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The Republic of Plato

Updated November 1, 2018

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The Republic of Plato essay

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In my opinion, Socrates’ analysis of human nature is very true as it ultimately brings us his definition of justice. I agree with his theory of human nature but not his social-political theory. In order to understand Plato’s theory of human nature and his social-political theory, we must examine each one of them closely. Plato believed that no one is self-sufficient enough to live individually.

Human beings are not created equally; some of us are born wiser then the rest and some of us are just born stronger. Which I find to be very contradicting since argues that men and women should be educated the same. For this reason, only the select few (which would be the guardians) among society are supposed to know what is best for the society and therefore becomes the ruler of everyone else. Our reasoning, spirit, and natural wants are all part of human nature.

In book 1 of The Republic, Plato had several detailed discussions on the nature of justice with other speakers in a dialogue form. From the rich old man, Cephalus, we learn that justice involves telling the truth and repaying one’s debts. However, Socrates points out that this definition of justice is inadequate because it cannot account for the instances of certain circumstances. The simple example of returning a borrowed weapon to an insane friend who demands the return of his weapon, would be an instance of following the rule but would not seem to be just. Then Polemarchus, Cephalus’s son attempts to define justice by proposing that justice means “one should pay what is owed”.

Not returning or refusing to return the borrowed weapon would clearly benefit one’s friend. Socrates said that harming our enemies is only likely to make them even more unjust than they already are and cause them to make more unjust choices. After that, Thrasymachus came up with his own definition of justice which is nothing more than the advantage of the stronger; those in positions of power use law to decide what is right. The kind of justice practiced anywhere depends on the type of government they have in power.

Socrates does not disagree with this view if the facts about the society are as Thrasymachus says they are, however, he argues that sometimes rulers make mistakes. In that case obedience to the law maybe leads to its own disadvantage, therefore Thrasymachus’s definition is also inadequate. Furthermore, Socrates says that the best ruler must always know how to rule. They should rule for the art of ruling, but not their own interest alone.

Later, Glaucon suggests that human beings, given an opportunity to do injustice without being caught and therefore without suffering any punishment or loss of good reputation, would naturally choose a life of injustice, in order to maximize their own interests. Glaucon’s definition of justice is that it’s an equal contract, an approach between what is the best (doing injustice without paying the penalty) and the worse (suffering injustice without being able to avenge one self). Adieamantus narrows the discussion further by pointing out that to have a good reputation of justice is more important than justice is itself, whether or not that person really does have a good reputation of justice. In an attempt to provide an adequate, satisfying definition of justice, Socrates tries to make an analogy between the justice of individual human beings and of an entire society or city. Since the crucial elements of justice may be easier to observe on the larger scale like a city than on a smaller scale like an individual.

Socrates focuses on the perfect city, because the city will represent the human soul. Socrates began with a detailed analysis of the formation, structure, and organization of this ideal city. He argues that since individual human beings are not self-sufficient; no one working alone can acquire all of the necessities of life by themselves. In order to resolve this difficulty, we gather together into society for the mutual achievement of our common goals. If each of us specializes in the practice of a specific art, we can work more efficiently.

To make this ideal city healthy (opposite of a feverish city), Socrates states that the fundamental needs of human beings in the society are food, shelter, and clothes. From these fundamental needs, some additional requirements emerge that become necessary only because these needs are a part of the defense of the city against external attacks or internal disputes. Socrates proposed an additional class of citizens, the guardians which are responsible for guarding the city and keeping the city in order. In order to fulfill their proper functions, the guardian then must have a philosophy that gives them the ability to distinguish the true and false, friend and foes, and to avoid turning against their own kind due to external influences. Through Socrates’ social-political theory we see Plato’s vision of an ideal state, that embodies the highest and best capabilities of human social life, could really be achieved, if the right people are put in charge. Since the key to the success of the whole is the wisdom of the rulers who make decisions for the entire city, Plato held that the perfect society would occur only when kings become philosophers or philosophers are made kings.

Guardians would need the virtue of courage to carry out their orders in the face of danger without regard for personal risk. The rest of the people in the city must follow its leaders instead of pursuing their private interests. Plato held that guardians should own no private property, should live and eat together at government expense, and should earn no salary greater than necessary to supply their most basic needs. Under this regime, no one will have any corrupt motive for seeking a position of leadership, and those who are chosen to be guardians will govern solely from a concern to # bjbj”* j jl* * ‘ $‚FF F FFF’F # bjbj”* j jl* bjbj”* j j l* * o $% E‚ F) F F FFFFes the ruler of everyone else.

Our reasoning, spirit, and natural wants are all part of human nature. In book 1 of The Republic, Plato had several detailed discussions on the nature of justice with other speakers in a dialogue form. From the rich old mader to achieve this the guardian had to be trained right and raised accordingly. The people must cooperate. In Plato’s opinio everyone would benefit from a perfect society. Bibliography: none

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