My Little Republic: Plato is Magic

My Little Republic: Plato is Magic

Socrates, first among Bronies.

[Enjoy this article on the Platonic allusions of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic from Starswirl the Goateed – Ed.]

The popularity of the television show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” among the Brony community is based on the show’s depth: Well-developed characters, complex plotlines, and numerous allusions to other works. However, My Little Pony is not simply the story of talking, pastel-colored equines living in a place called “Ponyville”; it is also the most detailed allegory of Plato’s Republic ever written. Everything from Plato’s ideas on utopian society and government structure to his Platonic Forms has representation in MLP’s Equestria.

Plato’s Republic, written in the fourth century BCE, is his most famous dialogue. Throughout most of his writing, Plato uses his teacher Socrates as a character who argues with various people about great questions of philosophy. Although the character Socrates is the one speaking in the Republic, consensus among scholars holds that that the ideas of Republic are those of Plato, not Socrates. In Book One of Republic, Socrates is challenged to prove that it is worthwhile to live a just life. To prove that justice is rewarding, Socrates decides to examine it on a larger scale than that of an individual. Since a state is a collection of individuals, he spends the majority of Republic envisioning the development of the most just city-state, a sort of utopia. It is this ideal city that resembles the Equestria of My Little Pony so closely.

Equestria and Kallipolis

The hypothetical utopian city-state of Republic is named “Kallipolis”, or “beautiful city”. Plato explains that the city starts simple and gradually grows more complex. He begins by claiming that Kallipolis follows one key principle: The division of labor. This is a central theme throughout Republic; ability determines government positions and placement in social classes. Plato argues that every individual is particularly good at one thing; everyone trying to produce a small amount of many different goods for themselves would be inefficient; rather, individuals producing a large amount of only one good would be far more effective.

As Plato put it:

“We must infer that all things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.”

Republic, 2.370c

In Equestria, ponies come of age when they receive a “cutie mark”, a symbol representing their natural talent. It is the most important factor in determining the course of a pony’s life. In Equestria, ponies can do the one thing depicted on their flank with exceptional ability, a specialization of labor Plato could only have dreamed of.

Originally, Plato’s Kallipolis needs only a class of producers who provide vital goods or services: Farmers, carpenters, bakers, doctors, and artisans. However, over time, the population’s desire for luxury forces the creation of entertainment professions, such as actor and poet. Plato includes these professions with the producers as they operate in the same way as the producing class, working for private enterprises and “producing” private goods. With a growing population, it becomes necessary for the city to acquire more land, and with increasing wealth, there is increased threat of invasion. For both of these reasons, Plato says that a military becomes necessary for Kallipolis. Members of this military class, the “Guardians”, must be strong enough to defend the city, but also gentle in their demeanor towards their own citizens, lest they begin to oppress the producers. Plato compares the Guardians to guard dogs: Like a dog, a Guardian is gentle and friendly to his friends but fierce to his adversaries. Despite their athleticism, Guardians must, Plato says, hold a desire for wisdom.

Plato states that a governing class is needed to lead Kallipolis and he then divides the Guardians into two classes. The first, termed the Auxiliaries, serve the rulers of the state and act as a sort of military. The second is made up of those select few who, through years of trials, demonstrate the ideal qualities to rule. From this point forward in Republic, “Guardian” refers only to the latter, ruling class. Members of both these classes, to deter corruption by the desire for wealth, are allowed to hold very little private property. Since children often inherit the abilities of their parents, there is a loose hereditary nature to these classes.

To keep people happy with their place in society, Plato argued for the promotion of the “Myth of the Metals”, the claim that citizens are somewhat literally born from the earth of their nation. By supporting their nation, they are thus supporting their family. People are imbued with an essence of metal, which determines their social status in society. Each citizen must follow, for the sake of their country, the role in life determined by this metal; those with iron or bronze souls are predestined to work in the producing classes, while those of silver and gold will make up the Auxiliaries and Guardians. This is an example of a “Noble Lie”, a fictional myth portrayed as fact to encourage moral behavior.

In Equestria, ponies are divided into three “classes”, which are also loosely hereditary: The Earth Ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns. The episode “Baby Cakes”, showing an earth pony couple giving birth to one Pegasus and one Unicorn, suggests that there can be change between generations, but the surprised reaction of the Mane 6 suggests that this is unusual. Earth ponies act as the producing class; Applejack the farmer and Pinkie Pie the baker both fit into this role of producing goods. With the exception of air shows and magic acts, Earth ponies also dominate the entertainment industry as the producers do in Kallipolis; the quartet that plays at the Grand Galloping Gala is entirely Earth pony, as is the entertainer Sapphire Shores.

Continuing with this model, Pegasi are equivalent to the Auxiliaries. Both are militaristic (although there is no standing army in modern Equestria, early Equestrian history referenced in “Hearth’s Warming Eve” depicts this side of the Pegasi), seek glory, and have great athletic abilities. Despite the absence of an army, the Pegasi still aid the rulers by occupying lesser government positions or providing public goods services: Controlling the weather, providing short notice security against threats in the case of the Wonderbolts, and controlling the common mail service. Rainbow Dash is a clear embodiment of the ideal Pegasus, especially after she takes up literary interests in “Read it and Weep”. Perhaps overly arrogant, she remains friendly with her allies, pugilistic with her enemies, and loyal to Celestia.

The greatest challenge with connecting the pony sub-species with Kallipolis’s three classes comes with the Unicorns. Twilight Sparkle, a Unicorn, is clearly undergoing training and education akin to that of one of Kallipolis’s Guardians in training; like a Guardian, she lives in a publically owned building that was temporarily given to her, the Ponyville Library. However, as far as has been revealed, she is alone in her training for future leadership. Equestria has two heads of state, and they are of the few living members of the mysterious Alicorn race. Other Unicorns, like Fancy Pants, occupy positions of importance in society, but they hold private property and receive no special treatment from Celestia.

While much of Republic is timeless, certain parts describe a social order that only existed in Classical Greece. There will always be under Plato’s system a producer class, a civil servant and military class, and a ruling class, but the specifics change with the times. On Earth, the industrial revolution allowed labor power to be collected into a small area; this made it far easier for businessmen to control the production of goods. A factory owning class, termed the bourgeoisie by Karl Marx, acquired much wealth and soon became the dominant social class. The limited presence of machines seen in the show, like the Super Speedy Cider Squeezy, suggests that Equestria is beginning a period of industrialization.

The Unicorns of My Little Pony hold most of their power through business, acting as the Equestrian bourgeoisie. Only Unicorns can run newly invented magical machinery. A few, like Flim and Flam, try to industrialize agriculture with their more efficient methods of production. The combined cultural and economic elite in Canterlot high society mirror the bourgeois elite of the 19th century. In this way, Unicorns are rulers, but in a more modern sense.

Equestria’s founding myth, depicted in “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, likely has some basis in historical fact. “Windigoes”, beings who feed off hatred to create cold, wintery conditions in Equestria, are almost certainly fictional, as no episode depicts a temperature drop when there is conflict. Similar to the “Myth of the Metals”, the myth of the Windigoes acts as Equestria’s “Noble Lie” by discouraging disputes between the sub-species and encouraging everypony to accept their place in society.

In book III and part of IV, Plato enters a remarkable level of detail in describing which books and poems should be permitted, and which ones censored. The question, he claims, is vitally important. The safety of Kallipolis depends upon a virtuous Auxiliaries and Guardians, and they must be given the proper moral teachings in their youth. Firstly, it is stated that all works must depict the Gods as being all-good and without vice. Secondly, all heroes must not only have no fear of death, but they must also not treat it as tragedy. Finally, all literature and artwork must depict heroes as conforming to the other virtues of the Guardians, such as honor, reason, and moderation.

Fictional literature exists in MLP but receives little attention. The only novel shown in detail in the show is “Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone”, from a popular adventure series. The title protagonist, Daring Do, is a Pegasus. She is fearless, clever, and she has remarkable physical prowess and speed. There exists a clear dichotomy in the story between the evil, overconfident antagonist and the virtuous Daring Do. As depicted in the show, literature in Equestria promotes the values and ideas that create good Auxiliaries (or Pegasi.)

Forms and Elements

But there is a problem: Why would the Guardians agree to live a lifestyle renouncing possessions and pursuing truth? To this, Plato answers that the Guardians are philosophers (5.473c-d). This class of “philosopher-kings”, Plato says, will rule the state wisely promoting the interests of the populace as a whole. Plato defines a philosopher as one who can comprehend a higher level of understanding, one who understands Beauty itself as opposed to something beautiful. Plato calls these lofty ideas “Forms”, and they are among his most confusing concepts.

Plato argues that Forms are immaterial and exist in a higher level of reality. The Form of X is entirely X, unlike anything else; for instance, the Form of Justice is entirely just, thereby giving the definition of justice. In his Symposium, Plato wrote that a Form “is not anywhere in another thing…but itself by itself with itself” (Symp. 211b). There is one superior Form that gives existence and meaning to other Forms: The Form of the Good. For centuries, scholars have tried to understand what exactly this special Form is. Plato equated the Form of the Good to the sun in the “Allegory of the Cave”, contained within Book VII of Republic. In this allegory, Plato describes a man imprisoned in a cave, seeing the shadows of objects on the walls and thinking them the extent of reality. One day the man leaves the cave and sees real objects. But he can only see and understand those objects thanks to the light of the sun, the Form of the Good. The Good gives understanding to the world, but this is not its only function. In the Phaedo dialogue, Plato wrote, “The Good…must embrace and hold together all things.” (Phdo. 99c)

Many scholars agree that The Good is a sort of Harmony. They have pointed out that Plato’s utopia relies upon harmony to keep the three classes in cooperation. Harmony is the coexistence of multiple forces working cooperatively; a harmonious order is the opposite of chaos. If strife rose between the classes, Kallipolis would degenerate. The Good, by “embracing and holding together all things”, acts as this sort of order. In illuminating the world, The Good makes the universe ordered, more perfect.

Princess Celestia and her subjects hold harmony as the ultimate pursuit; natural chaos, such as free movement of clouds, was artificially removed from Equestria to allow for a more ordered, harmonious existence between creatures. Just as Kallipolis depends upon peace between the three social classes, Equestria is a nation founded upon the peaceful union of the three sub-species. If conflict were ever to develop between them, Equestria would quickly degenerate. Celestia focuses on promoting harmony, the supreme virtue, as opposed to any other virtue in Equestria. Interestingly, Celestia’s cutie mark is the sun, the physical representation of The Good. Celestia is clearly a philosopher-queen (or princess).

Equestria’s Harmony is composed of six elements: Honesty, Loyalty, Laughter, Magic, Kindness, and Generosity. These elements are, in a way, Forms; all of them can only exist in a state of Harmony (The Good). Understanding them takes great effort. Celestia sent Twilight Sparkle to Ponyville not to simply make friends, but as a test to see if she could comprehend the Elements. She and her friends each represent one of these elements, but none are as complete as the Form they represent. Fluttershy may be very kind, but she is fallible, and her kindness is certainly not on par with that of the Element (Form) of Kindness.

Events from “Hearth’s Warming Eve” illustrate the Allegory of the Cave, reinforcing the view of Harmony as The Good. The episode features a play based on Equestrian history. Before Celestia ruled, the different pony sub-species had separate tribes that frequently fought each other. In the play, strife forces ponies of different tribes to take refuge in a cave; their choice of refuge is not just coincidental. Unable to see beyond their ignorance and failing to understand Harmony, the ponies suffer in the cave from the ravenous winter, which the inharmonious cannot see even as ice envelops them. It is only through the embrace of Harmony that ponies are able to drive the back the onslaught of cold. After the thawing of the ice, ponies leave the cave and become enlightened.

Plato’s Equestria

It remains unknown whether these similarities to Plato’s Republic were Easter eggs placed by a philosophically minded writer or whether they exist by mere chance. Whatever the case, one can only imagine that Plato would be delighted at the similarities between My Little Pony and Republic. Not only has Hasbro supported Plato’s claims about utopian states from over 2300 years ago, but it is also teaching the messages of Plato’s ideal society to modern youth through a fictional tale that is easy to understand without sacrificing the complete message. If Plato could see MLP, then the true meaning of the show, the praise of a government as close to perfect as is possible, would resonate with him, even if he could not understand the modern American humor.

Yet, Plato did see the society of “My Little Pony” in the confines of his own mind. Instead of ponies, there were humans; instead of Equestria, there was Kallipolis. And although he never ate a single cupcake, Plato saw and loved the world of Equestria.

52 Comments on “My Little Republic: Plato is Magic”

  1. Protagoras #

    Interesting. I’ve often wondered how much Socrates is playing to his audience in describing the ideal city in Republic (that is, to what extent is he really trying to describe an ideal, as opposed to creating a grand metaphor to make certain points to his listeners, the ambitious young aristocrats Glaucon and Adeimantus and the cynical teacher Thrasymachus). Almost all scholars think some of that goes on (as it seems to almost always be an element in Plato); I kind of suspect there’s a lot of it. I think Socrates has already answered Thrasymachus when book II opens, and Glaucon and Adeimantus don’t really add anything to Thrasymachus’ case, so the entire rest of Republic seems to be unnecessary except for the fact that Glaucon and Adeimantus evidently didn’t understand it when Socrates gave the short version in book I.

    Though Plato criticizes democracy, only a democracy would produce Socrates and Plato, and I suspect Plato knew that (the democratic man with his many costumes bears a certain resemblance to Socrates, who adapts well to different circumstances, and even more resemblance to Plato himself, who speaks through so many fascinating characters). So I suspect that he didn’t really think his described state was as superior as Socrates’ spurious math is supposed to show. Not sure how that would affect your analysis of the “My Little Pony” connection, though.


  2. Starswirl the Goateed #

    Yeah, that is Republic’s grand problem. Socrates was given two questions in Book One: What is justice, and why is it worthwhile? The first question was answered reasonably well in Book IV, but the second is a bit confusing. Most of the dialogue is devoted to proving it, and Socrates’ final arguments in favor of justice aren’t much better than his first. Adeimentus gave him a restriction: Socrates must prove that justice is a priori good in itself, not good for its effects. And yet some of Socrates’ final arguments fail to do that.

    It could be argued that Plato would never have made such simple errors, and that much of Republic was written sarcastically. But that’s outside of the realm of my essay.


  3. Gatomon41 #

    Would be a great article, except I stopped reading when you used “BCE”.


    • Jordan #

      I prefer “BC” to “BCE” myself, but it’s nothing to get upset about. (And I’m a Christian.) If people want to say “before common era” instead of “before Christ”, that’s their choice. It’s still a very interesting and well-written article.


      • Gatomon41 #

        Just a personal peeve of mine – I dislike banality. It’s so predictable for people to do the safe thing, to avoid the flavor of the world for the staleness of artificiality.


        • lolwat #

          … Refusing to read an article because someone used a more politically correct term for time… What? That is the way historians have rewritten everything, Sorry. Refusing to read an article due to such a ridiculously tiny thing… I’m quite sorry for all of the information you are cutting yourself off from. good luck!


          • Mird #

            In fairness…he did say (s)he was a Christian. I think by default (s)he rejects good information.

      • April #

        I thought BCE stood for “Before Christ Existed,” LOL! I like Before the Common Era more than I like BC, because there is no proof that Christ ever existed.


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      I didn’t give the abbreviation any consideration. I never realized that the difference actually inspires controversy. I’m against excessive political correctness too, but let’s not be extreme. I use “BCE” instead of “BC” in my writing not to avoid offending people, but because I’ve read Christ’s birth probably occurred around 6 BC(E), so the measure is inaccurate.


  4. minimusminor #

    You know, the fact that the windigoes aren’t around in modern times could be explained. They could have moved to other lands. Maybe the level of negative energy in Equestria is less than ancient times – it seemed in the ancient times that there was a lot more mistrust and racism going on between the three tribes.

    Also Celestia and Luna hadn’t shown up at that point. They could have driven them off.


  5. Karuik #

    That was really quite interesting, especially to one such as myself who isn’t terribly acquainted with the works of Plato. Rather awesome to see these parallels appearing… and now I have to wonder if it was on purpose.


  6. Lachlan #

    I too noticed the similarities between Plato’s Republic and Friendship is Magic. I agreed with most of this essay however I disagree with your assumption that the Windigoes are the noble lie in Equestria.
    The Windigoes are most likely a lie. The entire story is clearly a fabrication the fact that Celestia and Luna’s banner is the flag that the three Pony tribes raise to celebrate their unity shows that the two sisters had a hand in creating the myth.
    The noble lie claims that all persons are born with an essence of metal and that metal describes their role in the society. The noble lie, to me, is the cutie mark. Ponies find when they are very young what they are good at and ultimately what they will do for the rest of their lives. The cutie mark is a mark of what the pony should do with the rest of their lives and often it is completely circumstantial. Applejack could have only tended the farm because it’s all she ever knew. The cutie mark keeps ponies at a certain class level and no one goes above their class.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. The resemblance to Plato’s republic is remarkable.


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      Cutie marks certainly play a role in maintaining social order. Everypony being marked with a tattoo on their flank indicating what their role in the world is helps with that. However, I wouldn’t call this a “noble lie” because cutie marks are very much real. The episode “Cutie Pox” even seems to suggest that ponies don’t really have free will, and that they are unable to do something other than their “special talent”. Kallipolis and Equesteia are fascinating places. They have a very high standard of living and a remarkably happy population, but only at drastic costs.

      As to “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, it’s debatable whether adult ponies truly realized that the story was fake. Some aspects, like the modern Equestrian flag at the end, seem ridiculous (although mass propaganda can do wonders). I think we’ll have to wait and see how Season Three depicts Equestrian history to know how ponies feel about the Windigo myth.


      • McSmoozeGyver #

        It’s more than likely that the flag is in the history the same way Rainbow Dash is – it is an artistic rendering of the play with the play by having the characters portray the historical characters – but it would be boring to watch the ponies on a stage for 20 odd minutes, so they animate the historical world as your imagination would when watching a play. The sister’s flag may not have been the flag originally used, and was merely the prop at hearts warming eve, intentionally, semi-symbolically, or an oversight that the neurotic Twilight couldn’t fix.
        It’s like if American school kids put on a play about the American revolution and flew 50ne stars and 13 stripes at the end of the play.


        • McSmoozeGyver #

          *play within a play
          *probably some otherthings


      • Yuri #

        Its not Luna and Celestia in the flag although I thought so at first as well, but their colours are different. It is more likely that the alicorn, possessing the physiological traits of all three races has long been the embodiment and symbol of unity in pony culture.


  7. Michael #

    when you think about it, this is the exact same type of society that the Transformers had on Cybertron for eons. The Golden Age. Workers, entertainers, guardians, and rulers. Everyone given a job that they where good at and do it well. ect…

    But we all know how that ended. Civil war that ended in an almost complete genocide of their own race as well as the complete destruction of their republic. But not before everything became so blatantly corrupt while still adhering to Plato’s rules.

    My Little Pony’s Equestria is the perfect example of how plato’s utopia could work perfectly, while Transformers is the perfect example of how it could fail. Is it strange that these two properties are both owned by hasbro?


    • Thevenomous #

      When you started talking Transformers, I just thought you were going completely off topic, but that is actually quite interesting. I’m just gonna say it blew my mind.


  8. Michael #

    Toward the end of The Republic, Glaucon says ‘but this place can be real only in words, it cannot be real otherwise.’ Socrates essentiall responds, ‘it matters not if it can physically exist, as it exists now – metaphysically – for those who see (intuit) it, who then declare themselves a citizen of it.’ Plato, I sense, is expressing what many call non-duality or non-attachment, which is utopia real-ized, rather than utopia sought. “Those who know don’t speak; those who speak don’t know” the Tao Te Ching expresses. Not to be taken literally but rather figuratively, this expression demonstrates that Leaders (Guardians/Servants-of-the-people) “show, rather than tell,” as my poetry teacher used to suggest (she was referring to poetry, but I see now the ‘spiritual’ principle it is). The MLP world is a physical expression of non-attachment, whose Source is the metaphysical. The same Source that manifests as Plato’s Athens, or my New Orleans. The Philospher-king need not wait for utopia to arrive: he serves self and others by her/his presence, which is the presence of not seeking a utopia; rather the presence of realizing it.


  9. clawgerber #

    wow, its realy interesting to see such simularitys. it makes me wonder if it was partialy done on purpose or if theres a “great minds think alike” sceneario.
    p.s. never seen a more acurate website title


    • Michael #

      ” In the Phaedo dialogue, Plato wrote, ‘The Good…must embrace and hold together all things.'” (Phdo. 99c)

      My son, age 18, began speaking to me earlier this year about My Little Pony. Odd, I thought, and observed my prejudice. He is intuitive, and so I sensed it was I who was in the dark. Today he sent me this. And I understood. When I am blind, my teachers help me see. He is one. Fortunately, my teachers are everywhere.

      “It makes me wonder if it was… done on purpose….” I sense Truth is expressed again and again, in differing forms/expressions. Unconsciously. The same Truth is revealed in Tao Te Ching, Bhagavad Gita, Bible etc. “All life is flux,” realized Heraclitus. It may be more easy to see this Truth expressed in relationships, or families, than it is in nations, as one is looking more at one’s perception/projection of nation rather than what is. “Participation is the key to harmony,” a friend once offered me. The ‘Good’ perhaps, expresses all-things, even what I conceptualize as ‘the bad.’


  10. Gab #

    Enjoyed this marvelous much!

    Full Disclosure: I’ve only watched one episode of this show, so if the answer is blatantly obvious to anybody, mea culpa.

    Is there a stand-in for the gods in MLP? As Plato/Socrates emphasizes the importance of the gods and piety, etc., it seems logical that there could be one or more pony(ies) meant to represent deity, too. My instinct would be to say Celestia (name!), but you’ve already set her up as a philosopher queen/princess. Unless, of course, she served dual purposes…?


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      Equestria’s religion is a very interesting topic, one which I may write about at some point in time. Celestia, as an immortal being that controls the heavenly bodies, certainly seems like a deity, but ponies don’t seem to view her that way. They honor her as a beloved monarch, not exactly as a living god. After all, [Spoilers!] Celestia was defeated in combat by Chrysalis in the Season Two finale. Ponies can clearly see that she’s not almighty.

      It may be the case that Equestria just doesn’t have the notion of religion. On Earth all societies have had a spirituality if some sort. Perhaps the pony mind functions very differently from the human. But, if we assume that ponies must worship a higher being/force/thing, I’d venture to say that it’s Harmony (or the Form of the Good). That force is sonething that all ponies hold in deep adoration. Equestria is a state built around maximizing Harmony, wuth even the free movement if clouds removed to reduce entropy. The teaxhings of Celestia are about respecting your position in siciety and loving your friends; indeed, they even say that friendship is “magic”.

      Just a thought. But, were this to be the case, the desire of the ponies to repair a broken universe and to try to being about a state of perfection closely mirrors Gnosticism on Earth. Gnosticism is usually correlated with Neoplatonism, leading us back to Plato again.


      • Balthasar999 #

        I’ve thought the same thing, that their social harmony is promoted/enforced by a natural world where the link between personal behavior and consequences for the environment and society is made much shorter and more explicit.
        It raises an interesting question from a behavioral economics perspective: Are they coerced into certain actions and attitudes, or are they being given the tools to make the better decisions they would want to make in less knowledgeable circumstances?
        They didn’t seem to know about the Windigoes, at least not widely, and really only changed their tune when they realized the destructive consequences their feud was having…But then isn’t that just the definition of changing your mind?

        I read the Windigoes as kind of a backwards global warming, where their unwillingness to cooperate was causing their environment to fail around them, ruining their agriculture. Presumably the situation in the play had been going on for years or decades before they got serious, instead of being a one-off upheaval.


  11. Chris #

    Oh yes (and your instincts are correct), Celestia and Luna, rulers and in direct control of the heavens (the day/ night cycle). They are treated more like royalty than god(esses)s, but they certainly have god-like powers.


  12. Balthasar999 #

    This was crazy bananas interesting. I’m almost certain the resemblance is unintentional, but that it evolved the way it did simply by virtue of the writers trying to envision a harmonious society, working from a cultural and educational background informed by things like Plato’s Republic.
    On the other hand, Equestria does show a lot of Classical/Hellenic influence just in its visual design and in certain non-pony inhabitants, but again, that could simply be an attempt to evoke a kind of Delphic Age feeling of Ur-Utopia. That said, we associate the two precisely because of things like The Republic. I don’t think the word “coincidence” really even applies anymore…

    My own thinking actually has been that the “Princesses” call themselves that because the actual Queen is Equestria itself, and the ponies therein, and this keeps them in a state of constant awareness of their responsibility to the public good. Ya scooped me!

    I think what it fundamentally shares with all other notions of utopia is that everything is completely accounted for – Some total system or other is postulated that would maximize human flourishing at each stage of life (Plato’s suggestion that the children of female guardians be taken away so their care is undivided, etc.) and direct people to the place in society where they would function best. In Equestria, all these are given very literal manifestations, from the marks appearing when one finds their niche, to the rulers controlling the very sky, their immortality making most notions of family redundant, and ponies themselves controlling every aspect of nature around them. You might say that if utopia is realizable, it’s necessarily solipsistic (or megalomaniacal) – It’s not something built upon the world, it IS the world.

    It’s fun to speculate on all these things because Equestria’s such an unusual place, but it’s made a lot harder by how many things about the functioning of its world are never fully established. Do the Sisters raise the sun and moon for the entire world, and are there Antipodes, to use a word Plato might recognize, who see the sun and moon the rest of the time? If the royal sisters really do control the physical functioning of the entire planet/flat disc on back of turtle/whatever, the rest of its inhabitants kind of have to be factored into a description of the total society. Are they some kind of secret Federalist experiment? Why is the circle of “mainline” Equestrian civilization drawn where it is?


    • Yuri #

      I always suspected Equestria was flat, medieval style!


    • Yuri #

      My own thinking actually has been that the “Princesses” call themselves that because the actual Queen is Equestria itself, and the ponies therein, and this keeps them in a state of constant awareness of their responsibility to the public good.

      That makes good sense and is most clever!


  13. [insert name here] #

    This actually makes a bit of sense. I doubt that the writers of My Little Pony intended to mimic Kallipolis, but it is a possibility.


  14. Noel #

    This is awesome, but I have one slight problem with your analysis. In a place like Equestria, I think it’s a little premature to say that Windigoes are almost certainly fictional. Changelings feed on love, so why couldn’t creatures in Equestria feed on conflict? It would take a ton of conflict for the mass outbreak that happened in the tale to occur, but a small conflict between 3 young friends was enough to provide a spark to break Discord’s stone casing (which was weakened from the transfer of the elements power from Cele to the elements today).
    More than just being a perfect society, I think Equestria has to be a perfect society to survive. Emotions, conflict, love, and harmony have more than just forms, they have real power in this land. Celestia’s task is to make sure that Equestria is a harmonic society so that it can survive from outside threats, because even a little break in this can hurt it significantly.


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      Don’t get me wrong, in a world of magic there’s nothing a priori incorrect about Windigoes. The reason I think they’re false is just from evidence shown in the episodes. MLP has featured two military conflicts: The Appleoosan-Buffalo conflict and the Pony-Changeling war. In neither did we see a temperature drop; in fact, the former was set in a desert. If, as you said, three fillies can cause enough conflict to awaken Discord, I’d imagine that hundreds, if not thousands, of beings fighting would have a noticeable consequence.

      Quite a few people have pointed out that I don’t adequately prove that Windigoes are false. I suppose it’s possible that they once existed but were driven off by Celestia or somepony. But the impact that the play was supposed to have on people is clear. Windigoes are a metaphor for the destruction of social strife; the play was a moral lesson, trying to warn ponies of what happens when they generate conflict.

      Whether ponies truly believe in Windigoes is up for debate. The Mane 6, in the final scene of “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, certainly were a bit worried about the creatures existing in real life. However, they may have just been spooked. Perhaps Season Three will tell us whether ponies regard Windigoes as a very real threat or just a child’s superstition.


  15. Flip #

    That was a fantastic read – now do Plato’s Republic as it applies to the Time Lords and other Gallifreyans on Doctor Who?


  16. Mizuki #

    The only way this article could have gone better is if you somehow included Discord into the mix!

    While I normally would say that the Windigoes are a lie, I do find it interesting that windigoes in mythos are like…a representation of Famine, or something. (Which made sense, the ponies were essentially going to starve to death) Also what’s the deal with the giant flaming heart at the end? That Flaming heart thing existed in the play, but after the play was over, it was shown to exist in-universe too.

    Other than that, this article is PERFECT. I love over-thinking stuff when it comes to FiM, and I had a feeling that there was something philosophical going on! (Whether it be intentional or not!)


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      Thanks for reading :)

      Funny you bring up Discord. I originally wrote this as a much longer piece, but had to cut a lot out for OTI’s lenght limit (which I still violated by a bit). One of the parts I took out was my discussion of Discord. To satisfy your desire to know what I would’ve thought about him, here’s a little quote from Republic you might like.

      “When Hellenes fight with one another…we shall say that such enmity is to be called Discord.” (5.470c-d)

      It was in my section talking about Plato’s theory of the five governments (Discord was tyranny). I’m considering preparing another essay sometime to talk about similar things. I’ll wait to see what Season Three gives me.


      • Mizuki #

        Oh my gosh that just blows my mind even more!!! (ALSO SUPER SWEET AND AWESOME OF YOU TO REPLY!! <3)

        I'd love-love-LOVE to see your next essay whenever Season 3 is over! Or when Season 3 starts, whichever! c:

        Thanks for satisfying my desire for Discord and how he would fit into all this u///u


  17. Julien Brightside #

    A really enjoyable article I`d say.

    Heh, I have the fun mental image of old philosophers watching My Little Pony.


  18. ZeroBlue4 #

    I have a slight problem with equating Order with Good. Certainly it is useful for good causes, but like any other thing it is not truly good in and of itself.

    … Prepare for a wall of text!

    The first problem with order is that it can’t be sought for its own sake; if one seeks order to a unweildy degree, one risks pushing the world into the same chaos that it opposes. Such as a tyrant that places such strict laws on the world that the populace fights back. And so for order to be maintained as a principle of good, it must be prepared to relinquish that same control in cases where order is more of a barrier than a help.

    Twilight Sparkle has frequent moments where she herself is forced to realise she can’t possibly control everything, and that the best she can do is keep shifting the plans. And even still, every time she seems to have a perfect plan, she ends up with her plans thrown out by a minor variable. And had she tried to stamp out those variables, she would have lead to more trouble than she already had.

    Lesson one: One must at least enough concessions for chaos that it doesn’t get motivated to fight back. As such, for order to be maintained without falling to evil or provoking dischord, a certain number of basic rights, or “freedoms” must be maintained. These freedoms are the fragments if chaos that are benign, and perhaps belevolant.

    Second, one should never assume that chaos is all bad. Were one to burst into a public place and make a fool of oneself, in order to entertain the bored crowd (as pinkie might do) that would be a benign use of chaos. If someone burst into that same public place and call out the rulers on a stupid move, that would certainly be productive, even if it hurts to hear. And then there’s the moments on chaotic generosity, such as bursting into a room and yelling “someone take my money!”

    Lesson Two: Do not make an enemy of chaos, make it a friend; do so by only scolding or punishing it when it does something genuinely wrong. As chaos can just as easily be good as it is bad.

    Looking at the main cast’s interactions between their ordered and chaotic members for inspiration on my next point. Mainly focusing on RD and Pinkie Pie.

    Rainbow Dash is heroic, yes; but with her resistance to “social order”, and general free spirited-ness, she’s closer to chaos than order. She has rarely done things for the sake of order itself, and tends to prefer to do things simply because she felt like it. Her interactions with AJ (a rather strictly ordered folk), tend to still be friendly; usually in a noble spirit of competition.

    Then there’s Pinkie Pie, who tends to defy logic itself, has no idea how she did it, cannot be controlled, has no sense of order, and is generally Chaos incarnate. However, she is benevolent, and tends to be the kind to do things that help out those around her, and generally make the lives around her better. And now not a single one of her ordered friends stops her, saying “she’s just being Pinkie”. In fact, they often enjoy her craziness.

    What am I trying to say here?

    Lesson Three: It takes all kinds to create Harmony. It is not “Order”, but rather the willingness of many different kinds to work together to promote what is good. Those who seek self-direction (chaos), and those who seek security (order) may have different takes on life, but they both seek to live life to the fullest. And if they can both recognize that, and help eachother achieve that, then that will not only help the cause of good, but create a lasting harmony between them.

    Oh yeah, one more thing…

    Celestia plays just as many jests as some other characters. To the point that those around her who expect her to be prime and proper are a little surprised to find she enjoys seeing things go off of plan. Ranging from her jest involving tricking the waiter. To flat out laughing her ass off when a party has descended into anarchy!

    Lesson Four: Never assume that the benevolent rulers are actually on the side of order. Simply that they want their subjects to be happy and safe. And as such, they may be more happy than you’d expect to use a “Wild-Card” solution.

    Disclaimer: This comment was written by a Chaotic Good individual, and when the fact that his brother is a borderline Lawful Evil, this tends to be a touchy subject. This individual also has grown up idol using anime heroes that purposefully go against the social order, the rules, and fate itself, to defeat evil, and prove they are worthy to save the world.

    Long live Chaotic Good. Leave Lawful Good to their groaning; we have HOT BLOODED RIGHTEOUS FURY!!!!!! ARGGH!!!!!


    • Starswirl the Goateed #

      Sir, infinite thanks for sending me that!

      For the past ten minutes I’ve been running around cheering after learning that Lauren Faust read my article (or at least glanced over it).


    • Mizuki #

      am I the only one a little disappointed? ; n ;


    • yellojkt Member #

      As if (as Kurt Vonnegut in ‘Back to School’ demonstrated) the author really has any say about what a work is really about.


      • Jackie #

        She’s just saying it’s unintentional (and implying from the title of the blog that it’s reading into it), but not saying that the interpretation is invalid. The reader (viewer in this case) always decides what it means to them; the author is just a guide at best.


        • earwyrm #

          IMO it’s MORE interesting if somebody reinvented Kallipolis without intending to, than if it were directly & intentionally cribbed out of the Republic. It suggests this is very embedded in our cultural memory, or maybe just the author’s memory–one of those things you read and hold onto the ideas, you but forget that you read it somewhere. Like, I can see how you could wind up with Kallipolis by putting together motifs from videogames and RPGs–like different races that are each good at a different occupations, ‘warrior’ as a main occupation–but it sounds like the whole thing is closer to the Republic than that explanation warrants.


  19. Yuri #

    I would not want to live in Kallipolis, my utopia has always been more akin to Ankh-Morpork.


  20. cesartheking #

    Interesting take on Socrates and the MLP universe. I have to wonder if there are other shows that have similar forms of government in their universes, like in the anime Soul Eater (A rather basic worker class consisting of extras, the focus on the guardian class of the Meisters and Weapons, and the benevolent philosopher god-king of the Grim Reaper, Death). Also, I have to wonder if such a society could exist in reality, if humans had things as usefully convenient as immortals or cutie marks.


  21. Lightsolve #

    I find this very interesting and now that I think more deeply on the reasons why I like the show. The society is a fascinating one and I can recall getting into many discussions with my friends over the equestrian society and government.


  22. Chris #

    That was awesome!!


  23. earwyrm #

    Contra other commenters, it sounds to me like MLP’s writers MUST have done this on purpose. Maybe not every single correspondence between MLP and The Republic, but at least the basics, social structure &c.. They probably read Plato’s Republic in college and used that as their model. Just because it’s a children’s program doesn’t mean any less serious thought and research goes into it. (Think about this: if children’s authors are not looking to the same models and archetypes as other writers, where ARE they looking?) Star Wars was made to be (most of all?) a “real gee-whiz movie”, but to actually make something like that GL dug into academic studies of myths and fairy tales. It’s just like if you wanted to paint a real gee-whiz painting, you can claim to be as low-brow and uninterested in theory as you want, at the end of the day you’re still going to pay a lot of attention to perspective, color theory, and techniques of composition because how else are you going to paint something intelligible and eye-catching?


    • earwyrm #

      And to follow up, what’s interesting about this isn’t that writers of Friendship Is Magic based Equestria on one of the most influential utopias in the history of philosophy and political thought, it’s that they chose one that is, to modern sensibilities, a very dystopian utopia! THIS is what we’re teaching our children to aspire to?


    • Jackie #

      “Contrary to other comments” is actually contrary to *the* show’s creator’s comment (that was the twitter feed I liked to) saying it is coincidence. I’m not saying the cultural effect entered into there, but to say they had to intended it when we have it from the alicorn’s mouth (Lauren has been granted an honorary alicorn status) that any resemblance was coincidence is ignoring something


      • earwyrm #

        Oops! Clearly I wasn’t reading the comments carefully.


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