Plato's Republic Socrates - Torin Doppelt


PHIL 233: Lecture Notes O. M. Bachour (March 2, 2016)



“I cannot at all agree with Thrasymachus that justice is what is advantageous for the stronger. But we will look into that at another time. What Thrasymachus is now saying—that the life of an unjust person is better than that of a just one—seems to be of far greater importance.” (347d–e) ~


Attack 1:

Justice arises in social situations out of agreements made by people pursuing their own self-interest. (358e–359b)

Glaucon’s Argument:


To do injustice is naturally good and to suffer injustice bad.


But the badness of suffering injustice far exceeds the goodness of doing it.


Therefore, those who have tasted both—and lack the power to do injustice and avoid suffering it—decide that it is profitable to come to an agreement with each other neither to do injustice nor to suffer it. From this, laws are born.

{Questions for class: (a) is doing injustice ‘naturally good’? And (b) is justice born out of a social contract among those who ‘lack the power to do injustice and avoid suffering it’? }

~ Attack 2:

No one who could get away with doing injustice (e.g., cheating, lying, stealing) would abide by the rules of justice—that is, people have no reason to act justly in the absence of social sanctions. (359b–360d)

Glaucon’s Argument:

Give a just and unjust person an invisibility ring (the Ring of Gyges) and, by day’s end, both would “take what they wanted from the marketplace, go into people’s houses and have sex with anyone they wished, kill or release from prison anyone they wished, and do all the other things that would make them like gods among men.” (360b–c) {Stress the modern nature and cynicism of Glaucon’s challenge. Cite movies—THE HOLLOW MAN, LORD OF THE RINGS—if need be. Allow class to discuss at length:

is Glaucon right in maintaining that the Ring of Gyges would wholly corrupt a just person? What makes Glaucon’s thought experiment a powerful one and what implications does it have for Plato’s conception of justice? }


Attack 3:

Any advantages we may think belong to the one who lives justly are merely the advantages of a just reputation. (360e–362c)

Glaucon’s Argument:

People admire, and would rather be, a thoroughly unjust person with a just reputation (who consequently flourishes in the world) than a just person with an unjust reputation (who is the object of universal punishment and scorn). ~

ADEIMANTUS: ANCILLARY ARGUMENTS │ {Mention but do not cover in class.}

Attack 4:

When fathers try to persuade their children to be just, they praise not justice itself, but the good reputation it leads to. (363a)

Attack 5:

Even promises of otherworldly rewards for justice implicitly call it a burden by suggesting that in the next life no one bothers to practice virtue. (363c)

Attack 6:

The gods allow the unjust person to (a) prosper from injustice in this world and (b) seek absolution through prayers, supplications and rituals, escaping punishment for their transgressions in the next, while the just person only gains the latter. (365e–366b) ~

THE FUNCTION ARGUMENT │ {Mention but do not cover in class.}

1. Everything has a function [ergon] that it alone can do, or that it does better than anything else can. (352d–353a) {Questions of scope: is Plato committed to the view that ALL things have a

function? Does he require this ‘broad conception’ of function for his argument to go through? Why or why not?}

2. The excellence or virtue of a thing is that which makes it preform its function well. (353b–d) 3. The function of the soul is living. (353d) {This is not immediately clear, especially to modern ears. Question for the class: what does Plato mean when he says ‘the function of the soul is living’?}

4. From (2) and (3), the virtue of the soul makes it live well. (353e) 5. Justice is the virtue of the soul. (353e) {Of course, Plato has yet to establish this. The rest of the Republic is concerned with fleshing out this crucial premise.}

6. From (4) and (5), the just live well. (353e) 7. The just are happy. (354a) {Reconstruct the ‘function argument’ in premise form on the board, if needed. Problems with the argument? Is it convincing? Solicit feedback, discussion. }


THE TWO CITIES │ {Mention but do not cover in class.}

Founding Principles:

1. Humans taken individually are not self-sufficient, that is, they need others. (369b) 2. People are naturally disposed to perform different tasks. (370a–b) ~

The First City:

Exists to satisfy human needs. Although he will quickly move on to the second city, Socrates refers to this as the “true” or “healthy” city. (372e)


“They will make food, wine and clothes…And they will build themselves houses. In the summer, they will work mostly naked and barefoot…They will recline on couches strewn with yew and myrtles and feast with their children, drink their wine, and, crowned with wreaths, hymn the gods. They will enjoy having sex with one another, but produce no more children than their resources allow, lest they fall into poverty or war.” (372a–c) {This description strikes you as both halcyon and idyllic; are you guilty, along with Plato, of romanticizing the first city?}


“If you were founding a city of pigs, Socrates, isn’t that just what you would provide to fatten them?” (372d) ~

The Second City:

The “luxurious” or “feverish” city. Provides not only for the necessities of life, but also for (more refined) tastes and wants. (372e) {Citing Socrates’ poetic description of the first city, make sure the class realizes that

its living conditions are NOT abstemious or austere—all needs are met. Question for class: given this fact, why does Socrates abandon the first city for the second, especially if he continues to maintain that the first is the “true” and “healthy” city? }

Two Possible Explanations: 1. Plato idealizes the “city of pigs” but, given its primitive utopian nature, it is not a feasible polis or political entity. Therefore, he moves on. 2. Philosophy does not exist in the “city of pigs.” We have to move beyond basic needs into the “feverish city”—in which the potential for both goodness (i.e., living well) and vice is greater—for (a) an illuminating case study of justice as a network of constraints, and (b) to realize the true nature of philosophy. {You favour 2.}



Socrates’ Philosophical Method Socrates:

“The investigation we are undertaking is not an easy one, in my view, but requires keen eyesight. So, since we are not clever people, I think we should adopt the method of investigation that we would use if, lacking keen eyesight, we were told to identify small letters from a distance, and then noticed that the same letters existed elsewhere in a larger size and on a larger surface. We would consider it a godsend, I think, to be allowed to identify the larger ones first, and then to examine the smaller ones to see whether they are really the same.”


“Of course we would. But how is this case similar to our investigation of justice in your view?”


“I will tell you. We say, don’t we, that there is a justice that belongs to a single man, and also one that belongs to a whole city?”




“And a city is a larger than a single man?”


“Yes, it is larger.”


“Perhaps, then, there will be more justice in the larger thing, and it will be easier to discern. So, if you are willing, let’s first find out what sort of thing justice is in cities and afterwards look for it in the individual, to see if the larger entity is similar in form to the smaller one.” (368c–369a) {Questions for class: (a) what is Socrates’ method of philosophical investigation?

And (b) what does it reveal about the connection between the Kallipolis and the soul?}

~ The Tripartite Class Structure of the Kallipolis

The Four Cardinal Virtues







{Harmony between all three classes}

{Each class performing its function; no meddling} →


~ The Tripartite Structure of the Soul

The Four Cardinal Virtues







{Harmony between all three parts}

{Each part performing its function; no meddling} →


{Place both diagrams, along with the corresponding virtues on the board at the beginning of class. Elicit

feedback: allow students to freely discuss the merits or shortcomings of Plato’s classifications (city and soul), what the four virtues entail in each, Plato’s atypical definition of justice, and any general doubts or misgivings they might have.}

~ Socrates on the just soul:

“[One who is just] does not allow the elements in him each to do the job of some other, or the three sorts of elements in his soul to meddle with one another. Instead, he regulate well what is really his own, rules himself, puts himself in order, becomes his own friend, and harmonizes the three elements together, just as if they were literally the three defining notes of an octave—lowest, highest, and middle—as well as any others that may be in between. He binds together all of these and, from having been many, becomes entirely one, temperate and harmonious. Then and only then should he turn to action, whether it is to do something concerning the acquisition of wealth or concerning the care of his body, or even something political, or concerning private contracts. In all these areas, he considers and calls just and fine the action that preserves this inner harmony and helps achieve it, and wisdom the knowledge that such action; and he considers and calls unjust any action that destroys this harmony and ignorance the belief that oversees it.” (443d–e) ~


Argument 1: (The Soul out of Kilter)

The tyrannical soul will be “full of slavery and illiberality” with the best parts enslaved, and the most wicked, acting as master (577d). It will “least do what it wishes” [as a whole] and be “full of disorder and regret” (577e)—“insatiable,” “maddened by…appetites and passions,” beset by “wailing, groaning, lamenting and painful suffering” (578a). {Questions for class: (a) what is Socrates claiming, and why? And (b) how does this respond to Thrasymachus’s challenge at the beginning of the Republic?}


“Spirit” [thumos] refers to emotional responses that are morally informed (e.g., indignation or righteous anger).


The Sybaritic Partygoer (e.g., Paris Hilton); The Kierkegaardian Seducer (e.g., Adam Levine); The Moneygrubber; the Addict; etc. {Interesting topic. Elicit examples from the class, foster discussion.}


Argument 2: (The Argument from Pleasure)

1. Each part of the soul has its own desires, and the pleasures that derive from their fulfillment: (a) the appetitive part loves gain, (b) the spirited part loves honour, and (c) the rational part loves wisdom and learning (581a–c). 2. Everyone ruled by one part of the soul will argue that fulfillment of that part’s desires is the most pleasant (581c–d). 3. This results in a dispute between rival pleasures, which in turn requires a judge. 4. The best judge is in any matter is the one with the widest experience. 5. Since (a) the philosophos [the lover of wisdom] knows both the pleasures of bodily appetite and honour, she will be the best judge (582a–d), and (b) judgements rely on arguments, and the philosophos uses arguments better than anyone else, she emerges once again as the best judge (582d–583a). 6. Having accepted the philosophos’ judgement as best, we must concede that her own life, the life of the just, with its pleasures of wisdom and learning, defeats the life of an unjust person (583b). {Questions for class: (a) why does Socrates say that the philosophos knows

all three pleasures? And (b) why should we trust her, when she has a stake in the adjudication?}


Argument 3: (Real and Unreal Pleasures)

Socrates distinguishes between three states of pleasure and pain (583c–585a): REAL PLEASURE A STATE OF

INTERMEDIATE REPOSE that sometimes feels like pleasure or pain



When we are sick, the relief from pain only seems pleasant. Hence, this is a false or unreal pleasure which belongs to the middle category—that houses neither real pleasure nor real pain (584a). But if pleasures can be “false” we must acknowledge the possibility of an expertise with respect to pleasure (584e–585a). As we saw in the previous reply, the philosophos is precisely such an expert. Therefore, we should be suspicious of the claims of the unjust that their lives contain real pleasures, and acknowledge only the pleasures of wisdom and learning as the true pleasures (585b–e). {Questions for class: (a) how convincing is this argument? And (b) in light of his

tripartite conception of the soul, is Socrates right to dismiss all other pleasures as “inferior”—if not “false”? Why or why not?}


Plato's Republic Socrates - Torin Doppelt

PHIL 233: Lecture Notes O. M. Bachour (March 2, 2016) ~ Plato’s Republic THE CHALLENGE: JUSTICE AND HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY Socrates: “I cannot at all agr...

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