Book Review-Plato’s The Republic: Book 1

Book One of the Republic by Plato was… wow! If this was just the beginning, then I know there’s a lot more in store in the next books. This part of the Republic was a mind exercise for myself. I understood most of it, however I did have to reread many parts to grasp the ideas of the two men. I can say that all these people knew things and different perspectives that I have never even dared too. I suppose if you are a philosopher, that is what you must do, as well as defend what you believe. Book one of the Republic was very in-depth and thought provoking, for all sides of the main argument. There were a few different discussions however after about the first five pages, things started to get real interesting.

There were a few different issues dealt with in this dialogue, the first five pages was just the introduction, however the conversations had been incredibly thought provoking in their own right. It’s incredible that people could always just speak like this all the time, unlike today, where if you spoke to someone like this, fights would break out due to misunderstandings as well as some individuals believing that people are not allowed to believe something different from you. Some smaller issues dealt with before the main argument ensued, was that of old age and wealth. Cephalus, who is supposedly a man well up in age, summons for Socrates to come and commune with him for a while because he just wants some enthralling conversation with the man. The main conversation they delve into is that of the prospect of old age. It is commented that most of the elderly are of the same kind and have thoughts of miserableness and complaints. Socrates makes note of Cephalus and how he seems different. Socrates believes at first that perhaps it’s because of his wealth; he wondered if it was inherited, which could explain his demeanor or being content, or if it was acquired himself. Cephalus quickly dismisses this thought by admitting that he has earned everything he has and that money plays no role in his happy life. It soon comes to light that he is content because of the teachings of the poet Sophocles who pushes peace as an alternative to happiness. Cephalus said that, “old age has a great sense of calm and freedom” (Plato 185). Cephalus claims that it is a man’s character and temper that prohibits him from gaining a clearer picture of life, thus giving them a negative viewpoint of death. Socrates said, which means something more now, after reading about his death, that one day he will experience old age and he wonders whether it will be “smooth and easy, or rugged and difficult” (Plato 185). As they continue talking about life, they discuss money, peace and hope, among other things. The discussion soon gets interesting as they start to speak about the true definition of justice, and whether it is about speaking rightly and truthfully as well as paying debts owed. Simonides said, “a friend ought always to do good to a friend, and never evil” (Plato 187). Socrates even mentioned paying back debts owed not just to friends but to enemies as well, as to provide justice in times of peace, if not even war. Polemarches and Socrates played around a bit, trying to get a good definition for true justice. The other side was that justice cannot be useful, unless it becomes useful, which later makes some sense when the a new player comes into the debate. The two men discussed the prospect of justice as an art of doing good to friends and harm to enemies, and people expected to love their friends when they think that they are good but hate those they presume are evil. This soon proved faulty, for wouldn’t it be unjust to do harm to another, especially not knowing for certain if one was good or evil? It was soon decided that whether paying a debt, good to good, or bad to evil, paying a debt would not be wise, for how is it wise or just to pay a debt to good or evil when one does not know certainties? After this agreement, Thrasynachus interjects and a whole argument follows against Socrates in ways that are quite interesting. I can say that the first conversations with Cephalus, though discretely, are brought up in interesting ways throughout their argument, while Socrates and Thrasynachus are battling it out, the ideas that mans view point on life is due to their character and tempers and such. That is something interesting to keep in mind while thinking about how Thrasynachus conducts his arguments throughout the rest of the story.

Thrasynachus is a chalcedonian man who, according to google is part of the council or Chalcedon; he is a philosopher in his own right. During the whole conversation between Cephalus and then Polemarchus, Thrasynachus apparently was very impatient and wanted to speak his mind, however the other men wouldn’t let him. Once he did get a chance to speak, it was as if suddenly became a blood thirsty animal that was seeking to “devour” (Plato 193) Socrates. Thrasynachus was making it seem as though Socrates was foolish to speak about justice. He also disrespected Socrates’s style of arguments by calling it ironic by not directly answering questions while pulling “to pieces the answer of someone else” (Plato 194). He mocks Socrates and says that he takes the arguments of others and makes them useless. The view that Thrasynachus makes is that “Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger” (Plato 194). He suggests that all the governments are tyrannical by creating laws of their own desires and then inflicts it to their subjects and punishes those that disobey. Thrasynachus said that a ruler “always commands that which is far his own interest; and the subject is required to execute his commands” (Plato 197). He suggests that through tyranny the government can implement and subject people to their will, not caring about their poverty. Thrasynachus submits that “unjust man has always more and the just less” (Plato 200). He believes that the unjust gains more than the just and therefore it is wiser to be unjust. Thrasynachus is adamant in his charge and unwavering for his defenses.

My thoughts on this argument are very controversial, given that both Socrates and Thrasynachus had very different yet both reasonable viewpoints on the concept of justice. Of course, I have to admit, that I usually side with Socrates, because he is very wise yet seeks wisdom in others. Though to some degrees I agreed with Thrasynachus, I found his childish way of arguing rather unimpressive. He would say something that made great sense, and then as soon as Socrates would refute it, he would spout such trivial insults to his opponent. Ways in which I would agree with Thrasynachus would be that I can understand his view that it sometimes seems that the government does what they want, not seeming to care for the people. He would say that the Shephard takes care of its sheep only for his own gain. In a way, he can be right, sometimes it does seem that governments view of justice is actually, ‘Just Us’. It was interesting when Thrasynachus said that “Injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom and mastery than justice” (Plato 200). He does have a point, that is, if the people allow the government to rule their lives in such a way. I believe Thrasynachus viewpoint is the way it is because perhaps something happened to him where he felt the government gained on his misfortune. The ways in which I agree with Socrates is that he made it clear that when a government is not corrupt, its main goal is to take of its subjects, as to tend to their needs. He made Thrasynachus agree that “it is just for subjects to obey their rulers” (Plato 195). Socrates made a point about how not all rulers are perfect and that they make mistakes and that some laws are right and some are not. Socrates makes us believe that justice is not for the stronger if the rulers can be wrong. Ruler is just a title and Socrates makes it clear that a pilot is of authority over his sailors however he is still a sailor as well. He said that, “Medicine does not consider the interest of medicine, but the interest of the body” (Plato 199). Rulers must be just as to care for the body and the whole. He said that the good for the shepherd, is the good of the sheep and that is what’s best for them. To prove that rulers were just, he mentioned the voyage for knowledge. He said that knowledge is equal to wisdom and wisdom is good, therefore, the wise and the good do not seek to gain more than the people with less. Both men finally agreed that justice was that of virtue and wisdom, while injustice is of vice and ignorance. Socrates also proved that injustice is not more profitable than justice, for the very reason that if you were unjust, the gods would count you as their enemy. I think Socrates, though mostly right, is talking about what he hopes for, and desires for justice to be, not what the frailty of what human men can be. If I had to choose the better or rather the person that made the better argument, not just who I happen to agree with the most, I would say that Socrates was the better arguer. While I agreed somewhat with Thrasynachus, his manner of arguing disrupted the interesting words in which he spoke. He was rude and mocked Socrates when he knew he couldn’t refute him in a better way. He would accuse Socrates of cheating and playing games and call him foolish. After a while of calming down and listening, he slowly came around. He became reluctant, versus earlier when he practically leapt at the chance of defeating his rivals. He began to perspire and blush as he realized he may be wrong. At the end of it he gave up and spoke that he knew nothing at all. Though I did mostly agree with Socrates, reasons in which he was the best arguer was because he was always calm and reasoning. He always said that he wanted to learn from others and try to understand the other side of the argument. Socrates was good because he liked people “who professes to know and can tell what he knows” (Plato 194). I believe my uncle would like him because he is always saying to know what you believe and why you believe it. This was an excellent story of two great philosophers making great arguments towards each other, however, someone had to be the winner, it’s for you to decide.

Works Cited

Plato, and Benjamin Jowett. Six great dialogues: Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Symposium and the Republic. Place of publication not identified: BN Publishing, 2010. Print.


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