The city and philosophy

Essay by bjorketreerCollege, UndergraduateA, February 2004

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To begin the requested examination of the relationship between philosophy and the city, the conditions that must pertain for each concept to appear ought first be recognized and defined. The two most evident conditions that are necessary for the existence of the city are those of plurality and structure, or ordering principles. Based upon these two requirements is evident that the city is the condition that must be present for philosophy to appear, and it too embodies the two prerequisites of the city.

For a city to exist it must first and foremost contain more that a sole citizen, just as in a philosophic dialogue there must be more than an individual or the end result would be a monologue. The best example of this is the personification of the laws of Athens in Crito; Plato utilizes this technique to continue using the dialectic to synthesize a new understanding of his role in relation to the city (Crito 50c-51b and 52b-54d).

In Crito, Socrates speaks of the fact that he has very seldom left the city of his birth, and that exile would be no different than death because either would separate him from Athens (Crito 52b). There is a sense conveyed in his words that the city serves not only as location in which to live but provides a metaphysical and philosophical foundation. In Socrates' philosophical teachings he could not exist without the city. So it should not be surprising if in the discourses of Socrates one finds a common set of political themes and issues revolving around Athens and her people and government. In fact, in works such as The Republic, the city becomes not only a setting in which philosophy and human identity can be discussed, but also a metaphor for the very...