Ancient History & Civilisation


Exiled from his native Austria during the Second World War, the philosopher Karl Popper sought to explain how Western society had arrived at the totalitarian ideas of fascism and communism. He came to believe that at the root of this malign development, behind the usual suspects – Nietzsche for Nazism, Hegel and Marx for communism – lay Plato’s Republic. In 1945 Popper indicted the Republic as the founding text of totalitarianism, for having advocated the rule of philosopher-kings and -queens without any institutional checks and balances. He charged in effect that the ideal city depicted in the Republicwas fatally unable to cope with the key insight of liberal politics, which is that ‘power corrupts.’1

In fact, the Republic does address the danger that power will corrupt. Yet at its core is a related but deeper insight: that the desire for power corrupts and, more than that, destroys. It destroys people, who in a never-ending pursuit of power undermine their psychological health. And it destroys politics, as rulers desiring power for self-gratification undermine political unity. Yet while the desire for power is dangerous, the use of power is necessary, if all but a very few rare individuals are to be able to achieve the stable order in their souls, which gives happiness, and in their polities, which gives unity.

Plato resolves the conundrum by imagining a new city governed by a rare breed of philosophers who, not wishing power for their own purposes, can use it to check and control the desire for it in their subjects. These philosophers are not only reluctant rulers; they are also capable of gaining knowledge of what is good, as opposed to the mere opinions and self-serving conventions that ordinary rulers value. In the service of this vision, the Republic invents a new understanding of knowledge; a new role for art and culture; and a new language for politics and psychology. It is this complex transformative vision of self, city, knowledge, world and culture which makes the Republic the fundamental text of Western philosophy. This introduction explores the Republic’s controversial perspective on the world of Plato himself, and the way in which that perspective is developed and defended in the main lines of its argument. The concluding section returns to the significance of the Republic through the ages and today.


Why was the desire for power, and its dangers for both individuals and societies, so evidently pressing a concern for Plato when he wrote the Republic in about 375 BC? Some thirty years earlier, his city-state, Athens, the greatest democracy in the ancient Greek world, had lost a catastrophic war to its rival, the militaristic oligarchy Sparta. In the aftermath of defeat, in 404 BC, the Athenian democracy suffered an oligarchic coup supported by Sparta which brought the contest between democracy and oligarchy from a matter of foreign affairs to one of pressing domestic concern. And in the aftermath of that coup, in 399 BC, the restored democracy executed Plato’s teacher Socrates. This terrible train of events led Plato to conclude that neither democracy nor oligarchy, nor any other existing order, could achieve happiness or political stability for its citizens, because all of them were founded on the inherently corrupting desire for power.

Most immediate for Plato were what he took to be the failings of the Athenian democracy. Democracy in ancient Athens was different from democracy today. It accorded all citizens the opportunity for equal political participation: most offices were assigned by lot; key decisions were made by the Assembly, where every citizen had the right to speak; and, without any professional judges or prosecutors, it was up to ordinary citizens to bring indictments and decide trials as juries. Political equality brought rivalry for power in its train, as people competed for influence. It brought tension between the few rich and the many poor: from ‘dēmos, [“people„]-kratia [from krattein, “rule„ in sense of “power„]’, ‘democracy’ can mean ‘all the people rule’, but it can also mean ‘the common people rule’, because the latter group were numerically and ideologically dominant, generating tension with the elite. And ironically, political equality at home allowed the democracy to create inequality abroad, by establishing an empire in which the democracy arguably came to tyrannize its client states and allies: according to Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, the provocative politician Cleon told his fellow Athenians, ‘Your empire is now a tyranny’ (Hist. 3.37.2), and even the admired leader Pericles acknowledged that Athenian imperial rule ‘is now like a tyranny’ (Hist. 2.63.2).2

Despite, or rather because of, its imperial power, most ordinary Athenians were intensely proud of their democracy, which a century before had led the Greek world in defeating the mighty Persian Empire; had created a flowering of intellectual and artistic culture; and, despite defeat by Sparta and oligarchic coup, had restored its political structures to flourish for some seventy years more (a period during which Plato wrote the Republic and which would end only with the conquests of Alexander the Great). But Plato, like a small group of other elite observers, saw the system as crucially flawed. For him, democratic equality meant an abdication of specialized, qualified expertise and education; democratic rivalry, in particular the tension between rich and poor, undermined civic stability and unity; and the democratic encouragement of the desire for power and influence, both among individuals at home and in imperialism abroad, subverted the achievement of order and happiness.

At the time Plato was writing, the most widely established alternative to democracy was oligarchy (literally meaning ‘rule by a few’), in which the privileges of citizenship and political decision-making were restricted to a small elite group that dominated the majority made up of the working poor. Was oligarchy the solution for Athens? Plato’s uncle Critias and his cousin Charmides were among a small group of Athenian aristocrats who had thought so. With the connivance of the victorious Spartans in 404 BC, it was Critias who had led this group in a brutal coup against the democracy, installing themselves as a junta called ‘the Thirty’, using their power to murder and expropriate, and excluding the vast majority of Athenians from citizenship in the new oligarchy they set up. But on Plato’s criteria for good rule – expertise, stability and unity, order and happiness – the short-lived regime of the Thirty fared no better than the democracy had done.

The democracy had launched a foreign war; the Thirty had launched a civil war. Even at peace, neither democracy nor oligarchy was a unified or harmonious regime. Oligarchies were battlegrounds between the rich and the poor; democracies were in danger of being ruled by whim, mass ignorance and hysteria rather than by reason, making them fatally inconsistent over time. (The most flagrant instance of such inconsistency, which would give democracy a bad name for centuries, was when the Athenians voted one day to exterminate the men and enslave the women and children of a rebellious city, and the very next day to overturn this cruel decree (see Thucydides, Hist. 3.37–51 – though it should be remembered both that this was a rare case, and that the Athenians had the courage to change their minds and overturn a bad decision). Both democracies and oligarchies were in danger of being laid low by ambition for power, which blinded them to criticism. For Plato, preoccupied with civic unity and happiness, neither would serve.

In Sparta, however, where oligarchical rule was longer-lasting and ingrained in the customs and way of life, Plato did find one clue to political health. This was the unity of the Spartan ruling class, maintained through strict discipline, including common meals, demanding military training and what we have come to call a ‘spartan’ (materially austere) lifestyle. But the Spartan elite used the power of their unity to oppress and terrorize the ‘helots’ – the serfs who did all their manual labour – and they were notoriously hostile to culture and philosophy. Nevertheless, the Republic adapts a version of the Spartan idea of a ruling class unified through austerity and collective living. By choosing only philosophers as rulers, it seeks to ensure that the power of the ruling elite will be used not to oppress (as in Sparta) but to benefit the common people, so establishing the regime of expertise, unity and happiness that Plato found wanting in the polities of his own day.


How could Plato demonstrate – against the views of the majority of his contemporaries, so proud of Athens despite her military defeat – the drastic flaws he perceived in her basic constitution? By writing a book entitled Constitution: a book that would reveal the deep and interconnected flaws in the way that psychological and political order had been conceived. The book would achieve this by imagining a new kind of city in which this alternative set of values could be realized while also meditating on what people should do in the absence of such a city, as its establishment could not be guaranteed. By writing, that is, the book you now hold. For Constitution was the original title of this book. In Greek, it is called Politeia, which means ‘constitution’, and can be understood in the broad sense of the fabric of a society and its ability to reproduce itself and its way of life.3

It has been observed that at the time Plato was writing, works entitled Constitution typically focused on Spartan culture, exploring the ways in which its political arrangements rested on its modes of social reproduction: the position of women, the education of children, athletics and games, even meals. In choosing to write a Constitution, Plato signalled that the Spartans were right to believe that the unity of their governing class was crucial to their society’s success, and that such unity rested on the details of the social interaction and formation of their citizens. But he was also doing something new: turning the lens of politeia analysis back onto Athens, forcing his contemporaries to think about whether their social practices supported or undermined their prized democratic institutions, and whether those institutions in turn supported or undermined the goal of making the citizens happy and virtuous. The vision of Plato’s Constitution would incorporate aspects of both Athens (especially its philosophy) and Sparta (especially the military training and communal lifestyle of its elite). But it would go beyond both, condemning them along with all other existing polities as sites of disunity and corruption, and calling for a new sort of politics: the reluctant rule of philosophers.


If one shock in the Republic (as we will return to calling it, for the sake of familiarity) is its turning of the ‘constitution’ genre of anthropological curiosity into a devastating critique of one’s own society, a second shock lies in its novel extension of the notion of a ‘constitution’ from the city to the individual soul. Here politeia is discussed not only as a political order but also as a psychological one. Political unity and harmony – the highest political goals of the Republic – cannot be achieved without psychological unity and harmony in each citizen:

And this is plainly the intention of the law, in the support it gives to all citizens, and of the control we exercise over children, not letting them run free till we have established some kind of constitutional government [politeia] in them, and have educated the best in them to be their guardian and ruler and to take over from the best in us: then we give them their freedom. (Socrates, 590e591a)

The comparison to children is telling. Plato appeals to widespread practices of raising children, which value the instilling of control of baser instincts by the better parts of the self, and suggests that democrats should acknowledge the value of such hierarchical governance and of standards of better and worse in adult life and politics as well as in childhood education. In that sense, the theme of the Republic is maturity. The very notion of self-governance, which is fundamental to enduring conceptions of law, religion and psychiatry, finds its normative articulation and force most powerfully in the pages of the Republic.


It is time to introduce the setting and chief characters of this book. While it was written around 375 BC, it depicts an imaginary conversation set some fifty years earlier, at the height of the Peloponnesian War – sometime between 431 and 411 BC. The conversation is led by Socrates, Plato’s revered mentor. Its other significant participants are Thrasymachus, who argues that all rule and morality serves the interests of the ruling elite; and Plato’s brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus (portrayed as young men), who press Socrates to refute the popular idea that happiness lies in the power to overcome or evade conventional moral sanctions and indulge one’s every bodily desire. Meeting each of the min turn will lay out the principal elements of the dialogue.

Who was Socrates? By the normal standards of Athenian life, he was a non entity–he had achieved no elected office or political influence. But he had an extraordinarily magnetic effect on the city during and after his lifetime. He deliberately avoided the ordinary routes by which eminence was achieved. Although he served with all other male citizens in the city’s military expeditions, and although he volunteered himself for selection by lot for a year’s service on the Council, he did not speak in the Assembly nor bring prosecutions in the law courts as the most ambitious politicians did. Instead, he confined himself to conversations – with promising adolescents, leading Athenians and visiting intellectuals – that although sometimes taking place in public spaces, occurred outside the institutions of democratic political life. Long before Plato began to write, Socrates had become notorious in his own lifetime: the leading Athenian playwright Aristophanes lampooned him as a pedantic, useless intellectual in his comic plays Clouds (produced in 423BC) and, more briefly, Frogs (in 405).

Socrates was not the only intellectual in Athens. This was a world without public or higher education, where memorizing Homer and Hesiod was the standard sign of cultivation. But in democratic Athens, ability to speak well in public was central to political success. Accordingly, a number of Athenians and foreigners styled themselves experts in rhetoric, offering instruction to the ambitious sons of the rich men who could afford to pay them. At the same time, some of these, and others, began to question the validity of the city’s laws and customs (nomos) by contrasting them with the supposed norm of nature (phusis). These latter men became known as ‘sophists’. To Aristophanes, as no doubt to many of his fellow Athenians, Socrates was indistinguishable from these other purveyors of discourse.

But to Plato and the other students of Socrates, there was a world of difference. They insisted that unlike the rhetoricians, Socrates took no pay for his conversation, and that he subordinated rhetoric to the knowledge gained by a distinct discipline of philosophy. Unlike the sophists, whom they saw as exploiting the gap between custom and nature for their own advantage, they portrayed Socrates as seeking to define objective good and knowledge. Beyond these broad points of agreement, however, it is impossible to be sure what was true of the historical Socrates (who left no writings) among the varying portraits drawn by each of his students and critics. For this reason, the remainder of this introduction will focus on the Socrates who appears in the twenty-five or so dialogues written by Plato: that is, Plato’s Socrates.4


Before saying more about Socrates’ life and arguments, it is important to recognize that it was not only Socrates’ life which shaped Plato’s thought in the Republic. It was also his death. In 399, just a few years after the revolutionary coup by the Thirty and the subsequent counter-revolution that restored the democratic regime, Socrates had been put on trial by three of his fellow-citizens acting as democratic citizen-prosecutors. One of the accusations was that he had corrupted the youth of Athens. The other two hinged on the religious cult which Athens like other cities celebrated as a matter of civic patriotism: in this context, Socrates was accused of introducing new gods and not worshipping those of the city. He was convicted, sentenced to execution, imprisoned and put to death – events depicted in Plato’s dialogues Apology, Crito and Phaedo, as well as in works by other Socratic writers such as Xenophon.

Socrates’ death was a turning point in Plato’s life. After it, he left Athens and travelled for some fifteen years before returning and beginning to write dialogues in which Socrates was almost always the leading figure. Socrates’ death showed that his constant philosophical questioning had not benefited his city, nor saved himself. What was wrong with Athens that it had not been able to recognize or benefit from the value of Socrates? That is the question which Plato eventually put to himself in the Republic.Understanding the question, and the answer, depends on knowing more about what Socrates had stood for (as Plato saw it) in his lifetime.


The son of a humble artisan-sculptor, Socrates took his bearings from the models of everyday crafts like shoemaking and carpentry, as well as from the respected sciences of medicine and navigation. For the Greeks, all of these came under the heading of skill-knowledge, or technē (pronounced ‘TEK-nay’). While they respected the experts in each technē in their own fields, however, the Athenian democrats held that there was no specialized technē of politics or of living well as an individual. These were matters in which the democracy deferred to no experts: it treated all men as equally entitled to have a say.

Socrates agreed with the democrats that ‘living well’ both individually and collectively was the highest aim: this was the goal enshrined in the Greek word eudaimonia, which means ‘happiness’ in the sense of overall flourishing and well-being. The crucial question was: how does one achieveeudaimonia? Traditionally, the answer was by cultivating virtue (aretē, pronounced ‘AR-et-ay’). Aretē meant more than moral virtue: it could refer to excellence in many domains, such as the aretē of a knife (being sharp). But the four leading, or ‘cardinal’, virtues were broadly ethical: they comprised wisdom, courage, self-discipline5 and justice, while others included such qualities as piety and magnanimity. ‘Justice’ (dikaiosunē) meant more than administration of law or legal rights; it could mean broadly what is right, as well as more specifically what is justly owed or justly expected.

In many of Plato’s dialogues, we see Socrates insisting on the unity of the virtues: that it is not possible to possess one without the others – in particular, to possess any of the others without wisdom or knowledge. In the Laches, for example, the generals Laches and Nicias are unable to define courage because they fail to realize that it is inseparable from knowledge. But Socrates implies that such knowledge of how to live well cannot be gained from rhetorical flourishes or democratic debate. It must be a matter of genuine expertise, comparable to a technē like medicine or navigation. Socrates does not claim to have that expertise himself, but he insists that life is not worth living without seeking it, because only with it (or by following the orders of someone who has it) can one be sure of living well.


The traditional account of achieving eudaimonia by cultivating aretē, however, was vulnerable to attack by the sophists. Perhaps the virtues were simply a mug’s game. Happiness might be gained by behaving immorally instead of virtuously. This is the attack launched by Thrasymachus in Book I.

Thrasymachus embodies the new, coming intellectual in Athens. He is a sophist who is scornful of those who bow to law and convention. Such complacent, and compliant, men are represented in Book I by Cephalus, a wealthy resident foreigner at whose home the dialogue takes place; Cephalus’ conventional piety about giving gods and men what is owed starts off the discussion, but he is unwilling to follow Socrates into a philosophical exploration of justice; they are also represented by Cephalus’ son Polemarchus, who gives in to Socrates’ prodding and accepts that justice can’t be defined as harming one’s enemies and benefiting one’s friends. Impatient with these milquetoasts, Thrasymachus violently interjects himself into the conversation ‘like a wild beast’ (336 b). His assertion is that justice ‘is simply what is in the interest of the stronger party’ (338 c). The strong control the cities, setting the rules of morality and law so that they themselves benefit from their subjects’ obedience. Like shepherds fattening up their sheep, everything they do as rulers – including the rules they set up for the sheep to follow – is designed not for the benefit of their subjects but for their own advantage.

Thrasymachus’ challenge to Socrates links ethics and politics by denying that any non-exploitative political regime can exist. His intervention turns a discussion about justice as an individual virtue (enabling Cephalus to settle his accounts) and a social virtue (enabling Polemarchus to reward his allies and punish his enemies, a common stance in competitive Athenian politics and business) into a discussion about political regimes and their implications for individual virtue. If all regimes are like greedy shepherds, then the conventional virtues they establish are bad for their sheep.


By the end of Book I, Socrates has rebutted Thrasymachus’ argument that injustice would be more profitable than justice for the ordinary person, though there are hints that Thrasymachusis not really convinced. Certainly Glaucon and Adeimantus, Plato’s youthful brothers, who have been listening in to the conversation, are not satisfied. They contend that most people hold justice to be necessary for the good reputation that it brings in its train of consequences but do not value it as good in itself. This is not as extreme as Thrasymachus’ view. The brothers allow that justice does benefit the ordinary person, but the benefit it brings is second-best. In other words, a regime and the virtues it celebrates may not be exploitative, but it may not be wholly beneficial for the individual either. Best would still be injustice – getting goods and sex and power beyond one’s allotted share (pleonexia, from a verb meaning ‘out compete’) – if only one could be sure of getting away with it.6

Telling the story of a magic invisibility ring that has become known as the ‘ring of Gyges’ story, Glaucon speculates that anyone shielded by such a ring from the consequences of injustice would rush to satisfy his lust and greed, acquiring as much power as possible to satisfy his desires. In fact, ring in hand, he would end up becoming a tyrant, achieving maximum power to rule a city unfettered. This story introduces the central theme of tyranny, a theme that dominates the long arc of the dialogue from Book II to BookIX.

Tyranny is rule by one man, connoting mastery and absolute power; although it could originally be used as a neutral term, by the time of Socrates and Plato it had come to be reviled as a political regime in which one man would appropriate all the wealth and power of the state to satisfy his own impious and dishonorable desires. Athens had been governed by a tyrant about two centuries before the Republic was written, and the memory of the tyrannicides who had founded Athenian liberty was cherished in civic culture (comparable to the memory of the American Revolution and its Declaration of Independence in 1776 against the ‘tyrant’ King George III). Tyranny as a regime that denied liberty and political participation was a common object of hatred for the democratic masses and the disaffected Athenian elite. Whereas the central axis of Greek politics in Plato’s day, and even in Socrates’ lifetime, was the choice between oligarchy and democracy, tyranny was seen by partisans of both sides as the paradigmatically bad political regime.7

Yet despite the official hatred of tyranny, the appeal of the ‘ring of Gyges’ story to Glaucon implies that it had secret attractions for ambitious young men in Athens. Indeed, at this very time, another young associate of Socrates – Alcibiades, the most charismatic and glamorous politician in Athens – was suspected of wishing to overturn the democracy and become a tyrant. He failed but ended by turning traitor. Glaucon and Adeimantus has ten to insist that they themselves are not tempted by injustice or tyranny, despite what most people say and think; their concern is just that they have never heard anyone satisfactorily prove injustice and tyranny to be harmful. Nevertheless, in recounting the attractions of the ring of Gyges, Glaucon hints that those, like him, educated within a democracy may be only half-heartedly committed to its self-proclaimed norms of equality and justice. As a democracy pursues power and desire abroad in its imperial wars, its citizens start to wish for more power and desire-satisfaction at home than the constraints of equality allow. In other words, the attraction of the ring for Glaucon and Adeimantus implies that democracy is unstable. At its heart are dreams of tyranny.

The brothers beg Socrates to dispel the attractions of the ring by proving that justice is good in itself, inherently beneficial for those who possess it as a virtue rather than worth having for its usual consequences only so long as one lacks any magic ring. This request sets the agenda for the rest of the Republic. And it makes this dialogue significantly different from many of the other Platonic dialogues in which Socrates devotes his energies to refuting ideas proposed by the people to whom he is talking. The bulk of theRepublic consists of him leading the inquiry himself, outlining the ideas for which the dialogue has become famous, and finally persuading Glaucon and Adeimantus (who remain his interlocutors for the rest of the it, occasionally resisting or asking questions) that what benefits the soul is justice, not the supreme injustice of tyranny. Simultaneously, Socrates’ inquiry also serves to give a more decisive refutation of Thrasymachus. For justice can only be proven to be positively and inherently beneficial to the agent if it is the fruit of a non-exploitative political regime.

Plato’s strategy here is audacious. It is to persuade the democrats that their regime – which was legendarily founded by the killing of a tyrant – actually has an instability tending towards tyranny at its heart; while persuading the elite that oligarchy too is potentially tyrannical. Eliminated by their affinity to what all agree is an evil regime (tyranny), neither democracy nor oligarchy is the solution for a good politics: the only solution is the new regime Plato will now proceed to invent. To do so, justice and the other virtues have to be redefined.


In suggesting that justice is ordinarily thought of as a compromise between the desire to act unjustly and the constraints of reputation, Glaucon and Adeimantus reduce justice to its manifestation in specific actions. On this view, to be just is simply a matter of not stealing, not bribing, not murdering. It has no intrinsic motivation or benefit for the agent; the only thing determining whether stealing or not stealing is better for me is the threat of being caught. Against this contention, Socrates wants to show that acting justly has intrinsic motivation and benefit. To do this, he has to broaden the picture, to show that justice is a matter not only of actions but, more fundamentally, of the relationships that underpin those actions. The most important set of those relationships are the ones each person experiences among the elements of her own mind or soul (literally, psuchē:roughly to be understood as the mind in its broadest sense, the interior psychological realm of the individual). These are reason, indignation or spirit (a complex notion in Greek called thumos: combining indignation or anger, love of honour, pride and combativeness) and appetite.

In Books II–IV of the Republic, these elements – later vividly personified as tiny images of human, lion and beast all struggling for dominance (588–9) – are portrayed as ideally organized in a hierarchy in which reason, with spirited indignation as its ally, governs appetite. Each of the virtues is then redefined in relation to this hierarchy. Wisdom is the rule of reason; courage is the virtue of appropriate indignation; self-discipline and justice consist in harmony among the elements, with self-discipline resulting from their mutual agreement that reason should rule, and justice from each element’s restricting itself to its proper task. Justice as psychic harmony is achieved when a person’s actions are governed by his or her reason, which in healthy people is the part of the soul with which they identify their sense of self.

Indignation and appetite have to be subordinated to reason but not by force or suppression. Instead, they must be shaped by education so as to be receptive to appropriate rational decisions, with spirited indignation trained to support the rule of reason rather than rebel against it, and the appetites pruned to avoid excessive indulgence going beyond what reason prescribes. Much of the Republic – in particular, the latter part of Book II; Book III; the beginning of Book IV; and the beginning of Book X – details the radical surgery which the existing methods and content of Greek education and culture would need in order to be suitable for making people just. Stories about the gods themselves behaving unjustly – raping, lying, stealing – would have to be expurgated from myth and poetry, the staple arts of Greek culture that functioned somewhat like television and movies today. Popular forms of drama, as well as other rituals such as those of exhibitionistic grief in mourning, would have to be prohibited in order to prevent people from accustoming themselves to imitating vice rather than virtue. This aspect of the Republic has won notoriety for its remark on the ‘ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy’, and has been described as Plato exiling the poets.8

By redefining justice in terms of psychic harmony, is Socrates guilty of changing the subject away from the original challenge, which was to show that justice in the everyday sense of just actions is intrinsically good for the just person? The answer is no. The ring of Gyges has already shown that many people perform ‘just actions’ for the wrong reasons. On the new understanding of justice as psychic harmony, these people no longer qualify as just: their actions are calculated, not flowing from a harmonious state of soul. The only people who will count as ‘just’ are those with harmonious souls. And they will have no reason to act unjustly – that is, to perform the actions that both Athenian society and Socrates accept as unjust: their appetites will be in check, their indignation under control, so that they do not experience the greed, lust or arrogance that prompt people to steal, cheat, bribe or murder.

We can go further. Socrates argues that unjust actions – stealing, cheating, bribing, murdering and so forth – actually have the effect of disarranging the soul: ‘[C]an it possibly pay any one to make money by doing wrong, if the result of his doing so is to enslave the best part of himself to the worst?’ (589 de, emphasis added). Such actions not only stem from a disordered soul; they reinforce and heighten its disorder (by encouraging and strengthening appetite or indignation to overflow their proper limits). So while someone may begin by thinking that his or her decision to act unjustly is a rational one, it will turn out on the contrary to contribute to the overturning of reason’s rule. In other words, injustice is self-undermining. Only psychic justice is self-sustaining.

Is everyone capable of psychic justice? The Republic does not say clearly whether everyone can achieve full psychic justice. It does maintain that the rational element in most people is incapable of doing the job. Ordinary people are not wise – the Republic rests on this controversial assumption, one harking back to the Socratic insistence in many other dialogues that wisdom is a matter of expertise and so not accessible to the many. Here Plato is directly countering the democratic insistence that all citizens can in principle contribute to political decision-making. The Republic depends on, and seeks to make plausible, the opposite contention: that the ordinary person’s reason is too ignorant and weak to establish harmonious order governing their indignation and their appetites. For most people, the only chance of even approximating psychic justice is to be governed from the outside, by someone in whom reason does rule. The rule of such surrogate reason is a key to the argument of the Republic, for it ties ethics and politics together. If psychic justice is in everyone’s interest, so too is being ruled by reason: if not one’s own reason, then the reason of someone else. Political rule is necessary to make up for the inevitable ethical deficiency of most people.

This vision of reason, indignation and appetite was a radical challenge to existing understandings of human psychology, and in particular to the practices and assumptions of Athenian democratic culture. Athenian democrats tended to exalt indignation and anger as key to the demand for legitimate equality of respect,9 and, as we saw in the story of the ring of Gyges, they were easily tempted by the dream of satisfying their bodily appetites without restraint. (Nor were the oligarchs any better, though they prided themselves on having more self-discipline than they ascribed to the masses.) The Republic has to deploy a host of persuasive strategies to try to make it seem correct, even natural, to its characters Glaucon and Adeimantus – and to its readers – that happiness comes from reason’s restraining of indignation and appetite, not the unleashing of them in pursuit of maximum satisfaction.


Central to those persuasive strategies is the analogy between the soul and the city, which is introduced in the middle of Book II, dominates the dialogue through Book IV and returns to prominence in Books VIII–IX. We saw earlier that Plato introduces the notion of a ‘constitution’ into this account of the soul. We can now appreciate the details of that notion. The ‘constitution’ of the soul is its enjoyment of an order in which reason governs indignation and appetite, with indignation as reason’s ally. When that constitution breaks down, the soul falls into a state of civil war, each of its elements fighting to dominate the other two.

In Books II–IV, this new and radical account of the soul is made plausible by first articulating a parallel account of the city. It is easier to see that cities have elements than that souls do: we can actually see distinct groups of people fulfilling distinct functions, whereas Socrates has to use complicated indirect reasoning to develop the idea that souls are divided into distinct if intangible parts. But the question of which elements a city should have was highly controversial in Plato’s time. In democratic Athens, although there were groups of rich and poor, and the rich had certain specific civic and military roles (in funding and organizing festivals, for example, and providing their own ‘hoplite’ armour in the army), there was no separate ruling elite or military caste. All male citizens could occupy the major positions of power, speak in the Assembly, and speak and vote in the law courts; all fought in the city’s battles, rowing in the fleet if they had no money to buy hoplite armour. In the Republic, Socrates proposes a division of political labour antithetical to the equality of democratic Athens. Initially, the principle of division of labour depends on the specialization of roles which Socrates insists is the most sensible way to organize any city. The most primitive city will be largely self-sufficient, engaging in peaceful trade but not war, with each person keeping to a certain craft or function (shoemaker, merchant, farmer). But Glaucon objects that this city is too primitive and rustic. The introduction of luxury is what makes justice necessary, for it makes war necessary: trade will no longer be merely peaceful, as greed leads the city to seek enlargement by force. So a class of ‘guards’ is introduced, who will defend the city against external attack as well as serving in its offensive warfare, and who, it is argued, will serve a distinct function in the division of labour, separate from the class of workers, artisans and others who supply the city’s material needs. Socrates then slips in a crucial move: he subdivides the guards into two. These are a younger military group who will be the military supporters (called ‘auxiliaries’) of a separate, older ruling group (who come to be called ‘guards’ in the sense of ‘guardians’, though the same word is used for both, and who will later be identified as the philosophers). This three-part distinction sets up the parallel with the soul: the guardians correspond toreason; the auxiliaries to the element animated by indignation and anger; and the workers, merchants, doctors and so on to the bodily appetites.

Books VIII–IX take the city–soul parallel further by showing that it holds not only in Kallipolis (the ‘excellent city’, from kalos, ‘beautiful’ or ‘fine’ or ‘excellent’, and polis, ‘city’) but also in the four kinds of imperfect cities into which Kallipolis is in danger of degenerating, as nothing human can be perfect or remain unchanging. The first of these is ‘timocracy’, the rule of honour, in which the soldiers dominate rather than being governed by reason; the other three are the types of alternative regimes we have met already: oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. In tyranny, the city and the man coincide, because the city’s political structure consists of only a single ruler. It is in Book IX that the ‘ring of Gyges’ problem of Glaucon and Adeimantus is finally resolved, when it is demonstrated that the tyrant – the epitome of the unjust person whom the Gyges story suggests we all secretly want to be – is not supremely happy (as the story had suggested) but actually supremely unhappy. His injustice does not benefit him because it corrupts and destroys his soul; by contrast, justice would make his soul ordered and therefore happy, and so be of intrinsic benefit to him, whether or not rewarded externally with positive consequences as well.

Already at the end of Book IV, Glaucon seems to be convinced that the health of the soul, like that of the city, depends on its having a unified constitutional order in which reason rules. But Socrates is keenly aware of the danger that such an order could be corrupted. Thrasymachus had spoken of the shepherd fattening up his sheep for his own advantage as an inevitable characteristic of every political regime. Socrates denies that corruption is inevitable: he replaces the image of the shepherd with that of the sheepdog, who is bred to protect rather than eat its charges. Yet his fear is that the guards might come to act not as protective sheepdogs but as rapacious wolves: using their power not even for an orderly sheep-fattening but simply to batten on the corpses of their unfortunate subjects. How can such a fate be prevented?

Two aspects of Kallipolis are carefully designed to prevent the abuse of power by preventing the rulers from conceiving the desire for it. One aspect is institutional: having been selected by an arduous and testing process of education, they are to be forced to have a common and austere lifestyle (in this respect like the Spartan elite). This protects them from conceiving the desire for power by preventing them from having anything material to gain by doing so: they would not be allowed to use their power to accumulate or enjoy great wealth. The other aspect of preventing the desire for power is psychological: the rulers’ virtue of wisdom. In Book IV, both of these elements are presented in broad-brush terms – Socrates glosses over just how they will live, and just what they must know. And the Book IV account makes it sound as if preventing the desire for power is simply a matter of constraint: constraint exercised by the laws against owning private property or wealth, and constraint exercised by wisdom upon the desires. The transformation effected in Books V–VII is twofold: to explain just how radical the institutional constraints must be and, even more radically, to explain why rulers who are natural philosophers will not even experience non-necessary material desires. The full story of Kallipolis as developed through Book VII provides double protection: rulers who genuinely do not desire material satisfaction and therefore do not desire power, so that they will rule only reluctantly, and rulers who are anyway protected against the corruption of their souls by a drastically austere institutional order.


A great turn in the Republic takes place at the beginning of Book V, when, although the story of Kallipolis had appeared complete at the end of Book IV, Socrates’ interlocutors (Adeim-antus, Polemarchus, Glaucon and even Thrasymachus) tax him to explain what he meant in offhandedly referring to the guardians having common meals, no private wealth and their families in common. Only now does Socrates reveal just how radical Kallipolis will have to be. First, its meritocracy of rule cannot afford to do without those women who are qualified to become guardians. Against the Athenian convention that women should not play political roles, Kallipolis will exaggerate the Spartan practice of girls exercising naked alongside boys in certain ritual contexts by applying it to all adults, and turning it to functional use by making qualified women serve as warriors and guardians alongside the men. This aspect of the text demands comparison with another comic play by Aristophanes, his Assembly of Women, in which he had imagined women taking over the Athenian Assembly in protest at the male failure to end the war with Sparta.

Next, Socrates makes even more radical proposals. The guardians must be deprived of private property, wealth, houses and meals – this is often called communism but is strictly the deprivation of property rather than its being held in common, and is applied here only to the guardian class. Its purpose is to deprive the guardians not just of property but also of the desire for property – that is, for something which is privately their own. For the same reason, they must also be deprived of private families. The older guardians will give orders to the younger auxiliaries to have sex with each other in couplings carefully designed to maximize the chance of producing healthy and morally sound children. The childrenso produced will not know or be known by their biological mothers and fathers; they will be raised communally, taught to regard all the guardians as their parents. The purpose of these extraordinary arrangements is to create a guardian group which feels wholly united, with no private familial ties (of the sort which divided citizens even in the equal, democratic culture of Athens) to detract from their civic identity.

These proposals for sexual equality, deprivation of property and abolition of the family among the guardians have occasioned enormous controversy and strange bedfellows in later readings of the Republic. On the basis of them, the Republic has been proclaimed by proponents, and condemned by critics, as a model of feminism and communism (and even of sexual liberation) for the political left; it has also been proclaimed by proponents, and condemned by critics, as a model of racist eugenics for the political right. These proclamations and condemnations were enormously influential in the later history of political thought and argument. But they have too often ignored the positioning of the proposals in the context of the hierarchical role and purpose of the guardians.

Equality of the sexes is restricted to the guardians alone: it is justified not by the rights of women but by the need of the guardians for all who merit that role. Property is not to be owned in common by the guardians, let alone by the rest of the society – the workers will continue to enjoy private property, giving the guardians what they need to live on rather than according them rights in property. As for state-sanctioned eugenics for the guardians and auxiliaries, that cannot be doubted; it is part of a perception of continuity between humans and animals, with breeding being applicable to both even though the divine element of reason is found only in the former. (This also rebuts charges of promiscuity: whereas in Aristophanes’ fantasy the women will choose their male sexual partners freely, in the Republic the guardians are to prescribe sexual partners for the auxiliaries.) But it is not racist, as the text clearly envisions the possibility that some guardian-born children will not merit inclusion as guardians themselves, as well as the converse possibility that some children born to workers will be found worthy of being educated as guardians. Clearly, the city is to be tightly controlled. What is striking, however, is that the most austere and stringent prescriptions are restricted to the guardians alone. In Plato’s Kallipolis, it is the rulers who are to be most heavily controlled, for the benefit (including the beneficial control) of the ruled.


For all the shock intended by the proposals just described, Socrates reserves what he calls the most shocking for last. This is the claim that evils will not cease in cities until philosophers rule them: ‘… there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands… there is no other road to real happiness either for society or for the individual’ (de). Why is this said to be so outrageous? Recall that Socrates, the philosopher par excellence in Plato’s eyes, had been executed by Athens some twenty-five years before the writing of the Republic. This was the antithesis of the rule of philosophy: it could be represented as a judgement that philosophy had nothing of value to offer the city at all. In Plato’s Gorgias (484 c485 e) we see another sophist, Callicles, proclaiming that philosophy is useless in politics; it may be fine as something for young men to play around with, but it is not a serious occupation for men of affairs. This is why the proposal that philosophers must rule is said to be so controversial. In a society that had executed the historical Socrates for being inimical to the democracy, Plato’s character Socrates is made to envision a society in which people like him are the only ones morally and intellectually capable of being rulers.

This is because, as we learn in Book VI, philosophers are not simply people of ordinary wisdom of the sort that Book IV might have seemed to envisage as rulers. Philosophers can only be made by education if they are first born: born with an inherent, driving passion to learn, which naturally lessens and subdues all of their other desires (including desires for material and physical satisfaction, as well as for honour) so as not to interfere with that overriding passion. This means that philosophers by nature have no reason to act unjustly or without self-discipline or in a cowardly way: they have no desire for excessive physical satisfaction, nor fear of death, strong enough to detract from their love of learning. So they are naturally capable of becoming virtuous. And they are also naturally capable, given their love of learning, of being educated. Their nature is to become philosophers; the task that will be assigned them as a matter of necessity is to rule.10

The key issue then becomes: who are the philosophers, and how are they to be educated? In giving an answer to these questions in Books V–VII, the account of Kallipolis also gives a more convincing answer to Thrasymachus than Book I had achieved. For the city ruled by philosophers turns out to be a uniquely non-exploitative regime. Philosophers are inherently reluctant rulers, because they are so powerfully motivated by their love of knowledge that their pride and appetites are minimal, and so they are never motivated to seek or exploit power for the sake of self-gratification. If they find themselves in power, either through chance, necessity, or being born into a Kallipolis that educates them to take power, they will not use that power to exploit. They will instead use it in the light of their knowledge, to benefit and heal. The goods of political rule that Plato seeks – unity, stability and the other goods considered earlier – can thus and only thus be achieved.


The philosophers who are to serve as guardians must be doubly qualified to do so. They must rule reluctantly, as we have seen, but they must also rule knowledgeably, in order to establish their surrogate reason in the souls of those who are ruled, who are unable to do so for themselves. To rule knowledgeably has two requirements. First, the philosophers must have a natural love of knowledge, which leads them to abstain from interesting themselves in physical appetites, and so enables them to get the rule of reason off the ground, where it would otherwise risk being stultified in a mass of hitherto ungoverned desires. And second, their reason must have attained its own proper object: knowledge of what is good.

In the Republic, as contrasted with other Platonic dialogues such as the Theaetetus, knowledge is portrayed as having an entirely different set of objects from mere opinion. Opinion or belief (in Greek, doxa) deals with what is changeable, either in time or depending on context; knowledge deals with what is unchanging in the double sense of being eternal and being independent of context. The Republic names these objects of knowledge the ‘Forms’ (eidos, in the singular). And significantly, the highest Form is said to be not the Form of Justice (although justice has been the main focus of the inquiry) but the Form of the Good. This is because, for Plato, goodness defines the aim and purpose of all action and of all existence insofar as it is intelligible. All people naturally desire the good, and pursue what they believe to be the good, even though they are normally (lacking knowledge) mistaken about what is actually good. Only philosophers are capable of loving and, through education, ultimately achieving knowledge of what is authentically and fully good. Thus only they are capable of governing action according to its true end; without such knowledge, political and ethical decisions are doomed to be mistaken, perhaps catastrophically so. At the same time, the love of knowledge and the Good gives philosophers ‘other rewards and a better life than the politician’s’ (521 b). With a greater Good in view than the ordinary ‘goods’ sought by the greedy and ambitious, philosophers are able to bring unity, harmony and order to the city and those within it.

Socrates does not claim in the Republic to have achieved this knowledge of the Good himself (though he does not deny it either). Instead of providing a full account of it, he offers in Books VI and VII three famous analogies: the Sun, the Line and the Cave. It is only the light of the Sun which makes ordinary things visible, and which enables them to grow; analogously, it is only the light of the Good which makes intellectual matters intelligible, and which enables us to grow by acting purposefully. The Line places the Forms at the apex of a ladder of knowledge, the penultimate rung of which is occupied by mathematical objects, which are unchanging and intelligible but which depend on axioms, and so are not as fundamental as the Forms. And the great image of the Cave shows first the democratic city, and then all cities, to be places governed by political manipulators who systematically exclude the light of the Good and replace it with unhealthy illusions: these cities are afflicted with ‘shadow battles and… struggles for political power, which they treat as some great prize [or “good„]’ (520 c). Only the ideal city can cultivate virtue and actions in light of the philosopher-rulers’ knowledge of what is authentically and genuinely good.

Why will the philosophers return to the Cave, as it were, in order to rule? And how will they rule? The Republic gives contradictory indications as to the first question and remarkably little information on the second. The remarks about why the philosophers will return – to avoid being ruled by any one worse, in Book I (347 ad); to repay the debt owed for their education (applicable only to those educated within Kallipolis) in Book VII (520 ac); out of necessity but also to grow and save the city as well as themselves, in Book VI (518 c; 497 a) – may be contradictory in order to indicate the paradox at its heart: that philosophers must be brought to rule, but reluctantly. Yet in an unreformed city, only they understand how important it is that they should rule, so only they are capable of bringing themselves to do it: ‘… [t]he state whose prospective rulers come to their duties with least enthusiasm is bound to have the best and most tranquil government, and the state whose rulers are eager to rule is the worst’ (520 d). This may be why Socrates appeals to divine chance (translated here as a ‘miracle’ (IX, 592 a), although one must remember the pagan context) or necessity as two of the possible ways in which philosophers could be brought to rule.


The focus of the argument returns from political to individual justice at the end of Book IX, when, after making the point about the law establishing constitutions in the souls of its citizens which we quoted earlier, Socrates returns to the challenge of the ring of Gyges. He asks Glaucon rhetorically whether ‘we can possibly argue that it pays a man to be unjust or self-indulgent or do anything base that will bring him more money and power but make him a worse man’ (591 a). Glaucon agrees that an intelligent man will realize that nothing of the sort pays, and so focus his attention on studies to attune his body and his possession of money and honours so that they improve, rather than destroy, the order within him. Glaucon goes so far as to say that such a man would not enter politics at all. Socrates corrects him. He would enter politics in ‘the society where he really belongs’ – that is, Kallipolis. But he would not do so in any other society, short of a ‘miracle’ that would make such a society invite his rule. The pattern of Kallipolis can be thought of as a divine one which a man can found as a constitution within his own heart, whether or not it is founded externally as a city, something which depends on chance or necessity.

Socrates’ remark that Kallipolis can be founded as a constitution in the soul, even if not necessarily made into political reality, has given rise to a reading of the Republic as primarily an ethical rather than a political text.11 One intention of this introduction has been to show that such a division is misplaced. The initial problematic posed by Thrasymachus in Book I is political: it is because he views all regimes as exploitative that he sees all codes of justice as being exploitative also. Glaucon and Adeimantus focus on codes of justice as they apply to individuals, asking whether they can be not only non-exploitative but also intrinsically beneficial for the individual. The answers to the two challenges are linked. For most people – all but the philosophers – the possibility of ethics (having a just and well-ordered soul) will hinge on the politics of Kallipolis being established.

It is true that the text does return in conclusion to dwell on the importance and value of ethics for the individual, without specifying that only natural philosophers can fully succeed in being ethical. Its overall rhetorical purpose is to encourage Glaucon, Adeimantus and the Republic’s readers to devote themselves to having well-ordered souls, and to the (philosophical) studies which that requires, without predetermining the question of whether this is something they are able to achieve or not. The purpose is to persuade and exhort, not to judge. The same is true of the closing tale of the myth of Er in Book X, in which Socrates tells the story of a man, Er, who travelled in the underworld before coming back to life, and describes the moment of transition which (immortal) souls make from one embodied life to the next. In a Christian context, one would expect the emphasis in such a story to be on divine judgement. Here, however, in a challenge to the culturally dominant mythic poetry of Homer and Hesiod, the emphasis is on individual choice. The Fates offer each soul in turn a choice of possible lives, from hero to tyrant to woman to animal, each either virtuous or vicious in its own characteristic ways. Because the soul must choose, its future happiness depends on its past life having been morally ordered enough so that it makes a clear-eyed assessment of the moral value of each possible future life. Socrates concludes the story, and the Republic, by advising Glaucon and his friends that they should believe the soul to be immortal and so pursue justice with wisdom. The closing admonition of the Republic is ethical. Yet its argumentative journey has been political from the outset, showing that ordinary people have no chance of even approximating these ethical aspirations except in Kallipolis: the one city whose code of ethics is wholly designed to benefit its subjects rather than its rulers.


This introduction has explored how Plato viewed his world (something we know only from his writings), and how as a consequence he conceived of his project as a writer and marshalled his ideas to carry it out. That world-view was highly controversial and challenging to the views and judgements of most of his contemporaries.12 Where Plato saw disunity and ignorance in the Athenian democracy, his contemporaries saw pluralistic freedom and practices of gathering and testing the widest range of views in decision-making. Where Plato insisted that constitutional order must be hierarchical, with reason at the top and indignation firmly subordinated, his contemporaries respected those who engaged in manly and even angry contests for esteem, and saw nothing contradictory in a constitution based on equality. Where Plato insisted that democracy had no way of bridling the appetites, and was driven by its appetite for power, the democrats believed themselves to have a complex system of deliberation and value in which appetite figured but did not dominate.

The measure of Plato’s success is the fact that for centuries, the Athenian democrats largely appeared to history as they appeared to him: as an incoherent, greedy, ignorant mob.13 Today we must recognize this image as Plato’s creation, one which does respond to certain inherent tensions and contradictions in the democratic polis (its striving for external power and domination, for example) but which also overlooks the sources of judgement and balance which that polis enjoyed and which help to explain its remarkable successes (despite some spectacular failures) over nearly two centuries. Yet the value of the Republic is not limited by the extent to which its critique of Athenian democracy was justifiable. The lineaments it establishes for a political philosophy that is also an ethics and an epistemology (theory of knowledge) have become those followed by all the greatest works in any of these genres since.

The very notion of writing a ‘Republic’ or ‘Constitution’ inspired the works of Cicero and Thomas More. With More’s Utopia (1516), two further offshoots crystallized, of utopian writing (in a line leading to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden of 1854) and of a distinctively Greek form of republicanism (in a line leading to John Milton’s Paradise Lost of 1667).14 The centrality of education to politics has become an indispensable part of politics and ethics; what Plato accomplished in a single book would take the eighteenth-century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau two (his Social Contract for the politics, his Emile for the ethics and education, both published in 1762).15 The image of the soul and the city as ideally hierarchical, governed by reason which subordinates lesser impulses and classes to itself, proved immensely influential. Variations on it inform Augustine’s founding of Christian psychology and, much later, Freud’s founding of psychoanalysis. The vision of knowledge as pertaining only to what is immutable, certain and universal was likewise crucial for subsequent philosophy: it informs important traditions in Jewish, Christian and Muslim thought alike, views which in turn helped to shape modern science and philosophy. Perhaps even more fundamental are the links which theRepublic forges between psychology, knowledge and metaphysics (the study of the world’s fundamental structure). Here are the roots of Western philosophy intertwined in a single casing. Neither the interest nor the significance of the Republic will be soon exhausted.


1. Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. I: The Spell of Plato (London: Routledge, 2003 [1945]), p.145, quoting the nineteenth-century British historian Lord Acton.

2. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner, with introduction and appendices by M. I. Finley (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972).

3. By contrast, the English title Republic derives from the Latin translation, which called the work Respublica, limiting its subject to a specific sort of ‘republican’ constitution only. For the significance of the Greek title and genre as discussed here and below, I draw on Malcolm Schofield,Plato: Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 31–43.

4. Plato wrote only dialogues and, possibly, letters; the authenticity of the latter and some of the former is disputed. A useful source for the whole of his works is John M. Cooper (ed.), Plato: Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997).

5. The Greek word sophrosunē is difficult to translate: it is mainly translated here as ‘self-discipline’ but is often also translated as ‘temperance’ or ‘moderation’; each of these terms captures some of its facets.

6. On pleonexia, see Ryan K. Balot, Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 2001).

7. On tyranny, see Kathryn A. Morgan (ed.), Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and Its Discontents in Ancient Greece (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003).

8. In fact, most of the text focuses on censoring them rather than exiling them, so long as they can turn their craft to the production of models of virtue rather than vice. On poetry, see M. F. Burnyeat, ‘Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic’, in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. 20, ed. Grethe B. Peterson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999), pp. 217–324.

9. On anger and Athenian political emotion more generally, see Danielle S. Allen, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Ancient Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

10. On the nature of the philosophers, see Melissa Lane, ‘Virtue as the Love of Knowledge in the Symposium and Republic’, in Dominic Scott (ed.), Maieusis: Essays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

11. For an ‘ethics’ over ‘politics’ reading, see Julia Annas, Platonic Ethics, Old and New (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999).

12. See Josiah Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

13. On the way Plato shaped subsequent perceptions of ancient Athens, see Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

14. On the influence of Plato’s Republic on the subsequent tradition of Greek republicanism, see Eric Nelson, The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

15. See Melissa Lane, Plato’s Progeny: How Plato and Socrates Still Captivate the Modern Mind (London: Duckworth, 2001).



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