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Stickied postModerator of r/philosophy

Welcome to this week's Open Discussion Thread. This thread is a place for posts/comments which are related to philosophy but wouldn't necessarily meet our posting rules (especially PR2). For example, these threads are great places for:

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(I've removed the dialectical lines (and a few redundant lines) to make for easier and faster reading. If you wish, just imagine Socrates' interlocutor vigorously agreeing with every question he asks.)

8.562 "Come then, tell me, dear friend, how tyranny arises. That it is an outgrowth of democracy is fairly plain. Is it, then, in a sense, in the same way in which democracy arises out of oligarchy that tyranny arises from democracy? The good that they proposed to themselves and that was the cause of the establishment of oligarchy—it was wealth, was it not?”

“Well, then, the insatiate lust for wealth and the neglect of everything else for the sake of money-making was the cause of oligarchy's undoing. And is not the avidity of democracy for that which is its definition and criterion of good the thing which dissolves it too? And this is Liberty, for you may hear it said that this is best managed in a democratic city, and for this reason that is the only city in which a man of free spirit will care to live. Then, is it not the excess and greed of Liberty and the neglect of all other things that revolutionizes this constitution too and prepares the way for the necessity of a dictatorship?”

“When a democratic city athirst for liberty gets bad cupbearers for its leaders and is intoxicated by drinking too deep of that unmixed wine, and then, if its so-called governors are not extremely mild and gentle with it and do not dispense the liberty unstintedly, it chastises them and accuses them of being accursed oligarchs.”

“But those who obey the rulers it reviles as willing slaves and men of naught, but it commends and honors in public and private rulers who resemble subjects and subjects who are like rulers. Is it not inevitable that in such a state the spirit of liberty should go to all lengths? And this anarchical temper, my friend, must penetrate into private homes and finally enter into the very animals.”

“The father habitually tries to resemble the child and is afraid of his sons, and the son likens himself to the father and feels no awe or fear of his parents. And the resident alien feels himself equal to the citizen and the citizen to him, and the foreigner likewise. The teacher in such case fears and fawns upon the pupils, and the pupils pay no heed to the teacher or to their overseers either. And in general the young ape their elders and vie with them in speech and action, while the old, accommodating themselves to the young, are full of pleasantry and graciousness, imitating the young for fear they may be thought disagreeable and authoritative.”

“And the climax of popular liberty, my friend, is attained in such a city when the purchased slaves, male and female, are no less free than the owners who paid for them. And I almost forgot to mention the spirit of freedom and equal rights in the relation of men to women and women to men.”

“Shall we not, then, in Aeschylean phrase, say 'whatever rises to our lips’?. Without experience of it no one would believe how much freer the very beasts subject to men are in such a city than elsewhere...And so all things everywhere are just bursting with the spirit of liberty...And do you note that the sum total of all these items when footed up is that they render the souls of the citizens so sensitive that they chafe at the slightest suggestion of servitude and will not endure it? For you are aware that they finally pay no heed even to the laws written or unwritten, so that forsooth they may have no master anywhere over them.”

“This, then, my friend, is the fine and vigorous root from which tyranny grows, in my opinion. But what next? The same malady, that, arising in oligarchy, destroyed it, this more widely diffused and more violent as a result of this licence, enslaves democracy. And in truth, any excess is wont to bring about a corresponding reaction to the opposite in the seasons, in plants, in animal bodies, and most especially in political societies. And so the probable outcome of too much freedom is only too much slavery in the individual and the state. Probably, then, tyranny develops out of no other constitution than democracy—from the height of liberty, I take it, the fiercest extreme of servitude.”

"But what identical malady arising in democracy as well as in oligarchy enslaves it? The class of idle and spendthrift men, the most enterprising and vigorous portion being leaders and the less manly spirits followers. We were likening them to drones, some equipped with stings and others stingless. These two kinds, then when they arise in any state, create a disturbance like that produced in the body by phlegm and gall. And so a good physician and lawgiver must be on his guard from afar against the two kinds, like a prudent apiarist, first and chiefly to prevent their springing up, but if they do arise to have them as quickly as may be cut out, cells and all.”

(Socrates then discusses the class divisions that lead to the rise of tyranny before continuining)

"And is it not always the way of the people to put forward one man as its special champion and protector and cherish and magnify him? This, then, is plain, that when a tyrant arises he sprouts from a protectorate root and from nothing else...And is it not true that in like manner a leader of the people who, getting control of a docile mob, does not withhold his hand from the shedding of tribal blood, but by the customary unjust accusations brings a citizen into court and assassinates him, blotting out a human life, and with unhallowed tongue and lips that have tasted kindred blood, banishes and slays and hints at the abolition of debts and the partition of lands—is it not the inevitable consequence and a decree of fate that such a one be either slain by his enemies or become a tyrant and be transformed from a man into a wolf?.. May it not happen that he is driven into exile and, being restored in defiance of his enemies, returns a finished tyrant? And if they are unable to expel him or bring about his death by calumniating him to the people, they plot to assassinate him by stealth.”

“And thereupon those who have reached this stage devise that famous petition of the tyrant—to ask from the people a bodyguard to make their city safe for the friend of democracy. And the people grant it, I suppose, fearing for him but unconcerned for themselves. Then at the start and in the first days does he not smile upon all men and greet everybody he meets and deny that he is a tyrant, and promise many things in private and public, and having freed men from debts, and distributed lands to the people and his own associates, he affects a gracious and gentle manner to all?

"But when, I suppose, he has come to terms with some of his exiled enemies and has got others destroyed and is no longer disturbed by them, in the first place he is always stirring up some war so that the people may be in need of a leader. And also that being impoverished by war-taxes they may have to devote themselves to their daily business and be less likely to plot against him? And if, I presume, he suspects that there are free spirits who will not suffer his domination, his further object is to find pretexts for destroying them by exposing them to the enemy? From all these motives a tyrant is compelled to be always provoking wars?

(Socrates then goes on to describe how the tyrant must purge friend and foe as they begin to plot against him, then hires mercenaries for his bodyguard and then takes slaves from the citizens and emancipates them and enlists them in his bodyguard etc. Socrates then discusses the upbringing of the tyrant in 571 onwards.)

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