Plato’s Republic – Book Three

In Book III Socrates goes on to talk about what the education and lifestyle the citizens in his kallipolis will have. In doing so, Socrates expels fear of death, lamentations of men in literary works, falsehoods including imitations, and vices out of his city. This is to support Socrates’s argument that if people are just, graceful and harmonious, then they must be brought up that way and not be exposed to examples of injustice, disgrace and disharmony. In order to make that happen, stories of injustice and other bad things, and especially stories of gods or sons of gods doing these bad things must be censored or retold differently (368a-392c). (At this point, I cannot help but be reminded of 1984 and Animal Farm, the part where in the book the past gets edited to be in favour of the government. Republic must be a source for many dystopian novels, political theories, etc…) Next, we see Socrates arguing that if the stories themselves are to be adjusted to fit what is just and virtuous, then the tone/style in which the stories are told must be fixed too. Socrates goes back to his original idea that if an individual does well in one occupation, then he/she must stick with this occupation and not dabble in others, or in other words, be a ‘mediocre jack of all trades’. From this, Socrates results that no one in his city should imitate another, and similarly in story-telling, the poet should not try to imitate voices other than his/her own.  Although Socrates does not say that it is unjust to be a poet who can imitate anything  (he even says that he will treat the pleasure-giving poet like a god (398b)), he certainly does not wish any of kallipolis’s citizens to have that talent. Furthermore, Socrates talks about music, and through this dialogue with Glaucon and Adeimantus, Socrates excludes all other styles of music except for two, to suit his argument. And these music harmonies are supposed to be pure. Lastly, they talk about health and love, following the same method as before, a dialectic form of expressing ideas and agreement (mostly) on the ideas, at the same time eliminating what Socrates believes to be impure from his idealized city. They come to an end where the guardians of kallipolis will live on the taxes collected from the citizens, and everything will be strict and systematic with housing, education, and lifestyle.

Everything sounds nice and idyllic, but there’s going to be flaws with this city. Without ever being exposed to injustice or pain, how will people be able to define happiness and justice?


2 Thoughts.

  1. Very nice summary! You’ve covered the main points of the chapter well.
    Interesting question at the end. Plato believes that there is a kind of pleasure that is just pure pleasure, that doesn’t require that one have a contrast of pain to recognize it as pleasure. He talks about this in Book IX, 583c to 586c (pp. 254-257). We can discuss it in seminar, if you wish; it’s kind of complicated. The point is that if he’s right that pleasure can just come without having to be contrasted with pain, then maybe you wouldn’t need to know pain to understand pleasure or happiness. Consider also that it’s likely that even in this somewhat utopian state, people will still have at least some pains–physical ones, if nothing else, and likely some disappointments here and there. Plato talks in Book X about people feeling grief, anger, frustration, but knowing that it’s best not to give into these too much and that if we watch too many people doing so on stage we might think it’s okay for us to do so ourselves (see, e.g., p. 275-276). So there likely will still be some pain!

    On another note, can you please activate a plugin that allows people who are commenting to check a box to get an email if there is a reply to their comment? When you’re logged into your blog, go to “plugins” on the left menu of the dashboard, and find the one called “subscribe to comments,” or something like that. Click “activate” on this plugin, and you’re done. That way, if anyone (including you) replies to a comment, then the person making it will know without having to go back to the blog to check. Thanks!

  2. Hi Danielle, I definitely think you ask a good question–how are people supposed to find joy and fairness if they’ve never experienced anything else?? It definitley makes me wonder how that would affect the way people live there lives and the way people would interact with one another.

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