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The Republic


Book III

Book II

Book III, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary: Book III, 386a-412b

Socrates continues to discuss the content of stories that can be told to the guardians, moving on to stories about heroes. The most important function of this class of stories is to immunize the young guardians against a fear of death. Heroes must never be presented as fearing death or as preferring slavery to death. Hades—the place of dead souls—must never be presented as a frightening place. Heroes must never be presented as lamenting famous men as if their dying were a bad thing. Heroes should never be shown engaging in violent laughter since violent emotions in one direction usually lead to violent emotions in the other. Like the gods, they must always be portrayed as honest.

Glaucon raises the question of stories about normal mortal men, but Socrates postpones the issue. What poets currently say about men, he points out, is that the unjust often succeed and the just are wretched. They praise the former as wise and declare that it is good to be unjust if one can get away with it. Since it is our current mission to disprove these claims, it is not yet our place to outlaw this sort of story. We must first prove that these claims are false and only then can we outlaw these stories because they represent untruths.

Socrates discusses the style of stories that will be allowed. He lays out the most appropriate meter, and wonders whether these stories ought to be in dramatic or in lyric form. From here, he moves on to the other arts, such as painting and architecture. In all of these—as in poetry—he forbids the artists to represent characters that are vicious, unrestrained, slavish, and graceless. Any characteristics besides those the guardians should emulate are excluded.

Socrates moves on to what might seem like a surprising topic in a discussion on education: the correct love between a boy and a man. Socrates considered such relationships a vital part of a boy’s education. His main point here is to warn against allowing any actual sexual intercourse to contaminate these relationships. They should not involve an erotic element, he explains, only a pure sort of love.

Physical training of the guardians is the next topic. This training, he warns, should resemble the sort involved in training for war, rather than the sort that athletes engage in. He emphasizes how important it is to properly balance the music and poetry with physical training. Too much physical training will make the guardians savage, while too much music and poetry will make them soft.

Socrates prescribes the medical training that should be provided in the just city. Doctors should be trained to treat the healthy, who suffer from a single, curable ailment. They should not be trained to deal with the chronically ill. Those suffering from an incurable physical disease should be left to die naturally. Those suffering from an incurable mental disease should actively be put to death.

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"Understanding" is Wrong Term

by JohnUebersax, August 28, 2014

The definitions on this list are mostly helpful, but the term "Understanding" is incorrect and misleading. The highest grade of cognitive activity in Plato's fourfold epistemological scheme is, in Greek, "noesis." In English this should be called Intellection, Higher Reason, or simply Noesis. To call it Understanding badly confuses things because of the myriad unrelated meanings and senses of "understanding" in English.


by JohnUebersax, August 29, 2014

Similarly, what the list above calls "Reason" would be better termed ratiocination, calculation, reasoning, or lower reason. To simply call this faculty Reason confounds two distinct faculties: ratiocination (dianoia) and Higher Reason (nous or Nous). Ratiocination is somewhat like the ability that animals have to think and plan. It is the Higher Reason that is associated with mans immortal soul, and on which basis, according to Plato, man may attain "likeness to God insofar as possible."


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Spouse Selection

by jhodder, October 25, 2015

Spouses in the republic are not drawn by lot, as is asserted in the summary for Book V. Rather, they are chosen so that 'bronze-souled' individuals will be paired off with other bronze-souled individuals, and gold-souled with other gold-souled. The idea of the lottery is a lie fabricated by the framers of the city to placate citizens.

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