Platone – The Repubblica

Book first

Compared to the other nine, the first book of the “Repubblica” is different in style and in the way in which the topics are dealt with; it is well founded to believe that it constituted a separate dialogue, probably entitled “Trasimaco”, in fact in it characters appear (Cephalus, Polemarco and Trasimaco) who will no longer intervene in the course of the work; furthermore, Socrates’ refutation technique is typical of youth dialogues, different from the style of the other chapters.
The characters in the work are the philosopher Socrates, the rich Cephalus, exponent of the “bourgeois” class and crematista, his son Polemarco, a fiery democrat, Glaucon and Adimanto, brothers of Plato himself and exponents of the aristocracy, and Trasimaco, an angry sophist and impulsive, theoriser of injustice as a virtue; the discussion, although not taking part, attended by several other people. Socrates, after having attended the Bendidian feasts with Glaucone, is joined by some friends and persuaded to follow them to Cephalus’ house, here he has a discussion about old age with him and both agree in considering it pleasant for the righteous who know how to please as “liberation from many and mad masters”, the carnal desires; the rich Cephalus then argues that wealth helps the good to sustain old age with honesty and justice, but it is useless to the unjust. Socrates begins the series of definitions to be refuted, his typical argumentative method, proposing as a definition of justice, “to tell the truth and to give back the things received”; Cephalus, aware of Socrates’ superiority, abandons the discussion with an excuse, leaving it to his son Polemarco. Socrates refutes the previous definition of justice with the paradox of the madman, and Polemarch, paraphrasing a poet, defines it as “doing the good of friends and the evil of enemies”. But the good of the sick friend will do the doctor, and the good of the sailor the pilot; it is the competent people, and not the “righteous”, who do the good of the object of their science; moreover it is difficult to define who is friend and who is not. Thrasymachus interrupts the discussion, criticizing the Socratic method and the lack of a definition; for him injustice, that is, the profit of the strongest, is preferable to justice and the tyrant is the happiest man of all. Socrates refutes this thesis by showing that, by tending the unjust to “overwhelm all, just and unjust”, he will find himself without allies, friends, and the very parts of his soul will be divided; such a man is surely unhappy and will have a short life due to the hatred that surrounds him and the deep rift in his soul. In this book there emerges a harsh criticism of the Sophists, in the person of Thrasymachus, for their arrogance; Socrates, unlike the sophist, who willingly teaches but for a fee, is reluctant to present his ideas, and is almost forced to participate in the discussion. The arguments used by Socrates in this book are insufficient; Plato thus underlines the weakness of the Socratic method, and how it is necessary to arrive at absolute conclusions; from the next book Socrates will abandon his method and will give him definitions rather than refuting those of the interlocutor.

Second book

Expressing his doubts, Glaucone, not satisfied with Socrates’ refutation, takes up the theses of Thrasymachus to obtain a definition of justice. Socrates divides goods into three classes: those desirable for themselves, those desirable for themselves and for the advantages they bring, and those desirable only for the advantages they bring; Socrates puts justice in the second category, but the majority considers the third more correct. Glaucone adds that it is good to commit injustice and badly to suffer from it; he is righteous only for fear of punishment and to corroborate the discourse he quotes the story of the ring of Gyges. While proceeding to examine the just man and the unjust man, Adimanto asks to seek justice in himself. Socrates, failing to find it in the right man, proposes to look for it in the right state. By setting as the only limitation that each man can carry out only one job correctly, a state is created by aggregating in a small territory, just enough to maintain them, successive nuclei of population to satisfy every need. – 1st group: farmers, bricklayers, tailors, shoemakers; – 2nd group: carpenters, blacksmiths, artisans, shepherds; – 3rd nucleus: traders, sailors; – 4th core: shopkeepers, mercenaries. Socrates believes that one can stop here to have a strong and healthy state, but at the request of Glaucon he adds the luxury. – 5th group: poets, musicians, manufacturers of superfluous goods; – 6th core: servants; – 7th group: shepherds and doctors; – 8th core: guardians and philosophers. Socrates’ attention is concentrated on the education of the latter group, inserted to govern and defend the city; gymnastics and music must be an integral part of it. All poems that provide a distorted view of heroes and gods will also be eliminated. – 1st law: divinity is good, and is the cause of goods, not evils; – 2nd law: divinity is perfection, and therefore does not transform itself; – 3rd law: the gods do not deceive and do not commit falsehood; – 4th law: it is forbidden for poets to represent the gods in a distorted way.

Third book

Continuing the condemnation of art, Socrates criticizes those works that represent heroes that are intemperate, greedy, dishonest or too prone to laughter. The literary works are then divided into three groups, based on the type of form used in the narration: Imitative, that is in the first person, to facilitate identification; * Narrative, ie with the use of indirect speech; * Mixed. The imitative and mixed forms are banned by the state because they mislead the righteous soul from knowledge, unless they deal with virtuous acts and heroes. 1. Now let’s examine the music; the melody is made up of three elements: Words: only those that deal with virtuous actions are allowed; 2. Harmonies: * Mixolydia and syntonolydia: banned because they are complaining; * Ionian and Lydian: banned because they are soft and convivial; * Dorica: accepted because it arouses firmness; * Phrygia: accepted because it arouses peaceful behavior. 3. Rhythms: * Regular and elegant: allowed * Irregular and not elegant: bandits The aim of music is the love of beauty. Body care is the goal of gymnastics, another “pillar” of the guardians’ education; this includes warlike exercises, simple but repeated and organized on a Spartan model. Adequate nutrition is low in fish and boiled meats, but rich in roasted meats. Body care is useful only at a young age, it is useless to treat individuals who are no longer useful to society. Both gymnastics and music influence the soul, and only those with a firm and pure soul can be a guardian. Judges must be pure but have the knowledge of wickedness to recognize it, as doctors must recognize diseases; like doctors, so can rulers lie for the sake of the patient / state. The rulers must be chosen by young people from among the guardians, with harsh tests so that they keep the knowledge of what is good and what is bad and are not: – Robbed: rulers who change their opinion or forget it – Bewitched: rulers who change their opinion for pleasures or fears – Violent: rulers who change their opinion due to physical or moral pain. For the population to be more governable, it is good that the rulers make people believe that they are all equal and brothers. The Myth of the “born of the earth” serves to explain the three classes. Classes are flexible, you belong to them by merit, not just by birth. For the guardians there is the communion of women and goods, there is no private property so that love for the family does not exceed that for the state. In this book Plato harshly attacks the “new doctors”, followers of Hippocrates; what Plato denies them is the “oath” itself, which affirms the obligation, on the part of doctors, to do everything possible to save the patient, even if it is useless for society.

Fourth book

An objection from Adimantus interrupts Socrates in his exposition of the duties of guardians: such people, observes Plato’s brother, would undoubtedly lead a sad and unhappy life; Socrates’ answer is that it is not the happiness of a class that matters, but that of the whole state in its entirety. To do this it is necessary that the population is united and that the “city of the rich” and the “city of the poor” do not form, causing rifts and disagreements in the Greek polis. It is therefore necessary to avoid that there are too many rich or too many poor, therefore the wars of expansion, cause of ruin for many and illicit enrichment for the few, are forbidden; the territory of the city must therefore be sufficient to satisfy the needs, so birth control will be carried out to keep the population constant. The prohibition of wars of expansion, combined with the prohibition for the guardians to own property and the obligation for them to perform gymnastic-war exercises make the state unattractive for external invaders, who would have to fight well-trained troops in order not to gain any booty; on the other hand, the state would have many allies because in wars it would leave them all the fruit of the raids, not just a part. In order for the state to be preserved without collapsing, the education of the guardians is very important; in fact, for a virtuous circle: ———-> Just Poleis Just and good soul Book Five Goods and women in common: this is the idea that intrigues Adimanto, who asks for explanations; Socrates responds by saying that this is only one, and the least scandalous, of the three “waves”, revolutionary theories of his thought. The first wave is the identity of tasks and education between men and women, to be achieved since the differences between the two sexes are not such as to involve and explain differences in employment; women are only weaker than men on average, but this difference does not affect their performance. The second wave is the commonality of women and children, which allows warriors to free themselves from private affections to devote themselves exclusively to the state. Marriages must be arranged by the rulers, so that the population remains constant; the quality of the offspring must be improved, giving the best and the victorious warriors more chances to bear children. The suitable age to have children is 20/40 years for women and 30/55 for men; exceeded this, any offspring must necessarily be raised by the class of artisans. The birth of guardian parents does not guarantee belonging to the same class, the children are raised together in state orphanages and there they are directed to the class to which they belong; the best are favored while the worst are raised as artisans. The rulers, who are the only ones who know true kinship relationships, will prevent any incest. Young people must participate from an early age in war operations on fast horses, and there will be prizes for the brave and punishments for deserters; the bravest are to receive great honors while alive and are to be revered as deities when the dead. War is to be understood as such only towards the barbarians; the wars between Hellenes are only discord: in this case it is forbidden to plunder the harvest and strip the corpses; the victors must remember that the enemy is not the vanquished population, but the leaders of it. The third and most important wave is: “that the philosophers rule or that the rulers do pure and authentic philosophy”. This is necessary since only philosophers possess the right knowledge to lead the state; the definition of a philosopher is: one who loves the truth in its entirety; the types of knowledge are: – Ignorance: lack of knowledge; – Science: Knowledge of what is; – Opinion: Knowledge of what is and is not (becoming) at the same time. The philosophers of physis, like the sophists, do not fall within the definition of philosophers, since the former investigate becoming and the latter, denying absolute realities (eidos) with relativism, reject the knowledge of what is. They are not true lovers of knowledge, philosophers, but simply curious, lovers of opinion and therefore “philodoxes”. The interpretation of the passage in which it speaks of the education of the worst and handicapped offspring is much discussed, some believe that Plato meant for them the segregation for life or even infanticide for eugenic purposes. It is important to observe the definition of the philosopher and how all the major philosophers of the time fell for Plato in the category of philodoxes.

Sixth book

A good philosopher, and not a philosopher, is, according to Socrates, who possesses the following qualities, necessary for the study of dialectics and for the management of the state: Wisdom * Courage * Temperance * Detachment from material goods * Readiness to learn * Good memory * Grace * Magnanimity * Love of country * Insight * Sharpness * Firmness * Beauty Adimanto objects that it is difficult for a philosopher to possess all these qualities, indeed he considers the philosophers of the time useless, ridiculous or evil. Socrates explains that this is true and is due to the corrupting action of the ignorant people, of the useless and perverse sophists, and of the demagogues on the soul, still young and not educated to temperance, of the philosopher, as happened to Alcibiades; the reasoning is supported by the analogy with the ship. Only a small minority is a philosopher, it cannot be achieved in non-perfect states since education begins at a very young age and is then abandoned once you get to the dialectic, the most difficult part. The realization of the philosopher, that is the assimilation to the divine, is feasible only in the ideal state by taking the eidos as models; such a state can never be realized spontaneously, and the greatest difficulty for its realization is the impossibility of immediately exposing the good in itself. Socrates explains the good by resorting to the analogy of the sun and the right knowledge with that of the line.

Book seventh

The beginning of this book, the myth of the cave, can be considered as the extreme synthesis of Platonic thought, having various interpretations and meanings. After the enunciation and explanation of the myth, the discussion now returns to the philosophers; will they want to abandon the study of philosophy to govern? Socrates’ answer is no, but they will have to be forced into it for the good of the state. 1. The education of the philosopher: Up to 18 years of age: gymnastic-musical education; 2. from 18 to 20 years: extra gymnastics course; 3. Selection of the best twenties; those who pass it study from 20 to 30 years: * Mathematics: doubly necessary, both for the military aspect and for the philosophical aspect; in fact, it is fundamental for the general who must order the army and it is necessary for the philosopher to stimulate the intellection since the opposites (large-small) stimulate the mind, concepts numb it; * Plane geometry: Necessary for the general to arrange his troops, for the philosopher because it forces him to contemplate being and ideas; it must not be studied practically, resorting to imperfect sensitive models, but only theoretically, meditating on the supersensible; * Stereometry (solid geometry): Not studied at the time of Plato, it must instead be studied in depth for reasons and in ways analogous to plane geometry; * Astronomy: To be studied only theoretically, because knowledge is obtained by elevating the spirit and not the gaze; * Harmony: To be studied only theoretically as it is useless to put the ears before the rational soul; 4. Selection of the best thirty-year-olds; for those who pass it, from 30 to 35 years: cautious start to the dialectic because if exercised too much when the soul has not yet been forged, it leads to eristic reasoning; 5. From 35 to 50 years: study of the dialectic and contemplation of the good; 6. From the age of 50 onwards: government of the state and philosophy in free time. Such a state can never be created spontaneously; only a tyrant converted to philosophy will be able to have enough power to expel from the city all citizens over 10 years old and raise the youngest following the order of the ideal state; for the virtuous circle already exposed, future generations will maintain this order. This last statement allows us to clarify an important aspect of Plato’s life: his interest in Syracuse and his friendship with Dione, a relative of the tyrants of that city and himself a tyrant for a short period. Plato hoped, through this political support, to “convert” the lords of Syracuse to his doctrine and put his theory into practice, otherwise condemned to remain nothing but a utopia.

Book eight

Finally, having formulated the legislation of the ideal state, Socrates proceeds to examine in what relationship it is with the states existing at his time; the ideal state is the culmination of perfection which an earthly state can reach, but is nevertheless not eternal; all the others are generated by its progressive decay. This decay originates after a period of 12,960,000 days, that is 36,000 years (from 360 days); this number is obtained from mathematical relations (2x3x10) 4 = (3x4x5) 4 = (36×100) 2 = (48×100) x (27×100) = 12.960.000 The various forms of decay of the ideal state are: Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy and Tyranny. When gymnastic-musical education is neglected, decay begins: the rulers are no longer worthy of their task and cause wars and enmities; the guardians take possession of houses and land, although the possession of gold is still forbidden, and enslave the people. This is timocracy, founded on honor and characterized by the greed and stubbornness of the rulers; an example of timocracy is the city of Sparta. Over time the interest shifts from honors to riches, rulers also possess gold and riches; the ruling class is increasingly ignorant and governs itself by force, not on the basis of merits, but on the basis of wealth. This is the oligarchy, characterized by the avarice of the rulers and the division into “city of the rich” and “city of the poor”. It becomes more and more difficult to make wars as the people rebel, agitated by the “drones”, brigands and criminals. When the people finally rise up there is democracy, the best of the imperfect constitutions, because it is pleasant, anarchic, varied. The ex-oligarchs are hunted and killed, the public offices held by all by lot, you live in total freedom. The hunger for freedom becomes more and more insatiable and the citizens accuse the rulers of not giving enough; the rich are tyrannized by the “drones” accused of wanting to reconstitute the oligarchy; the people choose a protector among the “drones” to defend themselves from the oligarchs, the tyrant. At first he smiles, greets, dissolves debts, distributes wealth to the people; subsequently he foments wars so that the people always need guidance and eliminates opponents and ex-friends; he is protected by paid bodyguards (slaves freed by him) and maintains the army with the sacred goods and taxes of the people. Alongside this examination of the forms of government, there is the examination of the corresponding human souls; Plato retraces the history of the state from a psychological point of view, once again underlining the importance of education. The philosopher-ruler of the still pure ideal state does not educate his son adequately; the latter, greedy for riches and honors, once he has become a ruler, authorizes the possession of land; in the timocratic man the irascible soul is no longer controlled by the rational one but “allies” with the palatable one. The greed of the timocratic man leads him to break the laws by possessing gold; for this he is denounced and condemned, his son therefore neglects the offices that did not save his father, and devotes himself to the accumulation of money, now made legal; the oligarchic man is dominated by avarice, he finds himself in a situation of “intemperate temperance” since desires and passions are repressed not by reason but by a stronger desire. The oligarchic man raises his son to thrift, but he makes bad friends (poor and “drones”) and is unable to suppress his desire for freedom; his soul is fragmented as is the democratic state, and there is no longer a single appetite in it, but all have the same weight.

Book ninth

Continuing the examination of the men corresponding to the various forms of government: it is the turn of the tyrant, in him that “kind of tremendous appetite, wild and contrary to the law” which is found, more or less dormant, in every man has awakened. The tyrant is the son of the democratic man who, although educated according to the principles of democracy, wants “unbridled freedoms” and, having squandered all his assets by frequenting bad company, violently overwhelms his parents to obtain more money. The tyrannical man feeds without restraint all sorts of appetites under the guidance of eros and greed; he commits all sorts of misdeeds against family, others and the state. The tyrant is the most unhappy man in the world because, as the tyrannical state is slave, poor, full of fears and pains, so also in the mind of the tyrant, reason is the slave of appetites; and the fear of losing power and being killed by the people he enslaved compel him to live continuously in terror. Furthermore, men can be divided into three categories: – Lovers of knowledge; – Lovers of honors; – Lovers of earnings. But of the three the first feels the most pleasure, since wisdom brings honors and is preferable to gain, because this pleasure can be enjoyed from an early age. The philosopher is 36 = 729 times happier than the tyrant, since each of the three souls is three times more unhappy for each degree of departure from the ideal state and, in the case of the tyrant, it is necessary to raise everything to the cube because he is three degrees from the philosopher . With a simile, Plato explains the tripartite composition of the soul and how to achieve happiness. The philosopher is the one who realizes the ideal city in his soul.

Book Tenth

Compared to the other books, apart from perhaps the first one, this book seems different in style, moreover it contains arguments considered the worst among all the writings of Plato, and in some parts, even disproves previous claims. In reality this book is not part of the “Republic” itself, but was published by Plato as an “appendix”, in which to deepen better the topics covered superficially. Here the attack on art is renewed, even more harsh than the previous ones, since now all art is banned, including that depicting just and deserving acts and men; moreover, the bed is used as an example, even if in other dialogues the existence of eidos corresponding only to objects existing in nature had been affirmed, denying that of the eidos of artifacts. The object of art is appearance, three times far from the eidos; imitation is therefore to be banned because it does not give knowledge, in fact science belongs to those who know how to use an object; the craftsman who produces it, on the other hand, has faith, because he trusts the judgments and information provided by those who use it; the imitator has neither faith nor science, but doxa, simple opinion. Poetic representation, both tragedies and comedies, is particularly harmful to the soul; in fact, seeing the passions represented, frees those of the spectator, usually dominated by reason, once freed, it is difficult for the rational soul to control them again. We now proceed with the demonstration of the immortality of the soul; every object is destroyed only and only by the evil that is proper to it, for example iron by rust, certainly not by woodworms; the evil of the soul is injustice, but this does not destroy it, in fact that of the tyrant, even if divided and in contrast with himself, does not die; if the soul is not destroyed by its own evil, it certainly is not destroyed by the evils of the body, therefore it survives even after death. However the immortality of the soul does not accord well with the tripartite representation that had been made of it, therefore Socrates does not deny that the authentic nature of the soul may be different from that described above; to examine it in its true nature, one would have to contemplate it pure, and not contaminated with the body and appetites, a concept highlighted by the myth of Glauco. The remainder of the book is occupied by the myth of Er, which illustrates the fate of the soul after death. The work ends with Socrates’ affirmation that only the just are happy, in this and the other world.


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