Summary and Analysis
Book VII: Section III
We are now presented with the entire program of study for the heads of state in the Ideal State, and we are reminded again that these young candidates must be of high moral character and industry.
Socrates at this juncture in the conversation establishes the program of studies that will govern the lives of the future philosopher-rulers. This program, portions of which Socrates has discussed previously throughout the dialogue, is divided into six parts:
Part 1: From early childhood and until they are about 18, the students will receive their early training in gymnastic and the arts, and they will receive training in elementary mathematics, but the intellectual studies are to be lightly enforced. Socrates argues that rigorous training does not harm the body at this age, but enforced intellectual studies may cause the learner to rebel. And, as previously discussed, the children will ride to battle accompanied by their families so that they may learn warfare and witness courage in action.
Part 2: At this stage, the best of the students will be selected to further their education in a strict regimen of physical and military training (discussed earlier). This physical and military training will be rigorous, and the students will have no time for intellectual pursuits. This stage will last two or three years. (Apparently the students winnowed out at this stage — dismissed, that is, from advanced study — will be given lesser positions in the Ideal State.)
Part 3: After the intensive physical training, when they are 20, the young students will be tested, and a further selection will be made. The best students will be given the advanced studies in mathematics (discussed earlier); the course in mathematics will last for 10 years. The students winnowed out at this stage will form up the second class of the state as auxiliaries.
Part 4: When the students are 30, a further selection is made. (Socrates does not specify what happens to the students who are not selected at this stage.) The students who are selected will study Dialectic for about five years, and care must be taken to show the students that the study of Dialectic is a serious enterprise; it is not a game of wits undertaken for personal grandeur.
Part 5: When they are 35, having now become trained philosophers, the students will receive the practical experience necessary for them to accept their role as leaders of the state. They will take positions in the military and politics and begin teaching their fellow citizens to "see the light," so to speak. This period of service will last 15 years.
Part 6: At the age of 50, the philosopher-rulers will be fully matured. They will now spend the rest of their lives in philosophical contemplation and in ruling and governing the Ideal State. Now that they know Goodness, they will best be prepared to serve the good of the state.
Thus it is that Plato argues that the best rulers must be philosophers. Only philosophers know Goodness; it follows logically that they will act in the best interest of their fellow citizens because, as philosophers, they will have attained knowledge at every level.
Solon (640?-559? b.c.) Athenian statesman and lawgiver: framed the democratic laws of Athens.
eristic of or provoking controversy or given to sophistical argument and specious reasoning; a person who engages in such argument (a Sophist).