The Republic Book Summary - The Republic Book explained in key points
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The Republic summary

Plato

One of the most important philosophical texts ever written

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Brief summary

The Republic by Plato is a philosophical text that explores the nature of justice and the ideal society. It proposes that a just society is one where each person performs their designated role and pursues virtue through education and communal living.

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    The Republic
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 9

    Socrates questions and dismantles the definitions of justice that his dialogue partners propose.

    How do you define justice? No matter how well considered your response may be, Socrates would probably be able to dismantle your definition. Throughout the dialogue between him and his interlocutors, he examines and questions several definitions of justice.

    The first definition comes from Polemarchus, who claims that justice is to give each person what they are owed. In response, Socrates tries to undermine this definition by finding exceptions to it. What if weapons are owed? Although one should return what one owes, one should not offer weapons to someone who is insane and threatening to harm someone.

    So, the definition of justice as “giving what is owed” doesn’t always hold.

    Polemarchus then provides another answer: Being just means assisting friends and harming enemies. To this, Socrates queries whether there are circumstances under which it is moral to do harm. He finds that there aren’t. Animal trainers, he says, don’t benefit animals they harm; likewise, people become less moral if harmed. Additionally, one can mistake friends for enemies, and enemies for friends, and therefore end up benefiting those one meant to harm.

    So, since harming someone isn’t beneficial and our judgments cannot be absolutely accurate, this second definition also falls apart.

    The third definition, posited by Thrasymachus, is that justice is whatever is advantageous to the ruler.

    Socrates questions whether this definition also applies to those in other positions – such as, say, a doctor. The health of the patient, rather than the doctor’s benefit, should be the doctor’s main concern. A ruler that seeks to benefit himself, instead of his people, is not a just ruler. Like the doctor, the ruler should aim to do good for his “patient,” i.e., the city.

    This third definition is also inadequate and so the first attempts to define justice come to an aporia, an impasse in the dialogue.

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    What is The Republic about?

    Plato’s Republic (c. 380 BCE) is a dialogue in which Socrates and his interlocutors discuss the attributes and virtues that make for the most just person and for the most just form of government. The Republic also examines the relationship between the citizen and the city, and considers how this relationship bears on philosophy, politics, ethics and art.

    The Republic Review

    The Republic (380 BCE) explores the ideal society and the concept of justice. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents thought-provoking arguments and philosophical ideas, stimulating readers' minds and fostering critical thinking.
    • Diving deep into human nature and discussing topics like political philosophy and the role of education, it offers valuable insights into society and governance.
    • The book challenges traditional beliefs and invites readers to question the status quo, sparking intellectual curiosity and encouraging personal growth.

    Best quote from The Republic

    So long as I do not know what the just is, I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue or not, and whether the one who has it is unhappy or happy. – Socrates

    —Plato
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    Who should read The Republic?

    • Anyone interested in history
    • Anyone interested in classical philosophy
    • Anyone interested in politics

    About the Author

    Plato, Socrates’s most famous student, was a philosopher and mathematician during the Greek classic period (5th – 4th century BCE). He wrote over 30 dialogues and philosophical texts on a wide variety of subjects, including love, knowledge, ethics, politics, metaphysics and theology.

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    The Republic FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Republic?

    In The Republic, Plato explores the concept of justice and the ideal society.

    How long does it take to read The Republic?

    The reading time for The Republic depends on the reader's pace, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Republic a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Republic is a timeless masterpiece worth reading. It delves into profound philosophical questions and offers insights into governance and human nature.

    Who is the author of The Republic?

    Plato is the author of The Republic.

    What to read after The Republic?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Republic, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Analects by Confucius
    • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
    • Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
    • How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson
    • Politics by Aristotle
    • Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes
    • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
    • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith