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Platon

Vivil Haraldsen: "Reason and the city-soul analogy in Plato’s "Republic""

In this talk Vivil Haraldsen will ask what light the city-soul analogy of Plato’s "Republic" casts on the conception of reason and reason’s rule in the soul in the dialogue, focusing on passages concerned with the vicious regimes in city and soul in Books 8-9 as well as passages explaining the analogy in relation to the just city and soul.

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Statue av Platon fra Aten med gudinnen Nike i bakgrunnen
Statue av Platon. Aten, Hellas.

The city-soul analogy of Plato’s Republic is among the most (in)famous features of the argument for justice presented in the dialogue. Commentators have argued that it is inconsistent and wrecks the dialogue’s argument, while others have argued that consistency can be salvaged if certain supposed lacunas are filled in when interpreting the analogy. On both lines of interpretation, however, it is standardly supposed that the analogy is intended to support conclusions not only concerning cities and souls, but also concerning the souls of people living under the political regimes described in the dialogue. In this vein, it is commonly assumed that the analogy implies that people living in the ideal city are just in the sense of having just souls, or alternatively, that only the philosopher-rulers in this city are just.

            This paper follows up on an argument advanced by G. R. F. Ferrari that the analogy does not warrant such conclusions since it is employed in an asymmetrical fashion, using patterns from the cities to illuminate states of the soul, but not the other way around. Therefore, it will be argued, the analogy plays a different role in the argument in defence of justice from the one commonly supposed. One important consequence is that the analogy does not warrant the claim that the philosopher-rulers represent the just soul. Rather, they represent the well-functioning reason in a just soul.

            The paper will ask what light the analogy casts on the conception of reason and reason’s rule in the soul in the dialogue, focusing on passages concerned with the vicious regimes in city and soul in Books 8-9 as well as passages explaining the analogy in relation to the just city and soul.