Thursday, July 13, 2006

Utopian Drama

Act: Debating justice
Agent: Socrates, Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, and others
Agency: Dialogue
Scene: Cephalus' house
Purpose: Determine the true nature of the word justice

Though this is but one of the myriad pentads that could be constructed to explain Book I's dramatic situation, it captures an overall purpose of the debate. In the scene of Cephalus' house, the agents (Socrates, Cephalus, Polemarchus, etc.) all play into the goal of reaching a definition of justice. Though each agent may have had their own purpose in joining the debate (such as Thrasymachus' wish to distinguish himself), the drama played out between them has a singular purpose. Through the agency of dialogue, the men test hypotheses, find their faults, and eventually refute them, only to repeat the process over. The intended goal is to strip away all that is not justice (but surrounds the concept in people's minds), so as to find its essence at the core. Socrates is the only agent in this drama that remains from the beginning of the scene until the end, with the other agents merely helping Socrates along in his quest for truth.

In a sense, the very existence of a debate over a concept such as justice is utopian. Though obviously Socrates and his companions are by no means living in a utopia, their dialogue is aimed at understanding a word that may very well be the basis for such a society. Without justice, one can hardly conceive of a utopia, but why would we think so if we know not what justice truly is? This question serves as the basis for Socrates' skepticism and doubt. Moreover, in a utopian society, each person may not know everything, but they would have the means available to gain knowledge peacefully and in harmony with other members of society. Dialogue and debate are rather utopian tools that can be used in examining and accepting ideas rather than having such ideas (true or false) forced upon people through war and oppression. The importance of such dialoge is illuminated early in Book II, in which Socrates responds to Glaucon's asking whether he wants to continue debating, "Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of sense would oftener wish to converse" (T.R. p.31).


Blogger Matt Giani said...

I really like your point about whether this drama displayed any utopian properties or not. I think I overly focused on Thrasymachus' means of debating and the fact that the society they were describing (corrupt government, etc.) was so dystopian. Although the debate wasn't always civil, the general process of consultation to reach conclusions is indicative of a utopian society, and the topic of justice is one that needs to be addressed if a utopian society could ever be imagined. So actually, I kind of agree with you now. Nice work boss. I wish I hadn't posted mine yet.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Yes, I see how the debate to reach a conclusion could be considered utopian, and how this needs to happen in order to imagine utopia. I still believe though, that action should follow all this wisdom to truly make it a utopian society. To really improve the society, one has to take a stand and lead others through example, and not simply preach to them.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

The only aspect of this that I might argue with is the part about how a utopia can not be so without justice. And in this argument it is implied that one must earn justice in a utopian society. Whereas, in my idea of a utopia, justice would be automatic. Since it is a "perfect" and "ideal" society, justice would be a given, rather than something that was up for debate....if that even makes any sense.

8:03 PM  

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