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Plato: Republic, Books 1 & 2

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on 2 December 2016

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Transcript of Plato: Republic, Books 1 & 2

Plato: Republic, Books 1 & 2
(~ 380 BC)
An Antipolitics

July 10, Thursday
Yasemin Sari

Republic: Greek original Politeia ~ Constitution (of the ideal city)
Republic as "Res Publica" ~ Republic/Public Affair

Book 1 -- the arguments:
justice as truth-telling and paying one's debts (328b-331d)
justice as helping friends and harming enemies (331e-336a)
justice is the interest of the stronger (338a-340c)
justice as a means?
socrates says no: justice is useless but useful in its uselessness (332d)
[Q]: justice: a human excellence or virtue? (335c)
contra polemarchus' claim about harming enemies:
if justice is a virtue, then it cannot make a person worse off, whereas people who are harmed become more unjust. -- it is not a work of the just man to do harm (335e)
[Q]: punishment? does a person become better if she is punished justly?

is it always in the interest of the individual to be just?
NEXT CLASS: Republic, Books 3 & 4
creation of the perfect polis and the education of its leading members --
the myth of the three metals: nature & law/norms brought together.

what is the question?
-- the question of justice --
how do we understand justice?
-- rule out the conventional claims;
-- arrive at the philosopher's relationship to the political:
-- the knowledge of "justice" --
-- knowledge of "what" -- i.e., the "essence" of justice which manifests itself in different instances in the world. we can only know the "essence," that which is unchanging. [opinion versus knowledge]
the objectives in reading this text:

[Q]: is it just to obey those who rule?
-- if the rules are to the advantage of the rulers, who are the stronger, is it just for the weaker to obey what is commanded?
-- that is, do what is not to their own advantage?

thrasymachus: ruling as an infallible art (340c-342e)
[Q]: no defect in knowledge?

the ruler, insofar as he rules, does not make mistakes.
. he enacts what is best for himself --
socrates: how does he know what is best for himself?
[Q]: knowledge of the forms? // philosopher guardian
thrasymachus changes ground (343a-345e)
-- a just man everywhere gets a

lesser share

than an unjust man (343d-e)
[Q]: consequentialist argument? would this lead to dissatisfaction?
-- when people denounce injustice, it is

because they fear doing unjust things, but because they fear suffering them.

example: let there be an unjust man, and let him be able to do injustice either by escaping detection or by violence // gyges' ring
(345a cf. book 2: 358a-360d)
Allegory of the Cave:

1. The ascent from a lower reality to higher reality, from a lower kind of knowledge to a higher kind of knowledge.

2. The difference between what can be learned from others and true education which can only be acquired by oneself.

-- what is just is the advantage of the stronger. --> laws to one's own advantage (338e)
-- what rules in each city is the strongest.
[Q]: the problem of factions?

the divided line:
the allegory of the cave:
ex. a circle:
-- particular --> (participates in) universal (causes to be) <--

-- the DEFINITION of a circle:
a line forming a closed loop, every point on which is a fixed distance from a center point.

[Q]: so would your knowledge vanish if we erased the circle?
we understand the idea of a circle, or a triangle and the idea is:

-- intelligible, incorporeal, unchanging,
self-identical, one over/in many.
Book 2: glaucon versus socrates
glaucon's defense of injustice (358e-362c)
[Q]: justice:
~ good for its own sake? (intrinsic)
~ good for its consequences? (instrumental)

how about a square/triangle:
[Q] so if i wanted to make up another square that is twice the area of the above one, what would i do?

[first social contract idea] --
-- the rules of justice arise out of convention.
-- because human beings are afraid of being harmed by others, they create laws, and punish those who violate them.
--> morality is artificial, it is a human invention.

[Q] who is happier? (361d)

*** 3 kinds of good things: (357b-358a)
(1) things we find desirable in themselves
[ex. joy?]
(2) things we find desirable in themselves and for their consequences
[ex. knowledge? health?]
[Q]: justice?
(3) things we find desirable only for their consequences
[ex. working for a living? studying for an exam?]
plato: functionalist theory of value.
virtue ~ excellence at a thing's function.
ex. the virtue of a shoe?

socrates: just > unjust life
the just man is wise and good (349b)

injustice produces internal disharmony (351b)

virtue is excellence at a thing's function and the just person lives a happier life ~ functions of the soul (352d)
the form (idea/eidos) of a circle is unchanging;
-- you know the "form" of a circle.
-- the form, then, comes first.
and the form, is what is
-- you can only know "what is."
appearance (opinion)
reality (knowledge)

-- we cannot provide a direct definition of the good.
-- the good is like the sun: it makes the forms intelligible --> sheds
on them.
"justice" is also an idea like the good: you cannot draw justice in the world, but you can recognize its instances if you understand what it is in its essence.
[Q] how is this related to the idea of the GOOD?

socrates: why do people live together?

-- need ~ lack of self-sufficiency?
City #1: "city of pigs" -- necessary bodily desires.

[Q]: why is this city not satisfactory?
City #2: "city of luxury"

-- unnecessary bodily desires
-- results in war --> need for soldiers
[Q]: current example?
the school of athens, raphael (1509-1510)
a treatise on education
. an understanding of the kallipolis ~ ideal city
. the connection between nature & law/norms --> the hierarchical cosmos
. the character of the just city-state and the just man.
. the equation between virtue and knowledge -- philosopher's virtue -- wisdom -- knowledge of the truth (of justice)
. to have an understanding of how we should govern ourselves.
. conclusion: better to suffer evil than to do evil ~ being just for its own sake.
. just society --> just individual.
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