Colonialism and Plato
Thanks to Victor for some inspiration on how to start this discussion thread. This begins with Glaucon and Socrates discussing the idea of justice and Socrates moving toward looking at how it can be judged in a large state, so that this can be shrunk down to see how it might occur in an individual. Victor pointed out how Plato here is using the growth of a country and its accompanying need for more resources to justify the invasion of nearby countries and the need for an army:
Socrates: And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?
Glaucon: Quite true.
S: Then a slice of our neighbours’ land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?
G: That, Socrates, will be inevitable.
S: And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?
G: Most certainly, he replied.
S: Then without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as public.
S: And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlargement will be nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things and persons whom we were describing above.
G: Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?
S: No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was acknowledged by all of us when we were framing the State: the principle, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practise many arts with success.
G: Very true, he said.
S: But is not war an art?
(Aristotle; Plato (2009-01-25). The Works of Plato & Aristotle – 35 Works (Kindle Locations 17003-17012). C&C Web Press. Kindle Edition.)
Victor described this perspective would generate a cold-war like tension, and could provoke a discussion on trade, post-colonialism, development and the role of the military. Whilst viewing the actions in themselves as unjust Victor did seem to suggest that the honesty of Plato’s perspective is at least preferable to making up “fake chemical-weapon carrying lorries to justify it”.
My instant reaction to all of the above is a series of questions that arise that may generate debate on this topic:
- Will there ever be a time when the field of politics can see beyond humans competing over resources?
- Is the military the only or best tool for dominating other states or spheres of influence in the modern day?
- Does Plato believe even in his time that continual expansion is a must for states to survive?
Any ideas, further questions or observations raised by any of this are welcome….