Phil. 1100, Intro. to Ethics

R. N. Johnson



1.    What are the three categories of good things, according to Glaucon? (357b-d) In what categories do clean air, a fishing rod, a wrench, good music, and love belong? Why? Do you think this is a clear categorization? Why or why not?

2.    In which category of good things does Glaucon believe that the just life belongs? Where does Socrates believe that it belongs? Explain precisely how they disagree. (357a-358a)

3.    Explain the origin of the rules of justice according to Glaucon. What does this show about justice, according to Glaucon, and is he right? Why or why not? (358e-359c)

4.    Explain the myth of Gyges and why Glaucon brings it up. (359d-360e) What is it supposed to show about being just? Does it show this? Why or why not?


5.    Explain how Glaucon proposes to separate the just from the unjust life, in order to judge which is the better life (360e-361d). What purpose does this separation serve for Glaucon's overall challenge?


6.    Summarize Adiemantus' replies (there are several) to the objection that one cannot get the benefits of being just simply by appearing to be just, since it is much too difficult to appear just when one is actually unjust. (365c-d)


7.    Summarize Adiemantus' reply to the objection that, even if we manage to appear just to other people, surely we cannot fool the gods. (365d-366b) Try to extend his reply to more familiar religious views. Can it be extended to all that you know of? Why or why not?


8.    What method does Socrates propose for discovering what justice is? Why does he think this is a good method? (368c-369b)


9.    What is the origin of the state, according to Socrates? (369b-d)


10. What is the reasoning behind the division of labor Socrates proposes? (369d-370c)


11. Explain how a "guardian" class emerges in a state. (373d-375)


12. Socrates seems to think that the character of a dog is somehow related to the ideal Guardian's character. (376a-c) Explain.


13. What is the difference between a "true" falsehood, and a falsehood in words? (382a-e) Which is worse, according to Socrates? Why?







1.    What qualities must the rulers have and why? Which quality seems to be the most important? (412c-414)


2.    Socrates claims that "one loves something when one believes that what is good for it is good for oneself". (412d) Is this true? What role does it play in Socrates' discussion?


3.    What role does the "myth of the metals" play in Socrates' ideal state? (414b-416a) Explain why this is what Socrates calls a falsehood in word only (as opposed to a "true" falsehood). Think of some contemporary analogues of this myth, and discuss some of the concerns one might have about a government deploying such a device.


4.    Summarize the nature of the guardians' lives. Why can't the guardians have private property or touch gold and silver? (415d-417a)




1.    What is Adiemantus' objection to communal property for the guardians? How does Socrates respond to this? Are you convinced by Socrates? Why or why not? (419a-421c)


2.    What's wrong with the existence of extreme wealth in the Ideal State? With the existence of poverty? (421d-422a)


3.    The Ideal State will not have to worry about being conquered. Why? (421a-423a)


4.    What is the "one great thing" the guardians must always guard? Why is this so important? Do you agree? Why or why not?


5.    Socrates proposes a process of elimination to find justice in the ideal state. (427e-428a) What problems do you see with this approach?


6.    Describe the three cardinal virtues other than justice and explain how they are exemplified in the ideal state. (427e-432b)


7.    Socrates wants Glaucon and Adiemantus to accept his account of courage as an account of "civic" courage. Evidently, he believes that a full account of the virtue of courage would be somewhat different, or at least fuller, than his account. What do you think his account of civic courage leaves out of a full account of courage? (429b-430c)


8.    Explain Socrates conception of justice in the state and why he believes that his account gives us the essence of justice. (433a-434d) Can you think of elements of justice that have been left out of his account? Do you think that Socrates could bring them into his account? Explain.


9.    What principle does Socrates invoke to defend the view that the feature of states that makes them just will be the same as the feature that makes individual people just? (435a-b) Think of some examples that fit this principle and some that don't. Do you think this is a sufficient reason to agree with Socrates that there is such a correspondence? Why or why not?


10. Socrates argues that the individual soul must have three parts because the state does. (435d-e) What is his argument and what is wrong with it?


11. Explain the principle that "the same thing will not be willing to do or undergo opposites in the same part of itself, in relation to the same thing, at the same time." (436b)


12. What is Socrates' argument for there being at least two parts of the soul? (436b-439d) What are his arguments for there being another part in addition to these two? (439d-441c) Do you think that he has successfully shown that there are really "parts" to the soul, and that there are exactly three of them? Explain your answer.


13. Explain how each of the three cardinal virtues other than justice are exemplified in the individual soul. (441c-442d)


14. What makes an action, as opposed to a soul, unjust or just, according to Socrates? Do you agree with Socrates? Why or why not? (443c-444d)


15. Glaucon & Socrates agree on an argument which will show in a preliminary way that the just life is better than the unjust at the end of Book IV. What is the argument? Is it a good one? Why or why not?





1.    At 544e (see also 435e-436) Socrates argues that there are just as many types of people as there are types of cities or states. What is his argument? What is wrong with that argument?


2.    Explain what the four kinds of corrupt governments and characters are. Why does each kind of government collapse and lead to the next kind?


3.    Why will even the ideal state deteriorate?


4.    "When wealth and the wealthy are honored in a city, virtue and the virtuous are prized less." (551a) What arguments might support this claim?


5.    What is the difference between necessary and unnecessary desires? (558d-559c) What role does this distinction play in Socrates' views?


6.    What are Socrates' objections to democracy? Do you agree with him that it is one of the worst forms of government? Why or why not? What sort of argument might one come up with to defend democracy against his attacks?


7.    Why is a "democratic' state of the soul objectionable? If you agree with Socrates' criticisms of the democratic soul, he would insist that you must also agree with his criticisms of the democratic state. Explain why. Do you think that you must? Why or why not?





1.    What are lawless desires? Explain Socrates' conception of the "tyrannical" personality. (571a-579e)


2.    How is it that a tyranical personality who becomes a real tyrant is really "in greatest need, and is truly poor" (579e)? True?


3.    Summarize and critically evaluate the first "proof" for thinking that the truly just man, independent of reputation, will be happier than the truly unjust man. (580d)


4.    Summarize and evaluate the second "proof". (580-583b)


5.    Why is pure pleasure not merely the absence of pain, and pure pain not merely the absence of pleasure? (583c-584c)


6.    Summarize the third "proof". (583c-588b)


7.    Why does it make no difference to Socrates' argument whether the ideal state exists? (592a-b)