|© 1996, 1997, 1998 Bernard SUZANNE
|Last updated August 14, 1999
| Plato and his dialogues :
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(4th tetralogy : The Soul - 2nd dialogue of trilogy)
The Republic is the most important of all the dialogues. It is the logical center of the set, central dialogue of the central trilogy. It deals with the soul, which, as we know from the beginning, constitutes man (cf. Alcibiades, 130c), at the intermediate level where he must make choices and decide what he wants to become in this life, and it describes "justice" as the ultimate "form" of man, the "idea", or even better, the "ideal" he should strive for. But justice as understood by Socrates/Plato is not merely a social virtue, having only to do with relationship between men, but the all-encompassing virtue that alone can reconcile mind and matter, inner life and social life, and give man unity within and without, that is, make it possible for him to build his own being (which is not given in advance, but is the result of one's own choice, within the limits of necessity, as will be shown in the Timæus) and reach happiness.
Thus the Republic is not either a political or a psychological work, but both at once, as its whole purpose is precisely to show that the one cannot be separated from the other, that politics is nothing more than the attempts of man to put order or disorder in his social life depending on how he uses the reason he was given by the god to raise above mere matter and which alone makes him different from animals, and that there is no way man can bring order in his social life if he doesn't first put order in his inner life, that nobody is fit to lead others unless he first "leads" himself. Because man's soul is not by nature united, because it is made up of several parts, as will be shown along the way, each man's main concern and occupation in life should be to build harmony and unity of purpose within the parts of his own soul as a precondition for harmony with others in the city under the leadership of our god-given logos, the noblest part of our soul. Politics is but the "large letters" written by man's soul in the world of becoming, the image of his own inner order or disorder reflected in his social life. And because man cannot live alone, because he is a "social animal", because he must act, and not only think or talk, politics becomes an integral part of "psychology", but only a part. Politics, as the means of bringing order into the world of men through laws that are the product of his rational nature, is the ultimate concern of the philosophos, the friend of wisdom, here on earth, but it must be understood within the framework of the whole picture, in the light of the whole soul's becoming and its ultimate telos at or after death.
But then, precisely because man is a "social animal", what he will become is influenced by his social environment in such a way that it is as difficult to decide whether he makes his own environment or is made by it as it is to decide whether the Republic is more of a political or a psychological work. In the end, the decay of man and society are described in intertwined sections to show how dependant they are on one another.
To begin with, you should first consider the commented plans of the Republic.
Also available at this time is a commentary of the story of Gyges as it relates to the allegory of the cave and the myth of Er.
. . . . WORK IN PROGRESS - PLEASE BE PATIENT . . .
To keep you waiting, you may want to read the following posts in my e-mail archives :