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RES PVBLICA LITTERARVM Documentos de trabajo del grupo de investigación Nomos Suplemento Consejo de Redacción: Director: Francisco Lisi Bereterbide (UC3M) S e cretarias de redacción: F ederica Pezzoli

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RES PVBLICA LITTERARVM Documentos de trabajo del grupo de investigación Nomos Suplemento Consejo de Redacción: Director: Francisco Lisi Bereterbide (UC3M) S e cretarias de redacción: F ederica Pezzoli (UC3M) Cristina Basili (UC3M) Comité de redacción: Lucio Bertelli (Università di Torino) David Hernández de la Fuente ( UNED) Jorge Cano Cuenca (UC3M) María José Vega (UAB) Fátima Vieira (Universidade do Porto) Ana María Rodríguez González (UC3M) Franco Ferrari (Università de Salerno) Jean François Pradeau (Université de Lyon) Edita: Instituto de Estudios Clásicos Lucio Anneo Séneca Edificio 17 Ortega y Gasset Despacho C/ Madri d, Getafe (Madrid) España Correo e: D.L. M ISSN: Autor: Instituto Lucio Anneo Séneca Editor: Francisco Lisi Bereterbide Plato s Republic: between utopia and religiosity JOAN ANTOINE MALLET Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III Plato s Republic is often interpreted as a utopia. This strong and widespread hermeneutic tradition starts with Thomas More himself and is still deeply rooted in platonic studies. In his book Utopia, More considers Plato s philosophy as one of his major inspirations. By comparing Raphael Hythloday s sailing to the sailing [ ] of Plato, 1 More draws attention on the fact that his work is profoundly indebted to Plato s philosophical effort to elaborate a new constitution for the city. By making such a comparison, More has launched an influent way to understand Plato s political theory in the Republic which is still nowadays widely shared amongst scholars. 2 However, this approach, which I will call the radical utopian interpretation, seems to be too global and too vague to accurately qualify Plato s thought and can be challenged. In Utopia, More refers to Plato s work, and especially to the Republic, as a source of inspiration. He is not interested in commenting and discussing each part of the argumentative process of this dialogue. He rather shares a common interest with Plato in picturing a better political system as an implicit critique and a potential answer to the political troubles of his time. In this sense, it is difficult to unilaterally qualify the Republic as a utopia, because More s primary goal is not to prove that this dialogue satisfies all the requirements of his concept of utopia. Moreover, the Republic can t be globally interpreted as a utopia, precisely because it is one of the main inspirations of the utopian idea. Let s have a closer look to the common radical utopian interpretation of the Republic. It pretends that this dialogue matches all the criteria defining a utopian project: a community looking for common good, settled in a fictional place and not firstly designed immediately to come into existence. It is possible to admit this view according to the two first two criteria, but not to the last one. Nothing indicates at first sight that the Republic is not designed to come into existence. Moreover, Plato doesn t only present one constitution model in the Republic, but several descriptions concerning different models. 3 It is obvious that all these models refer to different kinds of political 1 T. More (1975, 5). 2 For instance, Karl Popper, in the first volume of his famous book The open society and its enemies, The spell of Plato, grounds his critique against Plato s Republic by considering it as the result of a utopian engineering method (cf. chapter IX). 3 For instance, he talks about a primitive city called city of pigs (Republic, 371d) and a perverted or degenerated city in the second book. He also mentions a kallipolis (Republic, 527c) in book VII, this term referring to the model he pretends to establish, and opposes it in book VIII to the descriptions of perverted cities models (timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny). 1 J.-A. Mallet organizations. It seems therefore difficult or impossible to interpret the whole Republic as a unique, global and radical utopia. A last reason brings me to challenge a radical utopian interpretation of the Republic. At the very end of the dialogue, Plato claims in the following text that one the models he has designed the kallipolis as the philosophical, virtuous and just regime he wanted to establish could come into existence: Well, then, do you agree that the things we have said about the city [the kallipolis] and its constitution are not altogether wishful thinking; that it is difficult for them to come about, but possible in a way [ ] (Republic, 540cd). 4 All these facts make the radical utopian interpretation hard to admit. The Republic inspires Utopia, but it doesn t seem to be fully comparable to a utopian system. This is because Plato presents different political models in this dialogue and considers only one of them could be enacted. For this reason I would first like to determine, in this paper, if it is still possible to present a relevant interpretation of the Republic as a utopia. Then, I will examine if it is sufficient to interpret the Republic only as a utopia or if an alternative interpretation is possible. The first part of my analysis will study in detail the structure of the Republic, and the way the different political systems described by Plato are connected. My goal is to show that only certain parts of the Republic could be related to a utopian model. The second part will emphasize Plato s effort to bring his project into existence. To do this, I will focus my work on the religious notion of théia moira often translated by divine dispensation which definitively shows that the Republic can t be interpreted as a radical utopian project. 1) Is it possible to present a relevant interpretation of the Republic as a utopia? In this section, I would like to discuss two recent interpretations of the Republic trying to show that there are different levels of utopia in this dialogue. The first one focuses on the difference between the historical city (the city in which Plato lived, Athens) and Plato s reformative project, and on how a transition between them is possible. The second one more closely examines the structure of this reformative project as a combination of different levels of utopia. Then, I will try to synthesize these elements in order to suggest a hypothesis that considers all the political models described in the Republic and to show that a radical utopian interpretation is not relevant. a) Between Athens and the kallipolis: about Mario Vegetti s interpretation: In his article Il regno filosofico, Mario Vegetti (1994) clarifies the nature and the role of the different types of constitution in the Republic. Before exposing Vegetti s 4 I always refer to C. D. C. Reeve s translation (2004). 2 Plato s Republic: between utopia and religiosity view, I would like to summarize what leads Plato to elaborate several constitution models. The Republic s major topic is the definition of justice (Republic, 331c). The first book and the first part of the second one expose several definitions of justice, but all these attempts fail. This is why Socrates is asked by his interlocutors to present his own definition of justice. To do this, Socrates decides to use a new investigation method grounded on the following analogy: I think we should adopt the method of investigation that we would use if, lacking keen eyesight, we were told to identify small letters from a distance, and then noticed that the same letters existed elsewhere in larger size and on a larger surface (Republic, 368cd). In order to find what is justice, Socrates will examine first what justice is within a city, then, determine what justice is for the individual. This method leads him to present a new city model. To expose Socrates attempt, Mario Vegetti distinguishes three major steps. The first one (in a logical order, but not in the dialogue s order itself) is the actual and current constitution, i.e. Athens. Its major feature is to be ruled by corrupted statesmen who don t know what justice is and govern the city according to their own interests. Philosophers maybe know what justice is, but for the common view, they are perceived as unable to have an active part in city life. Even more, they are corrupted and perverted, as highlighted by Adeimantus. 5 Therefore, no change seems to be possible. However, according to Vegetti, Plato also presents a transitory constitution. It is related to the very short period of time when a philosopher takes the power within the actual city and re organizes it according to Plato s model. Then, the following model will be the kallipolis itself. In addition to these three models, Vegetti distinguishes three kinds of philosophers. The philosophers kings appear in book VI. They have to rule the transitional city. They have all philosophical qualities, but they didn t receive any education from the state. They are self made men: they are self taught and have a great natural resistance against the corruption of the historical city. Dialecticians are only described in book VII. They are produced by the kallipolis educational program and are destined to rule it. To do this, they will be helped by archontes. Described in books II and III, they represent a kind of intermediate rulers. As dialecticians, they practice gymnastic and learn music, but they don t follow their whole course of studies as exposed in book VII. Veggeti s account sheds light on Plato s aspiration to create a new political regime by showing the different steps of this process. However, he doesn t really succeed in giving a sufficient account of the Republic s structure. First, Vegetti omits some constitution models, especially the ones described in book II. Then, he doesn t 5 The majority [off young people doing philosophy] becomes cranks, not to say completely bad (Republic, 487d). 3 J.-A. Mallet explain how the transition between the historical city model and the transitory one is possible. b) Dawson and the Republic as combination of different levels of utopia: Vegetti s approach points out that Plato s model is certainly designed to be enacted. However, he fails in taking into consideration all the models introduced in the Republic. Dawson, in his book Cities of the Gods, seems to have a more complete and complex theory focused on differences between the stages of successive constitutions. Dawson considers that the description of the first city in Book II is not designed to be instantiated. It is only an example used to discover the universal patterns of human society. Dawson (1992, 80) calls this stage the historical dialogue. There are two steps in it: the primitive city and the city of war (Ibid.). The primitive city s goal is to shed light on the essential organization principles of the human community. These principles are exposed in the following text: SOCRATES: A city with the barest necessities, then, would consist of four or five men? ADEIMANTUS: Apparently. SOCRATES: Well, then, should each of them contribute his own work for the common use of all? I mean, should a farmer, although he is only one person, provide food for four people, and spend quadruple the time and labor to provide food to be shared by them all? Or should he not be concerned about everyone else? Should he produce one quarter the food in one quarter the time for himself alone? Should he spend the other three quarters providing a house, a cloak, and shoes? Should he save himself the bother of sharing with other people and mind his own business on his own? ADEIMANTUS: The first alternative, Socrates, is perhaps easier. SOCRATES: There is nothing strange in that, by Zeus. You see, it occurred to me while you were speaking that, in the first place, we are not all born alike. On the contrary, each of us differs somewhat in nature from the others, one being suited to one job, another to another. Or donʹt you think so? ADEIMANTUS: I do. I SOCRATES: Well, then, would one person do better work if he practiced, many crafts or if he practiced one? ADEIMANTUS: If he practiced one. SOCRATES: And it is also clear, I take it, that if one misses the opportune moment in any job, the work is spoiled. ADEIMANTUS: It is clear. SOCRATES: That, I take it, is because the thing that has to be done wonʹt wait until the doer has the leisure to do it. No, instead the doer must, of necessity, pay close attention to what has to be done and not leave it for his idle moments. ADEIMANTUS: Yes, he must. SOCRATES: The result, then, is that more plentiful and better quality goods are more easily produced, if each person does one thing for which he is naturally suited and does it at the opportune moment, because his time is freed from all the others (Republic, 369d 370c). 4 Plato s Republic: between utopia and religiosity Here, Plato presents the very essential principles of the new constitution he aims to build. Each person has to perform his task, do his job, according to his natural quality. This original correlation between nature and task grounds Plato s definition of justice. However, this first stage provides a too basic definition of justice because it doesn t represent a model matching with the people s common expectations. There are indeed only a few people in this city which is only structured to satisfy people s basic needs like food and housing, but not to provide them with a developed life. Glaucon notices this problem and points out that this primitive model doesn t include all that makes human civilization possible. He calls it a city of pigs (Republic, 371d). In response, Socrates decides to use the first model to create a second one, the city of war. This city is more luxurious with more citizens, more tasks and jobs to perform, and a high level of collaboration is needed between people. In fact, the city of war describes the actual world the Greeks lived in. But, since the city becomes richer and bigger, and goes beyond what is necessary (Republic, 373b), it will need to expand its land and to be protected against other cities aggressions. Socrates summarizes this problem in the following text: SOCRATES: Won t we have to seize some of our neighbors land, then, if we are to have enough for pasture and plowing? And won t our neighbors want to seize part of ours in turn, if they too have abandoned themselves to the endless acquisition of money and overstepped the limit of their necessary desires? (Republic, 373d) It is for this particular reason that Socrates starts to describe how the army should be organized. 6 But this new question was never solved by any actual historical city. No city has a class only dedicated to its defense. It s a new challenge for Plato that requests to reach another level in the elaboration of city models. According to Dawson (1992, 80), it is for this reason that Socrates introduces a new city model: the low utopia model. For Dawson, the low utopia model could be enacted. It is grounded on the rule of a special class: the guardians (or archontes as said by Vegetti). They are educated with gymnastic and music and present brilliant natural abilities to defend the city. However the main problem with this model is that it requires communism for guardians. To become the best soldiers possible, they need to live together and to receive a specific training without taking part in other tasks. This claim is coherent with Plato s definition of justice exposed before. This radical hypothesis requests that guardians live in a city ruled by philosophers because only philosophers can bring such a model into existence. According to Dawson (1992, 80), this new claim leads us to the high utopia part of the Republic. The high utopia model consists in the rule of philosophers. This class refers to the dialecticians in Vegetti s theory. As said before, they will receive an intensive and 6 SOCRATES: The city must be further enlarged, then, my dear Glaucon, and not just a little, but be the size of a whole army. (Republic, 374e). 5 J.-A. Mallet challenging education. According to Dawson, it is the only way to make the creation of a soldiers class possible because only philosophers are able to understand the principle of specialization grounding Plato s plan. But, according to Dawson (1992, 80), it can t be enacted. Dawson s position is interesting because it takes into consideration the first two models introduced in Book II which are not included in Vegetti s account. Plus, it sheds light on the fact that Plato uses the primitive city model only as a way to emphasize the very basic principles of human society. However, I think that Dawson doesn t take seriously the possibility that Plato s project can be enacted or instantiated. Contrary to Veggeti, he never mentions Plato s critique of the institutions of his time and his reformative will. Vegetti s and Dawson s accounts are complementary, but they don t totally expose the Republic s structure. That s why a synthesis seems necessary. c) A new interpretative structure for the Republic? The various city models showed by Vegetti and Dawson could be classified according to three categories: radical utopia, historical city and instantiable utopia. The radical utopia concerns the first cities described in book II and pointed out by Dawson. They are organized according to two main principles: everybody has to perform his task according to his natural abilities, and a city needs an army to be defended against other cities. This radical utopian model is not designed to be enacted, but only aims to show the principles of human communities. The actual city is just a description of Athens, the city in which Plato lived in. It is corrupted and ruled by unjust institutions, and perverts young people. Between the actual city and the instantiable utopia, there is the transitive city. Philosophers kings, who are selfmade men able to resist to corruption and to take the power to establish a philosophical regime, rule it. Finally, the kallipolis represents the potentially instantiable utopia. It is the result of the activity of philosophers kings. It is supposed to be a long lasting regime ruled by dialecticians and defended by archontes. This synthesis sheds light on two facts. First, the Republic can t be interpreted as a global utopia, because Plato describes the city he lived in, and also two different forms of utopia, the radical one and the potentially instantiable one. Secondly, it is not sufficient to present the Republic neither as a global utopia, nor as an addition of utopian models. Such an interpretation misses an important but difficult point: the connection between the historical city and Plato s political reform project. In fact, nothing explains how a transition through a transitive city model between the historical city and the kallipolis is possible. Vegetti suggests this transition but doesn t explain it. Dawson, on his side, totally ignores this possibility. These two approaches miss an important point mentioned by Plato himself: the existence of people naturally gifted, capable of resisting against the ambient corruption of the historical city and potentially destined to bring into existence a new city model. Plato mentions such men in the following text: 6 Plato s Republic: between utopia and religiosity You see, there is not now, never has been, nor ever will be, a character whose view of virtue goes contrary to the education these [the sophists] provide. [ ] You may be sure that if anything is saved and turns out well in the political systems that exist now, you won t be mistaken in saying that divine help [théou moiran] saved it. (Republic, 492e 493a, translation modified). This text clearly shows that it is normally impossible for young people to escape the ambient corruption of the historical city. In these conditions, there seems to be no room for Plato s reform project. The historical city system is comparable to a closed circle and nothing seems to allow Plato s potentially instantiable utopia to come into existence, nothing seems to allow opening the circle as described on t
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