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Sean McAleer

Published On


Page Range

pp. 251-274

Print Length

23 pages

13. The Republic’s Second Question Answered

Three and a Half Arguments that the Just Life is Happier, Book IX

  • Sean McAleer (author)
Chapter of: Plato's 'Republic': An Introduction(pp. 251–274)
Chapter Thirteen, ‘The Republic’s Second Question Answered: Three and a Half Arguments that the Just Life is Happier’, explores the arguments Socrates gives in Book IX that the just life is happier—indeed, 729 times happier—than the unjust life. There are fascinating features of the first two arguments, for example that the tyrannical person is incapable of friendship and that each part of the soul has a distinctive kind of pleasure. The third argument, the Metaphysics of Pleasure Argument, argues that since what is more filling is more pleasant and what is more real is more filling, the Forms, being the most real things, ground the most pleasant pleasures. We discuss this argument at some length, noting its dependence on the Powers Argument but also exploring ways in which Socrates seems to anticipate and preemptively respond to objections. In the last argument, which Socrates does not identify as such (hence the ‘half’), is a metaphorical argument which, despite its being less philosophically rigorous than the Metaphysics of Pleasure Argument, is more intuitively persuasive and in no way relies on the problematic Powers Argument. This chapter concludes with a discussion of Plato’s paternalism: his view that most of us, being incapable of the philosophical wisdom that consists of knowledge of the good, are incapable of good self-governance, so we are all better off being governed by someone else’s (i.e., a philosopher-king’s or -queen’s) reason.


Sean McAleer