44 pages 1 hour read


The Republic

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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Chapters 3-4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “Fundamentals of Inner Politics”

To assess the question of individual morality, Socrates looks at whole communities, starting with their origin. To him, the community arises out of collective material want. Human beings have multiple needs, but “find that they aren’t self-sufficient” (59). In other words, a person discovers that, by their own labour, they cannot make everything (for example, all the clothes, food, and shelter one needs). To meet these wants we interact with others, exchanging goods. Further, different people have different talents. Thus, it also makes sense for individuals to specialise in the area to which they are best suited. For example, one man is better at making shoes, another at farming, another at weaving. Each person then devotes himself exclusively to his specific task and exchanges the surplus produced with others to meet his needs.

Socrates then elaborates on the nature of this division of labour. This involves trade with other communities and hence ship builders and merchants. The way of life of this community would be simple and healthy. However, Glaucon is unimpressed and remarks that it would resemble “a community for pigs” (63). Spurred on by this comment, Socrates examines the needs of a more advanced community. This would include artists, poets, actors, dancers, and more manufacturing.