The Republic

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The City Symbol Analysis

The City Symbol Icon
The just city is a larger version of the just man, with the three social classes (producers, warriors and guardians) working together as the three parts of the soul work together in the just man. Two key concepts for the city are the emphasis on specialization, so that each person is trained for a particular occupation, and the emphasis on education, which encourages specialization and trains the guardians and the philosopher-king to properly rule. The ultimate failure of the city is tied to the failure of the education system, when someone whose aptitudes and nature are not suited to being a guardian, is selected in childhood and educated as a guardian.

The City Quotes in The Republic

The The Republic quotes below all refer to the symbol of The City. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Republic published in 2000.
Book 2 Quotes
And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him, and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.
Related Characters: Socrates (speaker)
Related Symbols: The City
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Socrates continues to spell out the conditions for his ideal city. He explains that each citizen should be tasked with a specific duty based on his or her inherent aptitude.

This passage corroborates the way that Socrates envisions a highly authoritarian state. Instead of allowing people to pursue their interests or passions, he focuses on what will maximize utility: what will allow “better quality” in society produced at faster rates and “more easily.” His model does not allow for the presence of human free will, but rather slots each citizen into a specific, almost mechanical, positions to optimize the larger entity.

His model also posits the existence of inherent aptitude for each person. To assume there is a single thing “which is natural to him” is to presume that each person possesses this natural affiliation for a certain form of work. Indeed, such assumptions are typical of Socrates’ philosophy, which tends to rely on essential virtues and essential qualities in people. Here, the model is that each person has such an essence that when manifested perfectly will result in the optimal functioning of the self and the city. Thus Socrates defines his model of justice as combination of inherent skill and a rigid social system that would maximize that skill.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Republic quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire The Republic LitChart as a printable PDF.
The republic.pdf.medium

The City Symbol Timeline in The Republic

The timeline below shows where the symbol The City appears in The Republic. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
Justice Theme Icon
Thrasymachus asserts that an unjust city would enslave other cities. Socrates responds that in an unjust city, everyone is unjust. Soldiers... (full context)
Book 2
Justice Theme Icon
Socrates proposes first to examine the justice of the city, because it is easier to determine what is just for the group then for the... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
A city needs people, food, shelter, and goods, with each person specializing in a particular occupation. The... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
...gods committing impious actions, stories which might influence the citizens to act badly. Therefore, the city must only use stories depicting good behavior so as to influence the citizens of the... (full context)
Book 3
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
Socrates describes stories for educating the city's guardians. They should include heroic stories, omitting any passages that might cause children to fear... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
...the ruler must be a man of experience and virtue. The rulers must love the city's welfare above all else. The guardians must be carefully tested to determine those most suited... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
To avoid questions about those chosen to rule from the others in the city, Socrates invents a myth that says all people were born from the earth. Thus there... (full context)
Specialization Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
The guardians and warriors are responsible for the defense of the city. The guardians may not own anything beyond what is necessary. By law all they need... (full context)
Book 4
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
...the luxuries enjoyed by rulers elsewhere. Socrates says despite Thrasymachus's view, the goal of the city is not to make one group happy at the expense of another. (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Since the goal is happiness for the city as a whole, the guardians must ensure that the residents of the city live neither... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
...must protect the education system since it determines the quality of the citizens and the city. Wives and children of guardians are held in common. With properly educated citizens, and the... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
Having established the city, Socrates turns to the question of virtue. Since it is the best city possible, it... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
Socrates turns from justice on a large scale in the city, to justice in the individual. Just as the city has in its residents the virtues... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
...part of the soul rules the appetite and the spirit, just as moderation in the city results when the guardians rule. Such a ruler is a just man, and such a... (full context)
Book 5
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
...as well as male, with the same education and duties, including the defense of the city. (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
When all of the city is "family," and goods are owned equally, there is no discord. When the city's guardians... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Philosopher-King Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
Glaucon asks if this ideal city is even possible? Socrates' answer is yes, but only if "either philosophers become kings in... (full context)
Book 8
Education Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Philosopher-King Theme Icon
Socrates summarizes the decisions they have made about the city. Wives, children and their education must all be in common. The philosopher-kings are to be... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Philosopher-King Theme Icon
...equivalent kinds of human soul for each government. Socrates imagines a gradual failure of the city as it passes through each government. Because the city is human, it is imperfect and... (full context)
Justice Theme Icon
When the poor rebel against the wealthy minority the city becomes a democracy. In a Democratic city no one is forced to take public office,... (full context)