This is Real Life Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    The Powell's Playlist | February 27, 2015

    Kazuo Ishiguro: IMG Kazuo Ishiguro's Playlist for The Buried Giant

    The eight songs on this playlist didn't "inspire" The Buried Giant, nor did I play them out loud while writing. And with the notable exception of... Continue »
    1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

      The Buried Giant

      Kazuo Ishiguro 9780307271037

Qualifying orders ship free.
List price: $7.95
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Beaverton Philosophy- General

The Republic


The Republic Cover




From Elizabeth Watson Scharffenbergers Introduction to Republic

The conversation in Republic begins simply enough. Socrates, who has plainly been on familiar terms with Polemarchus family for a long time, forthrightly asks Cephalus about old age. His response, that aging is not as difficult as it is often reported to be, prompts Socrates to wonder out loud whether Cephalus easygoing attitude is in part facilitated by his wealth. The old mans response is affirmative. The wealthy, he asserts, face death without fear; their resources enable them to satisfy their debts to gods and men and also to avoid lying and cheating, and thus they can die with the confidence that they will not be punished in the afterlife. These remarks are what precipitate the discussion of just behavior and moral conduct, which Socrates introduces as he asks his elderly friend whether “justice” (dikaiosynê) simply consists of paying debts and telling the truth. Cephalus politely bows out of the conversation, leaving his son Polemarchus to argue that justice—meaning “right behavior” in general—does indeed consist of paying debts and giving “what is due,” as poets such as Simonides claim. Socrates, however, quickly leads Polemarchus to realize that there are serious logical problems with this traditional conception of justice, in which “what is due” is defined in terms of “help” to “friends” and “harm” to “enemies,” and the young man is left perplexed.

At this point, Thrasymachus leaps into the discussion, asserting that justice is simply “the advantage of the stronger,” by which he clearly means that “justice” is relative—that is, “right behavior” is whatever those in power determine it to be. With a series of questions that recall those he just posed to Polemarchus, Socrates uncovers logical problems in Thrasymachus definition as well. Thrasymachus, however, does not give up. Exploding in frustration at Socrates naive assumptions about the responsibilities that the powerful bear to those who are under their control, he reformulates his ideas with a bold new emphasis evocative of Antiphons thinking in “On Truth.” “Justice”—that is, the circumspect avoidance of doing “wrong” to others and obedience to social rules—is doing what is advantageous to another, who is stronger and more powerful than oneself. “Injustice,” on the other hand, is doing what is to ones own advantage by taking what one wants regardless of social rules and by aggrandizing oneself at the expense of others. It is what leads to “happiness,” provided that one is not penalized for ones exploitations. Tyrants who kill and confiscate and rape at will, according to Thrasymachus, are the happiest men of all.

Although Socrates is able to poke holes through the logic of this new formulation with questions that hark back once again to those he has already posed, Thrasymachus sulky concessions leave him unconvinced that he has made an effective case for the connection between justice, which through all has not been adequately defined, and “happiness.” Nor are Glaucon and Adeimantus convinced, and it is their persistence at the beginning of book 2 that launches the more systematic and extensive inquiry into the nature of justice and its relationship to happiness that occupies the rest of Republic. In particular, the brothers ask Socrates to explain how justice is in itself the source of happiness, regardless of whether it is recognized and rewarded, and how the just man can be happy, regardless of his material circumstances.

The challenges of defining justice and understanding its effects on long-term happiness, fulfillment, and well-being—all of which are conveyed by the Greek word eudaimonia—lead to the discussion of the ideal city-state, which is posited as a large-scale vehicle for apprehending the operations of justice in the individual. Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus spend a good deal of time and energy discussing how the ideal state will be organized, and how its classes of warriors and leaders will be selected, educated, and provided for; they are especially concerned in books 2 and 3 with the training and acculturation of guardian children, whose exposure to poetry (Iliad and Odyssey in particular) is to be severely curtailed lest they learn harmful values and patterns of behavior.

Yet the three never lose sight of the goals of their examination. By the end of book 4, they arrive at a working (and, in several regards, striking) definition of justice as the condition, or state of being, in which each person in the community—and each element of the individual human soul (psyche)—minds his/her/its own business and does his/her/its own “work.” Since it has been determined that there is in the human soul, as in human society, a natural ruling element, justice is thus equated with the unencumbered rule of these elements: the “gold” class of guardians in the ideal state, which holds sway over the silver and bronze/iron classes, and, in the individual, the rational part of the soul that ought to be master of both “spirit” and appetites.

Product Details

Jowett, Benjamin
Scharffenberger, Elizabeth Watson
Jowett, Benjamin
Introduction by:
Scharffenberger, Elizabeth Watson
Scharffenberger, Elizabeth Watson
Jowett, Benjamin
Scharffenberger, Elizabeth Watson
Barnes & Noble
History & Surveys - Ancient & Classical
General Political Science
Philosophy : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Barnes and Noble Classics
Publication Date:
8 x 5.25 x 1.24 in

Other books you might like

  1. The History of the Peloponnesian... Used Trade Paper $5.50
  2. A Presocratics Reader: Selected... Used Trade Paper $5.95
  3. The Oresteia (Penguin Classics) Used Trade Paper $5.95
  4. Sophocles I: Three Tragedies Used Trade Paper $5.50
  5. The Histories (Penguin Classics)
    Used Trade Paper $7.00
  6. Euripides #5: The Complete Greek... Used Trade Paper $4.50

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Politics » General
Humanities » Philosophy » General

The Republic Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 496 pages Barnes & Noble Books-Imports - English 9781593080976 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Centering on a moral question--is it better to live a just or an unjust life?--"The Republic balances considerations of individual ethics with discussions of how to govern the ideal city. Inspired by the tumultuous government in Athens at the same time of its writing, Plato's work vigorously questions an abundance of political notions that are taken for granted today.
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at