The Wisdom of the Statesman Part 6

Once again, the Stranger and young Socrates reached another roadblock in that they don’t believe that they haven’t, with a degree of certainty, discovered the Statesman using the description of herdsman who nurtures his flock especially the weak and vulnerable.

When, as we said just now, the care of the gods had failed for humanity, they had to maintain guidance and care of themselves by means of themselves, just like the entire world, which we are imitating and following, through all time as we live and grow, now in this manner, then in that other manner. So let that be the end of the story, but we shall now make use of it in order to discern the extent of our error in presenting an account of the king and the statesman in the earlier discussion.

This dialogue never fails to surprise me as I thought the participants had discovered the Statesman in the nurturer of herds but it seems I was wrong because it does seem the Stranger is looking for a Statesman that exercises his rule not just over sentient beings but whose rule and guidance might be termed universal. We will move on and see where the dialogue now takes us. Young Socrates asks where they went wrong, and the Stranger responds as follows:

Str: When we were asked about the king and statesman belonging to the current revolution, and manner of coming into being, we described the shepherd of the human herd belonging to the opposite cycle, and he was a god rather than a mortal, and in this way we went completely wrong. However, when we presented him as ruling the entire city, we did not state the manner of such rule, and in that sense, although we did speak the truth, it was not stated comprehensively or clearly and, therefore, we were in error, but to a lesser extent than that. And it was for these reasons we included the myth, in order to point out not only that when it comes to herd nurture, everyone nowadays disputes over that title with the person we are looking for, but also to discern more clearly, based upon the example of shepherds and neatherds, the one person whom it is appropriate, in view of his care for the nurture of humanity, to deem worthy of this title alone.

It is obvious that if the word “herd-minding” had been used in this context, the contention that there is no care whatsoever would never have occurred to us, which is just what happened when it was rightly contended, that in the case of humans, there is no skill worthy of the title “nurturing”, and even if there were such a skill, many people have a prior and better claim to it than any of our kings.8

Str: if we really did think that there was a skill of nurturing herds of bipeds, we should not have referred to it immediately as kingship or statesmanship with such finality.

Y Soc: What, then?

Str: Firstly, as we are saying, we should have changed the manner of the name, orienting it towards care rather than nurture, and then made a cut in this. Indeed, it still has capacity for significant cuts.

Y Soc: Of what sort?

Str: A cut, I presume, whereby we could have separated the divine shepherd and the human carer apart.

Y Soc: Correct.

Str: And yet, it was necessary to cut the caring which has been parted off, into two once more.

Y Soc: Into what?

Str: Into enforced and voluntary. And presumably the herd minding of subjects who are forced is tyrannical, while the voluntary herd minding of willing two legged creatures should be called statesmanship, and we should affirm that the one who, for his part, possesses this skill and care is really a king and statesman

It is becoming clearer that the Stranger is not really concerned with a physical King  or Statesman but is more concerned with the divine shepherd or Statesman. This is possibly because that unlike mankind currently, scant regard is paid to the divine or real ruler of the universe. If one takes the time to observe nature and even our own movements, it does become clear that there is a hidden hand, as I have referred to it before, that is the ultimate ruler. Perhaps the Stranger feels that without the acknowledgment that behind the physical king, ruler, statesman or leader, is a natural system on which the physical depends, and this is what it seems the Stranger is searching for. He admits that at this point they have failed to arrive at a figure of the king that it complete because they had confused themselves by bringing in too much detail. The Stranger says that it is likely that each of us knows all that we know as though in a dream, and then again, when we really are awake, are ignorant of everything. He explains by means of an example.

Str: Yes, in a strange way I seem, at the moment, to have raised the issue of the operation of knowledge within us.

Y Soc: In what way?

Str: Blessed man, my example itself stands, in turn, in need of an example.

Y Soc: Why so? Speak and do not hesitate on my account.

Str: We know, I presume, that children, whenever they are first developing their skill in writing…..

Y Soc: What do we know?

Str: That they adequately recognise each of the letters in the shortest and easiest syllables, and become capable of speaking the truth in relation to those.

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: And yet, they are doubtful about the very same letters in other syllables, and their opinions and formulations are false.

Y Soc: Yes, certainly.

Str: Now wouldn’t the easiest and best way to lead them on to what they do not yet recognise be as follows?

Y Soc: How is it done?

Str: Firstly, to take them back to those instances in which their opinions on these same letters were correct, and having done so, then place these alongside the ones they do not yet recognise and, by comparing them, point out that there is the same common feature and characteristic present in both intertwinings, until such time as all the cases where their opinions are true have been shown alongside all of those they don’t know about. Accordingly, these act as examples that make them, in the case of all letters in all the syllables, refer to each as different insofar as it is different from the others, and as the same insofar as it is always the same as itself in the same respect.

Y Soc: Entirely so.

Str: So have we fully appreciated that example has its origin when something that is the same, is appreciated correctly, in a different separate context, and the two contexts being brought together, a single true opinion about each instance and both instances together is attained?

Y Soc: Apparently so.

Str: Well, would we be surprised if our soul, by nature, underwent this same process in relation to the letters of the universe; sometimes standing in a true relation to each one in a particular case, then again, all at sea about all of them under different circumstances, somehow or other recognising some of the combinations correctly, but once these are transposed to the lengthy and difficult syllables of human affairs, she is ignorant once more of these same letters.

Y Soc: That would be nothing particularly surprising.

Str: How could anyone, my friend, who begins from false opinion, arrive at even a small portion of truth, and acquire understanding?

They now decide to take a simple example from the physical world like weaving,

Str: Then what example, an insignificant one, involving the same activity as the statesman, might someone set beside it and discover what we are seeking well enough? By Zeus, Socrates, if we have nothing else to hand, we could, if you wish, at least choose weaving, and if you agree, not all of it. In fact, the weaving of items made of wool will probably suffice. Indeed if we select it, this part of it is likely to furnish the testimony we desire.

Y Soc: Yes, why not?

Str: Then, why not do just what we did before, when we divided each object by cutting parts into parts. Let’s do the same thing now in relation to weaving and, as best we can, go over everything again as briefly as possible, and arrive at what is useful to us now.

Y Soc: What do you mean?

Str: I shall make the exposition itself my answer to you.

Y Soc: Excellent.

The Stranger now goes into a complex example which I will leave for next week as it takes quite a while to read through let along understand.