Plato's Republic Summary
Socrates, visiting Polemarchus’ house, enters into a conversation on the nature of justice. Several different definitions are presented by the various guests. After finding each of these lacking, Socrates attempts to define justice himself. This requires that he first describe justice on the scale of the state (or “The Republic”). Here, Socrates finds justice to be each person performing the task at which he1 excels.
Since the modern “fevered” state necessitates soldiers, Socrates asserts that a method must be found to ensure that they do their job well. He then lays out a system of education that will make them the best possible soldiers. Out of this well-disciplined group, the rulers of society—the Guardians—will be chosen. The goal of society will be the happiness of the community, a goal that will be achieved because of the beliefs held by the various classes.
After discussing the role of philosophy and the philosopher in society, Socrates concludes that the philosopher would be the ideal ruler. Socrates uses the parable of the ship of state, the simile of the divided line, and the allegory of the cave to express the philosopher’s ability to see the truth and use this knowledge to guide the state. Socrates then discusses the various inferior forms government can take, concluding that a despotic government is worst, with democracy only slightly better.
Returning to the question of justice, Socrates asserts that the just life is happier and justice leads to a profitable life. Following the path of justice makes society better, and the gods reward a just man. Asserting the existence of a soul, Socrates tells his final parable, the Myth of Ur. This enables him to show that the benefits of justice continue in the afterlife, where the unjust are punished and repeat the mistakes they made on earth. In conclusion, Socrates finds that virtue and the good life are indeed profitable, in this world and the next.
Estimated Reading Time
Although The Republic ’s...
(The entire section is 491 words.)