Plato's Republic - Book V

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Plato's most famous work is undoubtedly The Republic it has weathered the test of time to provide us with the most influential philosophical doctrine surviving from the ancient Mediterranean. Over the years Plato has been hailed by some as an advocate of women's rights because of some views he puts forth in The Republic. In Book V of the work Plato has Socrates, acting as his voice, engage in a discussion of the perfect state with Polemarchus, Adeimantus, Glaucon, and Thrasymachus. In the conversation Socrates puts forth the notion that women should be equal to men and that just because a person is of a certain sex it does not mean that they cannot still be beneficial to the operation of the society. This idea will be the focus of this paper, specifically the question of whether or not Plato's utopian society depends on the realization of equality between the sexes. In examining this question it must be kept in mind that notion of equality that is put forth in Book V is not in the modern day sense. Plato is exploring the possibility that women in ancient Greek society remained an untapped resource that was confined mainly to the household and devoid of civic duties.

Book V describes his ideal community which includes producers, guardians, and rulers. Plato promotes a specialization of employment and status based on innate ability, rather than gender. Given the time period in which this piece was written, Plato's assertions are quite liberal. Aside from making pointing out physical differences between the sexes, Plato distinguishes between more valid differences in nature. Plato recognizes the conflicting qualities of his statement that "one nature must practice one thing and different nature must practice a different thing, and that women and men are different. But at the same time, he asserts that "different natures must practice the same things" (453e). In Plato's society, "if either the class of men or that of women shows superiority in some art or other...
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