Socrates and Zeno in Hades

This draft by Dr. Jan Garrett

May 29, 2003

In the Apology of Socrates, Socrates suggests that death may be a translation to another place, presumably under the earth, where true judges preside and one may join for conversation the great figures of the past (Apol. 41a-c). Here I imagine Socrates' meeting with Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school. Socrates has been in the underworld since his death in 399 B.C. Zeno, who died in 263, has recently arrived. This dialogue has been partly inspired by my reading of Andrew Erskine's The Hellenistic Stoa (Cornell University Press, 1990).

(DL = Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Ancient Philosophers, Book 7;
SA = Iohannes Stobaeus, Anthology, section on Stoic Ethics;
Rep.= The Republic of Plato;
Pol.= The Politics of Aristotle.

DL and SA are taken from Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, 2nd edition, by Brad Inwood and L. P. Gerson [Hackett Publishing Company].)

Socrates [speaking to Zeno]. Krates [the Cynic philosopher who was Zeno's teacher and presumably preceded him in death--J.G.] tells me that you wrote a Republic in response to Plato's composition of the same name in which I am made the chief source of arguments.

Z. Yes, I wrote my own Republic in tribute to Plato's but also as a challenge to it.

S. Indeed, that is the way of philosophy, never letting previous results stand, always seeking the weak points in the arguments, trying to improve on them. You were concerned, I suppose, with the just soul and the just state, together.

Z. I was concerned with the good soul and the good state together, but I came to many conclusions that differed from Plato's.

S. I have so long been associated with what Plato put in my mouth that I am inclined to defend it, at least against critics, and for the sake of a good conversation.

Z. In your kallipolis [well-constructed state] there were three distinct classes, the ruler guardians, the warrior guardians, and the producers.

S. Yes, all three classes will be virtuous, but only the rulers will have completed a philosophical education, and only the rulers will be wise.

Z. Excuse me, Socrates, not all classes in your state are virtuous. At least that is the conclusion one can draw based on your reasoning about the individual person.

S. Please explain.

Z. As you said, only the rulers are wise, but in your discussion of the soul, the virtuous person alone is analogous to the virtuous city, i.e., the person whose rational faculty is wise. Therefore, nobody who is not wise is virtuous, on your own account.

S. Your logic is correct but in the ideal state the adults who are not rulers share in wisdom, because they are disposed, as a result of training, to follow the commands of the wise rulers. The courage of the warriors is not the courage of the wise, but courage of a secondary sort, based on their disposition to follow the commands of the rulers. The temperance of the warriors and producers is not the temperance of the wise, but temperance of a secondary sort, based on a disposition to follow the leadership of the rulers.

One could make a logical distinction between the courage and temperance of a class and the courage and temperance of a person. The class can be courageous just in case all its members are disposed to follow the wise (given that there is a wise ruling class), even though none of the persons in the class are wise; and analogously, for the temperance of the two non-guardian classes.

Z. My point is that this is unstable, because wisdom is not internal to the supposedly good warriors and producers of the Platonic Republic. Almost as proof of its instability, you imagine the kallipolis as undergoing a process of corruption or decline, beginning with the seizure of power by the warriors. (Rep. 8-9)

S. Yes, that is what I described in Plato's Republic.

Z. As a matter of parallel, you yourself--or perhaps Plato again, using you as his spokesman in the Phaedrus--seem to think that the appetites are inherently rebellious. You compare the appetites to an unruly horse, the spirited part to a noble horse, and the rational part to a charioteer. The unruly horse needs to be virtually coerced into obedience through the combined efforts of the charioteer and the noble horse. (Phaedrus 246a-b, 253c ff.)

S. Perhaps the multi-part theory of the soul is only trying to account for the diversity of phenomena associated with the soul. It surely seems that sometimes a person is dominated by his reason, at others by his appetites or fears or angers.

Z. There is another way, however, and this is what I have tried to explore. The soul is not three but one. It is entirely rational, in the sense of being disposed to discern meaning and to judge, at all times. Even when it is reasoning fallaciously, and being emotional, and judging badly, it is rational in this sense.

S. So on your view there is no separate spirited part or appetitive part?

Z. Exactly. On my view fear is a judgment (a product of the rational or cognitive capacity). Specifically, it is a judgment that something that appears bad is about to happen. It is not a product of a spirited part distinct from reason.

S. You mean "appears bad to the person but is not truly bad, although she does not recognize this fact"?

Z. Exactly. I call things that appear bad but are not truly bad "dispreferred things."

S. And you mean by these things like death, a bad reputation in the eyes of tyrants or the deceived masses, loss of wealth, and so forth?

Z. My point is that a person may oscillate in his judgments, sometime judging a decline in his reputation to be a bad thing, something worthy of being distressed about, at another time judging it to be merely dispreferred, thus nothing to be distressed about.

S. You must have a description for the opposites of dispreferred things, things that appear good to the person but are not truly so.

Z. Yes, I call these preferred things. I say that preferred things are in accord with nature, because we can normally give a good reason for selecting them, while dispreferred things are contrary to nature, because we can normally give a good reason for selecting their opposites.

S. The exception, I suppose, would be when "selecting" preferreds would be contrary to virtue and wisdom.

Z. I say that only virtue is consistently in accordance with nature, and only vice is consistently contrary to nature.

S. Your devotion to virtue and wisdom seems very close to mine. But tell me what conclusions you came to regarding the kallipolis. If you followed me, or Plato, in making your theory of the polis correspond to your theory of the soul, your polis would have to consist either of wise men or of unwise men. You don't seem to admit of a middle ground.

Z. A kallipolis would have to be composed of the wise only. As you understood, a state requires concord and friendship, but only the wise are capable of being friends. For friends have things in common, as has often been said. The wise have virtue in common. And in my kallipolis they have many other things in common as well.

By contrast, a society of fools--of those who are not wise--is an association, or community, in name only: there is only discord and enmity. Fools have nothing in common.

The kallipolis as I see it would be a just community of the wise. Justice is knowledge of the distribution of proper value to each person. [SA 2.5b1]

S. Then it is not rooted, as it is in the Republic of Plato, in the relationship between the parts of the soul.

Z. In the Republic of Plato you defined justice in the individual as the condition that obtains in the soul when each of the three parts performs its proper function. This is a clear analogy to the just version of the three-part state, in which each of the three parts performs its proper function. (Rep. 4. 442d-444a) But since I do not regard the soul as having these three parts, I cannot define justice that way. In fact, I define it in a rather commonsensical way, as knowing how to distribute value properly to each person.

S. As a virtue it is only found in the wise.

Z. Yes.

S. It was my view that every good act is just. Do you agree?

Z. Yes, every good act is just [DL 7.98] because it is consonant with [true] law and instrumental to a [sense of] community. [DL 7.99]

S. In my lifetime there was much debate about whether justice was natural or conventional. Protagoras thought it was purely conventional, relative to the community. Glaucon, in Plato's Republic, says justice is an agreement among self-interested human beings not to injure or be injured. His approach suggests that justice is directly the product of an agreement, although it is rooted in natural self-interest. Plato put in my mouth the argument that justice was rooted in human nature, in the potential for harmony when the three parts of the human soul agree that reason should rule.

Z. I agree that justice is natural and not conventional. In fact, so are [true] law and right reason [DL 7.128; see also SA 2.11b] The [true] law is virtuous because it is right reason which commands what is to be done and forbids what is not done, and only the wise man is lawful. [SA 2.11d] Only wise persons are truly ready to rule. Likewise only the wise man truly obeys because the wise alone are prepared to follow a true ruler. [SA 2.11j]

But enough of that. There is an important feature of my Republic that differs from what my predecessors maintained, although you did not address this issue directly.

S. That is what?

Z. I did not take common ancestry to be essential for membership in the kallipolis. In the allegory of the metals, you speak of the citizens as springing from a common soil, suggesting the point of common biological heritage (Rep. 3.414d-e). Aristotle, the student of Plato who set up a school for philosophy in Athens a few decades before me, defined the city in terms of the citizens and rejected the territorial criterion as inadequate (Aristotle, Pol. 3.1274b). But I understand the polis differently, perhaps less descriptively than Aristotle but more philosophically: it is territory that is the key, for as my successor Cleanthes writes, "the state is a contrivance for dwelling [i.e., in a place] in which one takes refuge to give and receive justice." [SA 2.11i, HP 2nd ed., p. 225] In the kallipolis, consisting of the wise, there are no foreigners by virtue of birth and women are citizens no less than men.

S. If there is no producer class in your kallipolis, how will the sages survive? Will there be slaves. Will there be private property?

Z. Friendship exists among virtuous men; it is a sharing of things needed for life, since we treat our friends as ourselves. [DL 124] Moreover, there is no need for private property (any more than there is true private property among the guardians in your Republic). In fact, less so, for the wise man "will live like the Cynic" [DL 123]. The Cynics, who were not called this in your time, deliberately live with few possessions, and follow no customs that are not rooted in nature. There will be no temples, lawcourts, or gymnasia in the kallipolis. Men and women will wear the same kinds of clothing, something very simple and functional. [DL 33] There will be no effort at adornment, which is a matter of rivalry among fools in ordinary society.

We can distinguish three types of slave; the base person is a slave just because of his baseness, for freedom is the ability to act on one's own and slavery is the privation of the ability to act on one's own. [121] The base person is a slave because he gives too much weight to externals.

But there are two other kinds of slave (and, by extension, two other types of freedom): the second type is a slave because of subordination to another person or group; the third type of slave is the slave in the usual sense, one who is both subordinated to another person and a possession of the other person. These political and legal forms of slavery are base (phaule) [DL 122] and have no place in my Republic.

Corresponding to each type of slave is the master [despotes]. I said, "The virtuous man is not compelled by anyone nor does he compel anyone; he is forced by no one and forces no one; he neither dominates nor is dominated; neither harms nor is himself harmed." (SA 11g) This applies above all to the kallipolis. If it were to admit slaves, it would dominate them or force them. (I do not say it would harm them in the philosophical sense, since one can indeed be mentally free while legally enslaved.)

But there are no slaves in the kallipolis, nor does the virtuous life of the sage require slaves external to the kallipolis yet in territory where the kallipolis is organized. Aristotle, the student of Plato, appears to say in his political discourses that a class of serfs will serve the free citizens of the polis, whose male members will be warriors in their young adult years, rulers in their prime, and priests in their old age. My kallipolis follows neither Plato's Republic nor Aristotle's ideal polis in assuming a class of non-rulers.

S. I recall that in Plato's Republic, the three classes arise only after I have allowed my chief conversation-partner, Glaucon, a particular assumption. The assumption is that the the simple city sketched early in the composition, which provides for subsistence products, was insufficient for any civilization worthy of free human beings. To Glaucon's objection that we can imagined only a city of pigs, I allowed that luxury occupations would be added.

Z. Yes, although greed for their products became the source of severe civil disturbances, you never questioned the assumption that virtue rested upon philosophy and philosophy required at least many luxury occupations.

S. It seems to me that you have challenged just that assumption.

Z. This is something I learned from the Cynics, Socrates. The true philosophy is something relatively simple. That is why my kallipolis does not require great material wealth. True, once society has generated a wealthy class, sophists will appear to take advantage of fools and mislead themselves. They will construct complex arguments and theories to prevent themselves and others from seeing relatively simple moral truths. Students of philosophy today require extensive training--which now requires leisure, which in turn could not exist without a social surplus. The reason is that they must learn to see through the smokescreens sophists created to block access to simple truth.

S. Ideal theory is one thing, Zeno, but we live in a world that is far from ideal. I faced that challenge in the Republic of Plato, and it seems to me that you do too, perhaps more strikingly so, since your Republic does not make the slightest concession to the fools who make up the vast majority of humanity.

Obviously, Zeno needs to respond to Socrates' challenge here, but that will have to wait for another occasion.

June 7, 2003