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Plato's Republic

By: Plato

Plato's Republic is a Socratic dialogue which deals mainly with the definition of justice, the characteristics of a just city state and the just man. Although it was written more than two thousand years ago, many of the ideas and thoughts expounded here are still very much relevant to modern society. This is Plato's best known work and is also considered his most influential especially when it comes to the fields of philosophy and political theory. The Republic is divided into ten books and in each book Socrates discusses different topics from the immortality of the soul to the meaning of justice with his disciples like Glaucon, Thrasymachus, Adeimantus and others. The first two books focus on justice and its meaning. After hearing the arguments of his disciples, Socrates made a very enlightening statement when he said that it's the advantage of a person to be just and it's his disadvantage to be unjust. A statement like this can be very much true today as it is thousands of years ago. After that, they continued their discussions about education and the guardian class. I'm sure many have already heard about the guardians, in this book Socrates referred to them as the ideal rulers of an ideal city. Book eight of the The Republic discusses the different types of government, some of which we're familiar with today. Socrates referred to the different types of governments as timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. It's interesting to note that he considered these types of governments including democracy as unjust. He said that in a democracy there's a strong tendency for the poor people to revolt against the rich class because the rich enjoy too much freedom in this kind of government. This work by Plato is a timeless classic and it laid the ground work for many important modern philosophical and political ideas. This book is definitely a good read especially to political science or law students and the philosopher in all of us.

Socrates believes he has answered Thrasymachus and is done with the discussion of justice.

Socrates' young companions, Glaucon and Adeimantus, continue the argument of Thrasymachus for the sake of furthering the discussion. Glaucon gives a lecture in which he argues first that the origin of justice was in social contracts aimed at preventing one from suffering injustice and being unable to take revenge, second that all those who practice justice do so unwillingly and out of fear of punishment, and third that the life of the unjust man is far more blessed than that of the just man. Glaucon would like Socrates to prove that justice is not only desirable, but that it belongs to the highest class of desirable things: those desired both for their own sake and their consequences. To demonstrate the problem, he tells the story of Gyges, who – with the help of a ring that turns him invisible – achieves great advantages for himself by committing injustices.

After Glaucon's speech, Adeimantus adds that, in this thought experiment, the unjust should not fear any sort of divine judgement in the afterlife, since the very poets who wrote about such judgment also wrote that the gods would grant forgiveness to those humans who made ample religious sacrifice. Adeimantus demonstrates his reason by drawing two detailed portraits that the unjust man could grow wealthy by injustice, devoting a percentage of this gain to religious losses, thus rendering him innocent in the eyes of the gods.

Socrates suggests that they look for justice in a city rather than in an individual man. After attributing the origin of society to the individual not being self-sufficient and having many needs which he cannot supply himself, they go on to describe the development of the city. Socrates first describes the "healthy state", but Glaucon asks him to describe "a city of pigs", as he finds little difference between the two. He then goes on to describe the luxurious city, which he calls "a fevered state". This requires a guardian class to defend and attack on its account. This begins a discussion concerning the type of education that ought to be given to these guardians in their early years, including the topic of what kind of stories are appropriate. They conclude that stories that ascribe evil to the gods are untrue and should not be taught.

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

Ancient Greek

Published In

Author

Plato

Greece

Plato ( Classical Attic; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC)) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy,...

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