Study Guide

The Republic Morality and Ethics

By Plato

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Morality and Ethics

There's lots of talk about ethics and morality in Plato's Republic, but let's be real: we totally want to know if being ethical and moral actually makes you happy.

Enter Socrates.

Instead of simply trying to define what ethical choices are, Socrates wants to also make sure to convince everyone that it pays off to be ethical. In other words, ethics can be rationally—and not just morally—defended. This approach to ethics is so important to Socrates that he even constructs the whole myth of Er in order to tell a story in which people can see exactly how acting ethically can pay off.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. How exactly does Socrates relate the issue of justice to the issue of morality? When does he do this and why?
  2. Does Socrates ever actually define "the good"? If so, how? What examples does he use to explain this abstraction?
  3. How are Socrates's negative feelings toward poetry related to the issue of ethics? What kind of ethical dilemma does poetry raise?

Chew on This

Morality? Socrates isn't actually interested in what's moral or good for everyone; he just cares about philosophers—that's why he makes them kings.

If Socrates thinks its "moral" for a government to lie to its citizens, he's clearly not really talking about morality; he's just talking about political control.

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