The Republic: Book IX

In the 9th book of Plato’s Republic, Socrates continues to explain why living a just life is better than living an unjust life. To make the point clear, he focuses on the most unjust possible life: the life of a tyrant. He claims that tyrants are driven primarily by the appetite part of their soul. They are overwhelmed by greed and their souls are put into disorder because of how much they are controlled by this terrible part of their soul.

Socrates claims that the life of a tyrant, particularly a political tyrant is the least pleasant and most unhappy life possible. In fact, Socrates is even somehow able to use math to determine exactly how much more pleasant a king’s life is than a tyrant’s. He says in 587e, “if someone wants to say how far a king’s pleasure is from a tyrant’s, he’ll find, if he completes the calculation, that a king king lives seven hundred and twenty-nine times more pleasantly than a tyrant and that a tyrant is the same number of times more wretched.”

In order to accept what Socrates says as the truth, you’d have to accept a lot of different factors. For instance, I disagree with Socrates’ main points because I don’t think there is such thing as a soul, and I think tyranny can be motivated by things other than appetite, such as distorted world views.

2 thoughts on “The Republic: Book IX

  1. Christina Hendricks

    I think you’re right that tyranny can occur for reasons other than that one has appetites out of control! So if Plato is suggesting that that’s the only way tyranny comes about, there’s a problem. I wonder, though, if he’s trying so hard to make a parallel between the soul and the state that the only reason for tyranny that he is going to talk about is due to the same thing that would enslave the soul: the appetites being out of control. So it may be because he’s very much concerned about the state of one’s soul that he ends up restricting the notion of tyranny to say it only happens in this one way.

    Also, I think we can think of the word “soul” in a way that makes it more relatable even if one doesn’t think there is such a thing as what we usually call a “soul.” The Greek word he’s using is “psuche”, and that is the root for our word “psyche.” And indeed, we can think of what he’s talking about here with a soul as simply the psyche or the mind, but including things like passions and desires (not just thoughts). Insofar as one thinks that desires, appetites, reason, passions, etc. exist, then I think that’s all one needs to think that what Plato is talking about as a “soul” exists!

    1. Griffin Anderson-Baier Post author

      Thank you for clearing up Plato’s definition of the soul. I think I was too quick to dismiss the concept just because I was unsure of it. I also felt uncertain about it because the division of the soul, as the mind, into the three very distinct parts seemed somewhat strange and unbelievable to me. But your explanation makes it more understandable.


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