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Costs and Benefits

May 26, 2014

For what wage will the best men will rule in their cities?

They can’t be persuaded by money, obviously, or the allure of power. But they have sometimes yielded to the compulsion of a certain counter-wage–the penalty decreed for them by some shrewd lawmaker of old, should they shirk office: If they will not rule themselves, then lesser men will rule them.

This and more, coming soon to a Plato’s Republic near you.

Thesis: The dialogue is not about justice so much as anagke (necessity, fate, compulsion) and how hard, costly, and dangerous is the road toward the good.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2014 1:57 pm

    A tantalizing thesis!
    I am reminded of a few words, on justice, from a Greek poem likely written early in the 4th century.

    Justice, speaking to Parmenides (Fragments 2 & 3, or “The Way of ἀλήθεια”):

    2 εἰ δ᾽ ἄγ᾽ ἐγὼν ἐρέω, κόμισαι δὲ σὺ μῦθον ἀκούσας,
    αἵπερ ὁδοὶ μοῦναι διζήσιός εἰσι νοῆσαι·
    ἡ μὲν ὅπως ἔστιν τε καὶ ὡς οὐκ ἔστι μὴ εἶναι,
    πειθοῦς ἐστι κέλευθος (ἀληθείῃ γὰρ ὀπηδεῖ),
    ἡ δ᾽ ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν τε καὶ ὡς χρεών ἐστι μὴ εἶναι,
    τὴν δή τοι φράζω παναπευθέα ἔμμεν ἀταρπόν·
    οὔτε γὰρ ἂν γνοίης τό γε μὴ ἐὸν (οὐ γὰρ ἀνυστόν)
    οὔτε φράσαις. 3…τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι.

    “2 Now, I will tell thee—and do thou hearken to my saying and carry it away—the only two ways of search that can be thought of. The first, namely, that It is, and that it is impossible for it not to be, is the way of belief, for truth is its companion. The other, namely, that It is not, and that it must needs not be,—that, I tell thee, is a path that none can learn of at all. For thou canst not know what is not—that is impossible—nor utter it; 3 for they belong to the same: to think and to be.

  2. June 19, 2014 1:49 pm

    Thank you for the Parmenides quote.

    My first question is, Why do you say that these are words “on justice”? but perhaps a more interesting question is, Why is Justice the speaker of these words?

    Is this the answer? The justice of thought is its owning being (the “it is”) as its ruler by necessity. Just thought acknowledges the unthinkability of the “that it is not, and must needs not be” and, simultaneously, the strange un-get-round-able, un-get-behind-able necessity that “it is, and that it is impossible for it not to be.”

    In the Republic, justice of thinking (or truth) is the source and essence of all justice, of the just action, of justice as the soul’s active repose in the right ordering of its passions and desires, of a justly ordered community. If the first precept of Parmenides’ Goddess’ is the primal necessity that limits thought from beginning to end, then maybe I see the sort of congruence your post must have been meant to suggest emerging here.

    Is there a reason why you capitalize “It,” in “namely that It is”?

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