Overview Of Plato's Republic Essay

1571 words - 7 pages

Plato’s Republic is a Socratic dialogue written by the philosopher Plato in 360 B.C.E. The main character Socrates and other Athenians discuss the meaning of justice and try to examine whether the just man is happier than the unjust man. In order to do this, they imagine a city ruled by philosopher kings and guardians. The main theme in The Republic is of course justice, and in the first book the character of Glaucon presents Socrates with a challenge in their search for the meaning of justice.
Gluacon, after hearing Thrasymacus praise injustice, wants to challenge Socrates to defend the just life in the way that he wants. Glaucon wants it to be praised just in itself and believes he will ...view middle of the document...

However Socrates says, “…the city, at any rate, was thought to be just because of the three natural classes within it…” (435b). So he proposes that if the same justice is to be found in an individual, they too must have three parts to their soul. Appetite, rationality and the spirited part. The appetite is the part of the soul responsible for desires such as thirst, hunger, sex and passion. It includes the desires which are necessary in order to live such as eating and drinking and desires that unnecessary. Socrates explains that when the appetite desires something like a drink, then it is impelled to get do simply that, and drink. But sometimes it can get out of control and needs to be held back. This is how he describes the rational part of the soul. This is the calculating part of the soul, the part that stops the urges brought on by appetite and controls it. The spirited part is described as aiding or partnering the appetite, in helping it do the things that the rational side tell it not to do. The example Socrates uses is that of a man who sees a pile of corpses. The rational part of him says not to look, but his appetite wants to. In a just person, the appetite is controlled by rationality and spirit.
In order for a soul to be properly functioning it must have balance between its four virtues. One of those is wisdom. In Plato’s Republic wisdom is defined as being the knowledge of the whole city. When talking about the city, Socrates divided its people into three classes or metals. The gold, silver and bronze classes. Only the gold class is considered to posses this virtue of wisdom as it, “… properly has a share in that knowledge which … ought to be called wisdom, has, as it seems, the fewest members by nature.”(429a) Courage, the second of these virtues is the preservation of knowledge about what is good and what is not, by being cultivated by proper education. Courage is said to be found in the silver class, or silver souls. If those who need to have courage are not properly educated they can be too soft or gentle. Physical and musical training is important in order to cultivate courage within a guardian so they can understand how to protect. This training must be balanced however, because if someone has too much physical training and not enough musical training they will not be able to recognize enemy from friend, and will not be gentle enough. Therefore the training will be very precise and certain musical and physical training will not be allowed. Socrates also wants the best of the guardians to rule the city. Thus he proposes they be put to a series of tests, to make sure they are best suited to be a ruler. He wants them to put through various labors and pains while being watched to see if they stay true to their training. Socrates tell Glaucon, “…we must discover which of them are best at safeguarding within themselves the conviction that they must always do what they believe to be best for the city.”(413c)...

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