The Freud museum

Exhibit 2: Plato’s Republic

The Republic

This book, Plato’s Republic, was published in ‘The Penguin Classics’ series in 1955. It’s held together by sellotape.

Background note: Turmoil and political problems in the city-state of Athens gave Plato reason to lose faith in Politics: he concluded that a society watched over and guided by philosopher-kings would be preferable even to democracy. Although initially concerned with defining the nature of justice, Plato, through Socrates, challenges the reader with a question that is rarely asked outside the disciplines of politics and sociology: What are the underlying principles of any society? Socrates immediately focuses his analysis by examining how a community comes into existence. First, he identifies the principle of mutual need: society originates because the individual is not self-sufficient. Individual persons have many needs that cannot be met alone. Mutuality and interdependence lie at the very core of society. Second, Socrates identifies the principle of different aptitudes: ‘No two of us are born exactly alike. We have different aptitudes which fit us for different jobs.’ He goes on to say that it is best for all if each of us concentrates on developing his or her particular aptitude. (It is possible to link this principle with the contemporary emphasis on specialisation – or even ‘diversity’.)

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