The Republic

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Themes and Colors
Education Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Specialization Theme Icon
Philosopher-King Theme Icon
Soul Theme Icon
Truth Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Republic, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Justice Theme Icon

Socrates' purpose in the Republic is to determine the nature of justice, or "right behavior." Socrates examines the nature of justice in both the individual and in the city. Socrates associates justice with structures in the human soul and social structures in the city. Justice in the individual is a state in which the rational soul controls both the spirit (the emotions) and the appetitive soul (the part associated with desires and appetites). Such a person is just, and will behave justly. Socrates states that if each citizen specifically practices his occupation, and allows others to practice theirs without interference, the city will be a just city. Each individual, by engaging in his specialized occupation, is behaving justly. Just as the rational part of the soul governs the others in a just person, the rational part of the city, that is the philosopher-king and the guardians, should govern the producers and the warriors.

Justice ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Justice appears in each section of The Republic. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Justice Quotes in The Republic

Below you will find the important quotes in The Republic related to the theme of Justice.
Book 2 Quotes
God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
Related Characters: Socrates (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Socrates furthers his argument that fiction in the ideal city should be censored. He adds that only good artworks could be attributed to God.

This line makes a poignant and contentious theological comment. In denying the fact that a God would be capable of producing negative things, he justifies the idea that certain things—people, objects, fictions, etc.—could be excluded from the ideal city. If Gods were indeed responsible for “all things,” then presumably “all things” would have to be included in the city out of deference to the divine. But if the divine is responsible for “good only,” then bad things are ungodly and can be rejected. This statement is particularly evocative since the Greek Gods were often considered to possess negative characteristics—to themselves embody human follies. Socrates rejects such a model to offer a more idealist image of both Gods and humans.

We also see, here, the importance of religion to Greek philosophy. It is common, today, to consider these two fields to be separate, or even sharply opposed, but during Socrates’ time they were fully integrated. Philosophical arguments were expected to interweave with the Greek Pantheon—and to apply logical formulations to a pre-existing religious structure. Thus the way that Socrates’ work relies on religious tenets should not be taken as a philosophical weakness — but rather a reflection of Greek society at the time.

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Book 4 Quotes
Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence, and poverty of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.
Related Characters: Socrates (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

While specifying the types of behaviors permitted by the guardian and warrior classes, Socrates touches on financial matters. He notes that the rulers are responsible for ensuring citizens stay in a state of economic well-being.

This passage once again argues that certain people in the idea city should engage in behaviors limited only to them. Instead of permitting free economic control, as would have been typical of the contemporary Greek polis, Socrates argues that financial matters should be tightly controlled. Indeed, people of certain subgroups, such as the guardians, should not even be permitted to handle currency, such that their economic status will always remain unchanged. Two extremes are possible—both “wealth” and “poverty” are condemned in a quick phrase—and thus optimizing one’s existence demands a careful calibration between those two poles.

That calibration reaffirms the importance of harmony and balance to Socrates’ ideal world. Much like an artwork is supposed to be simple, or a soul should hold its three parts in equal measure—financial status should remain centered. Optimization, in the kallipolis, is not a question of reaching a pinnacle or extreme, but rather of ensuring that the citizens remain in a constant equilibrium.

Book 9 Quotes
But now that he is under the dominion of Love, he becomes always and in waking reality what he was then very rarely and in a dream only.
Related Characters: Socrates (speaker)
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

While delineating between different forms of flawed governments, Socrates describes the character of the tyrant. He explains how passions such as love occlude the vision and mental acuity of a tyrant.

Socrates returns to the metaphor of dreams and sleep in order to draw clear lines between relative states of awareness. He believes that erotic love causes one’s perceptions to warp as they normally would while asleep. They become increasingly distant from the world of forms and are only able to invest in or connect with the superficial occurrences of the perceivable world.

More broadly, this condemnation of the “dominion of love” speaks to the way that Socrates demands that one resist his appetites and adopt a stoic relationship to the world. Denying the value of pleasure, Socrates contends that the passions prevent one from behaving rationally and justly: they cause one to focus on illusory and temporary desires instead of more significant questions of justice. As a result, they are associated with tyranny, for the tyrant will similarly seek only to further his own pleasure. A just society, therefore, must be ordered by those who are emancipated from personal pleasure and who will therefore be motivated by rational thought rather than narrow desires.