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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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PHYSICAL TRAINING (403c-412b)

Because guardians are the state's warriors and protectors, physical training (gymnastics) is an essential part of their education. Gymnastics, however, is not as important to Socrates as one might expect. Victory in battle most certainly requires physically strong soldiers who can endure continual stresses and strains. But Socrates believes that the secret to having a sound body is having a sound mind and a good soul. The soldier who is well trained in "music" will be physically healthy because he will not be ruled by unnecessary appetites and passions-gluttony, greed, lust, and the like-that lead to poor health.

NOTE: Plato's lack of emphasis on physical training and his concentration on moral training results from the need to educate guardians to oppose the appetitive part of the soul (represented, as you will shortly see, by the lower class, the producers). Guardians must be ruled by the rational part of the soul. The problem of overwhelming appetites was generated by the movement from the city of pigs to the inflamed city. In the city of pigs appetites did not need to be controlled; there was health and harmony in the soul and state. But in the inflamed city the appetites, if left unchecked, tend to rule and the only antidote is to educate people to have good characters-to be reasonable, courageous, and moderate. People with healthy souls take care of their bodies.

For Socrates, physical training complements musical training, but he sees no need to prescribe a program of physical fitness for the guardians. Instead, he says a few words against drunkenness and too many sweets. Then he launches into a long digression on the functions of doctors and judges in the just society.



The doctor's role in the guardians' education seems to be an appropriate topic for a discussion on physical fitness. But why does Socrates compare doctors to judges?

Socrates does not have many good things to say about doctors and judges. He views their presence in a city as shameful. Doctors and judges, he says, are needed for the same reason-to deal with problems generated by inflamed desires. People who disrupt the lives of others go before judges; people who disrupt their own bodies' balance go to doctors. People should arrange their lives so that medicine and courts are not needed.

To ensure such a healthy arrangement of the soul, guardians must be trained in and exposed to only the simplest (thus, pure) forms of gymnastics and music. In their early training, they are to know no evil in body or soul. Their education, therefore, is to be highly controlled and extremely rigid. But who will control the guardians?

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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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