The Republic

Injustice and the Wretchedness of the Tyrant in Plato’s Republic College

In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, Socrates details the degenerative process of regime change, which transitions from kingship to timocracy to oligarchy to democracy to tyranny. Each regime has its analogue in the soul of man, which is structured in the same manner as the various classes in the regime. The tyrannical regime and the soul of the tyrant are particularly troubling given their democratic origins and the inevitability with which Socrates describes their development. Through dialogue with his interlocutors, Socrates will illuminate the injustice and wretchedness of the tyrant, arguing that justice and happiness can only be attained through the subordination of the appetitive and spirited parts of the soul to the rational part of the soul. Likewise, justice and happiness in a polity can only be realized when the classes of citizens most guided by their rational faculties rule over those citizens who are driven by the soul’s lower functions of desire and spiritedness. In doing so, Socrates successfully supports his earlier claim in Book V that no regime can establish justice unless “political power and philosophy coincide” (473d).

Socrates claims that tyranny is established “out of no other regime than democracy… the...

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