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Book 10 Notes from The Republic

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The Republic Book 10

Having sorted out the classes in the soul, Socrates now states that imitation must not be allowed in the city. He begins to prove this by saying that normally, a person would give a unique form to each group of things. For example, he says, beds, because they all look similar, are all known as beds. Now he asks his audience to imagine a craftsman who could make everything in heaven and earth. Then he says that anybody can do this with a mirror. However, what such a person creates is an appearance; it isn't truly there. This, he concludes, is what a painter does. Similarly, a bed-maker does not make the form of a bed, but rather a particular bed. Therefore, he is not making what is real He is making something like it. This is not a bed that is, and it is faint when compared to the truth. To show what imitation is, Socrates elucidates as follows: there are three beds, one made by a god, one by a carpenter, and one by a painter. Each of these three is in charge of a form of bed. The god, for no apparent reason, only supplies one bed. This is the bed itself. Thus, he is called the "naturalizer," because he brought the bed to nature. As for the carpenter, he is called a craftsman. However, the painter cannot be called a craftsman, because he produces the third product away from nature. He must be called the imitator, as all tragedians are. Therefore, all imitators are a third away from the truth. In addition, the painter cannot paint the truth, because the truth can be seen from many different angles, exemplified by the fact that a bed looks different from many different angles. Therefore, he must be painting an apparition. Thus, "imitation lies far from the truth and can make all things because it captures only a tiny bit of each one, and that but a phantom." Book 10, pg. 255, line 598b

According to this, if anybody claims to, or is said to, know everything, they must be deceiving people and be imitators. As poets are often said to know everything, they must be closely examined to see whether they do know what they are talking about, or whether they are imitators. Taking Homer, who spoke much about governing and war, as an example, Socrates finds that he never governed and was never a leader in any war. If he had known as much about these subjects as he claimed to when he spoke about them, he would surely much rather have participated in them, thus leaving behind deeds for which he could be admired, rather than simply speaking about them. Therefore, it can be concluded that he was a poetic imitator who did not really know the truth or understand anything of reality, but only of appearance.

Socrates now continues by saying that there are three skills for each thing: one uses, one makes, and one imitates. The excellence and righteousness for each thing depend solely on the use for which it was created, which naturally means that the user has the most experience of it, and must tell the maker how it works best.

Topic Tracking: Excellence 10

One knows and reports, and the other believes and makes; and thus the maker learns about his object from the user. This means that the imitator will never obtain knowledge of the things he imitates as he neither uses them, nor makes them. Thus, the imitator knows nothing about that which he imitates, and imitation is nothing serious. Further, since it is three times removed from the truth, and thus farthest from the calculating, rational part of the soul, it contradicts that part of the soul and must not be good. Furthermore, imitators produce trivia compared to the truth, and they attack the weak parts of our souls, as exemplified by poets speaking about emotions. Because of this, all imitators must be barred from the city, as they destroy the rational part of the soul, that which makes people just.

Despite all these charges, the most serious one has not yet been discussed: imitation's appalling ability to deform most decent people. People showing their emotions when listening to poetry, but then hiding them in real life, exemplifies this. This means that it is poetry that makes us weak and makes our emotional side stronger and thus leads to people becoming less just, and. Poetry should definitely be banished from the city.

Next, they move on to discuss whether the soul is immortal and does not perish. They start with the fact that there is a good and an evil, and that good is that which helps and preserves, whereas evil is that which destroys and corrupts. Also, they agree that each thing has a good and an evil, and is destroyed by its natural evil because the good could not possibly destroy anything. However, there may be things in nature in which the evil corrupts but does not destroy. As for the soul, when it is corrupted by its evil it still exists within the body, and it is illogical to say that another vice will destroy it if its own does not. Therefore, the soul can never be destroyed and is immortal. Thus, the same number of souls and the same souls will always exist. However, it would be hard for a living thing to be eternal if it was composed of several parts, so the soul must be one thing and not composed of several parts, as has been discussed all along. Nonetheless, studying it in several parts does help one to understand it. Despite this, to learn the true nature of the soul one must look at it thoroughly, by reason, for only then will a person truly find it beautiful. Thus, philosophy must be used in order to note what the soul wants and what company it seeks, being divine and immortal.

It is now granted that justice is good because of itself, and that it belongs to the soul. Also, it is said that justice does give a good reputation, and that the gods know who is truly just and who is unjust, and they love the just and hate the other. The people whom the gods love will have the best lives, with the best of everything always available to them.

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If they do suffer, it must be assumed that this suffering will be made up for in the afterlife. Furthermore, the just men will be known as just and marry into families of their choice, and rule the cities when older. However, the unjust will be found out in their youth and will never experience such happiness.

The greatest reward will be in the afterlife and is illustrated by the following story. There was a man, Er, who died in a battle. Ten days later, though, when they brought his body home to be buried, it was still fresh while those of the other soldiers were decaying. On the twelfth day, he came back to life and said that when he had died he had come to a place where there were two chasms in the earth and two others in the heavens. There were also two judges judging each soul, hanging signs on them saying either that they were just or describing what they had done to be unjust, then telling the just souls to go up and to the right (to the heavens), and the unjust ones to go down and to the left. As for his soul, they told it to watch and come back to earth to tell the story. He then saw souls coming out of the heavens, incredibly happy, and others coming out of the earth, incredibly unhappy. The ones coming out of the earth said that they had paid ten times over for each unjust thing they had done while on earth, which meant that they had been there for over a thousand years. As for the tyrants who were the worst of the unjust, they suffered longer than anyone else and worse than anyone else, and they had little hope of ever getting out. As for those who were just, "when they had been on the meadow seven days, they must get up and march on the eighth, arriving after four more from where they beheld a straight line, like a pillar, stretched from above, all through heaven and earth, most like the rainbow, but purer and brighter." Book 10, pg. 273, line 616b This light holds all of heaven together, building its entire circumstance, stretched from the tips of the spindle of Necessity, through which turn all of heaven's revolutions. The entire spindle moved together, but there were seven inner circles moving within it, not all at the same speed. However, all moved on the knees of Necessity. On top of each rim, carried around by its motion, was a Siren who sang the same note constantly, all eight notes blending into a harmony. Equally distant from the spindle were Necessity's daughters: Lachesis, of the past, Clotho, of the present, and Atropos, of the future. Regularly, Clotho would touch the spindle's outer circumference to help it spin, Atropos would do the same to the inner ones, and Lachesis would touch both alternately.

When the souls arrived, they went straight to Lachesis, who said that a new round of mortal lives leading to death were beginning. This time, the deities were not choosing for them, but instead, the new sould were allowed to choose the lives that they would lead, in which excellence has no master, and they would have more or less of excellence according to how much they honored her.

Topic Tracking: Excellence 11

Also, guilt belonged to the chooser, because God has no guilt. Then, she threw down the lots that indicated the order in which people would choose. Next, she put all the choices of the different lives, each with an accurate description of the animal, person, their health and the like, but not of the soul, down. Then, she said that all of the lives were tolerable, and that it depended on the judgment of the chooser and his knowledge of the good and the bad, as to what the life he chose would become.

Topic Tracking: The Good 6

For example, the first person to choose went down and took the life of a great tyrant, choosing out of greed and stupidity. Most people chose their lives depending on the habits of their former lives. After all had chosen, they went up to Lachesis in the order in which they had drawn, and to each she presented the deity it had chosen to be guardian of its life. The deity then led the soul up to Clotho to ratify the destiny chosen under her hand and whirl of the needle. After touching that, each then went to Atropos' spinning to make destiny's web irreversible. Then, they passed under the throne of Necessity and left. When they emerged, they marched through terrible heat to the Plain of Lethe, where they camped and drank until drunk, forgetting everything. In the middle of the night, there was thunder and earthquake and all were suddenly swept in different directions to birth. However, although Er saw all this he did not participate, but came back to tell the story.

Thus the tale was preserved, and, if we listen to it, it may save us when it is our time to choose. However, before this we must believe that the soul is immortal, and strong enough to endure all good and all evil. If we do believe this and practice justice accordingly, we will have won the prize for justice both in this world and in the thousand-year journey.

Topic Tracking: Justice 15

And so Socrates concludes his argument.

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