Book 2 Notes from The Republic

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The Republic Book 2

Although Socrates thinks that the discussion is over, Glaucon continues it, asking Socrates in which class of things he would place justice: things we choose to have for their own sake, for their sake and the sake of their consequences, or for the sake of their consequences only. To this, Socrates answers that justice is in the most beautiful class of all: the class of things we choose to have for their own sake and for the sake of their consequences.

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To this, Glaucon answers that most people think otherwise and would classify justice with "the arduous things that ought to be shunned for themselves but pursued for profit and a reputation based on appearance." Book 2, pg. 31, line 358 He also says that he isn't impressed by the discussion. He wants to know what justice and injustice are, and what power they each have by themselves in the soul. Thus, he proposes to first present the popular view of the nature and origin of justice, then show that all who practice it do so unwillingly, and do so because they think of it as a necessity and not a good. Finally, he says that he will argue that this attitude is reasonable since people generally think that the unjust life is better than the just life. He says he does not believe in these views; the reason he is doing this is because he would like to hear justice defended and believes that Socrates can do that better than anybody else.

With this in mind, he begins by saying that people believe that injustice is good to inflict but bad to suffer. Through experience, people determine that the negative effects of suffering it are greater than the positive effects of inflicting it, and therefore they make a pact to stop inflicting or suffering it. As a result, they made laws and called whatever the laws dictated justice. This, he believes, is the essence and origin of justice, which ended up being a midway or compromise, and is thus not cherished as a good but honored out of inability to do wrong. The result is that a real unjust man would never make a pact with anyone because he wouldn't be able to trust him or her.

He then continues, intending to prove that people are only just because they have to be. To do this, he tells the story of a shepherd who once served a king. One day, when an earthquake occurred, a chasm was opened where he was herding sheep, and he went into it and found a bronze horse with windows in it. He looked in and found the body of a man, wearing a golden ring. He took the ring and left. Later, when he was in a meeting with fellow shepherds, he happened to turn the setting of the ring toward him. Suddenly, he became invisible, and the others started to speak of him as if he wasn't there. After experimenting further, he came to the realization that the ring could make him invisible at will. Thus, he used it to become messenger to the king, seduce the queen, murder the king, and then take the throne. Glaucon says that should there be two rings like this, one given to a just man and one to an unjust man, the just man would not have the will to resist the opportunities, and thus, nobody is willingly just. Furthermore, he says that "justice is practiced only under compulsion, as someone else's good - not our own." Book 2, pg. 33, line 360c

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This shows that everyone really believes that injustice pays better than justice. After this, Glaucon compares the life of a perfectly just man to that of a perfectly unjust man. He again comes to the conclusion that "the unjust man enjoys life better than the just" Book 2, pg. 35, line 362c.

The conversation then moves on to a discussion that the whole hypothesis is based on the rewards of appearance and a good reputation, whereas the gods reward those who are truly just and punish those who are unjust. However, it is generally believed that the gods often grant misfortune and evil lives to good men while evil men are happy and successful. Furthermore, priests and soothsayers charge large fees for making others' lives better, erasing sins, and making enemies suffer, and only the rich can afford these people. With stories like these floating around, it is difficult to remain just, especially when perceived as unjust. Therefore, people go about attempting to appear just, regardless of what they truly are.

However, it is difficult to appear just. People realize this and, in order to cover their true selves and intentions, form gangs and political societies. They can also have professors teach them techniques for swaying a jury and speaking persuasively. In the end, they will take everything they want. When told that the gods cannot be fooled, they simply answer that there is no proof that such gods exist and so they should not be concerned with the gods. However, should they exist, they can be persuaded to forgive them through feasts and offerings, according to hearsay and the poets, the same people who say that the gods exist. Thus, either way, divine punishment is not something they should be worrying about.

Thus, Adeimantus concludes, there is absolutely no reason to prefer justice to injustice. He then asks Socrates what strategy he would use to convince a man who had all the power and means to be unjust, to respect justice. He also asks Socrates to show what good justice does to its possessor, and what evil injustice does to him or her.

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To this, Socrates replies that although it will be a very difficult task, he is willing to try. He begins by creating the following scenario for his audience and asking them if it is true: if a man with poor eyes was asked to read something small at a distance, and he noticed it written larger somewhere else, would he not read the larger one first and then examine the smaller one to see if it was the same? His audience agrees that it is true. Similarly, he says that it would make defining justice and defending it easier if they examine justice on a larger scale, and then in the individual. He then recommends that they examine justice in the state first, by watching a city coming into being and identifying justice and injustice as they accordingly come into being.

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Primarily, they agree that a city comes into being because individuals are not self-sufficient. Thus, many people come together to provide for each other, creating a settlement called a city. With this in mind, it can be inferred that people share their products with others because they think such an action is for their own good. Considering just the necessities, a city would be comprised of a farmer for food, a carpenter for shelter and a weaver for clothes. Then they add a few other craftsmen, such as a shoemaker, to help provide for the needs of the body. Thus, the absolutely necessary city will consist of four or five people, where each person has a certain skill and provides the fruits of that skill to everybody in the city. However, he must tend to his skill all of the time, and thus there must be other people in the city to make the tools that he needs, such as a plow for the farmer, and shepherds to provide wool for the weaver. Also, it will be impossible to found this city in a place where it doesn't need imports, therefore servants are needed to bring in the imports. However, they must have something to trade them for. With this in mind, the city must produce surpluses to sell to other cities. Thus trade comes into existence. People within the city will also start trading, and a marketplace with currency will be built. However, the skilled workers must not waste their time, and therefore retailers are needed, as are wage-earners (slaves).

However, the source of injustice cannot be found. Therefore, Socrates goes on to describe what the people will have - the basics of food and clothing. Glaucon stops him and says he is creating a city for pigs, with the bare necessities and no luxuries. Socrates agrees and says that Glaucon is right in assuming that the bare necessities will not be enough for some people. He adds luxuries, such as couches, paintings and the like. Due to this, the city will need to expand, and hairdressers, doctors and teachers, as well as other professionals, will come into existence. Because of this expansion, the city will have to gain land from its neighbors and will soon be at war. Thus, the origin of war is found: the desire for possessions.

This means that the city will need an army, since it has already been established that each man is only good at one skill, and warfare is a skill. Through examining the nature of a dog, hostile to strangers, and loving to people they know, they realize that dogs judge things as hostile or friendly only through knowledge and ignorance. Thus, they must love knowledge. Also, since dogs are the best guardians of people they love, the guardians of the city must also love knowledge, and people who love knowledge are philosophers. Therefore, "to become a good guardian, a man must be by nature fast, strong, and a spirited philosopher." Book 2, pg. 48, line 376e After establishing what the guardian's basic character must be like, Socrates and his companions go on to discuss the nature of the upbringing and education of the guardian, as this may help them find the roots of justice and injustice. They come up with the time-tested formula: physical training for the body and poetry for the soul. However, since children are impressionable and many stories are false, the stories that are told to these children must be supervised. Also supervised must be the storytellers. In particular, no stories must be told where the gods are depicted poorly, or heroes are misrepresented. Also, guardians must never be told that gods fight with each other, as this may induce fighting between themselves. Thus, the first stories the guardians hear must be well composed for teaching excellence.

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As for the gods, they must always be represented as their true selves, and since they are truly good, that is how they must be depicted. Since good things cannot be harmful, gods do no harm. Since they do no harm, they could not possibly do any evil, and what does no evil could not possibly be the cause of any evil. Therefore, gods are the cause of what is good, not what is evil. However, since evil exists, it has to have another cause. With this is mind, no ill-spoken words about the gods will be tolerated in the city. Should poets speak about gods punishing people, they must justify the actions of the gods, and show that the people deserved it. This leads to the first law of the city: "God is the cause only of good." Book 2, pg. 52, line 380c

Furthermore, since gods are the ultimate in beauty and perfection, they would never change themselves into something else, since everything else is worse than they are. Also, since they are the most powerful, nothing else can change them. These two facts lead to the conclusion that gods never change shape or form. Therefore, any poet who says they do must be lying. Also, since gods are all-knowing, they do not need to create fiction about the past in order to achieve an end; therefore, gods would never lie. This leads to the second law of the city: "the gods shall not be misrepresented as sorcerers who change their shapes or as liars who mislead us in word or deed." Book 2, pg. 54, line 383

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