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The Republic, authored by Plato around 375 BC, concerns justice. It is Plato’s best-known work, and has proven to be one of the world’s most influential works of philosophy and political theory. In the book, Socrates talks about the meaning of justice. The book has an extensive introduction and analysis.  The writing is broken into 10 books:

Book I – Socrates asks friends their definitions of justice. One defines justice as giving what is owed. Another says justice is “the art which gives good to friends and evil to enemies.” Thrasymachus proclaims “justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” Socrates overturns their definitions and says that it is to your advantage to be just and disadvantage to be unjust.

Book II – Socrates is done with the discussion of justice. Socrates’ young companions, Glaucon and Adeimantus, continue the argument of Thrasymachus for the sake of furthering the discussion. Socrates suggests that they look for justice in a city rather than in an individual man.

Book III – Socrates breaks the educational system into two parts. They suggest that guardians should be educated in these four virtues: wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. They also suggest that the second part of the guardians’ education should be in gymnastics.

Book IV – Socrates and his companions conclude that if the city as a whole is happy, then individuals are happy.

Book V – Socrates, having to his satisfaction defined the just constitution of both city and psyche, moves to elaborate upon these.

Book VI – Socrates’ argument is that in the ideal city, a true philosopher with understanding of forms will facilitate the harmonious co-operation of all the citizens of the city. This philosopher-king must be intelligent, reliable, and willing to lead a simple life.

Book VII – Socrates insists that the psyche must be freed from bondage to the visible/sensible world by making the painful journey into the intelligible world. He continues by further elaborating upon the curriculum which a would-be philosopher-king must study. This is the origin of the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

Book VIII – Socrates discusses four unjust constitutions: timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. He argues that a society will decay and pass through each government in succession, eventually becoming a tyranny, the most unjust regime of all. In parallel to this, Socrates considers the individual or soul that corresponds to each of these regimes.

Book IX – Having discussed the tyrannical constitution of a city, Socrates wishes to discuss the tyrannical constitution of a psyche. This is all intended to the argument in Book I, that the life of the unjust man is more blessed than that of the just man. The discussion concludes by designating the most blessed life as that of the just man and the most miserable life as that of the unjust man.

Book X – Socrates finally rejects any form of imitative art and concludes that such artists have no place in the just city. He continues on to argue for the immortality of the psyche and even espouses a theory of reincarnation. He finishes by detailing the rewards of being just, both in this life and the next.


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