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Republic 1 (327a-336a)

Introduction to the Problem of Justice



Introduction  (327a-328b)
Cephalus   (328b-331d)
Polemarchus  (331e-336a)
Digression:  The Craft Analogy

Introduction   (327a-328b)

Plato sets the dialogue in the Piraeus, the port of Athens on the Aegean located six miles from Athens.  Socrates and Glaucon,  Plato’s brother, are attending the festival of Bendis. 
The locale seems perfect for the main topic of The Republic:  What is justice; and, more specifically, what is a just polis?  The discussants are outside of Athens so they can figuratively look back at the City to discuss it; and they are located in a bustling international port where the laws and customs of Athens can be compared with those of foreign nations.

Cephalus  (328b-331d)

Invited back to the home of Cephalus for supper, Socrates joins a group of young men who have gathered there.  Cephalus is an elderly wealthy metic (foreign-born non-citizen).*    

Exploring the topic of happiness in old age, Cephalus advances the view that his superior character (ethos) rather than his wealth is the secret of his successful aging and contentment.  As opposed to his youth when he ignored tales of divine retribution for corrupt acts, his wealth now provides him with the means to pay his debts immediately, keep his word, and make expensive sacrifices to the demanding gods.  His conventional, publicly respected character, now honest and pious, protects him from the fear of divine retribution.  (328b)

note:  Though outwardly respectable, Cephalus is still inwardly motivated by the selfish desire to avoid punishment, rather that by the sincere conviction that men are owed repayment and the truth and the gods should duly be worshipped.

Socrates questions Cephalus’s view that justice is paying your debts and telling the truth (to men and the gods).  He asks if it would be just to return borrowed weapons from a friend who, having gone insane, comes to repossess his weapons.  [Does the right to bear arms extend to the criminally insane?)  

Here Socrates demonstrates his dialectical method:   An attempt is made to define justice (Paying debts).  A devastating counter-example is evoked (returning borrowed  weapons to a lunatic).  The definition is shown thereby to be inadequate and the search for the universal nature (eidos) of justice continues.  (331c-e)

Socrates is fulfilling the divine commandment received through the Oracle of Delphi to demonstrate to those who falsely claim to have knowledge and wisdom that, like Socrates himself, they know nothing.  Plato seems to tire of Socrates’ sacred mission of skepticism by replacing it with the Theory of the Forms, that is, with perfectly adequate definitions.  This philosophical development is detectable in the progress from the 1st Book to the 7th Book of The Republic

Polemarchus (331c-336a)

Polemarchus, Cephalus’s son and heir, takes over the argument.  It is indeed not always fitting to return the insane man his weapons.  Justice is giving what is fitting to people.  Thus justice is giving goods to friends and harms to enemies. 

Socrates would know Polemarchus as an officer in the Athenian army [Metics were required to serve in the military though they could not vote or serve in the Council or Assembly.]  He therefore would know that Polemarchus would count as his friends his fellow comrades in arms and would be accustomed to generously distribute to his comrades goods that he has confiscated from rowdy inhabitants of the Piraeus and from the spoils of war.  These purloined material goods are hardly the kind of good Socrates believes we owe to friends and these are hardly the kind of “friends” that match the Socratic ideal of friendship.

Socrates challenges Polemarchus’s notion that justice is giving goods to friends. He asks who, in the giving of the good of medicine, would Polemarchus utilize:  the physician or the just person?   In giving the good of food:  the farmer or the just person? And so on.

In each case, Polemarchus (rather foolishly) chooses the craftsperson.  Then Socrates asks when is a just person useful and Polemarchus answers:  “When goods are being stored.”  [One important function of the military guardian is to defend the temples and treasures stored within.  This section is best understood as a discussion of virtue in the military.]

However, when goods are stored, they are useless.  Socrates makes Polemarchus conclude that justice is useless when goods are useful and useful when goods are useless ¾ in other words, an absurdity.

Digression:  The Craft-Analogy

To fully understand this argument and others throughout The Republic, we should introduce an assumption of the ancient Greek readers of The Republic:  The nature of a craft (techne).  An assumption is a belief (often unacknowledged) that is uncritically accepted as true.  Though hidden, an assumption may serve as a premise in a line of reasoning toward a conclusion.
What every 5th Century BC Athenian knew was that every techne has a telos.  Techne (from which we derive “technique,” “technology”) means craft or art in the broadest of terms¾ everything from carpentry to nursing to music-making.  Telos means “goal” or “end.”  Arising out of the need or desire of humans for some good (agathon), techne (crafts) are developed to meet this need or desire.  The agathon or good of the craft becomes the telos of the craft, that is, what the craftperson is aiming at achieving.

Telos  (Agathon)
crops (food)
furniture (sitting)

So every techne has a telos, a good internal (that is, specific to) the craft.  (It is peculiarly “classic” to assume that the primary purpose of an occupation is to produce a product or a service, rather than for the financial benefit of the practitioner.

Not everybody is good at his or her job.  Some are excellent.  Arete is the specific excellence of a craft. To become excellent at a craft, one needs to develop specific skills¾the skills of the farmer are different than the skills of a carpenter.  To gain these skills, one needs: gain a specialized education, emulate a model or  mentor (one who possesses the desired skills), and gain lots of experience and practice in the art (with all of the failure, hardship, trial and error that accompany real life endeavor). 

If, however, the training and education are successful, the craftperson may be able to

1.effectively achieve the telos of the craft, a timely, efficient way, and a consistent way. 

When craftspersons effectively, efficiently and consistently achieve the telos of the craft, they become excellent at their craft.  They obtain the virtue or arete that is proper to the craft.  The virtue of a craft is the specific excellence of the craft.  For example, a farmer who, year after year, produces a high yield of quality crops is an excellent farmer, that is, has the arete of the techne.

 Telos  (Agathon)  
green thumb         
(excellence at farming  
crops (food)  
master craftsperson       (excellence at carpentry) 
furniture (e.g. sitting pretty)

The Craft Analogy:   Moral character is likened to mastery of a craft.  Later Socrates will refer to moral virtue (moral excellence) as similar to the virtue of a craft.  The Moral virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice and Moderation are necessary skills of a human life capable of achieving the telos or goal of human life, namely eudaimonia (happiness or human flourishing).
Telos   (Agathon)
Defense of Polis
(peace / glory)
(human flourishing /
Back to the Dialogue

Polemarchus could accept from Socrates that a physician is more useful than a just person in the dispensing of medicine only if he missed altogether the difference between 

1.the kind of value that the moral virtue of justice would bring to you if your doctor were just as opposed to 
2.the material value of receiving medication (there are Quacks out there galore).  An unjust physician could not be counted on to act in your best interests. 

Socrates goes on to suggest that the guard who stands over the stored (useless) goods is also in the very best position to take the goods.  Polemarchus’s definition of justice as giving goods to friends makes no provision for how those goods are obtained.  Thus Polemarchus has led us to the absurd position that the “just person is a kind of thief.  In effect, he confuses justice with generosity. [This argument is called a reductio ad absurdum.  When a debater can “reduce” the argument of an opponent “to an absurdity,” we, the audience, will recognize it as inadequate.  Socrates would also have been aware that the noble craft of the warrior in the Hellenic Age was burdened with the assumption that the armed man had privileges over the possessions of the citizens and ancient warfare often was indistinguishable from marauding, raping and pillaging (“To the victors go the spoils.”)

Socrates proceeds to question Polemarchus’s notion of justice as generosity to friends.  If  Polemarchus has ever made a mistake between a true friend and a phony, then his justice may entail giving goods to enemies (false friends) and harms to friends (falsely accused innocents). 
Polemarchus is accustomed to counting people who look like him, belong to his profession, speak his language as friends and anyone else as an enemy (the barbarian).  Dehumanizing and demonizing the “enemy” often comes with military training.  Polemarchus is generous to comrades, the just and unjust alike.  So it is unlikely that he would go beyond the surface in defining justice.*
Finally, Socrates asks whether a just person would willingly harm anyone.  Polemarchus, a warrior, is understandably confused because what else does a soldier do other than wound and kill enemies?  Socrates asks does a racehorse have a nature?  And does that Nature have a telos?  [Another assumption of the Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers (later challenged by Darwin) was that natural species strive to realize natural goals¾the acorn (unconsciously) strives to realize the form of the oak tree¾the colt strives to realize the form of the thoroughbred horse.]  
Now Socrates asks if harming the horse will help or hinder its fulfillment of its nature.  Clearly injuring the horse will make it worse.  Does the just person try to make a person just or unjust?  Clearly justice seeks to produce justice.  But injuring a person makes them unjust, so the just person never deliberately injures anyone, friend or enemy.

At this point we should make the distinction that Socrates fails to provide Polemarchus.  Socrates, a warrior in the Peloponnesian Wars was no pacifist, nor did he consider his own imprisonment or execution beyond the provinces of the City-State.  Socrates distinguishes between harming a person physically and harming a person’s character.  A just person never deliberately intends to injure anyone’s character.  It is quite possible to promote a person’s moral character and to injure them physically as , for example, in the cases of a just war or rehabilitative retribution for wrongdoing.  When we act in self-defense, we prevent another from committing an unjust act.  Unless performed in a sadistic or vengeful manner, punishing a child or a wrong-doer, though physically “harming” them, could have the effect of making the child or wrong-doer more responsible and attentive to the consequences of their actions.  Punishment for wrongdoing is perfectly reconcilable with the notion that the just person never deliberately harms anyone.

Republic 1 (336b-354c)
Thrasymachus:  The Immoralist Position
Justice as the Advantage of the Strongest (336b-343a)
Justice as Another's Good (343b-344d)
Socrates: Final Objections (344d-354c)

The text of the Republic begins with Socrates interrogating Cephalus and his son Polemachus about the nature of justice.  Neither is capable of providing Socrates with an adequate definition of justice.  Just when we begin to think that there is no one in the dialogue who is capable of adequately standing up to Socrates, along comes Thrasymachus.

Who is this Thrasymachus guy anyway?
He is a well-known Sophist, a teacher of Rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art and science of persuasion, and since oratory was extremely useful in negotiating trade opportunities or for suing or defending oneself before the juries in Democratic Athens, rhetoric was a sought-after skill. Socrates’ own students went on to make great fortunes, which was something Xanthippe, his wife, resented because Socrates took no fees for his instruction. 

He distinguished philosophy from sophistry because the philosopher sacrificed everything, including eloquence, for the truth, whereas, he charged, the sophist sacrificed the truth for eloquence and for persuasive effectiveness. This charge is often leveled against the legal and the advertising professions (both involved in persuasion) and sophistry has a negative connotation today.

Thrasymachus presents himself as annoyed with the give and take inconclusiveness of the dialogue between Socrates and Polemarchus. He demands an answer from Socrates and a grandiloquently persuasive speech in favor of the answer.

Justice as the Advantage of the Strongest (336b-343a)

Socrates turns over the floor to Thrasymachus who professes that justice is the advantage of the strongest. (338c)

By this he means that from place to place different political regimes rule: tyranny, aristocracy, democracy, for example. Whomever is in power (the strongest ) makes the laws and invariably they make the laws to their own financial and political advantage. Thus just rulers rule to the benefit of the strongest, namely themselves.

Socrates counters that Statecraft or rule is like any other craft and the practitioners of any craft conduct that craft in the interest of and to the benefit of the weakest, namely their clients or customers.

Physicians rule over and have authority over medicine. Between the physician and the patient, the physician is the stronger, since she has expertise and is not sick and the patient is the weaker, since both ignorant and sick. But the telos of the physician is to dispense medicine and the good of the art is the cure. The benefit, however, goes to the weaker since the patient is cured, not the physician. So in medicine the authority rules for the benefit of the weaker.

So too, if Statecraft is a craft, what is proper for the ruler is to act in the interest and to the advantage of the weakest, namely the citizens. Out of the need and the desire of the people for law and order, coordination and leadership, so that they might achieve the telos of their specific crafts, the ruler emerges with the expertise, strength and authority to act in the interests of each and every citizen. If rule is like any craft, then this is ideal rule. Justice is rule in the interest of the citizens. 
Thrasymachus then proceeds to insult Socrates, claiming that Socrates’ wet-nurse never taught him the difference between a shepherd and a sheep. Shepherds watch their flocks not for the sake of the sheep, but so the sheep can be fleeced and slaughtered for his profit. 

So too, the relation of Ruler and citizens is that of shepherd and sheep. The citizens are like sheep to be fleeced and slaughtered for the benefit and profit of the ruler.

Socrates counters by dividing the crafts of the profit-maker from that of other craftpersons like the physician. The craft of profit-making is indeed self-interested. But that craft must not be confused with that of the physician. The physician is a physician only if she cures patients. The benefit goes to the patient. Indeed the physician would only be paid, if she effectively cured patients, that is, only if she achieved the advantage of the weakest. 

Similarly, the shepherd as shepherd must seek the advantage of the sheep¾ must watch them carefully, keep them from wolves, search for the stray and bring it back to the fold. If and only if the shepherd is a good shepherd does he deserve his pay. 

Thus the just ruler is to be compensated only if none of the advantage of the rule goes to him and all of the ruling efforts are to the advantage of the people. (Socrates need not point out that the patients or citizens have higher values than sheep.)

Socrates asks if Rulers rule ambitiously or reluctantly.  

Thrasymachus, contemplating the spoils of tyranny, suggests that rulers rule avidly. Socrates, in keeping with his notion of just rule, suggests that since none of the advantage of rule goes to the rulers, people would have to be given incentives to take on the burden of the public trust. 
However, the best rulers would be those who find the incentives of pay or honors distasteful. The best could be enticed to rule only to avoid the penalty of being ruled by people who are worse than they, that is, to avoid being ruled by unjust people, people who are worse in character than they.

Justice as Another's Good (343b-344d)

At this point, Thrasymachus drops the pretense of seeking to define justice, and now claims that, although justice is virtuous and beneficial to others, no intelligent person would adopt it because of the superior advantages of the unjust life, especially in the political arena. This position is called "immoralism," the forthright defense of immorality as the most prudent course for a life to take.
Thrasymachus, in a speech demonstrative of his rhetorical prowess, praises the tyrant who is unjust in a grand way. Such a man will pay far fewer taxes that the just man, receive far more benefits from contracts that the honest dupes who enter into them with him and will profit from influence peddling and the lavish gifts he is able to provide to his family and to the gods in the form of burnt offerings. Yes, the unjust man is the happiest of men.

Socrates: Final Objections (344d-354c)

Socrates, telling Thrasymachus that he has challenged the whole conduct of living, takes up a defense of the just life:

The just man does not try to get the better of other just men, but rather of unjust men who are his opposites in character.

Unjust men try to get the better of both just and unjust men. [The aggregate consequence of this feature of criminality is used by Robert Axelrod to demonstrate why, over-time, just people (in aggregate) have higher standards of living than unjust people. See The Evolution of Cooperation. NY: Basic Books, 1984]

The just person then follows the pattern of all craftpersons. The excellent craftperson does not try to take advantage of those who are members of his or her craft or guild but tries only to excel over amateurs. Thrasymachus is embarrassed to find himself agreeing that justice is a human virtue. In fact, the just person’s reluctance to cheat or dissemble and her/his willingness to cooperate with mentors, allows the just person to achieve excellence in a chosen craft; whereas the consistent cheater wallows in ignorance and can only pretend at mastery. [This is why academic honesty is important and not just in your major! Remember all of life is a craft!]

Against Thrasymachus’s contention that the most powerful city will be the most completely unjust. Socrates argues that any common course of action requires those who are engaged in it to observe justice to some degree in their dealings among themselves, for otherwise there will be dissension among them and they will accomplish nothing. 

Only the just cooperate, and only those who cooperate accomplish anything. Even to pull off a bank robbery, thieves must cooperate. There must be honor among thieves. But thieves tear down the accomplishments of others; and rival gangs of thieves tear each other down. Only those who are both honest and cooperate produce the accomplishments that are ample and long lasting.* 
"For surely Thrasymachus, it’s injustice that produces factions, hatreds, and quarrels among themselves, and justice that produces unanimity and friendship. Isn’t it so?" (Book I, 251 d.)  
Unjust rulers will rule a city that is unjust to its allies and neighboring nations. These will seek advantage over the citizens who will form factions; then intrigue and civil war will prevent the city from accomplishing anything. The unjust ruler will be deceitful and calculating with his closest advisors. They will turn on each other. Even within a person, when discord breaks out between one’s passions and one’s practical reason, a person won’t stick to his or her craft and s/he won’t be able to act productively; s/he will accomplish nothing.  Thus injustice is not mighty in a productive sense; it is mightily destructive. It undermines all collective enterprises, all friendship and partnerships; and injustice within a person¾that is, when reason is overcome by passions such as lust, greed, or hatred¾leads to a situation in which the person is either unable to accomplish anything or is destroyed.  

Since Thrasymachus has admitted that justice is virtue, Socrates uses that admission to crown his argument.  

A virtue is the specific excellence of a craft. It is the power to achieve the purpose or goal of a craft, its telos. Justice is the virtue (arete of the craft of life. The human soul has the goal or telos of flourishing life and the management of things. The arete or virtue of justice is the specific excellence of the human soul; it is that which allows each life to flourish, to manage well oneself and social life. Justice allows practical reason to guide human aptitudes and passions. It allows us to remain loyal and faithful to friends. It allows us to keep the public promises we make as craftpersons and professionals to provide a service or product to our customers and clients. A city with just rulers who serve in the interests of the citizens and a city that keeps faith with its allies accomplishes greatness as a city.  

The human soul cannot flourish without justice any more than the body can flourish without health.  Thus a person cannot be happy without justice. The unjust person will be wretched (the opposite of flourishing humanity, perhaps "withered," lacking maturity," "unruly"). It is not profitable to be wretched, or to become wretched as a human being; but it is profitable to be happy. Therefore, injustice is never more profitable than justice.


Socrates is pleased that Thrasymachus has been tamed and quieted by his arguments, but ultimately he has to admit dissatisfaction with the discussion. In his zeal to defend the advantages of the just life, he plumb forgot to find a definition for justice. How can he recommend the just life, if doesn’t know what justice is? So ends, inconclusively, Book I of The Republic.  

Republic 2 (357a-367e)
The Immoralist Position Restated

Glaucons' Challenge (357a-362d)
Adeimantus' Challenge (362d-367e)


At the end of Book 1 Socrates has forced Thrasymachus to give up the debate on justice.  This debate, however, is not over just yet.  Unsatisfied with the way Socrates has defeated Thrasymachus, the brothers of Plato, Glaucon and Adeimantus, press Socrates to elaborate further on the topic of Justice.  

It should be pointed out that we not meant to assume that Glaucon and Adeimantus agree with Thrasymachus' position.  What they are trying to do is to compel Socrates to offer a more satisfactory response to Thrasymachus' arguments.  In a sense, they are playing "devil's advocate" to Socrates, taking up Thrasymachus' position in order to provide Socrates with the opportunity to present a more complete account of justice.  The rest of the Republic represents Socrates attempt to offer such an account and to prove that the life of justice is indeed "in every way better" than the life of injustice (357a).

Glaucons' Challenge:  Is Justice Good in Itself?   (357a-362d)

Glaucon begins his challenge by positing 3 different types of good things  (357b-358a).  All good things he argues are desirable for one of the following reasons:

1.for their own sake, but not for their consequences  (i.e., harmless pleasures)
2.for their consequences, but not for their own sake   (i.e., medicine or money)
3.for their own sake and for their consequences (i.e., knowledge or health)

Glaucon then proceeds to ask Socrates where Justice fits into this scheme.  

1.According to the first position, justice would be seen to be valuable in itself and regardless of its consequences. One would choose to be just then even if the consequences of being just would lead to suffering or misery  [the deontological position]

2.According to the second position, justice would seem as a good only because behaving justly produces good consequences (i.e., respect from other members of the community); but justice wouldn't be recognized as a good in itself.  [the utilitarian position]

3.Socrates' own position will be that justice belongs to the third class of good: something desirable for its own sake as well as for its consequence (358a)   [the platonic position]

Glaucon responds to the first part of Socrates claim (that justice is desirable for its own sake) with an argument aimed at demonstrating that injustice is ultimately more preferable in itself than justice is.  He argues this point with the famous story of the Ring of Gyges (358a-360d)

The rules of justice, he maintains, arise out of convention—that is out of an agreement made by members of society. Because human beings are afraid of being harmed by others, they create laws, and punish those who violate them.  

Assuming a person could avoid the threat of punishment  (the magic ring), he would certainly opt to behave unjustly (violate the queen, kill the king and usurp the throne).  

Therefore, nobody desires justice for its own sake, but only for its consequences.  Human beings behave justly, in other words, not because they prefer justice to injustice, but simply because they fear the consequence of behaving unjustly.  

Glaucon reinforces his point by asking Socrates to compare the life of the perfectly just man and the perfectly unjust man.  (360e-362d) Who is better off he asks: 

The perfectly just man who is defamed, poor and lives a life filled with suffering
or the perfectly unjust man who is wealthy, famous, respected and powerful?

Glaucon's point: 

If justice was desirable in itself, then we would choose it, regardless of its consequences
But no one would choose a life of justice if the consequences were as bleak as Glaucon portrays them

Therefore, nobody desires justice for its own sake, but only for its consequences.

Adeimantus' Challenge:  Does Justice Produce Desirable Consequences?  (362d-367e)

Whereas Glaucon argues that justice is not desirable in itself,  Adeimantus' aim is to demonstrate that it is not desirable for its consequences either.

Adiemantus argues that parents don't teach children to be just because justice is good in itself, but because of its consequences.  

They claim that the just person receives many benefits:  good marriage, public office, reputation, and rewards in the next life.

But this doesn't seem to be the case.  In this life, many good people suffer, and the wicked prosper.  The wicked also have the opportunity to make up for their sins before they die, thus receiving rewards in the next life as well.

Therefore injustice is actually more profitable than justice is.

What the two brothers are doing is challenging Socrates' claim that justice is valuable in itself and for its consequences.  By the time Glaucon and Adeimantus finish their attacks, Socrates is presented with a more viable defense of Thrasymachus' original position that justice is worthless.
The burden will be placed upon him, then, to demonstrate the truth of his original claim that the life is justice is preferable to the life of injustice.

Republic 2 (367e--375a)
Justice in the City

Socrates' Response:  Justice in the City (367e-369b)
Rise of the Minimal City  (369b-373a)
The Luxurious City  (373a-375a)

Socrates' ResponseJustice in the City (367e-369b)
Socrates agrees to undertake the defense of the life of justice, but does so in a rather peculiar way.  He begins with the larger task of first discussing justice in the city (polis); only later will he go on to describe justice in the soul

His reasons for taking this particular tact are:

1.justice is the same whether in the city or in the individual soul. is easier to analyze justice in the city than it would be to analyze it in the soul  (369a).
3.therefore, he will examine the city first (368d-434c) and then apply what he learns to the soul  (434c-445e).

Rise of the Minimal City  (369b-373a)
Socrates defines the city as an association of people based upon need (369b).
A city comes into being because human beings cannot satisfy all their individual needs on their own, and recognize that they need to work cooperatively with others.

With the rise of the city there necessarily occurs a  division of skills  (e.g., farming, shoe making, building weaving).  Before the city exists each individual has to perform all of these skills themselves, and not always satisfactorily..

In his description of the primitive city Socrates presupposes the principle of specialization— that within the city one person should do one job   (Annals 73-74).

leads to cooperation:  everyone works on specific tasks to meet the needs of the community
specialization is natural:  every person has different talents and abilities (370a)
but what about the person who doesn't enjoy his job (i.e., toll collector).  Socrates argues that this is a selfish attitude 

The Luxurious City  (373a-375a)
The city that Socrates has described  (396b-372a) is one of simple living in the country.
Glaucon objects, however, that such a city is fit more for pigs than for human beings  (372d).
Socrates reluctantly agrees that most folks wouldn't be content living in the minimal city.  

not satisfied with simple comforts they would naturally desire more civilized pleasures  (e.g., jewelry, plush furniture, fancy clothes, haute cuisine, entertainment).

therefore, they are going to need more specialized skills in their city  (e.g., performers, barbers, prostitutes, pastry makers, etc.).

having additional citizens means that they are going to need more food for these people, and hence, more land to grow food.

therefore, they are going to have to expand their territory through warfare  (373d-e)
therefore they will need a permanent professional army.

Once it is accepted that the luxurious city is a necessity, the skill of combat becomes the most important in the city.

it follows that the leaders of the army — the Guardians—should also be the rulers of the city.
Possible Interpretation of the Two Cities:

The minimal city is Socrates' idea.  Because only the most basic human needs are met, there will be no corruption

BUT:  Because it is inevitable that people will want greater comforts, the luxurious city is actually more realistic.  

Plato's quest, therefore can be seen as an attempt to develop a portrait of the just society from a realistic starting point.  He is not interested in creating a utopian fantasy (Pappas 63-64; Annas 77-79) 

Republic 2 (375a-383d)
Education of the Guardians I

The Education of the Guardians  (375a-376d)
Censorship of Poetry  (376e-383c)

The Education of the Guardians  (375a-376d)

We have seen that in order to provide for the protection and expansion of the luxurious city, it is necessary to have an army of guardians who will also serve as the rulers of the the city.

A problem arises when Socrates considers the danger that military rule could easily lead to the establishment of dictatorship.

The solution he maintains will be to educate the guardians in such a way that they are:

1.gentle towards their own citizens
2.and fierce towards their enemies

In 375a an analogy is made between the guardians and pedigree puppies.  In Plato's mind, just as a "noble puppy" can be trained to be both fierce (towards strangers) and gentle (those those it knows), so too can his guardians. 

Plato's understanding of education is somewhat different than our contemporary understanding:
it involves the total training of character and aims at producing a morally mature individual.  It is, in other words, fundamentally moral in nature.

it strives to connect ethics with aesthetics.  Its goal is to produce people who are attracted to the good and repulsed by evil.

it attempts to combines the proper balance of both intellectual and physical training.  The over-emphasis on physical training would produce a brute, the over-emphasis on the intellectual, a wimp.

his educational system is basically authoritarian.  The guardians are not encouraged to question their beliefs; that kind of questioning is left to a small elite who are philosophically trained.  In general, Plato places little value upon individualism and independent thought  (Annas 82-94)

Censorship of Poetry  (376d-383c)
Socrates describes the two aspects of the guardian's education:   music (mousike) for the soul and gymnastics (gymnastike) for the body.  White maintains that these terms are somewhat misleading and that "training in the arts" and "physical training" comes closer to the meaning that Plato has in mind (White 91). Pappas elaborates further, writing, "'Music (mousike) means all the activities sponsored by the Muses: poetry of every stripe, dance, astronomy history —roughly what we call in English 'the liberal arts.'" (Pappas 65).  The bulk of Plato's discussion in Books 2 and 3 concerns the specific types of poetry (i.e., stories) to which the young guardians will be exposed.  

The poetry that Plato refers to is not exactly what we usually have in mind by poetry.  Poetry in ancient Greece made up an important part of a child's education, and was recited, not read silently.  The focus was mainly on the poetry of Homer—the Iliad and the Odyssey.

This is extremely important, since a young child's character can easily be affected by exposure to vicious or illicit stories.  Think for example about the negative effects of certain types of television programs, music or films on children in our own times, and you will understand why Plato is so concerned about this issue.  

Since education for Plato involves the training of one's entire character, and since certain types of poetry/stories can produce a negative impact on the child's character, it will not be surprising that Plato advocates the censorship of certain types of poems/stories (377b)
Plato first argues that all false poetry should be censored 
This category would include all stories about gods and heroes which make a "bad representation." of them (377e)

Since the gods  are good, those stories which portray them performing indecent or immoral acts must by implication be false.   Likewise heroes certainly can't be weak or undignified, so Plato will have them portrayed only in a properly heroic light.

Plato does not hesitate to attack the sacred figures of Greek literature.  Homer's Iliad, for example, would have been considered a great work even in Plato's own time.  Because the gods are portrayed in Homer's work as petty, vain and vengeful and heroes as savage and deceitful, Homer's mistakes must be corrected.  What Plato's guardians would be left with is a greatly sanitized version of Homer.

Plato's next move is to argue for the censorship of all immoral poetry  (378a)
stories portraying vice of any kind, even if true, must be censored.  Children must not be exposed, for example, to stories of happy tyrants, since they will eventually want to imitate these vices.
Plato, as we shall see, has no problem with the rulers of his city lying to its citizens for their own good.  What he is most concerned about is ensuring that the guardians grow up free of vicious influences.  If that means manipulating the truth of certain tales, so be it.

 Conclusion: The Adventure Continues...
The division of books 2 and 3 at this point is a bit arbitrary.  The discussion of poetry will continue into the next book.  Book 3 will also go into greater details about the lives of the guardians.

Republic 3 (386a-412b)
Education of the Guardians II

Introduction:  Where are We Now?
Education of the Guardians Continued  (386a-412b)
The Content of the Guardian's Poetry, cont.  (386a-392c)
The Style of the Guardian's Poetry  (392c-398b)
Music  (398c-400c)
The Arts in General (400c-402d)
Sexual Relations (402d-403c)
Physical Training  (403c-412b)

Introduction:  Where are We Now?
Having been challenged by Glaucon and Adeimantus to provide a more complete account of justice (dikaiosune), Socrates has taken the unusual step of starting first with a discussion of justice in the city (polis).

We have discovered that any viable city will require an army and navy of guardians to protect it and to help expand its territory.  Because Socrates is concerned that his guardians might become corrupted by the power they possess, he finds it necessary to provide the type of education that will ensure that they are gentle towards their fellow citizens and fierce towards their enemies.
The first step in this educational system is to control the content of the  poetry (stories) to which the guardians are exposed.  Stories that portray the gods or heroes engaged in vicious behavior will have to be censored as untrue as well as true stories that portrays vices that might corrupt the young guardians. 

Education of the Guardians Continued  (386a-412b)
The Content of the Guardian's Poetry, cont.   (386a-392c)
In 386a-392c Plato continues with his discussion of the content of  poetry that needs to be regulated in the education of the guardians.  Among the specific features of poetry that should be avoided at all costs are:

1.poetry that discourages courage by heightening the guardians fear of death  (386b-388e)
2.poetry that encourages excessive laughter  (389a-b)
3.poetry that inspires anyone other than the rulers of the city to lie  (389b-d)
4.poetry that discourages moderation (389d-392a)
5.poetry that teaches that injustice is profitable [only touched upon]  (392a-392c).  

In this section Plato deals with two of the four cardinal virtues that he will return to in Book Four.  These four virtues are:  courage, moderation, justice and wisdom.  Plato can deal with the virtues of courage and moderation early on because he views their importance in the education of the guardians as uncontroversial.  "The other two virtues are left aside, justice because its desirability in general is what is at issue, and wisdom because its role in the city will not become clear until the discussion of the rulers, which begins only in 412c."  (White 96)

The Style of the Guardian's Poetry  (392c-398b)
The discussion now moves from the content of poetry to a discussion of its style. Plato distinguishes between two different types of poetry:  

those involving mimesis   (e.g., drama or acting out a part)
those not involving mimesis  (e.g., simple narrative or description)
mimesis, which is usually translated as "imitation,"  always involves taking on the character of another. "In an epic poem like the Iliad this happens in the passages which are...'in direct speech'; a play is entirely made up of imitation.  Here it helps to remember that for the Greeks all poetry was performed aloud (usually to musical accompaniment) so that reading poetry would involve taking on the role of the person represented" (Annas 95).

This can be contrasted with narrative, which involves the poet describing events that happened in his own person.

Plato objects to mimesis on two grounds:  

1.because it leads to the lowering of one's character.   Imitation, he believes, can induce a person to become like the character they imitate.  If we imitate good people, it will elevate our characters;  but if we imitate bad people, it can make our characters morally worse.

2.because it leads to the fragmentation of one's character.  Plato's guardians must be focused exclusively on the task of ruling the polis (as per the principle of specialization); it doesn't serve them or the polis if their characters become dispersed    (Annas 95-96)

The only kind of mimesis that Plato allows is of good men
otherwise he limits the guardian's poetry to those using simple narrative.
Note:  Plato's views on imitation strike many contemporary readers as a bit odd.  Our own modern perspective is that it is healthy and good for children to identify with characters in films, novels, plays, or role-playing games because it inspires them to become more open minded and creative.  Imitation from a modern perspective, then, is viewed as a catalyst for moral growth (Annas 96-97).  But Plato is concerned that if the guardians imitate vicious or immoral behavior they will lose their "guardianly" characters, hence jeopardizing the health of the entire polis.

Conclusion:  Implications of Plato's Views on Poetry:
Plato's views might also strike the modern reader as dangerous and authoritarian  If one takes his arguments to their logical conclusion one would have to allow for complete state control over all the arts.  Performances could not be allowed that would malign God or our national heroes or which might impart negative values.  Even adults would have to be prevented from exposure to bad art because they would transmit these values to their children (381e; Pappas 69)
On the other hand, our own society clearly has moved in a direction that would have appalled Plato. We might ask what the consequences are of allowing children—or even adults for that matter— to be exposed to the kind of questionable material that is available on television and in films today.  Are we as a society better or worse or for having virtually unrestricted freedom of expression?
Music (398c-400c)

Plato's continued effort to instill courage and moderation in the guardians, will now be applied to the particular type of music to which they will be exposed.  Specifically, he seeks to control the content of music by eliminating:
"soft" music which are ill suited for the temperaments of warriors
erratic harmony and rhythm which can cause disorder in the soul
Plato's aim is a simplicity of style that will benefit the characters of the guardians and to instill in them courage and moderation.  
Remember:  these folks have to be able to kill people in defense of the city.  Plato doesn't want them to be so pumped up by music that they might harm their own citizens or so softened by it that they won't be able to fight their enemies.
Through the proper use of music, Plato aims at introducing a kind of harmony and order into the young guardian's souls that corresponds to the harmony and order of the entire comos.
Again, Plato's attempt to exercise rigid control over the arts, has struck some as being somewhat authoritarian.  Even Allan Bloom, who is not known for his liberal views, raises some objections:  Plato, he says, "has made himself the master of poetry; he controls what it represents, how it represents, and the accompaniments which intensify its appeal.  This mastery has been gained, though, only at the cost of what lovers of poetry find attractive in it  (360).
The Arts in General  (400c-402d)
The attempt to instill harmony and order into the young guardian's souls continues with Plato's treatment of the kind of crafts, art and architecture to which they will be exposed.
He rejects all art and art and architecture that is "vicious, unrestrained, slavish and graceless (401b).  
Plato believes that there is a connection between beauty and orderliness in the arts and the beauty and orderliness of the soul.  He, therefore, wants his guardians to be exposed only to things that are beautiful, virtuous and harmonious.   As Socrates says, "good speech, good harmony, good grace accompany good disposition...Mustn't the young pursue them everywhere if they are to do their work?"  (400e)  

Sexual Relations (402d-403c)
Plato makes what seems to be a strange leap here when he moves from a discussion of beauty in the arts to the sexual relations among his guardians.  One would think that a discussion of sexual relations would be better left for the next section on the physical training of the guardians.  As we shall see, however, Plato treats sexual relations among his guardians as an aesthetic rather than a physical issue.

The characters that the guardians should have is incompatible with extreme sexual passion or the pursuit of physical pleasure (i.e., excesses of desire are incompatible with moderation and virtue)  (402e)

The kind of attraction that the guardians will feel towards one another will be founded upon the orderliness and harmony of the other's soul, not upon some sort of shallow physical attraction.  Attraction, for Plato, is founded upon an appreciation of the beauty, intelligence and virtue of the other. 

Therefore, tender displays of affection are permitted among the guardians, but nothing more than this, lest a guardian be criticized for lacking proper aesthetic sensibility (403c)
Physical Training  (403c-412b)
Having finished his discussion of the guardian's training in the arts, Plato goes on to discuss their physical training.  His aim here is to produce health in the body that is analogous to the harmony that he seeks to produce in the soul.

Physical Fitness (403c-404e):  His program of physical training for the guardians is actually quite sensible.  In order to promote the health of their bodies, the guardians should:
avoid overeating and excessive indulgence in alcohol
eating food that are too rich (especially sweets and cakes)
engage in a simple exercise program (gymnasytics).

Medical Treatment (405a-410b):  The aim of medicine, according to Plato, is to maintain the health of the body, not to restore it in a sickly individual.  

Plato reserves medical treatment only for generally healthy people and only in rare situations  (e.g., to heal wounds in battle or occasional illnesses)
The unhealthy and unfit are a drain on the community, and therefore, must be left to die or will be permitted to kill themselves  (408b; 410a).  This follows from the principle of specialization which necessitates that each person fulfill his specific role in the polis.  The sickly, however, can't fulfill their role:  "in every well ordered community each man has his appointed task which he must perform; no one has leisure to spend all his life in  being ill and doctoring himself."  (406a)
Again, many contemporary readers find Plato's support of euthanasia problematic, but we must keep in mind that such practices were not uncommon in the ancient world.  Life in ancient Greece was fairly hard, and to survive a community needed to rely on all its citizens.  On the positive side, Plato is quite egalitarian insofar as he doesn't make exceptions to this rule for the wealthy or powerful (408b).

Education as a Harmony  (410b-412b):  We have already seen that for Plato's real education involves a delicate balance of physical and intellectual training.  If we load our guardians up with too much art, music and philosophy, they will become soft.  If we don't provide them with enough exposure to these arts, they will become too harsh and savage.
Plato believes that the balance that he provides in the guardians educational program will ensure that they are cultivated and orderly, courageous and moderate.  
It turns out, then, that physical training is not just for the health of the body, but helps to harmonize the soul as well (410c).  As Socrates puts it, "the man who makes the finest mixture of gymnastics with music and brings them to his soul in the most proper measure is the one of whom we would most correctly say  that he is the most...well harmonized."  (412a)
Republic 3 (412b-417b)
The Lifestyle of the Guardians I

Division of the Polis  (412b-417b)
The Noble Lie  (414b-415d)
The Lifestyle of the Guardians  (415d-417b)

Division of the Polis  (412b-417b)
Having completed his discussion of the education of the guardians, Plato now turns to the question of who will rule and be ruled in his polis.  His argument can be summed up as follows:

1.The rulers of the city must be the best of the best.  
2.The guardians are the best members of the society  
3.Therefore the rulers of Plato's city must be the "most guardianly of the guardians."

The guardians are the best members of the society, because they are best able to preserve the city.  Therefore, an elite from among the guardians, argues Plato, ought to be the ones who rule the city (412a-c).

The rulers of the city ought to be those who love the city most.  If I love something I so identify with its good, that I would even be willing to sacrifice myself for its sake.  The same is true with the guardians love for the city:  they so completely  identify their own good with the good of the city, that they would be willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure its well being  (412d-e).
This demands that we have rulers who are able to retain their convictions even in the face of  corrupting influences (e.g., the desire for pleasure or the fear of pain) .  Those guardians who have been tested, and demonstrate that can maintain their commitment to the city in the face of  corrupting forces, will become the rulers of the society  (413d-414a).

Note:  The rulers that Plato wants for his city are those that have stability of character:  they remain unchangeable in the face of dangerous internal and external forces that threaten the good of the city.  This is contrasted with the instability of rulers in a democratic society, such as those in Plato's own Athens (White 104).

The Noble Lie  (414b-415d)
Plato now has three classes of citizens in his ideal polis:

1.Guardians:  rulers of the polis
2.Auxiliaries:  guardians who remain warriors
3.Craftsmen:  rest of the citizens
But how does he convince the rest of the citizens to accept the leadership of the guardians?  The answer is that the rulers of the city must make them believe a myth—a "noble lie"— about their collective origins.

All citizens they will be told from very early on were born of the same mother, the earth.  Some have gold in their souls (the Guardians), some have silver (the auxiliaries) and some have iron or bronze (the craftsmen).  The type of metal that each person is made of determines the role that they will play in the society.

This myth is told purely for the sake of those being ruled.  The guardian, of course, know that it is just a myth, but understand the basic principle that underlies it (e.g., the principle of specialization).
The point of this myth is to encourage the kind of absolute loyalty to the city that is akin to the kind of loyalty that one feels towards family members.  Plato's aim is to have all of the citizens accept the class structure of the city and to put the good of the city over their own individual good.
Plato has once again offended our egalitarian sensibilities by proposing what appears to be little more than a rigid caste system.  The difference between Plato's caste system and that of India, for example, is that his is based not upon wealth or birth, but purely upon ability.  

The Lifestyle of the Guardians  (415d-417b)
At the end of Book 3, Plato begins a discussion of the lifestyle of the guardians that will be continued in Book 4.  What we discover is that the guardians will not be allowed to possess private property or to have any dealings with money (416d-417b).  

Plato's aim is to prevent the guardians from having divided interests.  Because they won't be allowed to accumulate wealth, they can work for the good of the city alone.  

This approach also allows Plato to avoid the corruption and conflicts that can occur when it is possible for rulers to place their own good above the common good.

Plato's guardians, therefore, will live in common and share all of their worldly possessions.  
In a sense, Plato's communal/communistic approach is similar to that of religious orders during the Middle Ages.  It was believed that if a monk owned nothing of his own, he would be able to devote himself totally to God.  Similarly, Plato believes that guardians will be able to commit themselves totally and completely to the good of the city, because they have no material distractions.

Republic 4 (419a-427c)
The Lifestyle of the Guardians II

Lifestyle of the Guardians, cont.  (419a-421c)
The Duties of the Guardians  (421c-427c)
Suggestions for Further Reading

By the end of Book III, Socrates has laid out a preliminary sketch of the lifestyle of his guardians.  His description of the role of the guardians in his ideal polis continues in Book IV with a discussion of their specific duties.  
We then move into an important discussion of justice in the city and in the individual.
Remember:  In Republic 368c-369b, Socrates assured us that once we have gotten a handle on the nature of justice in the city, we will then be able to apply what we have learned to justice in the individual soul.  It is in Book 4 that this connection is made.

 Lifestyle of the Guardians, cont. (419a-421c)
Upon hearing that the Guardian Rulers live entirely at the expense of the State working tirelessly for the interests and advantage of the citizens without a salary, property or privacy, Adeimantus interrupts:  "You are hardly making the Rulers happy."

At this point, Adeimantus doesn't appreciate the difference between the kind of happiness that money, pleasure and property obtains and the happiness (eudaimonia, human flourishing) that the virtuous life of wisdom, justice, courage and moderation obtains the rulers.  Skirting that issue, Socrates responds that the point is not to make the rulers happy, but rather to make the whole city happy.

The Duties of the Guardians  (421c-427c)
Socrates suggests that the two factors that militate against a happy polis are wealth and poverty  (Since the Guardians have no wealth and the artisans have no power, this problem is resolved in the Ideal State).

Adeimantus complains that a ruling party with no wealth will have no resources to wage war, especially against a wealthy State. Socrates observes that in the Ideal State, the Guardians will have no wealth to defend and thus their State will be of no interest to avaricious enemies.  Further the Guardians will have no trouble enlisting allies against wealthier states because any spoils will be promised to the allies and not appropriated by the Guardians.

Socrates claims that by virtue of the training and education provided the Auxiliary guardians, they will defeat even the wealthiest of States. (The Athenians defeated the Persians who outnumbered them two to one at Marathon). 

The Rulers should contrive not to make the City too large or too small.  Expansion of the population is to be curbed at that point in which the city ceases to be a functional unity.  (Tyrannies, Aristocracies, Plutocracies, Democracies are divided cities because the rich are pitted against the poor or vice versa.)

Guardians are to see to it that untalented children of Guardians are sent off to learn a trade and competent children among the artisan class are recruited to become Guardians and rulers, for each one must find and perform the one task most suited to him ( or her, see Book V).

The guardian Rulers cannot fail if they attend most to the task of education and rearing the Auxiliary guardians and continuing their own education.  Plato seems to believe that acquired traits such as intelligence, wisdom, justice are passed on genetically.  In the interbreeding of the Guardians, good natures will abound among offspring, along the lines of animal husbandry.

The Guardians must guard against innovations in music making (The singing of epic poetry was the principle vehicle of education in Plato's Athens).  Socrates asserts that "never are the ways of music moved without the greatest political laws being moved."  (Revolutionary ideas have been spread by Troubadours, student singing societies, anti-war folk singers, gangsta' rappers and Marilyn Manson groupies).

If the Guardians attend to the education of their own and public education, they need not micro-manage the youth is such matters as the care of parents, hair-do's, clothing, etc.
Glaucon and Socrates decide not to further speculate on specific laws or regulations for the market place, the juries, rents or the use of the harbor because well-educated Guardians will be quite competent to judge these matter for themselves.

The Guardians will wisely defer to the legislation of Apollo at Delphi on the founding of temples, sacrifices and other religious matters.

Republic 4 (427d-445b)
Justice in the City and Individual

Justice in the City  (427d-434d)
The Three Parts of the Soul  (434d-441c)
Justice in the Individual  (441c-445b)
Suggestions for Further Reading

Justice in the City  (427d-434d)
Socrates now asks the founder of this "City in Speech", Glaucon, and all the others, where the justice in it resides.

They assert that the city is perfectly good. 
For it to be perfectly good, it must be wise, courageous, moderate and just.
Because it is assumed that there are no other virtues or excellences for a city to have, it is believed that if the wisdom, courage and moderation of the city are defined then by process of elimination and by highlighting these three virtues, justice will stand out in contrast.*

*This notion derives from the Platonic theory of the unity of the virtues, that is, that the four virtues are so interrelated that a deficiency in one will imply a deficiency in or erosion of the others, and true virtue entails accomplishment in all four virtues.
The city is wise by virtue of a small part of it, that is, by the counsel of the Guardian Rulers.

Although artisans and craftpersons know many things their knowledge is restricted to the telos of their specialized craft.

Statescraft, by contrast, requires knowledge of the whole city and its relation to other cities.  This knowledge is found exclusively in the Guardian Rulers.

We learn in Book  VII, 521c-541b , the extensive nature of the broad liberal arts education proposed for Rulers:  music, gymnastics, mathematics, science [including medicine and astronomy], literature and history.  If qualifying exams are passed, at the age of thirty, Auxiliary Guardians study philosophy and the dialectic for five years. They then enter positions of high command in the military for fifteen years of service.  Observed in the field for courage, wisdom in the conduct of battle, for leadership abilities, for moderation and justice in the treatment of the defeated, Auxiliaries can be tapped at the age of fifty for Guardian Rule. Plato is confidant that no-one could mask corruption or incompetence after such a career.

The City is courageous because of its sterling Auxiliary Guardians.
By virtue of the education the Guardians receive in music and gymnastics, they learn what is truly terrible and what is not.  Thus they are able to defend the life, honor and glory of the city without cowardice or resort to excessive violence.  They combine in themselves both viciousness and gentleness. Their disciplined education prevents them from raping, rampaging or pillaging subdued enemy peoples.  They are disposed to change their former enemy into an ally. Their courage then comes from their character, their disposition to defend the laws and not from their ability to wreck havoc.  "These colors won't run."

The city is moderate in a systemic way

Moderation does not reside exclusively or even predominantly in the artisan class.  We know from Book II, that Socrates reluctantly accepted Glaucon's aspiration to found the "Feverish City," one dedicated to the pursuit of the unnecessary desires, namely luxuries.  The artisans, far from living in moderation,are part of a feverish capitalist economy and their avocation is the amassment of wealth and acquisitions.  Plato holds them in contempt as people who sadly do not desire what is the most humanly desirable and also for not knowing what they really want (as opposed to the Auxiliaries and the Rulers).  Unbridled acquisitiveness and hedonism would have torn the city apart.  And that's why the desires of the artisan class have to be externally curbed by the impositions of Rulers, enforced by Auxiliaries.

Moderation in the ideal city comes from the recognition of every class in the society that the basest, worst and most out of control part of the society should be ruled by the better, most knowledgeable, prudent and reasonable part.  Indoctrinated by the Noble Lie, the artisan class accepts the legitimacy of the Guardians to rule.  They accept the prohibition against revolution or popular usurpation of power because they accept the acquired wisdom of the Guardian class as its natural trait (a lie)..  Moreover, there is no envy on the part of the populace for the ruling class because: 1. private ownership is guaranteed them by the rulers, and 2. their rulers subsist on a far more austere standard of living then they and  serve them without compensation of salary or property. The City is moderate because rulers keep their hands off the people's money and the people keep their hands off the rulers.

Auxiliaries also play their part in the city's moderation because they willingly serve as the enforcement arm of the rulers without desiring to usurp the government. Further they are willing to defend and serve the citizens instead of abusing them and extracting tribute from the citizens.  (Plato knows well that the fear inspired by warriors can give them the effect of the Ring of Gyges, hiding the extortion of the citizens behind a wall of silence.)

Now they are ready to flush out justice

Socrates says (with considerable surprise) that justice has been right at hand all along in the discussion.  From his discussion with Adeimantus and the Healthy City in Book II, he extracts the principle of specialization:  a person should do one function in the city and one for which s/he is particularly suited.

 A corollary of that principle is that a person shouldn't try to do somebody else's job or to interfere with that person when they try to do their job.

This then is justice in the city:  Each class does the job for which it is best suited and no one class should meddle with the task of the other.

Justice is giving and allowing each class to do what is its own.  When this occurs there is a harmony in the city.  Rulers rule, Auxiliary Guardians Guard, and Producers produce. The result is full productivity and employment with all the basic goods and luxuries provided; a City that is well-defended, honorable and glorious; and one in which the rulers rule in the interests and to the advantage of the citizens.

Socrates thinks that if a shoemaker wants to do a bit of carpentry this would not shatter the harmony of the city.  But if a money-maker enters the class of rulers and starts to use government as a means to personal enrichment or if he enters into the military (replacing the profit motive for the defense motive), then there is political hell to pay.  [Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex.] Also if a general or admiral took over the government and subverted the commercial sector to military purposes, the city would be lost.

We too should recognize the distinct functions of public policy making, military defense and private enterprise and realize the damage that superimposing the goals of one function on the other can cause.  What offends the modern mind is the undemocratic exclusion of whole classes from government.  We accept this when it comes to the military, but not when it comes to the private sector.  Plato is caught  up in his rigid analogy of the State as having the same structure as the human psyche. The artisans are likened to the appetitive function of the soul.  We might find it plausible that the rational soul should lord it over the baser appetites, but that this is analogous with the rulers' duty to lord it over the artisans escapes us.  Plato's own psychology has it that the artisans are endowed with Reason and Spirit, as well as Appetite.  More enlightened philosophers used this as a defense for universal suffrage and right of the people to govern itself.  In my view, Plato harbors an aristocratic contempt for the common man.  In his opinion the artisan could fulfill his intellect and control his appetites but he is unlikely to do so; and it is this contempt that underlies his authoritarian and undemocratic meritocracy.  In an era before the founding of universities and the scarcity of leisure time for scholarly pursuits, it is perhaps understandable why Plato had this prejudice; but it is not forgivable.

The Three Parts of the Soul  (434d-441c)
Plato now makes the comparison between the Form of the City and the Form of the human being.  We are to imagine ourselves to be complex "cities" and the crucial question is: "who's in charge?"  How well are you governing this "city," that is, your self?

The first task is to see if there are comparable factors of the soul (psyche) that are analogous to the Tripartite classes of the polis:  Guardian Rulers, Auxiliary Guardians, Producers. 
The human soul is complex rather than simple because different aspects of it desire different Ends.
The Appetitive aspect of soul desires sensual satisfaction, for example, for food, drink and sex.
The appetites seek not some specific end, for example: Sam Adams Summer Ale, but rather a generic goal: anything quench-worthy.  (This distinguishes the appetites from the rational soul.)
Socrates finds in the soul conflicting tensions: one in the direction of satisfying the appetite, the other in the direction of frustrating the appetite.

The latter is the calculating part of the soul:  the rational soul.  There can be found in the same person the irrational desire to drink and the rational resistance to drink because of the bad consequences of drinking. (An example would be the offer to a starving man of a cake the starving man knows to be poisoned.  The persistent desire on the part of the appetite, in contrast to the rational part which resists it at all costs, shows the separation of these aspects of the psyche.)

Finally, the fact that anger sometimes makes war against the appetites reveals the third part of the tripartite soul:  the spirited soul (anger, assertion, aggression).

When desire pushes a person toward an object that  reason rejects as choice-worthy, reason often enlists anger to rail against and subdue the appetitive force.

Once spirit vows allegiance to reason, and reason sees the worth of a political cause, any frustrations of the appetites will be accepted without anger:  Spirit will docilely obey reason's dictates despite hardship.

But if reason perceives itself unjustly wronged., spirit will rear up in its defense, and appetites will be subdued even unto death for a just cause.

Justice in the Individual  (441c-445b)
And so the Form of the Soul is seen to have the same Form as the City.  Virtue will be found in the soul in the same manner as it is found in the City.

Justice in the city was found in the willingness of each class to do what it is naturally suited to do, while not interfering with the business of the other classes:  Rulers rule, Auxiliary Guardians guard and Producers produce.

In the just person, each part of the complex soul does what it is natural for it to do without unduly interfering with the functions of the other souls.

Thus the reasoning or calculating part rules over the appetitive and spirited parts.
Spirited anger or aggression allies itself with Reason and springs to its defense.
If the appetitive or spirited souls attempt to usurp and enslave reason, disaster results.
Only justice among the souls, wherein each is allowed to pursue what is its own, can all human goals be effectively obtained.

Thus only a wise, courageous, just and moderate soul can achieve eudaimonia, full human flourishment, happiness.

Now they test this theory of justice as psychic harmony against the conventional opinions about justice, that is, against the popular notion that justice is honoring parents and making acts of piety toward gods, avoiding stealing, lying, and betraying or committing acts of  adultery.
They see immediately that the eudaimon, the psychically harmonized person, is the least likely to break any of the conventional norms associated with justice.
This is the triumph of an ethic of virtue over rule-based ethics.  The psychically harmonized person is the least likely to injure or violate another person for they have all that they need for happiness in their own noble character.

Making an analogy between virtue and health, Socrates asserts that psychic harmony is in accord with nature; but if passion overwhelms reason or spirited aggression usurps reason, such injustice between souls is as unnatural and as damaging as disease is to the body.

It should be pointed out that Plato has answered all the questions posed in Books I and II.  Justice has been defined both in the City and in the person.  Further, whether justice is advantageous in itself ( an intrinsic value) and not only as a means to other goods has been demonstrated in the model of the eudaimon, the fully flourishing, psychically harmonized person (It is never an advantage to be out of sorts spiritually).

The argument for the advantage of the just life, however, is thoroughly accomplished in Books VII through IX, where Socrates compares various forms of cities and personalities in contrast with the Ideal State and individual.  This is completed only after the digression on women, marriage and the philosopher king in Books V, VI and VII.

Republic 5 (449a-471c)
Plato's Radical Politics

Introduction  (449a-450c)
The Equality of Women  (450c-457b)
The Guardian's Family Life  (457b-466d)
War and Peace  (466d-471c)
Suggestions for Further Reading

Introduction  (449a-450c)
Book Five represents something of a digression---albeit an important one---in the argument of the Republic.  

At the end of  Book Four, Socrates was in the midst of discussing the four types of defective cities, when he is challenged by Polemarchus to explain what he meant when he said that the guardians will hold women and children in common.

The discussion of defective cities will be put off until Book Eight.  Book Five, then, returns to the question of the lifestyle of the guardians, developing Plato's own radical approach to politics.
What we will discover in this book is that Plato takes very seriously the idea that the Guardians will hold everything in common.

It should be noted that Plato's communalism concerns only the Guardians, and not to rest of the populations.  Plato believes that unity of the city can only be assured if the Guardians, who control the city, are themselves united (465b).

The Equality of Women  (450c-457b)
Women, Socrates argues, are equal to men in all ways except in strength.  They should therefore have the same responsibilities as men.  If they are to share the responsibilities of being Guardians, then they will need the same type of education and training as male Guardians (451d).
Female guardians would therefore need to be trained music and gymnastics as well as the art of war alongside the male counterparts

Socrates anticipates the objection that the sight of women exercising naked with men might very well seem ridiculous according to conventional Greek customs.  If, however, such an arrangement is advantageous to the city as a whole, it doesn't matter if it flies in the face of custom  (452).  
Socrates presupposes a conservative objection to his belief in the fundamental equality of women  (253a-c).  The argument that he raises is something like the following:

Premise 1:  According to the principle of specialization, each person should work according to his/her own nature.

Premise 2: women and men have different nature

Conclusion:  Therefore they should have different functions in society

e.g., men, who are aggressive by nature, should act as rulers and warriors, and women, who have nurturing natures, should act as mothers and teachers

Socrates is presupposing that  others may very well accuse him of contradicting himself, since the principle of specialization seems to preclude the equality of the sexes  (453b).  In his response, therefore, he needs to demonstrate, that, despite their different anatomies, men and women do not have different natures.   His argument (453e-454c) is as follows:

do bald men and hairy men have different nature?  no:  the difference between them is accidental (superficial), not essential  the same therefore can be said of men and women:  the difference between them is not essential to their abilities to do the work of ruling and protecting the polis.

Plato is using the term nature here as a kind of aptitude, or the ability to do a certain kinds of work.  A physician and a carpenter, according to this view, would have different natures, and therefore should play different roles in the polis (454d).

Gender, on the other hand, is irrelevant to men and women's abilities to do the work demanded of Guardians

The only real objection that can be raised to having women in the ranks of the guardians is that they have the possibility of having children, and raising children is a full-time job that preludes all other kinds of work.

Plato's solution to this problem, as we shall see, is to devise a radically model of child raising that can free women to perform other kinds of work in the polis. 

The Guardian's Family Life  (457b-466d)
Socrates now moves to the question of family life of the guardians, which he has hinted will be completely communal in nature.

If male and female guardians are working and living together, it is inevitable that there will be some degree of sexual intimacy among them.  The danger of this is that sloppy interbreeding may occur (the best reproducing with those who are less desirable).

The analogy that Socrates uses is that just as you wouldn't want your prize terrier reproducing with anything other then another excellent pure-breed, so too the leaders of the polis wouldn't want their best and brightest reproducing with inferior human beings (459a).
The rulers of the society, therefore, will have to be diligent about arranging marriages between equally suitable partners.  To get everyone to go along with this, they will have to employ yet another lie:

in this case, the rulers of the polis will tell the guardians that the selection of partners is done by lottery in order to prevent any kind of resentment from arising (459c-460a)

The children who are the products of these unions will immediately be place in a nursery and cared for by nurses. 

Parent, therefore, won't know who their own children are (460d)

Incest will be avoided though the careful management of the rulers (461d-e) 

children with defects and those that are products of unsanctioned unions will be left to die (460c, 461c)

Plato's aim in devising the communal raising of children is to keep the city unified  (462a-c)
the greatest good, he maintains, is that which binds the city together and makes it one; the greatest evil is that which tears it apart a city will be unified if its citizens feel pleasure and pain about the same things, and when no one makes a distinction between what belongs to him and what belongs to others 

Because they possess everything in common, there will be no dissension among the guardians, and they will better be able to keep the city together.

Because they think of everyone as their brother/sister, father/mother there will no lawsuits or voilence among them, nor will they be included to split off into factions  (464d-465b)

Socrates now readdresses the complaint of Adeimantus (419a) that the communal lifestyle of the guardians wouldn't seem to make them very happy (465c-466c).

Even though the guardians will have to sacrifice a great deal for the good of the polis, Socrates is convinced that their lives will ultimately be much more satisfying than that of the craftsmen. 

In the first place, they won't be force to engage in the vulgar business of supporting a household (465c), and they will have the satisfaction of knowing that, by their labors, they have preserved the good of the entire city (465e)
War and Peace  (466d-471c)
Women will also share with men the task of waging warfare.

So that children will gain experience in battle, they will be permitted to observe warfare---though every effort will be made to assure their security (467a-d).

soldiers who display cowardice on the battlefield will be eliminated from the ranks of the guardians and demoted to a craftsman or farmer; those guardians who are left alive in battle will be abandoned to the enemy.  But those who demonstrate courage will be granted honors (468a-469b)
In 469b-471c Socrates discusses the standards the will be adopted in warfare.

Citizens of other Greek city-states will be treated as potential friends; while non-Greeks (barbarians) will be treated as strangers and potential enemies.

Plato here is trying to broaden his conception of justice to extend beyond the walls of the individual city.  Because he views all Greeks as being "related" to one another, some common practices in warfare would not apply to them (e.g., taking slaves, ravaging their lands, etc.), and warfare between Greek cities would be viewed more as a kind of civil dissension.

Republic 5 (471c-480a)
The Philosopher-Kings I

Philosophers as Kings  (471c-474b)
Definition of the Philosopher  (474b-480a)

Philosophers as Kings  (471c-474b)
Socrates has demonstrated that a just city such as the one he has described is possible in theory.  The question remains, however, as to whether it is possible in reality as well.  His answer is that it would be possible only of philosophers were allowed to rule or if rulers become philosophers (473d).

This surprising observation would probably have been as dubious to the average Greek as it is for contemporary readers.  In order to defend his position, Socrates needs to clearly define what he means by a philosopher, why the philosopher is better suited to rule than others, and what sort of training he/she would need.  This discussion would continue through the then end of Book VII, and in some ways represents the heart of the Republic.

Definition of the Philosopher  (474b-480a)
It should be pointed out that Plato has a very specific idea of what a philosopher is.  He begins his attempt to define the philosopher in the following way(474c-475c):

A lover of X loves not juts a certain kind of X, but all X  
[e.g., a lover of food loves all food, a lover of wine loves all wine]

Philosophers are lovers of wisdom
The Philosopher therefore is that person who loves all wisdom and learning, not just wisdom and learning of a certain kind.

Glaucon objects (475d-e) that according to Socrates' definition lovers of sites an sounds (e.g., those who love festivals and spectacles) would be considered philosophers.

"Glaucon here makes a somewhat complex mistake, which Socrates then endeavors to combat.  Part of his mistake is to take the term 'philosopher' in Plato's sense as including people with various specialized enthusiasms, such as those who ignore "serious discussions" in order to attend festivals.  The other part of his mistake, which is much more important from Plato's viewpoint, is to think that the love of wisdom or learning or knowledge involves the love of information and experience of sensible matters rather than the intelligible ones..."  (White 154-155).

The philosopher, responds Socrates is a lover of true knowlege.  (475e-476d)
The love of true knowledge is related to an understanding of the "forms"
This is what makes a philosopher fit to rule.

In response to Glaucon's objection, Socrates argues that those who love sights and sounds (476d-480a), are not philosophers (lovers of wisdom and knowledge), but are lovers of opinion.

• infallible
• concerned with "what is"

• fallible
• between knowledge and ignorance
• between BEING and Non-BEING
• eternal and unchanging
i.e., "The Beautiful"
• temporal and changing
i.e., "a beautiful woman"
Ergo:  Fit to Rule Ergo: Unfit to Rule

This section represents the beginning of the heavy metaphysical portion of the Republic.  Although Plato throws out these metaphysical concepts without much warning or support, what we have here is a general outline of his theory.  Later in Book VI we will be given a more through treatment of the ideas that he throws out here.

Republic 6 (484a-502e)
The Philosopher-Kings II

The Philosopher's Fitness to Rule  (484a-487a)
Objections to the Nature of the Philosopher  (487b-497a)
On the Possibility of Philosophic Rule  (497a-502c)

The Philosopher's Fitness to Rule  (484a-487a)
The question is "why should philosophers become the Guardian Rulers of the City?
Philosophers (only) apprehend the permanent and one, whereas non-philosophers are acquainted (only) with the changing and many.

Only those who can conserve the laws and practices of the City should be its guardians.
Philosophers seek what is true of being---the real---and what is real is the permanent, the unchanging---that which is not susceptible to generation and decay. 

Philosophers love truth and hate falsehood.  Since only the philosopher understands what is fine and good in the laws and practices of the City, only the philosophers should rule.

As a lover of one thing, all other desire for other  things are weakened; so too the philosopher's love for truth (wisdom) is such that other desires such as the desires for fame and glory or the desire for pleasure or wealth are weakened in him or her.

A guardian should be moderate (like philosophers) so that the ruler will protect the wealth of the citizens and not covet it.

The philosophic quest to apprehend the whole of the universe places individual life in cosmic perspective and death becomes insignificant to such a one.  (This allows us to "take hardships philosophically.") Cowards who have an inordinate fear of death are not attracted to philosophy
Philosophers, loving wisdom, courage and moderation are likely to be just.

 They learn quickly and have good memories.  They are musical and harmonious. 
 They are led to the idea of each thing.  Thus philosophers should rule.

Objections to the Nature of the Philosopher  (487b-497a)

Adeimantus objects:
Those who are inexperienced in the art of dialogue feel that philosophers take advantage of them.  When the opposite of what they initially believed is proven true by the argument, they feel like the victims of a hustler.  Those who make philosophy a career turn out most eccentric and vicious, and others who are more benign end up useless to the city.

Socrates defends the philosopher with an analogy between the philosopher and a ship pilot:
A certain myopic and slightly deaf ship owner is seeking a pilot for his ship.  Sailors who have no understanding of the use of transept and stargazing to navigate the ship vie with the true pilot for the position.  Since they do not see the importance of knowledge of astronomy and mathematics to the rule of the ship, they quarrel with one another and contrive to take over the ship.  They either force, persuade or entice the owner to give them the rudder.  Giving the name of "captain" and "ruler" to the one skilled in taking command, they careen off in all directions, making the one skilled in piloting useless.

The philosopher is useless in the City, not because he or she is incompetent to rule, but because those in power are so ignorant and blind as to fail to call upon the skills of the philosopher.

After accounting for the charge that philosophers are useless to the City, Socrates defends them against the charge of eccentricity and viciousness (498e-493e).

The true philosopher is a lover of wisdom.  Plato identifies a specific desire (eros) or love proper to the psyche's faculty of reason:  analogous to sexual attraction or ambition for fame or glory, those characterized by the love of wisdom relentlessly pursue the truth, reject all craven rivals, adore it, commingle with it, wed it and give birth to more truth and intelligence.  Once, committed, the philosopher will hate the rivals and opposers of truth, namely falsifiers.  Again such a character is courageous, moderate, magnificent, intelligent and endowed with a good memory.
So why do the many view philosophers to be so odd and so vicious?

Here we find the Platonic notion that virtue is nourished in a Just and Virtuous State; but in a vicious state, every temptation contrives to corrupt and undermine the human propensity for moral excellence.

In Dante's Inferno, the most vicious sin is the treacherous deception or betrayal of the finest natures.  In Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello, the hero is incited to murder his faithful Desdemona through the vile and lying slander of Iago.  

Here Socrates claims that only those natures capable of magnanimous deeds for the city are capable, once corrupted, of the greatest treason.  Here perhaps he is thinking of the notorious Alcibiades who was once a student of Socrates but betrayed Athens to the Spartans during the Peloponnesian Wars.

Any city other than the ideal city they are inventing is hostile to the philosophic nature, because only the Ideal City is devoted to the ultimate Good, that is, to the flourishing human character in harmonious accord with the truth and a transcendent or spiritual Good (see ahead 505a).  Living as he is in the restored democracy, Plato finds the values promoted by the mass of citizens to be lacking, namely the value of material pleasures and wealth and the value of military fame and glory (See Funeral Oration of Pericles in Sophia commentary The Fabulous Fifth Century).

Socrates puts the lion's share of blame for the corruption of the philosophic nature on the conventions and prejudices of majority opinion which are reinforced in the hearts of young people in every forum or assembly, and in every popular media.

What is not achieved by rhetorical persuasion is enforced by censure, fines, punishment and the executioner.  (Michel Foucault recently restated the instantiation of political repression in our language, conventions, laws and modes of criminal justice.  He would not, however, have thought that Plato's Republic or The Laws represented an advance in human liberation, just a replacement of one form of repression for another).

Peer pressure and State coercion contrive to corrupt the philosophic nature far more than the teachings of the sophists.

Sophists only teach the conventional convictions of the masses.  (In effect, Plato claims that the sophists found a lucrative business in reinforcing popular opinion ascertained by public opinion polls.  No one ever lost money pandering to popular sentiment.).

The masses will have a hard time accepting that the feature itself of things, for example, goodness itself, has being (is real), whereas the many particular aspects of particular things, for example, the specific good of a painting, the specific good of a wine, the specific good of a play, do not really exist, or, at best, exist only ephemerally, briefly, fleetingly, hovering between existence and non-existence.

Thus, because of this popular skepticism about the exclusive reality of the Forms, "it's impossible for the multitude to be philosophic."

Someone with the philosophical nature who is good-looking as well is likely to gather adulators and flatterers.  Filled with pretensions and conceits, such a golden one is likely to think that education should come easy.

If such a one wants to adopt the philosophic life, those who enjoy her companionship will try to undermine the person's resolve.  [Much as Aquinas's ambitious family tried to dissuade him from joining the mendicant Dominican order by tempting him (unsuccessfully) with a prostitute.]
When those of true philosophical nature leave the field, pretenders and social climbers take over (replacing philosophy with rhetoric), and besmirching the good name of philosophers.

So those with a truly philosophic nature, who accept the arduous education and who remain uncorrupted by the envious, wicked or narrow-minded conformists are rare indeed.

[It is intriguing that Plato believes that the philosophic temperament is especially susceptible to corruption.  It is noteworthy that Plato is willing to trust them to absolute power as Rulers of the City.  The notion that the best of men are still susceptible to corruption is  basic to the theory of  popular or majority sovereignty and it also led Montesquieu and others to the view that the powers of government: executive, legislative and judiciary ought to be separated and a balance of powers be maintained between the various branches of government.]

On the Possibility of Philosophic Rule  (497a-502c)
It is only the regime of the ideal state outlined previously that will (through the carefully regulated educational process) allow the philosophical nature to reach fruition.  (The hope of many contemporary parents is to shield their children from the full brunt of post-modern, post-Christian society.)

If the character of the true philosopher can be made manifest to the common people as distinct from those panderers and vicious pretenders ("whose arguments are ad hominem," that is, they abuse the person rather than address the issue. 500a), then it is not impossible for philosophers to be accepted as rulers.

Republic 6 (502c-511e)
The Sun and the Divided Line

The Eidos of the Good  (502c-509c)
The Analogy of the Sun
Interpretation of the Analogy of the Sun
Why is the Good the most important study of the lover of wisdom?
The Divided Line  (509d-511e)

The Eidos of the Good  (502c-509c)
Socrates now raises the level of the conversation.
The philosopher who is best to rule the city must not only know what justice is, for justice is but one specific instance of the good.

The greatest study of all is the study of the idea ---The Form (Eidos)  of the good---Goodness Itself. (505a)

Plato believes that the good which is real (has being) as opposed to that which only seems good is the Feature Itself ---The Form (Eidos)  that is Goodness Itself.

Plato believes that specific goods like justice, health, wisdom are good only to the extent that they participate in the Form of Goodness Itself.  ["When an object can be said to be F, it is by virtue of a relation between it and the Form of F (see 475e-476d).  This relation, "participation" usually seems to hold between sensible objects and Forms but it can perhaps also hold between Forms too, e.g. between a Form and the Form of the Good."  Nicholas P. White. A Companion to Plato's Republic, p. 175.]

The philosopher cannot know whether a specific good (for example, a good law) is really good or only apparently good, if she does not know what Goodness itself is.  No one is satisfied with the obtainment of the seeming good; everyone seeks the genuine article.

Plato assumes that if we do not know the entirely adequate definition of Goodness Itself we cannot know (only opine) that some particular thing is good.  (Those who find this claim highly suspect call the claim the Socratic fallacy).

Since the ruler must be able to know what is fine and good among the laws and practices of the City, the ruler must seek knowledge of Goodness Itself.

Every aspect of the tripartite soul is desirous of some particular Good or End.  Each of those particular goods are good in so far as they participate in Goodness Itself (share the feature of goodness).  Goodness Itself then is the ultimate End of human life---the ultimate fulfillment of all human desiring.

Human flourishing, the achievement of excellence as a human being, is possible only when the rational psyche apprehends the Form of the Good.  Only then can it provide itself with the object of its desire---the true Good, and can recognize the Ends of fulfilling the goods of the Spirited and appetitive souls as well.  This commingling and identification of the rational desire for the Good and the object of knowledge: the Form of the Good, is a kind of secular beatitude---a life fulfilling consummation.

But what is The Good?  (508a-509c)
Socrates must distinguish the Form of the Good from the particular goods that participate in it, for example: must distinguish between Goodness Itself and the goodness of (some types) of pleasure or the goodness of prudence.

Socrates claims not to have knowledge of the Form of the Good. 
However something that is a child of the Good and looks like it can be described.

The Analogy of the Sun
Socrates suggests that of the many fine and good things, the feature that unites them is the Idea of the Good.  This one idea must be real, for otherwise there would be no particular thing that would be good.

Between the visible and sight there must be a third thing which allows the visible to come out of the darkness and be seen; and that third thing is light.  The god that supplies light is Apollo, the sun.*
*After the 5th Century BC, Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, was identified with Helios, the sun god.  Phoebus Apollo, the god of light, was a moral god concerned with prophecy, medicine, music, poetry, archery and various bucolic arts. He was responsible for law, philosophy and the arts.  He, along with Athena, was a patron god of Athens and his Oracle at his shrine in Delphi inspired Socrates to carry out his sacred mission of exposing intellectual fraud wherever he found it.
Just as the sun provides the light that makes the eye aware of color and the colored thing visible, so too The Good provides the idea (enlightenment) that allows the rational mind to know the Forms of things.  The Good is that whereby we grasp the universal and eternal Features (eide) of particular things.

Just as the sun, through the emanation of its heat energy and light causes the generation of living things, so too the Good causes the being of the things it makes knowable.
Just as the sun causes generation but is not itself generation (is eternally beyond generation or corruption), so too The Good is not itself a being like those it causes, is not itself a thing, but is beyond beings.

Interpretation of the Analogy of the Sun
What is this all about?  This passage is perhaps one of the most obscure and mysterious in all of Plato's writings.  Plato is offering his cryptic answer to life's most fundamental mystery:  why reality?---why is there anything at all?---nothingness would have been so much simpler.  The analogy with the sun god suggests that Plato's explanation for the universe is a move beyond polytheism to a monotheism.  However, the transcendent source of all the beings and all of the forms is not a personal god.  It is a real, transcendent, eternal, unchanging, universal source of existence; but Goodness Itself has no personality (although Glaucon thinks Socrates owes us a narrative on the Father of the sun-god, and Socrates described Apollo as the "child" of the Good.)  That the Form of the Good is the ultimate cause of the Forms makes sense in light of the fact that:

1. Forms make things what they are and thus are the origin of beings, 2. Forms are universal, permanent, eternal and thus more real (and real making) than particular things which are fleeting, changing, hovering between being and non-being.  2. Forms are united by the Good---when we apprehend an apple, we understand it as participating in the universal and eternal Form (Idea) of Appleness Itself---Appleness itself is ideal, it is perfection without flaws, without corruption.  Thus the Good in the apple, Ideal Appleness, allows us to know the thing as an apple.
Goodness Itself is a good candidate for ultimate reality since it unites all the Forms of things and the apprehension of the good in things is the same as grasping the thing in its essence, making it known to us.

Why is the Good the most important study of the lover of wisdom?
Reason will not achieve its End---absolute knowledge of the totality of being--- unless it has an appetite (eros) of its own.  The Faustian quest for complete and absolute knowledge must be driven by a yearning. Since every yearning has its proper object, the ultimate cause of reality (which is mysteriously beyond reality, that is, beyond particular beings) must be an object of intellectual desire.  So ultimate Being must also be ultimate Good, the End of all desiring.  The consummation of human life is in knowledge of Goodness Itself.

(All of this is a mistake.  It's the mistake of misplaced concretion.  Goodness is a feature or a characterization of things.  As such it cannot be attributed to the mysterious cause of things.  That cause cannot be known in its own nature (if it's indeed an "it" or has a nature).  Any easy ascription of the features of things to it is a falsification of it.  Being is that whereby or in accord with which things are, but ontic descriptions are fallen that is, they're false descriptions derived from features of things and cannot thereby be legitimately ascribed to Being itself.)

The Divided Line  (509d-511e)
Once Socrates has divided up the visible natural world (sun lit) and the intelligible invisible world of the Forms (Good sent), he further illustrates the venture of the philosopher's life with the Divided Line.

A line A-E is divided in unequal measures: AC-CE.  Then each section is divided by an equal amount so that the following proportions are produced:  [AB:BC::CD:DE]::AC:CE

Republic 7 (514a-521b)
The Myth of the Cave

The Myth of the Cave  (514a-517a)
The Cave, The Sun and The Line (517b-517c)
The Turning  (517d)
Nature vs Nurture  (518a 519a)
Suggestions for Further Reading

In an attempt to explain why philosopher’s should rule or guardians should be philosophers, Socrates attempts to show why the philosopher’s quest for knowledge of the Good itself demands the sacrifice of the greater good of a life of contemplation in favor of a lesser, more particular, political good of Just Rule. The evocative Myth of the Cave is a pictorial analogy designed to explain the sacrifice demanded of State leaders (and by analogy, the beneficence demanded of the wise and just rational part of an individual’s psyche).

The Myth of the Cave (514a-517a)
Socrates likens those who are uneducated to people who from the time of their infancy have been chained hand and foot and forced to sit on benches staring at the back wall of a deep cave. Neck braces prevent them from seeing one another. Behind the captives is a parapet where people parade statues of men, animals, and artifacts of all kinds carved from stone or wood.

When these bearers talk as they go by, it is the shadows of these replicas that seem to be talking. The captives try to predict which will appear next in what order; which are in more or less constant conjunction.

Behind the statue bearers is a fire. The light from the fire casts the shadows of the moving statues onto to the back wall of the cave and the shadows are observed by the captives.

These prisoners are like us, says Socrates, for their whole world of conscious experience is of the shadows of things rather than of the true things and yet they would claim that they know best what daily appears before their eyes.

The captives discuss and name the things they experience.

If one of the captives is released and forced to stand up and look at the bonfire, her eyes would sting painfully and she would flee back to the shadow world. If dragged up the steep upward way out of the cave and into the light of the sun, she would be dazzled and temporarily blinded. She would not be able to make out the sunlit clouds, meadows and streams of the world outside the cave. At first, she would look at the shadows of things and the reflections of things in water. But eventually her eyes would adjust, allowing her to gaze on the things themselves: nature, human society, the moon, the stars and finally the sun in the middle of the sky.

The former captive would realize that the sun is the source of the seasons and the years (time?). The Sun is the "steward" of all things in the visible place. It directs and manages the natural world and it is the cause of all the things, not only in the world outside the cave, but also the bonfire, the statues and the shadows that she formally took to be the whole of reality.

Comparing her life above to that lived before with her fellow prisoners she would consider herself happy and pity those she left behind. Any honors, praises or prizes the captives would bestow upon one another would be devalued by the escapee, who would much rather live without those accolades and live free and unsung in the sunlit upper region.

Socrates ponders what would happen if the liberated one returned to the cave and took her seat among the captives. Unable to adjust her eyes to the dim light, she couldn’t enter into the chatter about the shadows; and her failure to form expected judgements or opinions about the shadows would make her laughable. And if she tries to explain her difficulties with the shadows by describing her escape from the cave and her experience of the world above, the other captives would conclude that such a trip was useless and vicious: useless because it ruins your ability to make practical judgements about shadows and vicious because getting the captives to doubt is socially disruptive. Any liberator who would try likewise to release them from their chains and lead them to the higher region would be killed if they could get their hands on such a one.

The Cave, The Sun and The Line (517b-517c)
Socrates insists that the Myth of the Cave must be compared with the Analogy of the Sun and the Divided Line in Bk VI.

The fire is likened to our earthly sun and the statues and puppets lit up by the fire are the objects of ordinary perception. The shadows on the walls are derivative copies mixed up with the imaginings of ordinary people as their opinions are manipulated and misled by government propagandists, poets, media merchants, Sophists and indoctrinating teachers.

If the cave represents the lower region of the divided line (World of Opinion) then outside the cave represents the World of the Forms, the intelligible World. The Forms have real being as opposed to perceived material particulars and the Highest Form (represented by the Sun) is the Idea of Goodness Itself.

Just as the Sun above is the source and cause of all visible things (all the way down to the shadows), so too the cause of all that is right and fair is Goodness Itself. It provides truth and intelligence to all the Forms and to all the particulars that participate in the Forms.

Commentators are left to speculate about the region of Mathematical entities. Are they symbolized by the statues and puppets  used to represent real natural things to the captives? Are they found in the arduous climb out of the cave, symbolizing their intermediate role between opinion and the knowledge of pure conceptual formality outside the cave? Are they the shadows and reflections seen outside the cave just before the liberated one grasps the pure Species Forms and higher Forms of Justice, Moderation, Courage, Wisdom and above all Goodness?

Socrates suggest that the Myth of the Cave is not only to be conceived as a political contrast between unjust, rancorous States and the Ideal State, but primarily as the journey of the soul from childhood ignorance, through education, to knowledge and the happiness(eudaimonia) that comes from fulfilling the desire of the Rational psyche for Wisdom through apprehension of the Forms. (Of course, it is only the special education accorded the Auxiliary Guardian that provides the possibility of obtaining wisdom and eudaimonia.)

The Turning  (517d)
The development of lovers of opinion into lovers of wisdom:

Once out of the cave, seeing the real things and becoming enlightened about the Forms and grasping Goodness Itself, the liberated one would never want to return to the Cave. This is in keeping with what was claimed in Book I, against Thrasymachus, that the best Rulers are those who are most reluctant to rule.

In leisure, soaking in the sun at the beach and watching the clouds drift by and the waves roll in, we’re often reluctant to return to the grind of our work. Not only philosophers, but every academician prefers reveling in their subject matter rather than making practical applications or attending committee meetings. Here is a great paradox of the Republic: just at the moment of Beatitude or Nirvana, when the lover of wisdom has in her arms the object of her deepest longing, she must sacrifice it to return to the cave and its shadows. The philosopher must become a warrior and then a ruler over citizens who prefer their familiar chains and ignorance.

It is a lot easier for tyrants operating behind a wall of respectability (as though they held the Ring of Gyges) to rule over the oppressed by keeping them amused with shows and propaganda (the shadow show) than any claim the philosopher makes to rule.

If a person raised in popular prejudices, opinion, crass materialism and crude pleasure turns from this darkness into the light of conceptual understanding, then they will be painfully dazzled and will have difficulty adjusting. Equally the person who is thrust from intellectual enlightenment into the darkness of practical matters and popular culture will also find it difficult to adjust. One who is unaware or unable to kibitz about the usual prejudices will seem like a fool to the uneducated person.

Nature vs Nurture  (518a 519a)
The capacity for enlightenment is in the soul of each captive. Education is not a matter of native ability but of a turning that is a choice of objects to focus on, either shadows or sunlight, opinions or knowledge, from material particulars or Ideal Forms, from generating things to eternally actual things.

It is important to note that Plato doesn’t pity the uneducated because they are, by nature, incapable of knowledge or wisdom. Their souls have the capacity for eudaimonia (full human flourishing). But not every person has the opportunity or willingness to turn from ignorant opinion and popular prejudice to take the arduous educational climb out of the cave to the light of the true and the good. Many have commented that there is an air of contempt on the part of Plato’s Socrates for the uneducated, but his target seems to be those who claim that those uninformed opinions are to be promoted as true or are the equal of truth or at least are valuable tools in the arsenal of panderers for promoting their own selfish advantage. Many who today decry the crass commercialization of the holidays, the use of sex and violence on TV, movies or advertisements, the tabloid sensationalism of the news, the perpetuation of popular prejudice, have no trouble distinguishing between their contempt of such views with their respect for the intrinsic worth of those who hold them. Whether Plato always managed that distinction is an interesting question.

The Sacrifice Explained  (519a - 521b)
Some who exercise their reason and who awake from the delusion of the shadow world of popular opinion still have their souls turned to the lower levels of pleasure and material sensuality. They cannot fully detach themselves and ascend to the full light of the cerebral heavens. They turn to lives of vice and tyranny. Here Plato may be referring the tyrants who perform the shadow show from behind the scene. It should be noted that regardless of the amusement they enjoy by oppressing and controlling others, they spend their entire lives in the caves along with the captives.

As the sun is the steward of the stars and planets, so too the philosopher Kings and Queens will be ideal stewards of the City. They see the fine and the good in everything they see or do, because the source of everything fine and good is Goodness Itself. Non-philosophers are not fit to rule because they have no vision of the Common Good, but only of a multitude of particular goods. Thus, for example, one who seeks wealth rules in the interest of the wealthy to the detriment of other classes and to the threatened neighboring City States. Something similar is in store when ambitious rulers seek pleasure, fame or glory. Those eager to rule in the mistaken belief that they can obtain some precious material value for themselves are more likely to stir up factions and fracture the City.

Philosophers, however, who are only philosophers are not fit to rule because they are mesmerized by their meditations and revelations.

But the enlightened ones must be compelled to take over the stewardship of the City. They reluctantly but willingly do so because:

They have a Vision of a Transcendent Good
They recognize a Good for All beyond what benefits them individually
Part of the Good they love is Justice for all and thus they develop a sense of duty to achieve justice in the City.

This public burden is not an injustice to the philosopher king or queen because, having seen the goodness of cosmic order, they see that their own good is bound up with a harmonious city. For the sake of harmony, the citizens sacrifice some of their material aspirations for lawful order in the City.

For the same reason the Rulers pass up the time they desire for intellectual pursuits to manage the affairs of the City. One’s highest Good is bound up with a Universal Good for All. Thus the Best City is ruled by those least eager to rule.

Republic 7 (521c-541b)
Education of the Philosopher-Kings

The Education of Guardian Rulers  (521c-540a)
Inclusion of Women  (540b-d)
Is the Ideal City Possible?  (540e-541b)

The Education of Guardian Rulers  (521c-540a)
It begins with the education of the Auxiliaries and accordingly music and gymnastics
(the arts and humanities)

This can be related to the shadow world of the Cave and the lowest section of the Divided Line.

Then mathematics, considered very useful to a general or admiral in war.

Mathematics, as the third level of the Divided Line, is touted as the intermediary way to higher intellection of the Pure Forms, "to draw men toward being."

Socrates illustrates the studies that draw the mind higher by contrasting the mind’s apprehension of the Form of the finger (Fingerness Itself) as universal, eternal, perfect, common to all particular fingers- and three fingers, middle, ring and forefinger held before one’s eyes. Each visible finger is shaped and sized differently and positioned differently and, depending on the type of work one engages in, soft or rough. But each, the mind perceives, participates in the one unchanging Form of the Finger.

Mathematics thus can lead the philosopher warrior from practical application to pure formal entities and relationships. These will bring her closer to eternal truth.

Geometry is added on, and solid geometry would be if more headway can be made in it.
Astronomy is the next study. Here the position and movement of the planets is useful for navigation and also generalship.

Socrates is reluctant to say that the study of astronomy has led souls to higher intellection, because stargazing without understanding cosmic laws of motions is as ignorant as shadow gazing.
One has to understand the lightening fast motion of the sphere of the fixed stars and how it imports motion to the ethereal spheres and their planets below [Aristotle and Ptolemy describe these motions in more depth, but here they are mentioned in the Republic] Motion in depth are the true subject of astronomy. One can only guess what Plato thought of the mythology and astrology associated with the planets and the stars.

True astronomy leads you to the Demiurge who rationally crafts the universe and sets it on a harmonious continuous direction. That there is a rational cosmic order inspires the philosopher to suspend her contemplation of it and work in public life to establish a civic order that reflects it.

They add the study of musical harmony as it relates to astrological harmony (The Music of the Spheres).

After qualifying exams, the most proficient enter into five years of philosophy and the study of dialectic.

Socrates names the sectors of the Divided Line from the top down:


The guardians picked to enter philosophy must be virtuous and their education should not be forced upon them.

‘The free man ought not to learn any study slavishly." (536d)

Study must be integrated and multi-disciplinary. A capstone course providing an overview of the studies is recommended.

They begin the study of dialectic at the age of thirty.

Dialectic can destroy belief in conventional norms and religious myths and tradition. Such a one can have her head turned by Sophists to self-serving vicious aggression. But the philosopher should be able to refocus the dialectic back to the eternal Forms and to the form of the Good which the myths represented about as well as a shadow represents the thing that casts it.

Then after five years of philosophy they "return to the cave." At the age of thirty five they take command of the military and conduct war for fifteen years. They are observed to see who disgraces themselves in the field out of greed, cowardice, or concupiscence.

Those who are best at everything take up the rule of the City at age 50. (540a)

Insistence on the Inclusion of Women  (540b-d)

Glaucon: "Just like a sculptor, Socrates, he said, "you have produced ruling men who are wholly fair."
Socrates:  "And ruling women too, Glaucon," I said. "Don't suppose that what I said applies any more to men than to women, all those who are born among them with adequate natures."
Glaucon: "That's right, he said," if they are to share everything in common with the men, as we described it."

Is the Ideal City possible?  (540e-541b)

If they kidnap and march off to the country all the children under ten to be resocialized away from their parents and the corrupting culture of the City, then they have a shot at producing the Ideally Just City.  (Horrible images of the depopulation of the city by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the resocialization of children in rural settings during the Stalin era and even the presumed kidnapping and chaining of infants in the Cave, intrude upon our reflections.  

Can Plato be serious?  Commentators are divided on this.  If the Ideal State is practical only if all the children below ten are resocialized in a rural setting, then the Ideal State, for some, is not a serious proposal.  

What then is this all about?  The State is a metaphor for the individual soul and the individual can be home-schooled at ten apart from popular conventions and prejudices and taught the Cardinal Virtues (Jean Jacques Rousseau would agree).  That is possible.  This view downplays the notion that the Republic is a political treatise at all and is instead primarily a vehicle for teaching virtue.  For that camp, Plato's last work The Laws alone represents his political philosophy.  For those who find it implausible that Plato is offering no practical political advice in the Republic, Plato is interpreted as sincere in his belief that radical educational reform, especially on the collegiate level of the auxiliaries and guardians, is essential if the ideal State is to be approached, no less achieved.

The Republic - Books I to III