Essay II

Please select one and only one of the following three questions to answer for your second essay. Note that each question is one of exegesis: your task is to explain, as clearly, carefully, and charitably as a you can, the passage or account in question, making sure to illuminate your explanation with well-chosen examples and analogies. You do not then go on to provide further arguments (either for or against), raise criticisms, bring up counter-examples, or even make snarky comments. Your goal in exegesis is simply to delve into the text to understand what Plato is doing without complicating your understanding with criticisms.

Essay II, Question A

At 434d Socrates begins to draw the necessary analogy between the city and the soul to determine whether what they've said about justice in the city can likewise be applied to the soul:

Then, that exchange and meddling is injustice. Or to put it the other way around: For the money-making, auxiliary, and guardian classes each to do its own work in the city, is the opposite. That’s justice, isn’t it, and makes the city just?

[d] I agree. Justice is that and nothing else.

Let’s not take that as secure just yet, but if we find that the same form, when it comes to be in each individual person, is accepted as justice there as well, we can assent to it. What else can we say? But if that isn’t what we find, we must look for something else to be justice. For the moment, however, let’s complete the present inquiry. We thought that, if we first tried to observe justice in some larger thing that possessed it, this would make it easier to observe in a single individual.6 We agreed that this larger thing is a city, and so we established the best city we could, knowing well [e] that justice would be in one that was good. So, let’s apply what has come to light in the city to an individual, and if it is accepted there, all will be well. But if something different is found in the individual, then we must go back and test that on the city. And if we do this, and compare them [435] side by side, we might well make justice light up as if we were rubbing fire-sticks together. And, when it has come to light, we can get a secure grip on it for ourselves.

You’re following the road we set, and we must do as you say.

Well, then, are things called by the same name, whether they are bigger or smaller than one another, like or unlike with respect to that to which that name applies?


Then a just man won’t differ at all from a just city in respect to the form [b] of justice; rather he’ll be like the city.

He will.

But a city was thought to be just when each of the three natural classes within it did its own work, and it was thought to be moderate, courageous, and wise because of certain other conditions and states of theirs.

That’s true.

Then, if an individual has these same three parts in his soul, we will expect him to be correctly called by the same names as the city if he has the same conditions in them. [c]

Necessarily so.

Then once again we’ve come upon an easy question, namely, does the soul have these three parts in it or not?

It doesn’t look easy to me. Perhaps, Socrates, there’s some truth in the old saying that everything fine is difficult.

Apparently so. But you should know, Glaucon, that, in my opinion, we will never get a precise answer using our present methods of argument—although there is another longer and fuller road that does lead to such an [d] answer. But perhaps we can get an answer that’s up to the standard of our previous statements and inquiries.

Isn’t that satisfactory? It would be enough for me at present.

In that case, it will be fully enough for me too.

Then don’t weary, but go on with the inquiry.

Well, then, we are surely compelled to agree that each of us has within himself the same parts and characteristics as the city? Where else would [e] they come from? It would be ridiculous for anyone to think that spiritedness didn’t come to be in cities from such individuals as the Thracians, Scythians, and others who live to the north of us who are held to possess spirit, or that the same isn’t true of the love of learning, which is mostly associated with our part of the world, or of the love of money, which one might say [436] is conspicuously displayed by the Phoenicians and Egyptians.

It would.

That’s the way it is, anyway, and it isn’t hard to understand.

Certainly not.

But this is hard. Do we do these things with the same part of ourselves, or do we do them with three different parts? Do we learn with one part, get angry with another, and with some third part desire the pleasures of food, drink, sex, and the others that are closely akin to them? Or, when we set out after something, do we act with the whole of our soul, in each case? This is what’s hard to determine in a way that’s up to the standards [b] of our argument.

I think so too.

Well, then, let’s try to determine in that way whether these parts are the same or different.


It is obvious that the same thing will not be willing to do or undergo opposites in the same part of itself, in relation to the same thing, at the same time. So, if we ever find this happening in the soul, we’ll know that we aren’t dealing with one thing but many. [c]

All right.

Then consider what I’m about to say.

Say on.

Is it possible for the same thing to stand still and move at the same time in the same part of itself?

Not at all.

Let’s make our agreement more precise in order to avoid disputes later on.

At this point Socrates presses on to try to argue that the soul partitions in much the same way as the city, finally justifying his famous tripartite division of the soul. What 'more precise' arguments does he give for dividing the soul thusly?

Essay II, Question B

After finding in the soul a partition analogous to the parts of the city upon which Socrates constructed accounts of the four virtues, he goes on to discuss those virtues as they are found in the soul (thereby drawing the conclusion of the analogical argument in question.)

  1. Wisdom
  2. Courage
  3. Moderation
  4. Justice

What are the four virtues as they are each in turn identified in the Soul? What in particular is injustice in the Soul, and how does this account begin to answer Glaucon's Challenge from Book II?

Essay II, Question C

Prompted by our discussion in class today, beginning at 477 and proceeding almost to the end of Book V, Socrates distinguishes between ignorance and knowledge, locating opinion as an intermediate between the two. What is opinion, then, according to Socrates? What is opinable? What is knowledge, and what knowable?