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An essay concerning Bloom’s reading of the Republic

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  1. Introduction
  2. The problem of Socrates
  3. Comparing defences
    1. Socrates' arguments in his defence saying no person wants what is bad for them
    2. His defence of the philosophic lifestyle in general
    3. Plato's defence of philosophy
    4. Justifying the society via philosophy
  4. Conclusion
  5. Works cited

Philosopher and literary critic Allan Bloom (1968) writes that ?The Republic is the true Apology of Socrates, for only in the Republic does he give an adequate treatment of the theme which was forced on him by Athens' accusation against him. That theme is the relationship of the philosopher to the political community? (p. 307). What are we to make of such a claim? A more popular approach is to view the Apology and Republic as accomplishing different goals, with the former providing a historical portrait of Socrates on trial while the latter concerning itself with Plato's theory of the forms, and how they relate to the state and the individual. Though the two dialogues may be mutually reinforcing, they nonetheless perform different functions and address different subjects. This point is buoyed by the fact that most contemporary scholarship views the authorship of Plato critically, in that those texts he wrote early in his career did not seek to accomplish the same goals nor advocate the same system of philosophy which the latter texts did, such as the Republic. This being the case, Plato would have been in two very separate mind frames when writing the Apology and the Republic; to compare the two as inferior and superior is to miss this point.

[...] This is because Socrates' defense is more practical through its focus on dismissing the allegations brought against him, while Plato's needs to assume an entire metaphysical system and a radical (and radically unlikely) transformation of society to justify the philosophic personality. Conclusion The inadequacy of Plato's defense in practice leads us to question Bloom's statement that the Republic and the Apology serve the same purpose. Just because the Republic provides a justification of philosophy in terms of politics does not make it an effective case for defending the specific allegations against a specific philosopher. [...]

[...] In other words, whereas Socrates seeks to justify philosophy within the context of present government and society, Plato's Republic challenges the preconceived ideas of the structure of society in favour of one which will realize the philosophic lifestyle more readily. This, of course, leads to Plato's classic statement that until the philosophers rule as kings or those now called kings and chiefs genuinely and adequately philosophize, and political power and philosophy coincide in the same place, while the many natures now making their way to either apart from the other are by necessity excluded, there is no rest from ills for the cities . [...]

[...] This immediately informs our analysis of the texts, as the Republic relies heavily on the theory of the forms while Socrates's defence in the Apology does not. This gives us reason to believe that the Socrates of the Republic is more or less a mouthpiece for Plato, while the Socrates of the Apology is closer to the real-life human who was sentenced to death. This conclusion is bolstered by Friedrich Schleiermacher's reading of the Platonic dialogues. He writes specifically of the Apology that The Apology on the contrary, as a purely occasional piece can find no place in the series of the philosophical productions of its author. [...]

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