You could think of Plato's Republic as his philosophical manifesto. This is where Plato explains most of his most famous and history-altering concepts about justice, truth, government, morality, and the nature of reality. On top of that, it's also a kind of 411 on his philosophical basics—you know, the who, what, where, and why of practicing philosophy.
Plato makes it pretty clear that he doesn't think of philosophy as something you do just in a classroom or in your spare time. For him, philosophy is a way of life that should permeate every aspect of existence. It should completely alter how you see the world. No joke.
Plato's idea of a philosophical life has had some serious staying power. Almost every version of philosophy since Plato has responded to it, and the questions Plato asks here remain the foundation of modern philosophy today.
Questions About Philosophy
- Does Socrates actually define philosophy anywhere? If so, how? If not, how are we still able to understand what he's talking about?
- Who does Socrates imagine will study philosophy? Everyone? Only him? Only certain people? How does he explain this choice? Does it matter?
- Does Socrates believe philosophy is something you can study in school? Since lots of people today study it in school, think about the similarities and differences between our modern attitude toward philosophy and Socrates's.
Chew on This
A text as confusing and contradictory as Plato's Republic can't possibly offer a coherent explanation of what philosophy is; every few pages, Socrates says something different.
Plato's Republic is an incredibly persuasive defense of the philosophical life. How could any thinking person not be convinced?