Plato Republic
Conversation held on Monday, April 9th 2018, 8 pm Central (9 EST/6 Pacific) 

“For if all of you had spoken in this way from the beginning and persuade us, from youth onwards, we would not keep guard over each other for fear injustice be done, but he would be his own best guard, afraid that in doing injustice he would dwell with the greatest evil.” (367a)

Summary of Book II 362d-368c

This section is Adeimantus’ speech, following upon his brother Glaucon’s – adding what he believes to be “most needed but has not yet been said” -and Socrates immediate response to both speeches. Adeimantus takes up the ‘other side’ and exhibits what has been usually said about justice, by those who wish to praise justice.  

Ademinatus’ starting point is the speech of those who have care over other human beings – fathers and ‘others’ – who find it necessary to persuade the young to be just. But in all such encouragements, using the authority of poets to support their speeches (just as Cephalus in Book 1 uses Simonides and Pindar), justice is always praised for the benefits it will bring – like ‘eternal drunkeness’ – and injustice blamed for the harms – and the unjust are always raked through the muck of Hades.  But never do you hear justice being praised all by itself, for its own sake, in the soul of the hearer.

Adeimantus then turns to the poets themselves, who present another sort of message, opposing the message of the caregivers. There is a cynical view of the gods – that they can be bribed with prayers and sacrifices.

Ademinatus asks what does these speeches do to the souls of those of the young who hear them?  

“I mean those who have good natures and have the capacity, as it were, to fly to all the things are said and gather from them what sort of man one should be and what way one must follow to go through life best.” (365b) 

 He goes on to cast doubt on whether they would be able to ardently pursue those things – having been given a certain picture of justice that undermines their attempts to do so – or leads them to fly to the wrong things.     

Opening Question

At 362d/e, Adeimantus says that “what is most needed has not yet been said” by his brother Glaucon. What is that – and why is it “most needed”?

Observations and Reflections 

This section may be the first place in the Republic where the question of education begins to take sight – when Adeimantus wonders in all seriousness what the speeches about justice do to the souls of the young listeners, and then wonders if everything would be different if they had heard the correct speeches from youth, speeches that extoll justice for the sake of itself, or as it affects the soul all by itself.

“For if all of you had spoken in this way from the beginning and persuade us, from youth onwards, we would not keep guard over each other for fear injustice be done, but he would be his own best guard, afraid that in doing injustice he would dwell with the greatest evil.” (367a)

Many of us in the group were particularly impressed by what Adeimantus thinks is the outcome of hearing the speech Adeimantus wants: that is, that one would become ones own best guardian, rather than busying oneself with everyone else’s condition. This seems somehow a desirable thing to attain. We could read this as the fruit of the best sort of education, in Ademinatus’ vision, an education by the best and truest speeches about justice.

A shadow looms over this sentiment, however. Socrates in the opening of Book II doesn’t think it is up to him to persuade either of the brothers truly. Yet Glaucon and Adeimantus have a conviction that Socrates – or a certain speech – can persuade them, if only he just comes out and says it (rather than playing his question answer games as in Book I).

One person suggested that here Socrates is stung (as Meno is in the Meno, which we studied last year). Socrates says at 368b, that he is of two minds: on the one hand, he can’t help out, repeating what he had said to Glaucon at the opening of Book II.

“For in my opinion I’m not capable of it; my proof is that when I thought I showed in what I said to Thrasymachus that justice is better than injustice, you didn’t accept it from me. On the other hand, I can’t not help out. For I’m afraid it might be impious to be here when justice is being spoken badly of and give up and not bring help while I am still breathing and able to make a sound. So the best thing is to succour her as I am able.”

Taking Socrates at his word, this would suggest that Adeimantus’ education by the best or truest speeches about justice is far from adequate – in fact, it is a failure from the start – since even the truest speeches can only seem to persuade and not persuade truly.  This has raised for us the question: What is it, then, to be persuaded truly, and not to seem to be persuaded?    

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>