Plato’s Republic, Book IV

Book IV of Plato’s republic discusses specifically the city ‘Kallipolis’. Adeimantus begins by arguing that the ruler of the city will be unhappy, given that they are not afforded certain luxuries, such as being allowed to own property, amass any private wealth, or have a mistress. Socrates however responds to this overall argument by saying that the goal of the city is not to make any single person happy, but rather the city happy as a whole, and inso doing, making the individuals happy anyways. Socrates also argues against the use of money in a society, instead suggesting that the the rulers should insure that no one exists at any extreme end of the spectrum, because wealth inspires laziness, and poverty inspires rebellion. Adeimantus argues that this city would not be able to protect itself from outside danger and influence without money, however as usual, Socrates has an answer to that as well. [I find that Socrates spends all of his time refuting arguments, and very little time providing in-depth solutions, if any at all…]

The discussion then turns to the virtues of the city. These virtues are meant to achieve/reflect justice, and are parallel with the sense of justice within the individual, in the form of reason, spirit, and appetite. In the context of the city, they are represented by specific peoples. Wisdom is the virtue exemplified by the ruler(s), as their intricate knowledge of how the city should be run should theoretically always make for a better city. [This is also where the argument against everyone having a say comes into play] Courage is the virtue exemplified by the auxiliaries, and it is a virtue of the city because they are supposed to have the best possible outcome for the city as their sole goal. Moderation is the virtue that is represented by the producers, as a just society takes into account the good of the city above all else.

The idea of moderation is perhaps most important. Balanced and harmonious individuals are what the Kallipolis are attempting to create in the first place.

3 thoughts on “Plato’s Republic, Book IV

  1. Nice discussion here. The only thing I’d say is that moderation is even more specific. Just before the last two sentences you state that “a just society takes into account the good of the city above all else.” That’s certainly true, but moderation allows this to happen through two mechanisms:

    1. self-control–the control of some parts of the state (or of the soul) by others; making sure that it’s all under a single rule

    2. harmony–each part of the state or soul agrees that the ruling part should rule (rulers in the state, reason in the soul); so there is no argument, no trying to rule by the other parts.

    The second one makes the most sense in the context of the state, but it’s hard to see how parts of a soul could “agree” that reason should rule. I think all that Plato means by this is that one does not let one’s appetites run oneself, or one’s “spirit” (which is a strange part that doesn’t really make sense to us today), but only one’s reason. It also means that one doesn’t find that one is continually having to fight to do what reason suggests is best, that one doesn’t have to struggle to do so, but that one just does it naturally because our reason is what should guide us.

    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. Hey Ryan,

    I was just wondering: does it say anywhere in Book IV that each level of people in the city has the virtue of itself and the one(s) beneath it? So, for example, does a Ruler have all of the virtues, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation? And then, would it follow that an Auxiliary had Courage and Moderation and a Producer had only Moderation?

    If so, then I totally agree that moderation is most important, as it seems to be the basic first step in putting the satisfaction of the soul before the satisfaction of the body. Without self-control, one does not have enough harmony within themselves to handle the power that comes with Courage and Wisdom.

    Is this what you were getting at? I think its a really interesting idea.


  3. In regards to the notion you pointed out that a perfect city doesn’t necessarily cater to individual happiness, this is quite concerning, if not totally depressing. If I could ask Plato anything that’s what it would be about. Where would he prioritize individual happiness? Apparently he does not think it is very useful in creating a perfect city. Yet in my opinion, it at least couldn’t be absolutely detrimental, could it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.