Jowett: THE REPUBLIC

THE REPUBLIC

Persons of the Dialogue : SOCRATES, who is the narrator ; CEPHALUS ; GLAUCON ; THRASYMACHUS ; ADEIMANTUS ; CLEITOPHON ; POLEMARCHUS ; and others who are mute auditors. The scene is laid in the house of Cephalus at the Piraeus ; and the whole dialogue is narrated by Socrates, the day after it actually took place, to Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and a nameless person, who are introduced in the Timaeus.


Introduction to The Republic by Benjamin Jowett

The argument of the Republic is the search after Justice, the nature of which is first hinted at by Cephalus, the just and blameless old man, — then discussed on the basis of proverbial morality by Socrates and Polemarchus, — then caricatured by Thrasymachus and partially explained by Socrates, — reduced to an abstraction by Glaucon and Adeimantus, and, having become invisible in the individual, reappears at length in the ideal State which is constructed by Socrates. The first care of the rulers is to be education, of which an outline is drawn after the old Hellenic model, providing only for an improved religion and morality, and more simplicity in music and gymnastic, a manlier strain of poetry, and greater harmony of the individual and the State. We are thus led on to the conception of a higher State, in which “no man calls anything his own,” and in which there is neither “marrying nor giving in marriage,” and “kings are philosophers” and “philosophers are kings ;” and there is another and higher education, intellectual as well as moral and religious, of science as well as of art, and not of youth only but of the whole of life. Such a State is hardly to be realized in this world and would quickly degenerate. To the perfect ideal succeeds the government of the soldier and the lover of honor, this again declining into democracy, and democracy into tyranny, in an imaginary but regular order having not much resemblance to the actual facts. When “the wheel has come full circle” we do not begin again with a new period of human life ; but we have passed from the best to the worst, and there we end. The subject is then changed and the old quarrel of poetry and philosophy which had been more lightly treated in the earlier books of the Republic is now resumed and fought out to a conclusion. Poetry is discovered to be an imitation thrice removed from the truth, and Homer, as well as the dramatic poets, having been condemned as an imitator, is sent into banishment along with them. And the idea of the State is supplemented by the revelation of a future life.