Thumos: Coping In Plato's Republic Essay

1294 words - 5 pages

Plato's Republic is mainly the discussion of justice versus injustice and the task of defining each. To figure out how to grasp a definition, Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus set to creating a Just City as a model for the individual. Eventually they come to the point of seizing the land of neighbors, discovering the origins of war (373 e). With war as a factor, they must create guardians not only to fight to gain land, but also to protect the city. Socrates states that "the work of the guardians is most important, it requires most freedom from other things and greatest skill and devotion" (374 e). From this quotation, the reader realizes that the guardian class, which contains rulers and the auxiliary, will be one of the primary focuses of the Just City. To better the quality of the city, Socrates creates ideal traits for the guardians. They must have keen senses, speed, and physical strength while being courageous and spirited (375 a-b). This spiritedness, which is known as thumos, includes desire, passion, need for revenge, obedience, longing for honor, and tends to prefer war to peace. While this combination of ingredients makes for a good warrior, it raises some problems for a regular citizen functioning within a city. According to Socrates, the guardians "must be gentle to their own people and harsh to the enemy" (375 c). This is one of the most crucial elements of discussion in Republic, the idea of how to make a class of people that is spirited yet gentle, warlike yet peaceful. Socrates attempts to moderate the thumos of the Just City's guardian class to make them an ideal group of defenders, warriors, leaders and citizens through a very specific education in poetry which includes censorship and brainwashing.Education is the transfer of knowledge from a teacher to a student. Therefore, the teacher has the ability to control what the student knows. Socrates hopes that the guardian class of the Just City will be like pedigree dogs in that they will be gentle to those they know and violent to those with whom they are unfamiliar (375 e). He decides that this will make them philosophical in nature because they will distinguish between the things with which they are familiar and those of which they are ignorant, loving the former and detesting the latter (376 a-b). It is the philosophical nature built into the guardians that causes them to love learning and makes it easy for teachers to impress patterns upon them when they are "most malleable" (377 b). In the Just City, young guardians will adore the study of music and poetry and will be transformed from children with thumos into warriors that function in society.The traditional focus on music and poetry in Greek history is the basis for the education system within the Just City. It includes the telling of stories written by lyric, epic, and tragic poets prior to and throughout Plato's time. When children are young they are told these stories by their mothers and nurses to give them a sense of...

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