Commentary on Plato's Apology of Socrates
Conceptions of Equality/Plato, Aristotle and additions(References from a variety of sources, among them JoelFeinberg's , Taylor's , Ross's ,Strauss and Cropsey's , the , Hobbes's , , ,and )How is equality to be understood?Should everyone have equal opportunity, or should all outcomesbe equal?Should rights be held equally, or only by desert? The idea of human rights (distinctively) includes the notionthat all persons derive their status as human beings. This entails thatrights belong to all human beings, whether they are foolish or wise, rich orpoor, black or white. The notion is further understood that human rightsare independent of merit (though merit may confer on a person more rights).If we claim that all people are equal, what does this mean, fromwhat source does equality arise?Problems with these three possibilities:Some people try the route to equality in claiming that there is"common humanity" that makes us all equal and valuable. But that still leaves open the question what makes humanity valuable.Pain and suffering are not constant - some are moresusceptible to pain than others, for example. And what of cases in whichwe can treat people in ways that are obviously unjust, though they feel no pain(so far as we know)? An example is executing or murdering someone whenthat person does not expect it, and doing so in a way in which the personsuffers not at all.Rationality is suspect as a basis of equality since not allhuman beings are equally rational, and not all human beings are rational atall. -A brief excursion into the Hobbesiannotion of human value or worthWhich notion of human equality is (most) defensible? Perhaps it is the notion of a kind of Kantian ultimacy of human dignity,autonomy and value that we recognize in a non-rational way - perhaps ourequality is purely subjective - perhaps human worth is something that isintuitive or groundless because it is a basic truth? Plato and Aristotle on Human and Political Equality Democracy comes into being asdegenerating oligarchy. Oligarchs are rich, fat, and lazy. "Democracy comes about when the poor are victorious, killing some of theiropponents and expelling others, and giving the rest an equal share in rulingunder the constitution, and for the most part assigning people to positions ofrule by lot." (Rep., 557a-b) Democracy is characterized by great freedomin every sense, where a person can do anything he wishes or wills to do. It is the form of government in which one finds people of all varieties. "And what about the city'stolerance? Isn't it so completely lacking in small-mindedness that it utterlydespises the things we took so seriously when we were founding our city,namely, that unless someone had transcendent natural gifts, he'd never becomegood unless he played the right games and followed a fine way of life from earlychildhood? Isn't it magnificent the way it tramples all this underfoot, bygiving no thought to what someone was doing before he entered public life and byhonoring him if only he tells them that he wishes the majority well? -Background of thePlatonic perfect state:The democratic man always surrenders to his desires, allowingthose desires to rule over him., from Justice is equality, but only for equals; andjustice is inequality, but only for those who are unequal.Why do people constitute themselves in communities? It is natural to do so. NoteAristotle's notion that the state is a natural institution, and arisesfrom natural affiliations/associations among people - from the most basic, manand woman, for purposes of procreation; then to the family, which provides fordaily needs; then to the village, which is composed of families and cantranscend daily needs; then to the state, which is most perfect, and mostvaried. We are, for Aristotle, naturally social or politicalanimals. Further, the state, he claims, is prior to the individual,not in the order of nature, but in the order of becoming. There is, then,a natural hierarchy - a naturalness to domination and submission, since the wifenaturally submits to her husband, the child to the parent, the slave or servantto the master, etc.For what purposes might people create communities?The last three must be present for there to be a city-state, butthey alone are not enough. The state exists "only when households andfamilies live well as a community whose end is a complete and self-sufficientlife." (POL, 1280b,30-35) All of these things are the result offriendship. -What is the Aristoteliannotion of friendship (NIC ETH, Bk.