In Plato s Republic, he tries to develop a utopia for mankind. He utilizes conversation amongst people within in his book as a vehicle for larger and more serious topics to be discussed. One of the most important propositions made in these discussions is when Socrates and Glaucon are deliberating on the issue of censorship and its necessity in the beginning of Book III. Plato leads me to believe that censorship is a necessary evil that must exist to protect the city as a whole. The question arises when addressing this subject matter; does society need censorship to rise to its full potential? Plato seems to think yes, but for me the jury is still out.
Book III of the Republic begins by talking about how to create warriors and what the necessary precautions needed to convince people that death is not a bad thing are. Plato wants to invent citizens that are unafraid of death, preferring it to defeat in battle or slavery (386b4). Plato believes that the only way to do this is through the censorship of materials that people are exposed to. Plato wants to create a society where everyone worthy of enough desires to be a warrior and where citizens are volunteering to fight for their city-state. The only way he believes it is possible to eliminate people s fear about death is by eliminating the stories they have been raised on. Plato further reflects on this idea of censorship by saying:
Then we must supervise such stories and those who tell them, and ask them not to disparage the life in Hades in this unconditional way, but rather to praise it, since what they now say is neither true nor beneficial warriors (386b7-386c1).
Many modern day people have taken what Plato said and have implemented into the society with which they live in an attempt to create a utopia of warriors for their benefit. Hitler comes to mind and his development of youth camps. Hitler burned books and brainwashed people for the sake of the state rather then their intellectual well being. Censorship also exists in the United States today, even though we are a society based on freedom of speech. There are people in this nation who try to get books banned from high school curriculums everyday because they feel it is the wrong opinion or information for today s youth to have. Do I believe they are in the right? To be perfectly honest I think that the deterioration of society can be attributed to those who attempt to restrict free thought. Plato may be right in saying that the easiest method of altering people s beliefs is to restrict them but it decreases the intelligence of the society it trying to create.
Plato also states that warriors mustn t be lovers laughter (388e5). What kind of society is that? Laughter and merriment is what makes life worth living. You can sensor peoples thoughts if you feel you must, but when you take away the things in life that you enjoy life loses its meaning. Warriors are needed in every society, but that doesn t mean that a society won t have warriors if it allows people to think on their own and permits laughter.
I personally believe that while in theory Plato s ideas on censorship will work, but they will also ruin what is sacred about life. People should be treated as intelligent beings and they deserve to read and hear everything they want. Just because Plato wants the horrible names for Hades to disappear and to glorify death doesn t mean its true. He doesn t have the right to ask Homer and other poets to stop referring to the underworld because people have become afraid of dying. Plato s Republic states:
We ll ask Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we delete these passages and all similar ones. It isn t that they aren t poetic or pleasing to the majority of hearers but that, the more poetic they are, the less they should be heard by children or by men (387b1-4)
If Plato truly tried to install this act of censorship all of his works would also have to be deleted. Plato himself wrote very liberal ideas before his time and some of this information may have been harmful to the society in his terms.
The question of censorship has plagued mankind for centuries. The real question though should be if censorship is used what kind of effect does it have on the people subjected to it. Part of ancient Greek culture is the stories that were told about the underworld and their theater portrayals of death. I m not saying that more stories can t be told to glorify the life and death of a warrior, but the elimination of all those that don t praise it ridiculous. Citizens deserve a chance to come to their own conclusions about whether they want to join the military or not. Another consideration is that even though Plato believes that people are self-interested, which they are for the most part, that doesn t mean that when push comes to shove and their civilization is being attack they won t stand and defend it. Plato was wrong in my opinion on the topic of censorship. It sounds more like brainwashing to me.