Writing in The Liberal Arts
November 3, 2018
Socrates’ Unsteady Conviction
In Book IV of The Republic of Plato, Socrates proposes that the city in speech is happier without the strain of money and wealth. “Then from both poverty and wealth the products of the arts are worse and the men themselves are worse.” (421 e) He fears that money hinders productivity and promotes negligence. Socrates’ stance on wealth and money in Book I is poles apart from his restored sentiment in Book IV. “They say that for the rich there are many consolations .” (329 e) The tranquility Cephalus experiences during his old age is a result of wealth, pursuant to Socrates. A potential explanation for this inconsistency may be found in Book II where during a discussion of justice, Socrates discloses that a just city in speech appeases only essential human needs (“the provision of food for existing and living”). (369 d)
Book II begins with Glaucon deeming a disapproval of the arguments in Book I. “For Glaucon is always most courageous in everything, and so now he didn’t accept Thrasymachus’ giving up.” (357 a) In response to Glaucon’s counter argument, Socrates advocates his notion of justice. “A city, as I believe, comes into being because each of us isn't self sufficient but is in need of much.” (369 b) This method of a developing city is inequitable in Socrates’ eyes. Customarily, humans are not provided with everything they need to survive. Therefore, a traditional city hyper politicized its community.
Socrates’ standpoint on justice influenced his opposition to wealth and poverty in Book IV. At the start of Book IV, Adeimantus is transfixed with Socrates’ ideal cultivation. “You’re hardly making these men...