Christian Analysis of "The Republic of Plato"

10. Book X


Socrates begins discussing the problem with poets that lead many souls astray because they create an imitation of the truth (595b; 597c-598c). He states that if they did have knowledge they would be different people than they are.  Since the poet has no knowledge, he is unable to teach virtue (599c-601a).

Poets corrupt decent men and cause the formation of a bad regime in the soul by gratifying the soul’s foolish part, which is unable to distinguish big ideas from littler ones (605b). Though it makes Socrates a little bit sad for its loss, imitative poetry prevents the immortal soul from growing to it greatest potential and receive it greatest reward (608c-d)

Socrates then declares the immortal soul’s existence with the argument that pronounced its evils as ignorance and injustice that are unable to destroy it (609b).

In conclusion, Socrates has proven that the just man seems to be unjust, and the unjust seems to be just. Amazingly, Socrates admits that this does not escape the notice of the gods (612e). He also points out that everything that comes to the man that is dear to the gods is the best possible, “except for any necessary evil that was due to him for former mistakes?”[1] (613a). There are rewards for the just man, and punishments for the unjust.

Socrates speaks of his confidence in justice by telling the story of Er, son of Armenius that died in war but remained undecayed.  On the twelth day as they prepared to burn his body, he came back to life on the pyre and accounted what he saw.  The myth speaks of the rewards and punishments in the afterlife for 1000 years, then brought together to choose either an animal or human life to live in the next cycle. He presents a rational cosmic order to each individual’s fate that corresponds to their just virtues or their unjust sins.[2]  But, if philosophy has not been included with the justness, the journey is without benefit; only those that are philosophical while alive will choose correctly.  All others will bounce from happiness to sadness with every cycle of life and death that comes. Socrates concludes that man can obtain self-sufficient happiness through the practice of moderation and harmonization of the different segments of the soul, and thus, live eternally, as permitted by the gods.

Christian Application

[1] Plato, The Republic of Plato - Translated with Notes and an Interpretive Essay by Allan Bloom, trans., Allan Bloom, Second ed. (Basic Books, 1968), 296.

[2] Ibid., 436.