Plato’s “Republic” is perhaps one of the most intriguing books for me on our reading list. While it isn’t my favorite, it is one of the ones which after reading a few paragraphs, I’ll have to stop and think about them for a while and then probably reread them. The book is densely packed with ideas, ranging from the definition of justice to building the perfect city. While there are plenty of important philosophical ideas which helped shape philosophy as we know it today, there are some ideas which I really dislike. Probably part of the reason for that is the character of Socrates, and how incessant and irritating he becomes throughout the book. He is never satisfied, always asking for clarifications and questions, ultimately he just becomes annoying.
Probably the most interesting part of “Republic” to me is the way Plato/Socrates builds his perfect city. His idea that the philosophers are the ruling class is definitely an interesting one, yet it seems obvious that Plato was looking out for himself when he decided that. Sure, maybe if we were forced to choose from philosophers, warriors, and workers, the best class to rule would be indeed the philosophers. Yet it seems like Plato makes out the philosophers to be a way nicer bunch than they probably are. The way he envisions their reign seems a little too positive, and I think that while the philosophers are great individuals, even they can become corrupt by having the power to rule a city. Yet this isn’t what really bothers me about Plato/Socrates’s perfect city, what really bothers me is how Plato/Socrates decide how people are placed into classes.
The fact that they do not take into consideration someone’s personal happiness is what annoys me. While the philosophers have the “burden” of ruling, everyone else is doing their jobs which were assigned to them. The idea that in the perfect city an individual doesn’t even have the right to try what and be what they want to be is ludicrous. Plato/Socrates’s method of assigning classes would only work if the perfect city was inhabited by robots. It just doesn’t work with humans because we’re selfish animals, we strive to do what makes us happy. While you could say that it should make us happy that we’re contributing to the greater good of the city, I just don’t think that’s enough to satisfy someone who is forced to be a worker, when they dream of fighting on the battlefields.
That’s my main gripe with the “Republic”, and overall it’s not that big of an issue considering all the other thought-provoking ideas that Plato writes about. Probably the idea I find most interesting is the allegory of the cave, and how innovative it must have been especially in the times “Republic” was written. The way it applies to a lot of modern day aspects such as advertising is really interesting, and is what makes it such an important philosophical milestone. Ultimately, Plato’s “Republic” is a classic of western literature because of how many different interesting and innovative ideas it had, and while I had a few gripes with it, overall it was definitely worth reading.