Study Guide

The Republic

The Republic Summary

Our story begins as Socrates and his friend Glaucon head home from a festival. Ready to call it a night, they're intercepted by a whole gang of their acquaintances, who eventually convince them to come hang out at Polemarchus's house and have a nice, long chat.

Once they all arrive at the house, Socrates sees Polemarchus's father, Cephalus, who's an old friend. The two begin a conversation about the pros and cons of being old. As they continue to chat, their topic gradually shifts from old age to the idea of justice, and that's something that gets everyone's attention.

Cephalus bows out at this point, and his son Polemarchus starts debating with Socrates about the nature of justice. They start talking about: 1) what justice really means, and 2) whether justice is actually a good and useful thing to have in the real world. Word.

As Polemarchus becomes more and more convinced by Socrates, another guest, Thrasymachus (who seems to have a bit of anger-management problem), interrupts. He's kind of a bully, and he attacks Socrates for his style of arguing. Socrates is kind of freaked out, but he agrees to continue debating the issue of justice with Thrasymachus, who thinks that it's all about strength, not goodness.

After Socrates and Thrasymachus debate for a while, Glaucon jumps in and wants to hear more about the idea of the good. He also tells a little story about a ring of invisibility to help him make his point about justice—until Adeimantus, another guest, intervenes and argues further with Socrates about justice. This whole arguing thing should be sounding mighty familiar.

Finally, Socrates comes up with the idea that the best way to tackle the problem of justice is to invent an imaginary city, and so, voilà, that's what they do.

The guys describe a whole range of elements in this city—industry, employment, wealth, health, etc.—spending a lot of time on education and famously deciding that most poetry and music will be censored by the city's rulers (called guardians) because it often celebrates negative things. Bummer.

Finally, the guys get back to the topic of justice. By comparing the organization of their city to the organization of the human soul, they come up with this famous three-part division of the soul: 1) the rational part, 2) the spirited part, and 3) the desiring part.

Socrates then tries to continue discussing justice, but Glaucon interrupts and asks Socrates to say more about the status of women and children in the republic—he's just so curious. Socrates agrees and shows how women will have essentially equal rights as men.

Once they've established the domestic side of things, Socrates describes how the guardians of their city will also be philosophers, and from there, he begins an extended discussion of what philosophy is.

As part of their conversation describing philosophy, Socrates defines "the good" and his theory of "the forms." To help everyone understand these concepts more easily, he tells them a famous story often referred to as the Allegory of the Cave.

After finishing up the conversation on philosophy and education, Socrates then goes on to discuss the issue of government. He outlines five kinds of governments that exist and suggests that each one is developed out of another in a cycle: 1) Aristocracy, 2) Timocracy (a government all about honor), 3) Oligarchy, 4) Democracy, and 5) Tyranny.

In order to understand fully which of these governments is best, the guys briefly get into a conversation about desire, which ultimately leads them back to the hot topic of poetry. Socrates again condemns poetry, this time because it's a distortion of reality.

The whole conversation ends with Socrates telling a story called the Myth of Er, which is about a trip to the underworld. It's an abrupt— but final—end.

  • Book I

    • We don't know who he's talking to, but Socrates, our super duper important narrator, begins by describing how he recently visited the port of Athens with a friend, Glaucon, to do some praying and to observe a religious festival that was being held there for the first time.
    • Socrates's feelings about the show? Generally, it was A-Okay.
    • As Socrates and Glaucon are leaving, another friend of theirs sees them and has his slave run over to get their attention.
    • The slave grabs Socrates's coat and says that his master, Polemarchus, insists that they wait up.
    • Socrates asks where in the world Polemarchus himself is, and the slave replies that he's coming soon, so they need to wait.
    • Socrates agrees to wait up, and sure enough, Polemarchus shows up with a bunch of other people: Adeimantus, Niceratus (the brother of Socrates's friend Glaucon), and some other unnamed folks.
    • Polemarchus says that it looks like Socrates is trying to hightail it out of there, which Socrates admits is true, but Polemarchus wants Socrates to stay and says that's he outnumbered. Polemarchus advises Socrates to "either prove stronger than these men or stay here!" (327c).
    • Socrates says that there might be another option: maybe he'll convince these dudes to let him leave.
    • Polemarchus wonders how Socrates will be able to be so convincing if no one even listens to him, anyway, and Glaucon chimes in saying it's impossible.
    • Adeimantus jumps in and asks whether Socrates is aware that later that night there's going to be a torch race on horseback (!).
    • Socrates is intrigued but doesn't totally understand how that would work (frankly, neither do we).
    • Polemarchus answers that they'll pass the torch to one another while on horseback and that there will be all sorts of other nifty events that night, too.
    • Polemarchus urges Socrates to stay with them for dinner, after which they'll all go in a big group with lots of young people to see the festivities.
    • Glaucon says it looks like they'll have to stay, and Socrates agrees.
    • So the gang heads over to Polemarchus's house, where there are even more people: Thrasymachus, Charmantides, Cleitophon, and Cephalus, Polemarchus's father.
    • Socrates remarks that Cephalus looks especially old. He says the old dude is probably seated on a stool with a wreath because he's just been performing some kind of sacrifice.
    • Everyone sits down next to Cephalus, who's totally happy to see Socrates.

    Cephalus and Socrates Discuss Old Age

    • Cephalus says that Socrates should visit more often, since Cephalus is too old and weak to make a trip himself.
    • Cephalus observes that the older he gets, the less pleasure he gets from physical activities, and the more pleasure he gets from intellectual ones.
    • Cephalus tells Socrates to go hang out with the younger kids but asks him to make a point to come back and visit frequently.
    • Socrates replies that he enjoys taking with older people because they already know the way certain things in life go down and can offer good advice. Socrates says he's curious what Cephalus has to say about his age at the moment.
    • Cephalus says he's happy to fill Socrates in and explains that he and a bunch of other old people often hang out together and talk.
    • Cephalus explains that most of the other old people just complain and complain about all the things they can no longer do and enjoy: sex, drinking, festivals, etc. They gripe about how life isn't as good as it used to be and blame it all on old age.
    • But Cephalus is suspicious of how these old men reason, since he knows other old men who don't feel the same way they do. It obviously can't just be old age that makes these cranks so cranky.
    • For example, Cephalus describes something he overhead someone ask the poet and tragedian, Sophocles.
    • Brain bites! So maybe you haven't been keeping track of some of these other long Greek names, but Sophocles may ring some serious bells. He's a rock star writer of tragedies; you might know a couple of big bad ones called Oedipus Rex and Antigone. This guy is for real.
    • Okay, back to Cephalus's little story. Sophocles was recently asked whether he was still able to have sex with women now that he was old. He replied that he couldn't anymore, but he called sex a "frenzied and savage master" (329c). So good riddance, we guess.
    • Cephalus says that he found Sophocles's reply totally wise, since old age is indeed something that brings both peace and freedom.
    • Cephalus says it's true that desire can be a kind of master. Once you no longer have desire, you can finally relax.
    • Cephalus says that the real problem isn't someone's age but his or her character. Someone who is content in general will deal with old age just fine, whereas someone who isn't content in general will be unhappy when they're young and when they're old.
    • Socrates is interested in what Cephalus is saying and says that most people probably wouldn't agree with Cephalus.
    • Most people, says Socrates, would say it isn't Cephalus's good character but rather his wealth that makes old age less of an issue for him.
    • Cephalus agrees that most people probably wouldn't agree with him and admits that wealth obviously does make things easier. However, he says that it doesn't make things as easy as people think.
    • Cephalus says that even though someone who's content might still find old age hard if he or she were poor, someone who is not content would still find it hard even if he or she were rich.
    • Socrates than asks Cephalus whether he inherited his wealth, or whether he accumulated it himself.
    • Cephalus seems a bit confused by Socrates's two options, because he says he did both. He did inherit some family moolah, but it was much less than his family used to have, since his father spent a ton of it. All Cephalus did was make up some—but not all—of the money his father lost.
    • Socrates explains that he asked the question because he notices that Cephalus isn't especially interested in money. Socrates suggests that people who inherit money tend to be like this. However, people who make their own money are extremely interested in it, just as poets love their own poems and fathers love their own children.
    • Of course, says Socrates, those who love wealth love it not only because it's their own but also because of what it allows them to do. Socrates says people who are obsessed with wealth are super annoying to be with because all they want to talk about is how much they love wealth.
    • Cephalus agrees and Socrates then asks what Cephalus thinks is the best thing about being wealthy.
    • Cephalus says that he doubts his reasons would convince many people.
    • Cephalus says that when people get old, they tend to suddenly get nervous about all kinds of things they weren't worried about when they were young—like, say, whether they'll be punished in the afterlife. Cephalus isn't sure if this happens because old age makes people a little nutty or if it happens because people do actually know something about death as they approach it. Either way, it's a fact.
    • This means that an old man who's been up to all sorts of bad things in his youth will be freaking out as death approaches, but an old man who has done good stuff in his life will be totally relaxed and happy. Cephalus brings out the heavy artillery and quotes a line from the poetry of Pindar for extra proof.
    • Brain bite! Pindar? Pindar was an A-list Greek poet. He wrote tons of odes and inspired generations of poets after him.
    • So, Cephalus concludes that the nice thing about having wealth is that it allows you to not only not worry about cheating or lying (he doesn't go into a whole lot of specifics here, so we kind of have to take his word), but also you won't be worried about dying without having paid off all your debts.
    • That's true, says Socrates, but since Cephalus has brought up the issue of justice, Socrates wants to think a little more about that. He's not convinced that justice is as simple as just being able to give back what someone has taken. Socrates actually imagines that sometimes doing that is just but at another time it might be unjust.
    • For example, if someone takes a weapon away from a friend and then later, randomly, this same friend loses his mind, when he asks for his weapon back, it would be just for the friend who took the weapon not to give that weapon back. On top of that, it would even be just not to be completely honest with this crazy, weapon-wanting friend.
    • So, obviously we can't just define justice as telling the truth and giving back things taken.

    Polemarchus and Socrates Discuss Justice

    • Polemarchus interrupts here and disagrees with Socrates, insisting that the above would be a good definition of justice according to someone called Simonides. Well, if you're going to bring up Simonides...
    • Cephalus bows out of the debate to go conduct a sacrifice. He makes a joke that it's fitting that his son Polemarchus should inherit this argument. Haha. What a joker.
    • Socrates then asks Polemarchus to explain exactly what Simonides said about justice.
    • Polemarchus replies that Simonides simply said that justice is when you give people what you owe them.
    • Socrates says that he doesn't want to disbelieve Simonides, since he's smart dude (apparently), but he honestly just doesn't understand. Simonides wouldn't agree that a crazy man should be given back his weapon, but it is still his weapon, so technically, it's owed to him. Since Polemarchus says that Simonides would agree with that, Socrates says he's just totally confused.
    • Polemarchus suggests that Simonides meant that friends owe friends good things, not bad things.
    • Aha. Socrates says he understands now: Simonides wouldn't want a friend to return gold if it turned out to be a bad transaction.
    • What about enemies? asks Socrates. Do you have to give things back to enemies that you owe them?
    • Yep, say Polemarchus. And enemies owe their enemies harm. Um, what?
    • But then Simonides made a riddle, complains Socrates, when he said that it is just to give everyone what is fitting and called this "what is owed."
    • Socrates asks what Simonides would say if someone were to ask him what medicine "owes."
    • Easy, says Polemarchus: medicine owes drugs, food, and drinks to bodies. (It does?)
    • Socrates then asks the same question about cooking, and Polemarchus replies that it owes seasonings to meat. (Is this philosophy?)
    • Finally, Socrates asks what justice "owes," and Polemarchus answers that justice is doing good to friends and harm to enemies.
    • Socrates then asks who is most able to do good to the sick and bad to enemies. Polemarchus replies: doctors.
    • Socrates asks now about who has power over the sea and those sailing. The answer: pilots. So, asks Socrates, what about the just man? In what way is he most able to help his friends and harm his enemies? And Polemarchus thinks this would be in war: fighting enemies and making alliances with friends.
    • Socrates replies that when someone is healthy, a doctor is useless, and when someone is not sailing, a pilot is useless, too. Polemachus agrees.
    • So then Socrates asks if just men are useless unless there is a war. Polemarchus doesn't really think so.
    • Socrates then pulls out a bunch of examples of other activities that are useful in times of peace, like farming to get food and shoemaking to have shoes. He then asks what justice provides during peacetime, and Polemarchus suggests that it is necessary to make contracts, which Socrates understands to mean communal partnerships, not just financial agreements.
    • Socrates then wonders if a just man is useful in playing a game of draughts (kind of like an ancient version of checkers), or if you'd rather have a super awesome draughts player. Surprise, surprise: Polemarchus would rather have the super awesome player.
    • Socrates asks a similar question about building a house, and Polemarchus once again says that he would rather have a professional house-builder as a partner than a "just man."
    • So, Socrates says he just doesn't get what kind of a project a just man would be useful for. Polemarchus suggests that he'd be useful in issues of money.
    • But Socrates insists that even so, if you were buying a horse, for example, you'd still want someone who knows about horses, and the same would go for buying a ship. Polemarchus agrees with all that, and so Socrates again asks what kind of monetary transaction needs the just man.
    • Polemarchus replies that a just man would be useful when you need to keep your money safe. So Socrates concludes that therefore, just men are only useful when things are not being used: money, weapons, precious instruments, etc.
    • Socrates points out that according to this account, justice doesn't seem to be a very important concept. Socrates suggests they try another tactic.
    • Socrates asks if a good boxer is someone who can both throw a good punch and defend himself against one. Polemarchus says: yeah, totally.
    • So then, says Socrates, if you're good at preventing illness, you should be good at creating it, too. If you are guarding a good army, you should be able to steal another army's plans. But that means that (by this logic), anyone who is good at guarding something must be good at stealing, too. Polemarchus is all like: "I see how this debate is going."
    • Socrates is like, hey, if we follow this logic, it looks like the just man is a kind of thief. That's totally a problem, right? It turns out that even Homer praised someone who cheats and steals as a just man.
    • Brain bite! Homer. Yes, that Homer, the epic poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. Plato, through Socrates, loves talking about (and criticizing), so head on over to our Homer guides if you start getting lost.
    • Socrates says that Homer and Simonides both dish up definitions of justice in which you steal to help out your friends.
    • Poor Polemarchus is all confused (don't worry if you are, too) and just repeats his early definition of justice as helping friends and harming enemies.
    • But now Socrates is all over the idea of friendship and what it means. Are friends actually good people, or are they just people we like to hang out with who seem to be good?
    • Polemarchus isn't sure, but he imagines that people tend to be friends with the kind of people they think are good.
    • Socrates says that people are often wrong in what they think, so what often happens is that bad friends will be treated well and truly good people will be harmed. Polemarchus isn't convinced by this line of thinking.
    • Socrates says that because most people make mistakes and are wrong about their friends and enemies, justice actually means being harmful to friends (because they aren't actually good) and being good to enemies (because they aren't actually bad).
    • Polemarchus is just more and more confused and suggests that they ought to redefine friendship. Friends shouldn't just be defined as people who seem to be good, but rather people who both seem and are good; the inverse goes for enemies.
    • All right, so Socrates has a new definition of justice: doing good to friends who are good and harming enemies who are bad. Polemarchus is sold.
    • Socrates then asks whether people should always harm bad people. Polemarchus says yes. Then Socrates offers some examples of how harming both horses and dogs makes them worse, not better, and then claims that humans who are harmed actually become less virtuous and less just. Polemarchus has to agree.
    • Socrates then goes on to question how things improve. He claims that in both music and horsemanship, someone doesn't become worse at those things by constantly doing them. So he then wonders if a just man can use justice to make someone unjust, which Polemarchus agrees doesn't make very much sense. Did you follow that logic? Harming dogs and horses makes them worse; so harming your enemies probably also makes them worse and therefore less just. But being just can't make others become less just, so it can't be just to harm your enemies.
    • Socrates points out that instead it's a question of opposites: heat doesn't cool, wet doesn't dry, and so justice doesn't harm—only its opposite does. This conclusion completely contradicts Polemarchus's original definition that justice is doing good to good people and bad to bad people, because "it is never just to harm anyone" (335e).
    • Polemarchus is totally convinced and says he's 100% on Socrates's side. Socrates suspects that this nutty idea that justice can include harming your enemies must have been invented by someone very arrogant.
    • But Socrates isn't done. He wants to actually find a definition of justice.
    • Fasten your seat belts and sit back, folks, because it's going to be a long ride.

    Thrasymachus and Socrates Discuss Justice

    • At this point, Thrasymachus jumps in. Thrasymachus, we're told, has been trying to interrupt the debate this whole time, and now he just can't control himself. In fact, he's so worked up about how the conversation has been going that he jumps up violently, scaring Socrates and Polemarchus.
    • Thrasymachus accuses Socrates of spouting nonsense and presses him to actually provide his own answer instead of just questioning other people's answers all the time. And Thrasymachus doesn't want any of Socrates's vagueness; he wants clear and definite specifics.
    • Socrates was kind of freaked out by this violent interruption and says he almost became speechless. (Ha ha. Good one, Socrates. When has that ever happened?) However, he finds some confidence and answers that if he and Polemarchus made a mistake, it was completely unintentional; obviously, they both really want to discover what justice means. They're motivated, just incompetent, and they deserve the pity smart men like Thrasymachus.
    • We see what you're up to, Socrates.
    • Thrasymachus is not impressed. He laughs and accuses Socrates of being ironic (as usual) instead of actually answering the question.
    • Socrates defends himself by saying that Thrasymachus made the questions impossible to answer by limiting the way he could answer. A person can only answer in the way they know.
    • Thrasymachus imagines Socrates will just do what he wants and answer in his usual way. He then challenges Socrates: what will Socrates do if he, Thrasymachus, can define justice in a better way than the big S himself?
    • Socrates says he'll happily learn from Thrasymachus, but Thrasymachus wants money, which Socrates says he doesn't have.
    • Glaucon steps in and says Socrates does have some money, and they should go ahead with the challenge. Everyone else present will support Socrates, which Thrasymachus thinks is typical of Socrates's usual tricks.
    • Socrates asks Thrasymachus why he would expect him to be able to answer, since he has never claimed to be able to know anything; it's Thrasymachus who claims to have an answer.
    • A brain bite interruption! Socrates is famous for claiming he doesn't know anything—it's kind of his thing. Check out our "Character Analysis" section for more.
    • Thrasmymachus continues to act as if he didn't want to answer, though Socrates suspects that he really wants to show off how good his answer is. Thrasymachus then accuses Socrates of learning from other people without teaching anything in return.
    • Socrates agrees that he learns from others but objects to the idea that he gives nothing in return. He admits he has no money, but he will repay wisdom with high praise.
    • Thrasymachus defines the just as simply the advantage of the stronger. He says Socrates ought to praise him but knows he won't.
    • Socrates says he first needs to understand and asks if Thrasymachus is saying that a wrestler, because he is stronger than the present company, would therefore be more just than the present company.
    • Thrasymachus is not impressed and says Socrates is twisting his meaning, showing it in the worst light possible. He was only talking about political strength, he says. For all three types of ruling systems—democracy, tyranny, and aristocracy—there are corresponding laws that make whatever is good for the rulers "just" and whatever isn't good for the rulers "unjust."
    • Socrates is intrigued, though he also points out that Thrasymachus has answered in a way he forbade Socrates from doing earlier.
    • Socrates says he's generally down with the idea of connecting justice and advantage but isn't sure if it's the advantage of the stronger that is important.
    • Socrates presents Thrasymachus with one of his (in)famous examples (you should be getting pretty used to them by now): the example is strong rulers. Thrasymachus agrees that it is just to obey rulers, but he also agrees that rulers can sometimes make mistakes. Socrates, therefore, shows that if a ruler mistakenly forced one of his subjects to do something unjust, thinking it was just and to his own advantage, it would mean that, according to Thrasymachus's definition, something unjust would be just simply because a ruler commanded it.
    • Polemarchus jumps in here and enthusiastically agrees with Socrates's reasoning.
    • Cleitophon isn't so convinced. Cleitophon insists that Thrasymachus didn't say justice was what was to the advantage of the stronger—the rulers, in this example—but what seemed to be. So, according to Cleitophon, Thrasymachus is still correct.
    • Socrates then runs this interpretation by Thrasymachus, who immediately says that this is not at all what he meant. Instead, he insists that when he was describing someone as "stronger," he was speaking about this person in general and obviously not in the single, few moments when he or she is making a mistake.
    • Socrates says he didn't realize that that's what Thrasymachus was saying, which really ticks Thrasymachus off.
    • Thrasymachus accuses Socrates of being someone who makes needless and self-serving accusations, and he again says that a ruler, or a doctor, is overall a strong person, even if you wouldn't necessarily describe him that way in those instances when he makes a mistake.
    • Socrates then asks Thrasymachus if he thinks that he, Socrates, makes these self-serving accusations because he is trying to ruin Thrasymachus's ability to argue.
    • Thrasymachus says he doesn't know, but he doesn't care, and he isn't going to let Socrates derail him.
    • Socrates suggests that they get back to the issue and asks Thrasymachus to clarify this whole situation. He asks whether Thrasymachus is talking about really precise and exact definitions or just the ones regular people throw around.
    • Thrasmymachus says he's totally precise and challenges Socrates to find a problem with his reasoning. We think he should probably realize that's a bad idea by now, but hey, that's just us. If you want to take on the big guy, be our guest.
    • Socrates takes up his usual strategy by giving examples in response. He asks whether Thrasymachus considers a real doctor to be one who makes money or cares for the sick, to which Thrasymachus unsurprisingly says one who cares for the sick.
    • Next Socrates asks about pilots, and he and Thrasymachus both conclude that a pilot would be considered a ruler of sailors, and not a sailor himself, because even though he sails, he's a pilot due to his role as a leader.
    • Socrates asks if all subjects or practices aim only for their own perfection, making them completely self-sufficient, or if all subjects are also involved in and need aspects of other subjects to find their greatest advantage.
    • Thrasymachus suggests that a subject should confine itself to its own concerns, so Socrates clarifies that medicine, in that case, is concerned with the body, and not with medicine itself, just as horsemanship would concern itself with horses and not with horses and not with horsemanship itself.
    • Socrates demonstrates that according to this break-down, a subject doesn't actually look to its own advantage (as Thrasymachus has previously claimed) but rather to the advantage of the things it is in charge of: a good doctor doesn't try to do the best thing for himself but for his patients, and the same is true of a pilot and his sailors.
    • So Socrates shows that Thrasymachus's entire definition of a "ruler" is flawed, because a true ruler isn't worried about himself but about the things under his or its control.
    • Surprise, surprise (not), Thrasymachus isn't too happy about the way the argument is going. So he starts insulting Socrates. Basically, he's like, "Socrates, you're a Grade A, gold-medal moron." Does Socrates really think that, say, a shepherd is concerned only for the welfare of his sheep and not with the food and clothing the sheep will provide him? On top of that (says Thrasymachus), anyone can see that people who are truly just are actually much worse off than those who are unjust. The real answer, Thrasymachus claims, is that justice is something that is to the advantage of other people, while being unjust is something that is to your own advantage.
    • After announcing this, Thrasymachus almost tries to leave in a huff, but no one will let him. They want to think more about what he has just said. And anyway, Socrates reminds him that the topic at hand is of crucial importance for everyday life.
    • Socrates goes on to say that by staying, Thrasymachus is looking out for his friends and making sure they have adequate knowledge of how the world works. Good one, Socrates.
    • Besides, Socrates isn't convinced by Thrasymachus's reasoning; he doesn't believe that injustice is more profitable than justice, and he wants Thrasymachus to prove his point.
    • Thrasymachus says that if Socrates wasn't persuaded already, he can't say anything more to convince him.
    • Socrates ignores this and says that it's clear from Thrasymachus's description of a shepherd (as someone who takes care of his sheep for primarily selfish reasons) that his definition of ruling has changed since his previous definition of ruling as a doctor as someone who cares for his patients
    • Socrates asks if rulers of cities rule willingly, and Thrasymachus says he is sure they do.
    • Socrates says that other kinds of rulers are given a salary, or compensation, which suggests that they consider ruling to be for the benefit of those they rule and not just for their own benefit. Socrates returns to the topic of disciplines, specifically talking about how each discipline is differentiated on the basis of the thing it deals with (pilots: sailing, doctors: medicine).
    • Socrates points out that the only thing various disciplines have in common is that each incorporates the practice of collecting wages to help people make a living: a doctor isn't any less of a doctor because he makes money doing it. Socrates asks whether a doctor would gain any obvious benefit to himself from practicing medicine if he didn't charge a fee, and Thrasymachus admits that he wouldn't.
    • Therefore, Socrates concludes that ruling does not bring its own advantage, but an incentive needs to be added: it could be money, or honor, or the fear of a penalty if the person doesn't rule.
    • Glaucon joins in and says he doesn't understand the last bit about a penalty.
    • Socrates explains that truly good men, the kind you want to be in charge, aren't solely interested in either money or honor. Therefore, they are motivated to rule because they are afraid that if they don't, someone bad might rule instead. Socrates guesses that in a city of truly good men, people would do their very best to avoid ruling. They wouldn't try to rule, as so many people do now.
    • Socrates says that he wants to go back and examine Thrasymachus's claim that the unjust man is stronger than the just one. He asks Glaucon what he thinks, and Glaucon says he believes that the life of the just man ought to be the stronger one. Socrates then suggests they try and convince Thrasymachus—not by having everyone deliver and compare long speeches, but by means of a dialogue.
    • Socrates turns to Thrasymachus and asks him what kind of moral differentiation is possible if Thrasymachus believes that justice is weak and injustice is strong.
    • Thrasymachus replies that he wouldn't use the language of "virtue" and "vice" but instead would call justice "very high-minded innocence" and injustice "good counsel" (348c-d). But he does imply that injustice would belong in the category of virtue.
    • This last implication bothers Socrates quite a bit (we don't blame him). He begins to ask Thrasymachus about the behavior of a hypothetical "just man." Would this man ever try to get the better of another person? (Answer: no.)
    • Socrates asks if this just man would think he deserved to at least get the better of an unjust man. Would that to be just or not?
    • Thrasymachus answers that the just man would think that is just, but wouldn't ever be able to get what he deserves (because he'd too high-and-mighty, given that he's a just man). Thrasymachus and Socrates both agree that the unjust man thinks he deserves to get the better of everyone.
    • Socrates sums up the position as it stands: just people get the better of only unlike people (the unjust), whereas unjust people get the better of people both like and unlike (both just and unjust).
    • Socrates asks about someone who is musical versus someone unmusical and someone knowledgeable about medicine versus not knowledgeable about medicine. Thrasymachus says that someone musical or knowledgeable about music is prudent, while someone unmusical or not knowledgeable about medicine is thoughtless.
    • Socrates asks whether a musical man thinks he deserves to do better than another musical man or a man who isn't musical, and Thrasymachus says that a musical man will want to do better than an unmusical man, and says the same of a medical man.
    • Socrates makes the questions more general and asks whether someone who is both good and wise will want to get the better of other good and wise men, or just worse ones. Thrasymachus says only worse ones, while the ignorant and bad man will think he should get the better of both wise and ignorant men.
    • However, Socrates points out that according to this model, the just man, who gets the better only of that which is dissimilar to himself (and not of that which is similar to himself), is therefore like the good and virtuous man, not the ignorant man Thrasymachus was trying to compare him to.
    • Socrates notices that poor Thrasymachus is totally blushing.
    • Socrates continues on, anyway, and asks whether injustice is still mighty, even if it isn't good and just.
    • Thrasymachus says he remembers that part, but he's still not convinced by Socrates's conclusions. He says that Socrates won't even let him speak, since he'll just accuse Thrasymachus of making a scene. So Thrasymachus says he'll let Socrates just keep on questioning him—but he's just going to nod yes without really listening. Okey dokey, says Socrates.
    • Socrates wants to make sure they are very thorough about this whole justice thing, so he asks whether Thrasymachus thinks a city that tries to enslave other cities is just or unjust. Thrasymachus says it's definitely unjust and that, for this reason, it will be very strong.
    • Socrates is delighted that Thrasymachus is answering his questions so well, and Thrasymachus quips that he's just doing it to be nice to Socrates.
    • Socrates, grateful, goes on to ask whether any community that as a whole acts unjustly could survive if its various members acted unjustly to one another. Thrasymachus says probably not, and he and Socrates agree that the reason for this is that injustice causes factions and arguments that prevent unity.
    • Socrates suggests that this could be true even within a single person. If injustice is a part of this person, it will make him divided against his own self—which would prevent him from being very powerful, right?
    • Plus, Socrates adds, the gods like people who are sure of themselves and able to make good choices. So if the unjust man isn't able to be sure of himself, being all divided and such, the gods won't like him. Again: doesn't make him sound too powerful, does it?
    • Socrates sums up where they stand by saying that clearly the just man is much better able to accomplish things. What remains to be seen, he says, is whether justice allows someone to live better.
    • Socrates wants to understand this concept of "better" and asks Thrasymachus whether what something does is determined by 1) what it's capable of doing or 2) what it does best. (So, you can only hear with your ears and see with your eyes, but take, say, a pruning-knife: although you can do things other than prune with it, we still think of it as a pruning knife because it prunes best.)
    • Socrates and Thrasymachus agree that things that do a certain thing best also have their own virtue (so seeing might be the virtue of eyes, and hearing might be the virtue of ears). Without its virtue, an object wouldn't do its job well.
    • So now Socrates wants to talk about souls and what they do best: managing, organizing, living, that kind of thing. Socrates and Thrasymachus also agree that the soul will not do any of these things well if it lacks virtue, and this virtue is—you guessed it—justice.
    • Virtue leads to being both blessed and happy, and so, ta-da, injustice can never be more profitable than justice.
    • Socrates thanks Thrasymachus for pointing out this topic of conversation. He compares himself to a glutton at a banquet who grabs whatever he sees and just can't stop once he's hooked. Philosophy: once you pop, you just can't stop.
    • (If you're Socrates.)
  • Book II

    • Socrates hopes that the issue of justice has been settled once and for all.
    • No such luck. (Are you surprised?)

    Glaucon Describes Justice (Plus: The Story of the Ring)

    • Glaucon jumps in and wants to talk about the good. He outlines three ways in which things can be good:
      1) a good everyone likes simply for its own sake
      2) a good everyone likes both for its own sake and because we get something out of it (like healthy living)
      3) a good everyone likes only because we get something out of it (like wages for work)
    • Socrates agrees with this breakdown, so Glaucon asks him into which category justice would fall.
    • Socrates says justice belongs in the second category—the best one, it seems. Glaucon says he bets most people would put justice in the third category, since it's something they only do because 1) they think they have to and 2) they want to have a good reputation.
    • Glaucon really wants to hear Socrates praise justice entirely for its own sake and not for the sake of its consequences. Even though he believes justice is better than injustice, he's going to play the devil's advocate and defend injustice.
    • Brain bite! Devil's advocate? That's just a fancy way of saying that someone is going to take an extreme opposite opinion in an argument more for the sake of the argument than because that person truly holds those extreme feelings.
    • Glaucon has an agenda. He's going to return to Thrasymachus's line of argumentation and 1) define justice and where it comes from; 2) demonstrate that everyone who acts justly does so "unwillingly, as necessary but not good" (358c); and 3) demonstrate that the unjust are better off than the just. Got all that?
    • Socrates is down.
    • Glaucon explains that justice came to exist not because it's something good to do, but because even though everyone wants to do unjust things, they're terrified of having unjust things done to them. So, in order to protect themselves, people made a kind of social contract or agreement to be just.
    • Glaucon insists, however, that if people weren't afraid of the implications of having injustice done to them, no one would be just.
    • To prove this, Glaucon tells a story about a man who finds a ring and realizes that, depending on which way he turns it, he can become invisible. Glaucon tells how this man, when he realizes he can do whatever he wants without being caught, acts unjustly all the time and lives a very happy and successful life, cutting corners and pretty much just doing whatever he wants.
    • Brain bite: Does this little story sound a bit familiar? As in, Middle Earth familiar? It should: J.R.R. Tolkien got his inspiration for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from this little story in Plato (we told you this book was important).
    • Glaucon goes on to imagine two men, one very just and one very unjust. He says that the very just man will be miserable, and people will constantly believe him to be unjust, while the unjust man will be adored and admired, and people will constantly believe him to be just. Why? Because the unjust man will always have an advantage: he will do whatever it takes to get ahead, whereas the just man will not.
    • Glaucon says the just man will live a life of torment and poverty ending in crucifixion (pretty bleak), while the unjust man will become ruler of the city, he'll marry a great lady, and he'll have great business opportunities, lots of money, good friends, tons of appealing sacrifices to the gods... you get the idea.

    Adeimantus Describes Justice

    • Glaucon's brother, Adeimantus, jumps in and says that Glaucon has missed something crucial.
    • Adeimantus, playing the devil's advocate just like his brother, says that the reason why injustice so often appears to be better than justice is because the nature of justice and injustice are 1) poorly taught by parents and educators and 2) poorly represented in poetry and literature.
    • Justice is poorly taught by parents because even though they tell their children to be just, they defend it only in terms of the good things that come from having a reputation for being just: money, honors, etc.
    • Justice is poorly represented in poetry because poets are always moaning about the trials and tribulations of living a just and virtuous life while also telling stories about bad guys and villains who do well and end up unpunished. In fact, lots of poets even represent the gods themselves as indifferent to justice; all they seem to care about are some good sacrifices.
    • Between justice and status or advantage, how can anyone come to think justice is better? Children end up thinking that gaining an advantage in life is the most important thing, so once they see that if they can get away with injustice they'll do way better, that's what they do. And that's completely reinforced by the poetry they're reading.
    • Adeimantus concludes that the issue here is that justice and goodness are always discussed in terms of 1) what they provide you with in life and 2) how seeming to be just or good, instead of actually being those things, is all that matters.
    • This is why Adeimantus wants Socrates to defend justice on its own terms, not by what you can gain from it. He wants Socrates to explain why it is inherently good for your soul, regardless of whether anyone, god or man, knows or sees how you are acting. No one, until now, he says, has ever talked about this.
    • Well, Socrates is impressed. He thinks these are pretty amazing arguments, and he is almost—almost—at a loss how to respond to such persuasive thinking. But, of course, Socrates doesn't actually believe injustice is better than justice, so it's up to him to find out a convincing argument to explain why.

    They Imagine a City, or Republic (At Last)

    • Socrates has an idea. He thinks that what's causing the guys all these problems is the fact that they are thinking about justice in terms of individuals, who are small and therefore harder to scrutinize. Socrates imagines that thinking about something bigger, like a city, would make it easier to think about this idea of justice.
    • "If we should watch a city coming into being in speech," Socrates famously says, "would we also see its justice coming into being, and its injustice?" (369a).
    • Adeimantus thinks that's likely, so they decide that's exactly what they're going to do.
    • Socrates believes that a city comes about because people can't survive on their own and need to form communities. The most urgent needs of a city are: 1) food 2) housing, and 3) clothing. In order to have all those things, they decide they will need a minimum of four to five people to be a farmer, builder, shoemaker, weaver, and so on.
    • They then agree that it is easier and more efficient if each person in the city specializes in one thing that they produce for everyone instead of trying to do a little bit of everything just for themselves. They also agree that this means more people will have to be added to the city, since each specialized job requires helpers and specific tools.
    • There will also need to be trade, both within the city and between cities, so merchants and tradesmen will also be necessary, as well as the production of surplus materials in order to trade.
    • Socrates asks where justice fits into this city, and Adeimantus suggests it must have something to do with the way various people relate to one another. Socrates agrees but first wants to think more basically about day-to-day life. The guys paint a picture of a thriving, well-fed city, where people enjoy not only sustenance but a few luxuries as well.
    • These luxuries multiply, so the number of various people necessary to sustain this sophisticated city begins to increase. Now we've got cooks, hairdressers, servants, doctors, and others. The guys imagine that the city will now be too small for all these new people, so they will need more land. How will they get it? They'll have to go to war with other cities.
    • So you guessed it: the city now needs an army, too. Socrates says that warfare is just as much a craft as anything else, so the soldiers must also be specialists.
    • What the guys come to realize is that the single most important thing they need to decide is who will rule the city, since this job will be the most specialized. Socrates calls these rulers guardians.
    • They first conclude that the guardians will need to be active and full of energy, almost like a dog or some other kind of animal. However, they also conclude that the guardians can't be aggressive toward one another either; they need to be restrained and mild to their own people and harsh to their enemies.
    • The gang is at a bit at a loss when they try to find someone who might combine both energy and good sense, until Socrates suggests they return to the image of a dog, since dogs are always friendly toward those they trust and aggressive toward strangers.
    • Socrates takes this a step further and suggests that there is something philosophical about dogs because they base their actions on what they know and do not know: they love and are kind to what they know and are unkind to what they don't know. Socrates says this is how a philosopher should be: he loves learning and doesn't love ignorance.
    • This means, therefore, that the guardian must be a philosopher; he's also got to be energetic, fast, and strong. We've got to applaud Socrates for that big leap from dogs to philosophers.
    • Socrates suggests that they now think about the education of the guardians. He suspects that this line of thinking will definitely relate back to the theme of justice (you know, one of these days).
    • They decide that the first thing that should be taught is the art of speeches; that's more important than either music or athletics.
    • Socrates says that speaking falls into two categories: lies and truths. He says that it's typical to start with the lies (Socrates is essentially talking about what we would call stories), since little children are always first told stories.
    • However, Socrates notes that childhood is a very impressionable period, and he suggests that they might want to be very careful about the kinds of things impressionable children are taught. In fact, he thinks they ought to regulate the kinds of stories mothers tell their children, and he imagines that most of the popular stories told to children in Greece at that time will have to be banned.
    • Wait, what? Banned? Why? Because in most of these stories (that would be, like, every Greek myth ever), the actions of gods and heroes are neither noble nor admirable; they're ridiculous, violent, and mean. If kids think this kind of stuff is heroic, the city will be a disaster. Kids will think it's okay to turn on their fathers, make war for no reason, have sex before marriage...
    • Socrates explains that even if these myths might have a deeper, less offensive meaning, children won't be able to understand that, so no one should tell stories like this. Poets, Socrates says, will be instructed to write and perform stories that make virtue appealing and good.
    • Adeimantus wants a bit more detail. What's the right way, he asks, to represent a god?
    • Socrates says that a god should be represented as completely good, since that should be the definition of a god (or else he wouldn't be a god, right?). On top of that, since gods only produce good and not evil, they are only responsible for good things and shouldn't be portrayed as causing evil things.
    • Socrates goes through a whole list of quotations from Homer and Aeschylus that show gods involved in evil, so those parts will have to be banned.
    • Socrates also says that these stories shouldn't represent the gods always sneaking around and changing form. Since the best things are the things that are most stable (and therefore change the least), the gods definitely wouldn't be constantly changing and sneaking up on us. Socrates worries children will become fearful and cowardly if they think the gods are always hiding and lying in wait.
    • Finally, Socrates says that gods can't be represented as lying, because lying is inherently bad and only acceptable in certain situations, such as: dealing with enemies, helping crazy people, and educating children (as long as the lies are as close to truth as possible). A god wouldn't be afraid of any enemies and is too all knowing to need a story to help him understand the world, so gods just don't need to lie at all.
  • Book III

    • Picking up from their previous discussion on poetry and what it should portray, Socrates and friends agree that in order to make sure the citizens of this city are brave, they'll need to make sure that death isn't described as scary.
    • This means eliminating any poetic moment (and there are lots in Homer) in which death is described negatively or in which the afterlife is described as bad.
    • They also agree that no poetry should be allowed which shows role models and heroes lamenting or grieving about the death of a loved one. If death is an honorable and necessary reality, intelligent people aren't going to be sad that someone else has died.
    • Socrates also objects to grieving because it is an immoderate and ostentatious show of emotion, something he doesn't think is very macho or philosophical. For this reason, he also thinks they shouldn't allow too much laughter, either.
    • Next, they return to the topic of lying and repeat the idea that lying should only be tolerated as a necessary tool for the benefit of the city. For this reason, only guardians should be allowed to lie, and only if they know it will help the city—just as only a doctor should prescribe medicines, since only a doctor can understand which medicines will help a sick person, and under what conditions.
    • They also want to educate the youth in how to be moderate and temperate, avoiding extremes and being obedient. Socrates thinks that the areas of sex, drinking, and eating are where people are most likely to be immoderate, so they agree that they should ban any poetry that depicts a god or hero indulging in any of these.
    • They also don't want their youngsters to be too fond of receiving money and gifts for doing good deeds, so they (unsurprisingly) remove any stories that describe something like that.
    • Socrates also makes sure to mention that poetry should never depict the gods raping women (which, if you've read Ovid, you'll know happens all the time).
    • The idea is that if people read these kinds of things, they'll think that their bad deeds aren't that big of a deal, because, after all, the gods are out there doing whatever they want, whenever they want.

    They Discuss Poetic Form

    • The gang finally wraps up its discussion of what poetry should represent by saying that it should never depict happy people as unjust. Instead, poetry should be used as a tool to promote the idea of justice.
    • Before leaving the topic of poetry, however, Socrates up and decides that he needs to talk not only about what poetry describes but also how poetry describes what it describes. Socrates is just not letting this go.
    • In the course of this discussion, Socrates identifies three kinds of narration that you'll find defined below: 1) narration that is both simple and imitative (mixed), 2) narration that is simple and without imitation, and 3) narration that is the entirely imitative.
    • Socrates explains that many stories usually involve something called imitation, which is pretty much just what it sounds like: stories, even totally made up ones, involve objects, people, themes, and events that mimic, copy, or imitate real life. Imitation is what makes stories and poetry seem real.
    • Socrates explains this concept with a specific example from the beginning of Homer's Iliad, when a priest named Chryses begs the leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, to return his daughter.
    • Socrates describes how in the Iliad, Homer is the narrator of everything (we'd call this a third-person omniscient narration). That means that Homer's narrator talks about all the events and gets inside the heads of all the characters. So this is what Socrates is calling mixed narration. When Homer is describing Chryses begging, he tries to really sound just like someone begging and pleading. Why? Because he wants us to forget about the narrator Homer and just focus on the character Chryses.
    • Socrates differentiates this kind of narration from another kind of narration that he calls simple narration. Simple narration just describes the events without dialogue, so the narrator never "pretends" to speak like one his characters; he always just speaks like the narrator. In simple narration, imitation is pretty minimal.
    • Narration in which there is only imitation and no narrator is what you find in tragedy and theater: just characters, no narrator.
    • What they need to decide for their city now is whether they will allow poets to imitate 1) anything, 2) only certain things, or 3) nothing.
    • By way of answering this question, Socrates wonders if the guardian of their city should be an imitator. They all decide against this because it would distract the guardian from his proper job of ruling the city.
    • Furthermore, they need to keep in mind that imitation is just like various professions: you're only going to excel if you stick to one. They all agree, for example, that one person isn't going to be good at writing both tragedy and comedy. (If you're mystified by this comment, don't worry: most scholars are, too. It doesn't help, either, that Socrates says exactly the opposite thing at the end of another dialogue by Plato called the Symposium. Socrates often contradicts himself, so don't be too concerned.)
    • So, if the guardians engage in any kind of imitation, it should only be the imitation of virtuous actions and not of degrading ones, because Socrates worries that the more you imitate something, the more you'll naturally incline toward doing it—kind of like a bad habit.
    • As a result, they all agree that a good man should never imitate: women, madmen, animals, workers, angry people, and Donald Trump.
    • Socrates images two men, an enlightened one and an unenlightened one, both involved in imitation. The good one will only imitate the actions and language of a good person, because he will feel debased doing anything else. The unenlightened one, on the other hand, will imitate as many diverse and different things as possible, regardless of their quality and virtue.
    • Beyond the obvious fear of debasement and habit, Socrates is also more simply worried about the multiplicity of imitation, even for the good man. He reminds his listeners about how they all agreed that their republic would be a place where each person devoted him- or herself to doing one thing really well, so he's suspicious of anything that asks someone to engage in many and various things.
    • So, they all agree that even though these kinds of performers who both narrate and imitate and who are able to pretend to be all kinds of different things may be very popular, they won't allow them in their city.

    Music

    • After poetry, Socrates suggests that they move on to the topic of music.
    • They agree that music has three components: speech (we would say lyrics), harmonic mode (harmony), and rhythm. They suggest that both harmonic mode and rhythm develop out of the song's content.
    • Since they've already decided to eliminate wailing, lamenting, and drunkenness as music, they agree to eliminate forms of music from their republic that inspire or sound like these unacceptable states.
    • Socrates then suggests that the kinds of music they should allow to remain should be the kinds of music that either inspire courage in soldiers or inspire acts of piety, obedience, and devotion to the gods. We'll let you imagine what kind of jams those would be.
    • Since the kind of music performed in the city will be limited, the instruments allowed will also be limited: no lutes, harps, flutes or other many-stringed and many-toned instruments. The lyre, a basic cither, and a basic pipe will be the only kind allowed.
    • They all take a moment to congratulate themselves on purging so much from their city. According to them, this is a good sign, and it demonstrates their moderation.
    • They agree that rhythm should also be regulated so that only courageous and orderly rhythms will be allowed. They name some examples and decide which ones fit this model.
    • They all agree that in general, good rhythm is a necessary part of being graceful. They also agree that good rhythm, harmony, speech, and grace are all aspects of a good disposition and a good soul.
    • For this reason, Socrates suggests that they need to regulate not only poets but all craftsmen and musicians to make sure that they produce objects of harmony and grace. This will allow children to grow up surrounded by things that will incline them toward goodness and obedience.
    • Moreover, Socrates thinks that because music leaves such a profound impact on the human soul, it is the most crucial part of a moral education. He again says that there is a deep connection between harmonious music and harmonious living. He suggests that a virtuous person is most able to appreciate and value harmonious things, while someone ignorant of virtue will not. He suggests that the virtuous would therefore not want to see something ugly and defective.
    • Here, Adeimantus quickly jumps in to say that it's okay if someone is physically "defective." The problem is if they are morally so.
    • Socrates agrees and then brings up the topic of sex. Since sex often involves excessive pleasure instead of moderation, he says they're going to need to carefully regulate that as well. He reminds the gang that real love is not about excessive physical pleasure, so men who are really in love should only kiss their lovers, and "his intercourse with the one for whom he cares will be such that their relationship will never be reputed to go further than this" (403b).
    • (It's unclear exactly what Socrates means here: should intercourse be only kissing or just appear to be only kissing?)
    • Brain bite interruption! It's clear in the preceding discussion of sex that Socrates is only referring to sex between men, a very common practice in Greek society known as pederasty, which involved a sexual relationship between an older man and a younger one. Heterosexual sex, for Socrates, often seems to be more a question of reproduction than a question of love or pleasure, so that's why it doesn't come up here.

    Athletics and Health

    • The next topic to be considered is the topic of fitness, food and health. Since they all agree that a healthy soul will naturally want to have a healthy body, fitness and healthy eating are crucial.
    • For fitness, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that they propose a moderate exercise routine, avoiding the excessive practices of some of the most intense athletes.
    • They agree that a diet free from rich, complex, and sweet foods is best. They compare these healthy practices to music and again praise simplicity and harmony in all things over too much variety and disorder.
    • They go on to say that a lack of simplicity can lead to licentiousness, which in turn leads to sickness. Too much sickness will overload both the city's hospitals and its law courts.
    • Socrates says that he doesn't really believe that good, educated people should ever need lawyers, and they should rarely need doctors. They shouldn't need lawyers because they should be completely comfortable with their own knowledge of justice, and they should only use doctors when they've been nobly injured in war. He thinks it's shameful to need a doctor's help just because you're lazy and have a poor diet (this seems to be a very common problem in Athens at the time).
    • Socrates also condemns a historic doctor named Herodicus who invented potions and strategies for keeping the sickly alive while allowing them to remain sickly. Socrates sees this as simply delaying death and says that you only see the wealthy doing this kind of thing (because they have the luxury of having nothing to do). A craftsman would simply be treated and get better because he would have to get back to work.
    • Socrates suggests that doctors should only treat the kinds of people who deserve to be treated. A hypochondriac, or someone so obsessed with his or her body that he or she doesn't have time for anything else, is useless to the city and shouldn't even reproduce. (Harsh, we know.)
    • Socrates does concede that they still will need some doctors, and he suggests that these doctors ought to be the very best. He offers a very odd idea for what kind of doctor is the best. He thinks a doctor who has been very sick himself, and one who has seen a lot of sick bodies on top of that, will have the best understanding of how to treat sickness. This is totally different from the requirements for lawyers or judges: as agents of justice, they must be completely unfamiliar with injustice.
    • Socrates goes on to say that a judge ought to be old and experienced—and he must be someone who has been virtuous from a young age, not someone who has done a lot of bad deeds in the past. He goes even suggests that just as the sickly should be allowed to die, a justice system should exist to kill those who aren't virtuous. That will also be a good deterrent for young people.
    • Socrates thinks that a virtuous person will pursue both music and athletics not for the sake of either but in a way that makes both of them good for his soul. Someone who is completely devoted to music becomes soft and unable to attend to other things, while someone completely devoted to athletics becomes hard and overly aggressive.
    • The guardians, therefore, must have both, but they must have them in moderation in order to avoid the excesses of either: they must be harmonious.
    • Socrates then goes on to describe in more detail the kinds of errors that certain excessive characters make. Someone obsessed with music, as he already mentioned, will become unable to fight and will lose his will to be courageous. Someone too spirited becomes aggressive and irritable. Someone who devotes himself fully to strength and bodybuilding, to the exclusion of philosophy, will become savage, not courageous.
    • Since it's clear that the best people are those who combine the best qualities of both musicality and athleticism in moderation, the gang moves on to determine who will rule both the city and the guardians (it looks like there needs to be a top guardian to keep all the other guardians in check).
    • They agree that this ruler must be old and of the best kind of virtue. He must always be inclined to do whatever will be to the best advantage of the city.
    • Socrates suggests that they'll be able to identify this kind of person by carefully watching good candidates as they grow and develop.
    • Because ruling the city is such an important job, and because even wise men can lose faith or be deceived, Socrates insists they go to extra special lengths to ensure that they choose not only the wisest person to govern, but also the one least likely to change his mind or be persuaded for the wrong reasons. Socrates recommends setting up tests for the young to see which ones falter and which ones stay true to what they know is best.
    • Once they identify someone with these superior qualities, he will be named the ruler and will be given various honors and memorials. They all decide that the title of this person will be "complete guardian" (not so creative, it's true).
    • Next, Socrates wants to see if they can imagine a lie, or a story, that such a guardian would need to tell, the kind of story they described earlier, which would be necessary for the well-being of the city.
    • Socrates tells a little story about how the guardians would tell the citizens of the city that they weren't actually the children of their parents, but the children of the earth, which would mean that all were brothers. The story would also go that each child was born of gold, silver, bronze, or a mixture. This would designate their future role in the city (you can guess which kind of kid would be the best).
    • Basically, Socrates thinks that the guardians need a kind of myth in order to make the citizens of the city care about each other and about the city instead of about private property and about themselves: this is the kind of lie he thinks a guardian can tell.
    • The gang goes on to discuss the organization and layout of the city. They suggest that there will be a specific, set place for a military camp.
    • They then agree that there will be no private property except for necessities, and all homes will be open and free for anyone to come in and out of. All citizens will be given the proper amount of food by the guardians. They will be told that silver and gold are already present within their souls. They shouldn't have anything to do with the actual precious materials, since these materials tend to make people greedy and base.
  • Book IV

    • Adeimantus wants to know how in the world Socrates can defend creating a city like this where none of the things that make people happy are available or possible: gifts, wealth, relaxation, parties, travel, etc.
    • Socrates responds that Adeimantus is thinking about happiness in a way that is too narrow. Their city will be the happiest because they are interested in what will make the most number of people happy; they're not interested in just a particular happy few. Socrates says that it's just like painting a statue: the whole statue will be beautiful if things are painted as they should be. If someone only wanted the eyes to be as beautiful as possible and put lots of weird colors on them, they would no longer look like eyes, and the beauty of the entire statue would be ruined.
    • This city will have true guardians who actually care about the city. The rulers of most other cities just care about having lots of money and parties, which is why so many other cities are miserable.

    Wealth and Poverty

    • Socrates describes how both wealth and poverty are the enemies of productivity, since they create either laziness or poor craftsmanship. They all agree that the guardians should be careful to make sure that the city suffers from neither of these conditions.
    • Adeimantus is worried, however, that their republic will be at a disadvantage in waging war if they have no wealth and other cities do. But Socrates says this isn't an issue at all, since their republic will be rich in wisdom, a far more important aspect of war than money. He even bets that their republic could take on two other cities.
    • Adeimantus seems mostly persuaded, but he's still worried about the ability of other big cities to accumulate wealth and power. Socrates then takes issue with the fact that Adeimantus is even thinking about these places as "cities." After all, they are (or will soon be) so large, bloated, and overpopulated that they really would amount to multiple cities. To avoid this problem in the republic, Socrates recommends charging the guardians with the task of keeping the city at an exact size, neither too large nor too small.
    • This fits in, Socrates says, with the city's overall goal of keeping things moderate and appropriate to what they are. If children, no matter what group of people they are born into, appear to have the qualities of a different group of people, they will be relocated so that "friends have all things in common" (423e).
    • If the guardians do their job, things in the city should just follow a nice, regulated cycle.

    More on Education

    • Socrates and company still need to be particularly cautious about regulating those poets and making sure that all new music fits the rules. Socrates thinks this is something particularly important, since music is kind of seductive. On top of that, young children are totally impressionable, so if they aren't educated well right from the beginning, they're pretty much doomed.
    • The benefit of a good early education, however, is that fewer details of adult behavior will need to be regulated: everyone will be a virtuous and good citizen already. In fact, Socrates thinks you can only effectively regulate education, not specific behaviors.
    • As a result, they all agree that legislating trade and commerce is not necessary, since virtuous people will naturally conduct themselves honestly. Socrates talks about how foolish people are who think that laws and legislation, like drugs and medicines, are the best cure for bad behavior. Really, laws and legislation are useless, since the only way to prevent bad behavior is good education.
    • Socrates compares the task of men trying to fix a bad republic with more and more laws to Hercules fighting the Hydra, the monster that produces two new heads for every one cut off. Laws just end up producing more bad behavior.
    • So, they agree that they don't need to come up with any more legislation. They also agree to leave the issue of religion and religious practices to the enlightenment of the god Apollo.

    Back to Justice in the Republic (Finally)

    • Socrates thinks that now that they've set up this imaginary city, they can try and figure out where in this city justice exists.
    • They agree that since they've created a city that is perfectly good, it is also, by definition, wise, courageous, moderate, and just. What Socrates recommends they do is try to identify where each of these qualities lies. After that, justice will be left over, so they'll know where and what it is.
    • First, they guess where wisdom might be found in the city: in the guardians who have the greatest knowledge. This knowledge isn't specific knowledge—like the knowledge of carpentry, for example—but a more general kind of knowledge about how to care for the city as a whole. They also agree that the guardians possessing this knowledge will be a very small in number—unlike those who know a lot about things like carpentry, who will be many in number.
    • Next, they consider courage and decide that this is located in their soldiers. But the kind of courage Socrates is interested in isn't just about not being afraid. Socrates sees courage as persevering in your convictions. He suggests that with the right education, the soldiers will be brave because they are certain of what's right. He compares this process to the process of color dyeing, in which you have to treat the fabric first to make sure the color doesn't wash out.
    • Then they think about moderation. They decide that moderation involves ordering and mastering desires and pleasures. They agree that their city has been designed on just this principle, since the guardians act as masters over the rest of the population. But since both the guardians and the citizens are in agreement about how the city should be run, it's clear that moderation, unlike wisdom and courage, exists throughout the whole city, not just in certain parts. Moderation makes everyone, weak and strong, work together.
    • It's the moment of truth, since now they have to discover where justice exists in the city. It seems like it might be a difficult journey.
    • Suddenly, Socrates realizes what they've been missing. He says it's been right in front of them this whole time: justice exists in the principle they established in the beginning, in which each person would excel at the single thing for which they are most suited. In this way, justice is kind of like the virtue of minding your own business.
    • Justice is also the principle that enables all the other virtues of the city— wisdom, courage, and moderation—to exist and be preserved.
    • Socrates explains that one way of coming to this conclusion was by thinking about which of the four virtues of the city was most important. He realizes that the city was best served by the fact that everyone knew his or her place.
    • Furthermore, he thought about how in the area of law and judgment, justice was also crucial because it ensured that everyone was given what was already theirs.
    • What's important for the smooth functioning of the city is exactly this organization based on natural capability. It wouldn't be too disruptive if various craftsmen switched jobs, just as long as the jobs got done. But it would be incredibly disruptive if classes switched places, so that a solider tried to build houses and a house builder tried to fight.
    • Here, for the first time, Socrates clearly lays out the three classes that will exist in this city: a general class of craftsmen, a class of soldiers, and a class of guardians.
    • It's agreed that in the city, justice will consist of everyone doing his or her job, while injustice will consist of everyone failing to do so.

    Justice in the Individual

    • Socrates wants to go way back to the problem that started this whole conversation, which is what justice looks like in an individual. He hopes that the way justice functions in a city will be a good model for how it functions within a single person.
    • Since justice in the city is linked to the neat organization of three classes, Socrates needs to find the equivalent of those classes within one person. What he proposes is that there are three parts of a single soul that need to work together harmoniously for there to be justice.
    • Glaucon thinks this is an important idea and wants to explore it further.
    • Socrates suggests that a city must have the three categories of people because three distinct drives—a drive for procreation and food, a drive for spirit, and a love of learning—are distinct parts of human nature itself.
    • What Socrates wants to know now is whether all our actions come from the exact same part of ourselves or if there are three distinct parts that each govern their respective qualities and actions.
    • In order to answer this question, the group first needs to establish a basic understanding of how parts and wholes operate. Socrates wonders whether something can ever do one thing and the opposite thing at the same time (for example, to be still and to move at the same time). To figure this out, he uses the example of a person who is standing still but waving his arms. He says that we wouldn't think of this as oppositional; we'd think that this person had two distinct parts, one of which is moving and one of which is still.
    • It seems they've established that opposites can never exist in the very same thing at the same time, so now Socrates wants to figure out a bit more about opposites in the soul. He imagines that the soul is capable of two opposite motions: desiring (bringing in) and not desiring (thrusting out).
    • Socrates imagines that the most intense desires the soul feels are hunger and thirst. And even though there can be differences in exactly how the soul wants to satisfy those desires (maybe I want some water, but you want a strawberry smoothie), thirst will always be a desire for a drink (no one gets thirsty for some chicken fingers).
    • Socrates then wonders about knowledge and suggests that there is general knowledge, which aims at learning in general, but there are also specific kinds of knowledge. That means that knowledge about sickness and health, for example, is called medicine. It's a specific kind of knowledge; it's not knowledge in general. Socrates compares this to thirst being only about drink.
    • What Socrates really wants to understand, he reveals, is why people don't always act on their desires—why, for example, it's entirely possible for someone thirsty not to drink. Because they agreed before that a certain thing can't do two opposite things, it's clear that it doesn't make sense to say that "thirst" can hold someone back from drinking.

    The Three-Part (Tripartite) Soul

    • Socrates suggests that something separate from thirst holds the person back, and that this is something calculating and rational.
    • Here's where it gets real, so perk up those ears. Socrates claims that the soul has two distinct parts: 1) a rational, calculating part and 2) a desiring, irrational part.
    • But remember how the republic has three, not two classes? Well, if we want these models to nicely align (and Socrates says we do), we have to deal with the fact that one part is missing. Socrates says it's the spirited class (soldiers) and wonders if the spirited quality should be seen as just an aspect of the rational or irrational part or if it should be given its own distinct part of the soul.
    • Socrates imagines that most people associate this spirited quality with anger, which makes everyone think that maybe the spirited class is just another part of the desiring, irrational part of the soul. But Socrates points out that anger can be a calculated and rational reaction as well; this explains why people get angry at themselves for doing something they know they shouldn't. This is a good quality.
    • Glaucon adds that spirit seems to be very prevalent in children, sometimes without either of the other parts of the soul—so they all agree that since spirit can either align itself with desires or with rationality, it ought to be its own third part of the soul.
    • Since their city has offered a nice model for thinking about the individual soul, Socrates turns toward the issue of just behavior. He believes that here, too, the model of the city will be useful.
    • Just as the city was wise, courageous, moderate, and just, so too must the individual soul be. Also, the city was just because each class of people minded their own business, so it follows that the just person is someone who keeps each part of his or her soul minding its own business.
    • The soul should be organized like the city, so that, just as the guardians rule the city, the rational and calculating part of the soul should rule, while the spirit, like the obedient soldiers, should help the rational part out.
    • Socrates imagines that a good education of music and athletics (like the one they've already described) will suit the individual very well and make the rational and spirited parts of the soul able to govern the third, irrational part. They will need to make sure that the irrational part never gains control. In particular, they want to always check the irrational part of the soul's desires for money and superficial pleasures.
    • The other qualities of the good city follow. People will be courageous if their spirited parts follow the guidance of their rational parts; they'll be wise if their rational parts know what is most beneficial for the whole body; and they'll be moderate if all three parts of their souls work together in harmony.
    • Socrates believes they've constructed a perfectly just man and suggests that knowing how this man operates would make it hard to believe that he would do anything unjust: no theft, betrayal, adultery, or irreverence.
    • The reason Socrates thinks the just man would never do these things is that each part of his soul is minding its own business and doing what it does best.
    • Socrates then reminds the group that when he speaks of things "minding their own business," he's really only speaking of an internal action. He doesn't literally mean that a shoemaker should absolutely only think about shoes, for instance. The just man will set his own self and home in such good order that he can, with rationality and good intention, turn his mind to various topics: money, politics, etc. He can do this because he can trust in the harmony and good judgment of his own soul.

    Injustice in the Individual

    • Now that it seems they've conclusively discovered what justice means and where it comes from, Socrates wants to consider injustice.
    • Since order and harmony in the soul lead to justice, it follows that injustice involves some kind of disunion, which Socrates images as a kind of rebellion.
    • In this rebellion in the soul, all the parts of the soul are meddling in places they shouldn't, and parts that shouldn't be in control are trying to take control.
    • Socrates compares justice and injustice to health and sickness. He says that just as health is when the body is ordered and functioning according to nature, so too is justice when the soul is ordered and functioning according to nature. The opposite is true for sickness and injustice, both of which involve a violation of a natural order.
    • Virtue is therefore like health and beauty, while vice is like sickness and ugliness.
    • Even though they've established quite a bit about virtue and vice, Socrates still wants to definitely show that injustice isn't just bad—it's also unprofitable.
    • Glaucon thinks this is kind of silly: they've so clearly shown that justice is natural, so how could anyone profit while living contrary to nature?
    • Socrates agrees it's silly but thinks they ought to do it, anyway. He says that while virtue has only one form, vice comes in all kinds of forms. (It's kind of like that first line from Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.)
  • Book V

    • Socrates says that he believes this one form is a good kind of city, while there remain four kinds of bad cities.
    • Socrates is about to describe these forms and explain what he means when Polemarchus gets up, pulls his cloak over himself, and begins whispering to the other listeners.
    • It turns out that Polemarchus wants to hear more about something Socrates brought up earlier only in passing, which was the concept that friends have all things in common.
    • Moreover, before Socrates starts talking about the bad kinds of government, they want to know about other aspects of this good republic they've just created: they want to know how children are raised, and they want to know about the role of women.
    • Socrates says that they've brought up some big topics. He says he intentionally avoided them earlier because he knew how tricky and complicated they would be.
    • The others remind Socrates that they are there to discover the truth. On top of that, since they all believe that these kinds of questions really deserve a lifetime of investigation, taking more time right now is not a big deal for them.
    • Socrates responds that part of the challenge is that he already has some doubts about their whole project. How perfect is their city, really, and is it even possible for such a place to exist?
    • Socrates says he feels especially hesitant because he doesn't want what's merely an investigation of a possible truth to be taken for an absolute and certain truth by his friends—who might, as a result, be led astray if he turns out to be wrong.
    • Glaucon assures Socrates that no one will hold him responsible if the argument turns out to be unhelpful or wrong.

    Women in the Republic

    • With this in mind, Socrates begins to speak about children and women. He suggests that women might be part of the guardian class and goes even further to say that if this is the case, they would need to get the same education and training the men get.
    • Everyone agrees, though they also admit that this is quite contrary to the way things are usually done.
    • Socrates says that even though it seems ridiculous, if their argument takes them there, then that's the just way it is. This will mean that women of all ages will also work out naked in the gyms along with the men. If that sounds absurd, they should all remember that it wasn't so long ago that people thought men exercising naked together was ridiculous, too. Once people realized the benefits of working out naked (Socrates doesn't explain what those might be), it became the sensible thing to do. Unless something can be shown to be actually negative or positive, Socrates says you shouldn't let ridiculousness influence you.
    • So, Socrates wants to really delve into the question of whether women can do the same things that men can.
    • Everyone agrees that women and men have different natures and so should be responsible for different things. But Socrates points out that this conclusion contradicts what they just decided a moment ago, that women should be trained and educated like men.
    • Socrates says they seem to have got themselves into a real mess of contradiction. But the real problem, he says, is not so much that there is contradiction, but that they aren't being precise with their terms. The main issue here is the concept of same and different natures. What exactly do they mean by this?
    • Socrates uses an example to clarify the problem. While it's obviously the case that someone bald and someone with long hair are different, no one would go so far as to say they have different natures, or that they couldn't both make equally excellent shoemakers.
    • Socrates suggests that a man who is an excellent doctor and a man who is an excellent carpenter are actually more different, as individuals, than a good male doctor and a good female doctor would be.
    • What Socrates concludes is that even though men and women are obviously different, they need to figure out whether this difference is superficial, or whether it actually applies to their abilities. If the only difference men and women have is one of genitalia and reproduction, then this is not a meaningful difference, says Socrates.
    • Socrates wonders if there are activities that either women or men are naturally better at, but they all conclude that while there are activities men and women are typically responsible for, this doesn't necessarily correlate with their natural inclinations. In fact, it seems that various talents and abilities are spread between men and women equally.
    • Having decided this, they agree that men shouldn't be in charge of everything and that women should be able to be guardians just like men. Even though they are physically weaker, women will be trained in both music and athletics.
    • Socrates comments that it seems that his earlier doubts are being calmed since after this analysis of gender, it's clear that the gender inequality in Greek society is wrong. Their city, however, has correctly perceived the nature of things.
    • Socrates says that because their city is structured so as to produce (in the form of the guardians) the best possible men and women, their city really has succeeded in being the best city.
    • Everyone agrees and goes on to say women will do all the things men do, including working out naked, although they still think women should take the "lighter" tasks due to their comparative weakness.

    Children and Families in the Republic

    • Next, Socrates makes an even more shocking suggestion. He says that women will not belong to any particular man but to everyone. Similarly, children will belong to the whole community and won't have a specific family; they also won't know their particular parents.
    • Socrates says he'd like to skip over whether or not such a thing would be possible and just operate under the assumption that it could be. That way, he can just get on to describing how it would work.
    • Socrates describes how the guardians will be in charge of this whole system. They will choose which groups of women and which groups of men best fit together.
    • Everyone will live together in a kind of dorm-style communal living situation. They'll sleep, eat, and train together. Since they'll be doing all this stuff together, all the time, sometimes naked, you might imagine that sex will just naturally occur.
    • However, Socrates isn't really okay with that idea, since he doesn't believe that sex should be so random, both for practical reasons and moral ones. He compares the practical reasons to breeding animals, and he points out how important it is for the best animals to breed with the best and the ordinary with the ordinary. He thinks this is how people ought to reproduce, too.
    • However, since it seems unlikely that people would agree to do this on their own, he thinks the guardians will need to establish a ritual of marriage so that they can orchestrate human breeding this way. Of course, he says, they'll have to invent some rituals for courting, too, so that people will think it's all random.
    • Socrates recommends that good men and good soldiers should be rewarded with having the most sex so that they father the most number of children.
    • The gang agrees that children should all be raised together by certain citizens who have the job of raising children. Deformed children will be hidden away. Uhh.
    • Women who have just given birth will be put on a kind of breastfeeding rotation, and those in charge will make sure that the women don't know which children are their own children and don't breastfeed any single child for too long.
    • They also agree that children should only be born to men and women in their prime: men between the age "when he passes his swiftest prime at running" (around age 25) to 55 and women between 20 and 40 (460e).
    • If anyone violates this rule, they will end up producing children born without protection, care, or happiness, and these children will be doomed to a horrible life.
    • Men and women past their prime can have sex with whomever they want, as long it's not someone they are closely related to. (Socrates doesn't explain how this idea really fits with his whole marriage idea from earlier.) A child born from incest will be executed.
    • Glaucon asks—and we were wondering, too—how people will know their family members in order to avoid sleeping with them if there aren't really any families.
    • Socrates says they will base this information on the timing of their birth, so that every single child born at a certain time will know their "brothers and sisters" and their "fathers and mothers," but only as a big group, not as particular individuals. We're still not totally sure how that would play out, but Socrates seems okay with it.

    Community in the Republic

    • Now that it seems like they've nicely established the community of the city, Socrates again wants to ask about the best kind of community they should strive for. He suggests that the worst kind would produce disunity and lack of cooperation.
    • Socrates says that in order to produce harmony, they need everyone to be on the same page and to experience the same kinds of happiness and sadness. The only way to ensure this agreement is by eliminating private property, because private things cause people to worry about their own little worlds and not the great communal world.
    • A good city, Socrates says, should be like a single person, so that when one person hurts, the whole city hurts.
    • Now that they've established the qualities a good city should have, Socrates wants to look back at their city and see if it's the best... or if there might be other cities that are better.
    • Socrates examines the terminology used in other cities to distinguish between various groups: citizens call each other "citizen"; they call their rulers either "master" (usually) or just "ruler" (in a democracy).
    • In their republic, the citizens call their rulers not only ruler but also "savior" and "auxiliaries" (that just means "helpers"), while the rulers call the people "wage givers" and "supporters."
    • In other cities, the rulers call the people "slaves" and call fellow rulers "fellow rulers," while the guardians call each other "fellow guardians" (463b).
    • Socrates then suggests that rulers typically view other rulers as outsiders, while their guardians view fellow guardians as friends and even family.
    • Socrates further thinks that because the citizens of their city view themselves as family, they will treat each other with the honor and respect due to them and will share almost everything in common. Socrates seems really into the idea that calling things different names changes them.
    • Since everyone will live together and share things in common (they'll be given housing and food as a wage for their help to the city), people will not be inclined to hoard things for their own use; as a result, they'll avoid having their own, personal problems.
    • There also won't be any lawsuits, since there won't be a sense of private or personal things or gains. There will be very little assault or violence, since everyone will have been so properly educated.
    • People will live in peace since they don't divide themselves into cliques. Poor and rich won't exist as categories.
    • Socrates and company imagine that the guardians of their city will be even more blessed than a famous, victorious Olympic athlete, since they will feel a sense of complete support from an entire city, and their victory will be one of great lasting preservation.
    • Socrates says that this now addresses a problem raised much earlier about whether the guardians could be happy without any possessions. Socrates says that at this point in their argument, it's obvious that the guardians would be happy. Furthermore, if a guardian comes up with some other childish and self-serving idea of happiness, he'll cease to be a guardian.
    • Socrates double checks to see if his listeners really do agree that women and men should engage equally in the responsibilities of the city. They do. He now wants to consider whether such a community would even be possible.

    War in the Republic

    • Socrates starts with the issue of war. He says that everyone will fight against a common cause. Children raised to be soldiers will come and watch the battle so as to begin to learn their profession. Socrates also believes that people always fight harder when their children are watching.
    • Glaucon is worried about this idea, however, because if the army loses, they will lose not only their soldiers but also their children.
    • Socrates thinks this is a risk worth taking since it's so important for children to learn the art of war. He also says that leaders will only send children to wars that are likely to be won. Furthermore, children will be taught how to ride horses from a young age so that they can make a quick escape. (We're trying to picture this. We're having a hard time.)
    • The men all agree that cowards and deserters will be demoted from the position of soldier to the position of a craftsman. They won't try and rescue captured men. Classy.
    • The best soldiers will be greatly honored by the city with rewards and good food. They'll be allowed to kiss whomever they love, male or female. It'll work out well if they end up producing good children in the process.
    • They also agree that those who die bravely in battle will be honored greatly. They'll be buried with respect, and their tombs will be constantly cared for. Citizens who are especially good will also be honored this way when they die.
    • They think that only barbarian (non-Greek) enemies should be enslaved when they are defeated, while fellow Greeks should not.
    • They also don't like the practice of stripping all the possessions of a corpse, since it's greedy and small-minded.
    • They won't bring the weapons of a defeated enemy into a temple—especially the weapons of a Greek enemy—because that would be insulting and disrespectful.
    • Socrates also doesn't want anyone to ravage and burn the countryside of defeated Greek cities. Instead, he recommends that they destroy the harvest for just one year because he wants Greek enemies to think of each other as temporary enemies who hope to be reconciled. In fact, he thinks conflicts between Greeks should be called simply a disagreement among similar people.
    • Barbarian enemies, on the other hand, are true enemies, because they are of an entirely different nature from the Greeks. If you say so, Socrates.
    • They all agree, therefore, that since the city they have founded is Greek, it will consider other Greeks its friends and will deal with them fairly and moderately even in conflict: no ravaging and burning, no indiscriminate killing of people. Instead, the city will try to punish only those who are to blame. In general, the city will seek friendship and peace.
    • Glaucon is convinced that this city is the best. He also thinks it will be the best at fighting because the soldiers will consider one another close as family—and because there will be women to help out too. What he wants to be convinced of now is whether such a city could ever possibly exist.
    • Although they don't quite understand how this relates, Socrates looks back and reminds everyone that they invented this whole city out of a desire to understand justice and injustice. He says, too, that the city worked for them as a model of justice and injustice and that the city was not constructed to prove that it could exist. Indeed, whether it could exist or not has no bearing on the rightness of their discussion of justice.
    • So, with this in mind, Socrates will still discuss the issue of whether the republic could actually exist. But he also points out that speech and action can never perfectly correspond. The city, therefore, can't exactly come to exist as they've described it. However, Socrates would like to consider other, real cities and understand why they aren't like the city they created.

    Philosophers as Kings

    • What Socrates decides is that cities need a philosopher, or at least a philosophically minded person, to be in charge. This is the most important aspect of a good city, in his view.
    • The others, however, are not satisfied: they want a more complete and detailed defense of why it's so important to have philosophers rule.
    • In order to explain this, Socrates needs to lay out some basics about philosophy. First, he wants to define what it means to truly love something.
    • (The word "philosophy" in Greek means a "love of wisdom," so love and philosophy are totally connected in Plato. Keep your eye out for other love/philosophy connections.)
    • Socrates explains that when you are truly passionate about something, you're not going to be passionate about only parts of it, but about all of it. He uses the example of someone who is in love with boys and explains how, because this person is so in love, he'll find good things about every single boy, turning even their faults (like a funny nose) into something cute and endearing. The same thing goes for wine. People who love wine always find things to like in any wine.
    • Socrates says this principle holds true for philosophy, as well. A lover of wisdom doesn't just love some parts of wisdom and not others; he loves all wisdom.
    • Glaucon interrupts here and says that if they are going to include people who are enthusiastic about all learning ever, they're going to have to include those people who love seeing beautiful things and listening to philosophical speeches and who run all over the place listening to every kind of speech ever.
    • But Socrates cautions Glaucon that these men have some things in common with philosophers but aren't philosophers themselves. A philosopher doesn't love hearing speeches and seeing beautiful things. Most fundamentally, he loves seeing and hearing the nature of truth itself. These other men might say they like beautiful things, but they aren't able to say what beauty itself as a concept even means.
    • Socrates goes on to suggest that the difference between the lover of beautiful things and the philosopher is kind of like the difference between being awake and asleep. The lover of beautiful things is asleep: since he doesn't actually understand the true form of beauty but only sees imperfect versions of beauty, he's kind of just seeing an illusion of beauty, not real beauty.
    • The philosopher, on the other hand, can see the true form of beauty. He's awake because he understands that anything other than the true form of beauty is an illusion.
    • Socrates suggests that the lover of beautiful things (who is asleep) is someone with opinions, while the philosopher is someone with knowledge.
    • Next, Socrates wants to consider how they might convince the man with opinions that he lacks knowledge, and this begins a fascinating (but difficult) discussion of the nature of knowledge. Let's keep on trucking, Shmoopers.
    • Socrates establishes that knowledge can only be the knowledge of something that exists. Ignorance, on the other hand, depends entirely on what doesn't exist. Socrates imagines there must be something in between knowledge and ignorance, so they should try to discover what that would be.
    • Socrates goes back to the idea of opinion and establishes that, like knowledge, it is based on something that exists. However, this something is still a different sort of something from the something knowledge is based on. (Say that five times fast.) Socrates distinguishes what each is capable of telling us by using the concept of power: knowledge and opinion rely on different powers.
    • Power is what makes something capable of doing something, so hearing and seeing are both kinds of powers. Powers are, furthermore, not objects—you can't touch them or see them—but you know they exist based on what they depend on and what effect they have.
    • They next establish that both knowledge and opinion are kinds of powers, but different kinds. Knowledge is obviously about things that are, but opinion is more difficult to pin down. Opinions obviously do relate to things that are (people can't have an opinion about nothing), but opinions also lack the certainty of knowledge.
    • What they all conclude is that opinion is that sneaky thing they were looking for earlier that is between knowledge and ignorance, between things that are and things that aren't.
    • Now, let's go back to our lover of beautiful things. If he denies that beauty is a single, philosophical principle but insists that beauty is just a collection of various objects he likes to look at, he'll be missing this basic point. Beautiful objects may be beautiful, but they can never embody 100% pure beauty; there is always something a little ugly or off about them. The same is true of anything. Even a light object has some heaviness; it's just more light than it is heavy.
    • So, what it all boils down to is that the lover of beautiful objects has lots of opinions, but he doesn't know anything, while the philosopher knows a lot and stays away from mere opinion.
    • Philosophers, they conclude, love things when they are fully and perfectly themselves in their ideal form.
  • Book VI

    Philosophers as Kings, Continued

    • Phew. Everyone is exhausted from that long discussion about the difference between philosophy and non-philosophy. Onward, Shmoopers.
    • Unfortunately, this is really just the tip of the argument. These dudes want to definitively differentiate the just life from the unjust one... and show that philosophers make the best rulers.
    • Now, one pretty obvious reason why philosophers might make the best rulers is that their philosophical outlook—which is interested in single, eternal truths—makes them truly able to see, while everyone else is metaphorically blind. And they agree (not very fairly, we might add) that everyone would rather have a seeing ruler than a blind one.
    • Another quality of the philosopher that makes him particularly good for leadership is his complete honesty. Why? Because philosophers love wisdom, and you can't have wisdom without truth... so the philosopher is also, necessarily, a lover of truth.
    • Also, because he's just so obsessed with wisdom and truth, the philosopher won't have time for other things, like the pleasures of the body or money. This will make him moderate, and that's something we already know Socrates thinks is great.
    • Just in case you weren't convinced that Socrates thinks philosophers are the bee's knees, he describes them this way, too: "To an understanding [you know, the kind of philosopher has] endowed with magnificence and the contemplation of all time and all being, do you think it possible that human life seem anything great?" (486a).
    • So, because philosophers are so awesome and know all these big, eternal truths, it keeps them really humble (no comment on that...) and also courageous, because they don't fear death.
    • Furthermore, the philosopher's soul will be nice and orderly: he won't be unjust; he will be a dedicated and fast learner; and he will never be forgetful.
    • The philosopher will also be naturally inclined to understand how all things ought to be understood and measured. He'll have a natural understanding of charm and proportion.
    • So, Socrates concludes, doesn't this philosophical guy sound like someone you'd ideally want to run a city?

    How Great Are Philosophers, Really?

    • Adeimantus says that Socrates has made a very persuasive argument. It's true that none of them can contradict the logical progression of it.
    • However, Adeimantus insists that this doesn't mean the world actually works like this. For example, the philosophers they all know are not at all like the man Socrates has been describing. The philosophers they know are... well, they're socially awkward, vicious weirdos who don't contribute to the city at all.
    • In order to answer this challenge, Socrates says he's going to tell a story as an analogy. Adeimantus makes fun of this.
    • So, here goes the analogy: a city is like a ship, and a philosopher is like the pilot. He's a good and skilled pilot, but he's a little deaf and shortsighted. Because he's a little deaf and shortsighted, the crew begins to complain. "Why does he get to be in charge?" they ask. Even though none of them are skilled at sailing, they all think they can do a better job. So the competition gets ruthless, some crewmen kill other crewmen just to make it to the top, and finally the crewmen capture the pilot, chain him up, and take over. Now, they are sailors, so they don't sink the ship or anything, but they don't run it well, and they soon find themselves in all kinds of difficulties since they don't appreciate the nuances of piloting. They don't understand how it requires knowledge of seasons and stars and all this other surprising stuff. The crew probably made fun of the pilot, saying he was kind of a weirdo, a stargazer who didn't do anything useful for the ship—but they were wrong.
    • The problem isn't that philosophers are useless to the city; the problem is that the city doesn't know enough to make use of them.
    • Socrates now wants to consider the possibility that the same qualities that make a philosopher so great—honesty, moderation, courage, obsession with the single truth, etc.—are also qualities that make the philosopher's life difficult and even prevent him from being philosophical.
    • The others are confused by this paradoxical idea and ask Socrates to elaborate.
    • First of all, since philosophical people are larger-than-life types, they really need to have the proper education to turn out well... it's kind of a higher-you-rise, harder-you-fall situation. Great people are capable of doing great evil if they aren't set on the right path.
    • Socrates now attacks a certain group of people he thinks are particularly to blame for the corruption of philosophy: the Sophists.
    • The what's-its? The Sophists, a famous enemy of Socrates in Plato, were a school of philosophers and teachers in Athens. Largely thanks to Plato, they've gotten such a bad rap that the word sophist now means someone who is interested only in persuading people and looking smart and who isn't actually interested in uncovering the truth. For a great, in-depth look check this out.
    • Socrates has a lot of problems with the Sophists: they use physical punishment against their students, they charge money for their teaching services, and worst of all, they have nothing but baseless opinions that they pass off as wisdom and knowledge.
    • Socrates suggests that a huge part of what's wrong with the Sophists' way of being is that they base their "wisdom" on what's popular and spend all their time around big crowds and lots and lots of people.
    • Socrates thinks this is a problem because the majority of people are incapable of being philosophers. In fact, he thinks that crowds are actually incapable of believing in philosophical principles.
    • The crowd will naturally judge the philosophers badly, since philosophy is a solo act.
    • A philosopher also has it rough for other reasons. Because he's so naturally talented, people will be naturally drawn to him and will probably start fawning over him and flattering him... if he's cute, it'll be even worse.
    • All this flattery will probably go to his head, and he'll become arrogant and think he can do whatever he wants. If someone then comes along and instead of flattering him tells him he doesn't know much yet, but can learn a lot if he devotes himself to the long and hard study of philosophy, do you think he'll be happy about that? Probably not.
    • And even if one of these charming young guys is convinced to follow philosophy, once he leaves off providing for his friends and family, they will start saying how bad and useless philosophy is and try to convince him not to follow that path.
    • See how few people will ever actually make it through the study of philosophy? In fact, the only men who do end up following philosophy are not necessarily suitable for it. Men who are already attracted to the arts seem especially likely to try out philosophy, thinking they are all similar (Socrates claims that philosophy and the arts are very different) and hearing that it's a way to get famous.
    • The very, very few people who are candidates for philosophy are people who have a noble character from birth; maybe a few who are clearly above their current craft; perhaps some to whom ill health has given a certain perspective; and, finally someone who has a "demonic sign," which is what he, Socrates, has (though he plays this way down).
    • Brain bite! A demonic sign? No need to worry, we're not talking about something from The Exorcist here—just a bit of Greek religion. Check out Socrates's "Character Analysis" for the full scoop.
    • These very few select philosophers are so aware of how honest and good their life is that they can't help but notice how nuts and dishonest other people are. They kind of feel like they're trapped in a den of wild animals.
    • So, you can't really blame philosophers for wanting to keep to themselves and remain distant from all the craziness.
    • Essentially, philosophers realize how crazy everything is, so they cut their losses and hope to at least do some good for themselves. But, if they lived in a community (maybe, ahem, like a certain one just invented) where philosophy was valued and encouraged, philosophers would do good not only for themselves but for others as well.
    • And so, because there isn't a single city or form of government in existence today that does encourage philosophy, there aren't very many good philosophers... and there are a lot of bad ones.
    • They all agree that the best kind of city to encourage philosophy would be the one they founded, where the rationale behind the laws always remains clear.

    A Philosophical City—Possible or Impossible?

    • Socrates now wants to consider how a city might become like their Republic and embrace philosophy without endangering the city. Every change or major alteration, says Socrates, carries a certain amount of risk.
    • The first thing that needs to change in order for philosophy to become encouraged is how and when philosophy is first embraced. Usually, young men pursue philosophy as a kind of hobby between childhood and adulthood. They do it for a little while, maybe think they've figured it all out, and then leave it alone when it's time to raise a family. They only return to it as a hobby in old age.
    • Well, this is wrong wrong wrong. Instead, Socrates recommends having young people study things appropriate to their age, like athletics. This will prepare them for philosophy later in life. In fact, they should go and have a career and only really pursue philosophy full time in middle age, when they should essentially retire and devote all their time to the study of philosophy.
    • Socrates's friends respond that they don't think many other people would be convinced by this model. Socrates says this isn't surprising since nothing like it exists. Also, people have never listened to this kind of argument before—one that comes from the heart and seeks truth as its only goal.
    • Socrates reminds everyone that even though what they're saying seems idealistic, it's not impossible. They would be obligated to fight for any city where such a philosophical rule might occur.
    • Socrates then asks Adeimantus if he thinks it likely that the majority of people would agree with this plan. Adeimantus is skeptical. However, Socrates thinks that the reason for this is simply that most people have an incorrect understanding of what a true philosopher is; once they understand, many people would be open to their plan. They all agree that these bad, obnoxious, quarreling "philosophers" are to blame for giving philosophy overall a bad name.
    • It's obvious that anyone who is truly interested in philosophical issues wouldn't have time for any of this quarreling nonsense.
    • They all agree that the true philosopher would be an excellent ruler, and that if most people understood what a true philosopher was like, they would agree.
    • Socrates outlines how the philosopher-rulers will give the city a clean slate: they will try to produce the best kinds of people, almost like chefs trying to produce the best dish, by mixing all the good parts together and by being guided by moderation and truth.
    • They all imagine that at this point they've made a pretty sound argument against anyone who would disagree with them. How could anyone disagree with the idea that philosophers love truth and have the best natures, always trying to follow the good? Won't they be convinced that no regime is good until it totally changes and becomes philosophical?
    • Adeimantus isn't as 100% sure about this as Socrates is, but Socrates goes ahead anyway and says they'll just pretend like they've completely persuaded everyone.
    • Good, says Socrates: then they've also agreed that a single, good ruler could turn a city around. It's more than likely that the citizens would happily go along with this.
    • So, what they've discovered is that creating a city like this would be difficult but definitely not impossible.

    Philosophers as Kings: The Nitty-Gritty Details

    • What they need to determine now is how exactly these rulers would take over ruling the city. They also need to figure out when the rulers would complete various parts of their studies.
    • Socrates admits that he was very nervous about sharing his ideas about women and children because he knows that radically true ideas are often met with anger. However, he now realizes how necessary it was to go through all that in detail, and he wants to describe the rulers with the same kind of detail.
    • Socrates reminds everyone that they agreed that the rulers would be very special people, completely devoted to the care of the city, no matter what occurs.
    • Socrates says that because these rulers are such special people, there will be very few acceptable candidates. Just how special, you ask? Super special, because these people will be the kind of people who combine larger-than-life awesomeness with intense moderation, balance, and self-control. They've got to be totally the coolest, but they can't be arrogant at all. That's not an easy combination to find.
    • In order to identify these uniquely awesome people, Socrates says they are going to need to rigorously educate and test them to see if they ever lose courage, or if they aren't up to the challenge of ruling.
    • The most important part of this rigorous education will be something Socrates hasn't directly discussed before, something greater than justice, moderation, wisdom, or courage: the idea of the good.

    The Good

    • Socrates says there's a lot of confusion about what "good" actually means. Many people believe that it simply refers to what's pleasurable, while some wiser people understand that it's something more like prudence, though they can't really define it beyond saying just that.
    • Furthermore, the people who define good as pleasure are totally confused, because even they would agree that some pleasures are bad. So then the good is also bad?
    • Socrates also observes that even though they noted earlier in their discussion that people often want to have a reputation for justice and fairness (even though they're neither just nor fair), with the good it's different: people actually want good for themselves.
    • Socrates explains that all souls seek out an understanding of what goodness is: that's their primary goal, but it's a tough one.
    • They all agree that even though it's tough, the guardians of their city will have to be the kind of people who understand the good. Only if they understand the good can so they understand justice and fairness.
    • But now Adeimantus wants to hear Socrates's definition of the good. Socrates initially dodges the question by asking Adeimantus whether he thinks it's good to hear people's opinions if they don't know something. They briefly argue about this until Glaucon intervenes and insists that Socrates define the good.
    • Socrates agrees, though he's a little worried about misleading everyone. He says that defining the good right now is very challenging, but he'll start instead with what he calls "a child of the good and most similar to it" (506e).
    • In order to begin, Socrates wants to remind everyone that there are things that are, which we can see and feel, and then there is the good itself, which is something we can only think about (we can't actually touch or see it).
    • Next, Socrates points out that unlike hearing, seeing requires an intermediary thing (in addition to the eyes and to the object being seen) that allows the object to be seen. What thing? Light.
    • And where does light come from? The sun.
    • So the sun is not the faculty of sight itself, but it's something that enables sight and something that enables objects to be seen.
    • Socrates compares the relationship between sight and the sun to the relationship between the intellect and the good: the good is what gives truth and power to things that are known.
    • This means that justice and truth are things that are like the good but that are not the same as the good.
    • So the sun enables life and helps things grow. The good is just like that: it enables life and it helps knowledge grow.
    • Glaucon is quite taken with the beauty of Socrates's image and begs him to continue to describe the good in detail.

    The Forms

    • Socrates says that there are two categories of things: 1) visible things and 2) intelligible things (things you can't see). In the visible world, there are two kinds of visible things: 1) images, like shadows, reflections, and pictures and 2) actual things.
    • Socrates then suggests that opinions (something he defined earlier) have the same relationship to knowledge as pictures have to real objects.
    • Next, Socrates says that there are two kinds of intellectual activities: 1) provisional thinking based merely on guesses and hypotheses—this goes on in mathematics all the time, for example—and 2) rigorous intellectual thinking that uses hypotheses as stepping stones to understand actual truths (what Socrates calls "forms").
    • This means that we can divide the intelligible world into two categories, just as we can divide the visible world into two categories: 1) mathematical suppositions and 2) forms.
    • So, in total, we have four subcategories: 1) shadows and pictures in the visible world, 2) actual objects in the visible world, 3) mathematical suppositions in the intelligible world, and 4) forms in the intelligible world. (Stick with us! We know this is confusing, but it's a key moment.)
    • Okay. Next, Socrates says that each of these subcategories has a corresponding activity: 1) imagination, meaning something like the understanding of images; 2) trust; 3) thought; and 4) intellection, which is just a fancy word for fancy, philosophical-argument based thinking.
  • Book VII

    The Allegory of the Cave (a.k.a. A Big Deal)

    • The next thing Socrates wants to explain is how all human beings are educated, and he does this with a (super famous) story (in this case an allegory) about a cave:
    • Imagine all of humanity is in a deep, enormous cave with one really long tunnel that leads out to a little speck of light.
    • Now, all these folks have been tied up since childhood so that they can't move and can only see what's in front of them. There's no looking side-to-side, or behind.
    • The only light they have in this cave comes from some fires, and in front of them there's this big shadow-puppet show going on, which projects all kinds of different things and shapes.
    • Glaucon interrupts and says this is a weird story, but Socrates says it's not that weird, because that's how we all live.
    • Socrates goes on. These people in the cave know nothing about how they really look, or about how anyone around them really looks; all they can see is what is reflected by the fire.
    • Socrates imagines that these prisoners talk to each other about the shadows they see projected. They give everything they see names, and they believe that the truth consists of just these shadows that are projected on the wall.
    • All right. Now imagine that one of these prisoners manages to free himself and is able to actually look around for the first time. He'll be partly blinded by all the unfamiliar light, and he won't know what to make of the actual objects he's seeing around him. If someone comes and tells him that his entire life up to this point has consisted of watching silly shadows, and that the real world is all around him, he'll freak and probably not even believe this person. And even if this person tries to point the fire out to him so that he'll understand the situation, the freed prisoner's eyes will burn, and he will much rather return to the shadows his eyes are able to see.
    • So, let's say this other person gets aggressive and literally drags our freed prisoner out into the sunlight. What will happen then? Well, the freed prisoner will be so utterly blinded by the light that he won't be able to see anything. He still may not believe what this other person had been claiming.
    • But slowly, as the freed prisoner becomes accustomed to the light, he'll be able to see shadows, then objects, then the reflection of the sun, and then the sun itself, which will allow him to begin to understand the seasons and the workings of the real world.
    • So now that the freed prisoner understands these things, he'll remember all the other prisoners in the cave and go to free them.
    • Now, in the cave, the prisoners have come up with all kinds of rewards and honors for the ones who can best describe or predict the shadow images that go by, but Socrates suspects that once freed, the former prisoner will not be interested in having those honors. Furthermore, if he tries to sit down with them and explain what he has seen, the others will laugh at him and say he is the one with some serious delusion issues and vision problems. In fact, if one of the other prisoners is able to free his hands, he'll probably kill the freed prisoner for disturbing the peace.
    • Now, Socrates explains that this story corresponds to their earlier conversation about the good.
    • The cave is this visible, actual world; the light in the fire is the sun; the process of going up and leaving the cave is the soul's journey toward the intelligible; and the real world revealed at the top is the idea of the good. Once you see the good, you desire nothing else.
    • Socrates says that it shouldn't be a surprise that those who have been enlightened seem a bit weird and crazy, because they are like the prisoner coming back into the cave, having to readjust to its darkness and being asked to have strong opinions about these silly shadows on the wall.
    • So, we shouldn't laugh at people who are transitioning from darkness to light, because even though it is disorienting at first, this process is ultimately a very good thing.
    • Education, therefore, isn't just about filling the soul with new information; it's more like a whole transformation in which the soul slowly gets used to thinking about and contemplating true reality.
    • The capacity to think about the true reality is already there; it's just often directed at the wrong thing.
    • Other virtues are added to the soul later, as it practices and learns the good—though this can, of course, be complicated by bad habits which drag the soul down and turns its vision away from the good.
    • So, it's clear that the city can't be guarded either by people who have had no education or experience with truth or by people who have immersed themselves too completely in education, since they won't have any public interests.
    • Instead, they need to make sure that the best kind of people get exactly the education they've been outlining: they need make the ascent out of the cave to see the good. And what's more, they need to make sure that these people don't just stay and hang out in the land of the good but go back down into the cave and try to share what they've learned with the others.
    • Glaucon is horrified by this idea: he thinks it will punish their philosopher-guardians. But Socrates reminds him that the most important job of the guardians is to care for everyone as a whole. This is completely crucial to the entire project, since each time these philosophers descend, they'll be better and better able to understand how foolish the shadows and darkness are. Their willingness to descend will also be a sign that they are actually excited about the reality of ruling and caring, which is something Socrates believes is crucial for a happy city.
    • In this way, the city will be governed by justice and will function harmoniously, since everyone will understand the necessity of his or her role.
    • Even though philosophers are not politically inclined, everyone agrees (for like the zillionth time, we know) that they will make the best leaders.
    • Next, Socrates wants to explain what kinds of education will enable the soul to make the ascent from darkness into light.
    • Socrates reminds everyone that the guardians can't just be intellectual; they need to be warlike, too, so that will have to factor into their education scheme.
    • Earlier, the group decided that the best education comprised of music and athletics. But athletics isn't stable enough: it deals with the body, which isn't immortal, so the group decide that athletics won't work.
    • Music won't work, either, because it teaches by similarity: you become harmonious by being exposed to harmony. These philosophers, though, will need to know. They can't just learn habits by means of similarities.

    The Study of Numbers and Calculations

    • What they decide is necessary is calculation and numbering, since that is a skill universally useful. It's applicable to pretty much everything.
    • Next, Socrates claims that different kinds of things and sensations produce different desires for intellectual consideration. On the one hand, there are simple things that appear to be obvious, so people don't give them a lot of thought. On the other hand, there are complex things, often things that seem to be contradictions, and people are naturally inclined to devote much time and thought to them.
    • These two categories also apply to the two categories of things Socrates established way back when: 1) the visible and 2) the intellectual. We don't necessarily think too hard about visual things, because things just look how they look. But when we think more deeply about something, about why it looks that way or how it could look that way, we are prompted to be more thoughtful. So, the intellectual world is more likely to foster deep consideration.
    • Now, since deep consideration is a way to escape the cave, it follows that the intellectual world is more likely to be of help in trying to accomplish this.
    • Going back to the study of numbers, Socrates wants to consider the idea of the number one. He asks whether the number one will make people think or not. The group agrees that it will make people think because, as a concept, it is kind of contradictory: it can represent a single thing, but it can also be used to describe a single multitude of things, like a single crowd.
    • So, they decide that the number one—and all other numbers, and the study of calculation in general—leads people to intense intellectual activity. Therefore, it leads them toward truth.
    • Socrates recommends that they make studying calculation a law. He wants philosophers to study it in such a way as to comprehend the intellectual meaning of numbers themselves. It shouldn't just be about the practical use of math for everyday needs.
    • Socrates continues to praise math as a wonderful way to contemplate the good because it so clearly exists in a realm beyond visible objects. Furthermore, because math is so complicated, people who are good at it tend to be good at everything else.

    Areas of Study that Lead to the Good

    • Next, Socrates wants to consider geometry. Glaucon says that geometry would definitely be a good idea, since it's so useful for war.
    • However, Socrates says that you only need to know a very little bit of geometry to make it useful in war, whereas he wants to determine the effectiveness of entire disciplines in preparing people for intellectual consideration.
    • Socrates suggests that even though some people talk about geometry in an overly practical way, it's actually quite intellectual because it deals with absolute, unchanging truths. For this reason, it is clearly a study that will lead to the good, and it should be part of education in their city.
    • Next, they consider astronomy. Glaucon immediately endorses it for all the useful things it can do. But Socrates again teases him for being so fixated on the useful, when what they really care about is the ideal. He says that they've actually jumped a bit too far ahead: after geometry, they should consider solid, 3D geometry.
    • Glaucon isn't as enthusiastic about this area of study, because he says it hasn't been really figured out yet. Socrates admits that's true, but he bets that if a city and intelligent people put their minds to it, a lot of progress could be made.
    • On to astronomy. Glaucon again endorses it, but this time it's because he's sure that anything that is the study of the heavens will be good for the soul.
    • Socrates isn't so convinced. He says that looking up at the heavens isn't the same thing as actually contemplating them. Since he believes the only kind of studies that lead to the good are the ones that involve a contemplation of things that truly are (and that are invisible), astronomy doesn't qualify.
    • Instead, Socrates recommends a different version of studying the heavens, one not concerned with movements and visual things but with the actual divine will embodied by the heavens.
    • After considering astronomy, Socrates wants to consider an area of study called antistrophe, which he says is the study of harmonic movement.
    • Socrates says the he doesn't want anyone in their city to be studying imperfect things, so they'll need to be careful about how their citizens study harmony.
    • They won't allow any study of harmony that involves poorly played instruments, and they'll only allow study that encourages a deeper understanding of numbers.

    Dialectic

    • They all agree that after having examined these various disciplines, it seems that they've chosen the best ones to lead an aspiring philosopher out of the darkness of the cave. Socrates says, however, that there is still one greater area of study they haven't considered. This one is the most crucial in enabling this path of enlightenment, and it's called dialectic.
    • Brain bite! Dialectic? Don't worry: this is just a fancy word that describes an argument where multiple people speak, voice different opinions, and hopefully, as a result, reach the truth. So, it's pretty much your typical kind of argument, but Plato is the guy who made it so famous.
    • Socrates again describes how the philosopher, having pursued dialectic and the rest of the education outlined, will be in a position where everything looks different: the phantoms of the cave will exposed as... yep, just phantoms.
    • Glaucon says that what Socrates says is completely convincing but, at the same time, still kind of hard to believe. He wants Socrates to talk more about what dialectic is and what forms it can take.
    • Socrates says this will be difficult: Glaucon might not be able to follow it, since such an inquiry will lead them to look at truth itself.
    • Socrates goes ahead, though, and says that dialectic alone has the power to reveal the greatest truths of philosophy.
    • The other disciplines they've mentioned—geometry, calculation, etc.—all help the mind understand bits and pieces of bigger truths, but they are still only concerned with the small part that pertains to their area of study. Dialectic is the area of study dedicated to the big picture of truth itself.
    • Socrates reminds Glaucon that earlier, they had outlined four categories of mental activity: 1) knowledge, 2) thought, 3) truth, and 4) imagination. The first two categories together were called "intellection" and the second two "opinion."
    • Socrates says they should maintain this system, and they should remember that the disciplines they've been discussing fall into the category of 2) thought. Intellection in general deals with being (the way things actually are), whereas opinion deals with things coming into being (attempts to understand the way things are). But Socrates wants to leave these categories alone for now and move on.
    • Socrates wants to talk about understanding and the role of dialectical thinking. He suggests that a dialectic person is able to understand the actual being of each thing, whereas someone who isn't dialectic isn't able to actually understand what things are, in and of themselves.
    • Understand what things are, in and of themselves, means understanding the idea of the good, not just being able to recognize a bunch of things you think are good (that's just having an opinion). Now, this isn't to say that sometimes opinions can't point in the right direction, or that opinions aren't sometimes able to lead to understanding. But even this understanding will only be partial, because it's still based on opinion and hasn't been thought about deeply enough to be considered knowledge.
    • Socrates asks about Glaucon's children. He wants to know whether Glaucon would allow them to become rulers of a city if they were clearly irrational. Glaucon assures him "no way."
    • Socrates makes sure Glaucon is on board with this whole dialectic-is-the-best thing. Glaucon is.

    More on Educating Philosopher-Kings

    • Now that they've outlined this educational program, they need to figure out who will learn it and how.
    • Socrates reminds them that they decided to choose rulers who were moderate, courageous, and, yep, good looking. He says they should add the following requirements: candidates should learn all the above disciplines quickly, easily, and with determination.
    • Rulers will also need to have good memories, and they should never be afraid of hard work. These qualities are especially important, because philosophy has gotten a bad rap lately as a result of less-than-stellar people taking it up.
    • A philosopher can't be the kind of person who only likes some things about philosophy; he has to be willing to do it all. He also can't be the kind of person who says he's against lying but actually accepts lies he hears all the time.
    • They need to be very careful to be on the lookout for the best men: they don't want to be in a situation where someone less awesome is chosen just because no one knew how to be a good judge of character.
    • If they do find someone who is the best of the best, it seems impossible that the city won't be just.
    • Socrates briefly apologizes for having got too emotional just then. He just hates the idea that philosophy isn't as respected and revered as it should be. Glaucon assures him he didn't come off as emotional, and they proceed.
    • Socrates reminds everyone that earlier they had suggested that the best leaders of the city would be older people, but with this new regime they've come up with, they now want to start young.
    • Children should be given all the education they've described, but it shouldn't forced on them; they want people who are naturally interested, not those who have been forced.
    • In fact, the best educators know that play, not strict discipline, is the best method for education, because it shows what children naturally incline toward. Socrates also reminds everyone that they decided to have children witness battles to learn warfare.
    • Often children have been exposed to all these various things. Those who are most persistent and eager will be selected after they've done a couple years of intense athletic training (so probably when they're around 21).
    • Those who have been chosen will now be taught how the various disciplines they've learned are all connected, and they'll learn the reason they've been learning them. This phase will be a further test, because those who are able to grasp these big, umbrella concepts are dialectical, while those can't aren't.
    • Next, once these select few reach 30, they'll need to make sure that they are the kind of people willing to give up their reliance on their senses and follow the invisible truth. That's a tough job to oversee.
    • Why so tough? Well, Socrates says it's because the study of dialectic can very easily lead people to become fake and unruly (many who study it are both), because it often involves a realization that the morals and values you've held near and dear for your whole life are actually wrong. If you realize this without knowing where to turn to find what's right, you'll become sad, unhappy, and false.
    • Socrates compares the bad dialectician to an orphaned child who, once he realizes that his parents aren't actually his parents—and that he won't be able to find his real parents—turns away in anger from his adoptive parents and joins forces with some empty flatterers who at least make him feel better.
    • Socrates also recommends that they be careful in not allowing young children to be exposed to the art of dialectic. Young children won't fully understand how it works; they might misuse the art of dialectic and foolishly imitate dialecticians, not knowing what they're saying until they've become young adults apathetic about the whole thing.
    • A more mature person, in contrast, will be interested in discussing truth itself and will treat discussion honorably and sensibly. Moreover, these mature and sensible people should only argue with other mature and sensible people, in order to keep the argument dignified and productive.
    • After they've been allowed to study pure dialectic for about 5 years, these young rulers-in-training will need to go back into the cave and take up the practical responsibilities of leadership. This will also need to be monitored, in order to make sure these people remain strong and true to their education.
    • The rulers-to-be will do this for 15 years. Once they've reached the age of 50, they'll finally be allowed full and compete access to the knowledge of the good. They will spend most of the rest of their lives contemplating this good through philosophy, but will occasionally take turns ruling the city and educating other men to become like them. Once they die, they'll go off to heaven and be praised and honored by the city they left.
    • Glaucon says Socrates has described such beautiful ruling men that he's like an amazing sculptor making masterpiece statues. Socrates reminds Glaucon that he wasn't just describing ruling men; he was describing ruling women, too.
    • They all agree that what they've outlined is the ideal form of government, and while it may be difficult to set up, it's not impossible. Once philosophers take over as rulers of the city, the whole city will change for the better, because the philosophers will have zero interest in your typical honors and wealth. They will only want the very best for the city.
    • Socrates thinks the fastest way to set up a city like this would be to have some philosophers take children older than 10 from their parents and raise them in the country, away from all the bad influences of the world. That way, they'll begin to cultivate a generation of untarnished intellectuals. Glaucon agrees.
  • Book VIII

    Five Kinds of Government

    • All right, so the dudes have all agreed that in the best city, people will have everything in common: women, the education of children, and the military. Soldiers will have common housing and will receive only a very small wage to cover their service to the city.
    • Now Socrates wants to return to whatever they were talking about way back when, before they got on this tangent. Glaucon reminds him that he was about to outline four types of government and four types of men that are different from what they've created but still worth discussing. This discussion will hopefully help them understand whether the best people are also happy and whether the worst are unhappy.
    • The four types of governments are: 1) the Cretan and Laconian regimes (the kind of government Sparta was famous for, where athleticism and military ability were the most important things—Socrates later invents a word and calls it a "timocracy," which means "the rule of honor"), 2) oligarchy (when a group of powerful, often wealthy people are in charge), 3) democracy, and 4) tyranny.
    • Socrates suggests that these four types are more like a general outline of common forms of government; there are actually a huge number of types of governments. There are probably as many kinds of governments as there are types of people—since, you know, people ultimately make up all kinds of government.
    • Socrates has already said the best kind of government, the kind that their republic is, is an aristocracy, and that a person who rules himself as if he were an aristocracy himself is the best kind of person.
    • Socrates then suggests that they go through each kind of regime step-by-step in order to determine what qualities each has. They'll then imagine the kind of individual who would have these qualities. This will allow them to see how justice and injustice function, and it will allow them to decide whether justice or injustice makes you happier.

    Timocracy

    • The first regime they consider is 2) the Laconian regime, which Socrates names a "timocracy" ("a government of honor") because this kind of government is completely obsessed with honor and glory.
    • First, Socrates wants to understand how such a government comes to be. He imagines that a timocracy arises when something goes wrong in an aristocracy.
    • How? Well, even though aristocracy is the best kind of government, no one is perfect, so Socrates imagines that at some point some people will disobey the rules of the government and will have children when they shouldn't. For some very strange and weird reasons related to geometry, these children will be worse than they should be and will not govern as well.
    • Eventually, there will be a division between those who are interested in making money and having possessions and those interested in philosophy and virtue. Eventually, they will reintroduce private property, people will be enslaved, and war will consume all their energy.
    • Everyone agrees that this is how such a government would come to exist. They also agree that timocracy is the type of government that comes between aristocracy and oligarchy.
    • They next imagine that some aspects of this new government will be like aristocracy, so they will divide the duties of the city into separate roles (farming vs. military) and will engage in their meals and their athletic training all in common spaces.
    • But, unlike the previous regime, and more like an oligarchy, the timocracy won't put the wisest guys in charge of the city; they'll put the ones who are totally into war and conflict in charge. These rulers will also be into money and will try to do anything to acquire and save their own moolah while happily spending their friends' money on bad things.
    • Why are these rulers like this? Because their education was forced on them and because athletics was way more emphasized than music or philosophy.
    • They all agree that they've done a good job describing this kind of government, considering that they can't spend too much time on each. This government, they decide, will be especially characterized by its love of victory and of honor.
    • Now they need to figure out what kind of person would be most like this government.
    • Adeimantus suggests that it might be someone like Glaucon, but Socrates says that Glaucon is not stubborn enough and too good at music. Furthermore, this kind of person would love rhetoric, without actually being good at it. He would be harsh to his slaves but respectful to his equals. He would be a hunting enthusiast and would love athletics. Even though he would not be obsessed with money in his youth, he would come to like it when he grew older.
    • Because this man would not have been properly trained in both music and argumentation, he wouldn't be as devoted to virtue as he should be.
    • Everyone agrees that this sounds like a timocratic man, so Socrates goes on to explain how such a man would come to be.
    • Socrates says such a person would be the child of an idealistic father and a nagging mother. Because the father hated all the gossip and pettiness of political life, he would have left that world and tried to mind his own business.
    • As a result, his wife would always be angry with him because their family wasn't in a better position socially and financially. So the young boy would hear both these things and perceive that his father wasn't very highly esteemed in the city. He would feel divided in what he cared about. His father would appeal and cultivate the boy's sense of thoughtfulness and virtue, but the other outside influences would cultivate his spirit and his desires (the lower two parts of the soul, remember?).
    • He would therefore not be a bad kid, but he would be too arrogant and too obsessed with honor.
    • Everyone thinks Socrates has got it exactly right, and so they decide to move onto oligarchy.

    Oligarchy

    • Socrates defines oligarchy as the rule of the rich founded on an obsession with acquiring property.
    • Next, Socrates describes how a timocracy will turn into an oligarchy as people become greedier and greedier.
    • As people compete with each other to acquire more wealth, it soon becomes the case that the most honorable thing to be in the city is wealthy. Virtue is totally degraded, because wealth and virtue are always at odds, and soon no one will care about being virtuous at all. They'll just care about money... and more money.
    • Now that the city is obsessed with money, the people will select the wealthiest people in the city to be their rulers. They'll make all these laws dictating how much money you need to have in order to rule.
    • Next, Socrates describes the character of the city and the problems it has.
    • First of all, because it makes wealth the criterion for ruling, it's quite possible that the best potential leaders won't be in charge, simply because they aren't rich enough.
    • Second, because there is such a sharp divide between the rich and the poor, they will always be plotting against each other and causing problems.
    • The oligarchy will be terrible at fighting war because they won't want to arm their citizens out of fear of a rebellion. They also won't want to fight themselves. And they won't want to actually fund a war, because they love their money too much. That doesn't leave many options.
    • Also, everyone will be trying to do too many things at once—like farm, make money, and fight—so no one will do one particular thing very well.
    • Intense poverty will be a huge problem, because everyone will want more for themselves and won't care if someone else loses everything.
    • And these super-duper wealthy people... are they even helping the city out? Doing anything for it? Nope. They're just interested in their own moolah and their own private problems.
    • Just as drones (you know, bees) have either wings or stingers but are annoying either way, so will the city be filled will either beggars or troublemakers. Everyone knows that wherever you see lots of poverty, you're also sure to see lots of crime, too.
    • In fact, Socrates and friends all suspect that pretty much everyone in that kind of city will end up being poor except for the rulers.
    • All these problems come from the fact that this city will have a bad educational system, bad parenting, and a bad form of governing.
    • Next, Socrates and company need to figure out what kind of person corresponds to this government and how he comes into being.
    • Socrates imagines that the oligarchic man will be the son of a timocratic man who will at first look up to his father and emulate him. But then he will see his father fall from office due to corruption in the government, and he will watch his father lose everything.
    • Once he sees this, he'll be afraid of the same thing happening to him. So he'll decide that he doesn't care about honor; he only cares about money.
    • The oligarchic man will end up making the rational and the spirited parts of his soul subservient to the desiring part, and everything his soul will aim for will be about money.
    • They all agree that this description sounds like the oligarchic man, and now they want to characterize him.
    • He'll be intensely greedy. He'll think that money is the most important thing in life, and so he'll be totally stingy.
    • He'll be kind of a hoarder, keeping things to himself and always trying to make a profit.
    • He won't devote himself at all to education and will probably have plenty of nasty desires that he'll only keep in check because he's afraid of spending money.
    • Socrates thinks that a way to really tell what the oligarchic man is like is to watch how he cares for other people, such as orphans.
    • Because the oligarchic man's desires are never in order but are always competing for attention, he himself will be divided.
    • He will be rather graceful, but not because he is harmonious on the inside.
    • He won't be a very good member of any community, either, because he won't spend money on anything, not even to fight a war properly.
    • Everyone agrees that this pretty much sums up what an oligarchic man would be like.

    Democracy

    • All right. We're on to democracy. Let's find out how it came into being out of oligarchy.
    • Socrates imagines that because an oligarchy isn't very well ruled and doesn't have any kind of legal system in place to monitor and aid the poor, the poor will become very angry and bitter.
    • People become poor in the oligarchic city very easily because they can enter into contracts without any kind of potential risk to themselves.
    • Now, because this city is sick, just the smallest little thing can push it over the edge and make it completely ill. For even a small reason, the poor will rise up, cast out the wealthy rulers, and establish a democracy.
    • In this democracy, the poor will get to be the ones ruling, and they will create a system of ruling by vote.
    • A city like this will be characterized by freedom. People will have freedom of speech, and they'll have the freedom to do whatever they want. Because they can do what they want, people will tend to involve themselves in their own private business.
    • This kind of government will also produce the most diverse population. Socrates admits that there is a certain loveliness to this kind of government. It's like a cloak that is beautiful because it has so many colors.
    • In fact, because democracy is so striking and beautiful, many people become mistakenly convinced that it's the best kind of government.
    • Democracies are useful to people like Socrates and company, who are interested in studying all kinds of governments, because they contain such a variety of people and leadership styles.
    • Democracies don't provide any legal compulsion for certain people to rule or to fight wars and they tend to be compassionate toward people who have been condemned.
    • Furthermore, because of the way democracy works, it doesn't enforce rules that might determine what kind of people should be in charge; it simply rewards the person who has the most popular appeal.
    • Now to figure out the democratic man. Socrates imagines that he will be the son of a stingy, oligarchic man and will be the kind of person who thinks that any of his desires that don't lead to moneymaking are unnecessary.
    • Before describing the democratic man further, Socrates wants to quickly differentiate necessary desires from unnecessary ones.
    • Necessary desires are desires that a person cannot justly ignore, often because they are part of human nature.
    • Unnecessary desires are those that, with lots of practice, a person can free himself from and whose presence doesn't do the person any good.
    • So, an example of a necessary desire would be eating out of hunger, while overeating just for pleasure would be an unnecessary desire.
    • Socrates then compares these two kinds of desires to two attitudes towards money. He suggests that necessary desires are like making money, because they are useful and productive, while unnecessary desires are like being stingy, since they hoard without use.
    • So, they conclude that the stingy, oligarchic man will be like necessary desires while a big spender will be like the unnecessary desires.
    • Okay, so back to how the democratic man comes to exist. He's the son of a stingy, oligarchic guy, so his childhood is, well, stingy. When he gets a bit older and meets other people who are into pleasures and doing fun things, he'll follow them, since he's sick of his stingy childhood.
    • However, he's still his father's son, so he's excited by new, fun opportunities, but at the same time, he's wary of being too overindulgent. So he's constantly at war with himself, not knowing what to do and not being able to rely on the solid foundation of a good education.
    • Without this good education, arrogance and boasting will take hold of him, and in the end, he'll choose to hang out with the fun, pleasure-loving people who breed chaos, anarchy, and wastefulness.
    • For the rest of his life, the democratic man will go and back forth between greater indulgence and lesser indulgence, not understanding why either might be better or worse for him but deciding it's best to just treat them equally.
    • The democratic man will live day by day and try out whatever new and exciting thing strikes his fancy. Many people will say he lives a good life, full of variety, excitement, and freedom.

    Tyranny

    • Finally, it's time to talk about tyranny, which, you won't be at all surprised to hear, is born out of democracy.
    • Just as oligarchy collapsed under its own obsession with wealth, so, too, will democracy collapse under its own obsession with freedom.
    • If a ruler doesn't grant enough freedom, or if he tries to punish his citizens, he—and any of his followers—will be condemned as compromising freedom.
    • Anarchy will be a part of every aspect of the city, since even animals will model themselves on the example of their government.
    • Instead of people fearing their elders and those in positions of authority, the opposite will happen: people in authority will fear the people and so flatter and placate them.
    • Disorder will be everywhere, and people will become so protective of the idea of their freedom that they will stop obeying the law altogether.
    • So this is the kind of climate that ends up producing tyranny, a climate cursed with the same disease as oligarchy. It's a disease that makes them both fail, since an excessive amount of anything tends to lead to its opposite excess: too much freedom in democracy leads to slavery under tyranny.
    • Adeimantus wants to know what exactly this disease is that's plagued both oligarchy and democracy. Socrates responds that it's having a class of opinionated, lazy, and extravagant people who have a bunch of tedious followers.
    • Socrates says this metaphorical disease is what both doctors and rulers need to be the most diligent about preventing.
    • To explain this disease in democracy further, Socrates goes on to say that in a democracy there are three distinct categories of people.
    • First, there are 1) these lazy extravagant people. They're also the fiercest: because they're not given any actual positions of power in the city, so they're always having to fight to be heard.
    • Next, there are 2) the wealthy, who are also the most powerful.
    • Finally, there are 3) your average citizens who work, don't have much, and are very interested in participating in government.
    • The leaders of a democracy realize this, and so they strategically keep giving money to the poor as a way to actually keep the majority of it for themselves.
    • Now, when someone is in trouble and might have his property taken, he has to plead with the public in order to defend himself.
    • It's also usually the case in a democracy that certain men grow very popular and are supported and groomed as future leaders. Socrates sees this as the very beginning of tyranny.
    • A leader becomes a tyrant when he's fighting against the crowd and becomes vicious, for example by executing someone for no reason.
    • Now that he's shed blood, this ruler will become ruthless and will either be killed or become a tyrant.
    • Once he survives as a tyrant, he will forget any promises of legal change he's made.
    • He'll lead an attack on the wealthy of the city and will cause resentment to build up against him. He'll then require the help of bodyguards from the city.
    • The typical trajectory of a tyrant's reign begins on a good note: he's friendly, delivers on his promises, and feeds the poor to keep them quiet.
    • Then he stirs up a war as a way to eliminate some of his internal enemies, and he starts to become less and less liked.
    • When his trusted advisors offer him any kind of criticism, he'll kill them, too. He'll start to kill anyone who seems too impressive and who might be a challenger.
    • Naturally, the people will hate him more and more, so he'll need even more security and more companions. He'll either get them from abroad or by freeing the slaves of some his citizens, making them his personal bodyguards.
    • Socrates imagines that among these companions will be some wise men, since Euripides, a tragic poet, said that tyrants often surround themselves with the wise. For praising tyranny in this way, it's obvious yet again that poets won't be allowed in Socrates's city.
    • In fact, poets are known to go around spreading praise for both tyranny and democracy, because both those regimes—but especially tyranny—offer poets the most support.
    • Anyway, back to tyrants. Adeimantus suggests that a tyrant will get his money from spending the sacred money of the city and from all the property he's confiscated from his enemies.
    • Once this runs out, the tyrant will rely on his friends, then on the parents of his friends, then even on his own parents, not at all respecting the idea that adults should take care of their parents.
    • In fact, if the tyrant's father refuses to support his son, the tyrant will probably kill him.
    • Well, now Socrates and the gang have seen how a government can change from being totally free to totally enslaving.
  • Book IX

    Tyranny Continued

    • Now that they've considered tyranny as a government, Socrates and the guys need to finish up and consider the tyrannical man.
    • However, before they do this, Socrates decides that he isn't completely satisfied with their conversation about necessary and unnecessary desires and wants to go back to that.
    • Socrates observes that some unnecessary desires are part of everyone; it's just that some people can get rid of them, and some can't.
    • Socrates is thinking specifically of sexual desire: it's part of nature, but it can be so intense that it can wake you up from sleep and make you do the most ridiculous and shameful things.
    • A way to counter this desire is to be healthy and moderate, to always be in touch with your rational mind before falling asleep, and to careful to act on those desires in such a way that you prevent them from becoming too strong.
    • Thinking back now to the democratic man, Socrates reminds everyone that he was the son of an oligarchic man who ignored his unnecessary desires to any unhealthy extreme. His son was then pushed to go in the opposite direction but ended up somewhere in the middle, variously following each extreme.
    • Now they imagine that such a man (the democratic) has a son, who is raised to be just like this father, to be obsessed only with freedom and to generally follow a middle course.
    • Others will try and sway the tyrannical man and persuade him to become more pleasure-loving. When that fails, they'll decide to make him fall in love.
    • Now, in love and filled with all his other desires, the tyrannical man goes kind of crazy, and he loses all ability to be moderate.
    • Socrates says that love is often called a kind of tyranny, so it's no coincidence that the tyrannical man is also a lover.
    • Tyrants are also like drunks, because they think they can do whatever they want.
    • In fact, tyranny itself is drunken, erotic, and sad.
    • Anyway, for the tyrannical man, things quickly take a turn for the worse... and worse.
    • The tyrannical man throws lots of parties and is tortured by the ongoing desires of love that he can never satiate. He runs out of money, has to borrow from everyone—including his parents. If they resist, he'll even be driven to kill them out of a desire for the one he loves.
    • The tyrannical man will start to steal and dishonor sacred places. He'll be uninterested in what's right and wrong, only caring about his love. However, because he's the leader of a city, he'll bring the city down into ruin with him, and anarchy will prevail.
    • A certain kind of bad person will then prevail in the city. He will either leave to help out other tyrants or stay and cause constant trouble: stealing, enslaving people, lying, etc.
    • It's from this kind of group that tyrants are born. They either gain power by joining forces with people like the tyrant, or they seize control on their own through the same violence the tyrannical man used against his parents.
    • Before becoming leaders, tyrannical men typically love flattery: they surround themselves with flatterers and use flattery to get what they need, whenever they want.
    • These kind of people don't have any friends; they aren't trustworthy; and they aren't just. The longer they live in tyrannical situations, the more tyrannical they become.
    • So now Socrates and friends have described a tyrannical man and the corresponding tyrannical city, but it still remains to be seen whether the tyrannical man is wretched—and whether the aristocratic king (the kind in charge of their city) is happy.
    • Even though the answer (yes!) seems obvious, Socrates wants to be certain. He recommends that they pretend as if they are in the company of some intelligent men who have lived under tyranny.
    • They agree. They first conclude that the tyrannical city is entirely enslaved, even if not literally every citizen is a slave. The soul of a tyrannical man is similarly enslaved.
    • This slavery prevents both the city and the soul from doing what it wants.
    • The city is, furthermore, extremely poor, and it's filled with people complaining (just like a tyrannical man himself goes around complaining all the time).
    • So, Glaucon concludes that the tyrannical city is the most miserable. Socrates agrees. Glaucon also concludes that the tyrannical man is the most miserable. Socrates does not agree.
    • Socrates suggests that the most miserable man is the tyrannical man who has the bad luck of actually becoming a tyrant.
    • Why? Well, unlike a regular citizen who can more or less do what he likes, a tyrant always lives in fear, because he knows that if he ever loses his power, all his servants and "friends" will immediately turn against him. He essentially lives as if he's in a prison.
    • It's pretty bleak to think that this person, who is tyrannical on the inside and incapable of controlling himself, is also in control of a bunch of other people.
    • The tyrannical man who is also a tyrant is really the most enslaved person of all. He's untrustworthy, unjust, impious, friendless, and full of bad habits.
    • All right, Shmoopers: it's the moment of truth. Socrates now asks Glaucon to rank, in order from happiest to least happy, the five kinds of governments and people they've been reviewing.
    • No problem, says Glaucon, since he'd put them in the exact they just went through them: that makes aristocracy and kingliness the best and most just and tyranny the worst and most unjust.
    • Socrates adds that this is true regardless of whether other people accept it. And—surprise, surprise—he wants to add one more thing.

    A Discussion of Pleasure and Desire

    • Socrates reminds everyone of the three-part division of the soul and says that there are corresponding desires for each part and corresponding types of people for each part.
    • The lowest part, 3) the desiring one, is associated with the pleasure of loving gain and money, the 2) spirited one is associated with the pleasure of victory and honor, while the final 1) rational part is associated with the pleasure of wisdom.
    • So, ta-da, we also get three people: a lover of gain, a lover of honor, and a lover of wisdom.
    • Socrates observes how, if you asked each of these people what was the best pleasure ever, each would say something different, liking what he likes best and finding what the others like to be ridiculous.
    • Since each type of person would defend their own pleasure the most, how could someone tell which is actually better?
    • Socrates recommends using experience, prudence, and argumentation to make this call.
    • Socrates compares the experiences of all three people and concludes that the lover of wisdom is unique because in his youth he will have necessarily have experienced all the pleasures—money and honor included—while the lovers of gain and honor will not have access to the pleasure of wisdom.
    • Because the lover of wisdom has experience, he also has prudence. Because he's a philosopher (remember, literally a "lover of wisdom"), he's also a lover of arguments, so he'll clearly have the advantage there, too. Because, let's face it, this isn't a test for money or honor.
    • So, therefore, we get the most pleasure from the rational part of the soul, and the man who loves this pleasure most is the happiest.
    • The lover of honor is second happiest, and the lover of gain third happiest.
    • Clearly, what most people consider to be pleasure (honor and money) is not pleasure at all; it's just like those shadow paintings they saw back in that cave.
    • Speaking of pleasure, Socrates goes on to point out that pain and pleasure are opposites, and that there's a state in between those two opposites called repose.
    • Socrates observes that often when people are ill, they imagine the greatest pleasure is being healthy, but once they're healthy, that health rarely gives them a lot of pleasure. We might say that these states of being are relative.
    • The real problem is that people, as usual, mix up how things seem from how they are. When you're sick, feeling healthy seems pleasant, but it isn't, literally, a kind of pleasure.
    • Moreover, not all pleasures have opposites. A nice small pleasure can be pleasurable, but you don't experience it as a relief from any other kind of pain.
    • But since most pleasures are perceived as a relief from pain, Socrates wants to again emphasize how relative they are. He compares this to how, without absolute knowledge of the uppermost thing and lowermost things, someone just going up from where they are would think they were traveling way up, even if they weren't really so high. A person climbing a hill in the Rockies in Colorado is higher up, absolutely speaking, than a person climbing a hill on the coast in California, even if the hill in California is bigger. The way we perceive things is relative.
    • Socrates says that pleasure and pain work the same way, and most people don't have a true understanding of real pleasure and real pain.
    • Socrates now takes another angle and says that just as hunger and thirst are types of bodily emptiness, so too are ignorance and imprudence types of mental emptiness.
    • Socrates says that true opinion and true knowledge are closer to "pure being" (he doesn't really define this concept, but it is something like what we'd think of as "authentic being") than food and drink, because opinion and knowledge are immortal and unchanging, while food and drink, which are related to the body, do change and don't last.
    • In fact, all things of the body tend to lead people away from truth, whereas knowledge leads you closer to it.
    • In the end, people who don't know anything about prudence or virtue—and who just like feasting all the time—will never truly understand what real pleasure means.
    • Socrates compares these people to cattle who always look at the ground and never bother to look up and see what's really going on.
    • Just as the shadows in the cave are made up of both light and dark, the lesser pleasures of these people will also have some pain, since this kind of pleasure isn't pure.
    • So now that Socrates has described the desiring part of the soul (the lowest one, which thinks that pleasure is food) and the rational part (the highest one, which loves truth), he goes on to mention the third, spirited part, just to say that someone who follows the pleasures associated with this part of the soul will end up envious and angry because they're always seeking more victories and more honors.
    • The great thing about being completely guided by the rational part of the soul is that once it orders everything, the other two parts of the soul can do their own thing; they can pursue whatever pleasure they're into, because the rational part will make sure everything is under control.
    • In fact, that's the real problem with letting either of the other two parts of the soul take over: they don't actually understand what pleasure really is, so they end up leading you off in totally unpleasurable directions.
    • Socrates and company have already concluded that tyrannical and erotic desires have the least in common with philosophy, while the kingly and aristocratic desires have the most in common with philosophy. Because it's clear that being closer to philosophy gives you the most real pleasure, a tyrant will have the least real pleasure.
    • Furthermore, since in their assessment of the types of government, they placed the tyrant furthest from the kingly (the best), Socrates deduces that a king will live 729 times more pleasantly than the tyrant. We're not totally sure how he got that, but far be it from us to question the big S.
    • Since the good and just man (the kingly type) is so obviously better off in terms of pleasure, he'll also be better off in terms of virtue, grace, and beauty.
    • Now that they've figured all this out, Socrates and friends return to their original question, which was whether an unjust man who appears to be just profits from his way of life.
    • To tackle this question, Socrates begins by imagining a mythical scenario in which a many-headed monster and a lion are somehow joined together with a human being in such a way that the human being is what everyone sees (the monster and the lion are hiding inside... somehow).
    • If you were to say that this man profits by being unjust, it would be like allowing him to continue to feed these two vicious animals inside of him while starving the actual human part of himself.
    • Indeed, the man would much more profit from being just, since the human being in him would be strong and well nourished and therefore able to tame and control the two beasts.
    • Obviously, then, being unjust can't be more profitable than being just, since it amounts to an enslavement of the human by an animal.
    • In fact, as long as he remains unjust, it wouldn't even be profitable for this man to steal gold, because he would still be enslaving himself.
    • Socrates thinks all kinds of bad behaviors have this enslaving effect: licentiousness, stubbornness, flattery, illiberality, even mechanical arts can make you a slave.
    • So, just as the best kind of person is ruled by his reason, so too should the best citizens rule over other ones.
    • It seems that Socrates has shown for sure that being unjust is not more profitable than being just. He has also shown that even if someone is unjust and never gets caught, it's actually way worse, because think how big and strong those mean monsters inside of him have become in the meantime.
    • So the best man will seek out moderation and justice, honoring most of all the kinds of studies that will lead him to this.
    • The best man won't let food or drink, or even health and strength, become unhealthy obsessions but will keep everything ordered and harmonious. He will not get too invested in money or wealth.
    • Since he has to stay far away from anything that will compromise his order and virtue, Glaucon imagines that the best man will have to stay away from politics, but Socrates says that wouldn't be true at all in their city, and he wonders if there's a way for such a man to intervene in the politics of his own city.
    • Regardless, it doesn't matter that their city doesn't exist; this ideal of order and harmony is still crucial.
  • Book X

    Imitation and Painting

    • Reflecting on their construction of the republic, Socrates thinks that the most important thing they did in the city was to not allow any imitative poetry (you know, pretty much all poetry).
    • Now that they've outlined the organization of the soul into three parts, Socrates thinks that it's even clearer than before that composing or listening to such poetry will degrade the soul.
    • At first, Socrates is hesitant to say more about poetry because he loved the poetry of Homer since he was little kid.
    • But, since the truth must shine through, Socrates agrees to go forward.
    • First, Socrates wants to define the concept of "imitation" again, this time using the example of a couch and a table.
    • Socrates explains how in the world, there are many different types of couches and tables, but there is still only one idea of a table. You might think of it as "tableness"—the thing that unites all tables as tables and doesn't let any couch pass as a table.
    • A craftsman, building a couch or a table, clearly starts with the idea of it already in his mind; he doesn't come up with the very idea himself.
    • Socrates imagines a kind of super-craftsmen who doesn't just make tables and couches but can make animals and plants, too.
    • Glaucon thinks that's impossible, but Socrates says it's actually easy: all you need to do is go around the world with a big mirror, and you'll be "creating" all these things.
    • Glaucon says that that isn't actually making these things; it's just representing them.
    • Bingo, says Socrates: it's just representing them. He says a painter is just like this mirror-guy because, in some way, he "makes" tables and couches when he paints them.
    • Socrates then goes a step further and says that even a craftsmen who makes couches is still making a representation because he isn't able to create the actual true idea or form of couchness; he just makes one particular couch.
    • So, they can rank three kinds of couch-makers: 1) a god, or nature, who makes true "couchness," 2) the craftsmen, who makes a version of the true couch, and 3) a painter, who makes a representation of a version of the true couch.
    • The couch made by nature is always only one, whereas the couches made by craftsmen are necessarily many.
    • But the painter? Well, it's actually a bit of a stretch to even call him a maker of a couch, so Glaucon suggests that instead they call him an imitator of couches.
    • It seems that this imitator is also the furthest away from nature, since he produces something two steps removed from the actual idea—and this is true of poets as well as painters.
    • Furthermore, because painting is about appearances (says Socrates), it is primarily concerned with imitating simply what the couch looks like. It's concerned with just a small part of the couch; it doesn't care about what the couch's true, inner idea is like.
    • Another problem with painting is that if a painter is too skilled at imitation, he might produce a picture that would fool silly people and children into thinking that they were seeing the real thing.
    • In fact, it's probably a good idea to be suspicious of anyone who claims to know everything, because it probably means they've only encountered imitations of everything, not the real truth.

    Imitation and Poetry

    • All right. So now Socrates decides to seriously consider the question of imitation in terms of tragedy and the poetry of Homer.
    • Socrates points out that Homer and his poetry are often read as a repository of all wisdom, so they need to figure out if this is actually true. Can poetry lead to wisdom? Or is this, in fact, the consequence of mistaking imitation for reality?
    • Socrates says that everyone would agree that the more important thing is to actually accomplish something, not just to talk about accomplishing something.
    • So, has Homer ever accomplished anything? Even though everyone praises his poetry for its portrayal of warfare and leadership, there isn't a city anywhere in the world that can claim that it has benefited from Homer's leadership, nor has any war been won under Homer's rule.
    • Furthermore, if Homer were so wise and smart, why didn't he found some kind of school or academy? Why doesn't he have any devoted followers? (This seems like a problematic line of reasoning to us, but we're just the messengers.)
    • So, it seems they've decided that Homer doesn't actually know about virtue; he just imitates virtue.
    • Poets just imitate things like color and harmony to give their creations charm, but what they really lack is substance. If you saw a poem stripped of all its charm, it would look like a boy who's no longer youthful.
    • Socrates says that a painter imitates, say, the reins of saddle, but doesn't know how to use them. However, he imagines that even the smith who actually makes reins doesn't necessarily know how the reins work, either. The only person who actually understands how to use the reins would be a horseman.
    • So Socrates claims there are three kinds of people: 1) people who use things, 2) people who make things, and 3) people who imitate things.
    • Socrates goes on to claim that what something is meant to be used for is the most important quality it has.
    • So, obviously, the person who uses things is the most knowledgeable and the person most about to tell the maker which things are good and bad, just as a flutist would best be able explain to a flute-maker the most important things that can make a flute play well.
    • The flute-maker will know how to make something well because he's being advised by the flutist, but the imitator of a flute won't know anything about how to make one better or worse; all he cares about is how a flute looks.
    • To sum it up: 1) imitators don't know anything about what they imitate, 2) imitation is play and not something serious, and 3) tragic and epic poetry are both forms of imitation.
    • They've also agreed that imitation is concerned with something the furthest away from truth, since it relies on the unreliability of appearances. How are appearances unreliable? One example: a straight object looks bent in water, but it's just because the water makes it appear bent.
    • The only way to truly understand things is to measure and calculate them, and that's an activity associated with the highest part of the soul—the rational part.
    • The part of the soul that contradicts the conclusions of the calculating part is obviously lower.
    • Imitation, as a result, has nothing to do with what is true, just, or virtuous. It's mostly concerned with what is ordinary, and it produces ordinary things.
    • Now, to make sure that what they've been saying about imitation's place in the soul applies just as much to the visual (painting) as it does to the aural (poetry, since in Socrates's time people listened to poetry), Socrates defines imitation (again) as an imitation of an action that produces a feeling of having done either good or bad.
    • Socrates then reminds everyone that they agreed that the soul doesn't have one single desire, but many, sometimes conflicting desires.
    • Socrates imagines that a sensible man, if his son died, would feel torn in two directions: he'd want to remain composed in public, but he would want to give way to his grief and pain in private.
    • So, Socrates says this shows that there are two distinct impulses in such a man: 1) his rational part, which draws him to understand that grief doesn't accomplish anything and prevents us from analyzing a situation, and 2) his desiring part, which draws him to indulge in his grief.
    • Imitation, therefore, is drawn to imitate the desiring, angry, sad, irrational, passionate part of the soul, because it's way easier—and more entertaining—to see that part imitated than to see an imitation of the quiet, reserved, sensible, and contemplative qualities of the rational part.
    • Therefore, it looks like poets are in the same sitch as painters (hint: not a good one). They won't be allowed in the city, either, since they appeal to what's lowest in humans and create ghosts of the truth instead of going after truth itself.
    • But the biggest problem with poetry is how effective it is at appealing to even super duper sensible, rational people. Everyone, Socrates included, admits to having been totally wowed, won over, and left in tears after hearing about something sad in Homer.
    • Why does this happen? Well, it's because poetry appeals to the base part of the soul that most rational men don't often appeal to. When this part hears something appealing, it goes crazy.
    • Even though people might be too embarrassed to do what they are hearing described (like a great hero crying) themselves, they think it's okay to be moved by it because it's happening to someone else.
    • Jokes work the same way: plenty of people laugh at jokes they would never tell.
    • But, says Socrates, letting yourself be affected by others still affects you and the virtuousness of your soul. The same goes for sex and ambition, too.
    • What you need to keep in mind, then, is that even though you might agree with someone when he or she says that Homer is lovely, and even if this person goes on and on about how wise Homer is, Homer still wouldn't be admitted into the city.
    • Besides, Socrates reminds everyone that there's an "old quarrel" between poetry and philosophy, suggesting that the two have always been somehow incompatible.
    • But if poetry wants to construct a really good argument to show that it does deserve to be part of a good city, and if its argument is convincing, they'll totally let it back in the city. These guys do like poetry, really; they just can't ignore the truth
    • Frankly, even if they did listen to these arguments, they'd have to be very careful not to be charmed by it again, remembering how much they loved it as children.
    • Socrates warns everyone that they need to take this stuff very seriously, because it's a question of good and evil.
    • In fact, speaking of good and evil, something else important about the soul is that it is immortal—unlike a single person's life, which, in the grand scheme of things, is quite short.
    • Glaucon is flabbergasted. The soul is immortal? He must hear more.

    The Myth of Er

    • Once upon a time, there was a strong man named Er, who seemingly died in a war.
    • Just as Er is about to be burned on a pyre for his burial, he comes back to life and tells everyone about his experience in the underworld.
    • When he first got to the underworld, Er saw how those people who were judged to be just were sent up to heaven with a record of their good deeds, while those who were judged to be unjust were sent down to hell with a record of their bad deeds.
    • When it's Er's turn to be judged, the judges decide that he needs to be a special messenger to the living people on earth, one who can explain to them what actually goes down after death.
    • So, Er watches everything very carefully.
    • Er sees how some people are actually returning from heaven and hell, looking exhausted, because after being judged, they had been sent on a very long journey.
    • Everyone's gathering in a meadow, kind of having a big party, and they start sharing their experiences about their lives and afterlives.
    • The ones who had been sent down to hell weep about how difficult their experience has been, while those who had been in heaven couldn't stop talking about how gorgeous it is.
    • It turns out that the unjust have to pay for all the people they were unjust to... times ten.
    • That's bad news if you were unjust to a whole city.
    • It also turns out that the gods don't much appreciate it when you dishonor them, or when you dishonor your parents, or when you murder people.
    • One guy, Adiaeus the Great, was a tyrant, and he has done so many horrible things that he's stuck in hell forever, where he is continuously flayed alive over thorns (yikes).
    • After everyone parties for four days, they're off again to finish their journey.
    • This takes them to an amazing, kind of psychedelic center of light in heaven. It looks like a huge, eight-level spiral that gets narrower and narrower as you go down.
    • Each level turns in an opposite direction and is guarded by a fierce siren.
    • Brain bite! A siren is a fierce, female monster in Greek mythology who is most known for looking—and sounding—beautiful and seductive from the middle up. She's horrible and monstrous from the bottom down, though. Bummer, right? The most famous incident involving sirens takes place in Homer's Odyssey.
    • Now, this whole area is ruled by the goddess Necessity and her daughters. They instruct everyone to gather around a pick a number.
    • Based on the number you pick, you get to pick the next life you want to lead.
    • Now, here's where Socrates interjects and reminds everyone that it's just this kind of (big) decision that philosophy prepares you for.
    • If you don't understand what a truly good life looks like, you might make a terrible choice.
    • Get a load of that guy who picked tyranny, for example. He wasn't a bad guy in his previous life. He was just kind of ordinary, he got overly excited about all the flash and cash, and all that has led him to choose the life of a tyrant.
    • Unfortunately, after he examines the life he's chosen a little more closely, he notices some serious drawbacks: eating his children, killing people... yeah.
    • The only foolproof way to make it through this process is to stick with philosophy.
    • As Er watches these people choose their lot in life, he sees some big-name famous dudes, who all tend to choose their next life based entirely on their previous life:
    • Orpheus, for example, ends his life being torn apart by women, so he chooses to be a swan (the Greeks thought, weirdly, that swans weren't born from females).
    • Er also sees Thamyras (another arrogant singing type), Ajax (a big Trojan War hero), Agamemnon (ditto), Epeius (a cowardly Trojan War hero), and Thersites (a ridiculous Trojan War hero).
    • Er finally sees good old Odysseus, who, not surprisingly, chooses a life of peace and quiet.
    • Once everyone has chosen their life, the Fates spin out their thread to show how long they let each person live.
    • Finally, each person has to drink from the Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) in order to forget everything they have experienced before, in their previous life. Some foolish people drink from the river of Carelessness, too, because why not, right? Before they know it, they're off, well, being born.
    • And so, folks, that's the end of Socrates's story, which he hopes has made its moral very clear: be just and philosophical in this life so that you'll glide through the perils and problems of the afterlife.