The Nature and Defects of Oligarchy – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the other falls.” In this passage from book eight of Plato’s Republic, Socrates outlines the defects and eventual breakdown of oligarchy. Socrates describes oligarchy as “a government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it.” He claims …

The Allegory of the Cave – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?” In this passage, from book seven of Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes an unusual cave in which prisoners have been chained since childhood. The prisoners in this allegory represent the majority of mankind who perceive only the shadows of reality and hear only the echoes of truth. They cling to their mistaken view of reality and have no desire to escape their prison. Only philosophers make the journey out …

The Parable of the Ship: The Importance of Knowledge in Political Decision-making – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“The truth is, that, when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern.” In this passage, from book six of Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues that his ideal city can only come about if there is a union of political power with philosophy, in other words, political power must be in the hands of philosophers. Now, it is important to note that when Socrates says that philosophers should rule …

The “City of Pigs”, the Luxurious City, and the Origin of War – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“Then a slice of our neighbours’ land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?” In this passage, Socrates compares a simple city with a luxurious one and explores the consequences that are likely to follow when a simple city becomes luxurious. First, Socrates sketches his vision of the ideal city; a simple communitarian society where the basic needs of everyone are …

The Ring of Gyges and the Advantages of Injustice – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“Gods and men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the life of the just.” This passage from Book II of Plato’s Republic raises a number of questions about human nature and the nature of justice: Is the life of the unjust man happier than man who is just? Are people inherently selfish? Is justice good for it’s own sake or because it leads to good consequences? What exactly is justice? The two speakers in this section of the dialogue are Glaucon and Socrates. …