The city is the soul writ large (Slow reading of Book II continued)

Picking up again in Book II from where we left off in our slow reading of Book II, Socrates proposes a certain way of getting at the notion of justice in the soul. Here is the text:

Glaucon, then, and the rest besought me by all means to come to the rescue and not to drop the argument but to pursue to the end the investigation as to the nature of each and the truth about their respective advantages. I said then as I thought: “The inquiry we are undertaking is no easy one but [368d] calls for keen vision, as it seems to me. So, since we are not clever persons, I think we should employ the method of search that we should use if we, with not very keen vision, were bidden to read small letters from a distance, and then someone had observed that these same letters exist elsewhere larger and on a larger surface. We should have accounted it a godsend, I fancy, to be allowed to read those letters first, and examine the smaller, if they are the same.” “Quite so,” said Adeimantus; [368e] “but what analogy to do you detect in the inquiry about justice?” “I will tell you,” I said: “there is a justice of one man, we say, and, I suppose, also of an entire city.” “Assuredly,” said he. “Is not the city larger than the man?” “It is larger,” he said. “Then, perhaps, there would be more justice in the larger object and more easy to apprehend. If it please you, then, [369a] let us first look for its quality in states, and then only examine it also in the individual, looking for the likeness of the greater in the form of the less.” “I think that is a good suggestion,” he said. “If, then,” said I, “our argument should observe the origin1 of a state, we should see also the origin of justice and injustice in it.” “It may be,” said he. “And if this is done, we may expect to find more easily what we are seeking?” [369b] “Much more.” “Shall we try it, then, and go through with it? I fancy it is no slight task. Reflect, then.” “We have reflected,” said Adeimantus; “proceed and don’t refuse.” — Perseus Project translation

That’s the text I would like to discuss. Here is some commentary to get us started: (more…)

Ignorance and Pedagogy

This post is something of a coda to my previous slow reading assignment of Book 2 of the Republic. There, two young brothers of Plato, Glaucon and Adeimantus, revisit the Thrasymachus argument that a just life is worse than an unjust one, despite (i) having just witnessed Thrasymachus “losing” the argument to Socrates, and (ii) expressing the firm belief that the just life is better. They do not waver in the belief and yet are willing and ready to put that belief at peril by making Thrasymachus’ argument even stronger. Belief as such always includes a residuum of doubt, and the brothers voice this doubt as a way of encouraging further thinking with Socrates’ help. Socrates is amazed at his students. (So am I when the same thing happens to me among my own.) This has encouraged me to think again about belief and thinking. I hope this isn’t too repetitive, but here goes:

Republic Slow Reading project, day 3

Today, we begin discussing the spirited and testy exchange between Socrates and Thrasymachus (336b – 342e). If you haven’t looked at the previous days of slow reading, catch up and come back. Same rules apply as before. Be sure to read the comments, since that is where the conversation is.

Be courageous and post a comment — participate in the conversation!


1. Thrasymachus was a notorious sophist from Chalcedon, located right on the Bosphorus straits in what is (more…)

Slow Reading Proposal

I would like to propose a little Slow Reading Project. I launched this blog into the world about Plato’s Republic, mindful that not everyone, indeed very few of anyone, happened to be actively reading it or thinking about it. I appreciate those of you have have been reading the blog, despite doing other things. But my real goal can only be attained within the context of philia, of friendship, and friendship always has a third partner, some object or activity of mutual interest. So let me make my offer:

Let’s take some time this upcoming week to read together slowly and discuss Republic, Book I. Some of you may have never read the Republic before, so here’s a chance to start. Some of you may have read it a while ago, and here is a chance to notice some things that you didn’t notice the first time — it may even present itself as an entirely new dialogue taken slowly.

In any case, here is an excuse to open the book again. Exciting, yes? Any translation is fine, whatever you have on your shelf. (I like Grube/Reeve or Bloom or Sachs, but any modern translation will do.) There are (more…)