Wolf-become-dog

The first part of Socrates’s second city are the guardians, who are those allowed to use violence in support of the laws of the city. Since they use violence in response to their confrontation with evil and so there is some low-hanging fruit to pick in describing them: they need to be physically imposing, they can’t be gentle or overly reflective, they can’t be the sorts of persons who are overly bothered by evils in the world since they will spend much of their day confronting the worst parts of the city. The first novel and striking claim Socrates makes about the guardian is that he has to be philosophic in the way that dogs are philosophic.

Dogs exist because some wolves figured out the value of associating with humans and the humans in turn saw the value of a wolf who had figured this out. In other words, a wolf is an ambivalent species capable of recognizing the value of reason or of being blind to this and simply running with the pack. The wolf needs a leader and will find it either in reason or in the strongest beast like itself. Those that were philo-rational just are dogs, all the other wolves look on humans as just another slow-moving sack of meat or a gun-toting god to be avoided.

Socrates’s point in speaking about guardians is to speak about the soul, and the point seems to be that there is a part of the soul that must be deputized to use violence. This part needs to be imposing and resistant to its confrontations with evil, that is, it needs to face the beast and not be kept up at night by its ugliness. The part that faces this down is the wolf-become-dog or the beast that both sees the value of reason and who has been taken in by a reasoning power that sees the value of such a partner.

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