Tuesday, December 29, 2009
How To Read Plato's Republic
Here I am again with the Professor at the Odeon Cafe in Budapest. You might recall that we both had become involved with women who were shockingly and unpredictably violent in response to imagined slights. He is hiding out here from his now former lover, who like my wife was recently gloating over a website detailing the purported existence of a group of Jewish bankers involved in the slave trade. I am also hiding out at the Odeon more or less all day, avoiding going home to my wife. After we have spoken of our troublesome women, we get on to the subject of writing. This, I tell the professor, is what I had been writing when he came in:
There is a group of people who live in the midst of another group from whom their arcane and exclusive community life is kept distant. They assume themselves to be superior to the others, and though they try to live as unobtrusively as possible, they are known to be in charge. By submitting themselves to the necessity of lying they keep things running smoothly, but their behind the scenes control of money making activities and their management of popular enthusiasms sometimes gets them more notice than they would like....
My wife would say this could only be about Jews in Hungary and the world, but I was thinking of the philosopher rulers in Plato's Republic.
The professor observes reasonably enough that Plato could not have been writing about anti-Semitism. And that to his mind this sort of philosophical explanation is unnecessarily complex. Anti-Semitism, he says, has been sufficiently shown to have had clear economic causes, social causes that generally fall into the category of fear of the other. But it seems to me that tourism is the most popular recreation of our time, and isn't it the love of living around people who are living in ways other than our own? So what makes others hated and feared has to be something other than their merely being different. Otherness is an example of the kind of explanation that Plato in the Republic calls geometric. It builds a chain of argument and reaches a conclusion based upon an assumption, as distinguished from dialectical reasoning, which submits an assumption to questioning, tests it, reaching from idea to idea towards a principle, a beginning point that can safely be rested on.
The Republic contains a geometric proof, the painting a picture in words of a city in which justice can be seen enlarged, but before during and after the picture making there are interspersed numerous dialectical arguments.
Many of the dialectic passages argue that art harms its audience: that art intoxicates us, releases our lower desires normally kept within limits, that art is distant from reality, mere imitation. Submitting ourselves to art we accustom ourselves to unreality.
Dialectic reasoning, because it tests assumptions, is not an art that will confuse imitation with reality. But Socrates avails himself of the other tool of reasoning as well: geometric argument still can intoxicate us, and the one in The Republic goes on for 100s of pages.
These last few days, between fights with my wife, I have been trying to discover whether Socrates deliberately intended to intoxicate with his geometric art. Was it too perverse or far fetched to think that he was performing a ritual, getting us intoxicated for the sake of later awakening us by means of the dialectic arguments the geometric proof had been immersed within? Thus giving us a chance to study our own intoxicated reactions to art, as arguments on the dangers of art, and the distinction between geometric and dialectic argument, progress together.
Let's start with one of Socrates' cautioning speeches. He says:
If I knew that my story was true, if I believed it myself, encouragement would help: to speak before thoughtful hearers and dear friends on supreme matters dear to them, knowing what you say to be true, is a steady and confident march. But being incredulous yourself, to inquire along with them in a discussion is fearful and slippery. This is what I am doing. I do not fear being laughed at, which would be childish, I fear I may slip from the truth, and drag my friends over me in a heap, and lie flat, in matters where a slip is most dangerous. I prostrate myself before Adrasteia, I pray grace of Nemesis for what I am about to say, for I take it indeed that to kill a man unwittingly is a smaller offense than to deceive him about what is beautiful and good and just in laws and customs. That is a risk to run with enemies about you rather than friends, so your encouragement is a grand one, is not it? BOOK V (450)
The Geometric proof:
1. In a city of the simplest form, there are a few basic jobs: shoemaker, farmer, clothes maker, builder, merchant, market trader, which are organized by a division of labor: each kind of work is done exclusively by those who can do it best. This city is rejected as not supplying what is expected from life in a city. People want to live in cities to have their unnecessary desires satisfied. Unnecessary desires are those we can both live without and are also not good for us. Because they are without limit we become sick, suffer from fever.
Oh, I understand. The question before us is not simply how a city comes into being, but a luxurious city. That is not a bad notion, perhaps. A city of that sort might show us possibly how justice and injustice grow up in states. However the real city seems to me what we have described, a healthy sort. But if you wish us to examine one in a high fever, there is nothing to hinder. Some people will not be satisfied with a life like this, as it seems. They will have their couches and tables and other furniture, they will have fine food, too, and ointments and incense and pretty girls and cakes, all sorts of each. Then, what said at first will no longer be the bare necessaries, I mean houses and clothes and boots. No, we must get painting on the go, and embroidery, we must provide gold and ivory and everything of that sort. Is that so? BOOK II (371)
The geometric argument continues:
2. The second, luxurious city, suffers from unlimited desires, supplying which leads to war, which is to say, to faction. Each in a faction shares a single quality with the others, and executes a policy of helping those qualified as friend and harming enemies, those others not qualified. Stealing from the enemy is necessary to provide the luxuries desired. And professional soldiers, a separate division of labor, are required to accomplish stealing most efficiently.
3. The feverish have disordered perception. They cannot test the competence of the professionals they need to hire: they cannot fit a shoe to a swollen foot; the most restorative foods taste bad to a feverish appetite.
4. Professionals are hired then based on social relations based traits. Every man can recognize these traits to some extent in himself. The sign of courage is emulation, the desire to be first in honor or victory. The sign of loving truth is love of reasoning, persuasion in argument. The sign of desires, wanting to gain, is money making. In the story Socrates tells of crew members seeking hire as ship pilot, those who flatter the captain best, offer easiest conditions, win the job, not the one who knows how to do the job best.
5. The reasoners are hired to control the war making and robbing soldiers, and also control the remainder of the citizens, formerly characterized by the work for gain they did, now hired as money makers.
I. The three classes were, before their entrance into the luxurious city: 1. lovers of gain, desiring 2. lovers of courage, 3. lovers of learning.
II. The three classes, as they enter the luxurious city, are newly defined by practices dedicated to social relations, which practices are representations or imitations of their original characters: 1. money makers 2. honor, being first, victorious 3. reason dedicated to persuasion.
III. But before we get to how the three classes are transformed when justice has been added to the luxurious city, here again is Socrates speaking:
Often the rulers will have really to use falsehood and deceit for the benefit of the ruled, and we said all such things were useful as drugs. BOOK V (458)
Drugging of the lower classes by lies is to be a permanent feature of the just city. And:
One thing in the nature of the philosophers let us take as agreed, that they always are in love with learning, that is, whatever makes clear to them anything of that being which is eternal, and does not merely wander about between the limits of birth and death. / Let that be taken as agreed... / Further, they never leave hold of this being, if they can help it, the whole or a part, neither a greater part nor smaller, neither a more honorable part nor less honorable. We have shown that already in discussing lovers of honor and the amorous./ You are right. / Next, consider if there be necessity to have something else, in the nature of those who are to be such as we described. / What? / Truthfulness. Never to admit willingly a falsehood, to hate it and to love the truth. / That is likely. / Not only likely, my friend, it is absolute necessity that one who is in love with anything by his nature should be fond of all that is akin to his beloved and at home in his beloved. / Quite right ./ But could you find anything more at home in wisdom than truth? / By no means. / So the real lover of learning must reach after all truth with all his might from youth upwards. / By all means. BOOK VI (484)
About drugging, Socrates says:
So he, Asclepios, provided for men, healthy in body by nature and habits, who had some local disease inside themselves. For these and for this condition he revealed the art of healing, thus expelling the disease from them by drugs or cuttings, and told them to go on living as usual that he might not hinder their duties in the city. But bodies that were diseased inwardly all through he did not try to cure by diet and by draining out and pouring in gradually. That only implants other diseases which naturally come from this treatment, so as to make life long and miserable for a man... One who could not live in the established round he thought it not his duty to treat, because he was of no use to himself or the city. BOOK III (407)
About wealth, Socrates says:
Then we have found other things which the guardians must guard against, and must prevent by all means from creeping unnoticed into the city. / What are these? / Wealth, and poverty too, because wealth creates luxury and idleness and faction, and poverty adds meanness and bad work to the faction. BOOK IV (422)
In sum, in the completed, luxurious city:
I. The Philosophers lie, the very same people who love truth above all. They persuade and compel, though they find this low, and unpleasant.
II. The Guardians (soldiers) are in permanent ill health, permanent convalescence, because of being administered the drugs of lies by the philosopher rulers. This a life said to be not worth living.
III. The lovers of gain are not allowed to get wealthy or get poor. Poverty which would at least have given them again the desire for gain is forbidden, as well as wealth which might allow rising out of their class.
The Ruler philosophers are said to win the greatest gain, the best possible life: long periods of philosophical, holiday-like resort as training and reward for the unpleasant job of managing the luxurious city. However, this gain is paid for by loss of their honesty. According to the Republic's concluding myth about the afterlife, there is a special destiny for those who have lived good lives merely by habit, that is, by true belief without knowledge, and the lower classes in the luxurious city would be among them. When they die they go to heaven, but then time comes to return to our world and choose a new life for themselves. In their ignorance of the consequences they choose to become tyrants, and after a lifetime of practicing injustice, they go to hell. The philosopher rulers are responsible for persuading or compelling them to practices that lead ultimately to their becoming unjust and suffering punishment in their afterlives.
The soldiers, lovers of being first in honor, are subjected to complete equality of material life, and are indistinguishable from each other in having the same, strictly controlled desires and objects of their desires. They are continually subjected to dishonoring lies.
The desiring class are reduced to being slaves to their work, without hope ever to escape it, restricted to doing a single job, never gaining either more or less reward from it.
Each of the three classes has lost its original character, and has in fact lost all natural human character.
To repeat: the geometric proof ends with a picture of an artificial city far removed from human nature. The city painted in words is a representation, a work of art. It is a picture painted within a work of art, which is the dialog The Republic itself. The work of art contains a geometric proof. But before, after, and within that construction in words of a luxurious city are many other works of art, arguments in the form of dialectic reasoning.
But more: The Republic is a work of art which also contains a sustained argument against art. Once again: art is said to be dangerous because, 1. being imitation, it is distant from reality, and 2. it intoxicates, seduces its audience into releasing its lower desires which otherwise it would have controlled.
What then is intoxication, letting escape of lower desire? It is to feel strange to oneself while immersed in a represented character, this happening within ritual.
Participating in ritual is to be regularly in the audience to the same theatrical art, to look forward to its next performances, and back to its last. In ritual there is:
1. Weakness at beginning:
Reading the Republic, we are forced to see that we do not know what is justice is.
2. Intoxicated action:
Reading the Republic, we get drowsy looking at relations between symbol representing classes, a strangely familiar artificiality in which we nevertheless cannot see ourselves anywhere.
3. Roles played:
Reading the Republic, we watch as the roles are defined and limited in relation to each other, persuade and are persuaded by each other.
4. Sense of being all together:
Reading the Republic, we are audience to the assembled roles and their interaction, feel the temperance that is the cooperation for mutual advantage between them, feel the security of their being held tightly together by the rule of reason.
5. Strength renewed at the end:
Reading the Republic, we imagine the security to be found in the controlled relations between classes and the city's great effectiveness in waging war.
Those to be initiated by ritual are described, using several analogies, variously as monsters; a crowd hooting, shouting, clapping; a drowsy well bred horse (The Apology); a half blind, deaf, drugged ship's captain; cave dwellers watching shadows of puppets. Those to be intoxicated are persuaded by a ritual of representations (art) made by sophists; by accusers; by a ship's crew; by theatrical producers; by chained cave dwellers offering prizes for correct predictions of the movements of puppet shadows cast on the wall.
Reading the geometric proof in The Republic is participating in ritual, a ritual of persuasion, similar to theatrical performance, to tamers soothing the wild beast, the ship's crew persuading and drugging the captain, to the accused flattering the drowsy well bred horse that the jurors at trial of Socrates are compared to. Socrates misleads, and uses the techniques of ritual to make the reader drowsy, though he is careful to provide warning qualifications, and arrange disqualifying dialectical passages before, during, and after the performance of the ritual (for example about the permanently convalescent life which is not worth living, philosophers who lie and do not love truth.)
We have two major shows being performed: a demonstration of different kinds of reasoning art, and also of how reasoning can be used for ritual purposes. The Republic produces a theatrical act of persuasion, and then uses that persuasion as part of a demonstration of how luxurious city life leads to loss of self. That loss of self is ascribed to self parts acting on each other, limiting each other. The path taken in the forming of the luxurious city, beginning from released unlimited desire, subsequent limitation of that desire, and then protection of ability to do that, is exactly the path that leads to loss of self, loss of individual justice.
Socrates indulges in flights of numerology when he wants to mock rituals of persuasion, his own and others'.
In calculating the difference in amount of pleasure to be found in the different constitutions of the city, Socrates says:
I suppose the tyrant comes third from the oligarch, for the democratic man was between them./ Yes./ Then the phantom (imitation) of pleasure he lives with would be, as regards truth, the third from that man, if what we said is true./ That is so./ But the oligarchic man is again third from the kingly man, if we put aristocratic and kingly into the same series../ Yes, third. / Three times three, then, is the arithmetical distance between the tyrant and true pleasure. / So it seems ./ Now then, the phantom (image) of tyrannical pleasure, it seems, according to the number of its magnitude, would be a plane figure. / Exactly. / So square this and bring it to a cube, and you will see what the distance becomes. BOOK IX (587)
3 times 3 equals 9
9 times 9 equals 81
81 times 9 equals 729,
=days plus nights in one year
...the king lives 729 times more happily than the tyrant.
The squaring and bringing to a cube refer to two steps of increasing unreality. The squaring refers to the set of 3 classes as they enter together the luxurious city. The cubing refers to the set of classes when justice has been added to the city. It is Socrates saying that the if you think the pleasures of the body are low compared to the pleasures of the mind, try looking at the pleasures of the body when they have been limited to pleasures of money making and then further limited to pleasures of keeping the same job for the same gain all life long.
Another numerological mockery is Socrates' calculation of exact mating times in breeding the soldiers, failure to respect which leads to the entrance of faction in the aristocratic luxurious city.
And from the Apology there is the mocking numerology at Socrates trial. The sum total votes for conviction, apportioned equally to each one of three accusers, would amount to a figure that would fail to meet the statutory minimum one fifth, so the primary accuser would have been liable to pay a fine if he had acted alone, as if such a calculation was reasonable and this distribution of votes a serious assumption.
Other philosophers have tried to play the same trick, the ritual use of philosophic argument.
Take the case of the modern French Philosopher whose name is something like Badjew. He begins his line of persuasion with Plato's idea of the one. Our sense of being at one is continually being lost, but we can begin to look for a protocol, a new way of working all together with others in action which passes through a chaotic state and which when successful will result in a return to sense of one in a new knowledge. Badjew believes the sense of one is produced by action in a group, a Dionysian loss of self in group mystery rather than an Orphic view of life in which bodies live among bodies in a kind of prison that an individual must escape. Jews are disruptive because they refuse to accept the universality of togetherness of the group. The Jews express a preference of seeking a return to the one as a private achievement. And Jews stubbornly see experiencing the one not as an all together, universal condition, but only as occurring within their own group, which group is constantly in jeopardy from the other groups in which it lives. Jews are apart from each other in action, and they rest at one as a group apart from other groups. Badjew argues that in reality we are at one with each other, and when the sense of reality is lost, we pass through chaos in which no parts are real, and in which in any case we are working all together with each other to be on our way back to the reality of being all one.
Bad-Jew wants to get rid of parts, parts of self, parts in the social group. Jews are individual parts when they attempt to return to love of their god, and they remain part of an individual, exclusive group when they succeed.
Just as the city has been divided into three classes, thus also the soul of each person is divided in three parts. BOOK IX (580)
A relation of part of our self to part of our self is created by letting ourselves be an audience to theatrical representation. We are audience to our own separated actions, our desiring, our spirit, our reasoning. We are intoxicated by that representation of parts in our self, and then act with one single part on another single part of our self.
We read in the Republic how we tend to indulge in our own lives in the kind of grief we watch being staged... This leads us to grieving over ourselves - self pity - and having love for ourselves - vanity.
But expressing doubt about the reality of the three part soul represented in the dialog, Socrates says:
Nor again must we believe that in its true and real nature a soul is such as to be full of ever changing diversity and difference in itself. / What do you mean? / It is not easy for anything to be everlasting, as the soul has now been shown to us to be, which is composite of many things, unless it possesses the most beautiful composition. / Not easy or likely. / So then, that the soul is a thing immortal we should be compelled to believe both by the argument just concluded and by the others. But as to what its nature really and truly is, we ought not to examine when it is contaminated by union with the body and other evils, as we are doing now. No, what it is in its pure state, such is what must be thoroughly and completely examined by reasoning, and then it will be found much more beautiful, and we shall distinguish much more clearly the opinions about justice and injustice and all the other matters we have discussed. But now we have told the
truth about it as far as appears at this present. Only we have contemplated it in a state like the sea god Glaucos, his original nature would no longer be easily discerned by those who catch glimpses of him, because some of the old parts of his body have been broken off, and some worn and crushed and altogether marred by the waves, and others have mollusks grown on and seaweeds and stones, so that he looks like any monster rather than what he naturally was. That is just what the soul looks like as we examine it, marred by a thousand evils. But we must look elsewhere ./ Where? / To its love of wisdom. We must notice what it clings to and what company it seeks. How it is akin to the divine and immortal and that which always exists, and what it would become if it followed the divine wholly, if it could be carried by this impulse out of the deep where it is now, the stones and mollusks all beaten off, all the many wild, stony, earthy things, since
earth is the food. Then we could see its true nature, is it multiple or simple, how it is and what it is. But now I believe we have described pretty well what happens to it in human life and what shapes it takes. BOOK X (612)
Then the meddling and interchange between the three classes would be the greatest damage to the city, and would rightly be entitled evildoing in chief. / Exactly so./ But will you not say that the greatest evildoing towards ones own city is injustice?/ Of course./ So this is injustice. On the other hand, let us put it in this way. The opposite of this own dealing of each class, moneymakers, assistants and guardians (philosopher rulers), each one of these doing it own business in the city, would be justice and would make the city just./ That seems to me exactly the way it is./ Let us not yet say so quite firmly, but only if this pattern enters into each single one of our people and is there accepted as justice. Then we will grant it at once, for what else shall we say? if not, there will be another inquiry for us.
But at present, let us finish the examination we made in which we believed it would be easier to see what sort of thing justice is in one man, if we were to try to inspect it in some larger thing, one of those which contain justice, viewing it there first. We have agreed already that this larger thing is the city, and we founded our city so as to be at its very best, as well as we could, since we knew well that in the good city surely justice would be. What we found there, then, let us apply to the single man. And if it be found to agree, well and good. But if something else becomes manifest in the one man, we will come back to the city and test it. So by examining them side by side and rubbing them together like fire sticks, we may very likely make justice flash out, and when it shows itself we may confirm it for ourselves. BOOK IV (434)
Rubbing together the city and individual, we need to ask ourselves why Socrates describes the decline of city constitutions in two sets of three cities, each constitution in the set clearly in charge of one of the three parts of soul.
Aristocracy......................................reason.............exercise of reason
Timocracy.....................................spirit................honor of being thought right
Oligarchy......................................desire............... love of money
Oligarchy.........................................reason.............reasoning control of desire
Democracy......................................spirit................expel and accept all desires in turn
Tyranny.........................................desire................slavery to desires
First, we see that in each constitution, though one part is in charge, all three parts are present. So in our rubbing together of individual and city, we take the individual back to the city and ask whether can we see in each part of the individual soul a complete constitution of 3 parts as we see in the city? Is it being suggested that each part of the soul is a limitation, a piecing out of the same essential action, described by Diotima in The Symposium, as love turned with spirit towards the most reasonably chosen object?
It is necessary that one who approaches in the right way should begin this business young, and approach beautiful bodies. First, if his leader leads aright, he should love one body and there begets beautiful speech. Then he should take notice that the beauty in one body is akin to the beauty in another body, and if we must pursue beauty in essence it is great folly not to believe that the beauty in all such bodies is one and the same. When he has learned this, he must become the lover of all beautiful bodies, and relax the intense passion for one, thinking lightly of it and believing it to be a small thing. Next he must believe beauty in souls to be more precious than beauty in the body, so that if anyone is decent in soul, even if it has little bloom, it should be enough for him to love and care for, and to beget and seek such talks as will make young people better, that he may moreover be compelled to contemplate the beauty in our pursuits and customs, and to see that all beauty is of one and the same kin, and that so he may believe that bodily beauty is a small thing. Next, he must be led from practice to knowledge, that he may see again the beauty in different kinds of knowledge, and, directing his gaze from now on towards beauty as a whole, he my no longer dwell upon one, like a servant, content with the beauty of one boy or one human being or one pursuit, and so be slavish and petty, but he should turn to the great ocean of beauty, and in contemplation of it give birth to many beautiful and magnificent speeches and thoughts in the abundance of philosophy, until being strengthened and grown therein he may catch sight of some one knowledge, the one science of this beauty now to be described. SYMPOSIUM (209)
A member of a theater audience, sympathizing with the hero's grief, has his desire separated from reason's chosen most beautiful object, taken out of the essential complex act of Diotima's love. That desire, released while intoxicated by representation, then calls upon reason to limit it. Reason, performed outside of individual life, is applied now to control, by lies and compulsion, desires that are found common to the whole audience group, is no longer applied to the choice of what is best to be desired. And then spirit is brought in to seek reward and avoid punishment, effecting the cave dwellers' murderous intentions towards anyone who would turn them to face the light, and making sure that they all hold to the worst, not to the best, direction as before. The entire self is now a product of art.
And as the self is a product of art, it is vulnerable to suggestions made by art. We identify with a character represented because the reasoning part we see in ourselves operates like a show, by means of a calculation of probabilities. The staged show we see represented easily links up with our own private show, and assembles with our own spirit and desire. This is why we are angry at mere words spoken by a stranger, a suggestion that shames us: we reconstruct a complete, 3 part identity listening to those words: reasoned identification with the character represented, a spirited rejection of it, complaint about it, and a desire to eradicate it. The three -part, artificial self is composed of three separate ways, directions of action: 1. reason used to get jobs, 2. desires denied or released by reason, and 3. feelings of being subject to suggestion, from others outside or from within ourselves, an angry or frightened awareness of lost job getting ability, and urge to recover by resorting to a intoxicated, violent response.
When the feverish individual has entered the feverish city, has joined in the audience to a show the people as a whole make, his unlimited gain loving desires are purged in sympathy with the staged characters, his soldier courage is expressed in a willingness to murder anyone who would awaken him from his state of intoxicated audience to the show, his reason that controls his expression of desire and spirit is turned to the goal of persuasion to be hired in the best role he sees represented in the show.
The Republic describes the feverish city as a place of permanent ritual and intoxication, permanent art performance. It is a description then of how we lose ourselves, and we can say that making that description was Plato's intention in writing the dialog.
The Couple: Private Life in the First City
Each of you desires the other whose predicament, and management of it, is admired. The predicament is like a staged situation: it has no necessary connection with your own life. You feel drawn toward this man or woman, you give him or her the job as lover. Your desire is released, under the threat of being jobless, and you feel drawn by rewards offered for taking on one role or another, persuaded by others that the offered role is good for you and persuading others to accept you in that role. Then:
You have immersed yourself in love, but now you are betrayed and feel alone. You look at a woman, and feel that she might be the way to your recovery. You talk to yourself about new ways of thinking, going from being an individual to being a couple. You spend time with her, feeling strangely together, but not as you were together before with your former lover: this experience is chaotic, you do not know exactly how this togetherness fits in with the rest of your life. You look for new ways, new rules of life that will resolve the confusion you feel. Suddenly you have found it, new habits have arrived, you and her are a couple, the chaos has gone.
These scenes are from the sayings and writings of Badjew the French philosopher. He applies them to the student revolution he took part in when he was young. For him politics, and art too, should pass from one stage of love all-togetherness, through chaotic searching for a way to fall back into oneness, to love all together again organized and named somewhat differently.
In his view you go from being one of a set, pass through chaos, and return to being in the set of one. History has put on a show. You feel all together with those in the audience, you feel the implied threat of being thrown out of that audience, and rewards for remaining in. You adapt your own performances to the requirement of staying in this all together audience. Adaptation is learning by knack, habit: beliefs in better or worse conduct are acquired from the people around you, without your being able to say how, where, and from whom you learned. The people as a whole teach, and also express their disapproval of those who would break the intoxicating effect of being an audience to their theater.
When they take their seats in large numbers together in parliament, or in the law court, in theater or in camp, or any other public assembly of a crowd, when they hoot what is said or done with loud roars, or cheer in turn, each extravagantly; they shout and they clap, and besides their own noise the place of meeting and the rocks around re echo and re double the din of applause and denunciation. What is the state of the young man's heart, as the saying goes, when that kind of thing happens? What private education will hold out in him? Won't he say 'yes' to their notions of beautiful and ugly, and follow their practices, and be like them? / He can't help it, Socrates./ Ah, but we have not yet mentioned the strongest compulsion./ What is that? / The one these 'Educators' and 'Sophists' impose by deed, when they can't convince by word. Don't you know that they chastise the disobedient with disgrace and fines and death? BOOK VI (492)
The story of an individual's love does not go like that. A man loves a woman who it seems will help him live best. The selection is personal, based on conclusions about ways better and worse to live, not based on sympathy with desires expressed in particular group-rewarded circumstances. When his past love is betrayed, he looks back on a love that he fell into as landing upon an island among the sea of other people's lives. He did not love those other people. In fact, he was aware that those people were for the most part living in Plato's feverish city, making shows, being audience to shows, threatening and being threatened with "what everyone knows should be done". His love was outside this artificial creation other people are all building together.
When that love falls apart, he takes his knowledge of the world's art-making with him out into the new world he faces. It is not a chaos, as he knows or can learn how he lost his love. He will perhaps put on shows himself, in an attempt to win back his lost love. Sometimes it can be as simple as getting back one's lost political position, sometimes it can involve putting on a show that will bring our betraying lover to her senses and return to us or allow our return. For him, everything done, in falling in love or returning to love, involves personal knowledge of life, put to practical use in the choice of roles we will play to recover love.
When an individual reflects back on his life, he sees that there never was one world of love betrayed, and that the world of making a return never was chaotic. The feeling of making a return did not involve unlimited desire, nor feeling threatened or tempted by rewards, nor looking for new strict rules that set the requirements for giving and getting jobs. Making a return to love brought an altogether different feeling of independence and reality. Love remained personal, private, outside the arrangements of the city.
Here is a symposium in the first, healthy city, as described by Socrates:
To feed themselves they will make meal from barley and flour from wheat. Some they will cook, some they will knead into fine flat cakes and loaves which they lay on reeds or clean leaves. They will lie on pallets strewn with yew and myrtle, enjoying good cheer with their children, and drinking it down with wine, garlanded and singing hymns to the gods, pleased with each other's company, having no more children than they can afford in their care against poverty or war. BOOK II (372)
If you look for Diotima's sort of love here you will not find it. You find desire, spirit, and reason all involved together but no part requiring the repressive attention of any other part. You find only the conditions under which, in private life, love with the aid of philosophic discourse can flourish.
Love is not put on display, because in this city parts of self are not displayed. Each individual is distinguished from the others only by occupation. With parts of self not distinguished in the city's constitution, there can be no question of a just relations between them.
Love is displayed in the luxurious, feverish city: it takes on the form of unlimited desire released in fellowship with others in the audience releasing their own unlimited desires. These others threaten us with death and reward us with not being ejected from the intoxication of being in the audience, while we learn from the show being staged new ways of persuading to get and give jobs.
The act of going to a theater, of going into the public which is nearly always performing for itself, creates the conditions that the geometric proof begins with. It does not have to create the city, that follows of itself according to the logic of the situation. You might say that the audience sets to work on that after leaving the theater.
Every time you go to the theater, go into the public, you are reminding yourself how Plato's city was founded, and making yourself a more perfect participant in it.
Shakespeare's Troilus And Cressida
In the first few pages of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida faction is mentioned 5 times,
fever 3 times, sick 3 times. Socrates' Daemon is mentioned, and it is said that moral philosophy best suits the old. Faction, fever, sickness, Socrates' Daemon BOOK VI (495), and philosophy for the old BOOK VI (497), BOOK VIII (539) are all to be found in Plato's Republic. Shakespeare draws a picture of the luxurious, aristocratic city in decline towards democracy. His character Ajax, like Plato's democratic man, is an incongruous mixture of the characteristics of all 3 classes.
Socrates' democratic man:
And so he spends his life, every day indulging the desire that comes along. Now he drinks deep and tootles on the pipes, then again he drinks water and goes in for slimming. At times it is bodily exercise, at times idleness and complete carelessness, sometimes he makes a show of studying philosophy. Often he appears in politics, and jumps up to say and do whatever comes into his head. Perhaps the fame of a military man makes him envious, and he tries that. Or a lord of finance, there he is again. There is no discipline or necessity in his life, but he calls it delightful and free and full of blessings, and follows it all his days. BOOK VIII (561)
This man, lady, hath robbed many beasts of their particular additions: he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant: a man into whom nature hath so crowded humors that his valor is crushed into folly, his folly sauced with discretion: there is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint, but he carries some stain of it: he is melancholy without cause, and merry against the hair: he hath the joints of everything; but everything so out of joint that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use: or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (Act I, scene 2)
The Trojans and the Greeks are luxurious cities at war with each other, and after 7 inconclusive years justice is dissolving from both camps, faction has arisen: each class of citizen is either insubordinate to or wishes to merge with the other classes.
Show making, lies, compulsion, persuasion, all that holds together the three classes in the luxurious city, and that ordinarily is hidden within the intoxication of repeated ritual, is exhibited and mocked. The artificial nature of the classes is apparent. Desire, courage, and learning are irregularly, impotently practiced, or absent.
The three classes find their representatives in both the Greek and Trojan camps.
Reasoning and persuasion, instead of love of learning:
The ruler Odysseus lies, puts on false shows, rigs a lottery and make a woman's love ridiculous by initiating a welcome ceremony of serial kissing.
The leader Hector speaks to the Trojans as if he is taking a holiday in reasoning, for he immediately disregards everything he has said and councils honor over reason. He disregards equally the lower class of desire, among which is prophecy, for when he is warned against going into fight he does not listen.
Love of being first, instead of courage:
The soldiers Achilles and briefly Troilus refuse to fight, and both make arrangements to visit lovers in the camp of their enemy. Achilles with Patroclus mocks the Greek commanders, and acts dishonorably in battle to win for himself an undeserved reputation of honor.
Slavery to money, fear of loss, instead of desire for beauty:
The lovers Troilus and Cressida are uncertain, suspicious and jealous, unrealistic: Troilus employs the pimp Pandarus to sell a representation of himself to Cressida who already loves him: love for what is merely an imitation can be replaced by another imitation, another copy of the same representation.
The workers Pandarus and Thersites complain they are treated no better than slaves and accuse their leaders of being lecherous and false.