The Republic

Philip Page

Most normal individuals in the modern world would assume that all books written, not published, by man are based on either a portion of the author?s imagination, an event (biased or non-biased) in either history or during the life of the author, a straight-out autobiography, or a generalized biography of another person they once knew. However, this philosophical novel fits none of the descriptions above. The book is actually an in-depth recording of a philosophy contest between Plato?s teacher Socrates and several other great philosophers. What is significant about this contest is that, in it, Socrates describes his personal view of a ?perfect world,? and why justice is so important in the process of creating a civilized world.

The novel was completed in 370 B.C., and it describes a strong debate between Socrates and five other speakers. The two main arguments that he illustrates in this novel are that a ruler cannot obtain more power than the state, and that a philosopher is best suited to rule a nation since he has the ability to maintain this balance. Also, Socrates claims that only the philosopher has traveled beyond the ?cave? of worldly desires and temptations to discover what justice really is.

Socrates? first major argument is with Thrasymachus in Book I. The current debate lies on the pure definition of justice. Thrasymachus claims that there is only one principle of justice: the interest of the more dominant force. Socrates counters this argument by using the phrase ?the stronger.? He claims that the ruler of a nation will not be aided, but harmed, by an unintentional command, in the long run. Socrates then builds his argument gradually by stating that the good and just man looks out for the interest of the weaker, and not for himself. Thrasymachus tries to counter Socrates?s argument by vaguely proclaiming that injustice is more gainful than justice.

However, Socrates bravely explains that the just man will live happily because he has a just soul, and the man with the unjust soul lives in poverty; therefore, injustice can never be greater than justice. At this point in the novel I saw Thrasymachus?s flaw and also the reason why Socrates has silenced Thrasymachus. Injustice, in my opinion, may be better as a short-term plan for pleasure, but in the long run the unjust man will be condemned by just men of his evil deeds, thus leading to his downfall. This is a point Thrasymachus failed to see, and thus his argument was too unilateral. This is the reason I believe he lost, and his failure led me to believe that Thrasymachus is a knowledgeable man without wisdom(whereas Socrates had both).

After Thrasymachus?s defeat, Glaucon steps up to challenge Socrates. Glaucon?s first argument is that doing injustice and not being punished for it is much more pleasurable than suffering injustice at the hands of unjust rulers and practicing justice. Glaucon?s brother, Adeimantus, backs up his brother?s speech by stating that an unjust man with a deceivably just reputation(which is almost always the trait of the perfectly unjust man) is also better than the just man. But Socrates counters these two strong speeches by proclaiming that, in an average city, justice is needed for the Senate to build the city, for citizens to trade and barter with foreigners, and for training and educating soldiers for battle. Socrates also states that justice comes from God and those who follow his example become just. Although these two arguments are striking contrasted content-wise, there is a connection between them. If a man is unjust, he will not only be condemned by men, but by God as well. And even though there may be no Supreme Being that controls the Earth and its neighboring planets, injustice will still cause harm, leading to more injustice and finally the destruction of the world. I am quite positive that Glaucon and Adeimantus are thinking in the same manner as Thrasymachus; they are thinking short-termed and are explaining their arguments in terms of the present. Of course, three unjust men in a world where just people rule could get away with almost any unjust act. But injustice leads to more injustice, as well as justice leads to more justice. Therefore, if the following is considered true, then unjust men leads to more unjust men, and then what would happen if unjust men ruled the world. There would be many intense conflicts,