An Analysis of Plato’s Republic: Book 3

Book 3 begins with a conversation about bravery and cowardice. Socrates continues to talk about education of the youth, and how we should try to shape their minds. First of all, he says we obviously don’t want them to fear death. So, Socrates asks Adeimantus, should we really be telling the tales of the grueling and terrible underworld? Obviously, Adeimantus says no. In fact, Socrates claims that we should go to the extreme here. We shouldn’t even symbolize death as a bad thing whatsoever. In the Iliad, everyone is always talking about death in such a sad manner. But we don’t want death to seem like a bad thing! Socrates’s view is certainly extreme, but interesting. But I disagree. I don’t think you can literally raise the human race in lies.

Socrates becomes even more so extreme with his censorship. Throughout the myths there is a lot of stuff done for money. He bans quite a lot of the Iliad and especially of Achilles, because he also wants to prevent greed. Eventually they have talked about The gods, humans, and the dead. So Socrates and Adeimentus agree that the only thing to talk about now is the human race as an overall. Eventually they begin talking about the telling of stories. Socrates distinguishes three types of writing: Writing from a Narration perspective, writing from the perspective of the characters, and a mix. Socrates says any are okay, but writing from the perspective of a character requires writing from the perspective requires writing from the perspective of a good person so you do not misdirect the youth. My personal answer is that any is fine, but it is much harder to write well if you are writing from the perspective of the character.

Socrates then goes on to talk about music. Adeimantus agrees that there are three parts to music: Lyrics, Rhythm, and tone. They go over what should be displayed and what shouldn’t. Only some lyrics should be used so as not to mis-educate the youth, and, quite obviously, no tragedy or comedy should be shown. See, this is one of my main problems with Socrates’s education system. He thinks that you cannot show youth tragedy or comedy, because it will shape their minds in the wrong way. I have a lot of problems with this. The first is that I think by taking the extremes away from entertainment, you are effectively taking away entertainment. Whatever the specific art is: Poetry. Music. Theatre. Even, in a way, painting. I think entertainment is basically about extremes. Are daily lives are so bland we need something to liven us. Well, not art is like this. But most is, especially back then. Tragedy and comedy were so implemented into Hellenic society that I am thoroughly surprised Socrates would say such a thing.

The second is, I think, a deeper thought. This is not about emotion-which I deem good in art, but rather mistakes. I believe one cannot be a good person if they are shielded from so much of society. Even if sometimes the people in the play make a mistake, it isn’t that bad. You have to learn about the world to grow up. Humans would become so primal that they would begin making mistakes themselves because they would never see the backlash of those actions. They would never even hear of them, and because of that, never told they were wrong. So, because people were shielded from bad things, they became the very embodiment of them.

I am really interested in something later brought up by Glaucon. He states that with extreme pleasure comes irrationality. He says that the same comes from extreme pain. This, to me, is extremely deep. Though I believe the two things have conflicting reasons. Pain is much more primal. Your body, quite simply, takes over. Your instincts kick in, and everything becomes about survival. But Pleasure is different. I think there are different things pleasure does to make one irrational. Instead of making everything urgent like pain, everything becomes meaningless. You are no longer compelled to act rationally. This, at times, can be even more dangerous than pain.

Socrates brings up the trait of being “Naive.” His argument is that what we call being naive is almost innocence. Not seeing the bad in someone is not seeing it because you have no bad part of you. I think this is interesting. But Socrates says this cannot be true, because there has to be a way for there to be good judges in the city. So he decides that the judges must be old and experienced, so that even if the judges have not experienced internal evil, they will be old enough that they have seen many cases of external evil. Then they can root out evil not from personal experience of it, but from external sources.

Socrates makes a point which was extremely important from a historical point of view: You cannot let your mercenary soldiers get out of hand and began acting violently to your citizens. Though respected, mercenaries are not originally from your nation, and might start acting savagely. Socrates gives the analogy of a shepherd’s dogs. It is of the utmost importancy that they have the right breeding, otherwise they may become savage and begin to harass or even kill the sheep. The same goes for the mercenaries.

All in all, my opinion of book three wasn’t very high. So far, my favorite book has certainly been book two. A lot of book 3 was uninteresting, with Socrates making shallow claims, and Glaucon grudgingly admitting them. I certainly enjoyed the latter part of book three more. Anyways, I’m finished!

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