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By A cura di Giulio Preti

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Sample text

23 PLATO'S REPUBLIC There is a point of criticism, not explicitly raised in the text but identified by recent commentators, concerning the relationship between Thrasymachus' claims, Tl and T2. On the one hand, the view that justice involves benefiting rulers (Tl) ties in with the above example of taxation: just people pay taxes to those in government, advantaging the rulers (Tl) but making themselves financially worse off (T2). On the other hand, as Cross and Woozley note,6 Tl and T2 seem inconsistent when we consider the activities of rulers themselves.

There is a clear indication (415a-b), however, that in Socrates' view the children of guardian parents are most likely to qualify for a similar status, and likewise with the other social groups. And indeed, in Book V, he spells out a eugenic programme designed to breed the best possible guardians by bringing together illustrious parents, thus confirming a belief in the largely hereditary nature of intellectual and other human abilities. He does also admit that in some circumstances young people may show merit significantly above or below what one might expect given their birth, and that in these cases they should be placed in the class appropriate to their talents.

There are various ways of objecting to this argument, one of which is to reject the view that a soul has a function in the same way as eyes and knives. But Socrates has defined an object's function specifically as the activity characteristically associated with a thing of its kind, and it is plausible to assert that the characteristic activity of a human soul is to live a (human) life. There is still a serious problem with the argument, however, which is identified by Annas;11 and concerns the premise that the virtue, which best promotes a successful human life, is that of justice.

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