The Republic is considered by many to be Plato's philosophical masterpiece. It is also rightly recognized as one of the most important works in the history of Western thought, because it had an enormous influence on politics, philosophy, and ethics from antiquity to the present. The question that is raised in the first two books of the Republic is "what is justice (dikaiosune)? In books 5-7 Plato gives his famous argument about why philosophers should be kings, based upon his conviction that philosophers can grasp the form of the Good.
This will probably be the most difficult reading that you will ever be asked to do in college. Before you read this selection, be sure that you read the introductory material to Plato (pp. 67-75) very carefully. Please note that you need only read the specific sections of the text indicated below
REPUBLIC 1-2 (pp. 76-101)
As you read, be sure that you are able to answer the following questions:
Who is the narrator of The Republic? Why is Socrates in Piraeus at the beginning of the text? Who is he with and who does he meet? Where does he ultimately wind up going?
Who is Cephalus? How does the question about the nature of justice initially arise in the text? What is Cephalus' view of justice? (§ 1) What example does Socrates use to show that this position is not sound? (§ 2)
Who is Polemarchus? What is his view of justice? (§ 2) What is Socrates' critique of his position? (§ 2)
What does Thrasymachus mean when he argues that "justice is the advantage of the stronger?" (§ 3a) What objections does Socrates make to this position? (§ 3b-3c)
What does Thrasymachus means when he goes on to claim that "justice is another's good"? (3d) How does Socrates respond to this position (3e-f)
Why does Glaucon, a good friend of Socrates, feel compelled to challenge his position on justice? What is the Ring of Gyges? How does Glaucon use this story to offer a challenge to Socrates' contention that justice is a moral good? (§ 4)
REPUBLIC 5-7 (pp. 107-112; 119-124)
What are the four levels of reality as represented on the left side of the divided line? What are the four ways of grasping reality as represented on the right side of the divided line? (§ 7...Be sure to review chart in Introductory section)
What is the basic myth (story) that Plato tells in his Myth of the Cave? (§ 8) [If you can answer this, then you are a genius: How does the Myth of the Cave relate to the divide line?...You don't need to know this for the quiz, just for life!]
If you think that you understand the basic ideas in the text, take the quiz for this unit. Note: this quiz includes questions from the Introduction to Plato's thought in the text as well as from the Republic, so be sure that you've read both selections carefully before you begin.