Book III continues the discussion about what kind of stories should be told to the future guardians of the city. As before, only virtuous deeds and characters are to be favorably depicted. The guiding concern here is the good of the city as a whole, not that of individual members or family units. Hades, for instance, should not be depicted as a frightening place--for then guardians might not be so willing to go to their dead for the polis.
One need not be a libertarian to be alarmed by the values and assumptions underlying this program. The good of the whole is given an at least quasi-absolute status, and seems at times to be something almost opposed to the good of its individual members--for it is to be oriented toward an extra-human conception of the Form of the Good. (I would not a have problem, by contrast, with a theory that sometimes demands sacrifices of the individual for a collectively negotiated good, responsive the actual needs and desires of the populace; though the details of negotiating this good without trampling rights of minorities, etc., may be an endlessly thorny issue, I can at least embrace the ideal in a way that I am reluctant to embrace the Platonic Good.) We'll have to discuss this further when Plato elaborates on his theory of the Good--for I am almost certainly basing my judgment on a simplified, perhaps even caricatured, conception of his metaphysics of forms.
Similar metaphysical assumptions inform Plato's faith in a harmonious order of being, which can be known by a rational soul. What is most beautiful is ordered and rational and in harmony with the good. If separate goods seem to conflict, this is because we've allowed ourselves to become blinded by our passions or caught up in mere appearances.
Here is a particularly alarming consequence of this unitary conception of the good: "[A]s for the ones whose bodies are naturally unhealthy or whose souls are incurably evil, won't they let the former die of their own accord and put the latter to death?" "That seems to be best both for the ones who suffer such treatment and for the city." (410a). Yikes! To a modern reader the complete lack of any sensitivity to individual human rights or dignity of the person is downright alarming. The challenge for us, I suppose, is to understand how Plato can be so unconcerned, and then to articulate and justify the grounds of our objection.
Plato himself had little faith in the common man's ability to understand and accept his proper place in the political order. Even though falsehoods are bad, he endorses mass deceit of the populace in order to bring their souls into harmony with the truth. This is his infamous "Myth of the Metals." Everyone in the city is to be told that he occupies the place he does by virtue of having a specific nature -- each associated with a particular metal -- and that all are equally children of the same earth mother. In this way everyone is to feel akin to everyone else and to accept the position he is alloted and the rule of those above him.
In the last paragraph of this book, Plato attempts to address some of the concerns you expressed about the loyalties of the guardians. The guardians, he stipulates, are not to own private property, they are to be sustained by taxes on the city, and they are to share common quarters with one another. The idea here is that they be nurtured into a completely universal sense of selfhood, and, lacking any particular commitments to which they could oppose the good of the whole, come to completely identify their individual good with the good of the polis.
I look forward to everyone's thoughts and comments --