Plato’s Ideal City
Socrates’ ideal city is described through Plato in his work The Republic, some questions pondered through the text could be; How is this an “ideal” city, and is justice in the city relative to that of the human soul? I believe Socrates found the true meaning of justice in the larger atmosphere of the city and applied that concept to the human soul.
Socrates describes his idea of an “ideal city” as one that has all the necessary parts to function and to show that justice is truly the harmony between the three sections of the city and soul in the human body. Plato introduces the idea of the happiness between groups in Book IV. Plato says, “in founding the city we are not looking to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but, as far as possible, that of the city as a whole.”(Plato 420b). I agree that in order to examine one thing that is difficult to comprehend, it is wise to look on a larger scale. In this case, Socrates had to examine the difference of a whole city and other concepts of cities in order to determine justice in the world and inner soul. In order to develop the perfect city Socrates had to develop the other ideas that contribute to the “ideal city”, the City of Need, and the City of Luxury in order to develop the Perfect City.
I believe Socrates in-depth discovery process for the perfect city is a great philosophical look into the idea of justice. Socrates brought up a subject many men at that time would never have thought about and Plato believed that the idea of justice was worthy of writing a literary work to pass his political philosophy on to future generations. Since the crucial elements of justice may be easier to observe on the larger scale like a city than on one individual. The focus for Socrates is a perfect city, because the city will represent human soul, Socrates says; “we’ll go on to consider it in the individuals, considering the likeness of the bigger in the idea of the littler?”(Plato 369a).Plato’s “ideal city” is really the search for the truth of justice, if Socrates is able to find the relationship between the soul and city in his “ideal city” then he would have the true meaning of justice. We saw from the reading how he came about braking down the city’s parts and also that of the soul in order to see the reaction between three different regions which Plato and Socrates describe in The Republic.
According to Plato, Socrates broke down the perfect city into three parts; each part is tied to a specific virtue that he believes will help define justice. The three virtues are wisdom, courage, and moderation. Wisdom is the whole knowledge, which describes the rulers of the city. The rulers should be the ones who incorporate philosophy and ruling together to rule the city wisely. Courage describes the guardians, who’s job was to defend the city from invasion and take new lands for the city. The third virtue of the ideal city was moderation which is the concept of self-control and knowing ones role, also the concept of “one man, one job”. The ideal city described in the work is ideal to me because it relates all essential parts to bring harmony among the different kind of people and the virtues that go hand in hand with to bring about justice.
Therefore, the question arises, if I would want to live in the ideal city Plato has described in the work. My answer would be yes because it seems that everyone has a specific role to follow depending upon their abilities, both physically and mentally. When I look back to the early cities Plato discussed I agree with the city of need, but that is only part of the whole scheme of things. We need to add the luxurious things and leaders and the people to protect the city. No one of those first two cities could be great by its self, sure each one had their strong points but together they are harmonious to develop the perfect city. The perfect city needs both cities’ traits, beginning with the basic philosophy if each person doing a specific job and doing to help the city. In the city of need, Socrates described that each tradesman had a particular job and now in the ideal city we can see that that trait is one part of the structure for the ideal city. Another trait that we see in the perfect city that we also saw in the city of luxury was the idea of wanting more than you have. That idea brought about the need for guardians. Guardians were the spirit of the city and their job was to fulfill the needs of the city by taking new land and defending against invasion attempts.Then to tie the entire city together, the rulers were needed so that there was order and knowledge. When Socrates begins with his perfect city he says he needs rulers who are the best of the guardian class, their job is to make the citizens happy and serve the general well being of the state.
Socrates has truly developed a perfect utopian society in his eyes, but in many other peoples and mine. I believe he has just created the basis of a society that will grow and become unhappy, non-harmonious and lead to the fall of the city. I believe the citizens of the ideal city will be happy but for how long? People are notorious for wanting more and more until the reach a point where there is no more or something bad happens because we are never satisfied. There is bound to be happiness in the city for a while, but a soon as someone has the initiative to strive for something new the balance will be thrown off. Look back in the text, when Socrates was faced with the question of whether or not a woman is fit for a guardian position. Socrates believed that if a woman can do everything a man can do then so be it. she could become a guardian. Well, in response to Socrates the other men looked at Socrates like he was crazy, how could a woman be a guardian? When one group decides they want more the happiness will be destroyed, because each group will want more and more. That is the reason I believe that the city is ideal for the time in which Socrates lived however I can’t believe it would ever work today or even shortly after Socrates’ time. The lower groups always want to reach for the top. When we see kids today, they are always striving to become the best and do something out of the ordinary, something that may be out of their class but if determined they can accomplish any feat. I know from my own experience that no one wants to be told what to do and have be classified into a group. We classify everything and the lower classes want to be higher and the higher they go the more they want. This is just basic human nature.
Putting Plato and Socrates’ city to real life, take any country or city. For instance, England was a country based upon a system of groups. The leaders were those of the royal class. The kings were thought of to be knowledgeable and was a trait only certain people have, there were also people who entered the armies or were placed into them. The armies were the guardians of England, protecting their empire and constantly looking for new land to acquire. Back in the country, peasants worked as tradesman and farmers. They took care of the basic needs of everyone in the country by producing products for the entire country.
Now look today at our country, the United States of America. We are all descendants of ancestors that came from European and other eastern countries that had adopted that way for thousands of years. What happened? To be honest, people do not want to be placed in certain roles. It is fine if you are the upper class, but the guys at the bottom want to achieve success and rise to the top. That is a reason for the American Revolution and all other revolutions that have spurred from the lower class. No one wants to be content with being at the bottom; everyone wants to be at the top.
Plato’s ideal city would work if people were content with their god given positions.If there is harmony between the groups, then there is happiness, as we see in the soul and city throughout The Republic. However, in real life people find harmony with themselves when they achieve their goals and live a good life. I agree with that philosophy because I also want to achieve more and I am happy when I achieve my goals. No one is truly happy though because people will always want more.
I agree that Plato’s idea was great and a well-devised plan which provided the basis for many cities that have flourished in the past. However how could one totally agree with a proposal that is from so long ago, it is simply outdated in practice but not theory. We can still strive for inner harmony and harmony within a community and society but we must find that harmony through trials of our own.