Plato's Republic

Plato's Republic: A Study

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Plato's Republic
    Book Description:

    In this book a distinguished philosopher offers a comprehensive interpretation of Plato's most controversial dialogue. Treating theRepublicas a unity and focusing on the dramatic form as the presentation of the argument, Stanley Rosen challenges earlier analyses of theRepublic(including the ironic reading of Leo Strauss and his disciples) and argues that the key to understanding the dialogue is to grasp the author's intention in composing it, in particular whether Plato believed that the city constructed in theRepublicis possible and desirable.

    Rosen demonstrates that the fundamental principles underlying the just city are theoretically attractive but that the attempt to enact them in practice leads to conceptual incoherence and political disaster. TheRepublic,says Rosen, is a vivid illustration of the irreconcilability of philosophy and political practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12950-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Plato’sRepublicis one of those works in the history of philosophy that is both excessively familiar and inexhaustibly mysterious. It has been studied endlessly by a wide range of readers, specialists and amateurs alike, and has become a canonical document of Western civilization. No one would expect to find Hegel’sScience of Logicor Kant’sCritique of Pure Reasonas the text in a Great Books discussion group or even as required reading in an undergraduate humanities course. But theRepublicis at home in both settings, or, if not quite at home, certainly not entirely out of place....

  5. Part One
    • 1 Cephalus and Polemarchus
      (pp. 19-37)

      The theme of descent plays an important role in the dramatic structure of theRepublic.¹ To note only the obvious, Socrates and Glaucon descend from Athens to the Piraeus at the very beginning of the dialogue; Book Seven begins with a descent from the sunlight into the cave of shadows that represents the subpolitical nature of the human soul; the dialogue closes with an account of the descent of Er into Hades. Each of these descents is described in considerably greater detail than the outstanding example of ascent to the Idea of the Good, or more properly, to its surrogate,...

    • 2 Thrasymachus
      (pp. 38-59)

      We are now prepared to turn from Polemarchus (‘‘warlord’’) to Thrasymachus (literally, ‘‘bold in battle’’). This Platonic joke has more than one resonance. The definitions of justice offered by the two have in common the invocation to harm one’s enemies. It will become evident that Thrasymachus, if he is consistent with his stated beliefs, has no genuine friends. Socrates will claim in Book Six that he and Thrasymachus have become friends, ‘‘although we were not previously enemies’’ (498c9–d1). I find this qualification dubious, especially in view of Thrasymachus’s graceless and ill-tempered submission to refutation by Socrates. It is at...

    • 3 Glaucon and Adeimantus
      (pp. 60-76)

      Socrates assumes that the refutation of Thrasymachus is now complete, and with it, the conversation recorded in Book One. ‘‘Complete’’ means here not success but failure. As Socrates puts it, they have failed to arrive at a definition of justice. This may be so, but we have found considerable agreement among the main speakers with respect to the claim that justice is doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies. Polemarchus put this forward explicitly, and it is implied by the Thrasymachean view that justice is the interest of the stronger, as that view was corrected by Socrates....

  6. Part Two
    • 4 Paideia I: The Luxurious City
      (pp. 79-108)

      Thus far I have been speaking of the construction of the neediest city, which in its developed form is called by Socrates the healthy or true city (372e6–7). When Socrates asks Adeimantus whether this city is now complete, he replies ‘‘perhaps’’ (371e11). The true city contains very few amenities, restricted sexual reproduction, and, in short, no luxury, which is why Glaucon says that it is a city fit for pigs (372d4–5). There is some poetry (hymns to the gods), but obviously no philosophy. We must also ask why Socrates calls this the true and healthy city, and in...

    • 5 Paideia II: The Purged City
      (pp. 109-138)

      We are in the midst of applying purges to the luxurious city by establishing regulations for the education of the guardians. These regulations are intended to moderate courage by temperance. The process is tantamount to narrowing our focus from the origin of all cities to the construction of the just or Socratic city. In Book Two, Socrates argued that the noble dog is proof that fierceness toward enemies and gentleness toward friends can exist in the same soul by nature. But fierceness and gentleness are not the exact equivalents of courage and temperance. The doggish attribute of fierceness is triggered...

    • 6 Justice
      (pp. 139-170)

      The city has been founded, and with it, the human side of legislation is complete. But what of the gods and our dealings with them? When Socrates engaged in criticism of the poets, he used the singularho theosto refer to the unity, unchangeableness, and veracity of the genuine deity, whereas in speaking about the courage and temperance of the auxiliaries, he referred to the gods in the plural. It looks at first as if Socrates has not thought through, or speaks with extreme carelessness about, the question of the number of the gods. The best way to handle...

    • 7 The Female Drama
      (pp. 171-198)

      We saw in the previous chapter that Socrates does not mind making a laughingstock of himself (V. 451a1), and that Glaucon laughs at the thought of releasing Socrates from the charge of having murdered his friends (451b2). In the passage running from 452a2 to d7 there are seven further occurrences ofgeloia(laughter) and its cognates, as well as one occurrence of “charming jests” (452b7), one of acting a comedy (452d1), and one of acting playfully rather than seriously (452e6). It looks as though Plato wishes to facilitate our journey into danger with laughter rather than seriousness. As we shall...

  7. Part Three
    • 8 Possibility
      (pp. 201-226)

      Socrates begins his attempt to surmount the third wave by introducing the distinction between speech and deed. In doing so, he employs a term,paradeigma, that has appeared previously in theRepublicbut not in an obtrusive passage. Let us briefly review the senses of this term.¹ According to Liddell, Scott, and Jones, the two primary senses ofparadeigmaare “pattern” or “model” on the one hand and “example” on the other. There are two main kinds of model. The first kind can be constructed by human ingenuity to serve as a standard for producing something in a certain (more...

    • 9 The Philosophical Nature
      (pp. 227-254)

      Our discussion has now brought to light the philosophers and distinguished them from the nonphilosophers, although according to Socrates this would have been accomplished more adequately if we could have devoted ourselves exclusively to that one task. As it is, we have a great deal to do with respect to the original question of how the just life differs from the unjust life (VI. 484a1–b2). This opening passage in Book Six shows us that Socrates has had to accommodate his presentation of the philosophical nature to the needs of the broader investigation, which is neither precisely philosophical nor narrowly...

    • 10 The Good, the Divided Line, and the Cave: The Education of the Philosopher
      (pp. 255-302)

      In order to understand anything about the Idea of the Good, one must first know what Socrates means by an Idea. He does not use this word in the modern sense of a modification of consciousness, that is, a thought or some kind of cognitive act. In the language of modern philosophy, Platonic Ideas are objective, not subjective. We do not construct them; they are not artifacts of the perceptual and cognitive process. They are not points of view or perspectives, although we may and perhaps must apprehend them from one perspective or another. Neither could it be properly said...

  8. Part Four
    • 11 Political Decay
      (pp. 305-332)

      We turn now to Book Eight. After summarizing the major elements in the foundation of the just city, Socrates refers back to the point at which they entered into the “digression” (543c5) concerning the status of women and children in common and the education of philosophers, as well as the main topics of the doctrine of Ideas, together with the images of the sun, the divided line, and the cave. The structure of the argument in Books Five through Seven shows that what we would today call the epistemological and ontological discussion of the middle books emerges directly from the...

    • 12 Happiness and Pleasure
      (pp. 333-351)

      After a further review of the similarity between the tyrannical city and soul, in which no new points of importance occur, Socrates finally arrives at his conclusion, with much rhetorical fanfare. He serves as the herald of the news that Glaucon, the son of Ariston (the word means “best”), has judged the best and most just man to be the happiest, namely, the one who is kingliest and king of himself, and that the worst and most unjust man is the most miserable, namely, the tyrant (580b8–c5). Neither Adeimantus nor the other speakers are included in this agreement. This...

    • 13 The Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry
      (pp. 352-376)

      The main theme of Book Ten is poetry. Socrates introduces the topic as an example of the correctness of the manner in which they have founded the city. In other words, it is not presented as a natural consequence of the last stage of the main argument, which is in fact finished. Nor is any reason given why Socrates chooses to deal with poetry rather than with some other example of proper founding. Some might even take Book Ten as a loosely attached appendix to the main dialogue, just as a number of scholars in the past have held that...

    • 14 The Immortal Soul
      (pp. 377-388)

      Poetry has been sacrificed as an obstacle to the triumph of the good over the evil life. Otherwise stated, it is the good life that makes us happy, while we live it. But an entire life is as nothing when compared to all of time. It remains to be proved that the good, that is, the just, person will enjoy a happiness higher than that accruing to life itself, and the reverse must be true of the unjust or evil person. Socrates seems to drop a bombshell when he suddenly asks Glaucon: “Have you not perceived that our soul is...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 389-396)

    The general thesis of this study can now be stated as follows: In theRepublic, Plato presents us with his most comprehensive portrait of the Socratic effort to bring philosophy down from heaven into the city. This effort faces the insuperable difficulty that, when philosophy completes its descent, it is sooner or later transformed into ideology. In order to survive, philosophy must preserve its heavenly residence. But this in turn depends upon the philosophical intervention in the affairs of the earthly city. The city must be made safe for philosophy, but philosophy must also be made safe for the city....

  10. Notes
    (pp. 397-404)
  11. Index
    (pp. 405-423)