The Republic- Book X (summary)

Book X begins with the banishment of poets from the city with Socrates giving reasoning to his claim. Poets are ‘imitators’, “whose product is third from the natural one” (597 e pg.268). Those who write poetry act as though they know all about what they are discussing, however they know nothing at all. If Homer truly understood what it was that he was claiming, cities would be better governed, wars would be won due to his ‘knowledge’ of warfare and generalship (and yet Homer has never been credited for improving a city or helping at war). In addition Socrates claims that poets imitate the negative aspects of the soul, “that part of the soul that is forcibly controlled in our private misfortunes and that hungers for the satisfaction of weeping and wailing, because it desires these things by nature” (606 b pg. 277). Poetry persuades us to feel emotion for fictional characters, which eventually will leak into our own lives, and can’t be held back when we begin to suffer, turning us into the shameful characters portrayed on stage.

With the discussion of souls completed, Socrates moves on to the immortality of the soul. He claims that all souls, just or unjust, are immortal because (according to his argument) the only thing that can destroy a soul is what is bad for it. The souls of the unjust can’t die through the actions of injustice, because the souls own evil and badness is not enough to destroy it, therefore it is immortal.

Throughout the conclusion of both the novel and argument, Socrates once again tells us a story about the virtues of being a philosopher. Through the myth of Er, he explains how being a philosopher allows us to choose just lives, claiming that “if someone pursues philosophy in a sound manner when he comes to live here on earth…it looks as though not only will he be happy…but his journey from here to there and back again won’t be along the rough underground path, but along the smooth heavenly one” (619 d, e pg 290). Basically, become a philosopher or get tortured. Lovely.

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