Book 9 Notes from The Republic

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The Republic Book 9

Before the companions start examining the tyrannical man, they try to sort out the desires. They come up with a class of wild, terrible, lawless desires which reveal themselves in our sleep. Then they say that the wild, lawlessness of the democratic man needs an advocate, Love, and a bodyguard. Madness is the bodyguard which defends love. Madness goes berserk, killing desires and opinions that it should be good or capable of shame. It does this until it has purged itself of temperance and filled the soul with imported madness, and thus the origin of the tyrannical man.

Similarly, when a man is drunk, he may get these ideas. This man will have many parties, feasts, and the like, which will eventually lead to loans and reduction of property. When all that runs out, the desires are restless because they want the fun to continue. Particularly restless is Love, the captain of the body, who will make the man examine who has what, and who will lead him to steal by deceit or force. This will eventually lead to him stealing from his parents, and when those possessions run out he will probably steal from people at night. Thus, Love lives in him tyrannically, in total lawlessness, resorting to violence when necessary. Men like this associate only with flatterers, and are friends to nobody. They can be called faithless and unjust.

In order to compare the happiness and excellence of each man to the other, Socrates finds that it may be easier to compare the cities that they represent to each other. The two that the group of philosophers now compare are the tyranny and the kingship (first described). They say that one is the ultimate of wretchedness, and the other is the ultimate of happiness. In the tyranny, although there are masters and slaves, the political structure can be distinguished from a regime of slavery. Similarly, in the soul of a tyrannical man, the majority of the parts in his soul are slaves to a small, demented one. Because of this, the tyrannized soul will least of all do what it wants, and be impoverished, just as the citywill. Also, just a the city is beset with fears and is weeping and wailing with grief, the tyrannical man will be filled with grief and maddened by desires and lust. Just as this city is the most wretched city, the most wretched man is the ruler of the city: not only can he not control his own desires, he also cannot control those of the tyrannical people in the city.

They conclude that the happiest man is the kingly man, the next the timocratic, followed by the oligarchic, the democratic, and the tyrannical. Thus, the most just is the happiest, and the least just the least happy, "whether or not they're seen for what they are by all gods and men" Book 9, pg. 238, line 580c.

Socrates goes on to prove this another way. He says that they had already come to the conclusion that there are three parts to the soul: the part with which people learn, the spirit, and another part that they called the "desiring part," for lack of a better term. They assume that it loves and gets its pleasure from profit, and thus call it the money-making part, which is why they divide men into three classes, wisdom, victory, and profit, as different parts of the soul rule different people. If asked, each person will say that his or her class is the best, and will commend it. However, the philosophers must discuss which of these classes lives best. The best criteria by which to judge this are experience, knowledge, and arguing. However, it is only the philosopher who will learn the nature of the absolute truth and what is, and therefore he is the only one who can speak truthfully about whether his life is the best or not. Since he says that it is, it must be. Furthermore, it is only the philosopher who combines knowledge with experience, and judgment by argument is a tool of wisdom, and thus only the philosopher will be able to practice this. Since experience, knowledge and argument are what determine the best life, and the philosopher practices all three, his life must be the best.

Topic Tracking: Knowledge 6

The second-best life would be the life of the honor-loving, and the third that of the profit-making. Thus, the just man defeats the unjust man again.

Socrates pursues this further, wanting to prove it a third time. The men start with the fact that pain is the opposite of pleasure, but that there is a state in between the two that is neither. Sick people, for example, say that there is nothing better than being healthy, but don't notice "health" until they are sick. Health is not a state on its own; it is truly the absence of sickness that people want, and it is thus that they describe health: peace. Peace, the philosophers conclude, must be what is between pleasure and pain. Socrates likens this to the three levels of nature: the upper, middle and lower. The middle is upper to the lower, but lower to the middle, however, a person would not know this unless he had experienced all three, as a person going from lower to middle with no experience of upper would think that he was in upper.

Now Socrates states that ignorance and lack of knowledge are an empty state of the soul, whereas nourishment and intelligence fill the soul.

Topic Tracking: Knowledge 7

Thus, the more filled a person is, the better. Then he asks his audience "which more fully is: something that partakes of the laws alike, immortal and true, is that way itself, and appears in things like that, or something that partakes of and appear in the never alike and mortal, and is that way itself?"Book 9, pg. 243, line 585c They answer that the first one is the superior one. Accordingly, people who are filled with what is experience a truer joy than those who are not filled with what is. Therefore, people with lack of knowledge and experience, who spend their lives feasting and wandering between the lower and the middle, never contemplate that there might be an upper. They spend their lives unhappy because they are trying to full themselves with an unreal thing that is not. They are thus condemned to pleasures mixed with pains. However, if reason and knowledge were used in the pursuit of desires, true pleasures would be attained. This would be so because the pleasure-seekers would be following the truth and their own proper pleasures. From this it can be concluded that when the whole soul follows the wisdom-loving part, all its parts will be just, tending to their own business and enjoying their own pleasures. Should another part dominate the soul, true pleasure will never be found.

Since what is farthest from reason is also what is farthest from law and order, the tyrannical desires are the farthest from reason. Thus, the tyrant will be the farthest from true pleasure. Socrates now goes on to mathematically find out how far away he will be. To do this, he says that the tyrant is thrice removed from the king, as is the oligarch; thus, they must be three times removed from true pleasure. "The 'phantom' of a tyrant's pleasure must then be a plane number measured on its length - Which raised to its second and then to its third power, will clearly give the distance." Book 9, pg. 246, line 587d Using this formula, the king's life is seven hundred and twenty nine times more pleasant than the tyrant's. Accordingly, the just man must beat the unjust man even more staggeringly with respect to grace, beauty, and excellence in life.

Now the men return to the claim that it pays to be unjust if people think that you are just. Socrates describes a soul consisting of a wild beast, a lion, and a man. When a person says that it pays to be unjust, this means that he is saying it profits him to feed his beast and lion, and to starve and enfeeble the man, so that he gets dragged around wherever the animals take him. A person who says that justice pays is saying that he should practice and say whatever will make the man the master of his soul, so the man will care for the animals and prevent them from growing wild. Therefore, the man who praises justice must be telling the truth, whereas he who commends injustice knows nothing of what he disparages. However, he does not know that he is making a mistake. Through this analogy the conversants determine that beautiful things are ones that make others subservient to humans, whereas ugly ones are those that enslave the tame to the wild. This can be shown by the following example: it doesn't pay for a man to sell his son or daughter into slavery, even if he receives a fortune for it, because it means he has no pity on himself and will enslave the most godlike things to the most godless. He must be even more horrible than a wretch who can be bribed for gold anytime. To prevent people from becoming like this, laws must be enforced, and children must be ruled until they have a strong structure instilled in them.

With all this in mind, one cannot say that the unjust man is happier than the just, or that doing something shameful to get more money is good. Furthermore, it cannot pay to commit injustice, even if one is not caught. If a person who committed injustice were caught, it would be a good thing: his wild side would start to be tamed, and his soul might recover its best nature. Accordingly, a sensible man will spend his life directing his efforts to this end. He will pursue studies that will help him make his soul good. Also, he will not allow his body to be persuaded into animal pleasures, and he will not pursue gold and wealth unnecessarily, but will attempt to not be disturbed by either an abundance or lack of possessions. He will also freely partake of anything that improves him, but shun all honors, public or private. He will also be unwilling to take part in politics, unless it is in the city described.

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