[PDF] Plato Republic PDF (1.24 MB)

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Plato Republic PDF
Plato Republic PDF
No. Of Pages: 484
PDF Size: 1.24 MB
Language: English
Category: Ebooks and Novels
Author: PLATO

Plato Republic Summary

Why do men act in a just manner? Is it because they are afraid of social repercussions? Do they tremble at the prospect of divine vengeance? Do the stronger members of society use the law to intimidate the weak? Or do men act justly because it is in their best interests to do so? Is justice a good thing in and of itself, regardless of its rewards and punishments? What is the definition of justice? In The Republic, Plato sets forth to answer these problems. He wants to define justice and describe it in such a manner that it demonstrates that justice is valuable in and of itself. He responds to these two issues with a single solution: a concept of justice based on human psychology rather than apparent conduct.

Plato’s technique in The Republic is to first define social, or political, justice, and then construct a similar idea of individual justice. Plato defines political justice as harmony in a constituted political body in Books II, III, and IV. An ideal society is composed of three major groups of people: producers (craftsmen, farmers, artisans, and so on), auxiliaries (warriors), and guardians (rulers); a society is ideal when the relationships between these three classes are harmonious. Each group must fulfil its assigned duty, and each must be in the proper position of authority with regard to the others. Auxiliaries must maintain the convictions of rulers, and producers must confine themselves to using the abilities that nature has bestowed upon them (farming, blacksmithing, painting, etc.). Justice is a specialisation principle: it demands that each individual fulfil the social duty that nature has assigned to him and not meddle in any other activity.

Plato seeks to demonstrate at the close of Book IV that individual justice resembles governmental justice. He says that every individual’s soul has a three-part structure that corresponds to the three classes of society. There is a rational part of the soul that seeks truth and is responsible for our philosophical inclinations; a spirited part of the soul that seeks honour and is responsible for our feelings of anger and indignation; and an appetitive part of the soul that lusts after all kinds of things, but most of all money (since money must be used to fulfil any other base desire). The just individual can be characterised in terms of the just society; the three elements of his soul attain the necessary power and influence connections with one another. The logical portion of the soul reigns in a just individual, the spirited component of the soul supports this rule, and the appetitive part of the soul submits and follows wherever reason leads. To put it another way, in a just individual, the entire soul seeks to satisfy the wishes of the rational half, just as the entire community in a just society aims to fulfil whatever the rulers will.

The connections between a just society and a just individual are many. In reality, one of the three aspects of the soul dominates each of society’s three strata. Producers’ appetites—their desires for money, luxury, and pleasure—rule their lives. Warriors are ruled by their spirits, which inspires them to be brave. Leaders are guided by their logical faculties and strive for knowledge. Books V through VII are devoted to the rulers, who are referred to as the philosopher kings.

Plato describes who these people are in a sequence of three analogies—the allegories of the sun, the line, and the cave—while hammering out his theory of the Forms. According to Plato, the universe is split into two realms: the visible (which we perceive with our senses) and the intelligible (which we only grasp with our minds). The visible world is the cosmos that we can see. The intelligible world is made up of forms, which are abstract, changeless absolutes like goodness, beauty, redness, and sweetness that exist in permanent connection to the visible realm and enable it. (According to the idea, an apple is red and delicious because it participates in the forms of redness and sweetness.) Only the forms are objects of knowledge because they contain the everlasting, unchanging truth that the intellect, not the senses, must grasp.

Only philosophers, whose brains have been taught to understand the forms, can know anything at all. What philosophers must know in particular in order to be capable rulers is the Form of the Good, which is the wellspring of all other forms, as well as knowledge, truth, and beauty. Plato does not precisely explain this form, but he believes it is to the intelligible realm what the sun is to the visible universe. Plato provides an appealing portrayal of the philosopher’s soul going through successive levels of understanding (represented by the line) from the visible sphere into the intelligible, and eventually realising the Form of the Good using the cave allegory. The goal of education is not to fill the soul with knowledge, but to fill the soul with the right desires—to fill the soul with a lust for truth, so that it desires to move beyond the visible world, into the intelligible, and ultimately to the Form of the Good.

Philosophers are the only men who have both wisdom and justice. Their spirits, more than others, want to satisfy the logical part’s needs. After contrasting the philosopher king with the most unjust form of man, represented by the tyrant, who is governed solely by his irrational cravings, Plato asserts that justice is worthy in and of itself. In Book IX, he gives three grounds for the conclusion that being just is good. He seeks to demonstrate that injustice tortures a man’s psyche by creating a psychological image of the dictator by using his own words. A just soul is healthy, cheerful, untroubled, and serene. Next, he contends that while each of the three main character types—money-loving, honor-loving, and truth-loving—has his or her own conception of pleasure and the corresponding good life, each choosing his or her own life as the most pleasurable, only the philosopher can judge because only he has experienced all three types of pleasure. Others should accept the philosopher’s judgement and conclude that the joys linked with philosophy are the most pleasurable, and that the right life is likewise the most pleasurable. He tries to show that only intellectual joy is truly pleasurable; all other pleasure is only the absence of misery.

It is worth noting that none of these arguments prove that justice is desirable apart from its consequences—rather, they establish that justice is always accompanied by genuine pleasure. In all likelihood, none of them are intended to be the primary reasons why justice is desired. Instead, the attractiveness of justice is most likely linked to the close interaction that exists between a just life and the forms. The fair life is desirable in and of itself because it entails grasping these ultimate values and emulating their order and harmony, therefore incorporating them into one’s own life. In other words, justice is good because it is linked to the ultimate good, the form of the good.

Plato concludes The Republic on an unexpected note. He exiles poets from his city after defining justice and establishing it as the highest good. He says that poets appeal to the lowest portion of the psyche by copying unfair desires. Poetry enables us to indulge in ignoble feelings in sympathy with the characters we read about, by pushing us to indulge in similar emotions in real life. To summarise, poetry makes us unfair. Finally, Plato tells the narrative of Er, which portrays the journey of a soul after death. Just spirits are rewarded for a thousand years, whereas wicked souls are punished for the same period. Each soul must then decide on its future existence.

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