An Analysis of Plato’s Republic: Book 2

Hey! A few updates: I know it’s not Sunday yet, but my reading was ahead of my writing, so I had to do one paper early. Normally, though, (until I finish the Republic,) I’ll have a post on the next book on Wednesday and on Sunday. To keep up with my reading, I am going only to be writing about The Republic until I finish it. Oh! And the last thing is about the sequel to my paper on Pyrrhus. I was going to write it, but I have a friend who knows a lot more about the subject of the paper than me. So we decided he would do a guest paper on the subject. Just a warning, it is for the history nerd crowd, and isn’t going to be as simple as mine. I try to make mine so that anyone can understand it, but he told me it is going to be very in-depth. Anyways, that should be coming out soon. Now let’s get into Book 2.

The book begins with Glaucon and Socrates arguing over whether justice or injustice is better, Socrates on the side of Justice and Glaucon on Injustice. Glaucon says Thrasymachus conceded to Socrates to easily that justice was good and injustice bad and makes an interesting point. The unjust man makes not just profits, but with those profits, the favour of the gods. You can spend more on sacrifices and so the gods will like you more. And isn’t that a better life? I disagree. Throughout the myths, it is implied that the point of sacrifices is to show your allegiance to the gods, not just to give them food. So the gods would realize that your an immoral person and do not have any desires beyond your own selfish needs.

Later an interesting point is made. Someone points out that a lot of the time when one is put into a position of power, they immediately become corrupt and unjust. I wonder whether this means humans are in principle bad creatures, and giving them power just brings this out, or whether giving them power does something bad to them. I suspect (and hope!) the latter, but you can’t be sure. My reasons pretty simple: There have been plenty of completely fair and just rulers with a ton of power. But let me think of something else. Say all humans did become corrupt when holding so much power. How would society continue? How would we still have the idea of a ruler? Again, it would be totally awesome if someone could give me a reply in the comments.

Now we get into the city. Socrates has Adeimantius imagine a city. Socrates starts going through the jobs and people needed in the city. They go through different human needs, and the jobs required to fill those needs. First food, then housing, then clothing, etc… It is interesting. One thing that caught my historian’s eye was when Socrates was talking about Resources. He says that it would be impossible to have a location in which a city would have all the resources needed. I cannot stress the need of trade enough. Now, we can easily transport all your food to you imported in less than a day. But the Ancient Greeks didn’t have cars. They didn’t have planes. So the only quick way of travel was by sea. This is why so many civilization’s started on the water. (Also just because water is good for agriculture.) But it evolved, slowly, as more luxuries were made, into a good way to get people stuff.

Anyways, eventually Adeimantius stops Socrates. He tells him that this is way to simple. So Socrates brings in the element of luxury and excess. At first, this seems like a good thing. There are Dancers, Poets, Musicians, Artists, Jewelers, and all sorts of stuff. But then you need to expand your city. You need to make more houses. You need to make theatres and markets. Slums develop, and crime increases. And most of all, you need a lot more farmland for more food. Because the new occupants need to be fed too. But you don’t have enough land to expand. So you must raise an army and attack your neighbor nations. And so, Luxury leads to crime, war, and overall injustice. Good job Socrates.

The last thing I wanted to talk about is an interesting assessment on Socrates’s part of Education. The Greek gods (in my view) are if nothing else, human. They have wars, anger, jealousy, and pride. Socrates realizes this. He says the Youth should not be taught of these things. The gods should be their Idols, and you don’t want your Idols murdering and betraying others. Rather, they should be taught that the gods are truly divine, perfect beings so that youth will take these as their ideals. This is important, especially at a young age where ones principles are being shaped. I find this a very interesting claim, but at the same time, I feel Socrates is going to be tasting Hemlock pretty soon… saying we should misinform the youth about the gods isn’t on the top of the list of the Athenian Authority’s.

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