Revised Response Paper 3

Long before More’s time, Socrates conceptualized Kallipolis as an ideal city. But associating Kallipolis with More’s concept of utopia is an anachronistic comparison, albeit an interesting one. In other words, More’s implication that a perfect place is no place at all suggests that Kallipolis must be a perfect and impossible concept. A more detailed investigation of Kallipolis and its philosopher-king will extract such parallels.

Kallipolis is structured with the virtues of a city (wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance) and its citizens are reared with purpose of upholding such virtues. Both facets, presence of virtues and collective purpose, reflect facets of More’s Utopia. However, these utopian premises are dependent on the existence of a philosopher-king, which is an impossible ruler in practice, according to Socrates himself: “until philosophers rule as kings in their cities… the same constitution we have now described in our discussion will never be born” (473d). In effect, Socrates suggests a paradoxical city. Interestingly enough, More’s Utopia is built on the same paradoxical foundation of being a perfect yet impossible place, too.

Kallipolis is introduced as a means of discovering how the virtue of justice presents itself in a city (369a). Socrates and the other participants in The Republic understand virtue as arête, which denotes excellence in all things. The presence of virtues in the city of Kallipolis would therefore classify the society as a utopia. Socrates believes that virtues must exist in the city for it to be “correctly founded” and “completely good” (427e5-10). Kallipolis is intended to be a completely good city, but without the virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, its being is not completely good. All of these virtues, however, are a function of collective acceptance by the different classes.
In founding a city of virtues, Socrates and Glaucon arrive at the conclusion that Kallipolis must be guarded by individuals whose nature is a combination of philosophy, spirit, speed, and strength (376d5). In order to have this class of ideal citizens, an institution of education and selection exists in Kallipolis. This form of selective breeding allows for the existence of ideal guardian citizens, which in turn strengthens the virtue of the city. The guardians reflect the microcosm for desirable behavior in Kallipolis. But they are given a structured rearing for that purpose. By extension, it should be noted that the desires of individual citizens still exist in Kallipolis. These desires corrode a utopian society’s emphasis on collective behavior, because they are inherently individual. But Socrates suggests that individualism is supplanted by the rulers of Kallipolis, which he later explains to be the philosopher-kings.

To nullify this existential threat of individual desires, the rulers of Kallipolis harmonize them (451c-461e): sexual desires are planned by the city in the form of a lottery; the children of guardians are reared by state institutions, not the guardians; private desires are similarly managed for the masses. The rearing of citizens in Kallipolis allows for it to be a utopian society, because it helps maintain the collective nature of Kallipolis. However, this mechanism could not exist without a philosopher-king, an implausible figure.

Taking into consideration the socialization of virtues and rearing within the city, Kallipolis qualifies as a good place indeed, according to More’s definition of a utopia. However, to be characteristically utopian, Kallipolis must also be no place, or unattainable. Likewise, there must be evidence of logic that exists within the conceptual rationale behind Kallipolis that serves to undermine the city itself. For example, Raphael Hythloday speaks of a better place that cannot be reached by others. He is the unverifiable prophet, or, as More puts it, a talker of nonsense.
What this investigation has thus come to, is a comparison between Raphael Hythloday and Socrates. Although Socrates is by no means a figure of nonsense, many of his concepts are rooted in paradoxical logic. The most implicating one is of course how the philosopher-king completes the ideal city of Kallipolis. The exact importance of the philosopher-king’s role in sustaining the city should not be overlooked, because it reveals the utopian nature of Kallipolis.

Virtues in the city and the rearing of its citizens are examples of why Kallipolis is an ideal city. These ideal facets of the city are wholly dependent on the institutions of the state, however, and only a philosopher-king can bring about these structural changes. Thus, the philosopher-king serves as the social glue to Kallipolis. In effect, he holds the ideal city together, or makes it utopian. But Socrates himself admits that philosopher-kings will never be accepted as rulers. Therefore, the good city of Kallipolis cannot exist, given how the philosopher-king makes the city ideal. Likewise, Kallipolis is an impossible city. This is indeed the true definition of a utopian society according to More.

Works Cited

More, Thomas. 2001. Utopia. 2nd. Translated by Clarence H. Miller. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Plato. 380 BCE. Republic. Translated by C.D.C. Reeve. Athens: Hackett Publishing Company.