Grey Area

After reading the dialogue from  Plato’s Republic, I have found myself disagreeing with certain aspects of Socrates’ arguments. Particularly, Socrates makes claims about people that are black and white, but in reality people tend to exist in the grey area.

I first noticed myself disagreeing with Socrates when was he is theorizing his perfect city in Republic.  He stated that, “… if the agreement you and the rest of us made when we were founding the city was a good one, for surely we agreed, if you remember, that it’s impossible for a single person to practice many crafts or professions well” (page 49, 374a). I disagree with this claim because people are more than capable of practicing different crafts and excelling in those fields. For example, although I am studying chemistry here at Emory, I also have a great fondness for art. I paint both watercolor and multimedia pieces, and have refined my skills over the years. Socrates argues that practicing art would detract from my studies of chemistry, but  I propose the opposite argument. If I did not have art in my life, I would grow bored and unhappy constantly spending all my time focused on just chemistry alone. By having varying passions in my life, I feel more complete as a person and have more drive to pursue my different interests.

Thus, Socrates statement about only being able to excel in one field is difficult to agree with, because having a wide variety of interests is what keeps people happy and engaged. He is making a black and white argument that members of a particular society serve a certain function due to their natural aptitude. They are either good at one thing or they are not, with little room for in between. Anywhere you look here at Emory you will find contradictions to this statement. I have met so many brilliant people at Emory pursuing a double major in completely different areas of study, and succeeding in both fields. People are, in fact, capable of pursuing many interests and it helps keep their minds sharp and gives them the ability form connections between various subjects. Life with one goal or interest would become mundane and monotonous, causing this perfect city Socrates is proposing to be a city full of unhappy, unengaged citizens.

One response to “Grey Area

  1. I wholehearted agree with your argument regarding Socrates’ idea of black and white. As an athlete here at Emory, I feel like I can personally relate to your situation because I also feel like I am more than just an athlete. For example, I’m interested in the arts as well, particularly music, and I create my instrumentals. If I were to solely designate basketball as my one skill, I would never be able to explore my musical talents. As humans, we would be nothing but stagnate in society if we decided to adhere to Socrates’ philosophy concerning black and white instead of exploring the great range of grey areas in-between. I like how you added the element of being happier with the flexibility to veer outside of one particular skill set. It appears that Socrates sees fulfilling a certain duty or task that you were born to perform as much more practical and beneficial than developing multiple talents outside of that one thing. I also disagree with his argument here and I feel that many of his philosophical statements are meant to serve a purpose that only benefits the present city he envisions, instead of emphasizing on growth in many realms in order to truly create a progressive city that expands beyond its years.

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