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10.1: Return to Poetry

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    See 595a. In Books II and III, as part of his preliminary discussion of the guardians’ education, Socrates criticized what poets have to say about gods and heroes. But at 392a-c, when he was about to turn to what they say about human beings – “that many unjust people are happy and many just ones wretched, that doing injustice is profitable if it escapes detection, and that justice is another’s good but one’s own loss” – he stopped himself; for he realized that whether or not this sort of thing ought to be in a poem turns on the very point in question, namely, the nature of the relation between justice and happiness. Having settled this matter in Book IX, Socrates now returns to the poets and their art.

    • Much has happened in the discussion since the first part of Book III: rulers have been distinguished from auxiliaries, three distinct parts of the soul have been identified, the virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice have been defined, forms have been distinguished from particular things, the form of the good has been identified as the most important object of knowledge, four varieties of injustice have been analyzed, and three arguments have been given in support of the claim that a just person will be happy regardless of what other people think. How might this material enable Socrates to criticize the poets in ways that were not available to him back in Book III?

    This page titled 10.1: Return to Poetry is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Douglas Drabkin.

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