Plato’s Republic Books I-III

20 May

I am currently reading Plato’s book of dialogues Republic. It is divided into ten books. I am basically going to post and explain the arguments set forth in each book that I feel are breakthrough or important. This post is for the first three books of the Republic. In these books, Socrates is conversing with Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, Glaucon and more people over justice versus injustice, good versus bad, how one seems good or bad  or just or unjust, the souls satisfaction (in learning arts etc.) and more.
In Plato’s dialogues points and ideas are presented to the conversation through argument. In any subject for discussion, many small points and ideas are explained to contribute to the big picture of the idea. In this post I am only going to explain how the biggest concepts of the first books work.

Justice is defined as all truth and in returning back to the person what he or she is supposed to receive.
Throughout the first three books of the Republic, this idea holds true


Is it better for one to strive to be just or unjust? Which is better and more profitable?

If you strive for yourself to do and say what society sets forth as just, first of all you will be seen as just which is only as good as what comes if you are truly just. If you are truly just, Socrates says, good things will come to you in the end.
There is argument however whether it is more profitable to be just or unjust. It is not profitable at first to be just because you are rewarded much later for practicing the just things. Being unjust is extremely profitable at first and can confuse people as to which is better to represent yourself as. For example, if you are a bookie and accept bets from men who do not need to be placing bets such as this. You profit from the man if he loses his bet. This is very profitable for you, but this is not good or just because of how it puts the better in a deficit (the man who placed the bet is no more good and just than you are). The money you took from him is truly his and still should be his but he betted it away so its only truly his because the betting he engaged in was not good or just. It is better to be good and just because in the long run you will be benefited. Being unjust and bad may  profit you right now but later you will not be successful by any means.

Is it good or just to seem good and just when you are really bad and unjust and vice versa?

One who SEEMS  good and just but really is not, is not good or just by any means because what one is only matters when the SEEMING is taken out. If a society, economy or government is made up of those who seem good and just but under the surface really are not, the structure of the government would eventually crumble because as I will explain later, Socrates says that the only way a government can succeed is through practicing and holding true the good and just components. It is more good and just if you seem bad and unjust when really you are just and good in every way. It is mostly good and just when the SEEMING  is taken out of th equation because what you are under the surfacei is what really matters. For example, Socrates was seen as bad and unjust when he was tried as an evildoer and for practicing witchcraft when really Socrates was just exploring because the Oracle at Delphi said to know thyself and that the unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates’ defense speech (Apology) showed later that he really was a good and just philosopher. In Athens at the time, he was viewed as bad and unjust. This equation is the most just of all seeming. Even though Socrates seemed bad and unjust then, he has been for a long time and is still viewed today as one of the most good and just people that ever lived.

After discussion with Polemarchus, Cephalus, Thrasymachus pipes in energetically and calls Socrates a sycophant (fawning parasite, selfish learner) because of how he responded to questions with more questions and took in all the answers as other people answered them. Socrates defends this accusation by providing a strong opinion for the discussed subjects. The discussion about being and seeming good, just, bad and unjust, the discussion and defense against Thrasymachus leads them into discussion about who has the advantage in a government and is that good and just that its true.

Does the stronger or the weaker have the advantage? Is it just and good that they have that advantage?

The discussion of Thrasymachus and Socrates is taken from being good and just in themselves to applying goodness and justice to possible societies, economies and governments. The idea of just governments gets more elaborated. The case is made that the stronger has the advantage in a government because the ruler, dictator, oligarch, or monarch have the most power over a state or nation. The case is made that the only way that the stronger would have the advantage is if the ruler of a nation or state was tyrannical. The citizens of a tyrannical state are at the mercy of their ruler. A tyrannical ruler being one that takes advantage of the citizens of a state or nation and one that reaps what everyone else sows, the stronger of a government having the advantage is NOT JUST OR GOOD by any means.
The weaker having the advantage is discussed as being just and good because of who the weaker is. The weaker component is the one that have many needs and relies on the ruler to provide them with the things that they need to live and be successful in that state. The weak will only have the advantage in a democratic state or nation because in a tyrannical, dictatorial, totalitarian or other bad governmental structure, the cries of the weak will not be heard by the ruler because the ruler will be so concerned with his own wants and needs. When the weak ask the ruler for things that will help them succeed in their lives in that state, pressure is put upon that ruler to deliver promptly. For example, the U.S. economy is in shambles right now and the newer president Barack Obama has been elected by the people because we all think that he is the one that will effectively bring this country out of the recession. If Obama does not deliver us out of these bad times, Obama will probably have an affected reputation just as George W. Bush has now because of the bad things that have happened to this country while he was in office. LOTS OF PRESSURE is on Barack Obama right now. This operation is just and good by Socrates and Plato.

The advantage of the weaker is the MOST JUST AND GOOD  of the two advantages that can be present in a society, economy or government. The weaker having the advantage is the only way a structure like this can prosper.

Establishment of Cities

To build a city of diverse trades and people, do you think that you could just have 5 people and be successful as a city? In the beginning of Republic, it is explained by Socrates, the things that are necessary to establish a successful city. He begins by explaining that it is necessary that the weaker of the people must have the advantage and that the good and the just of things must be established. He beings to explain the idea of a city by asking if 5 people with their own trade would be enough to establish a successful city. According to the forms, one who takes on the form of a cobbler, the form of an artist, the form of a silversmith and so on cannot take on the roles of other forms of other trades and be successful in a city. If you want to be successful in a city, each person must take on one trade of one form. There must be a plethora of people that are a part of the city, each person performing a different  trade so that all the needs of a city can be met to make the city take on the identity of being good and just. If the city is to become successful, the city together can pay each of its citizens by the trades that each person is to perform. Lastly for a city to become successful and to represent good and just things, exportation and importation must be a part of daily activity. Exportation and importation of goods and services can be assigned to people as trades. All of these trades and people together, with exportation and importation and lastly with an economy, society and government where the weaker has the advantage are what is needed to establish a successful city that represents the good and justice.

Forms of  Diction and Narrative

Socrates also discusses in the Republic the importance that speech and language has in rhetoric. The Form of the Narrative concerns imitation and diction. Narrative concerns stories being told and how they are told. Stores need to be imitated. The first person that told the story probably told the story the best especially if it was popular and important. Sometimes, not always, imitation is what allows other people to tell the same stories. Diction is also necessary in the narrative, because diction, pitch, rhythm, inflection and imitation are what makes a story interesting to listen to and important in the subjects at hand.
The Form of Diction is what is more useful than the narrative because stories are usually not the method that concepts and ideas are discussed. Diction is not only effective pronunciation of the words that are spoken, but it is also pitch, rhythm and voice inflection of the speaker. Diction sometimes also involves imitation if concepts are complicated enough that the way they are explained is similar. Socrates discusses in Plato’s Republic that Diction and narrative are forms that are key concepts in understanding and using rhetoric.

Treatment of the Body and the Soul

In the 3rd book of the Republic, Socrates argues that the body and the soul are 2 separate things and that two different ways or professions are needed to satisfy them both. I call it treatment of the body and soul because Socrates says to Glaucon that to satisfy the soul requires one action and to satisfy the body, requires another action. First, the soul requires by Socrates to be satisfied by music. To satisfy the soul, it is not referred in the Republic that music is to be used as entertainment. The person that is to satisfy their soul is to train endlessly in music of some instrument and to perform to eventually and hopefully master the skill of music. Socrates states that music grabs a firm hold on the soul and does not let go easily. Because of this, Socrates said that training and perfecting one’s skill in music will eventually satisfy the soul. The training, performing and entertainment from the 2 aforementioned things are what satisfies the soul to the standard of Socrates. The body being separate from the soul requires something totally different to satisfy it. Socrates states that it is gymnastics that one should train themselves in that will eventually satisfy the body. Like music satisfying the soul, to satisfy the body, one must train and perform in gymnastics in all events for a long period of time to hopefully eventually master the skills of gymnastics. It is stated that gymnastics trains the body in a variety of ways due to the different skills involved in the sport. Constant training and performing will entertain the body and eventually satisfy it.
This philosophy follows suit as supporting material that Plato states that the soul and the body are separate entities.

The above arguments are the main arguments stated in the first three books of Plato’s Republic. Along with these arguments so much supporting ideas are added to compare and contrast with these arguments. Socrates uses these comparisons and contrasts to support his case. It is best to actually read Republic to get the most out of it.
Next post on Plato ‘s Republic will be on Books IV-VI


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