Reading Questions on Plato’s Republic, Book III

First, a quick announcement: Due to the large number of students who are missing class due to the Music for All event, there will be no quiz on Thursday, 3/24.

This book is a definite continuation of the themes and concerns of Book II. So far, we have introduced the main organizing principles of the city (the division of labor) and revealed the need for guardians. So Socrates’ main preoccupation, at this stage, is the training of these guardians so as to prevent them from becoming destructive.

(1) Socrates begins by examining further the kinds of stories and poetry the children of the city should encounter. First, they should not be told stories about how awful death is. Why?

(2) We should also not tell stories wherein the gods or heroes behave in unadmirable ways. For instance, scenes depicting loud wailing, grieving, or uncontrolled laughter should be deleted. Why?

(3) There also should not be stories that imply that rulers can be persuaded with gifts. Why not?

(4) What are some of the elements of stories that Socrates thinks should be told to the guardians?

(5) Why does Socrates postpone the kinds of stories that should be told about normal human beings (and not just gods and heroes)?

(6) Socrates describes two basic modes of story telling: the first is when the story-teller tells the story in her own voice (i.e., through narration); the second is when the story-teller tells the story by imitating the voices of others (e.g., in a play). Which kind of story telling does Socrates allow? Why? And here I’ll give away the answer to the first question: what is wrong with imitation for Socrates?

(7) Socrates then examines the various modes and musical instruments that should exist in his city (sorry flute players!). What kinds of music is allowed? What kinds shouldn’t be? Similarly, what kinds of meter or rhythm should be permitted? What is Socrates’ argument for that? What effects do the wrong and right kinds of art have on the soul, according to Socrates?

(8) What kinds of physical training do the guardians need? What kind of diet should they have?

(9) Now, generalize: what kind of a lifestyle does Socrates envision for his guardians? What reasons might we have for supporting Socrates’ position?

(10) What does Socrates think should be done with those whose bodies are naturally unhealthy or whose souls are naturally evil (p. 86)?

(11) At the end of Book III (p. 88), Socrates finally turns to the question of who should rule the city. What is his answer to this question?

(12) How are the rulers to be chosen?

(13) How will the city justify the class order that Socrates has created? Here you need to look closely at the very famous passage on pp. 91-92.

(14) How will the guardians and auxiliaries live?


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