POLS 2000 Lecture Notes September 26, 2013
Lecture 4: Plato’s Republic (Politaea)
• Socrates is not necessarily Plato’s mouthpiece.
• If this were the case, why does Plato change mouthpieces in later works?
• Socrates was known for great virtues, etc.
• In addition, he was also known for his irony.
• That is, he does not flaunt his wisdom for the sake of it.
• He challenges people who deserve to be challenged; he does not go after people
who cannot defend themselves.
• To not say things that are wise (to conceal one self) is another definition of irony.
• Making Socrates the mouthpiece of Plato then becomes problematic.
• If we know Plato’s thoughts because he speaks through Socrates, do we ever
really know Plato’s thoughts because Socrates is so famous and known for his
• Socrates says that writing is a dangerous thing because as soon as you write you
leave your writings open to interpretation which can skew the meaning.
• You should want your writing’s meanings to be consistent.
• Say the same thing to everyone.
• Plato intentionally says different things to different people.
• The Republic is not a philosophical treatise it is a dialogue.
• It is full of observations about the people contained in it.
• There are changes in speakers taking place all the time throughout the dialogue.
• Characters in The Republic:
• Book 1Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus.
• Book 2Glaucon, Adeimantus (both are Plato’s brother).
• How Can Writing Free Itself From the Defect of Writing?:
• “Logographic necessity”the necessity that governs the writing of all speeches.
• The necessity that every part of a dialogue is in place to fulfill an overall function.
• The function is to make us understand, to make us think. 2
• Therefore, when reading the dialogue, pay attention to details that might seem
unimportant (setting, time of the day, what the characters eat, etc.).
• Plato never enters the dialogue himself with political individuals.
• Most often, Socrates confronts people who are his inferiors.
• He does this through the asking questions.
• “The Republic”, Greek for “Politaea”; meaning constitution or regime.
• It can mean political life, being a member of the polis.
• The regime is the organizing principle of society.
• He is elderly.
• He is wealthy.
• He is wellrespected.
• He is traditional.
• He has antidemocratic leanings.
• He focuses on paying his debts as a means of focusing on the consequences of his
• He therefore decides to dedicate his life to “the gods” [to better himself?]
• He was a metic, a person who had living rights but was not a citizen (Athens).
• Socrates does not engage in conversation with those citizens who are more
• Socrates makes some extreme proposals for reforming the Polity.
• He does this for “justice”.
• 411 B.C. is the Peace of Nicia which is when the Peloponnesian War ends.
• Seeks to define “justice” throughout Book 1.
• At the end of Book 1, there is no answer to what is “justice”.
• He refutes Cephalus, Polymarchus and Thrasymachus but he does not establish
his own standard.
• He finds success in Book 28. 3
POLS 2000 Lecture Notes September 26, 2013
• The success that he does have is based on the principle that for Socrates there is a
parallel between the individual and the City (IMP!).
• He seeks to establish a standard.
• He cannot find a conception of “justice” in any city so he decides to ‘found” a
city; that is, create one.
• He calls it “The City in Speech”.
• He calls it Kalipolis or “Just City” or “Beautiful City”.
• All virtues are not the same.
• Justice is called a social virtue (a virtue that pertains distinctly to society).
• Courage is an individual virtue.
• The City In Speech:
• A number of radical proposals were discussed.
• 1) Rule of the Philosophers.
• 2) The Equality of the Sexes.
• 3) A form of Communism (the abolition of private property and the abolition of
• No private wives, children, any property whatsoever.
• In books 25 of The Republic, he proposes “dedication to the common good”
which requires abandoning private property.
• The function of The Republic is not to present us with the best social order to
make us see the essentials of political society; of political life.
• Do not read Book 6 (only 15, 7 and 8).
• As a reader, you are encouraged to take part in it.
• The word “utopia” actually means “no place” and wasn’t coined until centuries
• Plato’s primary argument is thus: there is a symmetry between parts of the soul
and parts of the city.
• Parts of the Soul (“tripartite” or three part):
• 1) Reason. 4
• 2) Spirited.
• 3) Appetites.
• City Related to The Parts of the Soul:
• 1) Reason (philosopher kings).
• 2) Spirited (auxiliaries or soldiers).
• 3) Appetites (craftspeople).
• There is a specific order to these because, according to Plato, reason is our highest
• The lowest part of the human is the “appetites”.
• Somebody with a “disordered soul” would use one part of the soul over another.
• They are all necessary, but they must be ordered and harmonious.
• The aim of The Republic is to reconcile a harmonious city with the parts of the
• The one thing that is certain is that this city incorporates a concept of “justice”.
• The best regime for Plato is that which seeks to produce the best or highest type
• Not the freest individual.
• Not the wealthiest in