Interpretive Essay of Plato's The Republic

Topics: Plato, Justice, Virtue Pages: 6 (1600 words) Published: May 1, 2014
It is said that for any problem, there is an appropriate solution that accompanies that problem. In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates is involved in an intense argument along with five other men. They all encounter the same problems in their discussion. The problems are to correctly define justice, decipher if justice is a virtue, and see if justice leads to true happiness. Socrates, with the help of the other men, does find the solution to all of their problems after much back and forth conversation. Socrates will answer these questions by examining the story of the Gygean Ring, and creating an imaginary “healthy” city. At the end of Book I the three problems are made evident, but not answered.

In Book I’s “Closing Argument”, Socrates and Thrasymachus make a point of what needs to be answered in order to find the true definition of justice. Once they realize the three questions that need to be answered, Socrates says, “So long as I do not know what the just is, I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue or not and whether the one who has it is unhappy or happy.”1 The answers, which are later discovered, are in direct comparison with Book I, because the questions all stem from the closing argument. Although no real answers are found at the end of Book I, it sets up a framework for the other men to follow and argue with in the following books. In Book II, Glaucon decides to announce the challenge of injustice against justice. Glaucon challenges Socrates by asking him whether or not he wants to “seem to have persuaded them”, or “truly persuaded them”. Obviously Socrates wants to truly persuade all of the men, so Glaucon begins to try to refute Socrates’ previous statements. Glaucon does this by using the story of the Gygean Ring. He uses this story to show that Justice is really one of the third forms of the “good”. The three forms of “good” are one, for its own sake, two, for its own sake and its consequences, and three, for its consequences. The story is about a shepherd who one day finds a gold ring on a corpse. He later finds out that the ring possesses the special power of invisibility. The shepherd is easily corrupted by the power of the ring and proceeds by performing very unjust actions. He ends up taking over the king’s rule after committing adultery with the king’s wife and killing the king. This shows that given the opportunity, a just man will perform the same deeds as an unjust man, in order to achieve what is better. Glaucon is trying to prove that justice is not a virtue and that a just man performs just deeds not because he wants to, but because the just deeds have the least amount of consequences. An unjust man can attain the same thing through unjust actions, but the consequences of his actions vary whether he is caught doing the action, or gets away clean. Glaucon’s final statement is that justice is not a virtue of the soul because if the shepherd had the virtue, he would not have performed the unjust deeds after finding the ring.

Glaucon is then followed up by Socrates and Adeimantus who collectively create an imaginary “healthy” city. They start small with one need, which was food, and branch out from there. They work all the way up to building the complete city but during the construction they decide that every man in the city is naturally selected to perform one work. “So on this basis each thing becomes more plentiful, finer, and easier when one man, exempt from other tasks, does one thing according to nature and at a crucial moment.”2 He says that rather than performing many tasks at a mediocre level, each man is selected to perform one art efficiently and correctly. Since each man can only perform one work, they create three classes of citizens who are responsible for a properly functioning city. The first group is the workers, which are broken into two parts. One part is those who work for what they city “wants”, and the other is those who work for what the city...

Cited: Plato. The Republic of Plato. Translated by Allen Bloom. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1991. Print.
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