01 December 2005

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom

I find this a particularly interesting paper, since the problem it begins with is something that I've wondered about many times myself:

Sophrosune from Top to Bottom
Roslyn Weiss

In Book 4 of Plato's Republic, Socrates locates sophrosune not in the producer class of the polis and the appetitive part of the soul, but disperses it throughout the polis and soul. In light of the fact that this odd and unexpected move threatens the uniqueness of justice and, moreover, virtually assimilates justice to moderation, the question arises why Socrates defines sophrosune in this way. I suggest that Socrates wishes to make clear that not only do the lower parts of the city and soul dislike being ruled, but philosophers and reason dislike ruling. Since all parts of the city and soul are asked to do what they don't want to do, all must restrain themselves, curbing their desire to do what they would prefer to do. In other words, what they all must exhibit is sophrosune.
Fortunately I have been asked to comment on this paper, when Roslyn Weiss reads it at the upcoming Eastern APA. I can't of course post on it now but plan to do so after the event.

There are some curiosities on the program. For instance, I had never regarded Ayn Rand as a serious philosopher, and yet on Dec. 29:

GIX-2. Ayn Rand Society
1:30-4:30 p.m.

Topic: Ayn Rand as Aristotelian

Chair: John Cooper (Princeton University)

Speakers: James Lennox (University of Pittsburgh)
"Axioms and Their Validation"

Allan Gotthelf (University of Pittsburgh)
"Concepts and Essences"

Fred Miller, Jr. (Bowling Green State University)
"Values and Happiness"

Robert Mayhew (Seton Hall University)
"Literary Esthetics"

One could hardly find a more distinguished and competent panel.


Anonymous said...

I can understand that you don't wish to preview your APA paper here, but perhaps you'd like to post on some of the puzzling things Plato has to say at REPUBLIC 430e-432a. On one reading of this passage, sophrosune is really only a virtue realized in the ruling class. Sophrosune is a controlling of our desires & pleasures. "The few" attain this state of "simple & moderate desires that obey reason" by virtue of their genes and upbringing. The other classes are "held down" or constrained to a false & unwilling "temperance" by the rulers.
When we turn to parts of the soul, we expect that temperance should be the capacity to control the desires & passions to which the desiring part alone is subject, but Plato goes on about a harmony of the parts which justice already seems to address. Plato's redefinition of sophrosune seems as counterintuitive and unpersuasive as his redefinition of dikaiosune.

Michael Pakaluk said...

Your comment is interesting. Weiss asks why Plato defines sophrosune as a virtue of all three parts (of the city and soul), rather than a virtue of just the lowest part. But your comment correctly points out that, if Plato were to attribute it to one part only, it seems that he would attribute it to the highest part. He is disposed the attribute the virtue to the part that does the controlling, not to the parts that are controlled.