The Ship of State (Republic 488a-489d) in its contexts

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Long, Alex
Ancient Philosophy; Classics
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I begin by explaining the plurality of contexts and the relationship between them: (i) the discussion of images in the Republic; (ii) the discussion of Callipolis; (iii) the analogy in other literature; (iv) the sequence of images in Books 6 and 7. I then focus on the immediate context, where Adeimantus criticises question-and-answer argument and Socrates suggests that the problem – explaining the contemporary attitude to philosophers – does not easily admit of proof. I consider what Socrates’ suggestion means and argue that it reflects the contrast between, on the one hand, the philosophers’ character and development, which can be established through dialectical argument, and, on the other hand, the mindset of those hostile to philosophers. I explore how the image addresses these difficulties and why Socrates draws attention to the complexity of the image. I then ask how we should characterize this context and argue that the most appropriate label is ‘Socratic’.