Socrates wanted to suppress discussion of castration culture

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates instigated a quarrel between lowly philosophy and revered poetry. Such a quarrel served him seeking status as a philosopher. This rhetorical gambit led to the trivialization of castration culture, most notably in Sigmund Freud’s claims of men’s “castration complex.” Socrates championed perceiving the truth. He at least honesty described his plot to silence discussion of castration culture.

Speaking to Glaucon and his brother Adeimantus, Socrates expressed concern about the children. Socrates was concerned about the stories that children might hear. He asked:

Are we then going to allow our children to hear any old stories so easily created by anyone, and to let into their souls opinions that are for the most part the opposite of those that we think they ought to have when they’re grown up?

{ Ἆρ’ οὖν ῥᾳδίως οὕτω παρήσομεν τοὺς ἐπιτυχόντας ὑπὸ τῶν ἐπιτυχόντων μύθους πλασθέντας ἀκούειν τοὺς παῖδας καὶ λαμβάνειν ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ ἐναντίας δόξας ἐκείναις ἅς, ἐπειδὰν τελεωθῶσιν, ἔχειν οἰησόμεθα δεῖν αὐτούς }

Socrates wasn’t concerned about protecting children from disturbing stories. He was interested in ideologically shaping adults. Put differently, Socrates sought to promote proper political propaganda rather than protect children’s welfare. Socrates quickly moved from regulating tales that children hear to suppressing adult speech in general:

“Firstly,” I said, “consider the man who told the greatest lie about the greatest matters. He didn’t tell a fine lie. Hesiod told about how Uranus accomplished what he says he did, and furthermore how Cronus took revenge on him. And as for Cronus’s deeds and sufferings at the hands of his son, even if they were true, I would not think they should be told to thoughtless youngsters in this lighthearted way, but should be kept strictly quiet. And if there were any need to tell the story, then as few as possible should hear it in secret. They should hear it in secret only after sacrificing, not a pig, but some huge victim, a sacrificial victim so hard to get hold of that as few as possible would hear the story.”

{ Πρῶτον μέν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, τὸ μέγιστον καὶ περὶ τῶν μεγίστων ψεῦδος ὁ εἰπὼν οὐ καλῶς ἐψεύσατο ὡς Οὐρανός τε ἠργάσατο ἅ φησι δρᾶσαι αὐτὸν Ἡσίοδος, ὅ τε αὖ Κρόνος ὡς ἐτιμωρήσατο αὐτόν. τὰ δὲ δὴ τοῦ Κρόνου ἔργα καὶ πάθη ὑπὸ τοῦ ὑέος, οὐδ’ ἂν εἰ ἦν ἀληθῆ ᾤμην δεῖν ῥᾳδίως οὕτω λέγεσθαι πρὸς ἄφρονάς τε καὶ νέους, ἀλλὰ μάλιστα μὲν σιγᾶσθαι, εἰ δὲ ἀνάγκη τις ἦν λέγειν, δι’ ἀπορρήτων ἀκούειν ὡς ὀλιγίστους, θυσαμένους οὐ χοῖρον ἀλλά τι μέγα καὶ ἄπορον θῦμα, ὅπως ὅτι ἐλαχίστοις συνέβη ἀκοῦσαι. }

Socrates himself wasn’t willing to say “how Cronus took revenge on him.” Incited by his mother Gaia, Cronus castrated his father Uranus. Socrates practiced and promoted silence concerning this primordial castration in Hesiod’s genealogy of the ruling goddesses. Moreover, the sacrifice of a pig was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, which disparaged the marginalized Dis, and the Thesmophoria, which excluded men. Not content with these outrages, Socrates demanded a huge sacrificial victim for secret discussion of castration culture. The enormity of that sacrificial victim associates it with loss of the seminal blessing. Suppression of discussion of castration begets more castration.

Socrates discussing the republic

A republic cannot be just without overcoming castration culture and celebrating seminal blessing. End war on men. End war on women. Journey beyond the classical circle of castration and cuckolding to the good that men offer women.

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The two quotes above are from Plato, Republic, 377b and 378a (Book 2), ancient Greek text and English translation (modified slightly for ease of reading) from Emlyn-Jones & Preddy (2013). Hesiod’s account of Cronus castrating Uranus is Theogony, vv. 154-210.

[image] Socrates and friends discuss the republic / “The Relation of the Individual to the State.” Mural painted by John La Farge in 1905 in the Supreme Court Room, Minnesota State Capitol, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA. Via Minnesota State Capitol and Wikimedia Commons.


Emlyn-Jones, Christopher, and William Preddy, ed. and trans. 2013. Plato. Republic. Volume I: Books 1-5. Loeb Classical Library 237. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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