The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 3 – “The Eumenides”

The Oresteia by Aeschylus – Part 3 – “The Eumenides”

  • [At Delphi in front of Apollo’s Temple]
  • Prophetess – This temple has had so many seers and gods to help us see. I’ll see all the people in turn [Goes in and then quickly rushes out]. OH SHIT!!! What did I just see? I can’t even stand. I walked in and saw a man covered in blood and bunch of Gorgons. Not quite Gorgons but close enough to scare me. Fuck that shit. Apollo can deal with this on his on [Leaves].
  • [Doors open. Orestes and Apollo come out]
  • Apollo – I won’t let you down. I’ll protect you. But these wicked things are a bastard. The men don’t like them. The gods don’t like them. They’ll follow you around forever. Find a way to get to Athens. We’ll find judges and put a case together. I’ll tell them it’s my doing this mess.
  • Orestes – Of course. Please guide and protect me.
  • Apollo – I’ll put Hermes on the case [Orestes leaves. Apollo goes into the temple. Clytaemnestra’s ghost comes out].
  • Ghost – Sleeping on the job? How can you avenge my death while sleeping? I’ve done my part with the sacrifices. WAKE UP!!! [Hears whimpering] Cry all you want but you’ve lost him. His friends are helping him. How can you sleep when a man’s murdered his mother?
  • A Fury – (Asleep) That’s the one, dog…
  • Ghost – Hunting like a dog in your dreams? No success in your dreams either? Get up and do what you’re meant to do, you lazy fools!! [Leaves]
  • Chorus of Furies – Someone’s tricked us. How humiliating! It must have been Apollo. Those gods always get in the way. Orestes must be punished for violating the laws of heaven. We’ll follow him until the end of time to make him pay. I can’t believe Apollo would use his temple and powers to help him and stop us.
  • Apollo [Enters with bow and arrow] Get out! You’ve got no right to be here. Get out or I’ll stick one of these up your asses. I’ll have your heads chopped off and eyes gouged out. The gods hate everything about you. FUCK OFF!
  • Chorus – Please listen. This is all your doing. You told him to do it.
  • Apollo – To avenge his father’s death.
  • Chorus – He came to the temple red-handed
  • Apollo – I cleansed him. But you aren’t allowed near my temple.
  • Chorus – It’s our duty to chase mother-murderers
  • Apollo – What about those who kill their husbands?
  • Chorus – Not as bad as killing your family
  • Apollo – Marriage is every bit as holy as family. If there’s a murder and it’s not taken care of, you can’t go after Orestes. Somehow, you’re dead set on getting him.
  • Chorus – We’ll never stop
  • Apollo – It’ll only get worse for you
  • Chorus – We smell his blood. We’re off [They leave].
  • Apollo – I’ll protect him. If I don’t, it’ll be bad news for me.
  • [A year or so later in Athens at Athena’s Temple]
  • Orestes – Athena, I’m here. Apollo told me to come. Please help! I’ve come a long way [Crouches behind a statue of Apollo]
  • Chorus – [Enters] I think we’ve got him. He’s somewhere around here. We can’t lose him. There he is! Mother-murderer. Come on. This is the only way… Come on
  • Orestes – The bloods been cleansed by Apollo. I haven’t harmed anyone. I’ve come to Athena to put this to an end.
  • Chorus – No matter what Athena and Apollo say, we’re taking you. You’ll be ripped apart and there’ll be nothing left of you. Fate had ordered us grab you and hold you to account. If we don’t do this all of heaven’s laws will have no meaning.
  • Athena – [Enters] Did someone call? I was over in Troy
  • Chorus – We’ll fill you in. We’re the children of Night. We live in hell
  • Athena – That explains the look.
  • Chorus – We’re looking for mother-killers
  • Athena – Is that what you’re looking for?
  • Chorus – He’s been hard to lay a hand on. He killed his mother but claims innocence
  • Athena – Maybe for a good reason?
  • Chorus – What good reason could there be?
  • Athena – I can think of at least one
  • Chorus – He won’t confess to it
  • Athena – Well, bullying him doesn’t prove his guilt
  • Chorus – Talk to him yourself
  • Athena – And you’ll accept my judgment?
  • Chorus – Of course
  • Athena – Tell me, young man. Let’s find out who you are and what’s going on in this story. What’s your defense and that?
  • Orestes – I’m no murderer. This is the blood of a swine. I’m Orestes of Argos, son of Agamemnon. After Troy, he came home only to be murdered by his wife, my mother. I wasn’t there at the time but I returned to avenge his death. I killed my mother by order from Apollo. He threatened me with all kinds of torture if I didn’t do it. Please judge me.
  • Athena – Well, it’s not as simple as that, especially with a story as wild as this one. It calls for some sort of trial. I’ll choose the best of my people to hear the whole thing [Leaves]
  • Chorus – I guess we’ll do it this way. We’ll have to be quite good at convincing those men that he’s guilty. But this looks like the end of how we mete out justice. Murderers won’t be chased down anymore – they’ll be tried
  • [At Areopagus]
  • Athena – Let everyone know how this is done. There’ll be silence and those I’ve chosen will judge
  • Apollo – [Enters]
  • Chorus – Oh no. Here to meddle again?
  • Apollo – I’m here to testify on behalf of Orestes that I cleanse him of the blood. Athena, let’s get started
  • Athena – Furies, you may start you questioning
  • Chorus – Orestes, did you kill your mother?
  • Orestes – Yes
  • Chorus – How did you do it?
  • Orestes – I cut her throat with my sword
  • Chorus – Who got you to do that?
  • Orestes – Apollo. He’s a witness for me. I don’t regret it at all
  • Chorus – No. Maybe the jury will change your mind
  • Orestes – My father is helping me from the grave
  • Chorus – You killed your mother and are counting on ghosts?
  • Orestes – She was guilty of 2 crimes – killing my father and killing her husband
  • Chorus – Her bloody death exonerated her. But as for you…
  • Orestes – Why didn’t you go after her when she was alive?
  • Chorus – We only go after blood family crimes
  • Orestes – She killed my father
  • Chorus – But she’s your mother. There is no bond closer
  • Orestes – Apollo, please let them know your side of this
  • Apollo – I’ve been told to speak for Zeus, whose will is the greatest
  • Chorus – So, Zeus was behind this? He wouldn’t take into account the murder of Orestes’s mother in avenging his father?
  • Apollo – Not just a man – the holder of Zeus’s scepter. Athena, you know what that means. Clytaemnestra did it in such a treacherous way. Welcoming him in lovingly. After his bath, she wrapped him in a robe and killed him.
  • Chorus – Zeus is upset about that? He put his own father in chains. That makes no sense
  • Apollo – You’re assholes. There’s a difference between putting a man in chains and murdering him. You can do chains but not murder
  • Chorus – That’s all to save your man’s hide. Will he still live in Atreus’s house? Use public altars?
  • Apollo – Mother is a technical term. She gave him birth as a host to a baby. Zeus created Athena from his own forehead without a mother. Orestes is a fine man. Let’s get this over with, Athena
  • Athena – Will we tally the votes? Are you done with the case?
  • Chorus – We don’t have anything else
  • Apollo – Go and vote your conscience
  • Athena – All right, Athenians. This is the way we’re going to handle matters like this from now on. At Areopagus – Rock of Ares. These things spiral out of control if not handled well. Any of your colonies should do the same
  • [While the jury vote, they talk]
  • Chorus – Jury, don’t cross us. We’re no poets
  • Apollo – Remember, I’m a god and can do very, very nasty things…
  • Chorus – Apollo, you can’t bully people around anymore or promise them immortality
  • Apollo – I was helping a worshipper when he needed it
  • Chorus – Well, your actions have changed the way we handle justice now
  • Apollo – Well, better than your vigilante shit,
  • Chorus – Your boy has brown down millennia of our way of life.
  • Athena – If things aren’t settled by this vote, I’ll be casting the tie-breaks. I’ll vote for Orestes. I’m not really into motherhood since I’ve never been married and don’t have a mother myself…
  • Orestes – Apollo, I’m getting nervous
  • Chorus – We are too
  • Apollo – All right, let’s count these up [Counts them]
  • Athena – The count is even and I’m casting the deciding vote. Looks like he’s not guilty
  • Orestes – Oh, Athena. You’ve saved me and my people. Now I can take my rightful place as lord of Argos. Thank you, Apollo. Thank you, father. I swear never to wage war on Athens. Any man who does so will suffer [Leaves]
  • Chorus – So, gods. Out with the old way and in with the new. Vengeance of venom over and done with?
  • Athena – Don’t be too down. You got half the votes. It was really just down to Apollo telling him to do it that tipped the scales. You’ll have a place in Athens.
  • Chorus – So, gods. Out with the old way and in with the new. Vengeance of venom over and done with? [Repeat of last line]
  • Athena – I have faith that Zeus will give us all the justice we deserve. This is a much less violent and chaotic way.
  • Chorus – We can’t be cheered up
  • Athena – I’ll be patient with you in this transition for you. But this is how we’re going to do things from now on.
  • Chorus – We won’t be cheered up
  • Athena – Look, I’m letting you stay but I won’t let you go around bullying my people. Take it or leave it. I’m being nice to you mostly because you’re my elders… Well?
  • Chorus – What will we be doing?
  • Athena – Rather than punishing people, Why not go around trying to encourage virtue and reason into people? It’s much more pleasant. You can harass bad people but nothing more
  • Chorus – Sounds nice. I guess we’ll do our best not to ruin Athens. We pray there will be no more honor killings
  • Athena – See? Things will be even better than before for everyone!

Watch the play!

“Politics Book I” by Aristotle (350 BC)

“Politics Book I” by Aristotle (Notes)

"...Those plebes don't even know it's 'hoi polloi' and not 'the hoi polloi'. What a bunch of knobs."

“…The riffraff don’t even know it’s ‘hoi polloi’ and not ‘the hoi polloi’. Straight from the Department of Redundancy Department. What a bunch of knobs!”

1. The state is a sort community and is set up to achieve some sort of good. That’s the nature of mankind – to achieve what they think is good. Since a community is made of many men, their good must be higher than an individual’s since they are an accumulation of men. The only difference between a statesman, king and householder is the number of subjects. A ruler of a few is a master. Over more is the manager of a household and over even more is a statesman or king. A statesman is the leader of a society where the people are the rulers and the leader of a one-man led society is a king. The only difference among them is the number of people they rule over. If you want to learn more about what they do, you should start off looking at the smallest and simplest form and then expand out from there. So, let’s test and see if this is really what the state is for.
2. Humanity consists of two sorts of relationships: between man and woman and between master and slave. The relationship between man and woman is for the continuation of humanity as well as the raising of children. Woman has a high place in the raising of children and the running of a household but the man is the master. The relationship between master and slave/servant is based on one man commanding the running of the household as a business. The master’s command of the affairs of the house are dependent on his ability to command servants, understanding the ground in which the crops are planted, how the animals are to be cared for and how the food/products are to be shipped into market. Extrapolating from one household, a community is built in the same manner but of many households. At this point, society no longer consists of self-sufficient households but of many inter-dependent households who must deal with each other to survive.
The state is superior to that of the family because it is larger and needs to be conducted in an efficient manner. If one household were to be cut off from the body of the state, it would be the equivalent of losing a foot from the body – a painful damage but not necessarily a lethal excision. A healthy state is one within which the individuals are able to provide the most good for themselves and others. This is one with justice in it.
3. Since the state is made up of households, let’s talk about them for a bit. They consist of slaves and freemen. Boiled down to the essentials, that’s the master and the servant, and the man and wife, and the business aspect of the household. In the master-servant relationship, there is an art or science behind running a household. The master must choose the number of servants, the type of work they do, how they all work together and how the distribution of work and materials are decided and managed. Some say that relationship of the master and servant isn’t right and is unnatural. We’ll leave that for another debate.
4. Property is an important part of the household. You’ve got to have all the necessities to live well and to run a business well. Your workers must have the proper tools and instruments to do their jobs. A servant is in many ways an instrument important to the household – actually more important than other non-living tools because he commands the tools himself.
5. Is slavery a violation of nature? It seems necessary and natural that one thing be ruled and one to rule them. It makes sense that this distinction be drawn from the moment of one’s birth. And there are many different types of rulers and ruled. Ruling over men is more productive and higher than ruling over animals. In this case, the work is better, more efficient and more complex than with animals.
About ruling: there is always the threat of violence or physical force behind the enforcement of the ruler-ruled relationship. Within the individual, the soul rules over body. When the reverse happens, the results are really bad. Control is divided into two parts: despotic and constitutional. The soul’s control over the body is despotic in that the soul has exerted its superiority over the soul and rules it as a superior. The intellect rules over the appetites constitutionally because both need to be satisfied equally in order for both to flourish.
This superiority-inferiority extends to man’s relationship with animals and man’s relationship with women. The body is functionally the servant of the soul, just as the animal is the servant of the man. The man-servant relationship is higher with slaves because the slave understands his servitude, while an animal doesn’t. The way freemen and slaves differ from one another is not in body, but in soul.
6. “Slave” and “slavery” are used a lot – in law and in nature. In law, it is the loser of a battle who is taken by the victor. Many people disagree about whether or not this is a good or fair thing – to be master over another through strength and violence. Philosophers differ in that. The origin of the dispute might justify this battle and subsequent slavery. If the battle was a virtuous, the consequence of it must be virtuous as well – that is, if the battle was about justice, then the result is a just and virtuous one. According to some versions of justice, war can be in accordance to custom of war. But what about if the cause was unjust? Many people tend to claim slavery is unjustified when it’s one of their own people enslaved and don’t think so when other people are enslaved. Justice is not purely limited to one party being assigned the role of master or servant but is mostly on how one performs those roles. They do have a common interest and the natural role of the two depends on how they fulfil their roles.
7. The role of the master is not constitutional. The rule of a house hold is a monarchy with everybody under one person: the master. Constitutional rule is a government of freemen and equals. The role of the master is not based on his knowledge but his character as a master, just as a slave’s role is based on his character. There is still a science behind each one fulfilling his role. Just as you can improve knowledge of any other art, knowledge of the role of master or servant can always be improved and expanded. The master must know how to order the slave to execute his role. He must also tend to his needs and help improve his work too. The role of master is not confined to buying slaves but also managing them.
8. What is the role of making money in the management of the household? Is it the same thing? Is it just a part of it? If so, how big of a part of it? It’s clear that they aren’t exactly the same thing because you need other things besides money to run a household. You can make money through various means. Even in the same means there are different parts. For example, if you make your money by providing food, you can provide meat, wheat, etc. They are different in that they are plants and animals. If you talk about meat, then you have cows, sheep and pigs. Some eat meat, some don’t. Each animal has a different art of its care, which requires knowledge of each in order to manage the farm. You could also be a fisher, which requires you to live near the sea, know how to sail and understand the water. That knowledge isn’t transferrable to living on the land. Some people get by on both. On the land, you’ll find out some animals require a lot more care than others in many ways.
You will need wealth to make managing a household an easier task. Also, money is not in unlimited supply, so you will need to understand how to distribute the wealth within the household’s domains in order to run it properly. This is art is similar to what the ruler of a society must do – balance his abilities to take care of many things so that society on the whole can run properly.
9. Bartering is a grey area in this aspect. If you make shoes, you’re making them to be worn, not to be traded for something else. The shoe’s primary purpose is to be worn and a secondary purpose is to be traded for something else. You can say the same about all possessions – that they aren’t made to be traded, they are made for a purpose (wearing, eating, etc.) and the trade of them is secondary to the original function of the good. Retail trade isn’t the primary purpose of production. The surplus of production would not exist if it weren’t for exchange because the producer would have stopped when he had enough. Beyond the singular household is where surplus becomes important and where the benefit to society from the surprise starts. If the household still needs something it looks to other households to fulfill those needs.
The necessity of money came around when households didn’t have coinciding needs. It’s not really natural, but it helps households acquire things when they don’t have a bartering partner. From that point, exchange grew increasingly complex. They started applying the concept to money to various useful metals which were then coined into standard sizes to help with the transactions. The art of wealth-acquisition was born as a result of this.
There is a difference between the art of getting wealth and the art of acquiring coins. There is no limit to the pursuit of acquisition of coins. The art of wealth-getting has a limit – that is the limit of what it buys for the use of the household. Acquiring coins has no limit because your pile of money can always grow and grow. But you will eventually run out of things you can use in the production in your household. Desires can be unlimited because the desire will grow beyond the household surviving to living well (which has no limit) and that depends on wealth. If they aren’t able to fulfill their pleasures, they turn their attention to “unnatural things”. The art of running a household has a natural limit.
10. The art of wealth-getting is the business of a household manager and statesman because wealth is presupposed. Political science doesn’t make men but takes them from nature and uses them in the same way that nature provides the sea and the earth and man uses them for his purpose. In the same way he is like a weaver, who does not make wool but uses it. He has to know what kind of wool to use and how to use it. Wealth-getting is useful for other arts like medicine. Household management is a subordinate art because it requires the use of more general arts like wealth-getting.
The first part of wealth-getting is important and honorable – household management – because it is natural and exchange occurs justly. The second part – retail trade – is not honorable and is unnatural because it makes money out of money itself. It increases money based on interest and requires the attention of pure devotion to the accumulation of coins, rather than production.
11. The knowledge of wealth-getting starts with knowledge of livestock – how profitable they are, the different types, what they are used for and how to take care of them. Then is husbandry – how to till and plant, keep bees, fish and fowl and other animals. Then comes commerce in three forms: the provision of ship, conveyance of goods and exposure for sale. Then comes usury and then service for hire (in skilled mechanical labor and also unskilled labor). There is also the provision of resources in the cutting of timber and mining minerals. Each of these have many branches of their own.
These arts become more “illiberal” the more they require physical effort from men. The more these subjects become researched and their techniques perfected, the more useful they become to the art of wealth-getting. What is required is not only the ability to come up with such techniques but also the ambition to use them in order to accumulate more wealth. This skill must be applied to the management of the state’s household.
12. In the management of a household, there is also the relationship between father and children and husband and wife. The male is a fitter commander than the female in the same way that the elder is better than the younger. In constitutional states, the citizens are rulers and are ruled by the rules. In a family, the nature form is men ruling over the women. The rule of a father over his children is royal because he rules out of love and out of older age and experience.
13. It also seems more natural for a man to be the manager of acquisition of inanimate objects and to human management of freemen as well as management of slaves. There is an excellence within slaves because they are completely capable of virtues in his life: temperance, courage, justice, etc. The have a rational principle and it’s silly to think they are incapable of virtue. Women and children are also capable of virtue. We must think of virtue and whether or not it is being followed and achieved not in one’s ranking in society but in the fulfillment of one’s role within his place in society. Since we all occupy different places and different ranks in our society, our virtue depends on how justly, temperately and courageously we play our roles.

“Ethics Book I” by Aristotle (340 BC)

"...Cop didn't see it, I didn't do it..."

“…Cop didn’t see it, I didn’t do it…”

1. Everything and every activity has a point to it. The purpose of building a ship is to have built a ship. But this purpose has purposes beyond it. Having a ship built has military purposes as well as fishing purposes or trade purposes. There’s almost nothing around that stands alone. The expansion of knowledge in one domain will probably lead to expansion in others.
2. There are things we choose to do for their own sake, not just for the results. These are the highest types of good and we should do all we can to make sure that we learn all we can about them and expand what’s known about them. Not only are they good in and of themselves, they’re good for other things too. Politics seems to be one of these things because its goal is the welfare of the city, which is also the welfare of the citizens of the city.
3. It’s hard to say what is good and just since we all have a different opinion of that. It’s easier to use convention as a guiding principle rather than specifics. Education is the key. You can’t really know something until you’ve studied it. That’s true for everything. Young people probably aren’t the best judges of what is good and just because they either haven’t started or haven’t finished their education. But an old person isn’t necessarily wiser because there are plenty of old fools. The judge has to be experience, learned and wise.
4. We’ve decided that politics is the study of the highest of all goods in humanity. Most wise men say that the purpose of life is happiness. We all have a general idea of what happiness is but it varies from person to person. The overall goal of a sick person is to get well, just as the goal of a poor person is to be rich. Those who understand their own ignorance will admit that the idea of what happiness really is beyond their grasp. Even approaching this end goal of happiness is a very good starting point to getting there.
5. So many people have different goals based on the type of lives they lead. The most basic form (vulgar) is based on physical pleasure. People focus on acquisition will look to become rich. Those in a political frame of mind will look for honor. Those focused on the moral side of life will look for virtue. The contemplative life will try to get insight and understanding of life itself.
6. There isn’t really a universal idea of good because “good” means so many things in different areas. We could think about “good” as the thing for whose sake we do things. But is there just one? Or many? If there’s only one, then that’s the thing we should be aiming for. If there are many, then we should be going for the most important and most final of all them – that is, the one most for its own sake than the others. Such things are extremely rare. Even our own areas of expertise tend to have some sort of purpose beyond its own self.
7. If we look at particular areas and ask what the good of it is – e.g. medicine’s good is health, architecture is a house, etc. – the goods of the areas are real and achievable through action. If there’s more than one, there is more than one achievement done by one or more actions. Not all ends are final – some are merely intermediary – but there will be one goal in the end. The intermediary goal is never the goal for its own purpose. End goals are for their own purpose. That makes end goals more desirable to achieve but that does not meant intermediary goals are not necessary. Even some of the higher goals we’ve discussed earlier (pleasure, honor, understanding, wealth, etc.) are ultimately just intermediary goals to the real ultimate goal – happiness. They are just the paths that people have to take according to their own personal penchant.
Happiness seems like a platitude that needs more explanation to have any real meaning. The good of man, just as things’ goods are in their functions, is in his function. A man is a conglomeration of functions because we have eyes and ears all of which have functions for some purpose of their own – sight and hearing. The function of a man is having senses and having rational thought. The body is to receive input and carry out action and the soul is there to make sense of the input and instruct the body to carry out the activity – sense and living according to reason is the function of a human because it is the combination of these that are unique to humans. The best activity is one of virtue. Therefore, the human good is the function or activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. Human activity and the various parts of the body and soul must be subordinated to this good.
8. In order to back any of that up, you’ve got to test it. You can divide good things up into 3 categories: 1- external goods, 2- bodily goods, 3- goods relating to the soul. The goods of the soul are of the highest value because the others are not capable of providing happiness alone. This goes along with the previous assumption that happiness is an activity of the soul. A happy man is a man who leads a good life which also coincides with our definition of happiness being a good life and in a state of well-being. Things we generally look for in happiness – virtue, practical and theoretical wisdom, prosperity – we include in our definition of it. The way our definition is set up, we can say happiness is a virtue or happiness is in conformity with virtue. Either way, that involves the activity of the soul. Activity is important because the use of something fulfills its purpose. An idle soul is useless because it does no good. The more we focus on the highest form of good, the more virtuous we will be and the less our souls will be idle. You do need some sort of external good to achieve the highest level of happiness. You need a good upbringing, good children, good health, etc. otherwise your attention will be diverted from the ultimate goal of the highest form of happiness.
9. Can you get happiness from learning or discipline, or is it given to you by the gods? If anything comes to humans from the gods, it must be the ultimate of good, happiness. If happiness is divine, then you must be able to get it from learning and training. Happiness is the best of anything but it must be attainable from one’s own efforts. Happiness depends on being excellence. If you can share your excellence with others, you can share your happiness.
If happiness is the good of man and an activity of the soul in a virtuous manner, it can only be achieved by a man living in a city. This is because politics is the study of bringing about the well-being for many people at once, which is higher than the well-being for just one. A man who behaves virtuously toward others is more virtuous than the man who is just virtuous for his own sake. Animals can’t truly be happy because they are unable to do moral or rational activities. Children can’t be either because they are too young to understand the idea behind reason or morality. Once they show signs of understanding, we can say they are happy. It’s also important to remember that happiness depends on time – happiness for an instant isn’t really happiness, just as a man who lived a mostly happy life but died unhappily will probably not be considered unhappy.
10. Because no living man’s life is over, it doesn’t really make sense to call him happy because there’s always a chance things could go badly for him from here on out. It’s strange because we tend to think of happiness and virtue as static but things can change so quickly in our lives that we can’t really think about them as such. But you have to think about a virtuous man as virtuous under all sorts of circumstances – good and bad. He’ll be able to make the best of a shitty situation and appreciate the good times too. The real test of one’s virtue is going through the whole life being tested.
11. Virtue cannot be passed down. How many good men do you know who have had shitty children? How many kids with bad families end up doing all right for themselves? Your family and friends can have an effect on your happiness but not really after one’s death. Their virtue or lack of virtue can only affect your happiness so long as you are weak and need posthumous honor’s for your family to remain happy.
12. Should happiness be praised or honored? Praise should really only be given to absolutely good things – things that don’t have defects. Happiness and virtue, since we consider them to be divine and perfect, are absolutely praiseworthy.
13. What is the nature of happiness? We’ll need to know in order to recognize it and then try to culture it in ourselves and our society. Since we’ve decided that it is the excellence of the human soul, the rulers of a state will have to know the inner workings of the soul.
The soul has two parts: 1- the rational, 2- the irrational. It’s unimportant if these are physically separate from each other. The irrational part has two parts of its own a- the part that grows just like a plant does (unimportant for this exercise). b- the part of appetites and desires. This must be controlled by the rational side of the soul. The rational side includes intellect (wisdom, intelligence, prudence) and morals (generosity, liberty, temperance, self-control). When the irrational side of our soul is under control and made to act in accordance with the rational is when we get our best results.
Dividing the soul up like this allows us to recognize the parts of the human and their functions. It also allows us to learn how to use the body and the soul in order to learn how to achieve happiness.

“The Republic Book II” by Plato (380 BC)

“The Republic Book II” by Plato


Socrates teaches the basis of good government: "I'll fuckin' flatten a young buck!"

Socrates teaches the basis of good government: “I’ll fuckin’ flatten a young buck!”


Glaucon, Socrates’s friend, wants to know what justice is. Nobody’s happy with how that chat with Thrasymachus ended. He continues the discussion:

G: Isn’t there something we like for its own sake and not just for the things they bring? And there’s also a group of things we like for their own sake but for the consequences they bring? Like health, knowledge, sight, etc. We like them but also what they give to us beyond themselves. There’s also another group that we actually don’t like in and of themselves but we like what they bring us, like exercise, medicine and most ways of making money.

S: That’s right.

G: Which class is justice in?

S: The highest class. The one we like for its own sake, as well as for the consequences they bring.

G: Most people don’t agree with you. They think that justice is just something painful or annoying that you have to deal with in order to get the right results.

S: That was more or less what Thrasymachus was saying.

G: I know, but I don’t buy it. But I’ll repeat his argument and I want you to set me, him and his argument to right.

S: Got it.

G: OK. THEY are saying this, not me (Glaucon)…. Doing injustice is good and suffering injustice is bad. But suffering it is worse than the good that doing it is. When people have done and suffered it, they agree that injustice must be avoided by passing laws. The laws are a compromise between the good of doing injustice and getting away with it and receiving injustice and not being able to do anything about it. That’s the nature and origins of justice. To go on further about this let’s tell the story of the Ring of Gyges…

RING OF GYGES: Gyges was a shepherd who was tending to his sheep when an earthquake split the earth. He crawled into the opening and found a brass horse with a dead man inside wearing a gold ring. He later realized it was an invisibility ring. He was able to use the ring to seduce the queen and help her kill the king and become king himself.

G: Imagine if you had two of those rings. A just man would have one and an unjust man would wear the other. A perfectly unjust man could do as he pleased without ever damaging his reputation because he is safe in being unjust and would appear exactly as the just man appears. If we make them perfectly just and perfectly unjust, we can see how they would behave in their extremes. The perfectly unjust man is so good at what he does that he appears to be perfectly just because if he didn’t he’d get spotted for being unjust. And the perfectly just man appears perfectly unjust because he doesn’t want to be seen as attention- or praise-seeking, which is an unjust behavior. The just man will be chased and tortured for seeming to be completely unjust, while the unjust man will be promoted to highest levels of power, enjoying all sorts of material wealth as well as physical well-being. His material wealth will allow him to make all sorts of sacrifices to the gods making him very popular with them. The unjust man will have nothing to sacrifice to the gods and they will be pissed off at him for giving them nothing. Even the gods will praise injustice over justice.

Glaucon’s brother, Adeimantus, interjects before Socrates has a chance to respond to Glaucon.

A: Another side to this argument is that parents are always telling their kids about justice being good and injustice being bad, not for themselves but for their consequences. Being seen to be just will get you much further ahead in life than being seen to be unjust. They even tell you that these have their consequences with the gods in how they view the just man versus the unjust man. All the great poets and prose writers tell of all the benefits of justice but annoying to perform and the pleasures of but a bigger downside of injustice. They say even the gods make just men miserable and bestow honors and a wonderful life to unjust men. They say that appearances are much more important than actually being. Persuasion and force allow the unjust to succeed in life. If there are no gods, or there are gods but they don’t give a shit about humans, what good does justice do us if it just makes our lives harder and with less reward? People only praise justice and talk against injustice when referring to the honor and glory of the just and the ignominy of injustice.

Socrates finally responds to all of this.

S: Justice is spoken about at the individual level and at the state level. The larger the subject, the more apparent the amount of justice is. It’s easier to talk about justice at the level of the state because it’s more magnified. If you talk about the creation of the state, you can see where justice and injustice come about in the state. The state comes about because of human needs. You’ve got people supplying and demanding goods and services and everybody is in one place and we call that place the “state”. Of all the necessities we have food, shelter and clothing. So the city starts off with different types farmers, then moves to builders and then to clothes makers. You can get by in this with a small number of people. They all produce a surplus – beyond what they need personally – and exchange it for their other needs. This makes their lives easier because each one of them produces with economies of scale – it’s easier for him to provide 5 of one product than everybody making their own. Also, he becomes an expert at his technique – when to do which stage of production, etc.

A: Sounds good.

S: Some people are more inclined towards one type of work than another. This will allow people to enjoy their work more because it suits their personalities. Also, people who build the tools for the farmers, builders and clothes makers will make production faster, easier and more reliable. This expands our city. But at some point the expansion will require more people to import supplies from outside the city. This requires more production of goods to trade with foreigners in compensation for the goods/supplies to be brought in. You need merchants to perform this trade. If you’re going over the sea, you’ll need sailors to ship everything. With all of this trading going on, you’ll need a place to do all the trading. You’ll need a market place. At the market place, you’ll need money. The farmers and clothes makers will be so busy in their fields and workshops that they won’t have time to sell their stuff in the market. They’ll need salesmen to do that for them. For all the building going on, you’ll need hired hands to do all the extra labor needing doing. But where do justice and injustice fit into all of this?

A: In the citizens’ dealings with each other.

S: Their lives will be pretty nice. All the necessities of life are taken care of and then some benefits beyond necessities as well. They have more than enough to get by but not going way into the area of decadence. They will be able to pass down the same quality of life on to their children.

A: Sounds like a city of pigs.

S: It’s not too much. It’s a comfortable life, not luxurious. These are the conditions in which justice is possible I’ll tell you what a real city of pigs would look like. This is my whole point. A real city of pigs is where injustice grows. This is where luxuries go crazy. Not just nice furniture, but perfumes, cakes, courtesans of almost every imaginable variety. Painters, embroiderers will be working everything you can think of. They’ll be looking for increasingly more gold and ivory and on and on. To do this, the borders will need to be expanded because the healthy state’s size just isn’t enough. The city will grow to accommodate all the expanded desires of the city. All sorts of ways of making ordinary goods more and more luxurious. The city will be so wealthy that we will get more and more servants. Tutors, nurses, maids, barbers, confectioners, cooks, etc. Since the city will be growing fat, we’ll need more doctors. And since the amount we eat and wear will be growing, the amount of land needed to grow food and house production will have to expand. We’ll look to our neighbors to take some of their land and they’ll probably do the same to us. This will probably lead us to war. The causes of these wars will be from the causes of our evils because we only go to war to feed the evil desires. If we win, we’ll probably need more and more – so much so that we’ll need a professional army. This will do all the invading and the prevention of invaders in our city.

A: Can we defend ourselves?

S: Not if we believe in the division of labor. Remember, if one person is really good at something, he must specialize in the subject to improve expertise and gain economies of scale. War is a sort of art, isn’t it?

A: Yes.

S: We’ve got to train these armies to make them the best. The higher up the hierarchy of the subject – in this case the army – the more training and intelligence and natural skill in the matter is required. We have to be able to determine who will be the most able to defend the city. A guardian is like a well-bred dog – quick to recognize and catch up with the threat and then when he has caught up with it, he has to be able to fight it and win. That’s just the physical side of the guardian. A brave and indomitable spirit is also required. They also have to be dangerous to their enemies and good to their friends. So, he has to be gentle but have a great spirit. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

A: Yes.

S: These opposite traits do coexist in animals, like the dog. The dog is nice to owners and friends and rough with strangers. A guardian besides needing to be of a spirited nature would have to be like a philosopher. Why would a dog be mean to a stranger even though he’s never met him and therefore doesn’t know if the stranger means him harm or good? And why would a dog be nice to an acquaintance even though he may not have ever done anything deserving of his affection? The dog is a true philosopher because he is friends with people he knows and enemies with people he doesn’t know. His whole attitude is based on knowing and not knowing somebody. Likes and dislikes are based on a test of knowledge and the love of learning is the love of wisdom, which is philosophy. So, the best guardian will have to combine philosophy, spirit, speed and strength. Now that we know who the guardians should be, how would you educate one? We have to know that to know how justice and injustice are grown in states.

A: Let’s see how it should be done.

S: We’ll begin with gymnastic for the body and music/literature for the soul. But should the literature be fiction and non-fiction?

A: Yes.

S: OK. Should we begin with fiction? That is, tell them fables and parables to guide them morally without really being true? We have to start with this before they are old enough to work out.

A: Sure.

S: Who should be telling these stories? Could anybody come up with a story to feed these kids’ minds that could lead them down the wrong path?

A: ?

S: At such a young age, the character of the person is definitely not yet formed. We should make sure that they are not exposed to the wrong things that their character later in life is ruined not only by the malicious but by the well-meaning but still misguided idiots. We have to create a list of authorized stories to be told by nurses and mothers in order to mold their minds. Most of the ones we use now will have to go.

A: Which ones are those?

S: Pretty much anything by Homer and Hesiod and others. The famous ones. They are based on lies. Not only lies but bad lies. This is when the stories of heroes and gods bear no relation to what they are actually like. For example, the story of Uranus and Cronus. Cronus wasn’t necessarily a good dude, but what he did didn’t necessitate the retaliation of Uranus on him. That sort of thing would teach kids that they can be cruel to their parents and elders. Not only will he be doing that, but he can claim that the greatest of the gods did that, so it must be a good thing.

A: You’re right.

S: We also can’t tell the stories of the gods plotting and fighting against each other. First of all, they’re not true. Second of all, they set a bad example. Third of all, even if they are allegorical, children don’t have the ability to distinguish the literal from the allegorical and they could be damaged by the stories. They should be told stories praising virtues.

A: OK, but where are the stories that actually do that?

S: Well, we’ll leave that to the poets to write. We’ll give them the specs of the stories and poems and they’ll hammer them out.

A: Gods are supposed to be represented as good, not hurtful and evil. What’s good is the source of well-being. Good is the only cause of other good things.

S: If God is good and only good, then he’s not the one creating all the evil in the world. The evils come from somewhere else. And seeing how much evil there is in the world, there are a lot of sources of evil and they aren’t from god. We shouldn’t be telling kids the stories that tell of the caprices of the gods and their wickedness. That will lead the young to believe that if the gods are fickle or evil, then it must be right to be fickle and evil.

A: Absolutely.

S: So, one rule is: With respect to the gods, poets and writers may only say that the gods are the causes of only good things, not all things.

S: Next rule. Let’s start with a question: Is god the type of entity that will change his shape to appear different to people and trick us into thinking he’s something else? Or is he constant in his own, proper image.

A: I’m not sure.

S: Things either change on their own, or by something else, right? The best things are least likely to change or be changed. The strong body is least affected by drink and food. A strong plant will withstand a very strong wind or heat.

A: Right.

S: Same is true with inanimate objects. Good houses and furniture take a pretty good beating by the environment but aren’t changed or ruined. Everything of a good quality is less likely to endure change from outside. If god is the greatest of all good, then wouldn’t he be the absolutely least likely to be changed?

A: That’s right.

S: But since the change won’t happen from outside, how about from within? Would a good thing become better or worse in its transformation? It has to be for the worse because the absolutely best thing can’t get any better. So, why would he change for the worse? He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t be willing to change, so he’ll remain in his same natural form.

A: Correct.

S: So, the second rule is: The poets may not refer to the gods as shape-shifting. They may only refer to them as constant – good. Because to change shape would be lying to people about who they are. Lying is un-virtuous.

A: Right.

S: All those stories that Homer and Aeschylus told of the gods appearing in dreams or altering their appearances are bullshit. They’ll fuck up the little kids’ minds.