The City Of Swine Essay, Research Paper
The City of Swine
When one looks at why Plato would have included Glaucon s sarcastic remark of calling the first city a city of swine (372d) in his dialogue the Republic of Plato, one must understand what it is that Glaucon was talking about. To understand what Glaucon s sarcastic remark meant; and how important it was, is because there had to be more to what Plato was writing about. And that Glaucon s remark helped lead Plato s writings right into what followed. For I m sure to assume that: Polemarchus, Thrasymuchus, and Cephalus would have had some sarcastic remarks as well throughout the dialectic; but Plato must have ignored them, or choose not to include them, because their remarks would have been unimportant. So why did Plato include the remark city of swine , and why did Glaucon call it a city of swine ?
In order to understand the remark city of swine we must first understand why Plato is describing the city. Why Plato is describing the city, is that they are looking for the answer to what exactly justice is. For they had failed to come up with a reasonable answer in earlier attempts to define what justice was. In earlier attempts to define justice, Cephalus said, to tell the truth and repay one s debts. (331c). Socrates however dismissed this with the insane man example. Polemarchus said, that it was just or right to give back to each man what was due to him. This Polemarchus specifies as, doing good to one s friends and harm to one s enemies. (331e-332b). This too was easily dismissed by Socrates that it can t be part of justice to do harm to anybody, and one can be mistaken as to who their real friends are. Therminacus idea for justice was, justice is for the strong. Socrates used the good doctor to refute this claim as well, and showed that justice isn t for the strong. So with no real answer to what justice was in the individual and nowhere to turn to look for justice, they had decided to look for justice in a larger scale.
So why did they look to the city for the answer to justice? In (435e) Socrates maintains the individual must have the same characteristics as the city, for otherwise the city itself could not posses them. In (368d) Plato says they should look not to the individual man, but to the community as a whole. And since a city is larger than an individual, it would make it easier to make out or find what justice is in the city. Plus in Plato s time the law of the state is the source of all standards of human life, and that the virtue of the individual is the same as the virtue of the citizen. (Jaeger. Paideia, Vol. II, p. 157.) With this established they had no problems with looking to the city for the answer to justice.
So what is the city? Why is it called the economic city? Or why is it called the simple city? In Plato s account of the first city, (369-372), the city is fairly clear in its description. In it, it is a city that comes together basically because of man s basic need for survival. Because Plato states, an individual man is inadequate and cannot provide for his basic needs like: food, shelter, and clothing alone. It is a city where one has to produce enough goods for himself, and sell or trade the rest for what he needs. This city is basically a working town only, where men do their task or job well; selling their service or goods, and buying the services or goods they need. It is a simple economic city for man s basic needs of survival.
So why did Glaucon protest to this city, saying that the life which it provides will be excessively austere, making it a city of swine? (372d) Why did Glaucon call this city, severely simple, and rigidly strict in its manner of living? I believe he called it a city of swine because the people in this city lived like pigs! A people with no purpose other then one s own need for survival. A people with minimal essentials, with no emotion or feeling. A people with no satisfactory purpose other than the basic economic needs. And I m sure Glaucon was thinking that this couldn t possible be it, when he said city of swine. For there was no government or rulers, no defense system from neighboring cities, no type of law enforcement from unruly citizens, no laws and no punishment what so ever! Plus who in their right mind would be totally satisfied or happy with themselves just working at one job for no purpose other than basic survival. I also think Glaucon was thinking that this basic survival for man was no different than living like an animal, and that is part of the reason he called it a city of swine . For if man is to be satisfied he needs more. He needs friendship, love, and enjoyment. He needs enjoyment in finer things like: music, reading, writing, or as we used in our class discussion: how Jean-Luc enjoyed a good bottle of Red Dog, getting barreled and love, to be happy once in a while.
So why did Plato describe this simple city, the city of swine in the Republic of Plato? I believe he included it because it showed that the basic man is simple in nature. The basic man is self-interested and driven by economic gains. And by describing the first city, Plato is showing us that the economic man or city needs more. For this city or man may work in theory, but that is all it is! For this city to work entails that all its citizens are working and can get along with each other. It is a city that will either thrive or die! For if all its citizens can get along with each other and continue working, then the city will survive and gain economically. If they don t, there will be total disorder as everyone will be doing their own thing, for their own personal gain and as a result the city will fail. It will fail because for a part is not only a part of something else, but also wholly it belongs to that something else (1254a8 Aristotle s Politics). And if you start taking away the parts or individual from the basic city, the basic city will become extinct. Plus I believe Plato is also saying that if this economic city gets along for a while, and is thriving, its citizens will eventually want more. Since each man will want more, he will start pursuing his own self-interest or gain, instead of the interest of the city. If everyone is doing or pursuing his own self-interest or gain, eventually one will start stepping on somebody else s toes. And when this happens, the disorder will begin, and the city will fail!
Now when you look back to (1254a8 of Aristotle s Politics, For what are the parts of apart in a whole?) and think of Glaucon s remark at (372d): and put it toward the individual instead of the city, you see there is and has to more to the individual, then as described in the simple city. And because of Glaucon s remark, he was asked, how would you do it, describe the city? Glaucon responded by saying, give the people the comforts of ordinary life. Probably thinking don t put the people on the same levels as an animal, give them finer things like chairs, tables, and civilized food. Socrates agrees to this, and starts to describe the city again, but with more people because it would take more people to provide for these luxuries. And with more people it showed: the city would need more land; thus an army would be needed, to gain and protect the land. And with more people laws would be needed; thus they would need rulers to make these laws. So with this done it showed the first city was incomplete and out of balance as would the individual be out of balance or incomplete. With this new city it establishes that the city has different classes to make it complete, and since the city is as an individual, the individual must have different classes. The classes in the city being rulers, the guardians, and the common people, and the classes in the individual being reason, spirit, and will. And it is the balance of these classes that will keep the city together, and the individual complete. And that is why Glaucon called the first city a city of swine , for it lacked human qualities or it lacked the reason, spirit and will. Another reason Glaucon s remark was important is that by denying the first city, it allowed the establishment of the second just and complete city. This was important because it gave them something to go back on, to confirm what justice was in the individual!