Does the socializing process described in the educational system bring out the Philosopher- King's nature? Are Socrates's and Thrasymachus's views of ruling compatible?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Plato describes the socialization process through which the philosopher- king understands "the good."  The Socratic dialogue method illuminates understanding within the individual.  The dialectic of questioning values, and understanding through critical thinking the nature of truth that reveals "the good" is the socialization process that Socrates believes lies at the heart of education.  It is for this reason that Socrates describes the socialization process in education as geared towards this end:  "When it comes to good things, no one is satisfied with what is opined to be so but each seeks the things that are."  The philosopher- king is meant to understand the nature of the forms, the perfected realization of ideas, making them distinctive from the other classes of citizens.  The socialization process and the dialectic that reveals understanding such truth is what lies at the heart of the philosopher- king:  

When it fixes itself on that which is illumined by truth and that which is, it intellects, knows, and appears to possess intelligence. But when it fixes itself on that which is mixed with darkness, on coming into being and passing away, it opines and is dimmed, changing opinions up and down and seems at such times not to possess intelligence.

In this recognition, Socrates suggests that the philosopher- king's true nature is illuminated because it has realized the presence of the forms, almost as one acknowledges the presence of the sun as the "source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing."

For Socrates, the socialization process that illuminates truth in education as an absolute and transcendent quality makes his position different than Thrasymachus.  Socrates operates in the realm of the transcendent.  His desire to illuminate the pursuit of "the good" in terms of the forms puts him in a different camp than Thrasymachus, who is more about the idea of what power can constitute.  Thrasymachus is of the belief that "justice is the advantage of the stronger" and that "injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice."  For Thrasymachus, the embrace of the temporal and contingent bear more importance than Socrates' reverence for that which is universal and transcendent.  Put another way, Thrasymachus's view of ruling embraces the idea that there might be constant change based on the acquisition of power and the need to be "stronger" and "freer."  In Socrates' view, the reality is that once the philosopher- king has been realized and their reverence of the forms is demonstrated, change is not needed.  Terms like "power" and "stronger" are almost moot in this understanding.  It is here in which there might be some difficulty in seeking to reconcile both visions of ruling and leadership.  Even though it becomes clear that by Book VI, Socrates suggests that he and Thrasymachus "have just become friends, though we weren't even enemies before," their fundamentally different views of leadership evoke tension.

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