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Plato’s The Republic - Books 1-3.docx

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Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLS 3130
Professor
Dennis Baker

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09/28/2013 Plato’s The Republic – Books 1-5, 7&8 – Focus on Plato’s ideal city –best city, best regime, just city, beautiful city, ruled by philosopher kings Book 1: Socrates – seen as the mouthpiece for Plato Why did Plato choose to select different characters as his mouthpiece? Why does he change these characters Socrates – known for Socratic irony – tact, know for his dissimulation Raises questions but makes no speeches, a modest thing to do, not being boastful – difficult to answer these questions Dissembling his wisdom – to not say things that are wise of insightful If we know Plato’s thoughts because he speaks through Socrates, then do we really know what Plato thought since he is famous for his irony? 411BC – during peace of Nicia Plato, speaking through his teacher Socrates, sets out to answer two questions: What is justice? Why should we be just? Cephalus ­ Rich, well-respected elder and the host of the group ­ Head of family, very traditional ­ Interested in material pleasures – interested in money and sex – now rid of sexual desires as he is an old man – doesn’t feel as much need to focus on wealth, but on repaying debt – feels ultimately what is important is ones character – lived inAthens, but as not an Athenian citizen, lived there as a medic ­ Suggests that justice means living up to legal obligations and being honest ­ Socrates refutes this formulation with a counterexample: o Returning a weapon to a madman (weapon belongs to him legally, but other could be harmed which is unjust Polemarchus – son of Cephalus ­ Suggests justice means that you owe friends help and you owe enemies harm ­ Inconsistencies in this view ­ We are not always friends with virtuous individuals and our enemies do not always deserve harm Thrasymachus – the Sophist ­ He says justice is nothing more than the advantage of the stronger (essentially a de- legitimization of justice) ­ Assumes justice is an unnatural restraint on our natural desire to have more ­ Now the burden of the discussion is to define justice as well as prove justice to be worthwhile Socrates – 3 arguments against Thrasymachus’claim ­ He makes Thrasymachus admit that his view promotes injustice as a virtue ­ In this view, life is seen as a continual competition (more money, more power, etc.) ­ Socrates concludes that injustice cannot be a virtue because it is contrary to wisdom which is a virtue o Injustice is contrary to wisdom because the wise man would never seek to beat out those who possesses the same art as him ­ In order to reach any of the desirable goals that Thrasymachus mentioned, one needs to be moderately just in the sense of adhering to this set of rules ­ He argues that since it was agreed that justice is a virtue of the soul, and virtue of the soul means health of the soul, justice is desirable because it means health of the soul Book 2: Logographic necessity – every part of the dialogue fulfills an overall function *Pay attention to details Socrates never enters into a discussion with equals, with political individuals, most often he speaks with his inferiors – asks these inferiors questions – takes answers and asks more questions – we don’t know if he accepts their answers or not ­ Parallel between the individual and the city (polis) ­ Let’s found a city – city in speech o The Republic – Constitution – to make us see the limitations of political society – we know that this utopic society is not able to be put into practice o Not to actualize it but to have it serve as a model o Many limitations of political life Glaucon, one of Socrates young companions (plato’s brother) ­ States that all goods can be divided into three classes: o Social virtue - Things that we desire only for their consequences – physical training and medical treatment o Things that we desire only for their sake - joy o Highest Class*** Things that we desire for both their own sake and for their consequences (what we get from them) – knowledge, sight, health ­ Communism – no private property of any kind and no family institution – no wives or husbands, child is property of no one ­ Glaucon would like Socrates to prove that justice is not only desirable, but that it belongs to the highest class of desirable things: those desired both for their sake and their consequence o Points out that most people classify justice in the first group – viewing justice as a necessary evil, which we allow ourselves to suffer in order to avoid the greater evil that would befall us if we did away with it ­ The legend of the ring of Gyes (creates invisibility) – tale proves people are only just because they are afraid of punishment for injustice ­ Socrates – wants to locate political justice – will build up a perfectly just city from scratch and see where justice enters The Principle of Specialization – states that each person must perform the role for which he is naturally best suited and that he must not med
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