My Thoughts On Plato’s Republic

About 20 minutes ago, I finished reading Plato’s Republic.  It didn’t take me nearly as long to read as I thought it would.  I suppose that’s what a long flight will get you, un-interrupted time to read.  As with anything philosophical in nature, the text was pretty deep.

As I previously posted, an argument was initially made in the book that injustice was a stronger virtue than justice.  After Book 1, Socrates goes through the process of proving that theory wrong.  He goes about proving his theory is right by discussing various topics, such as types of governments, the types of people that should run those governments, and how individuals should be educated.

What I got most out of the book was the fact that Socrates and his companions feel that only those that are enlightened with a strong education and who follow philosophy should be those that are most equipped to run a state.  For a book written in ancient times, Socrates does discuss, in great detail, on the equality of women in the state, which really took me by surprise.  There are some fantastic ideas presented in the book, but I feel with the references to Homer, I probably should’ve read The Iliad and The Odyssey prior to tackling this book.

I also want to point out some quotes that I took particular notice of during my time reading this book, the first comes from Book 3, page 78:

Then if anyone at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good.  But nobody else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow-sailors.

I read this quote, and it got me to thinking about our current political leaders and the truths they stretch to win elections or once in power.  I wonder if they’ve read Republic and have taken particular notice of this passage.  I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with Socrates’s statement here approving of governments lying to their citizens, but that’s a discussion for a different type of blog.  🙂

The second passage comes from Book 4, page 122:

Then, as I was saying, our youth shall be trained from the first in a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-conducted and victorious citizens.

To me, this passage makes a lot of sense, as my parents were somewhat strict with me when I was growing up, and I feel like I turned out ok, and once I’m a father, I would like to think that I wouldn’t let my kids run around out of control.

Finally, I definitely enjoyed reading about Socrates explaining the key virtues of the state in Book 4.  Those virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance and justice.  Which, I truly believe, are really great virtues to base a constitution or laws on.’

Overall, I would have to say that I enjoyed reading Plato’s Republic, but I also feel that I will need to read it again in order to gain further understanding of this work.  I definitely recommend this book if you’re really looking for something that’s going to get you thinking.


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

2 Responses to “My Thoughts On Plato’s Republic”

  1. “I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with Socrates’s statement here approving of governments lying to their citizens…”

    Plato/Socrates only truly approved it if the rulers were appropriately enlightened and so able to judge correctly. That criterion would certainly exclude almost all our current politicians!

    Obscurantism in the hands of an undeserving elite was frowned upon (though he did acknowledge that such tyrannies or oligarchies would at least be better than democracy).

  2. Thoughts on thoughts

    It’s been a while since I’ve essayed the tough fruit of the dialogues, but here are a couple of my reflections:

    1) Plato rightly feared mob rule & such corruptions as personality & identity politics. unscrupulous rhetoricians scared the living daylights out of him (think of TV & monitors in public places that broadcast only a single channel).
    2) Accessing the most intelligent, most caring & most committed citizens to run a government is no easy task. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine under the current political system in this country–we are veering too close to mob rule. On the other hand, we cannot take the vote away from anyone, since the vote is the best guarantee against second-class citizenship (or death camps, for that matter). I think that indirect elections might be one way to improve the overall quality of government–have the population vote for the electors of the government, not directly for the representatives. The devil is in the details, but I could imagine that this would at least remove high-school-style politicking from the list of active threats to participatory democracy.
    3) we don’t need any more lies a la Nixon, but in extraordinary cases, such as the Manhattan Project or the drafting of the constitution, secrecy & denial can be justified. we just need to bear in mind that power corrupts. RT

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