Forbidden Delicacies: The Ideal City, the Luxurious City, and the Marketplace in Plato’s Republic

HomeArticlesForbidden Delicacies: The Ideal City, the Luxurious City, and the Marketplace in Plato’s Republic

Socrates describes the “Ideal City” early in Bk. II of the Republic. Glaucon is not satisfied with the constitution. He says that “you make the people feast without delicacies” (372c).[1] Socrates adds some delicacies, but Glaucon challenges the Ideal City on the same grounds. It is too austere. He says, you have founded a “city for pigs” (372d). Socrates responds that including these delicacies creates a different city, a “Luxurious City.” They turn from the Ideal City to the Luxurious City for the remainder of the Republic. Glaucon thinks that the Ideal City is not fit for human beings, and most interpreters agree with him. They argue that the Ideal City is unacceptable, because its members do not have the full range of desires, or its members have all the desires and the city cannot control itself.[2] Accordingly, they hold that Socrates must abandon the Ideal City.

Since the difference between the two cities is focused on necessary desires and unnecessary desires and the distinction between the desires is not formally made until Bk. VIII, I turn to it. There the necessary desires correlate with the oligarchic city and the unnecessary desires with the democratic city. These cities are purified by the Kallipolis. I argue the purification enacted by the Kallipolis is analogous to the purification enacted by the Ideal City on the Kallipolis. I then show that the description of justice in the Ideal City implies the definition of justice in the Kallipolis, that its members have the full range of desires, and that it has adequate mechanisms to control itself. Socrates does not abandon the Ideal City.[3] I conclude that Glaucon creates the “city for pigs,” not Socrates.

The Ideal and Luxurious Cities

In Bk. II Socrates accounts for the Ideal City, or the city in theory (368c). His interlocutors beg him to “track down what justice and injustice are and what the truth about their benefits is” (368c).[4] Socrates argues for a need based city. He establishes a few principles that govern the Ideal City. Principle 1: A city comes into being because no one is self-sufficient (369b). Since we need many things, such as food, shelter, and clothes, and the farmer, builder, weaver, cobbler, and doctor do not make their own tools, the city needs herdsmen and blacksmiths to produce the material and tools (369d). Socrates insists on a second principle. Principle 2: Among necessary pursuits each person must do what he is best by nature suited to do (370). It is not acceptable for the members of the Ideal City to work at different tasks or to take their leisure in working (370b11). To provide the raw materials, imports and exports are necessary. The city needs merchants, to offer the city’s over-production and purchase what is needed. The city needs a “marketplace” and a “currency” for the sake of exchange (371b).[5] It also needs servants, “whose minds alone wouldn’t qualify them for membership in our city, but whose bodies are strong enough for labor” (371d–e). These members of the city are “wage-earners” (371e). The shopkeepers and wage-earners complete the list of members in Socrates’ “Ideal City.”

With the members set and the principles governing their behavior set, Socrates puts the parts in motion. They have bread, wine, shoes, houses, and clothes, which they wear when necessary. They make bread on reeds or leaves (372b). They recline on beds made of yew and myrtle. They feast with their children, drink wine, wear wreaths as crowns, and sing hymns (372b). They have sex with each other, but do not have too many or too few children. At this point Glaucon objects, Socrates “you make your people feast without delicacies” (372c). Socrates agrees with Glaucon’s criticism. “True enough,” they will need delicacies, salt, olives, cheese, boiled roots, and vegetables from the country. They will also need desserts, such as figs, chickpeas, beans, and wine. He concludes that they will live in “peace” and “health.” They “bequeath a similar life to their children” (372b). This completes Socrates’ account of the Ideal City.

Adding the delicacies and desserts is not enough. Glaucuon claims that Socrates founded a “city for pigs” (372d). The city, Glaucon insists, needs proper couches and tables. It needs “the delicacies and desserts that people have nowadays” (372d). Socrates response is dramatic and seemingly extreme, given the request for home furniture and additional delicacies. He calls Glaucon’s city the “luxurious” city, the city with a “fever,” and the “sick” city (372e). If Glaucon would like to investigate the sick city, Socrates answers, there is nothing stopping them. Besides, he notes, some people, such as Glaucon, will not be content with the Ideal City and its way of life (373a).

The “Luxurious City” expands the marketplace to include a variety of furniture, painting, embroidery, gold, ivory, and other such things. It includes additional delicacies, such as perfumed oils, incense, prostitutes, and pastries (373a). It requires more artisans, poets, actors, choral dancers, makers of things that adorn women, wet-nurses, nannies, beauticians, barbers, chefs, cooks, and swineherds.[6] They will need more doctors because they are unhealthy. They will need a new class in the city, the guardians. The guardians are subsequently divided into two classes, the rulers and the soldiers (414b). The Luxurious City requires education for the members of its new classes, as well as other members. This task occupies Bks. II through IV of the Republic, if not the remainder of the text.

False Start

Most interpreters agree with Glaucon’s rejection of the Ideal City and they think that Socrates does as well.[7] They note that Socrates gives way quickly to the suggestion and that he does not overtly refer to the Ideal City again in the text. They hold that the Ideal City is a false start.[8]

There are two types of false-start interpretations. Some fault the Ideal City for being too narrow in the range of desires that it allows.[9] They argue that the inhabitants of the Ideal City are not fully human. The city members lack pleonexia, a desire for more.[10] If Socrates’ account of justice requires the overcoming of bad desires by the best desires, then this city is neither just nor unjust.[11] As J. Cooper puts it, “accommodating this desire introduces into the city for the first time not only injustice but also justice.”[12] Cooper means that justice necessitates the desire for luxuries. Since the members of the Ideal City do not have bad desires to overcome, the Ideal City does not account for justice, injustice, or benefit.

The other type of false start interpretation argues that the members of the Ideal City do have the full range of desires, since all human beings have all the desires. If these desires do exist in the Ideal City, then it needs mechanisms to control the desires.[13] There are no such explicitly named mechanisms of control in the city. The city needs rulers and a military class, philosophy and enforcement. These groups guide and protect the city from internal and external threats. If the Ideal City does not have a system of restraint, its members would quickly become corrupt. As a result the city would immediately dissolve.

The false-start interpretations both claim that the Ideal City is incomplete. Either it lacks requisite desires, such as the unnecessary and tyrannical, or it lacks the requisite social structures, such as philosophers and soldiers. The fair-start interpretation, in contrast, holds that Socrates retains the Ideal City. To answer the objections from the false-start interpretation, the fair-start interpretation needs to show that the Ideal City can account for justice, injustice, and benefit, that it has an adequate account of desire, and that it has the mechanisms for guidance and enforcement. To better appreciate the differences between the need based city and its alternative, we need to examine the distinction between the necessary and unnecessary desires as it reemerges in Bk. VIII. This places the distinction within a discussion of the various forms of luxurious cities.

The Kallipolis and the Other Luxurious Cities

The Kallipolis is the best city among the luxurious or sick cities. It is the purified form of all the others. It includes a ruling class and a military class, in addition to the trades. (374a). The ruling class is subjected to rigorous education and training. They establish laws and function in courts. Socrates argues that the laws need to be simple and few. The ruling class is severely restricted. They cannot have a private storeroom that is not open to the public. They receive what they need through taxation as a salary. They have common messes and live together as encamped soldiers (416e). They alone in the Kallipolis cannot touch or possess gold or silver (417 and 422d). The primary function of the rulers is to protect the city, both externally and internally (470b). Externally, they gain allies by offering all the gold, silver, and property of those who oppose them (422d). This city, Socrates argues, will find many allies and few enemies (423a). He claims that these soldiers are much better than the soldiers of other cities, such that they could kill two or three times their own number (422c). For their diet, they should eat roasted meat, using few pots and pans. They should have no fish, or boiled meat. No sweet desserts, Corinthian girlfriends, or attic pastries (404d). This army would be the best not only in reputation but in fact (423a). The medical profession is restricted. It should not be used to treat people with unhealthy lifestyles, such as drunkenness, overeating, lechery, and idleness (426). Unfit children should be exposed. Since we don’t know about religious things, Socrates argues, there should be no one other than the “ancestral guide” (427c). There is to be one guide at the center of the earth (427c).

At this point in the dialogue Socrates concludes that Glaucon’s city “might now be said to be established” (427d).[14] The Kallipolis includes three classes, the rulers, the military, and the trades. Though the trades and the marketplace focus on needs, they also include luxuries such as home furnishings and Glaucon’s delicacies. With the city complete we can now turn to locate justice in the Kallipolis. Justice is found in each part of the city doing its own work and not meddling in the work of others (433b). Justice is for rulers to rule, for the military to enforce the rulings, and for the trades to follow the rulings. Socrates’ discussion of the Kallipolis requires him to make an explicit distinction between the ruling class and the military class. It does not require him to make an explicit distinction between the necessary desires and the unnecessary.

The Kallipolis takes wisdom and moderation as the good. Each of the other cities takes something else as goodness. The timocratic city comes into being when civil war breaks out, with the aristocrats and timocrats on one side against the oligarchs (547b). After the war the timocrats rule, they distribute houses and land among themselves and hold private property. They enslave the serfs and servants, whom they previously guarded as free friends and providers of upkeep (547b). They continue certain laws. They eat communally and they do not work money-making occupations, such as farming (547d). This city will make war more than peace. As part of making war rather than peace, it will desire money as much as the oligarchic constitution (548a). With the public money, they will adorn themselves in gold and silver, they will keep private treasuries and storehouses, and they will throw lavish parties. They do all of this, however, in private. With their own property they are stingy and they will avoid the laws concerning their money (548b). The timocratic city loves victory and honor openly, but it loves money in secret. A timocracy even has a wealth qualification (551a). Though the timocratic man “despises money when he is young,” the older he gets the more he loves money. In the end, the timocratic man “becomes a lover of money” (551a).

The oligarchic city loves money openly and takes wealth as goodness. The oligarchs ruling such cities find ways of spending public money on themselves, they stretch the laws concerning such expenditures, and then they and their wives disobey the laws altogether (550d). This city is not one city but two, rich and poor. Since they love money they are unwilling to pay for mercenaries (551e). In this city people engage in many jobs. A person can be a farmer, money maker, and soldier simultaneously. This city changes the laws about money. They allow someone to sell all his possessions and another to buy them. They allow the seller to stay in the city as a poor person without means (552a). This person is a squanderer and not a member of any part of society. The beggars are thieves, pick-pockets, and temple robbers. As the oligarchic constitution devolves it refuses to make laws about young men spending and wasting their wealth. The oligarchs make loans, secured by young people’s property, and then call the loans in. They reduce well-born people into poverty.  They put some in debt, some disenfranchised, and some both. As the class of beggars grows, they plot ways to take the property. They exact interest many times the principal (555e). They refuse to enact necessary laws; either prevent people from doing with their property whatever they want, or make the majority of voluntary contracts entered into at the lender’s own risk (556b).[15]

It is not until the distinction between the oligarchic city and the democratic city that we encounter an explicit distinction between the necessary and unnecessary desires. The oligarchic city loves money insofar as it is necessary, the democratic constitution loves money insofar as it is unnecessary. This relationship to money requires an explicit distinction between the necessary desires and the unnecessary (558d–559c). There are two main categories governing the necessary desires. They are needed for health, or they are beneficial to well-being. Specifically, the desire to eat to the point of health and well-being, and the desire for delicacies are necessary. The desire for bread is necessary on both counts, Socrates argues, since it is needed for health and it is beneficial (559). Certain delicacies are necessary for well-being. These necessary desires are money-making and profitable. The unnecessary desires are spendthrift, not money making, and not profitable. These desires include the desire for foods that most restrained and educated people can get rid of, and foods that are harmful to the body or to health (559b). These desires are harmful to reason and moderation. The desire for sex, not to be confused with procreation, is unnecessary (559c).

The democratic city comes into being from an oligarchy, when the majority, the beggars and poor, win a civil war. The economic policies of a democracy are not directly stated, except to say that it has the most variety of laws concerning economics (561e). It takes the freedom to indulge every desire equally as goodness. There are three parts to a democratic city; idlers, leaders, and the followers of leaders (564-565). The democratic man calls moderation cowardice, orderly expenditure boorish and mean, and extravagance magnificence (560e). The marketplace has all variety of unnecessary delicacies, but it is poor of the necessities.

The tyrannical city is indirectly referenced at the beginning of Bk. II. Socrates appropriates the story of Gyges to grant invisibility to the perfectly unjust man. With the ring, the tyrant, Gyges, can become invisible and visible at will. We find the story of Gyges in Herodotus’ Persian Wars.[16] As the story goes Gyges is put into a genuine moral dilemma. He must either see the Queen naked or disobey a command of the king, either of which is unlawful. He hides and sees the Queen naked, but she sees him. The Queen then binds him in another dilemma, either kill himself or the King. He hides in the same place again and this time kills the King. Thereby he becomes a ruthless Lydian tyrant. Socrates takes it as his challenge, early in Book II, to show that even the invisibility of the ring of Gyges cannot make the tyrant happy.[17]

The story of Gyges involves an archetype of both tyranny and coinage. The ring is an important object in the Lydian invention of coinage. Before coins, the ring functions as symbolon in exchanges. With the ring as symbolon a person could stamp an object and make it his own property.[18] After coinage the ring could function as a “ring-coin,” the die to cast coins. Scholars have rightly noted that the link between tyranny and coinage is not coincidence.[19] Before the marketplace functioned through coinage, it functioned through exchange. The exchanges were public, usually in the agora. These early exchanges must factor in the honor of the person.[20] With coinage and the expansion of the marketplace, the person’s honor no longer matters in the exchange. Inasmuch as the coinage becomes visible, the person becomes invisible.[21]

In Bk. VIII, tyranny comes to be when democracy is afraid of losing its freedom. In taking power, the first thing the tyrant does after murder is a cancellation of debts and the redistribution of land. He incites civil war against the rich. He then turns to making war. The big monetary concern for the tyrant is funding the bodyguard and military. The city uses all the sacred treasuries, all the property of the people, and it requires smaller taxes. The tyrannical city is ruled by the poor and is always poor (578a). The tyrant soon spends all his money, so he borrows money. Then he spends all of his capital, until everything is gone (573d). He is a thief, a temple robber, and a seller of slaves (575b). This is a bankrupt marketplace, money becomes invisible.

Each city modifies the marketplace of the Kallipolis to suit its view of goodness. The expansion of the marketplace begins in the timocratic city, when the military class comes to own property and possess private storehouses. The timocratic city loves money in private. The oligarchic city publicly loves money. The democratic city loves money, insofar as it is unnecessary. The tyrant loves money as a lawless instrument. The Kallipolis uses money as it is necessary.

The Ideal City and the Kallipolis

Of the five sick cities, Socrates argues that only one deserves to be called a city. Only the Kallipolis is a city, because it is one thing (422e). This city is just because each part does its own work. All the other degenerative forms are at least two cities, though each type has one name. The degenerative constitutions have two classes, the rich and the poor (423). The Kallipolis purifies the city by restraining its many parts. That it has so many parts creates the need for its expansive mechanisms of restraint. Insofar as it is possible the Kallipolis unifies its parts, but it does this after needing to explicitly distinguish the rulers from the military. It does not distinguish the unnecessary or lawless desires. In this way it makes the city one, as much as it can. All other degenerate cities lack such unity.

In the Kallipolis, the necessary appetites can keep the unnecessary appetites in check, with the help of reason and spirit. Reason has a “natural helper” in spirit, unless spirit is corrupted by a bad education (441a). After reason decides what is best, Socrates claims that spirit will never side with appetite against reason (441b). The divisions of soul in Bk. IV treat appetite as one part of the soul. This shows that appetite can function as one part of the soul. This requires a unification of its parts. As the composition of the soul devolves, appetite fragments and functions as multiple parts.[22] What is true of the soul is applicable to the state. Just as the soul has natural regulatory mechanisms, unless corrupted by bad education, the state has natural regulatory mechanisms. The way to make a city, a Kallipolis, out of the other degenerative cities is to unify its parts. Each part doing its own work implies the unification of parts. This entails that appetite does its necessary and proper work.

The distinction between the Ideal City and the Luxurious City is the distinction between necessary appetites and unnecessary appetites.[23] In Bk. VIII, this functioned to set the oligarchic city apart from the democratic city. Let’s recall that Socrates’ Ideal City included delicacies that are necessary, either for health or benefit. The salt, olives, cheese, boiled roots, and vegetables from the country are necessary on both counts. The figs, chickpeas, beans, and wine are beneficial to well-being. Every delicacy Socrates included is necessary. In Glaucon’s city the list is full of unnecessary delicacies, such as perfumed oils, incense, prostitutes, and pastries. These commodities are neither necessary for health nor beneficial for well-being. Allowing the objects of unnecessary desire into the city fractured the unity of appetite. We see another fracture in the move from a democratic city to a tyrannical one. This requires the distinction of the lawless appetites. These desires are actually a subset of the unnecessary desires, but in the tyrannical city they disassociate (571b). The tyrant forces explicit division of the third part of appetite.

Why isn’t the distinction between the Ideal City and the Luxurious City grounded in the distinction between the Kallipolis and the timocratic city? This would be a shift from desires for wisdom to desires of honor. The answer is that the distinction between the necessary and unnecessary appetites requires the distinction between reason and spirit, rulers and military. Without the distinction between appetites, there is no need to distinguish the rulers from the military. It is not the split between reason and spirit that fractures the Ideal City. It is the split between appetites that fractures the Ideal City.

The unified parts of the Kallipolis in relation to the devolved luxurious cities, are analogous to the unified parts of the Ideal City in relation to the Kallipolis. In the Kallipolis the parts of appetite are functionally united under the necessary appetites. Reason and spirit govern appetite. In the Ideal City, reason and spirit are not two parts. Functionally they are one. Recall that the military class is not set apart in the Ideal City. It stands to reason in its natural state, reinforced by education. The coupling of reason with spirit yields something such as spirited-reason. So it is spirited-reason that governs appetite in the Ideal City. This soul has two parts, not three or even five. The ideal soul has two parts not three. Just as the Kallipolis unifies the parts of the constitution from five parts to three and thereby makes something that can be called a city, the Ideal City unifies the parts of the Kallipolis to form a “true city.” In this city there are two parts functioning as one.

Fair Start

If the Ideal City is the purified form of the Kallipolis and it is a fair start, it needs to answer certain objections. It needs to show that the Ideal City can account for justice, injustice, and benefit, that it has an adequate account of desire, and that it has the mechanisms for guidance and enforcement.[24]

The terms “justice and “injustice” are explicitly stated when the Ideal City is founded (369a). After completing the account of the Ideal City Socrates asks, “where then can justice and injustice be found in it?” (371e) He asks which member of the city brings justice? In Bk. IV when Socrates turns again to find justice in a city he locates each virtue in a part of the state or soul. Justice is not located in any particular part of the soul. Justice is found in moderation, the “harmonious relations of the [three] parts” (442d). Here Socrates establishes that the term “moderation” used in this way is a synonym of “justice.” He continues by arguing that justice in the soul is analogous to health in the body (444d). The proper arrangement of parts in the city produces justice, just as the proper arrangements of bodily parts produces health. The proper education produces the just arrangement of the parts (442a). Socrates tells us that the Ideal City has an education that passes along a similar way of life. He tells us that the Ideal City is “healthy” and “moderate.” Harmonizing the accounts in Bk II and IV shows that the educational regimen is requisite for justice, “health” is an analogue of “justice,” and “moderation” a synonym of “justice.” It is no stretch to take the “true” city to be the “just” city.

So in Bk. IV Socrates is justified in claiming that “we had hit upon the origin and pattern of justice right at the beginning in founding our city” (443b). Socrates argues that his initial city has an account of justice, “from the very beginning it has been rolling around at our feet” (432c). He argues:

Justice, I think is exactly what we said must be established throughout the city when we were founding it—either that or some form of it. We stated, and often repeated, if you remember, that everyone must practice one of the occupations in the city for which he is naturally best suited…Justice is doing one’s own work and not meddling with what isn’t one’s own…Then it turns out that this doing one’s own work—provided that it comes to be in a certain way—is justice. (433a–b)

Socrates goes back to the Ideal City and argues that the description of the Ideal City implies a definition of justice. Whatever the differences are between the definition of justice implied by the Ideal City and the definition stated for the Kallipolis, Socrates insists that the Ideal City implied an adequate definition.

We can reconstruct the inference from the account of the Ideal City previously offered in this paper. There we saw that Socrates offers two principles, now premises, governing the Ideal City:

P1. A city is established to secure needs and no one is self-sufficient.

P2. Among necessary pursuits each person must do that at which he is naturally best.

We also noted that the members of the city cannot do their tasks at their leisure (370b). When a question of justice arises concerning the Ideal City, Adeimantus gives us:

P3. Justice is somewhere in the need that these people have for one another.

Whatever Adeimantus means by this, it indicates that justice is found in the need based relations among people. Taking the three premises together implies:

C1. Justice is each person securing needs, for himself and others, doing that at which the person is naturally best.

More generally, each part doing its own necessary and natural work is justice. This definition of justice is a version of the definition of justice in Bk. IV:

C2. Justice is each part of the state or soul doing its own proper work. (433b)

The account of the Ideal City implies the definition of justice in the Kallipolis. The negation of the definition is a definition of injustice. Injustice is a part failing to do its proper work and doing the work of some other part. The benefits of justice are named in the description of the Ideal City, some of which include health, peace, and happiness (372c–d).

In a recent paper, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” the authors argue that education in the Ideal City is adequate to properly establish justice and maintain social external defense and internal order.[25] They argue, in part, that moderation is a virtue that each member of the Ideal city has (431e–432a). Moderation in an individual comes from education and the better parts of the soul keeping the worse parts in check. In the city it comes from the better parts controlling the worse. This state of virtue cannot come about through unreflective action, an automaton is not capable of such behavior. Moderation involves reason and spirit actively guiding and controlling the appetites. The city members “drink moderately” and control population growth. Since the members of the Ideal City are moderate, all their parts are properly functioning. Socrates never had a chance to discuss the details in the Ideal City, because Glaucon interrupted.

After concerns about justice, there are at least two other reasons for thinking that the Ideal City is not a fair start. It seems the Ideal City either omits requisite human desires, or it contains the desires and it cannot control them. Do the members of the Ideal City have all requisite desires? Do we know that all people have all the desires? Socrates does not think so. It is not the case that all people have all desires and it is not the case that all people are part of the Ideal City. A city may include only certain people at its discretion. If a city includes only what it takes to be acceptable members, its members might not have all desires forcefully. Its members might not act on their lowest desires. About the worst desires Socrates claims:

They are probably present in everyone, but they are held in check by the laws and by the better desires in alliance with reason. In a few people, they have been eliminated entirely or only a few weak ones remain, while in others they are stronger and more numerous. (571b)

This passage shows that there are some people who do not have the lawless desires. Still, it is not practicable to have a city of people without lawless desires. For the majority of people, they have such desires, but the desires are held in check by “laws” (custom) and by the better desires. All the other desires are better than the worst desires, the lawless. At the other end of the scale, children do not have reason, most get a share in it “quite late,” and some “never seem to get a share of it” at all (441a). Some people do not have lawless desires and other people don’t have rational desires. Though they have the capacity for such desires, the desires are not efficacious in guiding life.

When Socrates describes laws and courts in the Kallipolis, he says that there is no better sign of a shameful education than that the courts and the medical trade are the largest and required for all citizens (405c). The courts allow people to do injustice and by using loopholes get away with it. The doctors constantly come up with names for new diseases (405d). Socrates argues that medicine is not intended for sickly people, suffering from bad lifestyle, habits, or laziness (408b). To take money for medical treatment given for those already dying is wrong (408b). In the Kallipolis they will practice medicine and judging minimally.

Socrates argues that a “true lawgiver” should not make many laws (427a). Lawmaking is useless and accomplishes nothing in both a badly governed city and a well governed city. In a badly governed city it does no good to correct the wrongs. In a well governed city “anyone could discover some of these things, while others follow automatically from the ways of life we established” (427a). The Ideal City is the “true” city and it follows that it would have “true” lawmakers.

Concerning the military, the inhabitants of the Ideal City live in peace. They are neither wealthy nor poor. They have all the wealth necessary to meet their needs and to have well-being. Socrates has no military class in the Ideal City. Doubtless, all who can fight do fight. The guardians and military protect the city from both internal and external threats. Internally the greatest threat is wealth and poverty. The Ideal City is credited with doing away with wealth and poverty. External threats are not directly mentioned in the account of the Ideal City. We are not told how its peace is guarded. Socrates argues that the military in the Kallipolis can kill many more than its number, that they have few enemies and many allies, and that they are in fact the greatest (423). The Ideal City enjoys peace, not as a smuggled assumption, but as the purified form of the Kallipolis. The strategies of the Kallipolis are purified by consolidating the rulers and military in a single class. It is not necessary to distinguish separate ruling and military classes, when every able person fights. This includes those who govern and are governed, those with fit minds and those with fit bodies (371e). When Socrates founds the Kallipolis he needs rulers and soldiers, because the city cannot control desire (373e). Socrates tells us explicitly about the guardians and military, “we did not need any of these things in the Ideal City, but we do in this one” (373c).[26] The education that allows the way of life to be passed down, taken broadly, includes the internal and external regulation of the city.[27]

The description of the Ideal City does not explicitly name the parts of the soul; reason, spirit, and appetite. It does not mention the class of philosophers or the military. It does mention labor and in so doing it distinguishes them from the ruling class. There are some who participate in the administration of the city and there are some who do not (371d–e). There are two classes in the Ideal City, the participants in governing and the labor. Both classes are able to wage war. Applying the directives in the Kallipolis has all members of the Ideal City, who are able, on the battlefield. This includes all men and women of all classes. Defending the city from without in this way implies an internal mechanism. The same spirit that enlivens the army abroad holds them together at home.

The Ideal City does make reference to the products of philosophy and enforcement. They have education, moderation, and justice. They compose hymns, which involves poetry and piety. They wear wreaths on their heads, which symbolizes a victory in a competition. They must be able to teach advanced skills, those necessary for composition of stories, music, poetry, and various competitions. They are able to identify what needs to be done and do it. We see this in the marketplace. Members weak in body or useless for other work see what needs to be done and they set themselves as shopkeepers (371d). The Ideal City is described as a “well-conducted city,” a well-managed house or economy (371c).


Are Glaucon and most interpreters of Socrates’ Ideal City right in saying that it is unfit, that it is a city for pigs? We saw that the Ideal City is the purified form of the Kallipolis. Just as the Kallipolis is an austere version of the degenerate cities, the Ideal City is the austere form of the Kallipolis. Neither the Ideal City nor the Kallipolis is inhuman and the Ideal City is not an oligarchy. The failure to mention pleonexic desires in the Ideal City, comes with the failure to mention rational or spirited desires. The omission of such things is not due to the members being inhuman, it is due to the city being a unity. Just as each member of the city is a unity. In the city reason-spirit governs appetite. In the Luxurious City, appetite fractures between the necessary and unnecessary desires. This fracture is fully realized in the democratic city. In tyranny things get worse, when the unnecessary desires split to generate the lawless desires.

The difference between the Ideal City and the Luxurious City is the difference between the marketplace as need and want. The Republic warns us that this distinction is central to a well-governed city. It must be enforced in the marketplace. The violation of this prohibition comes with a high price, the fracture of the city and its members. Introducing a luxurious marketplace fractures the appetites into three, and it splits reason-spirit in two. The city and the persons go from two parts to five. This disunity is a dramatic turn, one worthy of Socrates’ extreme reaction. The Ideal City is no place for pigs, since its austerity embodies human virtue. The Luxurious City, Glaucon’s City, is perfect for pigs. His city offers all manner of delicacies and puts pigs on equal terms with people.



[1] References to Stephanus pages are from John Burnet, ed., Platonis Opera, vol. IV, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978). All translations are from GMA Grube, trans, Plato: Republic (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1992).

[2] The following authors think Socrates abandons the Ideal City: R.L. Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic of Plato, (London: Macmillan and Co., 1922), 69–76; Daniel Devereux, Socrates’ First City in the Republic,” The Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science, vol. 13, No. 1 (June 1979): 36–40; Nicholas White, A Companion to Plato’s Republic, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979), 88–9; Michael Kochlin, “War, Class, and Justice in Plato’s Republic,” The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Dec., 1999): 407–8; John M Cooper, “Two Theories of Justice,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, vol. 74, No. 2, (Nov. 2000), 5–27; Catherine McKeen, “Swillsburg City Limits, (the ‘City of Pigs,’ Republic 370c–372d),” Polis, 21, (2004), 70–92; C.D.C. Reeve, Philosopher-Kings: The Argument in Plato’s Republic, (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006), 170–8; Malcolm Schofield, Saving the City, (New York: Routledge, 2012), 70–1; Nickolas Pappas, The Routledge Guide Book to Plato’s Republic, 2nd Ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013), 84–85.

[3] The following authors do not think that Socrates abandons the Ideal City, Jonas, Nakazawa, and Braun, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” Phronesis, 57 (2012): 333, n. 3; G. Santas, “The Literary and Philosophical Style of the Republic,” in A Guide to Plato’s Republic, ed., Santas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 15; Jill Frank, “Wages of War: Judgment in Plato’s Republic,” Political Theory, Vol. 35, No. 4, (Aug., 2007): 450; Christopher Rowe, Plato and the Art of Philosophical Writing, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 43–5.

[4] Socrates agrees and suggests a method, to look at justice in big letters before small letters (gramma), to look at justice in the state before justice in the individual. Looking at the letters will provide us with the account (logos) of justice (369a6).

[5] Many of the words for the first coins come from their original pre-coinage objects of Homeric exchange. For a discussion of this see Chapter Six in David Schaps, The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007).

[6] Notice the correlation of these items with the items in the democratic constitution (557c).

[7] My discussion in this section owes a debt to Jonas, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” 342–52.

[8] Though Devereux thinks the Ideal City is not a “false start” as he uses the term, he does think that the members of the Kallipolis lack the full range of desires. So he holds a version of what I call the “false start interpretation.” I borrow the term “false start” from Daniel Devereux, “Socrates’ First City in the Republic,” 38–9.

[9] See Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic of Plato, 72; and Reeve, Philosopher-Kings, 176.

[10] Jonas, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” 343.

[11] Cooper, “Two Theories of Justice,”14–5.

[12] Ibid., 14.

[13] McKeen, “Swillsburg City Limits (the ‘City of Pigs:’ Republic 370c–372d),” 76.

[14] Notice that Socrates does not claim ownership of this city. He explicitly describes it as Glaucon’s city (427d). In contrast, Socrates refers to the Ideal City as “our” city or “my” city (371e, 372d–373a).

[15] The oligarchic man “won’t allow the first [reason] to reason about or examine anything except how a little money can be made into great wealth. And he won’t allow the second [spirit] to value or admire anything but wealth and wealthy people…” (553d).

[16] A.D. Godley, trans., Herodotus, Persian Wars, (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, 2004), Bk. I, Ch. 8–12.

[17] In the end Book X has Socrates claim that even adding the Helmet of Hades, invisibility to the gods, cannot make the tyrant happy (612b).

[18] Richard Seaford, Money and the Early Greek Mind, 115-22.

[19] Marc Shell, Economy of Literature, 12-13.

[20] David Schaps, Invention of Coinage, 77-9. See also Alan Baily, “Ousia Aphanes: Justice and the Market in Light of Plato’s Republic, I and II,” Expositions, 7(2), (2014): 14-7.

[21] Marc Shell, Economy of Literature, 30-6.

[22] For a fine discussion of this point see Pappas, The Routledge Guide to Plato’s Republic, 188–192.

[23] Some interpreters take the relation as one of identity, they identify the Ideal City with an oligarchy. See Reeve, Philosopher-Kings, 171.

[24] For an alternative version of the “fair-start” interpretation see Jonas, “Appetite Reason and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” 334–42.

[25] There are three authors of the paper, Mark Jonas is first author, Joshiaki Nakazawa is second, and James Braun is third author. See Jonas, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” 352–56.

[26] This shows that Socrates explicitly retains his Ideal City during his discussion of the Luxurious cities.

[27] Jonas argues for a broad interpretation of education in the Ideal City. He argues that it includes all areas of instruction necessary to produce the well regulated behavior in the city. See Jonas, “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs,” 352–56. War is also described as a form of education in Bk. III. Kochin discusses the instructive function of war in “War, Class, and Justice in Plato’s Republic,” 405, 418. Also see Alan Baily, “Ousia Aphanes: Justice and the Market in Light of Plato’s Republic, I and II,” 19-21. In the broad sense of the term “education” it applies to all areas of life.


This excerpt is from The Free Market and the Human Condition: Essays on Economics and Culture (Lexington Books, 2014)

Kirk Fitzpatrick

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Kirk Fitzpatrick is an Associate Editor of VoegelinView, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and former Director of the Grace A. Tanner Center at Southern Utah University (2012-16). He is author of A Philosophical Reader on Moral Weakness: Akrasia, Weakness of Will, and Practical Irrationality (Linus, 2009).