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In Book Four of The Republic, there is a lot of discussion about how the natures of virtue relate to the levels of the classes in a city as well as the levels in a virtuous soul.
First, in 424a, Socrates is discussing the one “great…sufficient—thing,” which is then defined further as “education and rearing.” Socrates argues, “sound rearing and education…produce good natures; and sound natures.” “Natures” seems to be referring to some important part that makes up the whole of a person. Here, sound education and rearing allow for a man to become a more virtuous person. It seems as though this practice is capitalized upon because it revolves completely around the idea that the result will be a better nature, a better person, and perhaps a better soul.
In contrast, the term “nature” seems to also be used to mean the natural world. In 421c, Socrates argued that nature is able to assign the proper levels of happiness. This is an interesting concept, based on the fact that this city has been completely fabricated by the original argument that set out to discover whether justice was better or worse than injustice and what happened to the man who had justice. Socrates and the others wanted to create a model city in order to find when and how justice would arise. To find nature in the city seems to point to the idea that there are some concepts, which exist in the whole that the group is trying to correct. The discussion of sickness in 444d points to the idea that the city being made here is perhaps one that is meant to correct or rid some form of sickness from the levels that occur naturally.
In 435b, Socrates is discussing at what point the city appeared the most virtuous. He states that the natures must be present in the classes so that each “minded its own business.” The list of the natures given in this section is “moderate, courageous, and wise.” These are the three qualities that Socrates believes contribute to the city being just. Here natures, means something along the same lines as it did in 424a. These outlined qualities are necessary for all classes and the success of the virtuous city. In 435c, Socrates draws the connection between this city and the soul of a virtuous man. The same forms that were needed in the virtuous city are needed in the levels of the soul to create the virtuous man.
On page 111, “prudence” is used in the list of natures in place of “wise.” Wisdom speaks to one’s experience and knowledge based on past events, while prudence speaks to one’s care for the future. Both are qualities that would be beneficial to the ruling class, however, as far as listing the core three natures, it seems as though wisdom is better suited for the list. While the order that the natures are given in does change in 433c, the values of these natures remain constant. It seems as though these natures can be directly tied to the levels of the soul as well. For example, be moderate- in desires, be courageous- in spirit, and be wise- in calculation. However, one can also deduce that because Socrates says in 432a that courage and wisdom reside in a part and moderation runs throughout the whole, that a combination of these natures must exist within each level. Socrates concludes that it is integral to the justice within the whole that each nature exists and relates to the levels.
The nature being described in 444d relates to the nature previously discussed in Book Three, 411b. In 411b, Socrates is discussing the way the soul is affected by music. He argues that by fully exposing the soul to music, the soul “begins to melt and liquefy…until he [a man] dissolves it completely and cuts out, as it were, the sinews from his soul and makes it ‘a feeble warrior’.” He goes on to discuss that the whole of the soul is better defined as the “mixture of gymnastic with music…in the most proper measure” (412a). Therefore, with the idea that music allows for the soul to separate from the body and the need for it’s desires, sets up the idea that perhaps the organization of the soul can be viewed separately from the needs of the body. From there Socrates concludes that more than making all of the parts into a complete, coercive whole, the whole is made of harmonious parts. Then, in 444b, it seems as though Socrates is arguing that the rebellious part of the soul is rebelling against nature. This can be interpreted as another analogy to purging the sickness from a virtuous nature. Here then the rebellious parts would be against nature, and the virtuous natures that lead to justice would be perfect nature.
Another part to note is the use of the quote from the Odyssey on page 120. Here Socrates has inserted a quote about Odysseus smiting his breast as he “reproached his heart with word.” Since it has already been discussed that Socrates thinks of Odysseus as the wisest man, the use of this quote to emphasize the calculating level’s rule over the other two shows the correct fashion of the virtuous whole. Odysseus’s actions in the quote are seen as a perfect example of how wisdom rules the highest organizational level, as well as the other natures that make up a virtuous whole. In 432a as well, it seems as though Socrates is stating that although the virtues run throughout the whole, one must rule in each level and that one level must then rule in each city.
There are many ways to interpret the use of nature throughout Book Four. The main points about natures that are well thought through in this section would be their relation to the virtuous whole and the role the three play in order to make the whole just.

20 Responses to “Nature in Relation to the Soul in Book Four”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    I think you do a very solid job of analyzing the virtues and the various levels. A lot of what I would normally say about this has already been said in class (either by me or by someone in the class discussion), so I will not rehash it here. But basically I think you have the correct account, especially concerning the ways that certain virtues (e.g., moderation) extend throughout the soul. On the way we’ve been reading the text, it looks like courage may extend through at least two sections, also. And then there’s the weird account of justice.

    One extra thing to note that we haven’t really discussed: it seems that what is being suggested is that even the best regime (soul?) contains within itself the germ of its destruction. As we’ll see in Book 8, the good regime necessarily devolves into the worse ones. Does this mean that virtue is only ever a temporary achievement? Or is this a claim about mortality? We’ll have to see.

    KH

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