The Simple Republic by Plato Book 9 Chapter 1

The Tyrannical Man Icon

September 9, 2015
Socrates

Last of all comes the tyrannical man.

We must determine the nature and number of the appetites first. Everyone has unnecessary pleasures and appetites which I think are unlawful.

But in some persons, they are controlled by the laws and by reason. The better desires prevail over them—either they are wholly banished or they become few and weak. While in the case of others they are more and are stronger.

The appetites are awake when the reasoning and human ruling power is asleep.

When gorged with meat or drink, the wild beast within us starts up. Having shaken off sleep, it goes forth to satisfy his desires. Men who have no shame and sense are ready to commit crimes.

But normally, men use reason against these appetites:

Socrates

He leaves this higher principle in pure abstraction when the lower and higher principle clash. He rouses up the third principle which is reason. He then rests and attains truth most nearly.

In all of us, even in good men, there is a lawless wild-beast nature. It peers out in sleep. The democratic man was supposed from his youth to have been trained under a miserly parent, who:

Then he got into the company of a more refined, licentious sort of people. He takes to all their wanton ways. He rushed into the opposite extreme from an abhorrence of his father’s meanness. At last, being a better man than his corruptors, he was drawn in both directions until he halted midway and lived in the indulgence in various pleasures.

In this way, the democrat was generated out of the oligarch. After many years, this man has a son, who is brought up in his father’s principles. The son is drawn into a lawless life. His seducers call it perfect liberty. His father and friends take part with his moderate desires. The opposite party assist the opposite ones.

Socrates

As soon as these dire magicians and tyrant-makers find that they are losing their hold on him, they implant in him a master passion, to be lord over his idle and spendthrift lusts—a sort of monstrous winged drone. His other lusts now let loose.

They come buzzing around him, nourishing the sting of desire which they implant in his drone-like nature. Then at last this lord of the soul, having Madness for the captain of his guard, breaks out into a frenzy.

If he finds in himself any good opinions or appetites forming, and there is still any sense of shame in him, to these better principles he puts an end. This why of old desire has been called a tyrant. A drunken man also has the spirit of a tyrant.

Socrates

A deranged man will fancy that he is able to rule over the gods. The tyrannical man comes into being when, either under the influence of nature, or habit, or both, he becomes drunken, lustful, passionate. There will be feasts, revellings, and courtezans. Desire is his lord.

It orders all the concerns of his soul. Every day, desires grow up and their demands are many. His revenues are soon spent. Then comes debt and the cutting down of his property. When he has nothing left, his desires will be crying out. He will discover whom he can defraud so that he may gratify them. He must have money, no matter how, if he is to escape horrid pains and pangs.

In himself, there was a succession of pleasures. The new got the better of the old and took away their rights. So he being younger, will claim to have more than his father and his mother.

If he has spent his own share of the property, he will take a slice of theirs. If his parents will not give way, then he will try first of all to cheat and deceive them. If he fails, then he will use force and plunder them. If the old couple fight for their own, will the creature feel any compunction at tyrannizing over them?

Adeimantus No, I should not feel at all comfortable about his parents.
Socrates

He would strike his mother because of some new-fangled love of a harlot. He would place her mother under the harlot’s authority at home. He would do the same to his old indispensable father, for the sake of some newly-found blooming young dispensable harlot.

A tyrannical son is a blessing to his father and mother. He first takes their property. When that fails, and pleasures swarm in the hive of his soul, he starts stealing from others. His old opinions as a child on good and evil are overthrown by the emancipated people who are now the body-guard of love and sharers of his empire.

In his democratic days, when he was still under the laws and to his father, these were only real in a dream. But now that he is under the dominion of love, he becomes always what he was rarely and what was in a dream only. He will commit the foulest murder, eat forbidden food, or be guilty of any other horrid act.

Socrates

Love is his tyrant. It lords over him lawlessly. It leads him on as a tyrant leads a State. It makes him do reckless deeds. He and his associates become mercenary soldiers of some other tyrant.

That tyrant may may want them for a war if:

If there is no war, they stay at home and do many little pieces of mischief in the city. They are the thieves, burglars, cut-purses, foot-pads, robbers of temples, man-stealers of the community. If they are able to speak, they turn informers, and bear false witness, and take bribes. All these things, in the misery and evil which they inflict upon a State, do not come near the tyrant.

Socrates

When they grow numerous and become conscious of their strength, assisted by the infatuation of the people, they choose the most tyrannical among themselves and create their own tyrant. If the people resist him, he beats them. He begins by beating his own father and mother.

He introduces his young retainers as the rulers and masters of his fatherland or motherland. This is the goal of his passions and desires. When such men are only private individuals and before they get power, this is their character. They associate entirely with their own flatterers or ready tools. If they want anything from anybody, they bow down before them. But when they have gained what they need, they know them no more. They are always either the masters or servants and never the friends of anybody. The tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship.

We call such men “treacherous”. The longer he lives, the more of a tyrant he becomes. The wickedest will also be the most miserable. He who has tyrannized longest and most, most continually and truly are miserable, even if this may not be the opinion of men in general.

Socrates

As State is to State in virtue and happiness, so is man in relation to man. How does the virtue of our original city under a king, and the city under a tyrant differ? They are the opposite extremes, for one is the very best and the other is the very worst.

We should not panic at the apparition of the tyrant. He is only a unit and may perhaps have a few retainers about him. A tyranny is the wretchedest form of government, and the rule of a king the happiest. The tyrannical nature dazzles people with pomp, like children. The judgment of the tyrant should be done by those who:

I assume that we ourselves are able and experienced judges. A city governed by a tyrant is enslaved. Yet here are freemen as well as masters in such a State.

Glaucon Yes, I see that there are a few.
Socrates

But the people are miserably degraded and enslaved. If the man is like the State, the same rule will prevail. His soul will be full of meanness and vulgarity. The best elements in him will be enslaved. The small ruling part will is also the worst and maddest. His soul is the soul of a a slave.

The State enslaved by a tyrant is incapable of acting voluntarily. It is poor and is the most miserable of States. Both the tyrannical State and the tyrannical man are always full of fear. The tyrannical soul must be always poor and insatiable. A tyrant in a fury of desires has this sort of misery.

Socrates

Rich people in cities have many slaves. The tyrant has more slaves.

From them you may form an idea of the tyrant’s condition, for they both have slaves.

The only difference is that they live securely and have nothing to apprehend from their servants because the whole city is leagued together for the protection of each individual.

But imagine a master of 50 slaves, together with his family and slaves, carried off by a god into the wilderness where there are no freemen to help him. He will be afraid that he and his family would be killed by his slaves. He must flatter them and promise them freedom and other things much against his will. This is the prison that binds the tyrant. He is full of fears and lusts. His soul is dainty and greedy. Yet he is never allowed to:

Socrates

He lives in his hole like a woman hidden in the house. He is jealous of other citizens who go out. The public tyrant is the most miserable of all. He has to be master of others when he is not master of himself. He is like a diseased or paralytic man compelled to pass life, not in retirement, but in fighting other men. The real tyrant is the real slave. He is obliged to:

He has desires which he is unable to satisfy. He has more wants than anyone and is truly poor. If you inspect his whole soul, all his life:

He grows worse from having power. He necessarily becomes more jealous, more faithless, more unjust, more friendless, more impious, than he was at first. He is the cherisher of every sort of vice which makes him supremely miserable. He makes everybody else as miserable as himself.

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