Summary of Book II of "The Republic" by Plato

by Robert Morello Google
Plato was mentored by Socrates and was mentor to Aristotle.

Plato was mentored by Socrates and was mentor to Aristotle.

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Plato was an Athenian scholar and philosopher who lived from around 428 to 348 B.C.E. Plato became a student of Socrates and began writing philosophical works after his mentor's death in 399. "The Republic" is Plato's best-known and influential work. "The Republic" contemplates the importance of being just, living well and the possibilities of a perfectly governed state.

Book I

In Book I of "The Republic" Plato takes on the voice of Socrates and engages in a series of arguments with various successful characters from all walks of Athenian life, including Cephalus, the patriarch of a successful family, and Plato's two brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus. Each of these characters puts forth a philosophy about how to live best if not always doing good. Socrates responds to each philosophy with analogies aimed at disproving and teaching.

Book II, Section I

Book II, Section I continues the theme of flawed philosophies as put forth by various Athenians. The book begins with the last of Socrates' combatants from Book I (Thrasymachus) departing in defeat and complaining that he was set up by Socrates to look bad. Two other participants, Glaucon and Adeimantus press on with the discussion in hopes of better defining the term "justice." Each makes an impassioned speech based on the prior theory set forth by Thracymachus, and each provides analogies in keeping with Socrates' demonstrated format. The two men argue that to be just is a fool's errand since the strong and the opportune profit most and enjoy the most success in life. They also argue that the rewards for justice consist only of praise from others and a pleasant afterlife.

Book II, Section II

Socrates shifts attention from the individual to the state and attempts to prove the value of justice for all citizens. Socrates outlines the social contract necessary to the formation of a successful state and attempts to demonstrate how the overall justice required to provide a safe and beneficial living for each member of the state is transferable to the necessity for individuals to live justly as a functional part of this state. Plato attempts to establish anarchy as the alternative to an unjust or self-centered lifestyle that is not concerned with the success of the state and its members before all else.

Book II, Section III

Section III focuses on the importance of the armed forces for the protection of the state and the danger of the armed forces, whose might would enable them to take over at will. By using the most powerful force in the society Socrates is able to show how justice at the scale of the entire army is made up of justice by the sum of its parts, all while demonstrating how catastrophic it would be should the military not act in a just manner. Socrates argues that to ensure the city remains healthy as a whole and for all its members, it will be necessary to instill various forms of censorship on the population so that only works with a positive moral basis and a beneficial educational effect are distributed. Despite a detailed argument it is unclear who will make the decisions for the whole.

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