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6.1: The Virtues of the Philosopher

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    See 484a-487a. Books VI and VII are largely concerned with exploring what it is to be a philosopher, someone who desires and achieves knowledge of the forms. In these opening pages, Socrates begins to explain some of the ways such people are excellent, and why they belong at the helm of a city. As lovers of knowledge, they are fast at learning things, good at remembering things, and have the greatest concern for the truth (for getting things right). Their soul “has a natural sense of proportion and grace,” and so, proportion and grace being “akin” to truth, their soul is “easy to lead to the form of each thing there is.” And because they are ruled by the rational part and its desires, they are not swayed by the petty appetitive desires that cause a person to fall into vices such as licentiousness, greed, and cowardice.

    • Do people who are sensitive to “proportion and grace” tend to be sensitive to truth? If so, why might this be? What is the relation between truth and beauty?

    • Socrates says at 485c that philosophers “must never willingly tolerate falsehood in any form.” What then of the marriage lotteries (459c-460a) and the myth of the metals (414c-415d)? Is this not the toleration, indeed the propagation, of falsehood? How might Socrates defend himself against the charge of inconsistency? Consider what he says at the end of Book II about lying and the divine (382a-e).

    • What makes a good political leader? Is the challenge of politics above all an intellectual problem, a matter of thinking through what is best for the city and how to achieve it?

    This page titled 6.1: The Virtues of the Philosopher is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Drabkin.

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