An Analysis of Plato’s Republic: Book 4

Hello! Today I am writing about book 4. AS always, Id love a critique or just a comment saying your view in the comment section. Enjoy!

Socrates explains the conditions of the soldiers in the city. They must have very strict limitations and must not aloud to be feral and begin harassing the citizens because they have too much power (a situation that many believe we have right now.) So he believes we should take extremes. They are not aloud to have wives, money, land, or any kind of personal life. They are to be soldiers down to the core. But I believe this will make them revolt in itself, and do the opposite of what Socrates wanted. When you take away everything, they will go into open revolt.

After Socrates talks about the conditions of the soldiers, Adeimantus is shocked. He asks Socrates how he can defend himself making these soldiers so unhappy. Socrates makes an interesting analogy. If you are painting a statue and you paint the eyes black, and someone comes up to you and says that you should be painting the eyes purple, because that is more beautiful, it is completely rational to say no. But why? Because, in all reality peoples eyes are almost never purple! The same goes for the soldiers, he tells us. You can’t turn everyone, just because their lives might not be pleasurable, into something they’re not! Soldiers have to be hardened and disciplined into soldiers. You just can’t give them all of life’s pleasantries. But I object, like before. Socrates Isn’t giving them anything. Life would be joyless for them.

I’m gonna skip some stuff about education and music which I found pretty repetitive. I was reading and found that he thought there were four elements to the city. The first was wisdom. Socrates shows Glaucon that you would not call a carpenter wise, even though he may be skilled at woodworking. Rather, only a few, the leaders of the city, will have this “Wisdom.” He goes on to tell Glaucon that the next element is courage. It lies in the defenders, the second class. Socrates says the third element should lie in the citizens of the city. It is moderation of the soul. And the final element, the one that began all the others, and is keeping them there, is justice. Justice, in definition, applies to everyone, for each classes own virtue is only there because of justice.

Now Socrates makes an interesting observation. If a worker-citizen trades jobs with another worker-citizen, it isn’t that bad. They have the same virtue (moderation) and could easily switch a simple difference like woodworking to metalworking. But if someone from the worker-citizen class accumulates a large amount of wealth, power, or fame and try to rise to the next rank, in this case the soldier class, that could be a disaster. They might have prestige, but they would not know how to do the next classes job, and they would have the wrong virtue. He thinks the worst thing that can happen to a city is the melding of the classes. But earlier it was stated that the worst thing in the city is injustice. So, Socrates states, the mixing of classes has to be literal injustice. And justice is the separation of the classes is justice in it’s purist form.

At this point, I need to stop Socrates. Does he seriously think that the only case of injustice is the mixing of classes? What about murder, theft, discrimination, corruption, and harassment? What does injustice mean to him? Because from what he has said throughout the book I am heavily inclined to think of it as a wider concept (though I do like his principle of putting all non-soldier non-politician citizens into one class, because it somewhat prevents socio-economic class discrimination). Something that adds on to this is something brought up by my mom when I was talking with her about the Republic. She said apparently the richest class is actually the citizen class. As I said, this releases social tension about classes, because the more powerful classes (the soldiers and the politicians) actually have less money, which means money does not lead to too much power or respect, and people are in general more equal.

Socrates brings up human desire. I find that simple, primal desire (like hunger and thirst) takes over the conscious, rational mind. Socrates says it is almost like a civil war in ones own body. Reason on one side; primal instinct on the other. This is scary too me that I can lose control of my own body or mind.

As I read, I talk with others, and as I was talking about how weird it is that Socrates thinks there is only one form of injustice. But then I was showed something that never clicked in my mind: The ruling class represents your wisdom; the soldiers your courage; and the citizens your desires and instincts. Since the city represents the soul, the melding of the classes in the city is like the melding of the three elements of the soul. An that is injustice. For example, stealing is when your rationality and wisdom (your rulers) mixes with your desire. I thought and thought and thought, but I couldn’t poke holes in the argument. Though the analogy of a city was a little confusing. Damn Socrates, you’re pretty good at this whole philosophy thing.

4 thoughts on “An Analysis of Plato’s Republic: Book 4

  1. Hi. I really like your posts on Plato. An irritating guy. One thing about the idea of injustice. In the England, up until fairly recently, they believed that there was an actual criminal class. So if they could transport these people somewhere else, they would reduce crime. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fatal_Shore.

    This seems similar to Plato’s idea that people are in fixed classes.

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  2. Socrates’ point about class mobility reminds me of The Peter Principle, a satirical book about how a corporate structure based on promotion makes us miserable. People get promoted out of jobs that they do well to do higher-status jobs with different responsibilities that they handle terribly, so they plateau professionally and everyone suffers. They hate their job, their subordinates hate their boss, the company is less productive, etc. It kind of takes on a different meaning when someone in a position of authority, like Socrates, says a similar thing. I suppose Socrates’s view is also trying to maximize happiness, in its way, but demonizing the idea that people should want to TRY a different position is a massive overreach. And he’s in no danger of facing negative consequences of his take, which makes it even worse.

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  3. Hmm.. Interesting point, but Socrates wasn’t in a position of Authority in Ancient Greece even if people listen to what he said now. So he is speaking in the same way, but now we hear him differently.

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