Plato on Justice and Power: Reading Book 1 of Plato’s Republic
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Thus, someone can only be a philosopher in the true sense if he receives the proper kind of education. After a discussion of the sophists as bad teachers ac , Socrates warns against various people who falsely claim to be philosophers b-c. Since current political regimes lead to either the corruption or the destruction of the philosopher, he should avoid politics and lead a quiet private life c-d.
Socrates then addresses the question of how philosophy can come to play an important role in existing cities e. Those with philosophical natures need to practice philosophy all their lives, especially when they are older a-c. The only way to make sure that philosophy is properly appreciated and does not meet hostility is to wipe an existing city clean and begin it anew a.
Socrates concludes that the just city and the measures proposed are both for the best and not impossible to bring about c. Socrates proceeds to discuss the education of philosopher kings c-d. The most important thing philosophers should study is the Form of the Good a. Socrates considers several candidates for what the Good is, such as pleasure and knowledge and he rejects them b-d.
He points out that we choose everything with a view to the good e. Socrates attempts to explain what the Form of the Good is through the analogy of the sun cd. As the sun illuminates objects so the eye can see them, the Form of the Good renders the objects of knowledge knowable to the human soul. As the sun provides things with their ability to be, to grow, and with nourishment, the Form of the Good provides the objects of knowledge with their being even though it itself is higher than being b.
Socrates offers the analogy of the divided line to explain the Form of the Good even further dd. He divides a line into two unequal sections once and then into two unequal sections again. The lowest two parts represent the visible realm and the top two parts the intelligible realm.
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Corresponding to each of these, there is a capacity of the human soul: imagination, belief, thought, and understanding. The line also represents degrees of clarity and opacity as the lowest sections are more opaque and the higher sections clearer. Socrates continues his discussion of the philosopher and the Forms with a third analogy, the analogy of the cave ac.
True education is the turning around of the soul from shadows and visible objects to true understanding of the Forms c-d. Philosophers who accomplish this understanding will be reluctant to do anything other than contemplate the Forms but they must be forced to return to the cave the city and rule it.
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Those who eventually become philosopher kings will initially be educated like the other guardians in poetry, music, and physical education d-e. Then they will receive education in mathematics: arithmetic and number c , plane geometry c , and solid geometry b. Following these, they will study astronomy e , and harmonics d. Then they will study dialectic which will lead them to understand the Forms and the Form of the Good a. Socrates gives a partial explanation of the nature of dialectic and leaves Glaucon with no clear explanation of its nature or how it may lead to understanding aa. Then they discuss who will receive this course of education and how long they are to study these subjects ab.
The ones receiving this type of education need to exhibit the natural abilities suited to a philosopher discussed earlier.
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After the training in dialectic the education system will include fifteen years of practical political training ec to prepare philosopher kings for ruling the city. Socrates concludes by suggesting that the easiest way to bring the just city into being would be to expel everyone over the age of ten out of an existing city eb.
Socrates picks up the argument that was interrupted in Book V. Glaucon remembers that Socrates was about to describe the four types of unjust regime along with their corresponding unjust individuals cb.
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Socrates announces that he will begin discussing the regimes and individual that deviate the least from the just city and individual and proceed to discuss the ones that deviate the most b-c. The cause of change in regime is lack of unity in the rulers d. Assuming that the just city could come into being, Socrates indicates that it would eventually change since everything which comes into being must decay a-b. The rulers are bound to make mistakes in assigning people jobs suited to their natural capacities and each of the classes will begin to be mixed with people who are not naturally suited for the tasks relevant to each class e.
This will lead to class conflicts a. The first deviant regime from just kingship or aristocracy will be timocracy, that emphasizes the pursuit of honor rather than wisdom and justice d ff. The timocratic individual will have a strong spirited part in his soul and will pursue honor, power, and success a. This city will be militaristic. Oligarchy arises out of timocracy and it emphasizes wealth rather than honor c-e.
Socrates discusses how it arises out of timocracy and its characteristics ce : people will pursue wealth; it will essentially be two cities, a city of wealthy citizens and a city of poor people; the few wealthy will fear the many poor; people will do various jobs simultaneously; the city will allow for poor people without means; it will have a high crime rate. The oligarchic individual comes by seeing his father lose his possessions and feeling insecure he begins to greedily pursue wealth a-c. Thus he allows his appetitive part to become a more dominant part of his soul c.
Socrates proceeds penultimately, to discuss democracy. It comes about when the rich become too rich and the poor too poor c-d. Too much luxury makes the oligarchs soft and the poor revolt against them c-e. In democracy most of the political offices are distributed by lot a.
The primary goal of the democratic regime is freedom or license b-c. People will come to hold offices without having the necessary knowledge e and everyone is treated as an equal in ability equals and unequals alike, c. The democratic individual comes to pursue all sorts of bodily desires excessively dd and allows his appetitive part to rule his soul.
He comes about when his bad education allows him to transition from desiring money to desiring bodily and material goods d-e. The democratic individual has no shame and no self-discipline d. Tyranny arises out of democracy when the desire for freedom to do what one wants becomes extreme b-c.
Socrates points out that when freedom is taken to such an extreme it produces its opposite, slavery ea. The tyrant comes about by presenting himself as a champion of the people against the class of the few people who are wealthy da. The tyrant is forced to commit a number of acts to gain and retain power: accuse people falsely, attack his kinsmen, bring people to trial under false pretenses, kill many people, exile many people, and purport to cancel the debts of the poor to gain their support ea. The tyrant eliminates the rich, brave, and wise people in the city since he perceives them as threats to his power c.
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Socrates indicates that the tyrant faces the dilemma to either live with worthless people or with good people who may eventually depose him and chooses to live with worthless people d. The tyrant ends up using mercenaries as his guards since he cannot trust any of the citizens d-e. Socrates is now ready to discuss the tyrannical individual a. He begins by discussing necessary and unnecessary pleasures and desires b-c.
Those with balanced souls ruled by reason are able to keep their unnecessary desires from becoming lawless and extreme db. The tyrannical person is mad with lust c and this leads him to seek any means by which to satisfy his desires and to resist anyone who gets in his way dd. Some tyrannical individuals eventually become actual tyrants b-d. Tyrants associate themselves with flatterers and are incapable of friendship ea. Applying the analogy of the city and the soul, Socrates proceeds to argue that the tyrannical individual is the most unhappy individual c ff. Like the tyrannical city, the tyrannical individual is enslaved c-d , least likely to do what he wants d-e , poor and unsatisfiable ea , fearful and full of wailing and lamenting a.
The individual who becomes an actual tyrant of a city is the unhappiest of all ba. Socrates concludes this first argument with a ranking of the individuals in terms of happiness: the more just one is the happier b-c. He proceeds to a second proof that the just are happier than the unjust d. Socrates distinguishes three types of persons: one who pursues wisdom, another who pursues honor, and another who pursues profit dc.
Socrates proceeds to offer a third proof that the just are happier than the unjust b.
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He begins with an analysis of pleasure: relief from pain may seem pleasant c and bodily pleasures are merely a relief from pain but not true pleasure b-c. The only truly fulfilling pleasure is that which comes from understanding since the objects it pursues are permanent b-c. Socrates adds that only if the rational part rules the soul, will each part of the soul find its proper pleasure da. He concludes the argument with a calculation of how many times the best life is more pleasant than the worst: seven-hundred and twenty nine ae. Socrates discusses an imaginary multi-headed beast to illustrate the consequences of justice and injustice in the soul and to support justice c ff.
Thereafter, Socrates returns to the subject of poetry and claims that the measures introduced to exclude imitative poetry from the just city seem clearly justified now a. Poetry is to be censored since the poets may not know which is; thus may lead the soul astray b. Socrates proceeds to discuss imitation. He explains what it is by distinguishing several levels of imitation through the example of a couch: there is the Form of the couch, the particular couch, and a painting of a couch ab. The products of imitation are far removed from the truth ec. Poets, like painters are imitators who produce imitations without knowledge of the truth ea.
Socrates argues that if poets had knowledge of the truth they would want to be people who do great things rather than remain poets b. Now Socrates considers how imitators affect their audiences c.