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Plato's The Republic
Throughout the book, the ideas of Plato and his peers center on the social conditions of an ideal republic, which lead each person to the perfect possible life. Socrates, who was Plato's mentor, acts as a moderator during Plato's discussions, presenting a series of questions and topics that contribute to Plato's ideas of a perfect society. At the beginning of The Republic, Plato asks the fundamental question of what is justice? This becomes one of the key issues of the book, along with Plato's ideas about forms.
Socrates had just attended a festival and was returning to Athens when he met Polemarchos on the road. Polemarchos insisted that Socrates join him at his home to meet his family and friends. The group began a conversation about justice. Polemarchos said that justice was giving back what is owed. Socrates argued that if he returned a weapon to a friend who had gone mad, that was the opposite of justice.
Another man said that justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger. Socrates then argued that this definition was inaccurate, saying that ruler are fallible and often make decisions that are not in their best interest, therefore requiring their subjects to do unjust things.
Socrates said that right living, dutiful service toward others and acting appropriately toward people and situations were all prerequisites to individual happiness and prerequisites for avoiding chaos within a republic. A man in the group objected to Socrates' statement that justice is a virtue and injustice a vice; saying that he did not think justice possessed any fundamental value.
Socrates then explained his theory in a different way, shifting his focus from the individual to the city. According to Socrates, people merged in cities so that each person could perform the task best suited to their individual nature. He described the various classes of people in a city, from the peasant to the highest ruler. He asked the group: "Do you not think, that one who is to be guardian-like needs something more besides a spirited temper, and that is to be in his nature a lover of wisdom?" He wondered how potential rulers could be trained and educated with these traits.
Socrates then weighed the variety of types of education and experience expected of a good ruler, dividing education into two groups: music and athletics. According to Socrates, fables were the first "music" heard by children and a large part of how children are molded. Therefore, he recommended that the fable-makers be censored.
For example, fables that portrayed the gods in a negative way would be disapproved, while fables presenting noble tales would be approved. This would serve as a good early example to children, who may grow up to be rulers. Socrates took his censorship theory to another level to include craftsmen, artists and sculptors, who he said should be kept from creating deformed, ignoble, morbid or imaginary creations, "so that they would not poison minds with evil thoughts.
Socrates said that to create a just society, a delicate balance had to be kept between gymnastic and musical education. Too much gymnastics would result in savageness and hardness, while too much music promotes excessive softness and gentleness. This would contribute to a just and formed society.
Socrates' next question was: "Which among these are to rule, and which to be ruled?" His answer was that there were several ways of discovering those best suited to be rulers. A true ruler would diligently keep watch "on enemies without and friends within," ensuring that no injury came to the city or the people. Of the three classes of citizens - the merchant class, the high-spirited soldier class, and the philosopher - the philosopher was most capable of acting most just and civil, showing the most ideal "harmony" in ruling over the passions and appetites of the other classes.
To maintain harmony, said Socrates, true rulers must live as their subjects do, and must not have any dealings with gold or silver. Rather, the city should supply all their needs. Socrates said that a just city would be united, with no single man living in great wealth or poverty. Each citizen should work in a profession which best uses his talents, and work with others in unity for the growth of his state.
Socrates states that, in both rulers and the state itself, there are three elements that are necessary: temperance, courage and intelligence. To make these three things possible, Socrates stressed that it was necessary to have justice.
The Republic shows a belief that justice exists in an objective sense. It dictates a belief that the good life should be provided for all individuals no matter how high or low their social status. Plato sees the justice and law as what sets the guidelines for societal behavior.
In The Republic, Plato separates the city into three classes: gold, silver, as well as bronze and iron souls. Each class is poised to posses a specific virtue. Plato believes that wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice combine together to form The Republic.
In Plato's search for the ideal republic, he speculates that the city will be based on all four virtues. The first of them is wisdom, which he says is knowledge of the city as a whole. The gold souls are the ones that possess the virtue of wisdom. The gold souls are the only class whose knowledge goes beyond the mere facts to the level of true wisdom.
The second virtue is courage, which Plato describes as the preservation of the opinion produced by law, through education about what things are terrible, and what things are good. The silver souls possess courage.
The third virtue is moderation, which Plato defines as the kind of accord and harmony between the bronze and silver souls. Moderation is the ability to control desires and to be the master of self, meaning the good part of a man must control the bad. Plato said that moderation is not just in the gold and silver souls, but also runs throughout the city.
Plato sees justice as the most important of the virtues, defining it as minding one's own business. According to Plato, justice comes about when every person in the republic is doing what he set out to do. The dressmakers make only dresses, and the farmers only deal with agriculture. When everyone minds their own business and does the work they are trained for, there will be no injustice. According to Plato, justice is the trait that makes all the other virtues possible. He says that when wisdom, courage, and moderation have been obtained then the remaining has to be justice.
Plato set out to explain his theories of justice and form in The Republic, as well as consider the principles behind an ideal city-state. The book deals mostly with the principles behind justice and talks a lot about why it is beneficial to be just as opposed to unjust.
Plato says that justice is "advantageous; it consists of subordinating the irrational to the rational in the soul." By using a truly just modelfor understanding this idea, Plato creates a vision of the "ideal structure for human society." A just society, he argues, would have its parts in proper hierarchy, as would a just soul.
This idea is one of Plato's strongest. In the book, Plato differentiates between three classes of people, by their ability to grasp the truth of the forms and their understanding that each class contributing to society by fulfilling its proper function.
The philosopher's concept of the definition of ideal politics and government is the result of his belief in the theory of forms. The theory of forms simply says that there is a higher form for everything that exists. Each material thing is no more than a representation of the actual thing that is the form. According to Plato, most people cannot see the forms; they can only see their representation or their shadows.
I agree with Plato's philosophy that only those who love knowledge and contemplate on the reality of things will achieve understanding of the forms. The ignorant or uninterested will never understand the things that those who have a thirst for knowledge can uncover. However, Plato weakens his theory by saying that philosophers the only ones who can reach true knowledge.
Plato believes that philosophers should be the rulers since they are the only ones who hold the form of the good. Plato implies that it is not enough to be knowledgeable to be ruler; one must also be good. If this is the case, then why are philosophers the only ones who should be able to rule? What about religious groups and coalitions? These are often good and knowledgeable. This is one flawed statement of Plato's book.
Throughout The Republic, Plato expands on his idea of Philosopher Rulers. While it is not the main point of the book, it certainly is at the core of many of his discussions.…[continue]
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