Annotated Bibliography for the five articles supporting Platos’s republic

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The Dialogues as Dramatic Rehearsal: Plato’s
Republic and the Moral Accounting Metaphor
Portland State University
IN JOHN DEWEY & MORAL IMAGINATION, Steven Fesmire blames “Plato’s
low estimation of imagination in tbe Republic and Ion” for tbe denigration
of imagination’s role in moral deliberation (6i). He argues tbat Jobn Dewey’s
dramatic rehearsal better integrates imagination into the process of moral
deliberation. His treatment of Plato represents a babit among pragmatists to
reduce Dewey’s reading of Plato to tbe polemics present in major works, sucb
as The Quest for Certainty. In fact, Plato was Dewey’s favorite philosopher, and
be claimed tbat “[n]otbing could be more belpful to present pbilosopbizing
tban a ‘Back to Plaro’ movement” (LW 5:154).’ Following tbe scbolarsbip of
Jobn Herman Randall and Henry Wolz reveals Plato as a moral artist enga^ged
in a project of social reconstruction wbo wrote tbe dialogues as dramatic rebearsals of particular bistorical and cultural problems, specifically Atbenian
begemony and Sophistic education. From tbis perspective. Republic Book
I dramatizes tbe inadequacy of tbe moral accounting metaphor critiqued by
George Lakoff and Mark Jobnson and experiments witb metapbors sympatbetic to Fesmire’s construal of moral imagination.
According to Fesmire, Dewey contends all inquiry requires imagination
and tbat moral deliberation demands attention to tbe aestbetic dimension of
imagination because of tbe affective nature of moral value. Tbis places Dewey
in company witb Adam Smitb and David Hume wbo accepted tbe role of
imagination and sentiment, and at odds witb Immanuel Kant and Plato wbo
suspected emotions and imagination as barriers to rational inquiry:
Imagination, on tbis view, is usually a trusty crafter of images but is
given to miscbief Tbus Kant’s suspicion. Imagination as reflective free
play is essential to aesthetic judgment, for Kant, but in morals it is too
self-indulgent. It may sap moral strength, usurping Reason and yielding
Volume 8, Number 2 Summet 2013 : pp. 26-35
©2013 by the Board of Trustees of che University of Illinois
SPENCER : Plato’s Republic and the Moral Accounting Metaphor
victory to Feeling. If a person “surrenders authority over himself, his
imagination has free play,” Kant claims. “He cannot discipline himself,
but his imagination carries him away by the laws of association; he yields
willingly to his senses, and, unable to curb them, he becomes their toy.”
Doing one’s duty, on Kant’s view, requires little imagination; therefore
“its cultivation is at best a luxury, at worst a danger.”
Despite eulogizing of imagination by Adam Smith and David Hume,
Enlightenment faculty psychology, following the lead of Plato’s low
estimation of imagination in the Republic and Ion, is responsible for
imagination’s being ignored even by those who urge that moral theories
must be psychologically plausible. As a limited capacity prone to frivolous fancy and opposed to reason, imagination has little relevance to
practical issues. So it can be dismissed altogether as a prescientific relic
or, transfigured by Romanticism, admired on a pedestal as a “godlike
power that enters into the world on the wings of intuition, free of the
taint of contingency and history.” (Fesmire 61-62)
Instead, Fesmire prefers Dewey’s concept of dramatic rehearsal because it
properly values imagination and better coheres with our experience of moral
deliberation. Rather than committing to a specific normative theory and always acting in accordance with it, Dewey argues that deliberation works best
when we actively use our imagination to rehearse and evaluate a variety of
responses and possible outcomes (70). Fesmire also references the four most
common modes of dramatic rehearsal that Dewey mentions in his 1900—1901
lectures on ethics, specifically dialogue, visualization of results, visualization of
their performance, and imagination of possible criticism (74). By consciously
recognizing the role of imagination in the process of deliberation and flexing
among the various phases and modes of rehearsal, Fesmire and Dewey believe
that we can reconstruct “frustrated habits” that perpetuate moral problems
and scenarios that seem intractable (78).
Fesmire suggests that the moral artist provides opportunities to practice
dramatic rehearsal through the creation of works of art that engage our imagination. He lists the characteristics of the successful moral artist as follows.
First, she must perceive “relations that otherwise go unnoticed.” Second, she
must create works that “transform cultural perceptions” through “an ongoing experiment with novel possibilities.” Third, she must coherently express
moral experience in a manner that presents “overall character rather than
blindly giving way to either custom or fleeting impulse,” thus “such acts become role models.” Fourth, she possesses “delicately refined skills [emphasis
added]” judged not by the “quantity of possibilities available to imagination.
but their fittedness to the situation for wise deliberation.” Finally, the moral
artist communicates with an audience by anticipating their reception of a work
in a way that “enables a dialectical interaction that gives point and focus to
art” (115-18).
At flrst blush, tne dialogues and Plato meet the criteria of both Dewey’s
four modes of dramatic rehearsal and Fesmire’s characteristics of the moral
artist. The dialogues use conversation as a means of exploring moral problems,
and Plato uses dramatic irony to highlight the consequences of specific moral
opinions as represented by the fate of recognizable interlocutors. His ability
to create works of art that continue to challenge cultural perceptions should
qualify Plato as a moral artist. Fesmire does highlight two points of continuity between Plato and Dewey. He suggests that the Statesman reveals Plato’s
awareness that rigid moral laws cannot keep up with the pace of constant
social change. This awareness parallels Dewey’s arguments in Human Nature
and Conduct that moral habits, like laws, emerge from human interaction
with our social environment and must adapt to changing social conditions
(17). Fesmire also concedes that Dewey and Plato agree on the intrinsic value
of justice, but distinguishes Dewey as conceiving “right action as cooperative
social interaction and inclusive of growth, not in terms of a harmonious soul
in which reason rules appetites” (99).
By contrast, the majority of Fesmire references to Plato are usually critical.
He acknowledges that Plato was the first to address the “moral power of art”
to “directly and literally contribute to the moral imagination and character,”
but he criticizes Plato’s understanding of this relationship as “psychologically
simplistic” and as the source of Socrates’s infamous arguments supporting
censorship in Books II and III of the Republic.^ Furthermore, Plato fails to
use art as a metaphor for moral experience. Fesmire cites George Lakoff and
Mark Johnson’s criticism of the “dominant moral accounting metaphor, in
which moral interactions are understood as business transactions” and he
agrees with their claim that Dewey provides a “wealth of alternative metaphors,” specifically “organic growth, evolutionary adaptation, scientific experimentation, technological innovation, and art (no).”‘
Lakoff and Johnson correctly condemn Western philosophy’s overdependence on the moral accounting metaphor. Furthermore, Fesmire provides a
much needed alternative to contemporary ethics by re-introducing Dewey’s
concept of dramatic rehearsal, but must Plato be a foil to contemporary
pragmatism or can we imagine a different relationship with the first author
of philosophy? Fesmire correctly diagnoses the denigration of imagination
as originating with Platonism, but this denigration originates from a literal
SPENCER : Plato’s Republic and the Moral Accounting Metaphor
analysis of the arguments presented by Socrates in the dialogues. It stems
from an inability to imagine Plato as an artist, rather than a theorist, and
Dewey struggled to overcome this lack of imagination throughout his entire
One of the first essays to examine Dewey’s complex reading of Plato is
John P. Anton’s “John Dewey and Ancient Philosophies.” Anton focuses on
three aspects of Dewey’s relation to Greek philosophy: the “polemic,” the
“historico-contextual,” and the “cumulative aspect” (477).” According to Anton, the “sustained historical analyses he presented in his Questfor Certainty
and Reconstruction in Philosophy are so dominated by a central philosophical
and ethical concern of his social pragmatism as to mislead the reader into
concluding that this is all he had to offer by way of understanding and appreciating the classical heritage.” Because Dewey’s most explicit commentary
on Greek philosophy attempts to overcome barriers to philosophical inquiry,
specifically the misapplication of ancient theories to contemporary problems, one is tempted to reduce Dewey’s criticism only to its polemic aspect.
Anton argues that a more accurate treatment of Dewey’s approach accepts
his admonishment of dualism and leisure class theory, without ignoring his
“avowed sympathy with Plato” as a fellow social reformer (477-79).
On one hand, Dewey was impressed by the degree of social awareness
expressed in the dialogues and Plato’s commitment to and aptitude for social
reform. On the other hand, Dewey was cautious and skeptical of “the static
features he read into Plato’s ideals,” what one might refer to as the Plato of
Platonism. Anton points out other areas of kinship between Dewey and
Plato, specifically seeing “art as imitation,” seeing “intelligence as a method
rather than a collection of finished outcomes,” and seeing “philosophy in a
wider meaning of a critique of institutions and a fundamental way of hfe.”
Thus, while key differences exist, specifically “on issues of metaphysics, ethics, logic, or aesthetics,” the two philosophers are united by their desire for
social reform and similar temperament (487—91).
Ultimately, Anton’s assessment of Dewey’s approach to Greek philosophy
is unsympathetic. He claims that while Dewey had the potential to offer a
fruitful pragmatic analysis of ancient thought, his obsession with contemporary problems prevented him from developing an accurate picture of classical
philosophy. Essentially, the polemic aspect of Dewey’s approach hinders his
attempts to produce a valid historico-cultural account of ancient thought and
obscures the continuity between Plato and Dewey (Anton 498—99). Frederick M. Anderson offers a more charitable assessment when he suggests that
Dewey uses polemics so that ancient philosophy might disclose itself in its
original richness free of received, modern interpretations. He argues that Dewey sees the problems of Greek philosophy as emerging from specific historicoctiltural influences and that modern philosophers misinterpreted as necessary
and intractable. Dewey believed the topics discussed by the ancients are not
perennial; they are reflections of specific human concerns embodied within
the fabric of Athenian intellectual culture (Anderson 87-88). In summation,
both Anton and Anderson agree that Dewey sees the authentic Plato as an
expression of the cultural need for reform.
A more useful middle view can be distilled from Anton’s and Anderson’s
commentaries. The polemics against the Greeks in Dewey’s major works
border on the hyperbolic because he wanted to dislodge interpretations of
Plato that overemphasized metaphysical dualisms and leisure class values as
necessary to present inquiry. Using Dewey’s own words, a convenient label
for this interpretation would be Plato as the “original university professor,”
however, he preferred the “dramatic, restless, cooperatively inquiring Plato of
the Dialogues, trying one mode of attack after another to see what it might
yield . . . the Plato whose highest flights of metaphysics always terminated
with a social and practical turn” (LW 5:155). Thus, the dramatic Plato uses the
drama of the dialogues to experiment with different lines of inquiry in relation to specific practical problems, whereas Professor Plato invents abstract
theories relevant to perennial, yet imagined philosophical problems.
Sadly, Dewey never fully articulated his interpretation of the dramatic
Plato. He wrote only two essays that provided extended commentaries on
the dialogues. “The Ethics of Democracy” (1888) rebuts Sir Henry Maine’s
Platoesque critique of democracy as a “numerical aggregate” and “The Socratic Dialogues of Plato” (1925) presents an interesting, but quirky treatment of the Socratic problem. Both essays demonstrate Dewey’s affinity
for Plato, but neither presents a developed hermeneutical approach to the
dialogues for which Dewey longs. He delivers his final word on the matter in
“Experience, Knowledge, and Value: A Rejoinder” (1939) when he states in
response to John Herman Randall’s “Dewey’s Interpretation of the History
of Philosophy” that “I believe the factors of the existing cultural situation
. . . are such that philosophical theories which in effect, . . . are products
of pre-scientific and pre-technological, dominantly leisure class conditions,
are now as obstructive as they are unnecessary” (LW 14:11) Given the phase
of his career, Dewey probably decided to focus on more pressing concerns
rather than fully articulate his affinity for Plato, and instead delivered a
final warning against the spectator theory of knowledge, but Dewey does
not directly dispute Randall’s claim that the history of philosophy can be
SPENCER : Plato’s Republic and the Moral Accounting Metaphor
used instrumentally “as an arsenal, or as a warning” (Randall, Philosophy
offohn Dewey 79).
In Plato: Dramatist of the Life of Reason, Randall develops tbe tbree cbaracteristics of tbe dramatic Plato (drama, experiment, and practice) tbat Dewey
outlines. Randall contends tbat Plato is not a bistorical pbilosopber, but “a
poet and a dramatist,” wbicb be explains as follows: “Plato is a pbilosopber
because be is a poet. True pbilosopby is poetry—poetic insigbt and vision,
tbe imaginative enbancement of life.” In tbe dialogues, Plato dramatically
depicts tbe “qualities of man’s tbinking, tbe play and conflict of bis ideas, tbe
spectacle of bis mind” as embodied in tbe “discourse of men” or “tbe drama
of tbe Life of Reason.” Tbe dialogues do not defend or analyze pbilosopbical
tbeories. Tbey convert individuals to tbe pbilosopbical life (Randall, Plato:
Tbe dialogues are not meant to be an accurate bistorical snapsbot of
ancient Greece, but a presentation of “Greece in Plato’s own perspective,
Greece as be understood it, bow Greece and Greek culture looked to bim”
(Randall, Plato: Dramatist •^6-46). Randall prefers to speak in terms of “Tbe
Greek Heritage of Plato,” tbat is, tbe patterns of tbougbts and values tbat be
inberited from Greek culture, early Greek pbilosopbers, tbe Sophists, Socrates,
and Plato’s audience. Randall believes tbat Plato’s use of drama captures tbis
combination of curiosity and bumanism to recruit nom as a means of orienting buman nature toward tbe Good Life. Drama allows Plato to express
bow tbese tbemes sbape tbe life of reason. Tbus, “tbe dialogues emerge, not
as programs of action, but as dramatic portrayals of tbe life of tbe mind—of
tbe follies, contradictions, entbusiasms, and greatness of buman tbinking,
as bebeld by a detacbed and ironic intelligence—by nous. Dramatic Reason”
(Randall, Plato: Dramatist 54). Plato bopes to impart tbe value of tbe pbilosopbical life and to inspire bis audience to participate in it so tbat tbey migbt
improve tbemselves in tbe bope of finding fulfillment. Tbe dialogues are not
presentations of pbilosopbical tbeories; tbey are invitations to engage in tbe
betterment of bumanity tbrougb inquiry and conversation.
Randall continues by explaining bow Plato uses drama to respond to tbe
social and cultural cballenges of tbe Periclean Age (Randall, Plato: Dramatist 58-65). During tbe century preceding Plato’s career, Atbens experienced
optimism in tbe form of imperial expansion and begemony. Tbis expansion
enabled social mobility, and tbe Sophists met tbe aristocracy’s desire to maintain power and the need of tbe new rieb to access greater political privileges
by teacbing arete or success. Wbile some of tbe original Sopbists advocated
“bigb ideals” like “professional standards” or tbe improvement of “social con-
dirions,” they quickly became “commercialized” and began to teach methods
of gaining political advantage. Randall argues that Plato and Socrates saw the
cynicism underneath this veneer of careerism and start teaching and writing as
a response to the Sophists (Randall, Plato: Dramatist 81-84). Randall contrasts
them with Socrates. He suggests that Socrates’s actual teachings were broader
than a set of dogmas and that his purpose for engaging in philosophy was
not to know the Good in a systematic way.^ Socrates teaches his students how
to philosophize; he does not teach a philosophy. He postulates the Forms and
the Good for the purpose of revealing to his students the bias and prejudices
that prevent them from thinking better about the practical challenges they
face. Students gain excellence, areté, not through skillful rhetoric or seeking
personal advantage, but through a love of wisdom and the practice of critical
reflection—through imitating the life that Socrates leads, loving wisdom for
its own sake—rather than teaching it for profit.
Plato uses the character of Socrates dramatically to demonstrate how
his readers can benefit from philosophical reflection and to initiate critical
reflection within the reader. Henry Wolz elaborates on Randall’s conception
of the dialogues as philosophical drama. Wolz sees two phases at work in the
dialogues: the destructive phase in which the interlocutor becomes aware
of his ignorance, w.iich then initiates the constructive phase of inquiry that
gives birth to new insights. In both phases, Socrates avoids presenting his
own views because doing so would undermine his students’ attempts at philosophy. Thus, the goal of the Socratic Method is to empower the student
to engage in philosophy, and by dramatizing philosophical inquiry, Plato’s
dialogues empower his readers to engage in philosophy. Wolz cites Crito as an
example of how the dialogues stimulate reflection rather than indoctrination.
It presents the philosophical conflict between “radical freedom and unconditional submission” that “reside in the same mind [Socrates]” (Wolz 238—48).”
Good citizenship requires the ability to negotiate these two demands and by
depicting their conflict within the character of Socrates; rather than in separate characters, the reader witnesses a single character dramatically rehearse
the problem. By extension, the drama of the situation inspires the reader to
think critically about the place of citizenship between radical freedom and
submission. Thus, dialogues allow Plato to dramatize moral deliberation
within a practical context. He teaches readers how to perceive their situations
and imagine multiple solutions in response to a particular problem. Socrates
might recommend a specific solution, but Plato depicts a variety of strategies
and allows the reader to evaluate all of them critically. He does not present
them dogmatically
SPENCER : Plato’s Republic and the Moral Accounting Metaphor
In fact. Republic Book I dramatically critiques the dominance of the
moral accounting metaphor. Plato sets the dialogue at the height of Athens’s
imperial hegemony in the city of Piraeus, the base of the commercial and
military navy. The subsequent conversation occurs at the home of Cephalus, a foreigner from Syracuse who became one of …
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