PHIL 41150: Political Philosophy
Dr. Robert Lane
Lecture Notes: Wednesday January 15, 2003

[3.] Justice of the Polis (Republic IV).


[3.1.] Wisdom, Bravery, Temperance. After describing the structure of his ideal republic, Plato continues his search for justice in the polis. His view seems to be something like this:

         a polis that is just will also be wise, courageous and temperate (temperance = moderation, self-control).

         so, by first understanding wisdom, bravery and temperance, we'll be better prepared to understand justice itself.


In Book IV, he describes the first two of those three virtues (wisdom and courage) as being centered, respectively, in two of the classes he described earlier. Each class has its distinctive function and its distinctive virtue:






to make decisions that affect the entire polis

wisdom -- knowledge of what's good for the polis as a whole ("prudence in counsel" 428b, p.70)

auxiliaries / warriors

to defend the state

courage -- the "power ... to hold fast continually the right and lawful opinion concerning things to be feared and things not to be feared." 430b, p.72


The third virtue, temperance, is not localized in one class; rather, it


spreads throughout the whole, producing a unison between the weakest and the strongest and the middle part, whether you measure by the standard of prudence, or bodily strength, or numbers, or wealth, or anything else of the kind: so that we shall be fully justified in pronouncing temperance to be that unanimity, which we described as a concord between the naturally better element and the naturally worse, whether in a city or in a single person, as to which of the two has the right to rule. (432a, p.73, emphasis added)


In other words, temperance is a sort of self-mastery that obtains when the worse, weaker part of an entity is controlled by the better, stronger part: in the polis, temperance = the better, stronger part of the citizenry (the rulers) being in control of the worse, weaker part (everyone else: auxiliaries, merchants/producers).


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