Books 8-9: Corrupt Constitutions


We've now heard what Plato thinks the ideal state and soul will be

Ideal State: The Republic

Ideal Soul: The Philosophical Soul

Common features:

  1. Well-ordered (each component plays its appointed role, and none interferes with the role of any other)
  1. Governed by (a view of) the Good.


Justice is desirable in itself, because it is a kind of health or thriving.


Well, granting that we're healthy if we're just, what if we're unjust?

The Five Constitutions

  1. Republic
  2. Timocracy
  3. Oligarchy
  4. Democracy
  5. Tyranny

Kinds of state, and kinds of soul.


In the state: rule by lovers of honor.

In the individual: brave and emotional, despising riches while young, but eventually seeing their allure. Resentful of the world for not prizing virtue.


In the state: rule by money-makers.

In the individual: fearful and covetous, aware of the fragility of his fortune and eager to protect himself by gathering riches. Outwardly more respectable than the Timocratic person. Inwardly worse.


The Rise of Democracy

Observing the oligarchic rulers, the poor classes created by oligarchy

[cannot] avoid drawing the conclusion that men like him are only rich because no one has the courage to to despoil them.

They rise up and institute majority rule.

Characteristics of Democracy


"is the city not full of freedom and frankness---a man may say and do what he likes?"


In this state there will be likely to be every sort of human nature?

There will

This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of states, being like the embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower.


how grandly does she trample [the laws of the city] under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a statesman, and promoting to honour anyone who professes to be the people's friend.

The Democratic Person

Unlike the oligarchic person

  • not driven only by appetites
  • lives in the present

Regards all motives as equal:

If someone says to him that some pleasures are satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he ought to use and honour some and chastise and master the others... he shakes his head and says that they are all alike.

Result: a chaotic and impulsive life

he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour... Sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of the philosopher; often he is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head... his life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom.


The Rise of Tyranny

In Democracy---

How sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority, and at length, as you know, they cease to care for laws... they will have no one over them

Such, my friend, is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny.

Divisions emerge in the democratic state, between the wealthy and the common people, fueled by politicians who play them against one another.

The people always have some champion whom they set over themselves... This, no other, is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he is first above ground he is a protector.

As he exercises his authority lawlessly, he accumulates power and enemies in a kind of vicious cycle, grabbing more power to protect himself, and making more enemies in the process.

some of those who joined in setting him up, and who are in power, speak their minds to him and to one another... The tyrant, if he wishes to rule, must get rid of them... And therefore must look about him and see who is valiant , who is high-minded, and who is wise... happy man [the tyrant] is enemy of them all, and must seek occasion against them... until he he has made a purgation of the state.

He surrounds himself with the worst sort of people, who are unlikely to have any principles that might drive them to oppose him.

Thus he rules, from the bottom of a snakepit, struggling to remain strong enough to stay one step ahead of all the people he has harmed.

The Tyrannical Soul

Partisans of one set of desires

contrive to implant [in the tyrannical person] a master passion, to be lord over his idle and spendthrift lusts---a sort of monstrous winged drone...

At last, Madness for the captain of his guard, breaks out in a frenzy; and if he finds in himself any good opinions or appetites... and there is in him any sense of shame remaining, to these better principles he puts an end.

his master passion

leads him on... to the performance of any reckless deed by which [the passion] can maintain himself and the rabble of his associates

Such men

associate only with their own flatterers or ready tools; or if they want anything from anybody , they in turn are ready to bow down before them... They are always the masters or servants and never the friends of anybody; the tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship.

His soul is full of meanness and vulgarity---the best elements in him are enslaved; and there is a small ruling part, which is also the worst and the maddest.

The worst life

A tyrannical soul at the head of a tyrannical state.