Chapter 1 Book 4 The Republic by Plato Simplified

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September 25, 2015
Adeimantus A person might say:

Socrates

Yes, they are only fed but not paid like other men. Therefore, they cannot take a journey of pleasure. They have no money to spend on a mistress or any other luxury which is thought to be happiness. Yet, our guardians will be the happiest of men.

But our aim in founding the State is the greatest happiness of the whole and not the disproportionate happiness of any one class. We will find:

Having found both States, we can then decide which of them is happier. We are now fashioning the happy State as a whole and not piecemeal or with a view of making a few citizens happy. Later, we will proceed to view the opposite kind of State.

If we were painting a statue and someone came up to us and said, why don’t you put the most beautiful colours on the most beautiful parts of the body? The eyes should be purple, but you have made them black. We answer: We cannot beautify the eyes to the point that they are no longer eyes. Instead, by giving this and the other features their due proportion, we make the whole beautiful. So do not compel us to give a kind of happiness to the guardians which will make them anything but guardians.

We can clothe our husbandmen in royal apparel. Our potters also might be allowed to feast by the fireside. In this way, we can make every class happy, and then the whole State. But this would actually make the husbandman no longer a husbandman, and the potter no longer a potter. No one will have a distinct class in the State. This will not corrupt society so much if it were confined to cobblers.

But when the guardians of the laws and government become fake guardians, they can turn the State upside-down. They alone can give order and happiness to the State. Our guardians should be true saviours and not the destroyers of the State.

Our opponent is thinking of peasants enjoying a life of revelry, not of citizens who are doing their duty to the State. But, if so, we mean different things. Our opponent is speaking of something which is not a State.

Therefore, in appointing our guardians, we must consider whether we should look at:

If this is the truth, then the guardians and auxiliaries must be compelled to do their own work in the best way so that:

Wealth and Poverty Cause the Decline of the Arts

Socrates

Wealth and Poverty are two causes of the deterioration of the arts. When a potter becomes rich he will:

But, on the other hand, if he has no money:

Then, under the influence either of poverty or of wealth, workers can degenerate. Here, then, is a discovery of new evils of wealth and poverty, against which the guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city unobserved. Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence. Poverty is the parent of meanness and viciousness. Both are parents of discontent.

War

Adeimantus Very true, but how can our city go to war, especially against a rich and powerful enemy, if deprived of the sinews of war?
Socrates

It would be difficult to go to war with one such enemy. But there is no difficulty where there are two of them. Our side will be trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men.

An expert boxer would easily be superior against two stout gentlemen who were not boxers. He would run away, then turn and strike at the one who first came up. In this way, he could overturn more than one stout person. Yet rich men probably have a greater superiority in the science and practise of boxing than they have in military qualities. Then we may assume that our athletes will be able to fight with two or three times their own number.

Suppose that, before we go to war with City A, we tell City B that silver or gold is abundant in our city, but lacking in City A. We then tell invite them to come and help us in war and take the spoils of City A. Would City B choose to fight against lean wiry dogs that is City A, instead of teaming up with City A and fighting us who are like fat and tender sheep?

Adeimantus That is not likely. Yet it might be dangerour to the poor State if the wealth of many States were gathered into one.

Federalism

Socrates

But how simple of you to apply the term ‘State’ to all cities except our own! You should speak of other States in the plural. Not one of them is a city, but many cities. Any city, however small, is divided into two:

These are at war with one another. There are many smaller divisions in either. You would be wrong if you treated them all as a single State. But you will always have many friends and few enemies if you:

Your wise State will be the greatest of States, not in reputation or appearance, but in deed and truth, even if she has not more than 1,000 defenders. No single State will be equal to her even if many of them are bigger. The State should increase in size and territory so far as is consistent with unity. That is the proper limit.

Here then is another order that is not very severe for our guardians: Let our city not be large nor small, but united and self-sufficing.

But this order is lighter than the order to downgrade the inferior offsprings of the guardians and upgrade the superior offspring of the lower classes to the rank of guardians. This will make the citizens find their natural purpose so that everyone will do one work instead of many, and focus on his business. In this way, whole city would be one and not many.

These regulations that we are prescribing are all trifles and not great principles, relative to the great thing of education and nurture. If our citizens are well educated they will easily see their way through all these, such as:

These will all follow the general principle that friends have all things in common, as the proverb says. The State, if started well, will move with accumulating force like a wheel because good nurture and education implant good constitutions. These good constitutions, rooted in a good education, improve more and more. This improvement affects man just as it does animals.

Our rulers should focus most of all on preserving music and gymnastic in their original form. No innovation must be made in them. Our rulers must do their utmost to maintain them intact. If mankind regards ‘The newest song’ then our rulers will be afraid that the people may be praising a new kind of song, and not new songs.

This new kind should not be praised, nor conceived to be the poet’s intention because any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State and should be prohibited. I believe Damon telling me that when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them.

Adeimantus Yes, and you may add my suffrage to Damon’s and your own.
Socrates Thus, our guardians must lay the foundations of their fortress in music in the form of amusement. At first sight, amusements appear harmless.
Adeimantus Yes, but this spirit of licence imperceptibly penetrates into manners and customs little by little and finds a home. It then gathers greater force and invades contracts between men. From contracts, it goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessnes. It ends finally, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public.
Socrates Then our youth should be trained from the start in a stricter system. If amusements become lawless, and the youths themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into virtuous citizens.
Adeimantus

When they have started their play properly, and have gained the habit of good order with the help of music, then this habit of order will create a play very different from the lawless one of the others!

We will accompany them in their actions and be a principle of growth to them. They will raise up any fallen places in the State. Thus educated, they will invent for themselves lesser rules which their predecessors have neglected, such as:

I think there is a little wisdom in legislating about such matters. But I doubt if it will ever be done. Nor will their precise written enactments likely to last.

Socrates The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life. Like always attract like. Until a rare and grand result is reached which may be good, then the result is the reverse of good. This is why I shall not attempt to legislate further about them.
Adeimantus What would you say about:

Socrates

There may also arise questions about:

But, heavens! Shall we condescend to legislate on any of these particulars?

Adeimantus I think that there is no need to impose laws about them on good men. They will find out soon enough for themselves what regulations are necessary.
Socrates Yes, if God will only preserve to them the laws which we have given them.
Adeimantus Without divine help, they will go on forever making and mending their laws and their lives in the hope of attaining perfection.
Socrates

You would compare them to those invalids who have no self-restraint. They are always:

Those invalids think that their worst enemy is the one who tells them that the only remedy is to simply give up eating and drinking, wenching and idling.

Socrates
Adeimantus Yes, I do.
Socrates

But not of all of them. There are some whom the applause of the multitude has deluded into thinking that they are really statesmen. These are not to be admired.

When a man declares himself to be four cubits high and many others cannot measure it, he cannot believe them. So do not be angry with them. They are not as good as a play.

They try to begin paltry reforms. They imagine that they can end frauds in contracts by legislation. They do not know that they are merely cutting off the heads of a hydra.

The true legislator will not trouble himself with this class of laws. Such laws are useless in an ill-ordered state. A well-ordered state can make the correct laws, flowing from previous regulations.

Adeimantus What then is still remaining to us of the work of legislation?
Socrates

The religious and spiritual laws remain:

These are matters that we ourselves are ignorant of. As founders of a city, we should entrust them to our ancestral deity and not to any interpreter. He is the god who sits in the centre and is the interpreter of religion to all. Amid all this, where is justice?

Now that our city has been made habitable:

Let us see where in it we can discover justice and injustice, how they differ from one another, and which of them man would be with.

Glaucon Glaucon: You promised to search yourself. You said that it would be an impiety to not help justice in her need.