The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.
Eric J. Herboso
27 January, 2004
The Republic: Book II: On Modern Poets
In Book II of Plato’s Republic, Socrates brings up the issue of the Republic, deciding to create a fictional society from its base pieces one by one, and finding where justice (or injustice) arises during the thought experiment, and thereby determining more easily as to what justice might be. In the course of the discussion between Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus, poets are brought up, and it becomes clear to them that only by restricting what the poets say can a Good society be made: “When someone says [bad] things about gods, we’ll be harsh and not provide a chorus” (383c, p. 61).
In today’s terms, the three of them would advocate censure of our modern poets: those people that do or say things publicly with the intent to please an audience. Many such entertainers in current times say many public things about society: from Jane Fonda to Tom Hanks, and Rage Against The Machine to System of a Down. It seems that in the view of these three ancients, at least, freedom is best left only to philosophers, and only then in a very limited way. It is clear that in many ways, Socrates is an elitist, and believes in equality much more than freedom – and they are, in fact, contrasting ideas, as pointed out by Tocqueville some two thousand years later.
It is unclear as to where Plato is taking the narrative of the Republic from the end of Book II, save for the fact that it will clearly be a construction of a regimé that is being paid very close attention to in order to find exactly when justice arises within. But from what is written about the poets, it is quite clear that whatever the society may become, it will definitely be built with concepts in mind that have very little to do with freedom at all.
Bloom, Allan. The Republic of Plato. Au. Plato.
Basic Books: United States of America, 1968
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