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20 NOVEMBER 2016

Alex Gendler: how to recognize a dystopia

"The genre of dystopia – the 'not good place'– has captured the imaginations of artists and audiences alike for centuries. But why do we bother with all this pessimism? Alex Gendler explains how dystopias act as cautionary tales – not about some particular government or technology, but the very idea that humanity can be molded into an ideal shape."

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TAGS

Aldous Huxley • Alex Gendler • Animal Farm (1954)artificial intelligence • aryan • atomic energyBlade Runner (1982)brave new world • Brave New World (1932) • cautionary talecommunist systemconcentration campdemocracydepletion of natural resourcesDr Strangelove (1964) • drudgery • dystopia • dystopian fiction • dystopian literature • dystopian science fictioneugenicsfactory workerfascismfree willgas chambergenetic engineering • Gullivers Travels (1726) • H G Wells • humanitys future • impoverished masses • impoverishment • industrial ageindustrial revolution • industrial warfare • It Cant Happen Here (1935) • Jack London • Jonathan Swift • mass entertainment • mass media ageMetropolis (1927) • modern anxieties • nightmare world • Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)nuclear war • oligarchy • oppressionoverpopulationparadise • perfect world • political structures • povertyprogress narratives • resource depletion • science fiction • Sinclair Lewis • slumsocial rolessocial structures • space colony • space travelspeculative fiction • squalor • surveillance state • TED-Ed • The Handmaids Tale (1985) • The Iron Heel (1908) • The RepublicThe Time MachineThomas Moretotalitarianism • tyrannical oligarchy • tyranny of modernismutopia • V for Vendetta (2006) • Watchmen (2009) • We (1924) • Westworld (1973) • WW1WWII • Yevgeny Zamyatin

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
21 FEBRUARY 2012

Open Culture: a respository of cultural & educational media

"Open Culture brings together high–quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community. Web 2.0 has given us great amounts of intelligent audio and video. It's all free. It's all enriching. But it's also scattered across the web, and not easy to find. Our whole mission is to centralize this content, curate it, and give you access to this high quality content whenever and wherever you want it. Free audio books, free online courses, free movies, free language lessons, free ebooks and other enriching content – it's all here. Open Culture was founded in 2006."

(Dan Colman et al.)

Fig.1 Jim Henson's 1963 Robot Film Uncovered by AT&T.

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TAGS

2006 • audio books • audio resources • cabinet of curiositiescollectioncontent • cultural media • digital resourceseBookebookseducational media • enriching content • Francis Baconfreefree resources • Jim Henson • knowledge commons • language lessons • lifelong learningonline lectures • online movies • online resources • open culture • Open Culture (resource)Peter Greenaway • quality content • resource • respository • The Republicvideo resources

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 AUGUST 2011

The Republic: justice is a necessity and a requirement for civil society (in spite of the selfish potential of individual gain)

"Now that those who practise justice do so involuntarily and because they have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we imagine something of this kind: having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of law. The liberty which we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges the ancestor of Croesus the Lydian. According to the tradition, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result–when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other;,no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he would be thought by the lookers–on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice."

(The Republic, Plato, Internet Classics Archive)

[Plato describes a situation which I think is best understood in terms of the choice between individual and collective benefit. Where it serves our individual interests (as members and custodians of our society) to strive towards a collective ambition. In this way the recent mugging in London shows what happens when this ambition is inverted.]

TAGS

2011becoming invisiblechaoschoicecivil disobediencecivil societycivilisation • collet • fearforce of lawfree will • gold ring • Gyges • human actionhuman naturehuman willindividual gainindividualityinjusticeinvisibilityinvisible • involuntary acts • justice • keeping up appearances • lawlegallibertymagic • magic ring • moral dilemmamoralityopportunityownershipparablephilosophypiracyPlatopowerpower corrupts • ring • self-controlselfishness • shepherd • social responsibilitysuffering injusticeThe Republictheftunjustunjust power • virtue

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 JANUARY 2004

Formation of Society: Plato's Worthwhile Society

"Imagining their likely origins in the prehistorical past, Plato argued that societies are invariably formed for a particular purpose. Individual human beings are not self–sufficient; no one working alone can acquire all of the genuine necessities of life. In order to resolve this difficulty, we gather together into communities for the mutual achievement of our common goals. This succeeds because we can work more efficiently if each of us specializes in the practice of a specific craft: I make all of the shoes; you grow all of the vegetables; she does all of the carpentry; etc. Thus, Plato held that separation of functions and specialisation of labour are the keys to the establishment of a worthwhile society.The result of this original impulse is a society composed of many individuals, organised into distinct classes (clothiers, farmers, builders, etc.) according to the value of their role in providing some component part of the common good. But the smooth operation of the whole society will require some additional services that become necessary only because of the creation of the social organisation itself—the adjudication of disputes among members and the defense of the city against external attacks, for example. Therefore, carrying the principle of specialisation one step further, Plato proposed the establishment of an additional class of citizens, the guardians who are responsible for management of the society itself.In fact, Plato held that effective social life requires guardians of two distinct sorts: there must be both soldiers whose function is to defend the state against external enemies and to enforce its laws, and rulers who resolve disagreements among citizens and make decisions about public policy. The guardians collectively, then, are those individuals whose special craft is just the task of governance itself."
(Garth Kemerling)

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TAGS

Ancient GreeceClassicalcommunity • guardians • PlatosocietyThe Republicutopia

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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