The Wisdom of the Statesman Part 15

Last week we looked at how the power of true and natural statesmanship would manifest itself in the governance of society. It would retain the power of superintendence and would nor permit the lawful educators and nurturers to engage in any practice that does not bring about some characteristic that is appropriate to the overall blend, and it exhorts them to educate on this basis alone; but those who are unable to share in courage and self-restraint and any other characteristics that are conducive to excellence, but are thrust away by the force of an evil nature into godlessness, violence and injustice, these it casts out through execution, exile, or punishing them with significant loss of status.

If only this were the case currently, we might find ourselves living a far more harmonious life. The Stranger now sets out to discover how this may be brought to fruition. He reminds us of the two types of people, those inclined to orderliness and those inclined to courage, and he now explains how these may be drawn together. (I find this point particularly useful because we naturally shy away from those courageous types if we are of a more orderly nature and visa-versa but he is emphatic that these two types need to interact).

Str: As for the others, then, there are some whose natures are amenable to attaining nobility, if they obtain education and will accept being mixed with one another on the basis of a skill. Of these, it regards the ones who are more inclined towards courage, as akin to warp threads due to their hard character; while those inclined to orderliness make use of a rich, soft and, according to this image, a woof-like thread. These two natures with their opposite inclinations, it attempts to bind and weave together, in some such manner as follows. (you might recall the example of weaving mentioned earlier with particular emphasis on the warp and woof. Insofar as education is concerned this is covered in detail in Plato’s Republic where the guardians are educated from youth in astronomy, mathematics, grammar, music and are encouraged to question and to use the process of dialectic to facilitate this)

Y Soc: How is it done?

Str: First, based upon kinship, it joins together the ever-begotten part of their soul by a divine bond, and then, after the divine, it joins the mortal part of them with human bonds.

Y Soc: Again, what do you mean by this?

Str: Whenever opinion that is really true, concerning whatever is noble, just and good, and their opposites, arises in souls, accompanied by steadfastness, I say this is divine and it arises in a class that is almost divine.

Y Soc: It is quite appropriate to say so.

Str: Now, are we aware that it belongs to the statesman and the good law-giver alone by means of the kingly muse, to be able to engender this particular opinion in those who have acquired education in the right way, the people we described just now?

Y Soc: That sounds reasonable.

Str: Anyway, Socrates, we would never use the names we are now investigating to refer to anyone who was unable to perform this function.

Y Soc: No.

Str: Well now, won’t a courageous soul be made gentle, once it has grasped this sort of truth, and consequently have more communion with all that is just, if it so wishes, but if it has no share in this, won’t it be more inclined towards a wild nature?

Y Soc: That is inevitable.

Str: But what about the orderly nature? If it shares in these opinions, doesn’t it become genuinely self-restrained and wise, by the standard of civic life, anyway? But if it does not share in the opinions we are describing, doesn’t it quite rightly acquire a reprehensible reputation for folly?

Y Soc: Entirely so.

Str: In that case, shouldn’t we declare that this intertwining and binding will never become stable in bad people bound to their own kind, nor in good people bound to bad people, nor would any knowledge ever seriously use it in such cases?

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: And yet, in those characters born with innate nobility from the very outset whose upbringing accords with their nature, in these alone it is implanted by the laws, and this indeed, is a remedy skilfully applied to them. And just as we said, this bonding together is more divine, as it unites parts of virtue that are dissimilar by nature and tend in opposite directions.

Y Soc: Very true.

Str: The remaining bonds are, of course, human, and once this divine bond is in place, it is not particularly difficult either to devise the others or to implement them once devised.

Y Soc: How would you do so, and what are they?

Str: I mean bonds forged between communities through intermarriage and the community of their children, and those associated with private property exchange and marriage. Indeed, with respect to the procreation of children, most people make such arrangements in an incorrect manner.

Y Soc: How is that?

Str: By the pursuit of wealth and power through such arrangements; but why would anyone seriously regard the censure of this as a worthy discussion topic?

Y Soc: There is no reason.

Str: No, it would be more correct to discuss those who pay attention to the families when making such arrangements, in case they do so in an inappropriate manner.

Y Soc: Yes, that’s reasonable, anyway.

Str: In fact they do not act based upon a single correct principle, for they pursue the easiest option available, embrace those who are much like themselves, and have no affection for those who are dissimilar. They assign the utmost significance to their feeling of displeasure.

Y Soc: In what way?

Str: The orderly people seek out their own characteristic and, as best they can, they marry those types, and bestow their own offspring upon such people again when giving them in marriage. And the courageous type do the very same, by pursuing their own nature, when both of these types should be really doing the exact opposite.

Y Soc: In what way, and why?

Str: Because it is natural that courage, propagated for many generations without being mixed with a self-controlled nature, flourishes powerfully at first, but in the end bursts forth in utter madness.

Y Soc: That is likely.

Str: In contrast, the soul that is too full of moderation, bred over many generations without admixture of daring courage, grows unseasonably dull and ends up totally maimed.

Y Soc: Yes, that is the likely outcome.

Str: Now, I said that these bonds were not difficult to forge, once a single opinion about what is noble and good, held by both classes, was in place. For this is the sole function of the kingly weaving process as a whole; never to allow the sound-minded characters to stand apart from the courageous, but to weave them together through unanimity, by granting privileges or withdrawing them, through reputation and the mutual exchange of sureties. He should then assemble them into what we call a well woven fabric, and always entrust the public offices in our cities in common to these two.

Y Soc: In what way?

Str: When a single official happens to be required, it chooses someone possessing both, to take charge, and when a greater number is needed, it combines together a portion from each of the two. For when the sound-minded characters rule, they are extremely cautious, just and safe, and yet, they lack a certain sharp, practical vigour.

Y Soc: Yes, that’s what seems to happen, anyway.

Str: But the courageous types, by contrast, although inferior to the other types when it comes to justice and caution, still possess exceptional vigor in practical situations. However, it is impossible for all the affairs of our cities, public as well as private, to proceed well, without both these qualities being available to them.

Y Soc: No, how could they?

Str: And we may say that this disposition of the courageous and of the sound-minded people, once woven together in an even texture, constitutes the finished fabric of the activity of statesmanship, whereby the skill of kingship having brought these together through like-mindedness and friendship into a shared existence, and having completed the most magnificent and excellent of all fabrics, embraces all the other people in our cities, slaves and free, by clothing them in this woven web, and rules and superintends thereafter, omitting nothing that renders the city as happy as it belongs to any city to be.

Soc: Now, stranger, you have also completed for us a most beautiful account of the kingly man, the statesman.

This concludes the dialogue on the Statesman. The last paragraph spells out the qualities needed in a Statesman if communities are to be able to live with one another harmoniously and in peace. What this presupposes is that there is some one person who is able to firstly, recognize natures amenable to nobility, who is able to advise on how to join the ever begotten part of their soul through a divine bond and to join this with the mortal and someone who can access the kingly muse.

It does seem to suggest the existence of a master teacher who have themselves made these connections and who would be able to offer guidance. The mere fact that we have taken the time to study the words of a master teacher (the Stranger some believe to in fact believe is Socrates himself) suggests that we have some inkling or understanding of truth and justice and are thus qualified to begin this search and influence those around you not so much in what you say but how you conduct yourself.

If we could reach a point where we could govern our own lives on the basis of truth and justice and most importantly find a master teacher, we might better understand the words presented to you so far with more clarity. In closing may I ask that this whole dialogue and the fruits thereof are offered up to the service of Truth and Justice.