Political Thoughts, Quotes and Comment

QUOTES --------------------------------------COMMENT

PLATO (circa 428 - 347BC)

The Republic of Plato

On Justice and Development of Society

1. "You have agreed that justice belongs to the highest class of good things which are worth having not only for their consequences, but much more for their own sakes -- things like sight and hearing, knowledge, and health, whose value is genuine and intrinsic, not dependent upon opinion. So I want you in commending justice, to consider only how justice, in itself, benefits a man who has it in him, and how injustice harms him, leaving rewards and reputation out of account.... You must not content merely to prove that justice is superior to injustice, but explain how one is good, the other evil, in virtue of the intrinsic effect each has on its possessor, whether gods or men see it or not."

2. "a state comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing; we all have many needs."

3. "So, having all these needs, we call in one another's help to satisfy our various requirements; and when we have collected a number of helpers and associates to live together in one place, we call that settlement a state."

4. "no two people are born exactly alike. There are innate differences which fit them for different occupations." "we agreed that no one man can practise many trades or arts satisfactorily."

5. "So if a state is constituted on natural principles, the wisdom it possesses as a whole will be due to the knowledge residing in the smallest part, the one which takes the lead and governs the rest."

6. "Everyone ought to perform the one function in the community for which his nature best suited him. Well, I believe that that principle, or some form of it, is justice."

7. "when each order -- tradesman, Auxiliary, Guardian -- keeps to its own proper business in the commonwealth and does its own work, that is justice and what makes a just society."

Psychological Elements of the Individual

1. "We may call the part of the soul whereby it reflects, rational; and the other with which it feels hunger and thirst and is distracted by sexual passion and all the other desires, we will call irrational appetite, associated with pleasure in the replenishment of certain wants."

2. "anger is sometimes in conflict with appetite, as if they were two distinct principles. Do we not often find a man whose desires would force him to go against his reason, reviling himself and indignant with this part of his nature which is trying to put constraint on him? It is like a struggle between two factions, in which indignation takes the side of reason. But I believe you have never observed, in yourself or anyone else, indignation make common cause with appetite in behavior which reason decides to be wrong."

3. "Is it (anger, indignation), then, distinct from the rational element or only a particular form of it, so that the soul will contain no more than two elements, reason and appetite? Or, is the soul like the state, which had three orders to hold it together, traders, Auxiliaries, and counselors? Does the spirited element make a third, the natural auxiliary of reason, when not corrupted by bad upbringing?"

4. "We are fairly agreed that the same three elements exist alike in the state and in the individual soul."

5. "we shall conclude that a man is just in the same way that a state was just. And we have surely not forgotten that justice in the state meant that each of the three orders in it was doing its own proper work..... each one of us likewise will be a just person, fulfilling his proper function, only if the several parts of our nature fulfill theirs."

6. "it will be the business of reason to rule with wisdom and forethought on behalf of the entire soul; while the spirited element ought to act as its subordinate and ally. The two will be brought into accord, as we said earlier, by that combination of mental and bodily training which will tune up one string of the instrument and relax the other, nourishing the reasoning part on the study of noble literature and allaying the other's wildness by harmony and rhythm."

7. "so we call an individual brave in virtue of this spirited part of his nature, when, in spite of pain or pleasure, it holds fast to the injunctions of reason about what he ought or ought not to be afraid of."

8. "when there is no internal conflict between the ruling element and its two subjects (spirited and appetite), all are agreed that reason should be ruler."

9. "The just man does not allow the several elements in his soul to usurp one another's functions; he is indeed one who sets his house in order, by self-mastery and discipline coming to be at peace with himself, and bringing into tune those three parts,"


1. "must surely be a sort of civil strife among the three elements, whereby they usurp and encroach upon one another's functions and some one part of the soul rises up in rebellion against the whole, claiming a supremacy to which it has no right because its nature fits it only to be the servant of the ruling principle. Such turmoil and aberration we shall, I think, identify with injustice, intemperance, cowardice, ignorance, and in a word with all wickedness."

2. "virtue and wickedness are brought about by one's way of life, honorable or di