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Socrates on the Equality of Women

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By rumelolo
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Osarume West-Idahosa ( 1494075)
Professor Martin Black
Government 282
March 29, 2013 Critical Analysis In book V of Plato’s Republic Socrates defends the proposal that women should be eligible to serve as guardians in the city and should equally be entitled to receive equal training and education , necessary for the task, along sides men in the city. Socrates strongly believes that women are inherently capable of performing the same tasks as men, but accepts that they may be inferior in performing these tasks (455c). In his proposal, he states that since similar roles in the city require similar training and education whatever is good for the male should equally also good for the female. The distinction between virtues is non-existent as both sexes have the innate ability to function effectively in the society, when speaking in regards to knowledge and the different parts of the soul i.e ( reason, appetite, spirit). Here Socrates holds that individual should be judjed based on the virtue of their souls, and not mere physical appearance . a mans virtue is not brought about by his sex, virtue remains virtue regardless of a mans gender, socrates holds this postion due to this the best state must provide women the opportunity to govern. Socrates holds that role playing in this new just city should be equal in order for there to be unity and peaceful co-existence amongst the citizens. If a woman possesses the qualifications of being a guardian in the city, she must be educated in the same respect as other guardians, irrespective of her gender. Even though Socrates is fully aware that some or most women may lack physical strength he argues that biological and sexual differences are not nearly significant in running his proposed Utopian society ( ) as opposed to intellectual ability and moral strength. This is because only the most honest and wisest of rulers can hold the city’s best interest at heart. It is true that women and men differ in various aspects, and this is all as a result of the various social constructs present in different societies. However in Plato’s republic, it is apparent that women are presented as weaker but capable in that order. I personally do not think women are weaker, physical ability varies based on nature. But it is agreed that women are less in superior to men in physical strength . however I do agree with Socrates on the notion that both sexes should receive the same education based on guardian roles. I strongly in the notion of gender equality, and I do not support the idea that women should be treated less significant to men. Furthermore, Socrates draws attention to the community of women and children in his just city as book V progresses. This community as we know is clearly communal by nature. It is inevitable that there will be a certain degree of sexual relationships amongst the guardians and with this Socrates believes that such desires should be controlled .Essentially the main idea here is that the existence of marriage and family institutions is to be completely eliminated. This entails that all forms of love, marriage and sexual desire will be sacrificed and only utilized in a way that will benefit the city. Socrates is saying that all sexual relations between guardians and procreation of offspring will be strictly monitored by the state alone. In addition to this, sexual relations will only exists between the best of the female and male guardian citizens so that only the best of possible offspring may be produced. The proposed advantage of this system is that, it will reduce the burden on women for having to rear and take care of the children alone. This will also enable them to participate fully and effectively in the state without any form of interference. The children will be raised by nurses in the city, and will be trained to be rational , paying little or no attention to emotional desires. These children will also not be aware of who their actual parents are, in order not to defeat the purpose of the community. Socrates proposes that it is highly important the guardians take into consideration the city’s best interest at heart. With this new system of communism, he is almost certain that there will be no divided attention among the citizens, as opposed to having different family institutions. Hence The guardians must have their families in common for this reason, and in return great guardian offspring shall be raised . Socrates also establishes that he wants a sort of agape love relation amongst the citizens, in this way Guardians, Women, Children and other classes can view the other as one family. It is true that this will encourage kinship ties and even incest in some cases, but Socrates holds that it will be for the greatest good The aim of Socrates proposal is to essentially keep the city unified, He believes that with this system put into effectively use, there will be no dissension among the citizens (Guardians) and they will be able to focus more on that which is best for the city as a whole. I particularly disagree on Socrates’s position in this second argument. First and foremost, I believe that the family is the most important agent of socialization. It is also essential in the existence of humanity, In my own opinion Socrates is being insensitive and has completely disregarded the essence of the existence of family unit in the society. Also holding women and children in common specifically dehumanizes the women in particular, because as much as Plato attempts to rid the city of intimate and matrimonial unity , he is indirectly portraying women as sex tools, depriving them of the right to start a family of their own. This encourages the male guardians to utilize them whenever and however they please. I think this is very hypocritical on the path of Socrates, looking back to his earlier claim in the beginning of book V. Secondly the idea of selective breeding simply encourages infanticide. This clearly goes against the universal law, which forbids one to kill and the fundamental right to life. Socrates clearly states that any child born who does not meet the qualification of a guardian off spring should be done away with and left to die. This is inhumane and cruel in my opinion, and should never be encouraged in today’s world. Under no account should the life of one person be taken by another. Furthermore, I believe that the idea of communal living , defeats the purpose of posterity. Naturally human beings are selfish animals, who will sought to protect that which belongs to them. The “self” here is the number element of human nature , without private ownership , there is no room for competition and individuals have the tendency to aim in leaving a successful offspring behind. However with Socrates proposal, it is almost impossible for this to be achieve because the children in the city will lack the knowledge of who their real parents are and vice versa In conclusion, I strongly believe Socrates aims to create the best possible city , against all odds. This is understandable, but I do believe he is doing this in the wrong approach. I also do not think his proposal on the community of women and children is flexible in general. Social constructs have already been formed and it will take a significant amount of work to see that his ideas become conventional. Sex cannot be controlled by the state, because it a physical desire and which can only be suppressed by the part of the soul in constituting the appetite. Finally I believe that Marriage is sacred and has an intrinsic value in itself, hence should not be eliminated for the sake of justice.
Works Cited
Tom Griffith, Plato: The Republic, G.R.F Ferrari, ( Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2000)

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