The Wisdom of the Statesman Part 8

We continue the quest to discover the true Statesman or King, who would be entrusted to lead society, government, or business right down to the leadership of a family and ultimately oneself. This Statesman if well educated and trained, would be able to successfully guide their flock  to give them the best chance of making the most of the opportunities presented to them as well as and more importantly, rule with wisdom and justice. Last week the Stranger and the young Socrates went through a long process to divide the various aspects of weaving  to find the guiding principle of that art with the aim being to do the same with the search for the Statesman by placing the two arguments side by side. If you recall, it was mentioned that the real value lay in the process of dialectic rather in the understanding of the weavers art. We were also introduced to the concept of measure, which we will now investigate further.

Str: Suppose someone were to ask us about a class of students learning their letters; whenever one of them is asked what letters make up a particular word, would we say that the query is presented to him on that occasion, more for the sake of the word, the one he is presented with, or for the sake of his becoming more skilled in all words he comes across?

Y Soc: Obviously it is for the sake of becoming skilled in them all.

Str: And what about our present enquiry concerning the statesman? Has it been posed more for the sake of the personage himself, or for the sake of becoming more skilled in dialectic concerning everything?

Y Soc: In this case too, it is obviously for the sake of becoming more skilled in relation to everything.

Str: Yes, I presume that no one in his right mind would wish to pursue this account of weaving for the sake of the subject itself. But I think most people overlook the fact that readily comprehensible likenesses, that are perceptible, are naturally present for some of the things that are, and it is not at all difficult to present these when one wishes to give an easy demonstration to someone who asks for an account thereof which is uncomplicated and non-verbal. However, in the case of the most significant and revered of things that are, there is no image at all, wrought in clear view before humanity, by pointing to which, someone who wishes to satisfy the soul of an enquirer, may do so in a satisfactory manner by attaching some aspect of our sense perceptions. Therefore, it is necessary to practice being able to give and to receive an account of each. For the things that are devoid of body, being the most beautiful and the most significant, are shown clearly by the word alone, and by nothing else, and all that we are now saying is said for the sake of those. But it is easier to practice anything on lesser matters, rather than greater ones.

Y Soc: You have expressed that perfectly.

Str: Then let us recall the reasons why we have had so much to say about all this.

Y Soc: What were they?

Str: Not least was the aversion we felt over the lengthy account which dealt with weaving, and over the reverse-motion of the universe, and in the case of the sophist, the being of non- being, when we realized how very lengthy it was. And we rebuked ourselves over all of this, fearing that we might be stating something overelaborate as well as lengthy. So we should declare that everything we have said so far, was on account of these concerns, so that nothing of this sort would happen to us again.

Y Soc: Be it so; just say what comes next.

Str: Well, I say that it is necessary for you and I, remembering what has just been said, to allocate censure and praise, on each occasion, for the brevity, and at the same time, the length, involved in the expositions we so often deliver, by judging their length, not in relation to one another, but on the basis of the part of the skill of measuring that we said we should remember; the relation to what is appropriate.

Y Soc: Rightly so.

Str: Yes, but this is not applicable in all cases, for we shall not have need of length which is added on for the sake of pleasure, except as a secondary consideration. And again, in relation to the inquiry into the issue before us, the argument directs us to favor the easiest and quickest approach as something we should seek out as a second priority, not as a first. First and foremost, we should respect the method itself, whereby we are able to make divisions based on forms. And indeed, should a discussion prove inordinately lengthy, and yet, place the hearer in a better position to make discoveries, we should take it seriously and be untroubled by its duration, and the same applies if it is very short. Furthermore, besides these considerations, someone who criticizes gatherings of this sort, due to the length of the discussions, and finds the circular course of the arguments hard to accept, should not be allowed to turn and go on the spot, in all haste, having levelled his criticism solely on the basis of the length of what was said; no, he should also prove that we should accept that the people present would have been rendered more skilled in dialectic, and better at discovering the exposition of things that are, by an account, had the process been made shorter. As for the other criticisms and praises based on other criteria, we should not think about them, or even seem to hear such arguments at all.

Anyway, that’s enough on these issues, provided you agree with me on this; and so, we should go back to the statesman, and apply to him the example of weaving as described before.

The scope and depth of these discussions is often lost on most people who are only interested in making a cursory study of the issues at hand and in the process, the end result would be incomplete. Early civilizations delved into the composition of the creation and discovered a pattern that permeated all created organisms, being mathematical shapes now only recently being discovered by quantum physicians who refer to these shapes as the torus and the vector equilibrium. The ancient Greeks, Sumerians and Egyptians and others were deeply aware of these innate systems of mother nature, and I would imagine that those early divinely inspired scientists engaged in detailed studies and a dialectical process to reach their conclusions.

Str: And now we should do the same thing, but more extensively than before. Indeed, whatever skills produce any significant or insignificant tools for the city, should all be designated as contributory causes, for without these neither city nor statesmanship would ever come into existence, yet, on the other hand, I presume we shall not designate any of these as belonging to the work of the skill of kingship.

Str: And indeed, we are undertaking a difficult task in separating this class from the others. For it is possible for someone to maintain that anything whatsoever is an instrument of something or other and seem to be making a persuasive case. Nevertheless, we should mention a particular one of the city’s possessions that is different.

Y Soc: In what sense?

Str: Insofar as it does not possess this ability to act as an instrument; for it is not constructed to act as a cause of some production, as is the case with an instrument, but constructed in order to preserve what has been produced.

Y Soc: What sort of thing is this?

Str: Well, this is a variegated object, wrought for dry goods, for liquids, for use on the fire and for general use. We call it by a single name, “vessel”, and this very commonplace object does not, in my view, belong at all to the knowledge we are looking for, anyway.

Y Soc: No, how could it?

Str: Well, we should also take note of a third extensive object, different from these possessions of the city. It goes by land and by water, it wanders a lot and does not wander, it is worthy of reverence and unworthy of reverence, and yet, it bears a single name, because all are intended for sitting upon, and always act as a seat for someone.

Y Soc: What is it?

Str: I presume we call it a carriage, so it is not really the work of statesmanship but much more of carpentry, pottery-making and bronze-working.

Y Soc: I understand.

Str: What about a fourth? Should we say that there is something different from those three, one that includes most of what we mentioned some time ago; all sorts of clothing, most armaments, walls, and all enclosures whether of earth or of stone and myriads of others? Since all these are produced for defensive purposes, it would be most appropriate to refer to them collectively as a barrier, and to regard this more correctly as belonging much more to the work of the builder’s skill, or to weaving, for the most part, rather than statesmanship.

Y Soc: Yes, certainly.

Str: And as a fifth, would we like to suggest adornment and painting and whatever imitations are affected through their use, and through music, which, having been produced solely for our pleasure, are quite rightly captured by a single name?

Y Soc: What is it?

Str: We do use the term “plaything”, I presume.

Y Soc: Of course.

Str: Well, it will be appropriate to assign this one name to them all, for none of them have any serious purpose; rather, they are all done for the sake of amusement.

Y Soc: That too is something I understand fairly well.

Str: And that which provides all these with the materials from which, and in which, any of the skills mentioned just now do their work; a variegated sort that owes its origin to many different skills; shall we designate this as a sixth?

Y Soc: What sort of thing are you referring to?

Str: Gold and silver and anything whatsoever that is mined, and whatever all felling and lopping of trees provides to carpentry and basket-weaving, through the cutting process; and again, the stripping of bark from trees, and leather-working which strips the skins from the bodies of ensouled creatures, and any skills related thereto, and the ability to produce cork and papyrus and ropes, all these enable the manufacture of compounded forms, from classes that are not compounded. Let’s refer to it all as one, the primeval acquisition of humanity, uncompounded too, and in no way the work of kingly knowledge.

Str: Then the acquisition of nutriment, and whatever mixes into the body and, mixing parts of itself with parts of the body, has some power to promote its health, should be called the seventh, and we should give the name nurture to the totality, if we don’t have anything better to suggest. And if we place it entirely under farming, hunting, gymnastic, medicine and cookery rather than statesmanship, we shall be allocating it more correctly.

Str: What remains are all slaves and underlings among whom, I somehow anticipate, those who dispute with the king over the woven web itself will become evident, just as earlier, those concerned with spinning and carding and all the others we mentioned, disputed with the weavers. But all the others, the contributory causes as we called them, have been disposed of along with the works we listed just now and they have been separated off from the activity of kingship and statesmanship.

They have now gone through all the facets of the kingdom or city and through a process of elimination, have rejected all the parts that don’t concern the statesman or king these latter mentioned clearly having some other role to play. The result would be the same if we were to consider who we really are and would start off by questioning “am I this body, am I this mind etc”. Nest week we will consider what remains.