Philosophy Week 2: Plato – The Republic, Books I & II

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Plato continues in investigating injustice in his work on the Republic. All people throughout societies have complained of injustice at some time, whether they are based on valid grievances or not. Therefore, every single person on the earth will face questions of justice and will either be in a position of deciding for or against another individual or be on the receiving end of someone else’s decisions. Children and teenagers complain about their parent’s decisions, and often, parents do little to justify their position (McLoyd, 1989). Employers set rules and policies for employees (Edelman et al., 2011). Police, government and public servants follow policies and do not always think about the nature of the rules they enforce (Delattre, 2002). 

We all have experienced the effects of justice or demanded that it be delivered to us. Yet, very few of us ask or question what justice is and what justice is about. Few of us ask what justice really means or attempt to define it in detail (Waldron, 1994). Plato seeks to ask this question in The Republic. In this work, he attempts to present justice in a way designed to engage the reader and make them want to pursue the answer independently. Investigating justice is not an easy task, and what justice is is not an easy question. However, as Plato manages to do in the Republic, we should all be concerned with this question and feel that it is vital to understanding the societies we live in. 

In reading the Republic, we should think about our innate sense of what is morally right and ethically wrong and challenge ourselves to examine our conscience on these points and think about the various positions being examined. In this examination and this self-critical analysis of our own being, we can come to an understanding of how deep our own sense of right and wrong may be and whether we have really understood these concepts. For example, do we feel that we would be stopped by our conscious from doing wrong to others if we could profit through that wrong and get away with it? We need to consider whether might is right or whether might is not right and how that question can be answered for each of us. Moreover, do we feel that might is right when we are on the side of might and resent the mighty when they oppose us? 

The Ten Books 

The polity, the State, or alternatively the Republic can be represented in various ways. Plato represents his analysis of a just society through a work that consists of ten books. This work is the second-longest of Plato’s dialogues and is only exceeded by the twelve books of The Laws. However, there are problems with the structure of the book. In many ways, when viewed in terms of modern societies, Plato’s work does not seem to flow as would be expected from a more modern perspective. 

In addressing the question of justice, Plato jumps between the question of the State and what it represents and into politics before going back and addressing the original question. Because of this, any reading of a part of this work can present a position that is not in line with the author’s belief. Moreover, the way that Plato writes leaves many questions unanswered until the entire work has been completed. Finally, the method of dialogue used by Plato makes some of the reading more difficult but equally gains in understanding. As we face these texts, we need to consider the content and context and remember sections that we have left in the past to go on to other questions. 

Through this, Plato has delivered a work that is less straightforward than many forms of expository prose but yet equally states the question at the start of the text very clearly and works through an examination that in many ways can lead to either a solution or for a methodology that we ourselves can use in finding our own answer. This Socratic method deployed correctly, such as when delivered by a master such as Plato, is not straightforward but manages to engage the audience and to have them think about the question. In many ways, that is likely to be Plato’s desired outcome. 

In presenting a series of questions and delivering answers through dialogue, it can become difficult to understand what part of the text represents Plato’s opinion. In many cases, Plato leaves us with a question and not a solution and delivers a problem that does not have an answer. While this dialogue may seem problematic when it presents a problem without a clearly formulated conclusion, it is equally necessary to remember that a key aspect of the method is for the reader to examine the question rationally and come to their own answer. 

The dialogue is designed to imitate a fairly typical verbal discourse. A well defined and constructed argument and discussion between different individuals can jump between subjects and often will not deliver the most important aspects of the conversation, all the questions to be answered until the conversation is already mature. Conversations are rarely linear and follow an unstructured path that frequently delves into different issues, raising many more questions than are actually solved. 

The Question of Definition 

Any good discussion or dialogue will achieve something important even if the question cannot be answered (Schein, 1993). That is, the definitions of terms and the problem to be solved need to be defined fully. But unfortunately, when individuals are discussing and arguing topics, they often fail to agree on definitions. In this way, even if a problem doesn’t have a simple solution that everyone can agree with, it is critical to understand that it is not possible even to start arguing different issues unless all parties agree on the terms. 

In structuring the definitions and questions correctly, we can clarify the problem in a manner that allows us to each commit to answering the problem and not allow people to equivocate and avoid the question or present strawman based arguments that avoid the problem altogether. This structure provides a means for individuals to come to an agreement or at least formulate the answer to a problem and commit to discussing this to allow all parties to learn from one another openly (Stanfield, 2000). 

If we are open and honest in our engagements with other people, we may learn something from their dialogue. In participating in discussions, we can also learn something about ourselves. In this, it is feasible that all of us can learn how to best profit from the interaction and engagement with other people and learn how to clarify and reframe questions in a way that either improves our own knowledge or makes us reconsider what we know to understand better how other people see the issue. While the entire section of The Republic is worth reading and will be addressed later in this series of lectures, the first two books (Books I & II) will remain our focus for now. This choice is designed so that people can read a section within a week and follow through and comprehend what they have learned. 

Book I 

Book 1 of the Republic provides the opening setting introducing each of the characters that act throughout the dialogue. Socrates then has a discourse between himself and Cephalus. Cephalus is presented as an ancient and somewhat decrepit man who has lived a long life and yet, in many ways, fails to understand what life is. The dialogue develops the question, “what is justice?”  

In an interesting turn of fate, Plato has all the dialogue between Socrates and Cephalus confirming justice handed over in a form that seems to be an inheritance to Cephalus’s son, Polemarchus. Polemarchus continues this discourse and engages in an attempt to define a definition of justice that can sometimes be contradictory. The position argued that “doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies” is justice is examined in detail. 

Through this examination, Thrasymachus seizes the opportunity to redirect the argument and introduces the concept of might makes right. In arguing, “justice is the interest of the stronger”,  Thrasymachus seeks to present and defend a position based on the might and power of an individual or State. In this argument, Socrates defends the alternative and demonstrates the contradictions in the position that might makes right and how such a position is not just. The difficulty in this section is that even though we learn what justice isn’t, we do not learn more than its attributes. As such, we leave the section with Socrates telling that even he has not found out what justice is.  

As such, we learn something in knowing how to discredit some arguments about justice. While we have not learnt how to define justice adequately, we have learnt how to recognise aspects and attributes of justice. This dialogue puts us in a similar position to Justice Potter Stewart when describing a threshold for obscenity. In Jacobellis v. Ohio, Justice Potter noted:1 

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that. 

As with Justice Potter and obscenity, when we come to understand justice fully, we may not be able to describe it, but at least we can get to a position where we can say that we “know it when I see it.”  

The theme throughout this work concerns the question of justice. There are multiple definitions of justice offered, and many are rejected throughout the dialogue. For example, in the beginning, Cephalus talks about the advantage of wealth: 

The great blessing of riches, I do not say to every man, to a good man, that he has no occasion to deceive or defraud others, either intentionally or unintentionally. 

Socrates responds to this point, noting: 

Well said, Cephalus, I replied; but as concerning justice, what is it? To speak the truth and pay your debts, no more than this? 

Socrates challenges the determination and definition put forth by Cephalus as being an inadequate and incomplete definition of justice. In particular, there are times when it may not be just to pay one’s debts. While Cephalus does not continue on this argument with Socrates, Polemarchus attempts to defend the view by referring to the author Simonides who had referred to this topic stating “the repayment of a debt is just”. Socrates and turns replies by noting the same argument with a slight modification: 

Simonides, … After the manner of poets, would seem to have spoken darkly of the nature of justice, for he really meant to say the justice is beginning to each man of what is proper to him, and this is what he termed to be a debt. 

Of course, following such a definition, the question is to ask what is truly due to each individual. This answer is also given during the dialogue: 

if Socrates, we are to be guided all by the analogy of the preceding instances, then justice is the art that gives good to friends and evil to enemies. 

Even this answer is inadequate and hence does not truly answer the question of what is justice. Socrates goes on to argue the pacifist position of stating that it can be seen as not being just to injure anyone with a friend or enemy: 

Then if a man says that justice consists of the repayment of debt, and that good is the debt that a man owes to his friends, and evil is the debt that he owes to his enemies… To say this is not wise, for it is not true if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of another can in no case be just. 

Polemarchus is not continuing the argument at this point. However, it is also important to note that Socrates’s response to the argument given only follows due to the position Polemarchus argued where good is owed to friends and evil to enemies. If Polemarchus had argued a different definition of justice, the line of argumentation used by Socrates in the dialogue would not have the same value in response. It is also possible that the representation of justice as being the delivery of what every person is due could have been validly defended given a different line of argumentation. Moreover, there are other ways to define justice and what is due than the argument which Polemarchus gave. For example, in representing justice with evil, the virtue of justice is assigned to a value of a vice. 

Socrates has selected a topic with many different perspectives, and in this, many individuals oppose his perspective. The Socrates we saw in the previous section noted that he was a gadfly. We can see his pugnacious disposition and the willingness to argue throughout this continuing discourse. Thrasymachus is presented in a rather argumentative manner in Book I. He is presented much differently in Book V. As such, we can see that the same individual can be friendly or aggressive and domineering in different circumstances and regarding different topics (Averill, 2012). 

Socrates refutes the argument presented by Thrasymachus that might is right and that justice is nothing but the interest and desire of the stronger individual, noting that each of us goes through different stages of life and whilst we can see the realist position, this does not become justice and does not seem just. Instead, Thrasymachus presents an argument that would have the actions of the stronger individual always be seen as just because the actions of those in power produce the just outcome. This argument is that the stronger individual always acts in his own interest. 

In a realist argument and one that may be seen as Machiavellian, the State, according to Thrasymachus, is formed with the ruler as the stronger individual and the ruled or subject class as the individuals who are dealt justice. But, of course, in society and State where people are citizens, the rule is different from those who are subjects, and Socrates adjoins the argument stating: 

there is no one in any rule which, in so far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his interest, but always what is for the interest to be subjects or suitable to his art, to what he looks, and what alone he considers everything which he says and does. 

Thrasymachus follows the argument of Socrates’definition of a ruler and the ruled, noting that this is not realistic and the majority of societies or states. Rather, according to Thrasymachus, the ruled act in their own interest and not of that interest of the subject class. The argument would put the ruler as the shepherd. In this, the shepherd controls sheep for his personal interest. He manages the flock and keeps them healthy and safe to provide the shepherd with food and will. While this may seem to be in the interest of the sheep in the short term, it can be argued that it is not in their interest as they become subject to the whims of the shepherd. 

Socrates counters this argument as well. The argument of how a shepherd manages a sheep is multifaceted, and the shepherd seeking to make a meal out of the sheep is not acting to manage the herd but rather is acting as a person seeking a meal. Again, when the shepherd is managing the flock for the sole purpose of profit, he again is not acting a shepherd to the sheep but has an early form of consumerist: 

you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd attends the sheep not with a view to their own good, but like a mere dinner or banquet with a view to the pleasures of the table. Or, yet again, as a trader for the sale of the market and not as a shepherd. Yet surely, the shepherd’s art is concerned only with the good of his subjects. The shepherd has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of the art is already insured and whatever all the requirements of it are satisfied. This is what I was trying to say just now about the ruler. I conceived that the art of the ruler, considered as a ruler, whether in a State or private life, could only regard the good of his flock or subjects as his own goal. 

Book 1 continues in a deeper debate into these topics. Further, the reputation given above implies a definition for the justice of a ruler in the State. That is, a just ruler must “act for the sake of the ruled” or be “acting for the sake of those who are ruled” and in such “acts to give each individual ruled their due”. But, of course, in part, this last definition still fails to satisfy Socrates as Polemarchus did not define what every person is due happens to be. Therefore, for a definition of justice to be valid, we must also demonstrate that where a ruler is giving each subject their due, that which is given to the subject must be justly offered. We, of course, come back to a circular argument. 

Socrates’ definitions following these arguments are associated with his perspective of rulership and the State. Socrates will argue that the best form of government is one with a philosopher-king and a highly class-based system. Not all will agree. In presenting an argument for a constitutional democracy or a modern Republic, Socrates would argue against the rule of the many. In this, we can see distinctions of how justice and government are defined based on the perspectives and subjective values held by the individual. Consequently, we come to a subjective view of what justice may be. 

Book II 

Book II of The Republic continues a discussion on justice with the argument being revived by Glaucon. In the section of the book detailing a new story, The Ring of Gyges, Glaucon seeks to present and defend an argument that holds that most people find injustice to be superior to justice and that they would rather injustice as long as they are the people who benefit. In this argument, according to Glaucon, each person would harm another if it brought benefit to themselves and their family. 

Glaucon is supported by the arguments of his brother Adeimantus who positive people seek to appear to be kind or appear to be just and that they only do this because they are being viewed and judged by others. In presenting this argument, Adeimantus tries to goad Socrates and have him refute him and his brother Glaucon in a continuing discussion concerning the nature of justice. In this argument, Socrates agrees with his opponents that the average person will often not seek true justice and puts forth a position that we should seek justice not in individual men but rather in the State and through a more unified society.  

In this argument, Socrates would score a very early version of the concept of the wisdom of crowds (Galton, 1907; Mannes, Larrick & Soll, 2012). In an argument that mirrors many concepts of Machiavelli (1995) centuries later, Adeimantus demonstrate how people benefit from appearing just and gain many advantages that do not accrue from the additional effort in being just. Due to these differences in the ongoing banter in this course, Socrates envisioned a series of key aspects that would need to be implemented in creating a just State. Whilst the government presented in the Republic is a plain vanilla system; it lays the foundations of what Socrates saw as the primary aspects of justice and a methodology for how these can be delivered. 

Again, it becomes difficult to document all of the defining features of a just state. So Socrates moves to define the State of luxury or rather a decadent state. In this luxurious State, other nations become envious and desirous of the wealth accrued by the State’s people. Consequently, the breeding resentment leads to warfare and a necessity to build standing armies in order to defend the growing wealth from others who seek to take this through force. In this analysis, we see that the anarchic position of global nations leads to conflict when one State and its people start to resent another or to become envious. 

Next, if we create a society that grows in wealth and as such create a state that requires a standing military, those warriors or guardians must be educated and trained in military knowledge and civic virtue. Even in modern societies, we have seen the problems with military dictatorships and the difficulties in maintaining order and control where military leaders seize control on often weak pretences and implement new governments. This topic was also addressed in Heinlein’s literary fiction “Starship Troopers” (1959). In this futuristic sci-fi novel, Heinlein introduces a militarised society where the citizenry obtains full voting power only after serving in the military. 

In studying Thucydides (Jowett & Peabody, 1883), we find that both Socrates and Plato served in the military and that, in fact, all members of the Athenian citizenry were required to provide military service. So, while many modernist or post-modernist authors may look upon the work of Heinlein (Strzelczyk, 2008) as promoting fascism and militarism, the concept of service was ingrained into the concept of citizenship in the State presented by Plato through Socrates. Moreover, as scholars of the founding fathers of the United States of America have noted (Israel, 1961; Cornell, 2008), the early United States was based upon a system of virtus or virtue. The Second Amendment rights to bear arms were premised on military service. 

In training people who will defend the nation, who can bear arms, Plato demonstrates how it becomes important not to teach people poetic lies and that teaching people the truth is critical. If we have a just society, we need a citizenry trained and educated to understand and value truth (Glaser, 1985). 

The Question of Justice 

Book II continues the debate around the nature of justice. However, we have a new argument with different individuals in this new book. Socrates is now arguing with Glaucon and his brother Adeimantus. The brothers add a deeper contribution in the search for the meaning of justice. This book refines the image created, noting an analogy of an unjust man or ruler. The Ring of Gyges offers a deeper understanding of an unjust individual and how external forces can change many people. 

In particular, somebody can appear just while not truly being just or holding justice in their heart. In this, the brothers present an argument that a person can still have a good or even the best possible life by maintaining the appearance of justice even if they don’t believe it themselves. In this, it is possible to be unjust but act in a way that makes others see you as being just or appearing that way. 

Equally, if a man is unjust but also, as Thrasymachus notes, is not careful enough to hide this from the general public, hence not only to be unjust but to appear unjust. That person will be subject to the sensor of his fellow citizen and hence may also be subject to legal or civil punishment. In this, it is argued that there are multiple ways of avoiding censorship and punishment. The person can appear just or may truly be just. Unfortunately, it is also true that an individual who is just but appears to be unjust will suffer unrighteous censorship and punishment. 

Through seeking the best incentive for action, an individual will be more likely to benefit in the argument by taking advantage of other people and overall being unjust but equally putting up an appearance that promotes the individual to be just. In this argument, there is no reason for anyone to be just. In Machiavellian flavour, the argument is presented that an individual should present an appearance of justice. Machiavelli (1995) noted this realist position in the Prince. While this is not one that Machiavelli would claim to be virtuous, it is a position that he argued can gain a ruler results. However, this also was a claim that many find repugnant. 

If people talk about honesty and note that being honest is always good, it is generally taken that they are recommending that everybody acts truthfully. Some perspectives can be seen as policy or virtue-based in this form of argument. Do we recommend that people act truthfully and honestly for virtue or rather to achieve the goal of creating a civil society that delivers the results that benefit the most people? Suppose the goals and policies of a civil society are changed or vary. Can we argue against truth and propose that honesty itself may not achieve the civil purpose most people desire. Would it be viable to reject the truth if this is the case? 

Adeimantus presents a logical position that notes that the majority of people only seek the appearance of justice and a policy that seeks the best results: 

for what men say is that if I am really just and not also thought just, profit there is none, but the pain and loss, on the other hand, are unmistakable. But if though unjust, I acquire the reputation of one who is just, a heavenly life is promised to me. Since then, as philosophers prove, appearance tyrannise is over truth and is Lord of happiness to appearance I must devote myself. So I will describe around me a picture and shadow of virtue to be the festival and exterior of my house, behind I will trail the subtle and crafty fox. 

Some have noted that Henry V, as portrayed by Shakespeare, forms the Machiavellian production of the ideal king or ruler (Popescu, 2008). Glaucon and Adeimantus present the advantages of injustice and the purported virtue of appearing just while acting for oneself in a favourable light. This leads Socrates to seek to refute these ideas. In this, Socrates returns to looking at the definition of the nature of justice and moves towards the concept of justice in the State. In this, we see individuals acting selfishly but at times leading to an outcome that produces a just state. 

Defining Justice 

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has many definitions of justice, including those related to law where “Justice is complex moral concept relating to human relationships generally, but closely associated with the operation of legal institutions” or to state that “Justice’ refers to fair treatment.” In arguing that justice is the maintenance and administration of what is just, we find a circular argument presented where justice is based on what is just. 

So, the difficulty in using a dictionary or other source to define justice mirrors the problem Socrates had. We may give examples or create parables, but the complexity of justice is beyond our existing ability to describe. Others will say that justice confines itself to obeying spiritual law and righteousness, that it is dealing with one man with another in an equitable manner that is impartial in action and judgement. Yet, in these descriptions, we have again referenced the meaning of justice in its description on other terms. We see this further when we seek to understand the terminology used in describing justice. 

If we look up the meaning of the term righteousness, we see that we are “doing or recording with, that which is right; just; upright and equitable”. Hence, we come back to the problem Socrates demonstrated when he asked, “What Is Justice?” In seeking to define a concept such as justice, we come across many cultural, spiritual and personal problems. In this, it may be seen that justice is not completely objective. While there are clear aspects of justice that remain common to all people, it is equally true that there are aspects of justice that will never be agreed upon. Over time and in different cultures, people will see the definition of justice in different ways. 

Is It Possible to Define Justice, or Must We Merely Present Analogies? 

In the various books, the figures are presented in a way that characterises them and seeks to paint them about the question being asked and make them part of the analogy. Glaucon and Adeimantus are noted to be intelligent and docile and engaged with Socrates in the argument seeking truth. This differs from Cephalus, who was presented as old but equally unwise. Polemarchus is rather dim, and Thrasymachus is incredibly vain and vulgar at times. I course, this aids in explaining some of the positions presented in the dialogues. 

Adeimantus and Glaucon are both brothers to Plato. Hence, the term used by Socrates, “let brother help brother”, has a deeper reference and meaning. Moreover, when Socrates advances acclaim towards Glaucon and Adeimantus referencing a “divine offspring of an illustrious father”, he references a deeper meaning in his description of justice and their comments. In this, we have seen an analogy of both injustice and the actions of individuals that are presented as both examples and counterexamples for and against justice, but no definition has been provided. 

Defining and Answering the Question, “What Is Justice “? 

Before we can even start to define justice, we need to assume that there is some quality or virtue that may at least subjectively if not objectively be called justice, and that may be defined for more than an individual. Unfortunately, whilst we have seen analogies and examples, the text has not delivered something that we could call the definition of justice. This lack of a definition leaves us with a problem. 

The question of justice and how to define it is in itself problematic. How can we expect to teach and educate people in this virtue if we cannot define justice? Moreover, is it possible to merely give analogies and examples without a clear definition and have people learn what this subject means and understand the concept of justice? Is it even right to believe that there is a thing called justice that we can define? Is justice the same for all individuals at all times? 

The End and Purpose of Art According to Socrates 

Socrates is similar in some ways to Tolstoy (2020) in seeking simple examples of art and not focusing on more developed forms of aesthetics. But, as Knox (1930) argues, to Tolstoy and likely to Socrates, art may be summarised as “the infectious communication of emotions.” In the first book of the Republic, Socrates uses an example of the shepherd’s art. This use of crude craft-based representations mirrors the position taken by Tolstoy. To Socrates, the art noted in the Republic represents the life and the work of the subject. In this, the shepherd would represent sheep, the sailor would represent ships, and to the soldier, battle represented gloriously. 

Socrates will not detail some of the other refined arts, including cooking and modern opera and ballet, taking these in a manner similar to Tolstoy as decadent and to be avoided. When we think about the fine arts, Socrates and Tolstoy both see these as a system of debasing society. In some ways, the representations of art by Marx (1921) in reducing the specialisation of a few to works created by the many in their spare time can be seen to be analogous to these other arguments. Moreover, it is not merely art but philosophy, religion and debates over morality that would be considered unthinkable to these individuals. 

The alternative is to see art and aesthetics as a source of change and reflection. Yet, Plato sought a society that was stagnant and unchanging. In a manner that many people would see as desirable, Socrates sought a predictable republic. In part, this is likely a response to the ongoing conflict that occurred throughout Athens during his life. Many people see the loss associated with conflict as a justification for creating a society that does not change and where conflict can be stifled in all ways. 

The Origins of War 

Socrates makes an argument that war necessarily arises from luxury. Some arguments can be made both for and against this position, and it is possible to find examples where that has occurred and others that would not apply. Moreover, this has been an argument presented by someone favouring Marxist theories or socialism. For example, suppose the development of wealth and luxury leads to an inevitable result of war. In that case, it could be argued that eliminating luxury would lead to the elimination of war. 

Plato does note, however, that people desire luxuries, and hence it becomes next to impossible to remove luxuries from society. Plato notes that it is nearly impossible to change human nature to an extent where we will stop seeking luxury and stop building an escape from toil. Socrates spends very little time on the plain State as he does not believe such a position to be tenable. 

In reading this, we need to consider whether a plain state could even exist or whether one has existed at any point in history. If such a plain state existed, is it merely a consequence of Malthusian growth and problems leading to a degraded state? Moreover, how would we define a luxury estate? What is the path to luxury, and is this the same as decadence? Moreover, does civilisation always represent a state of luxury and its highest achievement, and where does peace fit into this equation? 

Plato introduces a warrior class that needs to be standing military and formed to protect the State from internal and external forces. Plato is a utopian author of the form similar to Marx and many others who believe that society can be perfected. Huxley (1894) would take a different position noting that such a society stifles human creativity and devolves humanity into a state of bestial conformity. While Socrates seeks a perpetual state, a perpetual peace does not fit within the Republic. In some ways, the Republic mirrors the controlled State George Orwell (1949) noted in 1984. 

Socrates’Arguments for Censorship By the State 

In a post-Enlightenment liberal world, we have seen the concept of free speech and the necessity for people to hold differing political views and express these as a fundamental right. However, Socrates presents censorship not as an evil to be avoided but as a necessity. Interestingly, Socrates takes this so far as to argue that it is surprising that people would find the concept of free speech and arguments against censorship from the State as being desirable. In this analysis, Socrates promotes a hierarchical class-based government that is designed to stifle change and produce a stable system over time. 

However, a modern liberal capitalistic society is Schumpeterian (Hagedoorn, 1996) in form. It involves an expectation of growth and constant innovation even when this is dynamic and disruptive and changes the underlying nature of the system and society. In addressing this question, it is necessary to consider whether either censorship from government bodies or non-governmental organisations such as modern social media corporations can be warranted. In this, the censorship can be of many aspects of society, including speech, the right to assembly and association, or even stopping the right for certain actions. Moreover, as we saw in the section above on art, this could be restrictions on the types of books, movies and plays and the use of different mediums to convey messages. 

Should We Seek Justice in the State and Not the Man? 

In reviewing justice and the role of the State and society, we need to ask how we can both define justice and limit injustice within a state. Although, to Socrates, it is just taken for granted that both people in civil society and the resulting State will seek the same form of definition in how they see justice stop it will not be subjective but rather objective in nature when taken across many individuals. Is it not possible that different definitions of words such as art and literature and justice and due will mean something completely different to all people, even in the Republic of Socrates? If this is the case, how can we apply the term just when it can mean many different things to many different people? 

Questions and Reflections 

In order to best understand and comprehend the work, we must question it and think about our understanding by challenging ourselves. Through this, we can learn how to question our own comprehension and whether we have been thorough in understanding what we have read. 

  • In the Republic, what does Cephalus understand to be the benefits and advantages of old age? 
  • Why is the ring of Gyges a corrupting force, and can any power be wielded without effect on the holder? 
  • What does Plato argue was the origin of the State? 
  • Can ethics be an exact science, or is it always subjective? 
  • Are there areas of morality that can be analysed objectively? 
  • Socrates asked three questions that he has considered in book 1. What are these? 
  • Do you agree with Plato in his arguments about class and the divisions into different bodies, including a warrior class that must be separate from the rest of society? 
  • According to Plato, why should there be censorship of poetry and the arts? Do you agree with this, and what do you see to be a problem? 
  • Describe the two primary divisions that Plato introduces into education as he represents through Socrates. 


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