This is the last of our “slow reads” of Book I of the Republic. Today, we are discussing 350d to the end of Book I, a continuation of the conversation/argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus.
Tomorrow, I will post some observations about Book I that require the perspective of having read the rest of the dialogue. I didn’t want to bring any of this material into the discussion since I thought (1) it would disrupt the close, attentive reading that was our goal, and (2) I didn’t want to “spoil” the rest of the Republic for those who are coming at it for the first time.
1. In 350d Socrates claims that Thrasymachus and he “agreed” that justice is virtue and wisdom and that injustice is vice and ignorance. Then Thrasymachus shows by his actions that he didn’t agree at all, even if he couldn’t find fault in the argument. What is the value of agreement/homonoia? Is agreement the proper end of an dialogic argument or something else the end? In other words, are a conclusion and an agreement the same thing?
2. Thrasymachus objects to being prohibited from making long speeches. Why do you think that Thrasymachus prefers, and Socrates objects to, long speeches?
3. Thrasymachus participates in the rest of the argument in a half-hearted begrudging way. How is the argument hurt by Thrasymachus’ lack of real participation? Does that make any difference to the value of any conclusion reached?
4. Socrates concludes that the unjust are in themselves powerless to accomplish anything. Indeed, he says that injustice is the power of rendering powerless! (352) That can’t be right can it? Can’t it? How valid is the argument that leads up to it?
5. The conclusion at 353e that “justice is a soul’s virtue” — what does Socrates mean by that?
6. At the end of Book I, Socrates claims to be unsatisfied with where things stand in the argument. Why? Book I gives us lots of fine conclusions about justice: that it is always a benefit, that it looks to the needs of others, that it is the source of health and unity in the soul or community where it operates, that it is the soul’s virtue. So why is he so dissatisfied at the end? Why does he claim to know nothing about justice?
One last thing: was this “Slow Reading” something you found valuable and would like to do something along similar lines later? Let me know if you could.