Questions on Plato's Republic

For each answer, cite a specific source, e.g., 341b, 344c-d. (Stephanus numbers; see "Stephanus numbers")

Book I.

1. What view of "justice" does Socrates attribute to Cephalos?

2. What two definitions of "justice" are put forward by Polemarchos?

3. What point does Socrates make about identifying friends and enemies?

4. What is Socrates' major criticism of the idea that it is right to help one's friends and harm one's enemies?

5. What definition of "justice" does Thrasymachos offer?

6. What is Socrates' first point of criticism of Thrasymachos? What is Thrasymachos's response?

7. What does Socrates say is the object or advantage of any craft? of the craft of ruling or governing?

8. What reasons does Thrasymachos give for maintaining that injustice is better than justice?

9. Why do good, virtuous men want to rule?

10. Who does Thrasymachos define as the truly unjust?

11. How does Socrates argue that injustice is not part of wisdom?

12. Why does a city need justice to gain power?

Books II and III.

1. What are Glaukon's three kinds of "goods"? What kind is justice?

2. What points does Glaukon propose to make?

3. What arguments does he make in support of each point?

4. What points does Adeimantos propose to make?

5. What arguments does he make in support of his points?

6. What is the challenge that Glaukon and Adeimantos make to Socrates?

7. How does Socrates propose to proceed?

8. What, according to Socrates, are the origins of the city?

9. Why do cities need armies?

10. What are the qualities or virtues of a good soldier?

11. How are these qualities to be secured?

12. What are the basic divisions of a proper education and what are the purposes of each? (This question covers the better part of Book Three.)

13. Who should rule the city? What qualities should rulers have?

14. What is the myth or story of the metals and what is the purpose of the myth?

Book IV.

1. What is Socrates' response to Glaukon's argument that the guardians will not be content in this city?

2. What, says Socrates, is the principal danger to this or any city?

3. Is Socrates proposing a communistic system in which private wealth and property are legally forbidden?

4. Is Socrates proposing a totalitarian system of government in which each and every aspect of behavior and opinion of every member of society is regulated by laws and by force?

5. What provides for the unity of this city?

6. In the city now established, how is wisdom manifested? bravery or courage? moderation or temperance? justice or righteousness?

7. According to Socrates, why does the foregoing discussion of the city enable us to identify the moral virtues of an individual?

8. What is the proper definition of the individual virtue of bravery? wisdom? moderation? justice?

9. Why is it better to be just than unjust?

Book Five.

1. Why does Socrates argue that women should join men as guardians?

2. What are the three "waves" of criticism to which Socrates responds?

3. What are his responses to the first two waves?

4. Is the kind of government (constitution or politeia) the Socrates has thus far described possible?

5. What are the characteristics of a philosopher? What do they know that no others know?

Book Six.

1. How does Socrates respond to the charge of Adeimantos that "philosophers" are either weird or vicious?

2. What is the usual relationship between lovers of wisdom and the rest of society?

3. What do the sophists teach the bright young men of Athens?

4. What should be the relationship between a philosopher and his city? Does this relationship exist in any city?

5. What is the most important study to which a philosopher is subjected?

6. How does Socrates answer Glaukon's question, "What is the Good"? How do we know it? Can we know it?

7. The Divided Line (510d5-511e5):

  1. What is the basic two-part division that Socrates sets up in his divided line example?
  2. Let's work our way up the sections from bottom to top: in the lower section of the basic two-part division, which Socrates wants us to further divide into two parts, what are the two objects of knowledge or two kinds of things that we can know? How do we know them?
  3. Now it gets tricky: in the upper section, which again Socrates divides into two parts, what is the object of knowledge (or kind of things we can know) in the lower part? How do we know this object? (This is probably the most difficult part to understand. The object of knowledge and the method of knowing it are practically the same. Read the passage in Plato closely.)
  4. What is the object of knowledge in the upper part, the highest part of the four-part division? How do we know this? (This is the most significant part of the discussion! Compare this knowing ability to what Hobbes says in Leviathan chapters 1-5.)
  5. In the last speech of Book VI, what does Socrates call these four types of knowledge that he has described in the divided line example? Name the four in order from bottom to top or top to bottom.

8. How is the reality of the objects related to the level of knowledge necessary to know them?

(For each answer, cite a specific source, e.g., 341b, 344c-d. (Stephanus numbers; see "Stephanus numbers")

Book Seven.

1. Compare the individual's progress in the Myth or Parable of the Cave with the figure of the divided line in Book VI. What is the object of each ascent?

  1. What is the initial or first thing that prisoners in the cave "know"?
  2. What is next? then next? and so on?
  3. Using the objects of knowledge that we identified in the divided line example, what kinds of objects of knowledge does the freed prisoner see as he progresses out of the cave and into the sunlight?
  4. How does the division of the Myth into an in-cave section and an out-of-cave section fit the divided line divisions? Is the in-cave portion "below the line" and the out-of-cave portion "above the line"? Read closely.
  5. Finally, in both the divided line and Myth of the Cave examples, what role does light and "the good" play in the process of knowing things?

2. What is the essence of the "education" of a philosopher?

3. What separates philosophers from the guardians?

4. What are the criteria for choosing subject matter in the education of a philosopher?

5. What are the subjects, in order, of the education and what is the rationale for the inclusion of each in the curriculum?

6. Why is the philosopher who has not completed the course of study dangerous?

7. What follows the formal studies of the philosophers?

Book Eight.

1. Why does Socrates describe the corrupt types, constitutions, or regimes, of governments and individual characters? What is the purpose of the discussion?

2. What is the nature (ontology) of the timocratic government or constitution and how does it come into being (ontogeny)? What is the ontology and ontogeny of the timocratic individual?

3. . . .of the oligarchic government and individual?

4. . . .of the democratic government and individual?

5. . . .of the dictatorial government and (in Book IX) individual?

6. What is the principle of degeneration upon which this survey of Socrates is based, that is, what is corrupt in these types?

Book Nine.

1. What is Socrates first proof that it is more profitable to be just than unjust?

2. What is his second proof?

3. . . . his third proof?

4. Are you convinced by his arguments?

Book Ten.

1. What is Socrates argument against imitative art and poetry?

2. What is his argument for the immortality of the soul?

3. What earthly benefits does one derive from the just life?

4. What point does Socrates wish to make with the myth of Er, also known as the Pamphylian myth?

5. How does Book Ten fit with the arguments of the rest of the Republic?