Plato’s Republic: Book I (revised)

My apologies to anyone reading this blog but I have made an error in my previous post regarding the history of Socrates. He was not executed by the 30 tyrants but the reinstated democracy after the fall of the 30. He was tried and executed for impiety and corrupting the youths. He was still executed for being dangerous to the state… Just a different one. Sorry for any confusion! Thanks for the correction Christina

Plato’s Republic: Book I

In Book I of Plato’s Republic sets the stage for the course the rest of the Books as it introduces the main themes, mainly, what is justice? Upon Socrates’ returning from a religious festival he is greeted by Adeimantus (a brother of Plato) and Polemarchus (a young nobleman) who insist he make a detour to the home of Polemarchus. There Polemarchus’ father, Cephalus, is introduced and the philosophical debate ensues. Cephalus is the first to attempt to define justice, which is in his eyes a very honorable concept as he describes it as: telling the truth and paying one’s debts. Shortly after Socrates’ rebuttal, Cephalus resigns from the debate leaving it to his son to carry on the argument. Polemarchus defines justice as being good to one’s friends and doing harm to one’s enemies. Socrates goes on to point out the flaws in this definition as we are not necessarily friends with just and moral people nor are we necessarily enemies with the unjust.  Polemarchus eventually succumbs to Socrates’ argument and agrees with his denouncing of the definition. It is then when Thrasymachus jumps into the conversation stating that justice is what is advantageous to the stronger. The real debate begins here, following the Socratic method, as Socrates attempts to defend justice and show that injustice cannot be a virtue. Thrasymachus uses rulers as an example of his view as he says that the strongest and most just rulers act in accordance to what is beneficial to them as individuals. Socrates counters this point in saying that the most just rulers are those who act in the interests of their subjects.

Much discussion ensues but I want to focus on Socrates’ image of a just ruler for (as is described in the later books) they are in essence philosophers. I found this interesting for Plato chose Socrates as his protagonist, a man who was tried and found guilty essentially for spreading philosophic ideas (corrupting the youth).  After Athens’ defeat in the Pelopponesian war, democracy fell and 30 tyrants were placed in power (as discussed in lecture). Socrates refused the will of the 30 (as he wouldn’t arrest and innocent man), which was the beginning of his image as dangerous to the rule of the tyrants. In addition philosophy was deemed a dangerous practice for it allowed for the spread of radical ideas, ones which had the potential to work against the rule of the 30. Socrates, a vocal philosopher, was thusly executed for he was too dangerous to let live. I see Plato’s description of the ideal ruler as tribute to the importance and influence of philosophy for only through the reason and wisdom of such a ruler, kallipolis (the perfect city) is theoretically able to exist. In addition Thrasymachus’ idea of a just ruler is precisely the form of governance seen with the 30 tyrants. One can see perhaps that Plato’s (in the book Socrates’) description of a just ruler as paying tribute to Socrates and his refuting of Thrasymachus’ view is criticizing the practices of the tyrants.

The Odyssey

Over the course of reading The Odyssey I noticed a couple of interesting things the foremost being the prominent role of women within the story. Women within the poem held a great deal of power, often surpassing the power held by the male characters. Athena stands as the most active female figure in the poem, being able to manipulate mortals and their conflicts. What I found interesting was the fact that in order to lower what would be the levels of adoration and reverence that accompany her female form, Athena often took the form of  man. Both when hiring a crew for Telemachus’ voyage and when advising him, Athena took male form which to me suggests that her divine female form would prove too much for the mortal world. Even the mortal women such as Penelope and Nausicaa were likened to goddesses in their beauty and standing. The negative image of women arose only through such figures as the Sirens, Circe, Calypso…etc as they were obstacles to the hero Odysseus, but again these female figures stand as much more powerful than any male character.  This powerful image of women in The Odyssey came as a very welcome change from the completely subordinate role of women in Genesis.

The second thing I noticed while reading was that Halitherses, the old warrior (Book 2, l.175) seems to fit the role of a knight of faith (seen in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling). Halitherses warns Penelope’s suitors that disaster shall befall them upon Odysseus’ return. The suitor’s scoff at the old man’s ridiculous claims as everyone assumes Odysseus died long ago at the battle of Troy or on his voyage home. Halitherses then continues to outline a prophecy he made years before saying that Odysseus would return home after twenty years. The old warrior had never lost faith in the fact that Odysseus would return regardless of the fact that Odysseus went to war and has not been seen or heard from twenty years since. Ithaca’s population had accepted the fact that Odysseus was dead and moved past it, Halitherses on the other hand resigned from fighting for the cause, but never once lost his faith in Odysseus. Total resignation from actively upholding and pursuing one’s faith but never giving it up, regardless of how absurd it may seem, is the mark of a knight of faith. Perhaps he can be considered one? It is fairly absurd to expect a warrior’s return after twenty years with no word.


Hi everyone,

My name is Maaike and this will be my blog for the coming year. I am currently at a loss for what to write as my introduction so I guess I will begin with my reasons for taking ArtsOne. I have chosen ArtsOne because I love literature and philosophy (the reading list really sealed the deal for me). I also chose the program because I thought the smaller class size would provide a much more fun and interesting environment for discussion as well as getting to know other like minded people. Facts about me: I love food (the most prominent exceptions being olives and pickles), I enjoy fencing, my favourite genre, both for literature and film, is fantasy and I work in a bakery. I look forward to getting to know everyone throughout the year.