The following is a list of books, articles or essays related to Plato’s Republic.
A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic, David Sachs
In this famous essay, Sachs argues that Plato fails to meet the challenge set for by Glaucon and Adeimantus. The brothers wanted to know why it is better for someone to act justly than unjustly, believing that Thrasymachus had a valid point. It does indeed seem to be the case that the unjust man lives a better life than the just man. By the end of Book IV, Plato has defined justice as the harmony of the soul, however Sachs argues that this does nothing to meet the original challenge related to ‘vulgar justice’. Instead, Plato has introduced his own notion of justice. So not only has he failed to define justice in the way set down by the brothers, he has done nothing to prove that acting justly is the best course of action.
A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic? Raphael Demos
This short article is a direct reply to the essay of David Sachs. While Demos agrees that Plato has not done enough to distinguish between platonic justice and vulgar justice, he does not believe this gap is enough to constitute a fallacy. In setting up his idea of Platonic justice, Plato argues that reason is paramount, and reason is based on having an understanding of the Forms. The Form of Justice requires that you seek instances of justice not just for yourself but for everyone around you. Therefore, once you have Platonic justice, you will have an understanding of the Form of the Justice, which will ensure that you will act justly in the vulgar sense as well.
Plato’s Analogy of Soul and State, Nicholas Smith
Smith argues that Plato’s attempt to create a tripartite division in both the city and the soul fails. In the city, as Socrates himself demonstrates, it is possible to have a ‘simple city’ that has no division at all between its members, but can still demonstrate justice (by everyone sticking to their own business). Similarly, the soul can be struck with many conflicting ideas and passions, and it is simplistic to expect a neat, three-part division into reason, passion and appetite. However, despite this, Smith holds that Plato’s theory still works, since justice is concerned with harmony of the whole. It does not matter how many separate parts there (one or many), the same concept of justice still applies – each part sticking to itself and not interfering in other people’s affairs.
Plato’s Defence of Justice, Normal Dahl
The starting point of Dahl’s essay is two well-known criticisms of Plato’s Republic (discussed in some of the other essays included in this post): (1) the fallacy of irrelevance (Socrates does not adequately answer the question originally set by the two brothers), and (2) the Republic provides the wrong reason for people to be just (happiness). Dahl believes he can defend Plato from the first criticism, which has the side-effect of also providing a defence for criticism 2. The basis of Dahl’s argument is that Plato’s morality is not as ‘agent-centred’ as is normally assumed. By introducing a more ‘act-centred’ approach, we can argue that one who has Platonic justice will also be just in the everyday sense.
The Psychology of Justice in Plato, John Cooper
This essay focuses on what Plato means by the ‘just person’. What sort of mental characteristics and psychology does such a person have? Although ‘inner harmony’ is the starting point of the just person, Cooper stresses that the just person must have sufficient knowledge of what it means to be just. This leads on to a discussion of the central books of the Republic, in which Socrates argues that the Form of the Good lies at the heart of any search of knowledge. Although Plato doesn’t provide much detail as to exactly what the ‘good’ is, one strong sense we get is that it must include harmony. A thing cannot be in turmoil with itself. Furthermore, the ‘Good’ is not just concerned with itself, but with seeing as much good as possible in the world around us, which is why the philosophers must return to the cave to free the remaining prisoners from their bondage.
Plato’s Ethics and Politics in the Republic, Eric Brown
This provides a general overview of the main themes of the Republic, concentrating on Plato’s notion of justice, along with his political theories about the just city. In terms of justice, the essay first considers how Socrates goes about defining justice, and then considers how Socrates directly responds to Glaucon and Adeimantus’s challenge: why is it better to be just than unjust.
Inside and Outside the Republic, Jonathan Lear
One of the criticism of the Republic is that the city-soul analogy is not a persuasive argument. You cannot compare the workings of a city to that an individual, since the two are entirely different entities. Lear holds that the analogy is appropriate, drawing to the fact that the individual has both an ‘internal’ and ‘external’ connection with the city. Firstly, through culture, the individual will develop a sense of justice based on the general principles she sees around her. Secondly, with that knowledge internalised and shaped, the individual will then further develop the culture of the city external to her own thoughts. Because of the strong link with individual and state in terms of development, Plato puts great stress on the need for education to avoid bad influences, such as poetry that depicts people in a bad or corrupt light. Lear investigates Plato’s attack on the arts in more detail.
The Defence of Justice in Plato’s Republic, Richard Kraut
The author tackles what he considers one of the most surprising conclusions from Plato’s Republic: that the just man is always better off than the unjust, even when the just man is undergoing extreme torture while the unjust mean is living a life of luxury. While Book IV reaches a partial conclusion about justice (in terms of inner harmony), Kraut notes we cannot answer the difficulty above unless we pay attention to Plato’s theory of Forms. The discovery of Forms is a momentous occasion in one’s life, for the philosopher finally discovers what is the ultimate good that everyone should be striving for in life. One of the main criticism of the Forms (as first discussed by Aristotle) concerns the fact that the ‘Form of the Good’ is too vague and imprecise. Kraut considers whether this criticism is valid.