Russell presented an article that stakes out a novel interpretation of Plato’s Republic. According to the authors, Plato regards the first city he describes, the so-called “city of pigs,” as the ideal city. The city that the rest of the book is about, the “luxurious city” is presented as a device for bringing the reader, through the character Glaucon, around to seeing that this is so.
Russell said that he thought one of the strengths of this article is that it correctly identifies the project of the book. He believes that Plato’s point is that people have to internalize the rules of justice. It is a mistake to take Plato as saying that they have to be ruled by guardians who force them to be good.
On the other hand, Russell did not find the authors’ characterization of their opponents as fully accurate.
One thing that an interpretation like this will have to answer is why Plato spends so much time on the luxurious city, with its guardians and all the rest, if he does not think it is the truly ideal city. Plato certainly seems to say that some classes of people need government by guardians, for instance.
Coleman had an interesting point. He noted that Plato has a story about how the luxurious city decays. There isn’t a similar story about the first city or city of pigs. Maybe that’s evidence that Plato thought it is truly sustainable.
Jonas, Mark E., Yoshiaki M. Nakazawa, and James Braun. 2012. “Appetite, Reason, and Education in Socrates’ ‘City of Pigs’.” Phronesis 57: 332–57. doi:10.1163/15685284-12341047s.