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Plato's Republic Summary Books 2-7

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Plato's Republic Summary Books 2-7

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  • December 13, 2005
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Plato's Republic

In the beginning of Book II of Plato's Republic, ancient Greek philosopher Socrates has just finished thoroughly proving that justice is far better than injustice. Socrates associates however, are not convinced challenge him to give a more detailed and further explanation as to justice's worth. Glaucon, states that all goods can be divided into three classes: things we desire only for their consequences, such as medical treatment; things we desire purely for their own sake, like joy; and the highest class of good being things we desire both for their own sake and for what we get from them, such as knowledge, sight and health. In short, Glaucon and the others want Socrates to prove that justice is not only desirable, but that is belongs to the perceived highest class of desirable things: that which is desired both for it's own sake and that of it's consequences.

Glaucon proceeds to point out that justice stems from human weakness and vulnerability. Most people view justice as a necessary evil, one which we suffer in order to avoid the greater evil almost sure to befall us if justice were done away with. Meaning that since the injustice of one can mean the suffering of many, a sort of unspoken social contract is executed in which we agree to be just to one another. Glaucon's point is that justice is not something practical for its own sake but something one engages in out of fear and weakness.

To illustrate this point, Glaucon invikes the legend of the ring of Gynges. We are to imagine a just man given a ring which renders him invisible. This man can now act injustly without fear of redress. The moral of the story is that even the most just man would behave unjustly and indulge all of his deepest most primitve urges. Therefore proving that people are only just for the sake of appearance and the fear of punishment. Glaucon then attempts to show that not only do people prefer to be unjust but that it is entirely rational to do so....