The Republic: Novel Summary: Chapter 2
Next, Socrates considers justice on the individual level. Just as the model city is divided into classes, so is the human soul. One part of the soul is ruled by reason, another is ruled by spirit, and a third is ruled by appetite. The reason is derived from the wisdom of the wise elders, or philosopher-kings of the city. The other parts come from more base human instincts. Plato believes in moderation: each part should do its work, but not interfere with the other parts. This is of course parallel to the polis caste system, where class members are not suppose to intrude on the jobs of their superiors.
Soon, Socrates decides to elaborate on his city of perfection. He continues his description of the communal life by saying that marital monogamy is prohibited. Plato believes that everybody belongs to everybody else. Here, we seem to be reading Huxley's Brave New World.
To continue this strain, Socrates says that children will be taken by the government at a very early age, and the inferior babies will be left to die while the superior ones will be raised and educated by the government. In promoting this idea of "one big family," Plato intends to break down barriers of class and race, so that the pursuit of virtue can be foremost on everyone's mind. Yet the most important reason for his "social tampering" is to ensure the genetic superiority of the ruling class.
Also, Socrates expounds on his beliefs about war. He strongly discourages war between Greeks (i.e. Sparta vs. Athens) because he believes Greeks have a common identity and natural superiority as a single people. He also encourages the youth of the city to watch the battles to gain experience for future conflicts.
Soon, Plato expounds on the ruling class. Here, he gets into his ideal of philosopher kings. As alluded to before, Plato asserts that only a philosopher can possess true knowledge, based on the insight of the Forms- unchanging, divine laws that exist in another, imperceptible reality. The true philosopher loves the Forms and finds his deepest satisfaction in discovering and administering them. Here, as stated earlier, Plato touches on the Hebrew idea of monotheistic law. Yet the Hebrews would certainly not accept Plato's Brave New World-ish Utopia.
Next, Plato defends his philosopher-king idea. He does this by using the metaphor of a sea-faring vessel in which no leadership exists. While many good navigators exist, they are unable to steer the ship because other, more power-hungry individuals, assume control, despite their ignorance. Here, the philosophers are the skilled navigators who never get an opportunity to lead, due to their distaste for politics. This, of course, is how Plato sees the city of Athens at this time.