Study Guide

The Republic Quotes

  • Philosophy

    The just man then, as it seems, has come to light as a kind of robber, and I'm afraid you learned this from Homer. (334a)

    Socrates is taking Homer to task for portraying the just man in a negative light. This is pretty early on in the dialogue, which just goes to show that Socrates is up in arms about poetry and its portrayal of justice from the get-go.

    Then for many, Polemarchus—all human beings who make mistakes—it will turn out that to be just to harm friends, for their friends are bad and just to help enemies, for they are good. So we shall say the very opposite of what we asserted Simonides means. (334d-e)

    As Socrates and his pals try to make sense of this slippery term "just," Socrates, in his typical way, shows how nothing is ever simple: since people constantly make mistakes, Socrates points out that we can't rely on most people's judgment to make sense of concepts like "good," "bad," and "just."

    "But as to what each [justice and injustice] does with its own power when it is in the soul of a man who possesses it and is not noticed by gods and men, no one has ever, in poetry or prose, adequately developed the argument that the one is the greatest of evils a soul can have in it, and justice the greatest good." (366e)

    Socrates is laying out his agenda here. He wants to show how beneficial and great justice can be for an individual person, regardless of whether anyone, human or divine, notices that this individual is just. Philosophy to the rescue.

    "Unless the philosophers rule as kings or those now called kings... adequately philosophize, and political power and philosophy coincide in the same place.... there is no rest from ills for the cities..." (473d)

    Even though some people accuse philosophy of being a heady, impractical kind of discipline, Socrates is devoted to proving that philosophy is necessary for political power. (We're not surprised to hear that this means philosophers have some perks in Socrates's city.)

    Won't we also then assert that the philosopher is a desirer of wisdom, not of one part and not another, but all of it?" (475b)

    Socrates makes it clear that there are no short cuts or half measures for a true philosopher seeking wisdom. It's a full-time job, and it's serious business.

    "But by far the greatest and most powerful slander comes to philosophy from those who claim to practice such things." (489d)

    Even Socrates admits that it's sometimes philosophers themselves who give philosophy a bad rap. For Socrates, being a real philosopher means that you will behave in a way informed by philosophy. There are a lot of duds out there saying they're philosophers and acting in stupid ways, thereby giving philosophy a bad name.

    "What is most surprising of all to hear is that each one of the elements we praised in [the philosophical] nature has a part in destroying the soul that has them and tearing it away from philosophy." (491b)

    With great power comes great responsibility, right? Sounds like philosophers and superheroes have some things in common. The kind of people who are capable of becoming philosophers have such a special and unique blend of qualities that if just one little thing goes wrong, those special qualities can unite for evil. Yikes.

    "Then it's impossible... that a multitude be philosophic...and so those who do philosophize are necessarily blamed by [the many]." (494a)

    Socrates doesn't have much good to say about crowds and multitudes. In fact, any time you see the phrase "the many" come up in Plato, you can be pretty darn confident that nothing nice is coming after. The reason for this is likely that both Socrates and Plato value each individual's critical thought, self-examination, and skepticism. Critical thought, self-examination, and skepticism are not qualities you find in crowds of people.

    "...but this is the very charge I'm bringing; not one city today is in a condition worthy of the philosophic nature." (497b)

    Too bad the imaginary city Socrates and his friends have spent all this time forming isn't real, because Socrates believes that there isn't anywhere even remotely close to channeling the benefits of philosophy. How does the republic sound to you? Would you want to live there? Why or why not?

  • Justice and Judgment

    "So long as I do not know what the just is, I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue or not and whether the one who has it is unhappy or happy." (354c)

    Big Problem Alert. Socrates is pretty sure that if you don't know what justice means, you don't know squat. Without a basic definition of justice, Socrates can't begin to evaluate whether it's good or not.

    "And this, then, is the genesis and being of justice: it is a mean between what is best—doing injustice without paying the penalty—and what is worst—suffering injustice without being able to avenge oneself." (359a)

    Instead of attributing any moral value to justice, Glaucon's formulation presents it as a cowardly compromise for those afraid of being the victims of injustice. Glaucon is hopeful, and so are we, that Socrates can find a good argument against this definition.

    " one is willingly just but only when compelled to be so." (360c)

    In another bleak assessment of justice, Glaucon again presents himself as the devil's advocate, coming up with a very negative idea to provoke Socrates into a persuasive defense. Playing the devil's advocate is a good way to get someone (or yourself) to consider objections to a point you're making; it can help you cover all the bases and make sure your reasoning is secure.

    "If we should watch a city coming into being in speech... would we also see its justice coming into being, and its injustice?" (369a)

    In this famous Eureka! moment, Socrates explicitly lays out the primary goal of imagining a city: to discover the meaning and origin of justice.

    "In the next place, get yourself an adequate light and look yourself... whether we can somehow see where the justice [in the city] might be and where the injustice..." (427d)

    Using the metaphor of light and exploration, Socrates imagines that he and his philosophical pals need to search through their city looking for that elusive thing—justice.

    "Well, then, my friend... this—the practice of minding one's own business—when it comes into being in a certain way, is probably justice." (433b)

    Socrates imagines that justice is a principle not so much of fairness but of just doing your own thing. Did you see that one coming? Of course, by "doing your own thing," Socrates doesn't mean that you should just go out and do whatever you want; he means that everyone has some innate qualities or "business" that they should develop and put to unhindered use.

    "Then the just man will not be any different from the just city with respect to the form itself of justice, but will be like it." (435b)

    This is Socrates's famous formulation of how his imaginary city is a mirror image of the individual. Like city, like person. Got it?

    "Do you suppose it is anything surprising.... if a man... looks quite ridiculous when... he is compelled in courts or elsewhere to contest about the shadows of the just...?" (517d)

    Socrates is worried about the fact that philosophers can sometimes come across as a little bit nutty. As he explains here, it's hard for philosophers to seem "normal" because the truths they are trying to communicate can sometimes be hard to communicate and hard for others to accept.

    "Too much freedom seems to change into nothing but too much slavery..." (564a)

    It's exactly this relationship that makes Socrates so suspicious of democracy—and that makes him worry that justice and freedom aren't as connected as we think. Why does too much freedom lead to slavery? Can the majority actually be trusted?

    "Shall we hire a herald then... or shall I myself announce that... the best and most just man is happiest..." (580b-c)

    Showing a sense of humor, Socrates jokes about just how significant this final conclusion is. With or without a herald to announce it, anyone who's made it through the whole of the Republic will recognize what an achievement it is to have definitively concluded that being just makes you happy.

  • Politics

    "For it is likely that if a city of good men came to be, there would be a fight over not ruling, just as there is now over ruling." (347d)

    This is a classic statement of Socrates's attitude toward what it means to be a leader. Socrates believes that good leaders must be people who actually avoid leadership and only take it on if it's completely necessary, since those who actually want to be in leadership positions are necessarily non-philosophical (basically, bad) people. How do you think that compares with contemporary ideas about leadership?

    Well then... a city, as I believe, comes into being because each of us isn't self-sufficient but is in need of much." (369a-b)

    Socrates sees our dependency on one another as the reason why all cities must exist. Even though Socrates is generally pretty down on "the many," he does recognize the necessity of community.

    "By Zeus... it's no mean thing we've taken upon ourselves. But nevertheless we mustn't be cowardly, as least as far as it's in our power." (374b-c)

    As Socrates gets ready to imagine this city, he realizes he's got a big task ahead of him. Never mind ruling a city—inventing one is hard work, too. This makes us realize, too, how much we take for granted. We just go around our cities like it's nothing, but there's actually so much at work in the organization and maintenance of any city.

    "Then the man who's going to be a fine and good guardian of the city for us will in his nature be philosophic, spirited, swift, and strong." (376c)

    Socrates's recipe for a ruler emphasizes the importance not only of philosophy but also of courage ("spiritedness") and strength. Socrates insists that a ruler must be a well-rounded individual. He doesn't allow any shortcuts.

    " one will posses any private property, except for what's entirely necessary." (416d)

    Many people have seen Plato's Republic as a surprising precursor to more modern ideas such as communism and socialism. Many people are suspicious of "utopian" ideas like Plato's because they see them as inevitably totalitarian. What's the difference between a utopian society like the one in Plato's Republic and the dystopian societies in, say, Brave New World or 1984?

    " founding the city we are not looking to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but, as far as possible, that of the city as a whole." (420c)

    For a guy who doesn't have a lot of confidence in "the many," Socrates has a very pragmatic take on what the priorities of this city should be: the happiness of the city as a whole (and not just of one particular group of people).

    "...women, therefore, also must be chosen to live and guard with such men, since they are competent and akin to the men in their nature." (456b)

    Socrates's guardians may be elitist, but there's also some major gender equality going on among them. That's pretty amazing for a work written thousands of years ago.

    "[The crew doesn't] know that for the true pilot it is necessary to pay careful attention to year, seasons, heaven, stars, winds, and everything that's proper to the art, if he is really going to be skilled at ruling a ship." (488d)

    In this image of a mutinous crew, Socrates compares the philosophical king with his many years of learning to a skilled pilot with his many years of training: both have worked really hard to get where they are—and neither gets much credit for it.

    "Then our job as founders... is to compel the best natures to go to the study which we were saying before is the greatest, to see the good and to go up that ascent..." (519c)

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of... the good? Socrates believes that the best city should be all about encouraging its citizens to strive for moral excellence above all. It's the pursuit of the good that actually leads to happiness, in Socrates's view.

    "But the truth is surely this: that city in which those who are going to rule are least eager to rule is necessarily governed in the way that is best..." (520c)

    It might sound counterintuitive, but according to Socrates, you can't be a good leader if you're too into leadership. If you're too into the idea of leadership, you'll be focused primarily on yourself, not on the needs of others. Does this vision of leadership make sense to you?

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    Here is the wisdom of Socrates; unwilling himself to teach, he goes around learning from others, and does not even give thanks to them. (338b)

    Here, Thrasymachus expresses his negative take on Socrates's abilities as an educator. He suggests that Socrates only pretends to be teaching; he's actually just trying to figure out what everyone else knows. Do you think Socrates would be able to explain his ideas in a plain old essay? Would this method of argumentation be as effective as a dialogue?

    So shall we be bold and assert that a human being too, if he is going to be gentle to his own and those known to him, must by nature be a philosopher and a lover of learning?" (376b-c)

    According to Socrates, a general desire to learn, coupled with a rigorous pursuit of philosophy, is crucial to being a good person. What is the connection between goodness and a desire to learn?

    "The city we described really is wise, in my opinion. That's because of its good counsel, isn't it?" (428b)

    Socrates imagines that wisdom is something that an entire city can possess—but only if the city is set up like the republic, with a philosopher-king at the helm. Otherwise, Socrates thinks there's very little wisdom to be found in crowds of people.

    “When knowledge of constructing houses came to be, didn't it differ from the other kinds of knowledge and was thus called house building?" (438d)

    Even though Socrates is often speaking of wisdom in the abstract, sometimes he likes to use very basic, everyday examples to prove his point. In fact, for a philosopher, Socrates is surprisingly interested in pragmatic types of wisdom. You know, like house construction. Even that can be philosophical, in Socrates's view.

    “Isn't it proper for the calculating part to rule, since it is wise and has forethought about all of the soul, and for the spirited part to be obedient to it and its ally?" (441e)

    Championing wisdom yet again, Socrates makes it very clear that wisdom needs to be what guides us when we make decisions—not that excitable, spontaneous "spirited" part of us.

    "...what is entirely, is entirely knowable; and what in no way is, is in every way unknowable." (477a)

    If you weren't convinced that Socrates could get seriously abstract, here you go. Basically, he's communicating that wisdom and existence are interconnected ideas: if something exists, then it can be known.

    "Therefore the man who is really a lover of learning must from youth on strive as intensely as possible for every kind of truth." (485d)

    Like any meaningful education, Socrates stresses that philosophy is no cakewalk: it's an intense lifelong commitment that begins in childhood and takes dedication and persistence to pursue throughout your life. Nothing good comes easily, right?

    "Haven't you noticed that all opinions without knowledge are ugly? The best of them are blind." (506c)

    The fact that Socrates uses such vivid images here—of both ugliness and blindness—to describe the effect of opinion shows just how strongly he feels about making sure opinions are backed by knowledge.

    "Isn't it one great precaution not to let [future philosophers] taste of arguments while they are young? I suppose you aren't unaware that when lads get their first taste of them, they misuse them as though it were play..." (539b)

    If argumentation is going to be an effective method for encouraging wisdom, young children can't be allowed to abuse it. Instead of wanting to expose children to this practice early, Socrates advocates for saving it for later. He doesn't want them to just imitate what they're seeing; he wants them to really understand the point of what they're doing.

    "Now here, my dear Glaucon, is the whole risk for a human being, as it seems. And on this account each of us must, to the neglect of other studies, above all see to it that he is a seeker and student of that study by which he might be able to learn and find out who will give him the capacity and the knowledge to distinguish the good and the bad life..." (618b-c)

    Relating the myth of Er, Socrates insists that wisdom and knowledge are the only things that will save you from choosing a terrible, unhappy life in the underworld. You wanted some high stakes? Voilà.

  • Literature and Writing

    "With one tongue, [all poets] chant that moderation and justice are fair, but hard and full of drudgery, while intemperance and injustice are sweet and easy to acquire, and shameful only by opinion and law." (364a)

    Even before Socrates gets going on the poets, Adeimantus voices some concerns about what kinds of morals poetry communicates. Why do poets make justice seem so hard? Now no one wants to do it. So Adeimantus says, anyway. Is that how you relate to poetry and literature?

    “Don't you know that first we tell tales to children? And surely they are, as a whole, false..." (377a)

    It's early on in the discussion of literature, but things are not looking good for the status of storytelling. Here, Socrates is specifically attacking fairy tales and myths that children are told because they are so blatantly false. There goes Little Red Riding Hood...

    "First, as it seems, we must supervise the makers of tales; and if they make a fine tale, it must be approved, but if it's not, it must be rejected." (377b-c)

    Sounds like these guardians are going to have a lot of things to regulate. Who knew storytelling was a political issue? Does that seem reasonable to you? Also, what criteria are these dudes going to use?

    "Above all... it mustn't be said that gods make war on gods, and plot against them and have battles with them—for it isn't even true—provided that those who are going to guard the city for us must consider it most shameful." (378c)

    Gods fighting with gods? That sounds like pretty much every Greek myth ever. Guess there are going to be a lot of stories banned in this city. Is Socrates right that people end up emulating stories all the time? Is that too simplistic of an idea about how we experience art?

    “Then... we mustn't accept Homer—or any other poets—foolishly making this mistake about the gods..." (379c-d)

    You might be noticing a pattern here, since Socrates is particularly worried about how poetry represents the divine. He doesn't like the idea that gods might be considered foolish. Does representing them that way make them so? Do these stories confuse people? Is it better not to have the stories at all?

    "Do you suppose anyone who believes Hades' domain exists and is full of terror will be fearless in the face of death and choose death in battles above defeat and slavery?" (386b)

    Socrates thinks bravery in his soldiers is super important... so he's not too happy that so many stories about the afterlife are all doom and gloom. How will people be brave if they hear these kinds of stories?

    "We'll beg Homer and the other poets not to be harsh if we strike out these and all similar things. It's not that they are not poetic and sweet for the many to hear, but the more poetic they are, the less should they be heard by boys and men who must be free and accustomed to fearing slavery more than death." (387b)

    Socrates says that his desire to censor most of Greek poetry is completely reasonable. He worries that the power of poetry, particularly beautiful poetry, totally overwhelms people and makes them unable to make the right choices.

    "From Homer too... one learns things very much of this sort. For you know that, during the campaign... he doesn't feast them on fish... but only roasted [meats], which would be especially easy for soldiers to come by..." (404b-c)

    All right, sometimes Socrates thinks Homer has good things to say. In this case, Socrates is down with Homer's depiction of the diets of soldiers. Fish is too complicated, but meat makes sense. Well... okay, that's one thing to read for, we guess. But let's just say we wouldn't advise taking the Socrates approach when writing your next term paper on The Great Gatsby.

    "Therefore... because the tragic poets are wise they pardon us, and all those who have regimes resembling ours, for not admitting them into the regime on the ground that they make hymns to tyranny." (568b)

    Socrates is 100% against tyranny, so goodbye to tragedy, which is a genre that tends to depict a lot of bad rulers. If Socrates's new city is going to start out right, there can't be any of that going on, even on the stage.

    "It must be told... and yet, a certain friendship for Homer, and shame before him, which has possessed me since childhood, prevents me from speaking. For he seems to have been the first teacher and leader of all these fine tragic things. Still and all, a man must not be honored before the truth." (595c-b)

    Even though Socrates ultimately finds much to blame in Homer's poetry, we can't help but notice that this moment might be one of the most touching in the entire Republic. Socrates admits that Homer has been a meaningful and moving part of his childhood—and he seems very human here. Sniff.

  • Truth

    "When and for whom is [a lie]... useful? Isn't it useful against enemies, and, as a preventative, like a drug, for so-called friends when from madness or some folly they attempt to do something bad?" (382c)

    Here's the first defense of lying. A lie is useful if it prevents bad things from happening. Are you convinced? Who determines what is bad for people? Can you think of situations where a lie might be useful in this way?

    "Could we... somehow contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need... some one noble lie to persuade, in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?" (414c)

    Socrates refers to his idea of the "noble lie"—you know, a lie that's okay—and asks the gang to come up with an example so they can all understand this slippery concept.

    "...I'm afraid that in slipping from truth where one least ought to slip, I'll not only fall myself but also drag my friends down with me" (451a)

    Socrates is hesitant at first to embark on the great quest for truth that is the Republic because he doesn't want to mislead anyone, especially about stuff that's super important.

    “Who do you say are the true [philosophers]?" he said.

    "The lovers of the sight of the truth." (475e)

    In defining the "true philosophers," Socrates imagines that these true philosophers' relationship to truth will be more than intellectual; it will also be visual. Can you imagine what it would be like to love "the sight of truth"? What do you think this means? Does it mean seeing truth in action, for example in a beautifully organized city like the one these guys come up with?

    "No taste for falsehood; that is, [philosophers] are completely unwilling to admit what's false, but hate it, while cherishing the truth." (485b)

    Taking the whole philosophy-truth connection even further, Socrates insists that philosophers hate lies... which doesn't totally jive with his whole "noble lie" theory, right? Or does it?

    "If truth led the way we wouldn't, I suppose, ever assert a chorus of evils could follow it?" (490c)

    Socrates honestly believes that truth and evil are incompatible. What do you think about this distinction? Are things that simple?

    "[Men trapped in the cave] would hold that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of artificial things." (515c)

    In his famous Allegory of the Cave, Socrates suggests that the world we see every day is more like shadows on a wall than reality. If all you ever see is shadows on a wall, you'll think that those shadows are reality. You'd never suspect the real world outside the cave. Socrates thinks that's the way most of us live our lives: we think we're living in reality, but there's another, more "real" reality out there that we have to search for.

    "Therefore, the real tyrant is... in truth a real slave to the greatest fawning... and with his desires getting no kind of satisfaction, he shows that he is most in need of the most things and poor in truth..." (579d-e)

    "Poor in truth" means that you basically don't have any truth. You may have a lot of money and stuff, but you've got nothing real. It's a compelling way of describing the plight of the tyrant. What would you do if you led a life without truth of any kind?

    "'s plain to everyone that the [rational part of the soul] with which we learn is always entirely directed toward knowing the truth." (581b)

    The whole truth and nothing but the truth is what the rational part of the soul is all about. And since that the part of the soul is—or should be—responsible for making decisions, well, that makes a lot of sense.

    "As for the lover of wisdom... what do we suppose he will hold about the other pleasures as compared with that of knowing the truth...? Won't he hold them to be far behind in pleasure?" (581d-e)

    For the truly wise, truth isn't just something you force yourself to care about; you actually enjoy pursuing it. Right on.

  • Education

    "But how, exactly, will [the guardians of the city] be reared and educated by us?" (376c)

    Socrates isn't only concerned with who will rule; he's also concerned with how those rulers will be educated. Socrates is implying that political ability is directly linked to a solid education.

    "What is the education?... It is, of course, gymnastic for bodies and music for the soul." (376e)

    Definitely not the most specific educational curriculum we've encountered, but it's a start. Socrates really does care about the mind-body connection.

    "Do we watch [potential guardians] straight from childhood by setting them at tasks in which a man would most likely forget and be deceived out of such a conviction?" (413c)

    Socrates is describing an unorthodox aspect of the guardians' education: not only do they have a set curriculum, but their experience in school is also a kind of test. If these "tasks" end up making a potential guardian betray his convictions, well, he's not guardian material, after all.

    "However, it is fit to be sure about what we were saying a while ago, that [the guardians] must get the right education, whatever it is, if they're going to have what's most important for being tame with each other and those who are guarded by them." (416b-c)

    Notice a pattern here? Socrates is making it very clear that the education of the guardians is extremely important. Here, he specifically links this to the issues of community and behavior, suggesting that solid schooling makes people play nicer with others.

    "If by being well educated they become sensible men, they'll easily see to all this and everything else we are not leaving out..." (423e)

    For Socrates, this is the best part about education: if it's done right, it takes care of so many other things, too. What do you think? Is that how education works?

    "At least it's likely, Adeimantus... that the starting point of a man's education sets the course of what follows too." (425b)

    For a philosopher, it's kind of impressive that Socrates isn't only interested in the big, abstract aspects of education—he's interested in early childhood, too. That's something that even modern educators today spend a lot of time thinking about. It just goes to show you that for Socrates, education is totally serious business. It has to start even when children are very young.

    "If... we use women for the same things as the men, they must also be taught the same things." (451e)

    Socrates is all about equal education for women: same expectations = same education. Too bad it took more than two millennia for most other people to figure this out, right?

    "....they'll lead all the hardy children to...war, so that... they can see what they'll have to do in their craft when they are grown up." (466e-467a)

    This aspect of education in the Republic seems pretty suspect... taking children to witness the violence of warfare does not seem like a great educational practice. Speaking of which, what's up with war in the Republic? Isn't it a little strange that Socrates never really questions it here? He questions everything else, after all.

    "Well, then, I suppose that if the nature we set down for the philosopher chances on a suitable course of learning, it will necessarily grow and come to every kind of virtue; but if it isn't sown, planted, and nourished in what's suitable, it will come to all the opposite..." (492a)

    Using some nifty agricultural imagery here, Socrates explains that education can really make all the difference between virtue and its opposite. The connection between education and agriculture is actually an old one: our words for "culture" and "cultivation" come from the same root.

    "Well then, my comrade... [a future guardian] must go the longer way around and labor no less at study than at gymnastic, or else... he'll never come to the end of the greatest and most fitting study." (504d)

    Reiterating his dedication to healthy minds in healthy bodies, Socrates wants to make it very clear that wisdom isn't only accomplished intellectually; it needs to be physical, too. Do you think of wisdom as having a physical component?

  • Morality and Ethics

    [I]s there... a kind of good that we choose to have not because we desire its consequences, but because we delight in it for its own sake...? (357b)

    Glaucon shows himself to be one of the most perceptive of Socrates's interlocutors. He wants a definition of the good that shows why it's appealing, not just why it's "right." This is a general theme in the Republic, in which characters often ask for things to be defended on the basis of their ability to bring about happiness, not just on the basis of morality.

    "Then the good is not the cause of everything; rather it is the cause of the things that are in a good way, while it is not responsible for the bad things." (379b)

    Socrates wants to be very clear when he separates the good from the bad. To this end, he makes sure to explain that the good can't produce anything bad; it can only produce good things. This may sound obvious, but think about situations in which good causes are associated with bad results, or in which bad intentions lead to (seemingly?) good consequences for the person acting badly.

    "Then the man who makes the finest mixture of gymnastic with music and brings them to his soul in the most proper measure is the one of whom we would most correctly say that he is the most perfectly musical and well-harmonized..." (412a)

    Socrates often appeals to the language of music and harmony to communicate moral judgments. Here, he imagines that the moral person is the one best able to find a perfect balance between athletics and music—generally not the most obvious combination.

    " looks to me as though there is one form for virtue and an unlimited number for vice..." (445c)

    This doesn't sound like the best news, does it? Socrates imagines that while there's only one way to be good, there are lots of ways to be bad. Yikes.

    "...there is a need for the best men to have intercourse as often as possible with the best women, and the reverse for the most ordinary men with the most ordinary women..." (459d)

    Thinking about morality in a more unconventional way, Socrates believes in "breeding" humans so that the best people have children together in order to produce the best kinds of children, and so on. Does that sound like a promising strategy?

    "Is there any way in which the orderly man, who isn't a lover of money, or illiberal, or a boaster, or a coward, could become a hard-bargainer, or unjust?" (486b)

    The "orderly man" whom Socrates equates with the wise man is demonstrated to be incapable of acting immorally. This seems to prove that that morality can be defended rationally. Are you convinced?

    "At all events, this is the way the phenomena look to me: in the knowable the last thing to be seen, and that with considerable effort, is the idea of the good; but once seen, it must be concluded that this is in fact the cause of all that is right and fair in everything." (517b-c)

    It sounds more complicated than it is, but all Socrates is saying is that understanding true goodness is the hardest—but also the most rewarding—goal of our lives. It's not just a good end in and of itself; it also opens up the door to understanding other positive things. Sold yet?

    "Unless a man is able to separate out the idea of the good from all other things and distinguish it in the argument, and going through every test, as it were in battle... he comes through all this with the argument still on its feet..." (533b-c)

    By using this image of a dangerous battle to describe the intellectual work of understanding the good, Socrates makes intellectual labor sound heroic and exciting. Forget the Trojan War—philosophy is where all the action is. It makes sense, really, when you consider Socrates's argument that philosophy is the only "real" thing underlying everything else.

    "Surely, when wealth and the wealthy are honored in a city, virtue and the good men are less honorable." (551a)

    For Socrates, the desire for wealth and the desire for morality are pretty much incompatible. Does that seem true to you? We can't think of any examples (ahem) from our contemporary world that would back this up... Yeah, not a single one...

    "For the contest is great, my dear Glaucon... greater than it seems—this contest that concerns becoming good or bad—so we mustn't be tempted by honor or money, or any ruling office, or, for that matter, poetry, into thinking that it's worthwhile to neglect justice and the rest of virtue." (608b)

    Socrates dramatically describes the challenges and dangers he and the guys face on the way, almost as if they're explorers embarking on a great adventure. Temptation is everywhere, but they need to stick to their belief that justice and virtue are the only way to go.