Plato’s Three Waves The Three Waves In the Republic, Plato, through his character of Socrates, is searching for the definition of justice. During his search he creates a theoretical city of the kallipolis. This city is to be the ideal, good city. After he establishes this city in his mind he realizes that this city goes against some of the major common thought of his time, and for the city to work it must get passed these obstacles. These obstacles, or waves as Socrates calls them, are vital to the citys success.
The city of the kallipolis that Socrates discusses is an ideal city and everything must work according to his plan. Socrates feels that the best way to establish a just city would be to create a city that has three classes of people. The three classes are the guardians (rulers), guardians (auxiliaries), and producers (everybody else). Socrates feels that in order for this city to work the best people, or golden people, would be on top as rulers. Then the auxiliary guardians/soldiers, or silver people, would be educated to believe that this is this best city so they will not revolt against the city. These silver people would also be censored in the things they learned, so they would act in accordance to what they learned, i.e.
the rulers would not allow the soldiers to read stories of revolution. Finally, the producers, or bronze and iron people, would follow and listen to the guardians above them because of the noble falsehoods that have been told to them. They will believe that the land is mother and that they should be the producers, because that is the way this society is run, they are born into different classes and metals, and they cannot change that. The second noble falsehood Socrates explains is that the people will think that they all have equal opportunity to mate and produce offspring, when in actuality they do not. Instead the strongest males and females, or the most intelligent, moral and most beautiful are chosen to mate in an attempt to breed the best offspring. This will be accomplished through a fixed lottery.
Because of the lottery and the myth of the land, the people will agree and continue to live in this fashion and the city will get stronger. Even though Socrates puts this city together well, there are still three waves that the city must get passed. The first wave is common tasks for both men and women, or equality of the sexes. This wave goes against the common thought of Socrates time because the majority of people felt men should do more than women should. Even Socrates acknowledges that women are weaker than men are, but in this city it is not the strength of the people that count.
This city needs intelligent and moral people. If a woman has the qualities to be a guardian she must then be educated the same as the men in the city. Socrates proves this through the following quote So one woman may have a guardian nature and another not Therefore, men and women are by nature the same with respect to guarding the city Then women of this sort must be chosen along with men of the same sort to live with them and share their guardianship it isnt against nature to assign an education in music, poetry, and physical training to the wives of the guardians Its rather the way things are at present that seems to be against nature. This equality allows for the most intelligent, and moral people to be in the higher classes in this city, and for these people to breed strong offspring in this sense through the fixed lottery. It is to the benefit of the state to allow this, and to its disadvantage to hold women inferior to men.
The second wave, although one of the hardest to embrace, is probably one of the most important for Socrates city to have success. The second wave is women and children are to be held in common. This means that there cannot be marriage and what we see as family. Instead there will be mating of the best men and women so that the city can produce the best possible offspring. These chosen men and women will not have one partner, but will switch partners.
This would be hard for the people of Socrates time as well as people of our society today to accept this new, radical idea. It is hard for people to forget our current structure of society and accept something like this. Socrates goes on to explain that it is important for the people of this city to view this city as the best city, and to love it with all their passion. If there is marriage and romantic love, then the love for the city will be divided among the family and the state. Instead of this romantic love, people of the city should have brotherly love, or love for the state and only the state.
Also the people of the city should have love for wisdom and true knowledge because all of these types of love would unite the city to the greatest possible extent. Finally, this concept of women and children held in common will allow the city to produce the best offspring because it will allow the fixed lottery to take place. The third and final wave is the king must be a philosopher. This is also tough for people of Socrates time to embrace because the majority of these people did not like the actions of philosophers, and for them to be ruled by philosophers would be hard for them to accept. Socrates is aware that the entire city is theoretical, or the best possible city, and the only way to approximate the city as close as possible to this theoretical city in real life would be through the concept of philosophers as kings. Socrates goes on to explain that a philosopher loves everything, and has true knowledge.
They have entered the realm of forms and they understand everything through knowledge and not opinion or senses. A king as a philosopher can therefore tell differences of the roles in the city because he/she is wise. These philosophers are the only people who actually know what justice is, and can therefore watch to make sure the city is run in the proper manner. As Socrates says Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophize cities will have no rest from evils nor will the human race. And, until this happens, the constitution weve been describing in theory will never be born to the fullest extent possible or see the light of the sun its hard to face up to the fact that there can be no happiness, either public or private, in any other city.
The philosophers are the only ones that can see the light and have an understanding of what it takes to have a just city and the things that need to be done for the city to be run properly. If the city has philosophers as kings, it is only then that the city will have true justice and it is only then that the city will be as close to Socrates model as possible. All of these waves bring into question the feasibility of Socrates ideal state. It is extremely hard for anybody in societies around the world to simply drop everything and completely change their life styles to try and enter a theoretical state. In order to get this city started and as close to theoretical as possible, lies would be told. Socrates tries to get around these lies by calling them other things such as myths, or noble falsehoods when, in actuality they are still lies. The first lie explains to the people why they must live as they do, and it also explains why they are in the classes that they are in.
The second lie tries to hide the truth from its population through the lottery system and will make the city more intelligent and moral. These lies are the basis of the city, and without them the city cannot be established in real life because people would not accept the city. If this is an ideal state, then why does Socrates need to tell lies to its people to keep it running? If this city is based on lies, then how ideal is this city in actuality? These waves are hard to embrace, and because of the lies that it forces Socrates to establish, it is hard to agree on his ideal state. If this city is ideal then it should not have to be forced on its population, it should be greeted by them with arms wide open. But since it is only the philosophers that will have wisdom and know what justice is, then they should be the only ones who know the truth. The rest of the city will simply be living a lie because they do not know any better.
So is this idea of the ideal city really worth it? It may seem that justice is good and to our advantage, but if only the few, the kings who are philosophers, really know justice and the truth, then is justice really advantageous for the city? Is it what someone doesnt know wont hurt them? Well if thats what it means to be just and to have a just city you can count me out, but wait, I forgot, I would not have a choice, I would be caught up in the middle living a lie. Philosophy.