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Books IV of the Republic of Plato
We are asked to comment on a fragment that belongs to the Republic, Book IV. The author is Plato, a philosopher of the classic period and great developer of ontological and epistemological dualism. To understand the origin of the cosmos and its thinking as well as the central thread of the text: justice, we will first expose the presocratic philosophers. Next, Socrates and his influence on Plato’s philosophy. Epistemological and ontological dualism with the theory of ideas, anthropology with different souls and politics of Plato to understand justice as a means that allows other virtues to develop (bravery, wisdom and moderation) according to natureof each man. All these issues will be treated by relating them to the text. To conclude the comment, we will make a critical reflection of Plato’s philosophy and its influence.
To contextualize Plato, previously in the fourth century to. c., The presocratic philosophers wonder about the principle (arché) of nature (physis) previously explained by myths and gods.Using the reason, each attributed it to an element (monistic philosophers). Tales from Miletus to Water, Anaximens in the Air and Anaximandro al Apeiron. Later, pluralistic philosophers defend that the universe could be understood and explained by more than one element. Examples are Democritus and Leucipo (founders of atomism) and the Pythagoreans (explanation of the world with numbers). Until now the central theme was the origin of the universe, but there is an anthropological turn and the center becomes man and everything related to it. Democracy is born and sophists begin to develop rhetoric, oratory and with them relativism and skepticism.
The oratory would be of great importance for sophists since they practiced teaching through it. The sophists considered themselves "wise". Representative of relativism would be Protágoras, who believed that there were different truths as beings. Contrary to this thought is Socrates. Defends that there is a unique truth and that you have to look for it in common after having recognized one’s ignorance. As Socrates’s legacy we have in Socratic intellectualism, the Socratic Method and the Mayeutics of which Plato is inspired for his theories. The polis are born, and with them the agoras or places where opinions and ideas are exchanged. Plato had a great political and educational vocation. He created the academy in which he taught the mathematics mainly, an influence left by the Pythagoreans and creates a society model to integrate each individual in their place by nature, this is the maximum of justice, the main theme of the text.
The questions that Plato are born of the doubts that the presocratics left about the beginning of the universe. His philosophy is mainly based on the theory of ideas and on two worlds: the intelligible world and the sensitive world. This comparison is established in its cave myth. In the Timeo Plato, he associates everything negative to the world of the senses and the positive of the world of ideas. For Plato our imperfect body made from the perfect idea of "body" comes from the first world and our soul from another nature of the world of ideas. For Plato, love is observed when we try to remember something and our soul tries to contact the world of ideas, a sign of reminiscence with his phrase "knowing is remembering".
This is known as ontological and epistemological dualism and will serve us to understand the conception that Plato had about the idea of good. In the ontology the two worlds are related.In epistemology, opinion/ doxa is that of the world of the senses, and science/ episteme is the science or wisdom that you have in the world of ideas. For Plato, ideas were the maximum idea of good and every level below was an increasingly bad copy of it, being the mathematical entities the first, then the sensitive things and finally subject to a safe error, the images. This dualism explains it with the myth of the rope. A rope is divided into two and each half corresponds to a world, in the intelligible the original and main idea of which copies starts. We can relate this myth to Parmenides that defended being, with a heraclito that defended a sensitive world, with Pythagoras and his mathematical world and with Socrates who thought that the knowledge of the good was synonymous with happiness.
Plato writes the Republic in its period of maturity and to understand the role of justice in the state we need to know that for Plato we have three different souls related to the myth of the car. They are the ones that guide each human being in their actions. The rational soul is in our head, its virtue is prudence, it is the sample of intelligence. The irascible soul is located in the chest or thorax, its virtue is the strength and is the one that in previous lives had already fought, so it is the one that shows the noble passions. Finally, there is the concupiscible soul, located in the abdomen, its virtue is temperance and it is the one that guides us in our sexual impulses, desires for reproduction and food. For Plato, every human being has the three souls, but in different measures. In the majority, the appetitive (black horse) predominates, in a smaller part the irascible (white horse) and in a rational minority (auriga), in philosophers looking for the common good. Plato defended that everyone should achieve a balance in souls and control them (Areté)
Plato believed in the aristocracy of knowledge. The philosophers, in which the rational soul predominates, would be the rulers, the warriors and guardians would defend the people and finally the workers would endow the population of the resources.
Plato affirms that justice is the measure by which each human being deals with what nature has endowed. Justice for Plato is global virtue, since it makes the other three virtues linked to each soul. With this we can think that justice is a way for which the rulers, in which the rational soul reigns, establish an aristocracy so that there is a political and ethical order. Contrary to this government such as tyranny or oligarchy, education would have great importance to guide men who have left their way.
We can say that justice, which respects what has created nature in every human being, is the fundamental ethical virtue that serves to develop courage, wisdom and moderation. Unlike, Aristotle believed that any form of government would be realizable in society provided that the rulers were looking for the common good. Aristotle defended that only the sensitive world existed, thus denying Plato’s theory and his world of ideas.
In conclusion, Plato’s philosophy has left a legacy still visible today. It has been the germ of many forms of government that, unlike, are not based on the natural hierarchy of man and has contributed to mathematics after his idea of mathematical knowledge to demonstrate the world. The term of justice is still in force although it does not have the same meaning, for Plato it was the virtue for which the natural domain of souls was respected. We also observe a big difference in the central theme with respect to the presocratics and an obsession with the intelligible world not accessible by the majority in Plato. Plato opens new paths in the philosophy that the sophists had previously presented with the anthropological turn. Reminiscence or memory will be the fundamental argument of your thinking that connects intelligible and sensitive worlds (ontological and epistemological dualism)). His philosophy has been very useful and universal to explain, through reason, society before as now and was a source of inspiration for later philosophers such as St. Augustine with the anthropology of Plato or Tomás de Aquinas. The legacy left by the presocratics serves him to begin to worry about nature, but of the human being. His philosophy is a new way of raising the world beyond the visible through the senses and a contribution to the society of that time in the field of explaining the nature of the human being.