Monday, November 11, 2013

Plato's Statesman

I’ve run rivers.  One would think that floating down a river provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy the beauties of nature.  However, if the river is fast flowing and filled with rapids, falls, and eddies there is little opportunity to enjoy that beauty; the challenge and the joy of such a river trip comes from staying afloat.  For me, reading Plato’s Statesman was just such a head long rush.  Sometimes, to get even a peek the truths through which the cascade of ideas dragged my mind, I had to claw my way back up stream, struggling back through the ideas to attempt a glimpse at their meaning.  It was a struggle but here are some glimpses of the good I found.  All quotes are form: Plato – Complete Works, Edited by John M. Cooper, Associate Editor, D. S. Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1997.

From Statesman on the Divisions on Knowledge:

Visitor: Well, divided all cases of knowledge in this way, calling the one sort practical knowledge, the other purely theoretical.  p. 297

From Statesman on Creation & Spontaneous Generation:

Visitor: . . . From all these considerations, it follows that one must neither say that the cosmos is always itself responsible for its own turning, nor say at all that it is turned by god in a pair of opposed revolutions, nor again that it is turned by some pair of gods whose thoughts are opposed to each other; it is turned by what was said just now, which is the sole remaining possibility, that at times it is helped by the guidance of another, divine, cause, acquiring life once more and receiving a restored immortality from its craftsman, while at other times, when it is let go, it goes on its own way under its own power, having been let go at such a time as to travel backwards for many tens of thousands of revolutions because of the very fact that its movement combines the effects of its huge size, perfect balance, and its resting on the smallest of bases.  p. 311

From Statesman on a King – v – a Tyrant:

Visitor: I think we made a mistake before. . . We put king and tyrant into the same category, when both they themselves and the manner of their rule are very unlike one another.  p. 318  

From Statesman on the Relative and the Absolute:

Visitor: . . . and at the same time that greater and less are measured not only in relation to each other but also in relation to the coming into being of what is in due measure.  p. 327

From Statesman on the Types of Government:

Visitor: We recognize monarchy, don’t we, as one of the varieties of rule in cities?

Young Socrates*: Yes.

Visitor: After monarchy one would, I think, list the holding of power by the few.

Young Socrates: Of course.

Visitor: And isn’t a third type of constitution rule by the mass of the people, called by the name of ‘democracy’?

Young Socrates: Most certainly.

Visitor: So there are three of them – but don’t they in a certain way become five, giving birth from among them to two other names in addition to themselves?

Young Socrates: What are these?

Visitor: I think that as things are people refer to the aspects of force and consent, poverty and wealth, and law and lawlessness as they occur in them, and use these to divide each of the first two types into two.  So they call monarchy by two names, on the grounds that it exhibits two forms, the one ‘tyrannical’, the other ‘kingly’ monarchy.

Yong Socrates: Of course.

Visitor: And any city which has come to be controlled by a few people they call by the names of ‘aristocracy’ and ‘oligarchy’.

Young Socrates: Most certainly.

Visitor: With democracy, on the other hand, whether in fact it’s by force or with their consent that the mass rules over those who possess the wealth, and whether by accurately preserving the laws or no, in all these cases no one is in the habit of changing its name.

Young Socrates: True.

From Statesman on Just Government:

Visitor: . . . so long as they act to preserve it [the Constitution] on the basis of expert knowledge and what is just, making it better than it was so far as they can, this is the constitution which alone we must say is correct . . . p. 337

From Statesman on types of government and the “divisions” of democracy:

Visitor: Out of monarchy let’s make kingly and tyrannical rule; out of the sort that doesn’t involve many, we said there was the auspiciously named aristocracy [rule of quality], and oligarchy, while out of the sort that does involve many, there was democracy, which we then called single and put it down as such, but now in turn we must put this too down as double.

Young Socrates: How, then?  And divided by what criterion?

Visitor: By one that is not different from the other cases even if its name, ‘democracy’, is now double; but certainly ruling according to laws and contrary to laws belongs both to this and to the others.

Young Socrates: Yes, it does. p. 347

From Statesman on When a King Is Best (Constitutional Monarchy):

Visitor: Well then, when monarchy is yoked in good written rules, which we call laws, it is best of all six; but if it is without laws, it is difficult and heaviest to live with. p. 347

From Statesman on Comparing Just and Unjust Democracy to the Other Forms:

Visitor: For this reason, if all the types of constitution are law-abiding, it turns out to be the worst of them, but if all are contrary to law, the best; and if all are uncontrolled living in a democracy takes the prize, but if they are ordered, life in it is least livable, and in first place and best by far will be life in the first, (monarchy) . . .  p. 348

From Statesman on Traits of Good Kings:

Visitor: Among these, I think, are generalship, the art of the judge, and the part of rhetoric which in partnership with kingship persuades people of what is just and so helps in steering through the business of cities.  p. 349

From Statesman on Power of Rhetoric:

Visitor: Well then: to which sort of expert knowledge shall we assign what is capable of persuading mass and crowd, through the telling of stories, and not through teaching?

Young Socrates: This too is clear, I think: it must be given to rhetoric.

Visitor: And the matter of whether to do through persuasion whatever it may be in relation to some people or other, or else by the use of some sort of force, or indeed to do nothing at all: to what sort of expert knowledge shall we attach this?

Young Socrates: To the one that controls the art of persuasion and speaking.

Visitor: This would be none other, I think, than the capacity of the statesman.  p. 349

From Statesman on the Dangers of Pacifism:

Visitor: . . . For those who are especially orderly are always ready to live the quiet life, carrying on their private business on their own by themselves.  They both associate with everyone in their own city on this basis, and similarly with cities outside their own, being ready to preserve peace of some sort in any way they can.  As a result of this passion of theirs, which is less timely than it should be, when they do what they want nobody notices that they are being unwarlike and making the young men the same, and that they are perpetually at the mercy of those who attack them.  The consequence is that within a few years they themselves, their children, and the whole city together often become slaves instead of free men before they have noticed it.  p. 353

From Statesman on the Dangers of Militarism:

Visitor: But what about those who incline more towards courage?  Isn’t it the case that they are always drawing their cities into some war or other because of their desire for a life of this sort, which is more vigorous than it should be, and that they make enemies of people who are both numerous and powerful, and so either completely destroy their own fatherlands, or else make them slaves and subject of their enemies? p. 354

From Statesman on Education’s Importance in Maintaining Freedom through ‘Weaving’ together Pacifism and the Militarism:

Visitor: Then as for the others, whose nature are capable of becoming composed and stable in the direction of nobility, if they acquire education, and, with the help of expertise, of admitting commingling with each other—of these, it tries to bind together and intertwine the ones who strain more toward courage, its view being that their firm disposition is as it were like the warp, and the ones who incline toward the moderate, who produce an ample, soft, and—to continue the image—wooflike thread, two natures with opposite tendencies; and it does so in something like the following way.

Young Socrates: What way is that?

Visitor: I call divine, when it comes to be in souls, that opinion about what is fine, just and good, and the opposites of these, which is really true and is guaranteed; it belongs to the class of the more than human   p. 355

*This ‘Young Socrates’ is not ‘our Socrates’ as a young man, but a young man who also has the name of Socrates.

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