PLATO: The Republic [Book II]

PLATO: The Republic [Book II]

• Glaucon arranges goods into three categories: some we welcome for their own sakes, independent of any consequences, such as harmless pleasures and enjoyments which delight us at the time though nothing follows them; some we desire for their own sake and the results that flow from them, such as knowledge, sight, an health; and some do us good but we regard them as disagreeable; and no one would desire them for their own sakes, but only for the sake of a reward or result which flows from them, such as gymnastics and various ways of making money.
• Socrates would place justice in the highest category; i.e. the category in which the goods are sought both for their own sake and for the sake of their results.
• Glaucon asserts that the many disagree with Socrates opinion. They would place justice in the third category among the goods desired for the sake of their rewards, but in themselves disagreeable and to be avoided.
• Setting aside the rewards and results of justice and injustice, what are they in themselves? Although Glaucon does not maintain the same opinion as Thrasymachus and others who censure justice and eulogize injustice, he will continue Thrasymachus’ argument for the sake of hearing Socrates definitively refute this opinion.
• Glaucon will first speak of the nature and origin of justice. Secondly, he will demonstrate that men who behave justly do so against their own will, of necessity. Finally, he will maintain that the unjust life is far better than the just life.
• When men have done evil and suffered evil, they agree among themselves to have neither; and thus laws and covenant are formed according to this aim; and that which is ordained law is lawful and just. This is the nature and origin of justice – a mean between the best, which is to do evil with impunity, and the worst, which is to suffer evil without the power of retaliation. Thus, justice is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil.
• Given the power to do what they will, the just and unjust man will proceed along the same path of behavior, which is the path most advantageous to their own interest (happiness/advantage), which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted to the path of justice by the force of law.
• Glaucon entreats the listeners to consider how one would behave if given the power possessed by Gyges. Gyges was a shepherd. One day, there was a storm and an earthquake which opened a hole in his field. He descended into the opening and found a hollow brazen horse. He opened one of the doors, and found a dead body, which appeared more than human. The creature wore a ring on its finger. Gyges took the ring and ascended from the hole. He discovered that the ring made him invisible. With this power, he went to the King’s court, seduced the queen, killed the king, and took the kingdom.
• Man is just by necessity; for wherever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. If anyone possessed the power to commit injustice with impunity, and did not commit such injustice, the majority would regard him as a fool although they would publicly extol his virtue from fear of suffering evil. He only blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or weakness, does not possess the power to be unjust. This is proven by incidents throughout history of men who when they receive the power to be unjust immediately behave unjustly.
• The highest reach of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not. Let us assume that the unjust man acquires the reputation of justice, and that the just man is regarded as unjust, so that we can truly judge the nature of justice and injustice without consideration of their consequences. Let the just man be the best man, and thought the worst, so that we can determine whether he is just for the sake of honors and rewards or he is just for the sake of justice.
• The just man, who is thought unjust, will be scourged, racked, and bound, and finally after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled. The unjust man, who is thought just, will rule the city, marry whom he chooses, be wealthy and capable of honoring the gods in a better way than the poor and just man, and thus likely to be dearer to the gods than the just man.
• Parents and tutors tell their children and pupils to be just for the sake of rewards, honor and reputation, not for the sake of justice itself. But the children may reflect that they cannot profit from being just if they are regarded as unjust; and if they are unjust, but regarded as just, then they will live a heavenly life. Thus appearance tyrannizes over truth, and is lord of happiness. If there are no gods, or the gods do not care for human interactions, then there is no need to conceal injustice from them. If there are gods, tradition teaches us that they can be appeased, and that we can atone for our transgressions.
• Glaucon requests Socrates to not only show the superiority of justice over injustice, but what internal effect they have on the possessor that makes one good and one evil.
• Socrates begins his argument, explaining that justice is a virtue of an individual and the State. Because the State is larger than an individual, Socrates and the others will more easily discern the true nature of justice in the State; and therefore Socrates proposes to enquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and subsequently comparing them.
• If we imagine the creation of the State, we will imagine the creation of justice. A State arises out of the needs of mankind; we all have wants, no one is self-sufficing. As we have many wants, we require many people to satisfy those wants. Thus, people gathered together in one habitation for the mutual fulfillment of the various wants of men is a State.
• The first and greatest necessity is food, followed by shelter and clothing. Thus, we will populate the State with a husbandman, a builder, weaver, shoemaker, and possibly another purveyor of our basic wants. The barest notion of a State includes four or five men.
• The most efficient system will be one in which the husbandmen dedicates his actions entirely to producing food, the builder dedicates his actions entirely to producing buildings, etc. The work will be better done when the workman only has one occupation instead of several. We are not all alike; there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.
• Thus, more than four citizens will be required; for the husbandman cannot dedicate his time to constructing plows, etc. We will need many artisans.
• To find a place where nothing need be imported is near impossible; and therefore, we will need traders, and materials with which we can trade for goods with another city. Thus we must produce more materials than our State requires in order to trade with other States for the necessities which we lack.
• We will need a marketplace where our citizens can exchange the various goods which they produce. We will need a standard currency for purposes of exchange. We will need retailers to buy goods from those who desire to sell and sell goods to those who desire to buy.
• Socrates asks the listeners where justice is to be found in this State. Adeimantus suggests that they might find it in the dealings of citizens with one another.
• Many people will not be satisfied with a simple way of life, but will desire luxuries. Thus the State will need to expand its boundaries to accommodate the people who will satisfy our luxurious wants, such as fine art, delicacies, and music. We will need to seize our neighbors’ land, and they too will need to seize a piece of our land if they yield to the desire of unlimited accumulation of wealth. And we shall go to war. Thus, war is derived from causes which are the causes of almost all the evils of the State; i.e. the unlimited accumulation of wealth.
• We will need soldiers to populate the army, and provide protection to the State as wells as seize our neighbors’ land. The soldiers, or guardians of the city must be quick to see, swift to overtake the enemy, and strong to fight with the enemy. The guardian must also possess spirit, so that he is brave. The presence of spirit in any creature renders them fearless and indomitable. Are not these spirited natures apt to be savage towards one another, and with everyone else? Is there any example found in nature of a creature which is gentle, but has a great spirit? Yes, the dog is gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to strangers.
• The guardian must also have the qualities of a philosopher. A dog is a true philosopher. He distinguishes a friend from an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not a dog be a lover of wisdom who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?
• Thus a guardian must unite within himself philosophy, spirit, swiftness, and strength.
• The education of the guardians: The traditional education has two sorts – gymnastics for the body and music for the soul.
• Traditionally we begin teaching music first, at a time before the child is physically capable of gymnastics. Music includes literature, both fiction and nonfiction. We usually begin with fiction, telling children bedtime stories, though not wholly destitute of truth, are mainly fictitious. The beginning is the most important part of any work; for that is the time at which the character is developed and the desired impression is most readily taken; and therefore we must censor fictional stories to reject the evil ideas and only allow the good because we do not want the children to bear the influence of ideas contrary to what we would wish them to maintain in their later life.
• Socrates asserts that the writings of the great poets Homer and Hesiod must be censored because they tell bad lies, specifically the erroneous representation of the Gods. Particularly, the story of Urnaus, Cronus, and Zeus should be suppressed because young impressionable men should not be told that in committing the worst of crimes (castration and murder of one’s father) he is far from doing anything outrageous.
• The tales that the young first hear should me models of virtuous thoughts.
• God must always be represented as he truly is. God is truly good. God does not harm, does no evil, and is not the cause of evil. God is good, advantageous, and the cause of well-being. The good is not the cause of all things, but the good only.
• God is not the author of all things, as many assert, but he is the cause of a few things, and not most things that occur to men; for few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.
• God is just and right, and may punish someone in order to improve them, not harm them. The wicked are better for being punished. They are miserable because they require punishment, and are benefitted from receiving punishment from god.
• God is immutable and does not change shape. If he is perfect, then if he changes he will change for the worse. Surely, he will not desire to change and become less perfect, and thus he is immutable.
• Mankind utterly detests being deceived about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves.

“Having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of law.”

“Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended.”

“No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men.”

“If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.”

“The just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound—will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled: Then he will understand that he ought to seem only, and not to be, just.”

“Vice may be had in abundance without trouble; the way is smooth and her dwelling-place is near. But before virtue the gods have set toil and a tedious and uphill road.”

“Appearance tyrannizes over truth and is lord of happiness.”

“He only blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some weakness, has not the power of being unjust. And this is proved by the fact that when he obtains the power, he immediately becomes unjust as far as he can be.”

“We are not all alike; there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.”

“All things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him, and leaves other things.”

“Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?”

“Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.”

Three categories of goods. Where does justice fit? Nature (lesser evil) and origin (agreement to do no evil and suffer no evil without retaliation) of justice. No man voluntarily behaves just; the force of laws compels them to follow justice. Gyges. Let us assume that the unjust man is regarded as just, and the just man is regarded as unjust, so that we may form an accurate judgment on the true nature of justice and injustice without consideration of their consequences. Explain what internal effect justice and injustice have on the possessor which makes one a good and one an evil. Creation of the State. Justice is more easily discerned in something larger such as a State, than an individual. Many people will desire more than the bare necessities of life. The State will need to expand to accommodate these luxurious desires. War will result from the desire to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth. Guardians need to unite the following qualities within themselves: swiftness, strength, spirit, and philosophy. Education: music for the soul and gymnastics for the body. Censor writers of fiction – receive any tale of good and censor any of the bad. Misrepresentation of the gods, especially zeus and cronus. Attributes of god. Truly good. That which does no harm cannot be the cause of evil. The wicked are better for being punished. God is immutable. Mankind utterly detests being deceived about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves.

Glaucon is the first speaker in Book II of the Republic. He maintains that three categories of goods exist. The first category comprises goods which are desirable for the sake of themselves and not for any reward or consequence arising from the possession of those goods. These goods include harmless pleasures and delights. The second category comprises goods which are desirable for their own sake and for the sake of their results. These goods include knowledge, sight, and health. The third category comprises goods which are desirable for the sake of their consequences but are undesirable in themselves. These goods include gymnastics and ways of making money. Glaucon asks Socrates which category justice belongs in. Socrates answers that justice is of the highest category. Justice is desirable in itself, and for the sake of its rewards. Though Glaucon agrees with Socrates, he asserts that the majority of people place justice in the lowest category, among goods desirable for their rewards and results, but not desirable in themselves and rather to be avoided.

Glaucon decides to argue on the behalf of the people who criticize justice so that Socrates can definitively refute their argument. Glaucon promises to make three arguments. First, he will demonstrate the nature and origin of justice. Second, he will prove that men behave according to justice against their own will. Third, he will argue that the unjust life is better than the just life.

Glaucon describes that when men have done evil and suffered evil, they agree among themselves to have neither. The laws which are agreed upon and ordained are deemed just and lawful. This is the nature and origin of justice. The origin is the experience of doing and suffering evil, and an agreement to have neither. The nature of justice is a mean between the best and worst. The best is to do evil with impunity, and the worst is to suffer evil without the power of retaliation. Therefore, justice is tolerated as the lesser evil, and not regarded as a good.

Proceeding to his second argument, Glaucon maintains that given the power to behave however they wish, the just and unjust man will follow the same path of behavior, which is the path most advantageous to their own interest and happiness, which all natures deem to be their good, and that men are only diverted to the path of justice by the force of laws. Glaucon reinforces this argument with the story of Gyges. Gyges is a shepherd. One day, there is a storm, and an earthquake opens a hole in his field where his sheep graze. After the storm passes, Gyges descends into the opening, and discovers a hollow brazen horse with a door. He opens the door and sees a dead creature. The creature is something more than human, and wears a ring on its finger. Gyges takes the ring and ascends out of the hole. He wears the ring to the weekly shepherd’s meeting and learns that the ring renders him invisible. With this new power, Gyges goes to the King’s court, he seduces the queen, kills the king, and seizes the kingdom.

Glaucon asserts that if any man possessed the power of Gyges, he would behave in a similar unjust manner. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could take whatever he desired from the marketplace, lie with any woman, kill any man, and in all respects be like a god among men. If a man with this power did refrain from injustice, people would regard him as a most wretched fool, though publicly they would praise him because of their fear of suffering evil. A man who censures injustice is one whom, owing to cowardice or age or weakness, does not possess the power to do injustice; for when a man does possess the power to be unjust with impunity, he immediately becomes unjust.

Glaucon’s third contention is that the unjust life is better than the just life. Parents teach their children to be just for the sake of the rewards of being considered just by other people. Thus, they are advising their children to maintain an appearance of justice. Appearance tyrannizes truth, and is the lord of happiness; for a just man can be considered unjust, and accordingly punished, while an unjust man can be considered just, and accordingly rewarded. Thus, Glaucon concludes that it is better to be unjust and appear just because a man gains both the rewards of justice and injustice. Furthermore, a man does not need to worry over concealing his injustice from the gods; for if there are gods who care about human interactions, tradition claims that those gods can be appeased by sacrifices and libations, and the wealthy unjust man will be better able to offer sacrifices to the gods to atone for his transgressions than the poor just man. Glaucon requests of Socrates to prove that the just life is better than the unjust life without considering the rewards of either because Glaucon has sufficiently proven that the unjust can gain the rewards of the just through appearances.

Socrates is unsure of whether he is capable of refuting such a strong argument, but he resolves to do his best. He first states that justice is found in the individual as well as the State, and because the State is larger than the individual, they will more easily discern justice in the State. Therefore, they will first search for justice in the State, and then proceed to the individual, and subsequently compare their findings.

Socrates imagines that in the creation of the State, they will discern the creation of justice. Thus, he considers the origin of a State. A State arises because men have many necessities; no man is self-sufficient. We term a State a gathering of people in one habitation to mutually satisfy the various needs of mankind.

The greatest necessity of man is food, followed by shelter and clothing. Consequently, we will need to populate the State with a husbandman, builder, weaver, shoemaker, and possibly one other artisan to satisfy these rudimentary needs. The State must consists of at least four or five people.

The State will be most efficient if each individual is assigned only one occupation, and allowed to dedicate all his efforts on that particular occupation. We are not alike; there is a diversity of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations. Goods will be produced more plentifully, easily, and of a better quality when a man is allowed to dedicate his time solely to an occupation which is natural to him, and leaves other tasks to be done by others suited to accomplish those tasks. Accordingly, we will need to populate the city with men who can create the tools of the husbandman, builder, weaver, and shoemaker.

Finding a land with adequate resources to sustain all of mankind’s various wants is nearly impossible. Therefore, we must populate the city with merchants who will travel to other cities to trade for those necessities which our territory is unable to provide. The merchants must have resources to trade to the neighboring cities; and thus the husbandman and other artisans must produce an excess of goods.

Retailers must also establish a marketplace within our city where the different artisans can buy and sell goods. If a husbandman arrives at the market with his food, but no citizen requires food at that moment, then there must be a retailer who can buy the food from the husbandman and subsequently sell it to citizens when they require food. As we previously demonstrated, the State is most efficient when one man is engaged in a single occupation. The State will be inefficient if there are no retailers to facilitate trade among the citizens.

Many men will not be satisfied with the bare necessities, but will require luxuries. Thus, we must populate the city with artists, musicians, actors, chefs, dancers, entertainers, etc. We will need more territory as our State’s population grows, and we will inevitably encroach upon our neighbor’s land if he is overtaken by this desire to acquire unlimited wealth and luxuries. Consequently, we will go to war. We will need an army of soldiers, or guardians of the city. The guardians must be swift to overtake our enemies and strong to fight with them. They must also possess spirit. A soul which possesses spirit is brave, fearless, and indomitable. However, Socrates wonders if these spirited men will behave savagely towards one another and other citizens. He concludes that a guardian must be gentle to the citizens of the State and other guardians, and savage towards the State’s enemies. This particular nature is found in dogs. Dogs are gentle with their familiars and acquaintances, and savage towards strangers. Guardians must also possess philosophical qualities, like a dog. A dog exemplifies the philosopher. It determines what it likes and dislike by the test of knowledge and ignorance. Thus, a guardian must possess swiftness, strength, spirit, and philosophy.

Socrates establishes a method of education for the citizens. There are two types of education: music for the soul, and gymnastics for the body. We begin teaching children music for the soul because they are incapable of performing physical exercises at a very young age, but are able to grasp complex ideas.

Literature is included under the category of music. Literature is comprised of fiction and nonfiction. Traditionally, we begin telling fictional stories to our children. The stories, though not entirely destitute of truth, are mainly fictitious. The beginning is the most important part of any work; for that is when character is developed and the desired impression is most readily taken. Thus, we must censor stories possessing immoral and wicked teachings contrary to the ideas that we desire the youth to maintain later in life.

Homer and Hesiod misrepresent the gods, and their stories must be censored. If we allow parents to teach their children the story of Zeus and his father Cronus, then the child, in committing the most heinous crime (the murder of a father), will think that he is doing nothing outrageous; for the first and greatest god, Zeus, committed the same act.

God must be represented as he truly is. God is truly good, does no harm, and because he does no harm, is not the cause of evil. God is not the author of all things, as many believe, but only the author of the good; the causes of evil must be sought elsewhere, not in him. God can punish the wicked because the unjust are improved by being punished. God does not harm the wicked when he punishes them, but improves them. The wicked are miserable because they require punishment, and are benefitted from receiving punishment from god. God is immutable. He does not assume different shapes to deceive men. Socrates concludes book II with an insight about what mankind utterly detests and most abhors – which is to be deceived about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves.

Complete Works of Plato

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