The Republic is one of Plato’s longer works (more than 450 pages in length). It is written in dialogue form (as are most of Plato’s books), & it addresses major issues in almost all of the branches of philosophy.
The central theme in the book seems to be the nature of justice, a topic in political philosophy, but Plato also has his characters explore issues in
philosophical cosmology, philosophical theology, philosophical anthropology,
ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology.
The parts of the Republic that are contained in our text
(pp. 107-123) focus on Plato’s idea (ideal?) of the Philosopher Ruler.
According to Plato,
best possible political system (state) will be ruled (governed) by PHILOSOPHERS!
(Is he kidding?)
Our reading selection contains the following themes/sections:
Introduction on the unifying of philosophy & politics (107) Why "true philosophers" would make the best rulers (108-12) • What is "true philosophy"? (108-11)
• Love of wisdom (108) • Knowledge of true reality (108-9) • The distinctions between knowledge, ignorance and opinion (109-11)
• How is a "true philosopher" different from a "lover of opinion"? (111-12) • Who is best suited to rule the state – lovers of opinion or "true philosophers"? (112)
Political leadership and knowledge of the Good (112-13) The ascent of the mind to knowledge of the Good (113-123) • The analogy between the Good and the sun (113-15) • The image of the divided line (115-18) • The allegory of the cave (118-123)
The selection in the text begins at a point in the Republic after Socrates, Glaucon, & other characters have been discussing the nature of justice and the marks of a just political system for some time. So we are coming into the middle of the conversation where Glaucon is pressing Socrates to state whether it is possible for a really just political system to come into existence. Before answering Glaucon’s question, Socrates wonders whether it is worthwhile to What does he say construct a theoretical model of a good political system even if such a system could about this? Do you agree? Why not actually exist. or why not?
Back to Glaucon’s original question:
Can a really just (or at least approximately just) political system exist? What would make it possible?
(It is the separation of philosophy & political power.)
And this leads to . . . .
unless political power & philosophy are brought together & those who now pursue either the one or the other exclusively are prevented from doing so -neither our political problems nor our human troubles in general can be ended . . . . ”
(Text, pp. 108-111)
True Philosophy & True Philosophers
What are the characteristics of a person who is naturally suited to practice philosophy?
According to Socrates (Plato), a true philosopher
the whole of wisdom and is satisfied with nothing less; recognizes the difference between particular things and the essences (or forms) of which particular things are likenesses (e.g., beautiful things vs. Beauty itself); and knows the differences between knowledge, ignorance, and opinion.
Plato argues that
someone who really loves something must love that thing as a whole and not just some aspects of it. On that basis, he concludes that a true philosopher (lover of wisdom) must desire wisdom as a whole and not be content with having just some wisdom. Do you agree with this?
Do wine-lovers really love all wines?
A true philosopher
recognizes the difference between particular things and the essences (or forms) of which particular things are likenesses (e.g., beautiful things vs. Beauty itself).
One of Plato’s major metaphysical theories is known as the “Theory of Forms.” According to that theory, ultimate reality is a realm of forms (essences) not accessible to the senses but only to the mind (intellect). He calls that level of reality the...
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