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Plato's Republic Summary Books 2-7

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Plato's Republic

In the beginning of Book II of Plato's Republic, ancient Greek philosopher Socrates has just finished thoroughly

proving that justice is far better than injustice. Socrates associates however, are not convinced challenge him to give a more detailed and further explanation as to justice's worth. Glaucon, states that all goods can be divided into three classes: things we desire only for their consequences, such as medical treatment; things we desire purely for their own sake, like joy; and the highest class of good being things we desire both for their own sake and for what we get from them, such as knowledge, sight and health. In short, Glaucon and the others want Socrates to prove that justice is not only desirable, but that is belongs to the perceived highest class of desirable

things: that which is desired both for it's own sake and that of it's consequences.

Glaucon proceeds to point out that justice stems from human weakness and vulnerability. Most people view justice as a necessary evil, one which we suffer in order to avoid the greater evil almost sure to befall us if justice were done away with. Meaning that since the injustice of one can mean the suffering of many, a sort of unspoken social contract is executed in which we agree to be just to one another. Glaucon's point is that justice is not something practical for its own sake but something one engages in out of fear and weakness.

To illustrate this point, Glaucon invikes the legend of the ring of Gynges. We are to imagine a just man given a ring which renders him invisible. This man can now act injustly without fear of redress. The moral of the story is that even the most just man would behave unjustly and indulge all of his deepest most primitve urges. Therefore proving that people are only just for the sake of appearance and the fear of punishment. Glaucon then attempts to show that not only do people prefer to be unjust but that it is entirely rational to do so. Claiming that "the prefectly unjust life, is more pleasant than the perfectly just life." With this claim he draws two detailed portraits of the just and unjust man. The completely unjust man, indulges all his urges and is honored and rewarded with wealth, whereas the completely just man, is scorned, wretched and poor.

At first Socrates is hesitant to rie to the challenge of justice's desirability but soon find himself compelled to do so, stating that there are two kinds of justice: political, what which belongs to a city or state, and individual; ths justice of a particular man. Socrates begins his explantion with the examination and location of this political justice. To do so, he proposes to build up a perfect city from scratch and see where exactly justice enters the picture.

The perfect city-state begins with the introduction of the principle of specialization, stating that each person must perform the role for which he is naturally suited and that he must not meddle in any other business. In this way everything can be done at the highest level possible. After forming the "producing class" of his city, Socrates is pleased by this place governed by necessary desires, Glaucon however is not as this basic city is not lavish enough for his liking. Stage two is the transformation from the priducing class and a healty city into a "city with a fever". With this transformation comes the influx of wealth and the need for a class of warriors to keep the peace. These guardians must be carefully selected and educated to develop the right balance between gentleness and toughness, as this process can most certainly not be left to nature. The creation and education of these guardians is so critical that Socrates walks Glaucon and the rest through it in careful detail.

Socrates places great importance on the stories which are told to the guardians, these stories are regarded as powerful tools in the education and fortification of their minds and spirits. In addition to stories, the arts such as painting, poetry and architecture are also used to show the characteristics a guardian should emulate. They should engage in physical training , not for combat but of the sort that athletes participate in. The medical training provided in the just city is also described exactingly. The doctors are trained only to treat the wealthy who suffer from a single and curable ailment, while the chronically ill and those suffering from incurable disease be it mental or physical shall be left to die or be put to death.

After outlining the proper education for guardians, Socrates introduces his final class of the just society: rulers. They are chosen as the best from the group of guardians, and the rest of the guardians are deemed "auxiliaries" as their primary function is carry out the rulers decisions. To properly select rulers, the young guardians are observed and those who pass various tests of their loyalty and fortitude are promoted to higher forms of education thus, preparing them to rule.

Socrates invents "the myth of the metals", to quell any possible controversy over who should rule. The myth states that each citizen has a certain sort of metal in their soul. Those most suitable to be rulers have gold, and the city must never be ruled by someone who's soul is mixed with the wrong metal. According to the oracle, the city will fall to ruin if this should happen. Using the reasoning that if rulers are permitted to acquire private property, invariably they will abuse their power and rule for their own gains rather than that of the city. Socrates outlines the plan for all the guardians to be supported by the city for all their basic needs.

When members of the goup remark that having no personal wealth of his own, the life of a ruler is no doubt an unhappy one, Socrates reminds them that the goal of this experiment is not to please any one group at the expense of another, but to make the city in it's entirety as happy as possible. In addressing the lifestyle of the guardians, Socrates points out that this city is one without money, possessing

the best warriors and with neighbors all too happy to lend a hand in the name of greed. The size of the city is limited to best aid it's rule and the matter of law is left to the judgment of educated rulers.

Socrates, declares the just city complete and since it's the best city possible, it undoubtedly possesses

the four virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation and justice. Socrates first "finds" wisdom, it is with the guardians and their knowledge of how the city should be run. Their wisdom becomes the city's virtue. Courage, is found with



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