1 This follows immediately on Socrates' remark (at 592b) that the polis he has been describing "exists in theory," and (probably) not anywhere on earth. That he goes on to picture its existing in theory as if there were "a model of it in heaven, for anyone who wants to look at it" makes the shift (back) to poetry seem less like a non-sequitur. Throughout the Republic, Plato describes the philosopher's vision in terms similar to those in which he describes "aesthetic experience" generally. I think this has a significant bearing on the subject Gill and I are discussing, and will try to spell out its significance here.
2 All of the quotations from Plato found in this commentary are from the Republic, using Grube's translation as revised by Reeve, with occasional (uncontentious) adjustments.
3 This is roughly Bernard Williams's reading of Plato, and of "objectivist" conceptions of ethics in general. (See Williams 1985, chs. 2, 3 and 8).
4 In the original version of his paper, Gill makes consistent use of the masculine pronoun. I have chosen to retain that, both to maintain consistency within my own contribution and because it is the form Plato himself generally uses.
5 The one held by "the majority," who (not coincidentally) fail to understand what sort of contribution it could possibly make to living a good life. 6 As opposed to "what some people declare it to be" (518b). This insight depends, not only on the psycho-analysis of Bk. iv, but on the metaphysical vision articulated in Bks. v-vi. If we take the language of 518b-d seriously, it suggests that the educative process Plato describes in Bks. II-III is not so much a prelude to the "philosophical" education he describes in Bk. vn. It is superseded by the latter picture, which describes, not a later stage of the same process, but a different (i.e., genuinely philosophical) conception of what ethical development as a whole is like (a conception which includes an even deeper appreciation of the role played by culture).
Compare the reference to painters at 484d. 8 See also 361d, where Socrates compares Glaucon (somewhat less directly) to a sculptor, whose proto-philosophical "imaging" of the just and unjust man will eventually contribute to philosophical insight, showing us why it is better to be just even under the worst possible external circumstances by inviting us to picture its internal circumstances. 9 Jonathan Lear (1992) shows how we fail to understand Plato if we assume that psychology is just individual psychology. I don't think we understand him fully if we assume that psychology is restricted to a
combination of individual and "political" psychology (as Lear seems to). If Gill doesn't take the fundamental thrust of Plato's psychology seriously enough, Lear doesn't seem to take the metaphysical dimension of Plato's argument seriously enough. His reconstruction of Plato's psycho-political view of the relation between justice and happiness leaves us wondering why Plato needs the Forms to make his point. Meanwhile, it seems to me that Gill has missed Lear's point about "the 'internalization' of ethical norms in the psyche and the 'externalization' of them in social structure" (cf. Gill's note 10, p. 196). In calling attention to this, Lear isn't just describing the "first" stage of ethical development. When we try to picture its outcome or goal—logos "ruling" in the psyche/polis—what we see is that the entire process operates in the way Lear describes.
10 What distinguishes the philosopher's liaison with the Forms from most of our liaisons with works of art is that the former cannot but be beneficial while the latter are most often dangerous. 11 The characterization of the philosopher as a special sort of lover (see esp. 485a-486e) defines the philosophical nature primarily in terms of the organization of desire. It is in this context that Socrates claims that "someone who loves learning must above all strive for every kind of truth from childhood on." This directly precedes the characterization of the philosopher's "cosmic" attitude, and closely follows the comparison between the philosopher's vision and that of a painter, at 484c. Here, with respect to "knowledge of each thing that is," Plato implies that philosophers "have a clear model in their psyches." This is what enables them to "look to what is most true, [making] constant reference to it, and [studying] it as exactly as possible." It is in virtue of this (the structure of their psyches) that they can establish "laws about what is fine or just or good" and ensure their preservation (in the polis and the psyches of its citizens) once they have been established.
12 Plato's justification for the "noble lie" might suggest that he is primarily concerned about content. But this tends to be misunderstood. Why don't we want to tell tales about the gods behaving as (Glaucon thinks) humans would if they had Gyges' ring? Not just because it sets a bad example. The trouble with this poetry is not that it illustrates Glaucon's point. It causes it to be true! Whether onewould behave as Glaucon describes (whether one pictures what is "naturally good" in those terms) depends on the organization of one's psyche (whether reason or appetite is calling the shots). That is why we might need a "noble falsehood" to tell the kind of truth Plato is concerned about: because it's not just a matter of telling. It's a matter of making it true.
�3 Cf. pg. 211, where Gill's reading of 387d-e suggests that the beliefs articulated "are meant to form part of the belief-structure which the auxilliary has 'internalized' and made part of her character" through imitative cultural participation. This is consistent with his reading of 401d-402c. But the idea that what gets expressed in cultural media are beliefs doesn't seem to fit with 401a-b (as I suggested at the outset). If Socrates' remarks at 402c seem to support Gill's overall picture, we have to remember that Plato has yet to gain insight into the "forms of moderation, courage, frankness, high-mindedness and their kindred," and that when he begins to (in Bks. iv-vi), it alters his picture of education dramatically. 14 Cf. also 490a. Meanwhile, Gill has redirected my attention to passages in the later books of the Republic, like the one at 534b-c. Here Socrates explains that philosophical understanding is dialectical, and gets Glaucon to agree that someone who is educated in (or through) dialectic is someone "who is able to give an account of the being of each thing." If he were "unable to give an account of something, either to himself or to another, [we would] deny that he has any understanding of it." Such passages cannot be dismissed. But their significance is far from clear. If anything, this passage suggests a paradox which no thoughtful reader could miss. For Socrates immediately goes on to observe that "the same applies to the Good": unless someone can furnish a dialectical account of that, definitively distinguishing it from everything else, "you'll say that he doesn't know the Good itself or any other good. And if he
gets hold of some image of it, you'll say that it's through opinion, not knowledge." But a definitive account of the Good is exactly what Plato fails to come up with! Socrates has just furnished us with a set of "images" which, while showing us what the Good is like, also show why the attempt to define it directly is misconceived. I think we miss Plato's point if we conclude that, were he to have been better educated, he could have come up with the kind of account Socrates alludes to here. I find very little that is dialectically comprehended in the Republic: little enough to doubt that that sort of understanding plays the role Gill sees it as playing in the model of ethical development Plato is articulating there.
15 Courage looks very much like a "cognitively" based virtue. But a closer look at 429c-430b shows that the emphasis is not so much on correct belief as on the preservation of those beliefs, and the psychological conditions necessary for that. Socrates compares this state "to something it resembles," namely, indelibly dyed cloth (a simile which itself resembles the one Plato uses to describe the effects of poetry on the young at 378d-e). One might ask which of Plato's virtues are not broadly psychological states? Surely moderation and justice are. That leaves only wisdom. But this is not just (or even primarily) a matter of possessing true beliefs. To think about it that way is to forget that justice is what makes the other virtues (including wisdom) possible.
16 Gill goes on to observe that this "cultural" education would not by itself enable the auxiliaries "to recognize analytically the truth of the relevant true beliefs." The point is rather that a person educated in this way would have a pre-reflective grasp of the truth of the ideas (that death...is not to be feared, and that virtue is self-sufficient for happiness) which form part of the implied belief-content of her education" (p. 207). 17 Cf. p. 216, where Gill describes the pre-reflective harmonization of spirit and appetite [as] "closely associated with the formation of ethical beliefs and a pre-reflective world-view."
18 It might also be interesting to compare this model with Aristotle's. That might help us clarify the differences which, as I suggested earlier, Gill's reading of Plato threatens to blur. 19 Perhaps what we find in the Republic is something like this: a progressive shift from a conventional picture of ethical development to a
philosophical picture. Perhaps Plato came to see what so many of his readers see, that the lessons learned in Bks. II-III will never lead us to see the truth about justice and happiness. For that, you have to change people more radically (not just "train" them). It is that process which remains (in Bks. IV- VII) to be understood. Of course, only the "changed" person will fully understand the process, and so only he will fully realize its point. I am not saying that Gill is buying into the conventional picture Plato progresses beyond. I am suggesting that we need to pay more attention to the internal development of the Republic's conception of ethical development. I am grateful to Christopher Gill, and others who attended his lecture at Brown, for lively discussion of these issues, and for critical responses to my own ideas. Joseph Lawrence also provided helpful comments.
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