The Republic

The Republic of Plato explores the meaning of Justice from both an individual and societal point of view. It also looks into the incorporation of Justice into human society, in other words, how to create an ideal state of social order in a society. This is carried out through the various dialogues and arguments between Socrates and other individuals. During this process, Socrates gave a detailed analysis of the formation, structure and the organization of an ideal State, and through this, vindicate the intrinsic value of being a Just person in a society and the virtues that each individual must possess.

In the dialogue with Glaucon and Adeimantus, where Socrates discussed about Justice in the State, he pointed out that there will be three orders in the State: the Rulers (legislative and deliberative), Auxillaries (executives) and Craftsmen (productive). The institution is based, not on birth or wealth, but on natural capacities and attainments, after years of primary education. These 3 chief social functions are kept distinct and rightly performed.

Since Socrates believed that qualities of a community are those of the component individuals, we may expect to find these 3 corresponding elements in each individual soul. However, the structure of the society is based on the fact that they are developed to different degrees in different types of character. Together with the application of the law of specialization and division of labor, we can see clearly how these distinct classifications of social function can lead to the well-being of the community.

In view of Socrates? Utopian society, I can associate them with this cartoon-animated movie ?Antz?. The movie talks about the building and the running of an ?ant? colony. The citizens, in this case ants, also has a similar classification of social functions in the colony, namely, the ?queen and its generals?, who rule the colony; the ?soldier ants?, who execute orders and protect the citizens; and the ?worker ants?, who are tasked to search for food and dig tunnels for colonial expansion. Each citizen follows its rulers obligingly, seeks no private interest, and performs its assigned tasks or specialties for the welfare of the whole colony.

In my opinion, this way of classifying the social function in a society is too much of a theoretical model and is rather extreme. The ?ideal? society or the so called ?Utopia?, proposes that the citizens should sacrifice their individual freedom and personal desires to commit to a higher purpose. From today?s point of view, this is clearly anti-democratic. However, there is no doubt that this type of societal structure has its own benefits in a way that the whole city operates smoothly, exhibiting harmony that is genuinely ?Justice?, as what Socrates professes.

Socrates? political ideas do have certain influence in the running of our societies. The evident examples are the communists? countries such as the former Soviet Union, China and Cuba. Even though Socrates? idealistic political views have been proven successful by these countries in their earlier days, they are now outclassed by democracy and capitalism that the world is in favor today.

Nevertheless, Socrates? ideas had laid out the basis and fundamentals of political governance of a society. Having done so, we are now able to improvise and create this ?ideal? society that is suitable for our contemporary life today.