus and Saturn, which are immoral as well as false, and which should never be spoken of to young persons, or indeed at all; or, if at all, then in a mystery, after the sacrifice, not of an Eleusinian pig, but of some unprocurable animal.

    Shall our youth be encouraged to beat their fathers by the example of Zeus, or our citizens be incited to quarrel by hearing or seeing representations of strife among the gods? Shall they listen to the narrative of Hephaestus binding his mother, and of Zeus sending him flying for helping her when she was beaten? Such tales may possibly have a mystical interpretation, but the young are incapable of understanding allegory. If any one asks what Jowett tales are to be allowed, we will answer that we are legislators and not book-makers; we only lay down the principles according to which books are to be written; to write them is the duty of others.

    And our first principle is, that God must be represented as he is; not as the author of all things, but of good only. We will not suffer the poets to say that he is the steward of good and evil, or that he has two casks full of destinies;—or that Athene and Zeus incited Pandarus to break the treaty; or that God Jowett caused the sufferings of Niobe, or of Pelops, or the Trojan war; or that he makes men sin when he wishes to destroy them.

    Meditations on Inferno

    Either these were not the actions of the gods, or God was just, and men were the better for being punished. But that the deed was evil, and God the author, is a wicked, suicidal fiction which we will allow no one, old or young, to utter. This is our first and great principle—God is the author of good only. And the second principle is like unto it:—With God is no variableness or change of form.

    Reason teaches us this; for if we suppose a change in God, he must be changed either by another or by himself. By another? By himself? He remains for ever fairest and best in his own image. Therefore we refuse to listen to the poets who tell us of Here begging in the likeness of a priestess or of other deities who prowl about at night in strange disguises; all that blasphemous nonsense with which mothers fool the manhood out of their children must be suppressed. Jowett But some one will say that God, who is himself unchangeable, may take a form in relation to us.

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    Why should he? For gods as well as men hate the lie in the soul, or principle of falsehood; and as for any other form of lying which is used for a purpose and is regarded as innocent in certain exceptional cases—what need have the gods of this? For they are not ignorant of antiquity like the poets, nor are they afraid of their Jowett enemies, nor is any madman a friend of theirs.

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    God then is true, he is absolutely true; he changes not, he deceives not, by day or night, by word or sign. This is our second great principle—God is true. Away with the lying dream of Agamemnon in Homer, and the accusation of Thetis against Apollo in Aeschylus. In order to give clearness to his conception of the State, Plato proceeds to trace the first principles of mutual need and of Edition: current; Page: [ xxxvi ] division of labour in an imaginary community of four or five citizens.

    Gradually this community increases; the division of labour extends to countries; imports necessitate exports; a medium of exchange is required, and retailers sit in the marketplace to save the time of the producers. These are the steps by which Plato constructs the first or primitive State, introducing the elements of political economy by the way. As he is going to frame a second or civilized State, the simple naturally comes before the complex.

    He indulges, like Rousseau, in a picture of primitive life—an idea which has indeed often had a powerful influence on the imagination of mankind, but he does not seriously mean to say that one is better than the other cp. Politicus, p. We should not interpret a Platonic dialogue any more than a poem or a parable in too literal or matter-of-fact a style. Several interesting remarks which in modern times would have a place in a treatise on Political Economy are scattered up and down the writings of Plato: cp.

    The last subject, and also the origin of Retail Trade, is treated with admirable lucidity in the second book of the Republic. But Plato never combined his economic ideas into a system, and never seems to have recognized that Trade is one of the great motive powers of the State and of the world. He would make retail traders only of the inferior sort of citizens Rep. Laws, viii.