PLATO

Selected Passages from Plato's Dialogues

The Theory of Justice

  "But, Cephalus, speaking of this very thing, justice, are we to affirm thus without qualification that it is truth-telling and paying back what one has received from anyone, or may these very actions sometimes be just and sometimes unjust? I mean, for example, as everyone I presume would admit, if one took over weapons from a friend who was in his right mind and then the lender should go mad and demand them back, that we ought not to return them in that case and that he who did so return them would not be acting justly—nor yet would he who chose to speak nothing but the truth to one who was in that state.
  You are right, Socrates.
  Then this is not the definition (ὅρος) of justice: to tell the truth and return what one has received" (Republic I.331c).

Polemarchus steps in to replace Cephalus.

  "Tell me, then, you the inheritor of the argument, what it is that you affirm that Simonides says and rightly says about justice.
  That it is just to render to each his due. In saying this I think he speaks well.
  I must admit that it is not easy to disbelieve Simonides. For he is a wise and inspired man. But just what he may mean by this you doubtless know, but I do not" (Republic I.331e).

Socrates questions Polemarchus about what it is "to render each his due," and Polemarchus cannot defend his answers.

Thrasymachus had been trying to jump into the conversation and finally could restrain himself no longer (Republic I.336b).

"But if you really wish, Socrates, to know what the just is, don't merely ask questions or plume yourself upon controverting any answer that anyone gives—since your acumen has perceived that it is easier to ask questions than to answer them, but do you yourself answer, and tell us what you say the just is. And don't you be telling me that it is that which ought to be, or the beneficial or the profitable or the gainful or the advantageous, but express clearly and precisely whatever you say. For I won't take from you any such drivel as that" (Republic I.336c).

Socrates seems to answer this complaint later in the Republic. In Books II-IV, he explains the concrete form justice takes in a city and in the soul of an individual human being.
The primary questions in the Republic are what justice is and whether the just life is better.

Book I of the Republic is in the style of a definitional dialogue. Socrates' interlocutors are Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus. They are unable to defend their answers.

In Book II, Glaucon and Admeimantus challenge Socrates to prove that the just life is better. He accepts the challenge and tries to meet it in the remaining books of the Republic.


Republic I.353d

  Then next consider this, Thrasymachus. The soul, has it a function (ἔργον) which you couldn't accomplish with anything else in the world, as for example, management, rule, deliberation (ἐπιμελεῖσθαι καὶ ἄρχειν καὶ βουλεύεσθα), and the like, is there anything else than soul to which you could rightly assign these and say that they were its peculiar work?
  Nothing else, Socrates.
  And again life? Shall we say that too is the function of the soul?
  Most certainly.
  And do we not also say that there is a virtue of the soul?
  We do.
  Will the soul ever accomplish its own work well if deprived of its own virtue, or is this impossible?
  It is impossible.
  Of necessity, then, a bad soul will govern and manage things badly while the good soul will in all these things do well.
  Of necessity, Socrates.
  And did we not agree that the virtue of the soul is justice (δικαιοσύνην) and its defect injustice?
  Yes, we did.


Notes on the Text

Why is justice is the virtue of the soul?

The idea, it seems, is that there are competiting interests in the soul about what to do and that the soul must manage them "justly" to live the good life.

"Most excellent man, are you who are a citizen of Athens, the greatest of cities and the most famous for wisdom and power, not ashamed to care for the acquisition of wealth and for reputation and honor, when you neither care nor take thought (οὐκ ἐπιμελῇ οὐδὲ φροντίζεις) for wisdom and truth and the perfection of your soul" (Apology 29d)?



Republic II.358e

"The makers of the laws are the weaker sort of men, and the more numerous. So it is with a view to themselves and their own interest that they make their laws and distribute their praises and censures; and to terrorize the stronger sort of folk who are able to get an advantage (πλέον), and to prevent them from getting one over them, they tell them, that such aggrandizement (πλεονεκτεῖν) is foul and unjust, and that wrongdoing is just this endeavor to get the advantage of one's neighbors: for I expect they are well content to see themselves have the equal, when they are so inferior. So this is why by convention it is termed unjust and foul to aim at an advantage over the majority, and why they call it wrongdoing: but nature, in my opinion, herself proclaims the fact that it is right for the better to have advantage of the worse, and the abler of the feebler. It is obvious in many cases that this is so, not only in the animal world, but in the states and races, collectively, of men--that right has been decided to consist in the sway and advantage of the stronger over the weaker" (Gorigias 483b). They say, Socrates, that it is by nature that to do wrong is good and that to be wronged is bad. But the suffering of injury so far exceeds in badness the good of inflicting it that when men do wrong and are wronged by one another and taste of both, those who lack the power to avoid the one and take the other determine that it is for their profit to make a compact with one another neither to commit nor to suffer wrong. They say that this is the beginning of legislation and covenants between men, and that they name the commandment of the law the lawful and the just, and that this is the origin and reality of justice—a compromise between the best, which is to do wrong with impunity, and the worst, which is to be wronged and be impotent to get one's revenge.


Notes on the Text

Glaucon outlines a view of justice and the value of a just life that many accept.

In Book II, Glaucon and Admeimantus (who are Plato's brothers) express their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the conversation in Book I. Socrates has forced Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus into contradiction, but the questions of what justice is and whether the just life is better remain without answers. So Glaucon and Admeimantus challenge Socrates to not just ask questions but to say what justice is and to prove that the just life is better.

On the view Glaucon thinks the many accept, justice is an agreement that people reach. They think that the best possible outcome would be get away with justice, but the majority does not have the power. So they agree to act justly to avoid the injury that results from acting unjustly.



Republic II.359b

[T]hat those who practise justice do so unwillingly (ἄκοντες) and from want of power to commit injustice—we shall be most likely to apprehend that if we entertain some such supposition as this in thought: if we grant to each, the just and the unjust, licence to do whatever he wishes (βούληται), and then accompany them in imagination and see whither his desire will conduct each. We should then catch the just man in the very act of resorting to the same conduct as the unjust man because of the advantage (πλεονεξίαν) which every creature by its nature pursues as a good, while by the convention of law it is forcibly diverted to paying honor to equality. The licence that I mean would be most nearly such as would result from supposing them to have the power which men say once came to the ancestor of Gyges the Lydian. ... [Once he realized the ring he found gave him the power to be invisible], he immediately managed things so that he became one of the messengers who went up to the king, and on coming there he seduced the king's wife and with her aid set upon the king and slew him and possessed his kingdom. If now there should be two such rings, and the just man should put on one and the unjust the other, no one could be found, it would seem, of such adamantine temper as to persevere in justice and endure to refrain his hands from the possessions of others and not touch them, though he might with impunity take what he wished even from the marketplace, and enter into houses and lie with whom he pleased, and slay and loose from bonds whomsoever he would, and in all other things conduct himself among mankind as the equal of a god. And in so acting he would do no differently from the other man, but both would pursue the same course. And yet this is a great sign, one might say, that no one is just of his own will (ἑκὼν) but only from constraint, in the belief that justice is not his personal good, inasmuch as every man, when he supposes himself to have the power to do wrong, does wrong. For that there is far more profit (λυσιτελεῖν) for him personally in injustice than in justice is what every man believes, and believes truly, as the proponent of this theory will maintain.


Notes on the Text

To prove that the many think the best possible outcome would be to get away with injustice, Glaucon tells the story of the ring of Gyges. According to the story, Gyges found a ring that made him invisible. Once he realized what the ring did, he used it to get away with injustice. Glaucon says that the many think there is no reason not to use the ring.



Republic II.366e

[No one, Socrates,] has ever censured injustice or commended justice otherwise than in respect of the repute, the honors, and the gifts that accrue from each. But what each one of them is in itself, by its own inherent force, when it is within the soul (ψυχῇ) of the possessor and escapes the eyes of both gods and men, no one has ever adequately set forth in poetry or prose—the proof that the one is the greatest of all evils that the soul contains within itself, while justice is the greatest good.... [M]ake clear to us what each in and of itself does to its possessor, whereby the one is evil and the other good. But do away with the repute of both, as Glaucon urged. For, unless you take away from either the true repute and attach to each the false, we shall say that it is not justice that you are praising but the semblance, nor injustice that you censure, but the seeming, and that you really are exhorting us to be unjust but conceal it, and that you are at one with Thrasymachus in the opinion that ... injustice is advantageous and profitable to oneself but disadvantageous to the inferior. ...[T]his is what I would have you praise about justice—the benefit which it and the harm which injustice inherently works upon its possessor. But the rewards and the honors that depend on opinion, leave to others to praise. For while I would listen to others who thus commended justice and disparaged injustice, bestowing their praise and their blame on the reputation and the rewards of either, I could not accept that sort of thing from you unless you say I must, because you have passed your entire life in the consideration of this very matter. Do not then, I repeat, merely prove to us in argument the superiority of justice to injustice, but show us what it is that each inherently does to its possessor—whether he does or does not escape the eyes of gods and men—whereby the one is good and the other evil.


Notes on the Text

Adeimantus clarifies this challenge Glaucon puts to Socrates.

Adeimantus says that Socrates must show that justice is good and injustice bad for someone, not because of such things as reputation, but because of their presence in the soul. Adeimantus, in this way, says that Socrates must show what he previously forced Thrasymachus to admit in questioning: that "the virtue of the soul is justice and its defect injustice."



Republic II.368e

  There is a justice of one man, we say, and, I suppose, also of an entire city.
  Assuredly, Socrates.
  Is not the city larger than the man?
  It is larger.
  Then, perhaps, there would be more justice in the larger object and more easy to apprehend. If it please you, then, let us first look for its quality in states, and then only examine it also in the individual, looking for the likeness of the greater in the form of the less.
  I think that is a good suggestion.
  If, then, our argument should observe the origin of a state, we should see also the origin of justice and injustice in it.
  It may be.
  And if this is done, we may expect to find more easily what we are seeking?
Much more.
  Shall we try it, then, and go through with it? I fancy it is no slight task. Reflect, then.
  We have reflected. Proceed and don't refuse.


Notes on the Text

To meet the challenge Glaucon and Adeimantus pose, Socrates takes up the question of what justice is. To answer this question, he first considers what justice is in a city, because it is "larger," and so presumably more straightforward to consider, and then, once he and his interlocutors understand what justice in the city is, he turns to justice is in a human being.

The strategy Socrates employs can be a little surprising, given the search for a definition of justice in Book I of the Republic. Instead of searching for what justice is, as one might have expected, he searches for what it is in a city and in an individual human being.

The reason for this strategy, it seems, is that Socrates thinks that the answer to "What is justice?" is the uninformative one that justice is what is fitting with respect to human beings. What he needs to know to meet the challenge Glaucon and Adeimantus pose is what is fitting for an individual human being and what is fitting for human beings in a city.

If justice is what is fitting with respect to human beings, then justice in the "city" (πόλις) is what is fitting with respect to human beings in a city. A city is an organization of human beings, so a just city is one in which the human beings in it are organized in a fitting way.



Republic II.369b

  The origin of the city (πόλις), then, in my opinion, is to be found in the fact that we do not severally suffice for our own needs, but each of us lacks many things. Do you think a city is founded on any other principle?
  No other, Socrates.
  As a result of this, then, one man calling in another for one service and another for another, we, being in need of many things, gather many into one place of abode as associates and helpers, and to this dwelling together we give the name city. And between one man and another there is an interchange of giving, if it so happens, and taking, because each supposes this to be better for himself.
  Certainly.
  Come, then, let us create a city from the beginning, in our theory. Its real creator, as it appears, will be our needs.
  Obviously.


Notes on the Text

Socrates searches for the fitting organization or organizations by thinking about the purpose of the organization. He thinks that human beings organize themselves in cities to make their lives better. Cities provide the benefits of group living, but there are different ways human beings can organize themselves to provide these benefits. A fitting organization does this well.



Republic II.372c

  No relishes apparently, for the men you describe as feasting.
  True, Glaucon. I forgot that they will also have relishes—salt, of course, and olives and cheese and onions and greens, the sort of things they boil in the country, they will boil up together. But for dessert we will serve them figs and chickpeas and beans, and they will toast myrtle-berries and acorns before the fire, washing them down with moderate potations and so, living in peace and health, they will probably die in old age and hand on a like life to their offspring.
  If you were founding a city of pigs, Socrates, what other fodder than this would you provide?
  Why, what would you have, Glaucon?
  What is customary. They must recline on couches if they are not to be uncomfortable, and dine from tables and have made dishes and sweetmeats such as are now in use.
  Good, I understand. It is not merely the origin of a city, it seems, that we are considering but the origin of a luxurious city (τρυφῶσαν πόλιν). Perhaps that isn't such a bad suggestion, either. For by observation of such a city it may be we could discern the origin of justice and injustice in cities. The true city I believe to be the one we have described—the healthy city, as it were. But if it is your pleasure that we contemplate also a fevered city (φλεγμαίνουσαν πόλιν), there is nothing to hinder.


Notes on the Text

  "And by the dog, without being aware of it, we have been purifying (διακαθαίροντες) the city which a little while ago we said was luxurious (τρυφᾶν).
  That is because we are showing good sense (σωφρονοῦντές)
  Come then, let us complete the purification (καθαίρωμεν)" (Republic III.399e).
Glaucon is unhappy with the city Socrates has described.

Socrates takes Glaucon to want him to describe a "luxurious" (τρυφῶσα) or "fevered" (φλεγμαίνουσα) city. Socrates agrees.

The point of the first city and the need to describe a second is not obvious.

One possiblity is that Glaucon is introducing and Socrates is agreeing to the assumption that human beings are naturally tempted to lead profligate lives and thus that constraints are essential for an organization of human beings into a city to achieve its purpose.



Republic II.374d

  The task of our guardians (φυλάκων) is the greatest of all, it would require more leisure than any other business and the greatest knowledge and training.
  I think so, Socrates.
   Does it not also require a nature adapted to that very pursuit?
  Of course.
  It becomes our task, then, it seems, if we are able, to select which and what kind of natures are suited for the guardianship of a state.


Notes on the Text

The guardians of the city protect the life it provides for its citizens. Because this is the most important job, the guardians require the "greatest knowledge and training."

Socrates' understanding of what the life the city provides, together with his assumption that it falls to a class of experts to know how human beings should be organized so that this life is possible, shapes his understanding of the organization that constitutes justice in his city.



Republic II.376e

  What, then, is our education? Or is it hard to find a better than that which long time has discovered? Which is, I suppose, To be "musical" is to be skilled an art over which the Muses presided. The word is used generally of a person of letters and accomplishments. (The opposite is to be ἀμαθής. To be ἀμαθής is to be "unlearned, ignorant, stupid, or boorish.) The primary art in "music" is the poetry and music that constitutes the songs inspired by the Muses (Μοῦσαι), but it also included dance and literature generally. gymnastics (γυμναστική) for the body and for the soul music (μουσική).
  It is.
And shall we not begin education in music earlier than in gymnastics?
  Of course, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Socrates sets out the education necessary to produce the guardians in considerable detail. It consists in "gymnastics" for the body and "music" for the soul. This is the traditional Greek education, but Socrates removes what he takes to be its mistakes in its implementation.



Republic II.377a

  Do you not know, then, that the beginning in every task is the chief thing, especially for any creature that is young and tender?
  For it is then that it is best molded and takes the impression that one wishes to stamp upon it.
  Quite so.
  Shall we, then, thus lightly suffer our children to listen to any chance stories fashioned by any chance teachers and so to take into their minds opinions for the most part contrary to those that we shall think it desirable for them to hold when they are grown up?
  By no manner of means will we allow it.



Notes on the Text

  "Whatever opinions are taken into the mind at that age are wont to prove indelible and unalterable. For which reason, maybe, we should do our utmost that the first stories that they hear should be so composed as to bring the fairest lessons of virtue to their ears.
  Yes, Socrates, that is reasonable" (Republic II.378d).
Because the aim in education is to impress a certain character on the children, it is necessary to control the stories they hear so that these stories impress the right convictions in the children. Socrates goes on to say that the stories the children hear must be tales of "virtue."

Socrates, however, does not yet explain how the education system knows what virtue is.



Republic III.401e

"What I state is this,—that in children the first childish sensations are pleasure and pain, and that it is in these first that goodness and badness come to the soul; but as to wisdom and settled true opinions, a man is lucky if they come to him even in old age and; he that is possessed of these blessings, and all that they comprise, is indeed a perfect man. I term, then, the goodness that first comes to children 'education.' When pleasure and love, and pain and hatred, spring up rightly in the souls of those who are unable as yet to grasp a rational account; and when, after grasping the rational account, they consent thereunto that they have been rightly trained in fitting practices:—this consent, viewed as a whole, is goodness, while the part of it that is rightly trained in respect of pleasures and pains, so as to hate what ought to be hated, right from the beginning up to the very end, and to love what ought to be loved, if you were to mark this part off in your definition and call it 'education,' you would be giving it, in my opinion, its right name" (Laws II.653)   [Since the one properly educated in music] feels distaste rightly, he will praise fine things, take delight in them, and receive them into his soul and, through being nourished by them, become himself fine and good (καλός τε κἀγαθός). The ugly he will rightly disapprove and hate while still young and yet unable to apprehend the reason. And, because he has been so trained, he will welcome the reason when it comes and recognize it easily because of its kinship with himself.
  Yes, Socrates, it seems to me that these are the goals of musical training.


Notes on the Text

As a result of their education in music, the children react appropriately to fine and ugly things (things worthy and not worthy of approval). They are for the one and against the other.



Republic III.411e

  So I, for one, would claim that it is to deal with these two things, so it seems, that a god has given two crafts to human beings—musical training and physical training—to deal with the spirited and philosophical (τὸ θυμοειδὲς καὶ τὸ φιλόσοφον) elements, and not, except as a byproduct, with the soul and the body; but with these two, so that they might be harmonized with one another by being stretched and relaxed to the appropriate degree.
  Yes, it seems so.
  Then it is the person who makes the best blend of musical and physical training, and applies them in the most perfect proportion to his soul, that we would be most correct to describe as completely trained in music and as most in harmony—far more so than the one who merely attunes his strings to one another.
  That seems likely, Socrates.
  And shall we not also need in our city, Glaucon, a permanent overseer of this kind if its constitution (πολιτεία) is to be preserved?
  We most certainly shall.
  These, then, are the patterns (τύποι) for education and upbringing.


Notes on the Text

Socrates has described the initial education necessary to produce the guardians.



Republic III.412b

  Very well, what, then, have we next to determine? Is it not which ones among them shall be the rulers and the ruled?
  Certainly.
  That the rulers must be the elder and the ruled the younger is obvious.
  It is.
  And that the rulers must be their best?
  This too.
  And do not the best of the farmers prove the best farmers?
  Yes.
  And in this case, since we want them to be the best of the guardians, must they not be the best guardians, the most regardful of the city?
  Yes.
  They must then to begin with be intelligent in such matters and capable, and furthermore careful of the interests of the city?
  That is so.
  But one would be most likely to be careful of that which he loved.
  Necessarily.
  And again, one would be most likely to love that whose interests he supposed to coincide with his own, and thought that when it prospered, he too would prosper and if not, the contrary.
  So it is, Socrates.
  Then we must pick out from the other guardians such men as to our observation appear most inclined through the entire course of their lives to be zealous to do what they think is in the interest of the city, and most unwilling to do the opposite.


Notes on the Text

Given the initial education necessary to produce the guardians, Socrates turns to the question of who among these guardians should rule in a just city. Since they have been taught "to be zealous to do what they think is in the interest of the city, and most unwilling to do the opposite," the ones who have best learned this lesson are best suited to rule in the city.



Republic III.412e

  I think, then, we shall have to observe them at every period of life, to see if they are conservators and guardians of this conviction and never by sorcery nor by force can be brought to discard or forget their belief (δόξαν) that they must do what is best for the city.
  What do you mean by the discarding?
  I will tell you. It seems to me that the exit of a belief from the mind is either willing (ἑκουσίως) or unwilling (ἀκουσίως). Willing is the departure of the false belief from one who learns better, unwilling that of every true belief.
  The willing I understand, but I need instruction about the unwilling.
  Don't you agree with me in thinking that men are unwillingly deprived of good things but willingly of evil? Or is it not an evil to be deceived in respect of the truth and a good to possess truth? And don't you think that to opine the things that are is to possess the truth?
  Why, yes, you are right, and I agree that men are unwillingly deprived of true opinions.
  And doesn't this happen to them by theft, by the spells of sorcery or by force?
  I don't understand now either, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Socrates now turns to the question how to determine which of the guardians have best learned the lession they are to do what is in the interest of the city.

The answer is that those who have best learned are least likely to give up their belief (δόξαν)."



Republic III.413b

  By those who have their opinions stolen from them I mean those who are over-persuaded (μεταπεισθέντας) or those who forget, because argument, in the one case, and time, in the other, takes away their beliefs without their noticing. Now I presume you understand?
  Yes.
  Well, then, by those who are compelled I mean those who are made to change their beliefs (μεταδοξάσαι) by some suffering or pain.
  That too I understand and you are right.
  And the victims of sorcery I am sure you too would say are those who alter their opinions because they are charmed by pleasure or terrified by some fear.
  Yes, everything that deceives appears to cast a spell upon the mind.
  Well then, as I was just saying, we must look for those who are the best guardians of the conviction (δόγματος) that what they have to do is what they at any time believe to be best for the state. Then we must observe them from childhood up and set them tasks in which a person would be most likely to forget such a conviction or be deceived out of it. And we must select the ones who remember and are difficult to deceive, and reject the others. Do you agree?
  Yes, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

There are different ways for someone can give a belief. Someone can give up a belief because he accepts an argument against it, because he has forgotten it, because he undergoes "some suffering or pain," or because he is "charmed by pleasure or terrified by some fear."

What happens in the third and fourth way?

Beliefs, it seems, we hold or abandon on the basis of evidence for their truth.



Republic 413d

  And we must subject them to toils and pains and competitions in which we have to watch for the same traits.
  Right, Socrates.
  Then must we not institute a third kind of competitive test with regard to sorcery and observe them in that? Just as men conduct colts to noises and uproar to see if they are liable to take fright, so we must bring these lads while young into fears and again pass them into pleasures, testing them much more carefully than men do gold in the fire, to see if the man remains immune to such witchcraft and preserves his composure throughout, a good guardian of himself and the culture which he has received, maintaining the true rhythm and harmony of his being in all those conditions, and the character that would make him most useful to himself and to the city. And he who as boy, lad, and man endures the test and issues from it unspoiled we must establish as ruler over our city and its guardian, and bestow rewards upon him in life, and in death the allotment of the supreme honors of burial-rites and other memorials. But the man of the other type we must reject. Such appears to me, Glaucon, the general notion of our selection and appointment of rulers and guardians as sketched in outline, but not drawn out in detail.
  I too, Socrates, think much the same.
  Then would it not truly be most proper to designate these as perfect guardians (φύλακας παντελεῖς), the ones who guard against external enemies and internal friends, so that the former will lack the power, and the latter the desire, to do any evil; but to call the young people to whom we were referring as guardians just now, auxiliaries and supporters of the guardians’ convictions?
  I think so, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Socrates says that "we must subject them to toils and pains and competitions."

This, it seems, is the third way to give up a belief. The guardians are motivated to do what is best for the city, but they also are motivated to avoid pain. The tests determine which will act for the sake of the city even when this requires him to endure painful experiences.

Socrates also describes a "third" test. He has described giving up a belief by "theft" (because of argument or because of time) and "force" (because suffering or pain). The third test determines whether a guardian will give up the belief because of "socery."

This last way to give up a belief is a little confusing.

What happens in this case, it seems, is that someone is misled about what is really frightful and thus is to be avoided. When "men conduct colts to noises and uproar to see if they are liable to take fright," they are putting them in situations that appear frightful and thus to require them to take flight but in fact are less to be dreaded than not obeying their master.

What is the difference between this third and fourth way to give up a belief?

Maybe the difference is about suffering some bad versus the prospect of suffering some bad. The test for the third way to give up a belief requires the guardians to endure some pain while they are doing what the test says it necessary for the sake of the city. The fourth does not. It puts them in situations that make it appear that they could lose suffer some bad. This would allow for tests to determine how willing they are to give up their life for the sake of the city.

The ones who pass the tests are "perfect guardians" (φύλακας παντελεῖς). Their perfection, it seems, is in their willingness to act for the sake of the city. They still need further education to know what specifically to do. Socrates describes this education in Books VI and VII.



Republic IV.427e

  At last, then, son of Ariston, your city may be considered as established. The next thing is to procure a sufficient light somewhere and to look yourself, and call in the aid of your brother and of Polemarchus and the rest, if we may in any wise discover where justice and injustice should be in it, wherein they differ from one another and which of the two he must have who is to be happy, alike whether his condition is known or not known to all gods and men.
  Nonsense, Socrates, you promised that you would carry on the search yourself, admitting that it would be impious for you not to come to the aid of justice by every means in your power.
  A true reminder, and I must do so, but you also must lend a hand.
  Well, we will.
  I expect then, that we shall find it in this way. I think our city, if it has been rightly founded is completely good (τελέως ἀγαθὴν).
  Necessarily.
  Clearly, then, it will be wise, brave, temperate, and just.
  Clearly.
  Then if we find any of these qualities in it, the remainder will be that which we have not found?
  Surely, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Once Socrates has set out his rightly founded city, he looks for what justice is in it. He thinks his city is rightly founded because it acheives the purpose for which human beings live in cities.

Why, though, does Socrates think it follows that his city is "wise, brave, temperate"?



Republic IV.428c

  Then is there some knowledge in the city we have just founded, which some of its citizens have, that does not deliberate about some particular thing in the city, but about the city as a whole, and about how its internal relations and its relations with other cities will be the best possible.
  There is indeed, Socrates.
  What is it and who has it?
  It is the craft of guardianship. And the ones who possess it are those rulers we just now called perfect guardians.
  Because it has this knowledge, then, how do you describe the city?
  As prudent and really wise.
  Now, do you think that there will be more metalworkers in the city, or more of these true guardians?
  There will be far more metalworkers.
  Of all those who are called by a certain name because they have some sort of knowledge, wouldn’t the true guardians be the fewest in number?
  By far.
  So, it is because of the smallest group or part of itself, and the knowledge that is in it—the part that governs and rules—that a city founded according to nature would be wise as a whole. And this class— which seems to be, by nature, the smallest—is the one that inherently possesses a share of the knowledge that alone among all the other sorts of should be called wisdom.
  That’s absolutely true.
  So we have found—though I do not know how—this one of the four.


Notes on the Text

The city is wise because its rulers are wise.



Republic IV.429b

"We were trying as hard as we could to do something similar [to those who dye wool] when we selected our soldiers and educated them in musical and physical training. It was contrived, you should suppose, for no purpose other than to ensure that—persuaded by us—they would absorb the laws in the best possible way, just like wool does a dye; that as a result, their beliefs about what things should inspire terror, and about everything else, would hold fast because they had the proper nature and rearing; so fast that the dye could not be washed out even by those detergents that are so terribly effective at scouring—pleasure, which is much more terribly effective at this than any detergent or abstergent, and pain and fear and appetite, which are worse than any detergent. This power, then, to preserve through everything the correct and law-inculcated belief about what should inspire terror and what should not is what I, at any rate, call courage" (Republic IV.429c).   But surely courage and the part of the city it is in, and because of which the city is described as courageous, is not very difficult to spot.
  How so, Socrates?
  Who would describe a city as cowardly or courageous by looking at anything other than that part which defends it and wages war on its behalf?
  No one would look at anything else.
  Because, I take it, whether the others are courageous or cowardly doesn’t make it one or the other.
  No, it doesn’t.
  So courage, too, belongs to a city because of a part of itself—because it has in that part the power to preserve through everything its belief that things to be feared are precisely those which and such as the lawgiver inculcated in their education. Or don’t you call that courage?
  I do not completely understand what you said. Would you mind repeating it?
  I mean that courage is a sort of preservation.
  What sort of preservation?
  The preservation of the belief, inculcated by the law through education, about what things, and what sorts of things, inspire terror. And by its preservation through everything, I mean preserving it though pains, pleasures, appetites, and fears and not abandoning it.


Notes on the Text

The city is brave because the auxlilaries to the rulers are brave.

This part of the city has "the power to preserve through everything its belief that things to be feared are precisely those which and such as the lawgiver inculcated in their education."



Republic IV.431b

  The city is rightly described as master of itself, if indeed anything in which the better rules the worse is to be described as temperate and master of itself.
  I am looking at the city, and what you say is true.
  Furthermore, pleasures, pains, and appetites that are numerous and multifarious are things one would especially find in children, women, household slaves, and in the so-called free members of the masses—that is, the inferior people.
  Yes.
  But the pleasures, pains, and appetites that are simple and moderate, the ones that are led by rational calculation with the aid of understanding and correct belief, you would find in those few people who are born with the best natures and receive the best education.
  That’s true.
  Don’t you see, then, that this too is present in your city, and that the appetites of the masses—the inferior people—are mastered there by the wisdom and appetites of the few—the best people?
  I do.
  So, if any city is said to be master of its pleasures and appetites and of itself, it is this one.
  Absolutely.
  So isn’t it also temperate because of all this?
  Yes, indeed.
  And moreover, if there is any city in which rulers and subjects share the same belief about who should rule, it is this one. Or don’t you agree?
  Yes, I certainly do.
  And in which of them do you say temperance is located when they are in this condition? In the rulers or the subjects?
  In both, I suppose.
  Do you see, then, that the hunch we had just now—that temperance is like a sort of harmony—was quite plausible?
  Why is that?
  Because its operation is unlike that of courage and wisdom, each of which resides in one part and makes the city either courageous or wise. Temperance does not work like that, but has literally been stretched throughout the whole, making the weakest, the strongest, and those in between all sing the same song in unison—whether in wisdom, if you like, or in physical strength, if you prefer; or, for that matter, in numbers, wealth, or anything else. Hence we would be absolutely right to say that this unanimity is temperance—this concord between the naturally worse and the naturally better, about which of the two should rule both in the city and in each individual.
  I agree completely.
  All right. We have now spotted three kinds of virtue in our city. What kind remains, then, that would give the city yet another share of virtue? For it is clear that what remains is justice.


Notes on the Text

The city is temperate because the appetites in the city are under the control of reason.



Republic IV.434c

  Meddling and exchange among these three classes is the greatest harm that can happen to the city and would rightly be called the worst evil one could do to it.
  Exactly.
  And wouldn’t you say that the worst evil one could do to one’s own city is injustice?
  Of course.
  That, then, is what injustice is. But let’s put it in reverse: the opposite of this—when the moneymaking, auxiliary, and guardian class each do their own work (οἰκειοπραγία) in the city—is justice (δικαιοσύνη) , isn’t it, and makes the city just?
  That’s exactly what I think too, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Socrates now has part of the answer to the first of the two questions in the Republic. He and his interlocutors now think they know what justice is in the city.



Republic IV.435a

  If you call a thing by the same name whether it is big or little, it is like in the way in which it is called the same or like. Then a just man too will not differ from a just city in respect of the form of justice, but will be like it.
  Yes, Socrates, he will be like it.
  But now the city was thought to be just because three natural kinds existing in it performed each its own function, and again it was temperate, brave, and wise because of certain other conditions and habits (πάθη τε καὶ ἕξεις) of these kinds.
  True.
  Then we shall thus expect the individual also to have these same kinds in his soul, and by reason of same conditions of these with those in the city to receive properly the same names.
  Inevitably, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Now that Socrates and his interlocutors have determined what justice is in a city, Socrates argues that justice in an individual is also a certain organization.

Socrates will argue that the organization is of the three parts of the soul.



Republic IV.441d

"[Justice in an individual, then,] does not lie in a man's external actions, but in the way he acts within himself.... He does not allow each part of himself to perform the work of another, or the parts of his soul to meddle with one another. He regulates well what is really his own and rules himself. He puts himself in order, ... and harmonizes the three parts of himself... He thinks that the just and beautiful action, which he names as such, to be that which preserves this state and indeed helps achieve it, wisdom to be the knowledge which oversees this action; and believing and naming the unjust action to be that which ever tends to, an unjust action to be that which always destroys it, and ignorance the belief which oversees that" (Republic IV.443d).   We must remember, then, that each of us also in whom the several parts within him perform each their own task--he will be a just man and one who minds his own affair.
  We must indeed remember.
  Does it not belong to the reasoning part to rule, it being wise and exercising forethought in behalf of the entire soul, and to the spirited part to be subject to this and its ally?
  Assuredly, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

Now that Socrates and his interlocutors have answered the first of the two questions in the Republic. They think they know what justice is both in a city and in an individual human being.

There are three parts in the soul: reason, spirit, and appetite. (This is the Tripartite Theory of the Soul.) A soul in which these parts have the appropriate organization is just. The appropriate organization is one in which each part of the soul does its own job. Reason knows what it is good and bad, and it rules in the soul. Spirit is reason's ally against appetite.



Republic IV.442b

  Then, wouldn't these two parts also do the finest job of guarding the whole soul and the body against external enemies--reason by planning, spirit by fighting, following its leader, and carrying out the leader's decision through its courage?
  Yes, Socrates, that is true.
  And it is because of the spirited part (τὸ θυμοειδὲς), I suppose, that we call a single individual courageous (ἀνδρεῖον), namely, when it preserves through pains and pleasures the declarations of reason about what is to be feared and what isn't.
  That is right.
  And we'll call him wise (σοφὸν) because of that small part of himself that rules in him and makes those declarations and has within it the knowledge (ἐπιστήμην) of what is advantageous for each part and for the whole soul, which is the community of all three parts.
  Absolutely.
  And isn't he temperate (σώφρονα) because of the friendly and harmonious relations between the same parts, namely when the ruler and the ruled believe in common that the rational part should rule and don't engage in civil war against it?
  Temperance is surely nothing other than that, both in the city and in the individual.


Notes on the Text

Wisdom, courage, and temperance are in an individual because the parts of his soul (reason, spirit, and appetite) and their organization. An individual is wise because of reason. He is courageous because of spirit. He is temperate because reason with spirit control appetite.



Republic V.473c

The adjective φιλόσοφος and its plural φιλόσοφοι are traditionally translated as 'philosopher' and 'philosophers,' but this can be misleading unless one keeps in mind the conception of "philosophy" Socrates has in mind. Unless either lovers of wisdom [or: philosophers (φιλόσοφοι)] become kings in our cities or those whom we now call our kings and rulers take to the pursuit of the love of wisdom seriously and adequately, and there is a conjunction of these two things, the power of politics and the love of wisdom (τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία), while the motley horde of the natures who at present pursue either apart from the other are compulsorily excluded, there can be no cessation of troubles, dear Glaucon, for our cities, nor, I fancy, for the human race either.


Notes on the Text

The rulers must know what is good and what is bad.

How do they get this knowledge?

Socrates proclaims that they must be "lovers of wisdom" (φιλόσοφοι).



Republic VI.484b

  "For surely, Adeimantus, the man whose mind is truly fixed on eternal realities has no leisure to turn his eyes downward upon the petty affairs of men, and so engaging in strife with them to be filled with envy and hate, but he fixes his gaze upon the things of the eternal and unchanging order, and seeing that they neither wrong nor are wronged by one another, but all abide in harmony as reason bids, he will endeavor to imitate them and, as far as may be, to fashion himself in their likeness and assimilate himself to them. ... So the lover of wisdom (φιλόσοφος) associating with the divine order will himself become orderly and divine in the measure permitted to man. ... If, then, some compulsion is laid upon him to practice stamping on the plastic matter of human nature in public and private the patterns that he visions there, and not merely to mould and fashion himself, do you think he will prove a poor craftsman of temperance and justice and all forms of ordinary civic virtue?
  By no means, Socrates" (Republic VI.500b).
  Since the lovers of wisdom are those who are capable of apprehending that which is eternal and unchanging, while those who are incapable of this but lose themselves and wander amid the multiplicities of multifarious things, are not lovers of wisdom, which of the two kinds ought to be the leaders in a state?
  What, then, would be a fair statement of the matter?
  Whichever, appear competent to guard the laws and pursuits of society, these we should establish as guardians.
  Right, Socrates.


Notes on the Text

The rulers must be lovers of wisdom because only the lover of wisdom has the knowledge necessary to organize the city so that its citizens live good lives.



Republic VI.504e

  [D]o you, Socrates, suppose that anyone will let you go without asking what is the greatest study and with what you think it is concerned?
  By no means, but do you ask the question. You certainly have heard it often, but now you either do not apprehend or again you are minded to make trouble for me by attacking the argument. I suspect it is rather the latter. For you have often heard that the greatest thing to learn is the idea of good "[W]hen anyone by dialectics attempts through discourse of reason and apart from all perceptions of sense to find his way to what it is itself of each thing and does not desist till he apprehends by thought itself the nature of the good in itself, he arrives at the limit of the intelligible..." (Republic VII.532a). (τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα) by reference to which just things and all the rest become useful and beneficial. And now I am almost sure you know that this is what I am going to speak of and to say further that we have no adequate knowledge of it.


Notes on the Text



Republic VII.540a

"The rulers will, each in his turn, devote the greater part of their time to the study of philosophy (φιλοσοφίᾳ), but when the turn comes for each, toiling in the service of the city and holding office for the city's sake, regarding the task not as a fine thing but a necessity..." (Republic VII.540b). [T]hose who have survived the tests and approved themselves altogether the best in every task and form of knowledge must be brought at last to the goal. We shall require them to turn upwards the vision of their souls and fix their gaze on that which sheds light on all, and when they have thus beheld the good itself (τὸ ἀγαθὸν αὐτό) they shall use it as a pattern for the right ordering of the state and the citizens and themselves throughout the remainder of their lives each in his turn, devoting the greater part of their time in the love of wisdom (φιλοσοφίᾳ), but when the turn comes for each, toiling in the service of the state and holding office for the city's sake, regarding the task not as something fine but as a necessity; and so, when each generation has educated others like themselves to take their place as guardians of the city, they shall depart to the Islands of the Blest and there dwell. And the city shall establish public memorials and sacrifices for them as to divinities if the Pythian oracle approves or, if not, as to happy and godlike men (εὐδαίμοσί τε καὶ θείοις).


Notes on the Text






go back go back