Republic (Plato)

Read this summary of Plato's Republic. Pay particular attention to the summary of Books 6,7, and 8; the Theory of Universals; to the definition of justice; and to the Ideal City. What are the four types of government which Plato rejects, and why does he reject them?

Socrates and his companions conclude their discussion concerning the lifestyle of the guardians, thus concluding their initial assessment of the city as a whole. Socrates assumes each person will be happy engaging in the occupation that suits them best. If the city as a whole is happy, then individuals are happy. In the physical education and diet of the guardians, the emphasis is on moderation, since both poverty and excessive wealth will corrupt them (422a1). Without controlling their education, the city cannot control the future rulers. Socrates says that it is pointless to worry over specific laws, like those pertaining to contracts, since proper education ensures lawful behavior, and poor education causes lawlessness (425a–425c).

Socrates proceeds to search for wisdom, courage, and temperance in the city, on the grounds that justice will be easier to discern in what remains (427e). They find wisdom among the guardian rulers, courage among the guardian warriors (or auxiliaries), temperance among all classes of the city in agreeing about who should rule and who should be ruled. Finally, Socrates defines justice in the city as the state in which each class performs only its own work, not meddling in the work of the other classes (433b).

The virtues discovered in the city are then sought in the individual soul. For this purpose, Socrates creates an analogy between the parts of the city and the soul (the city–soul analogy). He argues that psychological conflict points to a divided soul, since a completely unified soul could not behave in opposite ways towards the same object, at the same time, and in the same respect (436b). He gives examples of possible conflicts between the rational, spirited, and appetitive parts of the soul, corresponding to the rulers, auxiliaries, and producing classes in the city.

Having established the tripartite soul, Socrates defines the virtues of the individual. A person is wise if he is ruled by the part of the soul that knows "what is beneficial for each part and for the whole," courageous if his spirited part "preserves in the midst of pleasures and pains" the decisions reached by the rational part, and temperate if the three parts agree that the rational part lead (442c–d). They are just if each part of the soul attends to its function and not the function of another. It follows from this definition that one cannot be just if one doesn't have the other cardinal virtues.