Book Review-Plato’s The Republic: Book 2

Book two of the Republic was very interesting. Even though I usually side with Socrates, and even though he didn’t have much to say for most of this book, I really enjoyed what Glaucon and his brother Adermantus had to say. I agreed a lot with what they were saying, and that’s not to say that I disagreed with Socrates, however, these men were all playing a game of devil’s advocate, they all didn’t necessarily disagree with each other, they just wanted to find a truth. This story was a continuation of book one in that Glaucon was dissatisfied with the way Socrates and Thrasymachus left the argument and wanted the definition of justice and injustice to be cleared up more precisely. Both Glaucon and Adermantus make amazing and well thought out arguments to present to Socrates, not to beat him, but so that they could all come to a same realization. It was very fascinating and encouraging to see two other men that were amazing at creating well thought arguments and apply them so brilliantly yet still have decency. They were the total opposite of Thrasymachus and that made this reading a whole lot better.  I really enjoyed Book two of the Republic.

The Ring of Gyges was an extremely interesting story and it was very appropriate for the central point of book two of the Republic, that being the concept of a just or unjust person being compelled to do things of their own desires when given the power to do so, even if they are the most just of people. The Ring of Gyges is the story about a man named Gyges, who was once a simple shepherd who would have been considered a just man. Gyges was a shepherd who was in service to his king and always was fair and honest. One day there was some kind of, what I can only explain as some mystical earthquake, that opened the earth in from of Gyges, and inside the earth was a naked man wearing only a gold ring. Gyges took the ring, and when he put it on and turned the ring, he became invisible; he was able to become visible again with another turn of the ring. Soon after this, his other shepherd friends met up with Gyges to commune about the monthly report meant to go to the king; the shepherds chose Gyges to go. In this story, it is said that as soon as he arrived at the palace, he seduced the king’s wife and they both plotted and then killed the king, thus Gyges becoming a ruler. Glaucon’s reason for sharing this story was to prove his point that give a man a special power above others, whether that man is just or unjust, and due to nature, that man will end up doing whatever they want regardless of the morality or the consequences. His point was that no man chooses to be just, the law inflicts it, but if a man held power over others, then the law would hold any meaning or power over them. I understood the moral of the story, or the point Glaucon was trying to get across, and in some or most circumstances he would be right. We humans were born into evil, it is of our easiest nature to commit sin. The only difference is whether or not the person who discovered the ring of power had the endurance, the courage, the will power not to fall into temptation. Yes, we were born into a world of sin, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t the point of stories and lessons to help us to become more than what our simplest and animalistic desires want to make of us? It is easy to fall into temptation, it is difficult to do what is right, perhaps that’s why Glaucon is wrong in his devil’s advocate belief that the unjust prosper more than the just. Perhaps the struggle for good is the lesson we all have to learn. If things we needed came easily to us, we as a people would not be where we are today, we must struggle to survive and do what’s right. The story of the Ring of Gyges also reminded me of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. There were many rings of power that drove men into insanity because of their greed for power, however, one little hobbit was able to, through great struggle and determination, resist the temptation of the powerful ring, which by the way could also make him invisible. Lord of the Rings was about people overcoming their temptations over a ring that could grant them power. Even a powerful and moral wizard didn’t want to attempt to carry the ring, he thought that even though he would try to use the ring for good, he felt the power would corrupt him, which is why he overcame the temptation and let it go. The story of Gyges and the ring was very important to the central discussion because it gave insight to what Glaucon was arguing, it was indeed very helpful to see his point of view on the matter, and though at the very end, I would refute it, I do have to agree with him to a certain extent.

Glaucon has a very understandable view on the matter of justice. Though I may not entirely agree with him, I can accept his view points as valid concerns. Glaucon was a very respectable person, though Socrates described him as being quick to argue, he said he was not persuaded by the outcome of the argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus and he wished to discuss it further. First Glaucon wanted to arrange in order, a way to categorize true goods of life. The three categories would be of pleasing oneself with worldly pleasures for their own gain, thus nothing positive would result from it. The second category would be knowledge and health which would benefit others with results. The third category was physical and taking care of people who were sick while making money. This would be good while also disagreeable to some however still make good results. When Glaucon asked Socrates which category justice would go, he said that it would be in the upper most class for it is a good we can enjoy and be made happy because of it as well as get results for not only yourself but for others. Glaucon then said that many would disagree with him saying that justice is troublesome and that its mainly for results or reputation, thus it would be disagreeable and should be left behind. Socrates said that this was how Thrasymachus thought and he would not bring himself down to that level of thinking in order to be convinced that injustice was better than justice. Glaucon was disappointed at Thrasymachus for bowing out of his argument so easily he believed it was up to him to carry the mantle of his cause. He listed three main arguments for Socrates to answer without using reputation because then it would seem that he’s just praising the idea of justice. Socrates agreed to this believing it to be wise. The first argument of Glaucon is the thought/ the origin of justice. Glaucon said that “they say that to do injustice is, by nature, good, to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good” (Plato 213). He spoke about how justice would be in the middle of doing an injustice and not being punished and suffering and injustice without revenge. Basically, he was saying that it was the lesser of two evils. The second argument was that men who practice justice, only do so against their will, not for the idea of good but because of necessity. This was the argument that led to the story of Gyges and the ring, and the premise was that the just will become unjust because lack of law or gain of power and the unjust will inherit the earth!… or just come out more profitable than the rest. Gyges third argument was that of trying to reason that the general life of the unjust was, plain and simple, just better than the just. His idea was just to let the just and unjust live their lives. He suggested that it was better to live a life where you’re not just but you seem good, while the opposite is actually being goo however people will think badly of you. This is what happened to Socrates, as well as Jesus Christ, these men were good people, just speaking truths, not hurting anyone, yet people looked on them with contempt. The final proof of goodness would be how they reacted to fear and the concept of death. Socrates and Jesus however proved this, both accepting what was happening, though be afraid, but going down with dignity, however Jesus returned with dignity as well. Glaucon was not even sure what he believes, he just wants to know how justice could be superior to injustice. He is just playing devil’s advocate with Socrates so they don’t really have different sides, but I mostly agree with Socrates. Glaucon would say that it would be of more benefit to be unjust because the just get punished and live miserable lives, while the unjust pursues “reality” (Plato 216). The unjust can do whatever they want because they don’t have to live by a set of standards, but at least the just can say they lived and died for a cause that was bigger than themselves. He then brought up the concept of the gods and that the gods would probably approve of the unjust more because they would have more money to spend on things to lavish them. Though someone may think this true, a story in the Bible states that God doesn’t care if all you have to give is a penny, as long as the intent is there, which means if you’re rich or poor, the meaning behind the offering is the true blessing. Glaucon’s brother Adermantus then took her turn at Socrates, he did a fantastic job as well. His points were that though being just is considered honorable, they also provide turmoil for the person, while the wicked gain a profit. It is suggested that the gods give misery to the good and allow the wicked to have smooth sailing, perhaps that’s because it’s easy to be wrong and it takes learning and struggle to do something smart and good. Adermantus even said that “Nothing great is easy” (Plato 219). If what is great is difficult, wouldn’t it stand to reason that those who are just, the ones who struggle in misery to do what’s good are the ones who are doing something right and great? Socrates then goes on to explain his side of the argument with examples about how a state is formed to maintain and help its people. The people grow and start needing things to survive. The state starts to give them all that they require but then it seems, well I go the picture that as the people grew and got want they needed, they soon began to demand things that they just wanted. Glaucon seemed to think this was okay, that the sweets of life was good, however, I believe the point of this example was to show that the state was created to serve the people, thus creating jobs and helping them, however greed took over and then the state needed to create laws to keep order in this new civilization. Justice was created when the state had to deal with the citizen and their demands and actions. The people were not satisfied with a simple life, they wanted more things and land, which meant war would ensue; the original healthy state was no longer sufficient to maintain order; therefore, problems would arise and a system would have to be created to guarantee that all the people would be taken care of in the same way. This new way would ensure that they would not become barbarians and destroy themselves. As men educated themselves, a sense of philosophy came about, and thus followed a sense of right and wrong, the just and the unjust. Socrates then went on to speak about god and how he was good and does no evil, he does not change and does not lie, that is why we must adhere to being just and right, just like he is. There is really no side to be completely on, though I most agree with Socrates, although, even Socrates noticed that Glaucon and his brother did not truly know what they believe, that is why they wanted to be convinced.

Hidden power can extremely effect justice. Hidden power can be a dangerous thing when it comes to justice because it’s when someone in power uses money or their position in a way to change things for their own gain and not the gain of the general people. An example of this in contemporary life and the threat of hidden power would be political corruption. Say someone in power were to have a judge in their pocket through bribes or black mail so that they would wrongfully send someone to prison. That can be the threat of hidden power and the misuse of it to destroy the sanctity of justice.

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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