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Essay/Term paper: Plato's republic: the virtues

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Philosophy

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Plato's Republic: THe Virtues

I. The Virtues

In Robin Waterfield's translation of The Republic,Socrates attempts to
give a definition of justice. At the end of Book II he began a detailed
description of the construction of a good city. The good city is a relation to
the human soul, and its four virtues. In the following paper I will discuss
the virtues, what they are and where they are found. Also discussed will be
the foundation, arrangement, and the interconnectedness with each one. Next
discussed would be the 3 "H's" and the understanding Aristotle has on the role
of happiness in the moral life. Lastly, I will discuss the experience that I
had that related to Leonitus.
The four virtues used by Plato are prudence, courage, temperance, and
justice. Plato relates the virtues to a community, which is made up of the
rulers, army, and workers. Now the base line is the workers, and they do not
try to blend with the army as the army doesn't blend with the rulers. When all
of these do their own job, the community becomes one.
The first virtue to be discussed is prudence. Prudence, also known as
wisdom, is found in the rulers. "The people who have it are those rulers…"
(428d) In order to have wisdom one must be resourceful, in which he/she has
obtained knowledge. Plato says, "… resourcefulness is obviously a kind of
knowledge… it's not ignorance which makes people resourceful; it's knowledge."
The second virtue is courage, which is found in the military section of
the community. Courage is not the virtue of standing in front of a tank and say
it will not hurt me, that is stupidity. Courage is the ability to apply what
you have been taught: what is to be feared and what is not to be feared. Plato
relates retention to courage, "I'm saying courage is a sort of retention…the
retention of notion." (429c) The ability for one to retain what one has learned
is courage. "Ability to retain under all circumstances a true and lawful notion
about what is feared and what is not to be feared is what I'm calling courage."
The next virtue temperance, is found in the workers of Plato's
community. Temperance, also known as self-discipline, is needed by the
workers, so that they do not desire to be in the ruler's position. It is seen
that each position has its own importance in the community, and for the
community to function correctly each one must agree on their position in life.
Plato relates, "… in this community… the rulers and their subjects agree on
who the rulers should be." (431e) Temperance is also used to control the
desire to go against one's free-will. Plato says, "To be self-disciplined is
somehow to order and control the pleasures and desires." (430e)
The last virtue to be discussed is Justice otherwise known as morality.
Justice is found when all of the three work together, and no crimes are
committed. If one breaks pattern then the community becomes immoral, or if one
becomes out of place then it is immoral. "…when each of the three classes…
perform its own function and does its own job in the community, then this is
morality…" (434c)
Now I will discuss the human soul, containing three parts. The human
soul is a larger version of Plato's community, therefore each of the virtues
relate to the human soul. The first part is reason, which is the capacity to
think rationally. Next is passion, which is the fighting for what is right,
and the two together work as allies. "… the rational part is wise and looks
out for the whole of the mind, isn't it right for it to rule, and for the
passionate part to be its subordinate and its ally." (441e) As passion and
reason work together, passion is found in the military. The last part is
desire, which can be found in temperance, and is closely related to passion.
Desire is the temptation to do what is wrong, but self-discipline corrects it.
"…desirous part, which is the major constituent of an individual's mind and is
naturally insatiably greedy for things." (442a) Justice is again found in all
three parts of the soul, because when they all work together justly, the are
The virtues are arranged in a hierarchical pyramid, in which the rulers
are found at the top. The top resembles the highest position, in which the
rulers are in charge of the community. The next position is the military,
which takes orders from the rulers and sends orders to the workers, which are
last on the pyramid. The only virtue that cannot be placed in the pyramid is
justice. Justice is found in all three of the virtues, therefore it reigns in
all of them. The way that the virtues are arranged makes it impossible for
any of them to mix, be missing, or trade places. One must have all four
virtues to be completely moral. Each virtue is directly related to each other
in an indirect way. "The rational part will do the planning, and the
passionate part the fighting. The passionate part will obey the ruling part and
employ its courage to carry out the plans." (442b)
The three "H's" which underlie each virtue are Head, Habitual, and
Happiness. In the Head the person must contain the rational ability to know
what he/she is doing. In the Habitual, the person does something all the time
aimed toward the good. In Happiness, the person must simply be happy at what
they are doing. When the three "H's" are obtained one is considered moral, or
just, and also has underlied all of the virtues.
Aristotle thinks that our aim in life is to live a moral life, and be
happy doing it. All human actions are aimed toward the good, and to be real is
to fulfill one's goal.
The story I will use for my reflection on Leonitus' experience, began
in my freshman year of high school. There was a person in my freshmen class,
that came across as the class nerd. He assumed a nickname of "Pottsy", close
to his last name.
Pottsy began to run cross-country in his junior year to win an award his
senior year. My senior year of cross-country was the best year of my life. I
was the captain of the team, and was able to meet many different people from
around the state and country. I was looked upon by all of my peers, and
coaches treated me with the highest respect. Everyone was angry with him for
joining, when all he wanted to do was be a part of something. He wanted to be
a part of the closest sport in high school. The sixty of us refused to let him
in, and chided him all the way through the season. Being a captain I had to
assume the right and not the wrong.
At the beginning of the year I followed my rationality, but towards the
end, my self-discipline gave in to pressure. I called him names, started
more amusement, and lowered myself to a different level. This level went from
ruler to worker, and made him the military. My triangle became shapeless, and
the virtues that failed me were courage, and temperance. This is because I
lacked the courage to stand up for him, and I lost temperance for doing what is
right. My temperance was reshaped, and my courage was rebuilt, when the coach
lost respect in me.
After attending a retreat, I remembered what I had done, and wrote him
a letter of apology. I was utterly disgusted with myself, but I feel that you
learn from experiences, and now my triangle has been reshaped.
In conclusion, I enjoyed discussing the main elements of Plato's
Republic, the virtues. I have recaptured many events that have occurred in my
life, and plan to live closer to the triangle.


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