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Plato's Republic Notes

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Contents of this document: Structure of the exam...................................................................3 Exam advice........................................................................................3

Book 1......................................................................................... 4 Relevant quotations for comment on....................................................4 Notes..................................................................................................4

Tripartite soul............................................................................... 9 Relevant quotations for comment on....................................................9 Notes..................................................................................................9

Opinion and Knowledge...............................................................14 Notes................................................................................................14

Theory of Forms.......................................................................... 18 Notes................................................................................................18

Sun, Line and Cave.....................................................................24 Relevant quotations for comment on..................................................24 Notes................................................................................................24

Pleasure..................................................................................... 31 Relevant quotations for comment on..................................................31 Notes................................................................................................31

Art............................................................................................. 36 Relevant quotations for comment on..................................................36 Analysis............................................................................................36

Glaucon's challenge....................................................................41 Analysis............................................................................................41

2 Structure of the exam 1 paper, 3 hours
- 3 essays (25% each), from choice of 11
- 3 brief comments, from choice of 6 (25% in total)

Exam advice Gobbet advice
- Set in context
- How does it contribute to the argument
- Is it right or wrong? Say something sensible about it in a short amount of time
- 15 mins per answer Handbook
? The first requirement is to identify the argumentative context of the passage, e.g.
`This passage occurs in Socrates' response to Thrasymachus' claim that the ruler properly so-called is expert in promoting his own advantage; in reply Socrates urges that all expertise aims to promote the advantage of that on which the expertise is exercised, hence the expert ruler must aim to promote, not his own advantage, but that of the subject'.
? You should then set out the specific contribution of the passage to the argumentative context, e.g. a sub-argument (in which case the steps of the argument should be set out), or a distinction (in which case you should clearly state what is being distinguished from what), or the introduction of some key concept, which should be clearly elucidated.
? Where appropriate, elucidation should be followed by criticism; thus if the passage contains a fallacious or unsound argument, or a faulty distinction, the flaw should be briefly identified.
? If the significance of the passage goes beyond the immediate argumentative context (e.g. in introducing a concept which is important for a wider range of contexts) that wider significance should be indicated. Wider significance may be internal to the work as a whole, or may extend beyond it, i.e. by relating to some theme central to the thought of the author (such as Plato's Theory of Forms) or to some important topic in modern philosophy.
? Primary focus should be on argumentative and conceptual content. Details of sentence construction, vocabulary etc. should be discussed only in so far as they affect the content thus conceived. Note that where the passage is taken from a Platonic dialogue, usually relevant to identify the speaker(s).
? It is vitally important to observe the time constraints imposed by the number of passages to be commented on. Brevity, relevance and lucidity are crucial. Especially important not to be carried away in expounding wider significance of the passage; gobbet should not expand into essay on the Theory of Forms etc. Use your own judgment on how much you can afford to put in.

Essay advice
- Try to show knowledge of whole Republic, not just books 1-4
- Excellent answers displayed knowledge and familiarity with the text and general structure of the Republic, and capacity to engage philosophically with the problems at hand
- Important to know text well
- Weaker candidates tended to confuse simply presenting Plato's views with defending them or evaluating plausibiliy

3 -

In gobbets questions, candidates often failed to mention the context - or where they did mention the context, did not specify it precisely enough Read questions carefully etc. etc.4

Book 1 Relevant quotations for comment on-

"A ruler, to the extent that he is a ruler, never makes errors and unerringly decrees what is best for himself, and that is what his subject must do" "When someone is a clever guardian, he is also a clever thief" "Therefore, a good and clever person doesn't want to outdo those like himself but those who are unlike him and his opposite." "So it seems." "But a bad and ignorant person wants to outdo both his like and his opposite." "Come, then, and let's consider this: Is there some function of a soul that you couldn't perform with anything else, for example, taking care of things, ruling, deliberating, and the like? Is there anything other than a soul to which you could rightly assign these, and say that they are its peculiar function?" "And in each city this element is stronger, namely the ruler... and each makes laws to its own advantage. Democracy makes democratic laws, tyranny makes tyrannical laws, and soon with the others. And they declare what they have made - what is to their own advantage - to be just for their subjects, and they punish anyone who goes against this as lawless and unjust. This, then, is what I say justice is, the same in all cities, the advantage of the established rule. "

Notes Use?of Socratic elenchus Used in earlier dialogues to probe opinions of interlocutors End of Bk 1 - Socrates frustrated with method/results Bk 2 onwards o Socrates puts forward own theory of justice o Interlocutors just agree, occasionally ask for clarification

Relation to rest of the Republic Vlastos (and others) suggest Book 1 was written earlier than rest of work:
?????1) Later editors added as a sort of preface?
o But, Thrasymachus mentioned later in Republic (Bks 2/5) o In particular, Book 2 picks up the argument of Thrasymachus
?????2) Written when Plato still believed elenchic method could discover truths about philosophy, later adapted by Plato for this work?
o Ending changed to show Socrates' frustration with the method, just as Plato was frustrated. Suggested by contradiction:
? Socrates: "when I don't know what justice is, I'll hardly know whether a person who has it is happy or unhappy"
?????Standard expression of Platonic epistemology: you cannot know features of X until you know essence of X
? Earlier, he suggested he did know what justice was (defined as wisdom and virtue) Other explanations allow for Book 1 to be integral part of the Republic:
? Elenchus intentionally used to make reader to feel frustrated
? more receptive to new model of philosophical discussion in Book 2 5

?

? understand why Plato isn't using elenchus any longer
? makes later arguments/methods more convincing Exaggerated character of Thrasymachus (arrogant, incoherent) helps show limitations of method: Socrates forced to use arguments that suit Thrasymachus' intelligence/argumentative skills o Docile characters later in text allow Socrates to get closer to philosophical truth - not endlessly bringing up objections

Other aims of Book 1
? Raises contemporary theories about justice through Thrasymachus
? identify inadequacies in these theories
? audience more receptive to Socrates' own theories o "conventionalist" theory of justice = obeying the rules of your state o "scepticism" = irrational to take into account other people's interests when you act NB: (Everson) both these theories introduced by Thrasymachus
? characterised as sort of view held by someone who likes to make striking claims but can't make valid arguments
? Introduces ideas in seed form, developed further in later books o 1) Concept of the "ideal ruler"
? Introduced by Thrasymachus - redefines concept of rule to an idealised ruler who doesn't make mistakes
? Later, Socrates develops own concept of 'ideal ruler' =
philosopher-king
? Important - possibility of such a figure discussed at early stage o 2) External and internal justice comparison
? Socrates makes comparison to show that justice has a unifying force that can be empowering:
? Justice in a group of people (gang of thieves)
? Internal justice between different parts of a human
? Later, will compare tripartite division of city/soul o 3) Establishes "markers" that identify justice (Barney)
? Satisfactory definition of justice must include
? 1) adequate definition (i.e. valid, no contradictions or underlying false premises)
? 2) must be defining justice, not another quality
? i.e. Thrasymachus' definition of justice as "the advantage of the stronger"
? Socrates/Thrasymachus debate without confirming this definition applies to justice
? End of Book 1 - Socrates says frustrated they didn't define virtue before talking about what it is like
? When introduces own theory of justice in Book 4, audience accepts because it fits 'markers' established earlier with Thrasymachus 3 interlocutors: Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus. Cephalus' argument 6

?Cephalus - rich old man who doesn't talk for long with Socrates o Possible function - shows elenchic method doesn't work with some people who don't want to re-examine their beliefs His conception of justice reduces virtuous life to certain actions that must be undertaken so as not to be caught out in afterlife o Sophocles takes implied definition of justice to be speaking the truth and paying whatever debts have been incurred o Behavioural account of justice rejected for normal reasons o Sophocles' counter-argument demolishes it quickly: you wouldn't give weapons back to a friend who was mad

Polemarchus' argument
?????Justice is giving to each what is owed to him o Modified version of Cephalus' argument o Socrates repeats counter-argument of giving weapons back to someone mad, so Polemarchus modifies definition slightly:
?????Justice is giving everyone their due: good for a friend, bad for an enemy o Counter-argument 1: this definition makes justice superfluous
? Analogy drawn between practise of justice & practice of a skill like medicine/cooking: cooking gives seasoning to food; justice gives benefits to friends, harm to enemies
? Attempt to find benefits of justice: in war, for alliances, in peacetime, for making contracts, but only in moneymatters, particularly in safe-keeping money
? It's only when money isn't being used that justice is useful
- q useless o Counter-argument 2: just man is a sort of thief
? Also based on skill analogy
? Person who can land a blow can also defend one
? Just man who is clever at guarding money must also be clever at stealing it
? Is skill analogy justified or not?
o Counter-argument 3: can be mistaken over who your friends are
? It's not just to benefit a person who you think is a friend but isn't, nor is it just to harm a person who has actually done you no wrong, although you think they have
? Polemarchus adjusts definition: justice is doing good to someone who is both believed to be useful and is useful Thrasymachus' arguments
? Is rest of Republic a rebuttal of his statements on justice?
o If his arguments = incoherent/flawed, makes rest of work less interesting?
o Not direct rebuttal - rest of work is response to Glaucon (Bk 2)
? Still important to study precisely what Thrasymachus says, but he can change mind - it's not necessarily single fully-developed theory o Keeps changing his definition of justice
? 338c = "advantage of the stronger" 7

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