Gratification of sense impulses forms a common part of all biological lives. While in animals, these are guided by instincts, in human beings, it is incumbent upon his will and reasoning powers of faculty to control and creatively direct his impulses. Now, human beings are not endowed with this will and a sense of discernment apriori from birth but these have to be developed over years through practice and proper education. The good and the evil exist within each of us and the mastery of self requires mastery of the weaker self by the other.
Children, women and other members who have not yet learnt to identify and control their multitude of desires can not be expected to gain this mastery of self and hence they constitute the inferior class. One who is not able to keep his senses under control and is always dissatisfied will always be in a state of imbablance and in turn create imbalance in society. Temperance is thus necessary to rein one’s impulses and not let these impulses become masters of one’s self. The chapter deals with the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance and justice.
Having established an ideal state, these four virtues establish the layers of foundation on which such an edifice is ercted. The passage is actually a hinge point because it depends on the two virtues mentioned earlier and aslo provides a hinge point to the virtue of justice that follows later. The virtue of temperance is a little abstruse because it connects the other virtues. Subjugating one’s impulses and desires to moderation constitutes temperance. A temperate man is said to have gained mastery over self.
It is through temperance and moderation, that one is ths able to control the desires and pleasures and not allow them to control the self. If spirit provides the energy to drive the soul, temperance is what keeps the desires in rein. By moderation or excercising self-control over one’s desires, one can gain mastery over the self. When this analogy is extended to the city or state, one must devise a means of self-regulation. Only when it is able to do so, can there be harmony. A cooperation between diffrernt classes in the society is thus essential.
This is possible only when they approve of the functions of each class and their wn role in it. The state or the city will thus be called a master of itself when it functions smoothly in a self regulating manner. The ruler class must rule wisely in accord with the virtue of wisdom and the ruled must agree in accord to serve this good and be ruled in accordance with the virtue of this wisdom. When both the ruled and the ruler thus function in accord, the state is said to have imbibed the virtue of temperance.
Temperance is also needed so that the ruled recognise their role in the state and do not ambitiously aspire to be in the ruler’s position. Each class of a society has a function to fulfill and it is imperative through temperance that they fulfill it to the best of their ability. Within the context of society and state, temperance can thus be described as a harmonious coexistence of different classes. Under this, the higher or the superior govern the masses with the willing consent of the latter.
It can be noticed quite clearly with the mentioned passage in the context of whole text that the method of questioning applied is a mild debate. The systematic enquiry of the constituents of an ideal state that leads to the current passage is thus akin to building of an edifice where one aspect precedes from the other and in turn influences the one coming after. Having dicovered two of the ealier virtues of an ideal state, the virtue of temperance is thus like building upon the other two virtues and laying the foundation for the virtue of justice.
The Socratic method of enquiry in the text is thus to first establish a general questioning and then dissect each question to reveal the intricacies of thoughts. A process of succesion of ideas is thus visible as after having determined the virtues of wisdom and courage, the third virtue of temperance follows as if naturally fitting and completing them. In the text therfore, the ideal state is perceived not as a haphazard collection of entities but a synergistic combination of it’s elemnts.
The ideal state is actually an ideal being that must posess certain virtues. As these virtues are apllicable to an evolved being, so are these applicable to an ideal state, which consists of various classes of people functioning as a single entity in unison and cooperation with each other. The four cardinal virtues apply as much to the state as a whole as they do recursuvely to every class of individual comprising the state. The ideas presented and correlated in the passage derive from the permanent essence or virtues of righteous living imbibed in the soul.
These ideas are, in my opinion, as modern and applicable in these modern times as they were when they were first published because they are not time based virtues. The ideas presented herin apply to existence as a whole and are not bound by any time period or an age or an era. They are in conformity with a man’s evolutionary need in consonance with nature and not meant to gratify his whimsical desires and irrational impulses. Human beings and their exitence in society has a basic underlying unchangeable structure and the four cardinal virtues are the foundations of it.
These four virtues are thus hinges which support each other. They are the foundation for the succeding and a necessary condition for each preceding virtue. One should display courage for what he believes to be right. The right is always established by wisdom. The right for one person must not interfere with another’s right and the society at large. Hence temperance becomes necessary. Justice provides the overall harmony in having catered to all the classes with a peaceful coexistence. References