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Republic 571a-580a Precis

Socrates now aims to consider the tyrannical man and whether he is wretched or happy. Socrates first

examines desires, defining those which are lawless. Shameless things, such as murder, are included under

this definition. In reality we can see men who hold these sorts of shameless things in check, and some

who cannot. However, Socrates argues that these lawless desires are present in everyone when dreaming

because the rational part of the soul is inactive. The tyrannical man exhibits these lawless desires even

while awake. The tyrannical man is the son of the democratic man. The father settled mid-way between

the ways of his father’s oligarchic desires and those of the corrupters to become democratic. In the same

way the tyrannical man will settle lower than his father, becoming frenzied and purged of moderation.

This is due to the erotic love instilled in him by his corrupters, which will fester and grow until he has

been consumed. The life of the tyrannical man is one which indulges constantly in feasts, luxuries and

girlfriends; a life ruled by the appetites. Eventually he will run out of money and will thus borrow more to

meet his desires. When his line of credit is no more he will resort to violence and force. He will steal from

his parents, loot temples and commit many unjust acts to satisfy his desires. Through this life of deceit

and violence he will eventually have no friends. At this point Socrates begins to equate the soul of the

man with a city ruled by a tyrant. As a city is enslaved, so the soul of the tyrant is enslaved by his erotic

love and its corresponding desires. The city is the poorest and full of fear. The soul of the tyrant is the

same, becoming the most wretched, according to Glaucon. However, Socrates does not believe this

‘private tyrant’ is the most wretched but that the tyrant who engages in political life will be even more so.

He compares this tyrant to a wealthy man with many slaves. This man does not fear his slaves on account

that other free man will come to his aid in an uprising. But, were this man to be taken away from this sort

of constitution he would need to use every means of negotiation to save his own life. Furthermore, if he

were placed in a constitution that did not tolerate slavery he would be in even more trouble. Likewise, the

tyrant, filled with fear and his desires is constantly at war within himself. He cannot travel for fear of

being killed, confined to his city and envying others. Not only is this reigning tyrant more wretched than

the private but he—the most unjust of all—is the least happy of all other types of rulers. This is the first

of three arguments Socrates will use to address the issue of injustice versus justice in itself.

Jay Matheson B00493718

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