The Republic by Plato Essay

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The Republic by Plato

At the beginning of Book I, we are introduced to the narrator, Socrates, and his audience of peers. We are made aware, however, of Socrates' special charm and intellectual gifts through the insistence of Polemarchus and the other men for the pleasure of his company. The tone is casual and language and modes of expression rather simple, as is commonly the case in Plato's dialogues. However, Plato's unaffected style serves at least two purposes. For one it belies the complexity and elevation of the ideas, thus it is in accord with Socrates' characteristic irony itself, which draws the "fool" in by feigned ignorance, only so that the master can show that he does not know what he thinks he knows. And second,
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Socrates' response (another question) clarifies his epistemology: "how can anyone answer who knows, and says that he knows, just nothing??" What Socrates' knows is incommunicable other than to say that he knows nothing. His philosophical speculations embody a process rather than a philosophy. That is, Socrates' method is in accord with the nature of inquiry and of intellectual exploration itself: he is his style. And, acutely aware of this fact, Socrates repels every temptation toward dogma, characterized by Thrasymachus' complaints.

The second definition of justice, obedience to the interest of the stronger, is Thrasymachus' veiled justification for tyranny (might is right), and is foreshadowed in his indecorous demand for payment. He is portrayed in sharp contrast to Socrates, who suggests that the stronger may not always know his own interest; therefore, at times, it is necessary for the weaker to disobey him. Socrates then successfully upsets the definition by demonstrating that, insofar as his role is an art, a ruler acts in the best interest of his subjects, as exemplified by the physician for his patients and the captain for his crew.

Still unresolved, the debate moves into a second stage, where tyranny, or perfect injustice, and benevolent rule, or perfect justice, are evaluated against one another. Again, through a series of examples, Socrates prevails--the unjust man's pride and ambition are shown to be weaknesses,
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