- “The Republic” by Plato
- Human Nature, Allegory, and Truth in Plato’s Republic | The Russell Kirk Center
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Five Books participates in the Amazon Associate program and earns money from qualifying purchases. Support Us. Buy now Listen now. Her choices: 1. Recommendations from our site. But in Greek, the constitution that is outlined in the Republic is presented by Plato as the only one that really has a claim to count as a constitution at all; any other kind of constitution is only a kind of factious device that will lead to division and alienation. But it is an unmissable book because of Socrates.
He invented the method of doing and teaching philosophy that has never been improved on. Other books by Plato. Support Five Books. He uses a comparison with optical illusions c to argue that imitative poetry causes the parts of the soul to be at war with each other and this leads to injustice cb. The most serious charge against imitative poetry is that it even corrupts decent people c. He concludes that the just city should not allow such poetry in it but only poetry that praises the gods and good humans ea.
Imitative poetry prevents the immortal soul from attaining its greatest reward c-d. Socrates points out that we cannot understand the nature of the soul if we only consider its relation to the body as the present discussion has b-d. Socrates finally describes the rewards of justice by first having Glaucon allow that he can discuss the rewards of reputation for justice b-d. Glaucon allows this since Socrates has already defended justice by itself in the soul. Socrates indicates justice and injustice do not escape the notice of the gods, that the gods love the just and hate the unjust, and that good things come to those whom the gods love ea.
“The Republic” by Plato
Socrates lists various rewards for the just and punishments for the unjust in this life a-e. He proceeds to tell the Myth of Er that is supposed to illustrate reward and punishment in the afterlife b. The souls of the dead go up through an opening on the right if they were just, or below through an opening on the left if they were unjust d.
The various souls discuss their rewards and punishments ea. Socrates explains the multiples by which people are punished and rewarded a-b. The souls of the dead are able to choose their next lives d and then they are reincarnated e. Socrates ends the discussion by prompting Glaucon and the others to do well both in this life and in the afterlife c-d.
The Republic has acquired the recognition of a classic and seminal work in political philosophy. It is often taught in courses that focus on political theory or political philosophy. Moreover, in the dialogue Socrates seems primarily concerned with what is an ethical issue, namely whether the just life is better than the unjust life for the individual. These two observations raise two issues. The first is whether the Republic is primarily about ethics or about politics.
If it is primarily about ethics then perhaps its recognition as a seminal political work is unwarranted. Moreover, considering it a political work would be somewhat mistaken.
Human Nature, Allegory, and Truth in Plato’s Republic | The Russell Kirk Center
The second issue is that even if thinking of it as a classic in political philosophy is warranted, it is very difficult to situate it in terms of its political position. Interpreters of the Republic have presented various arguments concerning the issue of whether the dialogue is primarily about ethics or about politics.
In Book II, he proposes to construct the just city in speech in order to find justice in it and then to proceed to find justice in the individual a. Thus, he seems to use a discussion in political matters as a means by which to answer what is essentially an ethical question. But, Socrates also spends a lot of time in the dialogue on political matters in relation to the question of political justice such as education, the positions and relations among political classes, war, property, the causes of political strife and change of regimes, and several other matters.
Each of these could provide important contributions to political philosophy. Another relevant consideration is that there are several indications in the dialogue that the aim in the discussion is more pressing than the means the just city. Thus, the argument goes, Socrates does not seem primarily interested in discussing political philosophy but ethics instead.
Another related argument indicates that the discussion entails great doubts about whether the just city is even possible. Socrates claims this along with the idea that the function of the just city in the argument is to enable the individual to get a better idea of justice and injustice b-d, a-b. Thus, it is very difficult for us to conclude that Socrates takes the political discussion as seriously as he does the moral question see Annas, Julia.
Platonic Ethics, Old and New. Other interpreters indicate that the Republic is essentially about both ethics and politics among others see Santas, Gerasimos.
Plato: Political Philosophy ; Reeve C. Philosopher Kings. Thus, these social reforms seem to be developed for their own sake. In Book VIII he criticizes democracy as an unjust regime and thus he seems to launch a critique against Athenian democracy. He also adopts several measures in the just city, which were part of the Spartan constitution.
Like Spartan citizens, the guardians of the just city are professional soldiers whose aim is the protection of the city, the guardians eat together, and they have their needs provided for by other classes. But unlike Sparta, the just city has philosophers as rulers, a rigorous system of education in intellectual matters, and it is not timocratic or honor loving. Thus, the argument suggests, in addition to the main ethical question the dialogue is also about political philosophy.
Another position is that even though the discussion of political matters is instrumental to addressing the main ethical question of the dialogue, Socrates makes several important contributions to political philosophy. One such contribution is his description of political regimes in Book VIII and his classification of them on a scale of more or less just.
Another such contribution is his consideration of the causes of political change from one political regime to another. Moreover, Socrates seems to raise and address a number of questions that seem necessary in order to understand political life clearly. Thus, according to this view, it is warranted to regard the Republic as a work on political philosophy and as a seminal work in that area. A further relevant consideration has to do with how one understands the nature of ethics and political philosophy and their relation.
Since modernity, it becomes much easier to treat these as separate subjects. Modern ethics is more focused on determining whether an action is morally permissible or not whereas ancient ethics is more focused on happiness or the good life. Thus, ethics and political philosophy are more closely linked for ancient thinkers than they may be for us since modernity.
Ethics and political philosophy seem to be different sides of the same coin. There are several competing candidates. The Republic entails elements of socialism as when Socrates expresses the desire to achieve happiness for the whole city not for any particular group of it b and when he argues against inequalities in wealth d.
There are also elements of fascism or totalitarianism. Several commentators focused on these elements to dismiss the Republic as a proto-totalitarian text see Popper, Karl. The Open Society and Its Enemies. There are also some strong elements of communism such as the idea that the guardian class ought to possess things in common. Socrates seems to argue against allowing much freedom to individuals and to criticize the democratic tendency to treat humans as equals. Some have argued that the Republic is neither a precursor of these political positions nor does it fit any of them.
They find that the Republic has been such a seminal work in the history of political philosophy precisely because it raises such issues as its political stance while discussing many of the features of such political positions.
An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.
The analogy of the city and the soul, is Socrates proposed and accepted method by which to argue that the just person is better off than the unjust person Book II, ca. If Socrates is able to show how a just city is always happier than unjust cities, then he can have a model by which to argue that a just person is always happier than an unjust one.
He plausibly assumes that there is an interesting, intelligible, and non-accidental relation between the structural features and values of a city and an individual. But commentators have found this curious approach one of the most puzzling features of the Republic. Moreover, there is much controversy concerning its usefulness in the attempt to discover and to defend justice in terms of the individual. In several passages Socrates seems to say that the same account of justice must apply to both cities justice is the right order of classes and to individuals justice is the right order of the soul.
But even though he says this he seems to think that this ought to be the case for different reasons. For example, at a , he seems to say that the same account of justice ought to apply to the city and to the individual since the same account of any predicate X must apply to all things that are X. So, if a city or an individual is just then the same predicates must apply to both. In other passages Socrates seems to mean that same account of justice ought to apply to the city and to the individual since the X-ness of the whole is due to the X-ness of the parts d.
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So, if the people in the city are just, then this will cause the city to be just as well. In other passages still, he seems to claim that the justice of the city can be used as a heuristic device by which to look for justice in the individual, thus the relation between the two seems quite loose ea.