Virtue, Kallipolis and the Self

Greece reached its Golden Age in the 5th century B.C. This period of intellectual, artistic, and political flourishment covered specifically the state of Attica in Athens( Guisepi ). It boasted all throughout the period of history a period of political and economic stability which attracted the formulation of ideas about human nature and political society. Nevertheless, the attainment of such a glory was not done overnight. Prior to these golden age in civilization, Greece experience a Dark Age in history after the fall of the Mycenean civilization. The Dorians invaded Pylos which also marked a decline in bureaucratic administration, well-known commercial market and sophisticate works or art. Apparently, Greece had its share of ups and downs. Fortunately for us, these patterns of rises and downfalls in ancient history were recorded for us to evaluate upon.

In this paper, I will use the works of Plato particularly Book IV of the Republic. I will extensively argue that political structure and an individuals moral character share the same virtues which are all necessary for the achievement of an ideal city-state, the kallipolis. I will also use Platos tripartite theory of the soul to argue that society is a mirror of what the soul of citizen contains. The tripartite theory of the soul shows unison among the different faculties of man which are necessary conditions for the flourishing of the individual and attainment of excellence. This harmony within the individuals soul should be extended towards society or vice versa in order to achieve the ideal city state. The ordering of oneself and society is not a very easy task. It takes a virtuous ruler who is guided by reason and not swayed by personal interests to take full command of the entire city state.  I believe that discussions of these matters are beneficial in solving the several political and economical issues which our country and the world are currently experiencing.

In Book I of the Republic, Plato stated that a state (society) arises because of the needs of mankind. As a single entity, human beings are not self-sufficient. We have our own limitations. We are defenseless in sleep and prone to danger and threat. The best way to ensure survival is through the formation of clustered communities. Within a communal set-up, man realizes that working together for the mutual achievement of achieving our common goals entails specialization of labor. The result is a group who specializes on a special craft  one concentrates in tending to soil and producing vegetables, another goes to the forest and takes his axe so he can gather woods, another goes to the sea and takes his net to catch some fish while another gets his tools and fashion the clothes of the community members. Everyone does his share in contributing to the common good of the society where he belongs. Nevertheless, conflicts among individuals are unavoidable. One way or another, disputes will rise among members of society and the threats which come from other city states will create chaos. It will disrupt the harmonious flow of energy and will hinder the development of society. Thus additional services, aside from providing the basic needs of man, become necessary.   The principle of specialization should be taken one step further through the establishment of an additional class of citizens, the guardians who are responsible for management of society itself which are further divided into two distinct categories soldiers and rulers. The soldiers function is to defend the state against external threats coming from invaders and enforcement of laws which will ensure order. The rulers, on the other hand will focus on the resolution of disagreements among citizens. ( Kemerling 2002).

Given these elements the  kallipolis, Platos ideal city state, will consist of three classes namely the ruler, soldiers and the crafts persons. All three classes ought to work harmoniously with one another and find their distinct position or order in society to ensure happiness and contentment inside the city state. In order for such a harmony to exist, virtues like wisdom, courage, temperance and justice should rule over the entire polis, city-state, but before such virtues could ever be seen in a polis, it should first be present in at least one particular class, the class of the philosopher kings. It is the philosopher king who will investigate and judge what is true and best for the polis. His inclination towards philosophical inquiry and control over his lower faculties makes him fit to command the other classes in society. But in order to achieve this individual state, society must have a reliable educational system who will train the potential rulers of the polis.

Education begins at the earliest stage of childhood. Plato elaborated on the strict censorship of stories which promotes unfavorable virtues and deception to the youth. Fictional accounts should not be tolerated and discussed among the youth because it leads to appreciation of lies and ignorance of truth regarding the true nature of man. Education should focus in achieving the proper balance of mans different faculties through physical training, music and literature. Some of the subjects which will be taught are gymnastics, literature and the arts, and philosophy. Gymnastics and sports activities aim to train the body and instill courage and moderation within the youth. Literature and the arts, which mostly includes the works of Homer, aims to cultivate the intellectual faculties of man which will be enhanced later on when they study philosophy, geometry and mathematics and the natural sciences.
Human nature is likened to a charioteer. In the Allegory of the Chariot, Plato depicts a charioteer driving a chariot pulled by two different horses. One horse is white and long necked, well bred, well behaved and runs without a whip while the other is black and short-necked, badly bred, and troublesome.(Dorian). These two horses are representations of the souls three parts which constantly come into conflict with one another namely  intellect (charioteer), moral impulse (white horse), and appetitive nature (black horse). The white and the black horse constantly come into conflict with one another because both have different wants in life. The white horse will choose that which is dignifying and honorific while the black horse will choose whatever will benefit his stomach. The clash of wants inside the individual creates a particular tension in a persons way towards excellence. Nevertheless, it remains the job of the charioteer to care, rule and deliberate what is good for him thus he will never allow the whims of the black horse to rule over him.  He is ruled by reason and chooses rationality and feelings of honor over desires for food, sex, drink and other fleshly nature.

By using this allegory, Plato pointed out that in as much as there are social conflicts caused by the clash among the personalities, wants and desires of citizens within a particular polis, there are also internal conflicts which are encountered by the citizen himself. It is evident that at times we feel like doing something, for example drinking, yet on the other hand, feel a reason not to. These conflicts happen internally within the self and prove the existence of the different parts of the soul. Knowledge of these close resemblance and eventual acceptance of this philosophy is highly endorsable since all of us do experience and observe these things happening around us. Individuals act as charioteers of their own soul and a good individual does not allow the appetitive part of the soul to rule over him. The cognitive and intellectual part of the soul should rule over the body.  It makes deliberations regarding the caring for the right sorts of things which includes choosing the proper kind and amount of food to eat and contemplating on how to act and relate to others. These deliberations are the actions which a good soul should always practice in order to attain a truly excellent human life because it is void from any evil. The aim of the charioteer in the end is not to eliminate the black horse rather to allow the two horses to run harmoniously and avoid conflict with one another by looking at just one direction. We must remember that all three parts should and will remain a part of ourselves no matter what. It is simply a matter of properly regulating these.

Education aims to help the soon to be philosopher king to win over his appetitive part of the soul Introducing him to the arts and gymnastics, he is then trained to rule over his appetitive side. Continuous training will then lead to formation of habit. Habit will soon form a virtuous character. The moment the individual reaches this state of excellence, he then has the right to guide others because he has developed a sensitive awareness towards what is good and orderly. He has personally achieved this goal and knows the procedure on how to extend this wisdom over the entire polis. He has achieved the virtue of wisdom, the capacity to comprehend reality and to make partial judgments about it. (Kemerling 2002).

It was stated earlier that states were created because of the needs of man (citizens). One of the primary needs of the polis is the biological namely food, shelter and water second will be security and lastly is the individuals growth and development either in the arts or the academe. Each virtue is rightfully possessed by a particular class and staying true to the tenets of these virtues will ensure the polis growth and stability. The assignment of virtue towards the three classes are suggested as follow (1) craftsmen moderation ( 2) courage auxiliary or the soldiers and (3) wisdom philosopher.

Craftsmens main duty is to provide the primary need of the polis by through the art of agricultural development and trading. He does so by following its leader instead of following his own personal wants and desires. He must exhibit the virtue of moderation, which is the agreement that superior parts ought to rule inferior parts. This will serve as their ruling virtue because greed, its opposite, will be very detrimental to the well being of the polis.

The soldiers are given the task to defend the polis from internal and external threats. He is expected to possess the virtue of courage, the willingness to carry out their orders in the face of danger without regard for personal risk. ( Kemerling 2002) since their main duty is the preservation of beliefs about what to love and fear as implemented by the philosopher kings. They should remain faithful and obedient to the guardian class and trust their discretion regarding political affairs.

The philosopher class is the ones tasked to make significant decisions according to which the city should be governed. He is expected to have the virtue of wisdom and is well guided by reason that they will not be corrupted in any manner by the desires and wants of the appetitive part of the soul. Thus even if they are not given luxuries in life, they are still willing to sacrifice just so them may rule over the entire polis and maintain economic and political balance. Nevertheless, to ensure that corruption will not enter in any way within the mind of the philosopher, Plato proposes that they not be given any salary greater than necessary to supply their needs.  This frees them from gaining any tainted motive for seeking a position of leadership.

We should remember that Platos philosophy is to build the community on the firm ground of human virtue in order to attain the best life and is always associated with the society ( Jaeger 1953, p.10). Justice plays an important factor in putting all three classes and virtues together in a homogenous bond. Justice is the harmonious relationship of all three classes. A harmonious soul is equivalent to a healthy body. A healthy body is not prone to illnesses and diseases because each part functions for the common good of the individual. Each part protects one another and realizes the role they play.  In likelihood, a well-organized state is a product of harmonious relationship among its separate components the craftsmen, the soldier, and the philosophers.

This theory of social order and governance is supported by many countries both from the past and the present. Confucius in the east shared the same ideologies by insisting that rituals be preserved because it teaches the youth propriety. It may not be obviously felt in most democratic countries like the United States but they do practice the same system of governance. The craftsmen (working class) provide the needs of the soldiers (the members of the Department of National Defense or the military) and the philosophers (Congress, Senate and the Presidents) by regularly paying their taxes. Nevertheless their position in society does not necessarily entail that they lack one of the virtues or they others were more successful in reaching the higher strata of the virtues which is wisdom. Most members of the working class are rational individual, otherwise they will not pay their taxes nor follow the rules implemented by the government but they choose not to accept nor enter the domain of the guardian class because of the weight of responsibility which will be assigned to them. It also does not imply that the working class does not hold any courage within them that they can preserve the philosophy and beliefs of a particular state but they simply do not want to make a step forward in being one of its protectors. It becomes a matter of choice in the part of the citizens if they want to belong to a particular class.

Nothing is permanent in this world and this is also true to the character of an individual. There is a great possibility that time, environment and future circumstances will reshape the soul of a citizen. The theory is very attractive and appealing to the senses. Who would not want to have rulers that use wisdom as the primary tool in discerning whats best for the polis I may have a piece of a ripe watermelon and consider it sweet and immediately conclude that the other parts will be sweet as well, but should I do so Isnt it possible that there is a portion of the watermelon that may be rotten because it got exposed to dirt and bacteria We should be very cautious in supporting such philosophies and be weary of committing hasty generalizations. In as much as citizens may mirror a particular society not all citizens can represent a nation but only those citizens who truly accept, love and value the state which they belong to. Only such citizens will be able to achieve unison together with the other classes and will willfully accept the task that will be given to him or her.


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