At this time last year, I was struggling to complete my college applications. I was was prompted to ask myself: what was I good at? What should I apply myself to? What would be my role in society? I didn’t know what to respond.
Socrates, on the other hand, has an answer these questions with an theory about what people should be doing with their lives. He allegedly said “we aren’t all born alike, but each of us differs somewhat in nature from the others, one being suited to one task, another to another” (Republic, 70b). To supplement, he continues with the idea that “more plentiful and better-quality goods are more easily produced if each person does one thing for which he is naturally suited” (Republic, 70c).
I can see examples in my own life that support this idea. My friends who did well in math and science enrolled in engineering schools and my artsy friends are studying to complete fine arts degrees and become graphic designers.
Socrate’s theory edges on an ideological and utopian view of society, however. His idea is that whenever where is a need for a job to be done, someone will fill in the occupation. If a farmer exists, then there must be a person who makes his equipment, another person to sell his produce, another person to buy his produce, and so on. Based on economic supply and demand, it is generally true that someone will always be available for the job.
The flaw with this theory, is that it assumes that everyone will have jobs and natural talents that fit perfectly, as if puzzle pieces, into the grand scheme of the society. However, it’s unlikely that this will actually play out as nicely as it is theorized to be. There are many people who are very talented in sports, yet only so many can go on to become professional athletes. A lot of promising politicians vie for presidency, yet there can only be one president. There are a lot of people who don’t make it to the job that they’re “naturally” suited for.
It would be nice if everything worked out the way Socrates envisions it would, but the reality is that it is easier said than done.