The Republic Chapters VII and VIII: Summary
One of the most celebrated works ever written in the history of humanity on the topic of philosophy and political theory, ‘The Republic’ by Plato deals with a fictional dialogue between Socrates and the people of Athens and foreign lands. In this work, Plato convincingly presents his philosophical ideas concerning justice, just city and just man, a theory of universals, dialectical forms of the government, etc. In a reflective exploration of the work, it becomes lucid that Plato expresses his philosophical views regarding the meaning of justice and the role of the philosopher-kings in the attainment of justice, and the Socratic dialogue is the effective way to present these arguments to the readers in a persuasive manner. This paper makes a careful reading of the book The Republic, focusing on a summary of the chapters VII and VIII, in order to comprehend the major concerns of Plato in these chapters.
In chapter VII of The Republic, Plato is mainly concerned with a convincing argument of how philosopher-kings can contribute to the attainment of justice in a city-state. Books VI-VII of the work concentrates on establishing why philosopher-kings are the ideal rulers of a model state and Book VII clearly maintains the author’s position. In the opening of Book VII, the author offers an unforgettable image, the allegory of the Cave, in order to illustrate the importance of education on the soul, which is followed by a brief but essential discussion of education. In this discussion of education, Socrates very well establishes that the most important aim of education is to turn the soul around by changing its desires. As S. Marc Cohen maintains, the next important subject of Book VII is the education of philosopher-kings, which can be classified into six fundamental stages. Through the various stages of education, the philosopher-kings become eligible to rule the city with justice and determination. According to Cohen, the book presents six important stages of education for the philosopher-kings, which starts with the initial education in music, poetry, physical training, and elementary mathematics and followed by military-like physical training, instruction in mathematical science, training in dialectic, practice in political training, and, finally, training to lift up the radiant light of their souls. “The third city, which contains philosopher-kings and the educational institutions necessary to produce them, constitutes the final stage in Plato’s construction of his ideal city.” (Cohen, 504) Therefore, it is essential to comprehend that the major aim of Plato’s work The Republic is to construct an ideal state for the prosperity and well-being of every citizen.
A careful reading of the Book VIII of The Republic confirms that the author takes up a new topic of discussion in the chapter, i.e. the pro and con of various practical forms of government, and this discussion continues up to Book X. Thus, Plato discusses the various forms of government such as Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny in Book VIII of the work. It is essential to comprehend that the Socratic dialogue concerning different forms of government gives a convincing idea of Plato’s ideal republic and the readers are offered detailed and highly structured discussions of the various forms of government and their pros and cons. According to Socrates’ discussions, timocracy can be realized as the rule by people who love honor and oligarchy refers to “the constitution based on a property assessment, in which the rich rule and the poor man has no share in the ruling.” (Cohen, 536) The book also provides persuasive definitions and explanations of other types of government including democracy and tyranny. Therefore, Plato has been effective, through the Socratic dialogue, in conveying his ideas concerning the various forms of government and their pros and cons.
In conclusion, a reflective exploration of Book VII and VIII of The Republic reveals some of the basic ideas of Plato concerning his ideal state. These two chapters introduce two of the most important themes or topics of the work, namely the role of the philosopher-kings in the attainment of justice in a city-state and the pro and cons of various practical forms of government.
Questions about Book VII
1. What is the role of the philosopher-kings in the attainment of justice in a state?
2. What are the different stages in the education of the philosopher-kings?
Questions about Book VII
1. Which are the various dialectical forms of government, according to the Socratic dialogue?
2. What is democracy? How is it different from other forms of government?
Works Cited: Cohen, S. Marc. Readings in ancient Greek philosophy: from Thales to Aristotle. Hackett Publishing. 2005. P 504.