Thoughts on Plato’s Republic

Val Selvaggio

Independent Reading

Feb. 12, 2012

Thoughts on Plato’s Republic

At long last I have sat down with the intention to read the Republic, by Plato. Of course, I was genuinely surprised to realize that the dialogues found within were not largely those of Plato with his students, but a dialogue told from the viewpoint of Plato, as he observed Socrates. One major section that stood out near the beginning of the story was his defense against Polymarchus’ viewpoint of justice, and how he forbade he define it without the use of the word “interest.” e.g. “of whose interest.” (Republic, pg. 14)

Next, as I read on, the point Polymarchus argues that it is in the interest of the stronger, in this case, the ruling power, to make laws that are just and to uphold them. Therefore, those who follow these laws, who are subject to these laws, are therefore unjust if they violate these laws. That these followers also have fallen into a category we will simply refer to as the “unjust” here. It is therefore then asked by Socrates whether a man or follower of said laws  is to be considered “unjust” if these laws that bind the land and subjects are made without consideration of what good will come from such laws. This spawned his argument with Thrasymachus as to the validity of a law if it does not properly bring “just” followers or promote what is noble and good in men. (e.g. will it be followed, even though it be made without being made “rightly?”)

In response, Socrates follows a series of statements made by Polymarchus (Republic, pg. 19) to the effect that sometimes the ruling party will make laws that feel just and right, even though the effect of the followers’ obedience causes injury to the commanding party. Thus, Socrates argues that even the laws made, albeit made with what is right in mind, cause injury by those who function as they are ordered.

In sum, the Republic paints a picture of the perfect citizens in a rather “Utopian” or Justly governed city. Many of its points argued by the young men with Socrates at the gathering are incorporated in Socrates’ creation of his dialogue about the ideally “just” society. He also paints how such a group of followers must be educated to live peacefully and justly within the city governed “justly.” According to the webpage on the cliffs notes site, “It is not only possible, but necessary that people work to be just all the time.” (Cliffsnotes.com) again, in every situation and in every professional dealing. He also argues that various professionals, e.g. physicians or builders or pilots, ought be the ones sought to entrust everyday just dealings when it came to “performing” certain tasks.



Plato (2004.). Translator: Jowett, B. Republic, The.  New York, New York;

Barnes & Noble Publishing Company.

Cliffs Notes.com. The Republic. Translated by: Jowett, B. Retrieved on:

February 18, 2012 from:


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