The Republic (Philosophy)

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The Republic, is an ancient text, usually attributed to Plato. The book famous for its assertion that the only people fit to rule a society are philosophers, though it also touches on dozens of other topics. The book also speaks to the composition of the human psyche, who ought to be allowed to own property, the meaning and attributes of morality, and the proper means of education, among other things.

The source of the actual philosophy is often disputed. The Republic is written in the form of a lengthy conversation between Socrates and various other people, including students and critics. Many speculate that since Socrates never wrote anything, and instead had others write for him, the Republic could truly have been Socratic philosophy. However, most attribute the Republic to Plato because the methodology of the philosophy matches him best.

While many interpret The Republic as a political treatise, much akin to Aristotle's Politics, some philosophers have proposed that it ought rather to be interpreted as an allegory of the soul, since the central question of The Republic deals with what a just man is and how his soul is rightly ordered. By this interpretation, the Philosopher King is not a literal person, but stands for the rational part of man's soul. The Guardians stand for man's spiritedness, or will, and the masses stand for the lower desires. The just man is one whose reason rules over his desires through the will. The unjust man is he whose reason is ruled by his desires. Since rationality is what separates man from beast, the result is that one in this condition acts no better than an animal.[Citation Needed]