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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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You may recall that Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War. It was victorious in part because of its economic frugality, its intense discipline in the martial arts, and its internal loyalty and courage. Unlike democratic Athens, Sparta was ruled by a military elite who did not allow its citizens to accumulate wealth or to engage in unpatriotic activities. Thus Plato's timocratic state is not a bad place. The soldier-rulers like wealth, but they keep it in bounds and use it for state purposes. They are watchdogs of the state. You've heard of the Spartan life (one marked by thrift, simplicity self- discipline, courage). That's what Plato means by a timocracy.

Also, that's what he means by the timocratic man. The constitution of the soul that corresponds to the timocratic state is Spartan through and through. The timocratic man has the marvelous attributes of loyalty, physical prowess, courage, and pride. But he is marred by being overly aggressive, secretly lustful for physical comforts, harsh toward underlings, fond of popular tunes, and not very articulate. The worst fault in the timocratic soul is the absence of reason as its ruler. The emotions rule. And, Socrates says, wisdom is not a part of the timocratic soul because physical training has been overemphasized.



How did the timocratic man come about? The timocratic youth, Socrates says, was probably the son of a good man living in a badly governed state. His father refused to get involved in the political intrigues and deceits of the state. (Could this man be Socrates who left a wife and children to pursue philosophy in the streets of Athens?) His mother, however, constantly quarreled with his father, telling the father that he should go after wealth and political power. The father disregarded his wife, ignored his son, and sought only his own counsel. In the meantime the mother raised the boy who decided to become a better man, in his mother's eyes, than his father. When the timocratic youth grew up, he sought honor, praise, and modest wealth. He became the timocratic man.

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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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