The Republic

Foundations of the American Experience

Spring 2004

“Socrates demands in the Republic

that three sweeping reforms, or

“waves” of change, must occur to

usher in the ideal state” question

Thesis Statement

Of all the questions posed to the class only one question really made me think. Socrates had a grand ideal for a city of sorts and how he, with his fellow philosophers, would plan it out. All of the ideas they came up with for their city, like physical training and a specific education for the guardians made sense. After he started down the path of planning for the guardians, his fellow philosophers mentioned the common people. Socrates knows this will be one of the hardest sells. So he breaks his ideas into waves of change that must take place in order for his city to be a success. This is where the ideal city’s blue prints start to break down. Of the waves or blue prints, the first wave is where he states the idea of common tasks for both men and women, or equality of the sexes. That is to say, he recognized a physical difference but wanted to make the sexes as equal as possible. The second wave is women and children are to be held in common. This means that there cannot be marriage and what we recognize as family. He wishes to break down the nuclear family while allowing only select individuals to reproduce to get the highest quality of workers. Lastly, the third and final wave is that the king must be a philosopher. The whole book of The Republic was building up to this point. Socrates was building a city where he and his cronies will get to be kings and everyone else is led to believe they are the best for the job of king.

To build a great city one must start with sound blue prints that have been checked for flaws and quality building material. This is very logical. First you have your basic farmers, craftspeople, and herds people. After that, you have sales people, cashiers, builders, ironworkers, and special goods’ makers. The next progression would be soldiers, merchants, and artisans. Now that you have good solid building blocks of a city, you can start the building process of walls and such of your ideal structure. The structure of the city is the most important. How you draw up the blue prints, the revision of each and every drawing, and the execution of each plan to this city will decide how long the city will last through time. Socrates and his fellow philosophers were trying to build the best dwelling for their city. The roof was in the process of being build, what with the education they decided the guardians would need, and the idea that they would have to be physically fit and well as mentally fit, but they were missing the blue prints for the walls. This is where the three waves of reform come into play. This is where they plan the non-guardian’s, bricks if you will, placement in their house’s blue prints.

The first wave, or drawing that will establish the first basic idea in Socrates’ plan is the idea that both men and women can and will share in all tasks. That is to say, that there is no assigned roles for males and females. That means if a woman has the qualities to be a guardian then she must then be educated the same as the men in the city. Socrates proves this through the following quote, “So one woman may have a guardian nature and another not… Therefore, men and women are by nature the same with respect to guarding the city… Then women of this sort must be chosen along with men of the same sort to live with them and share their guardianship… it isn’t against nature to assign an education in music, poetry, and physical training to the wives of the guardians… It’s rather the way things are at present that seems to be against nature.”
(Morgan, p. 99)

But it is more then just equality of the sexes. Socrates wants men and women to train their minds as well as their bodies together. This means classrooms shared by both. Gymnasiums shared by both. Even music rooms