Book One of “The Republic” opens up with a discussion between Socrates and Cephalus, Polemarchu’s father, about old age and wealth. Cephalus conveys to Socrates that he believes being wealthy does not necessarily make you a happier person, but being wealthy makes it simpler to lead a good or moral life. Cephalus is quoted as follows,”It’s in this connection that wealth is most valuable, I’d say, not for every man but for a decent an orderly one. Wealth can do a lot to save us from having to cheat or deceive someone against our will from having to depart for that other place in fear because we sacrifice to a good or money to a person. It has many other uses, but, benefit for benefit, I’d say that this is how it is most useful to a man of any understanding”. Socrates argues this statement of opinion by Cephalus, by saying that if living a just life is simply just telling the truth or giving back your debts,than that can sometimes be the wrong or unjust thing to do. He gives the example of borrowing a knife from a friend, who eventually comes back for his knife but looks full of rage and has intentions of wrong-doing, than giving him the knife back which you owe him is certainly the wrong thing to do. Cephalus, not really interested in carrying on the argument exits from the conversation and his son, Polemarchus, protests Socrates argument and goes on to give his various definitions of what “Justice” actually means. Polemarchus initial definition was giving everyone what is appropriate or right to them, and it is not appropriate to give harmful things to your friends. Summarizing his definition, he is saying, Justice is pleasing your friends and harming your enemies. Socrates attacks this definition arguing that you shouldn’t return evil with evil because it is not just to pose harm to anyone.
After Polymarchus agrees with Socrates argument, Thrasymachus, who is tired of hearing all the arguing and debating wants Socrates to tell them what his definition of Justice is. Socrates explains to him that he doesn’t himself know what it is and he is in pursuit of finding out what Justice us. Thrasymachus then goes on to give his own definition of what is “Just”.His definition is based upon the idea that what is right is what is in the best interest of the stronger party, in which a ruler makes laws of his own interests, and that is right for the weaker party to follow his laws. The discussion has somewhat shifted from the definition of Justice, to the functions and duties of a ruler of a state. When Thrasymachus gets back to theoriginal discussion of Justice, he says Justice is for fools and people live so-called “good” laws because they are trained that way and are actually afraid of doing otherwise. What he is basically saying is that “good” actions are foolish and cowardly, while “evil” actions are good for society. In the remaining of Book One Socrates attacks Thrasymachus distorted view of what morality is.
In Book Two Glaucon expresses his dissatisfaction with Socrates and Thrasymachus argument of Justice by saying “But I’m not yet satisfied by the argument on either side. I want to know what justice and injustice are and what power each itself has when it’s by itself in the soul. I want to leave out of account their rewards and what comes from each of them. So, if you agree, I’ll renew the argument of Thrasymachus. First, I’ll state what kind of thing people consider justice to be and what it’s origins are. Second, I’ll argue that all who practice it do so unwillingly, as something necessary , as they do, for the life of an unjust person is, they say, much better than that of a just one”. The purpose of Glaucon’s presenting these views, which are not his personal views, is in efforts of hearing what Socrates has to say against them. I feel that he is mainly seeking to find out from Socrates why it is actually better to live a just life versus an unjust life.
Socrates starts to answer Glaucon by giving a comparison, whi…..ch was “The investigation we’re undertaking is not an easy one but requires keen eyesight, we were to read small letters from a distance and then noticed that the same letters existed elsewhere in a larger size and on a larger surface.We’d consider it a godsend, I think, to be allowed to read the larger ones first and then to examine the smaller ones, to see whether they are really the same”. What Socrates is saying is that justice exists in cities, or communities, which are larger than individuals and to understand Justice, we must examine Justice in a larger sense as a community, in order to make it easier to learn what it is on an individual level. What Socrates is starting to do is present his idea of what an Ideal State is. He talks a great deal about soldiers, or as he calls them “guardians”. He feels they should be thoroughly educated and trained while they are children because they will be the future leaders of the state. He believes children should be told moral uplifting stories about all the various Greek Gods and Heroes, but they shouldn’t be exposed to evil stories involving murder and death because it may cause them to be cowardly and fearful.
In the last part of Book Two, Socrates touched on the subject of elementary education, and in Book Three, he talks about how these moral stories he previously discussed should be presented to the children. Socrates says “This concludes our discussion of the content of stories. We should now, I think, investigate their style, for we’ll then have fully investigated both what should be said and how it should be said”. Socrates talks about two different styles in which these stories can be told to the children they are narrative and representational form. I think what he means by representational form is something like a play where actors are acting out these stories. Also in Book Three, Plato describes the kinds of music these children or future generations should hear. He feels they should hear songs that are good for the soul, emotional, uplifting songs. I think an example of what he is talking about could be applied in today’s terms as a song like R Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”. In the end of Book Three, Socrates is talking about how to divide the children or future guardians into classes. He says the very best guardians should become the rulers, whose functions is to lead the community with the community best interests in mind. He also talks about the auxiliaries, whose duty is to execute the rulers decisions, in our society today they would probably be the policeman, soldiers, judges, and so on. Lastly, he describes the craftsmen, whose duty is to do the skilled work a society needs to function, they would be the doctors, farmers, plumbers, and so on.
Finally we have arrived at Book Four in which Socrates talks about the purpose of finding the state was not to make the rulers happy but to make the community as an entirety happy. He also says we can’t possibly find justice in a society where one class dominates and has all the advantages over another class. But he also states that we need to avoid two extremes: extreme wealth and extreme poverty,like if a craftsmen becomes extremely wealthy and doesn’t want to practice his trade anymore. For example say a plumber wins the lottery and he wants to give up plumbing and this contagiously occurs our state will suffer. Socrates then goes on and feels he has found this ideal state he has been pursuing. He says since it’s a perfect society we should have four great virtues of wisdom, courage, discipline, and justice. The last point in Book Four I want to touch on is the “Physical States of the Soul”, Socrates discusseswhich are the Body and the Soul. The soul is composed of three parts, the Rational (Wisdom), the Spiritual (Courage), and the Appetitive (Biological Needs). Socrates says the Soul is the leader among the two, and a state of disease occurs when the soul is diseased, and a state of Justice is achieved when the soul is healthy.