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We are introducing several new series to our catalog of audio books. Each script is about 10K words. They are biographies, classical philosophy books, history and science scripts. Our budget is very limited since there are tons of titles. We will assign up to 10 titles per narrator if we like the voice and quality of work. Each script has a one week deadline. We are adding new scripts all the time and will assign more as they get completed. Please provide a custom sample of your voice reading the piece provided. Please place a per script bid. One of the scripts is provided below. 
2007-10-01 17:25:37 GMT
2007-10-08 17:00:00 (GMT -05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada) 
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AudioLearn’s Philosophy Classics: Plato’s Republic

Section One
AudioLearn’s Philosophy Classics presents Plato’s Republic. Welcome to our discussion of this classical work.

Plato was one of the world’s first political scientists. His most famous work, The Republic, was written twenty-four and a half centuries ago – 360 years before the birth of Christ. Yet many of the debates he provoked, issues he raised, and insights he provided are still with us today.

In this first section of our discussion of the Republic, we’ll provide an overview of Plato’s life and times. You may have heard the expression, “The unexamined life isn’t worth living.” Well, that came from Plato, and in the second section we’ll examine the known details of his life. To appreciate the many messages in The Republic, you’ll need to know something about the political and social situation of Athens in Plato’s day. That’s what we’ll present in Section Three. Section Four will give you with a summary of The Republic. Section Five will feature a more detailed examination of The Republic, with a look at each of the ten books that comprise the text. In Section Six we’ll look at some of the ways The Republic remains relevant today despite the passage of many centuries.

The translation of The Republic from the Greek we’ll be using as a reference is the one by the English educator and Greek scholar Benjamin Jowett. There are many translations, some of them more recent, but for contractual and copyright reasons, and because of its excellent quality, we’ll use Jowett’s version. Scholars still use and respect it even though it was done in 1892. Jowett’s translation is available on line.

The main thrust of The Republic is the search for Justice. In the long discussions about how to achieve justice many other themes emerge. You’ll recognize many of them as live issues today. Should we seek justice for the state, like the system that prevails under the Civil Code, or justice for the individual as occurs under English system of common law? How much state intervention is necessary or desirable in the good society? What must a person do to become just? What kind of leader should the state have? What is the Good? Is the just society a worthwhile goal? These are some of the questions that tantalized society in Plato’s time and tantalize it today.

Plato knew that simply writing down his ideas would only result in controversy, and so he presents them in the form of long conversations among a group of friends. He called them dialogs rather than debates. The teacher in each of the dialogs is Socrates, the man who had been Plato’s mentor during his youth and who was arguably the best teacher of the era. Others in the group challenge the ideas Socrates puts forward and raise doubts about their correctness. The style Plato adopted was the one used in presenting a script for a play, with the speaker’s name written at the start of his speech. With other characters challenging the points Socrates was making, Plato could defend his arguments while recognizing that other ways looking at an issue.

There is some disagreement over how many of the ideas put forward by the Socrates of the dialogs were actually articulated by Socrates the man. Many scholars believe that in some cases, especially in the later dialogs, Plato used Socrates as a mouthpiece for his own thoughts.

Plato was one of the most prolific writers of his time. He is definitely credited with at least twenty-three dialogs, and there is scholarly disagreement about the authorship of several others. The Republic is one of the longest dialogs. The Apology is about the death of Socrates in 399 B.C. Menexus, Gorgias, and Protagoras are dialogs in which Socrates is invited to converse with a well-known wise man who is visiting Athens. Other dialogs, such as Euthyphro and Crito, involve just two characters who are not said to be overheard by anyone else.


Section Two
Welcome to Section Two of our discussion of Plato’s Republic. In this section we will describe Plato’s life and works.

Much is speculated and little is confirmed about Plato’s life. Most scholars think he was born in or around the year 428 Before Christ. Historical rumor has it that he was descended from a former king of Athens. It’s certain that his family was wealthy and probably belonged to the ruling oligarchy. He had two brothers, Adeimantus and Glaucon, and a sister, Potone.

Diogenes Laertius, a biographer of philosophers from the third century Before Christ, says Plato’s given name was Aristocles. According to his account, Aristocles’ wrestling coach nicknamed him “Platon,” meaning “broad,” because of his robust figure, and the name stuck. Laertius adds that he was a good wrestler.

Plato founded his famous school, the Academy, when he was about forty years old. The Academy was likely the first institution of its kind, and it stands as the model for the Western university. The campus on which the Academy was located had once been the property of the citizen Academus. It opened its doors in 385 B.C. and continued operating for more than nine centuries. Finally in 529 A.D. Justinian the First of Byzantium saw it as a threat to Christianity and ordered it closed.

During Plato’s lifetime the Academy received students from the entire Mediterranean region. Its curriculum included metaphysics, which is the study of what is real; epistemology, which inquires into knowledge, belief, and thought; and ethics; politics; and the natural and mathematical sciences.

In his dialogs, Plato kept himself in the background. His spokesman is Socrates. Tradition suggests that the dialogs form a pseudo-history of the teachings of Socrates, but contradictions and chronological discrepancies in the works put this view in some doubt. Indeed, it’s not certain how many of the dialogs took place at all.

Plato liked to use analogies or similes in his dialogs, and these could be as powerful as the arguments. One of the most famous is his comparison of the philosopher to the medical doctor. He says the philosopher cures the mind of its worst affliction, which is ignorance, while the doctor cures the body of illness. Apparently Plato believed in an afterlife because he has Socrates comparing the body to a prison for the soul. Again, he said the soul is like a charioteer trying to manage a pair of horses overcome with lust as they pass a mare. The best-known analogy of all is the allegory of the Cave. We’ll examine that one in some depth during our detailed discussion of The Republic.

Even though Plato’s teacher Socrates left no writings, his reputation as one of the greatest teachers of all time remains intact today. But his teachings offended some members of the Athenian oligarchy and eventually he was forced to stand trial on trumped-up charges. Found guilty, he was condemned to death in 399 B.C. He accepted the verdict without bitterness, saying a death sentence wouldn’t rob a seventy-year-old man of very many years of life. The trial of Socrates was the central event of the greatest Platonic dialogs. The Apology, which is the dialog that describes Socrates’ defense at his trial, is the most widely read of Plato’s works.

It seems that Plato was a lifelong bachelor. No mention of a wife is made in the biographies. In the Symposium dialog, he tells a group of friends that he learned everything he knows about love from the sorceress Diotima. He says she taught him that men who are sexually attracted to women are misguided, because they are searching for immortality through their children. Ideas, she told him, are more likely to make a man famous than are his progeny. In Plato’s time his sexual orientation does not appear to have been an issue. Indeed, two of the dialogs, Phaedrus and The Symposium, deal with the theme of man-boy love.

Plato continued his work at The Academy until his death in 347 B.C., when he was about eighty years old. He interrupted his work at the Academy twice to travel to Sicily, where he was one of the world’s first political consultants. One of the greatest tributes to Plato’s teachings and their continuing influence in our time was given by Alfred North Whitehead, an English philosopher and mathematician. He said, “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

Over the course of the many dialogs, the personage of Socrates, through the pen of Plato, provided views on politics, art, religion, science, justice, medicine, virtue and vice, crime and punishment, pleasure and pain, and many other issues that still hold our attention in the twenty-first century.

The science of mathematics, dialectics, the principles of definition, the law of contradiction, the fallacy of circular arguments, the distinction between means and ends, and other observations and assertions are all products of pioneering adventures in thought by this great author.

The works of Plato disappeared from Western culture for many centuries. Fortunately, they had been preserved on the other side of the Mediterranean and had even been translated into Arabic. They were brought back from Constantinople in the fourteenth century by George Gemistos Plethon. For a long time medieval scholars only knew of Plato third-hand – through translations into Latin from the translations into Arabic by Persian and Arab scholars.


Section Three
Welcome to Section Three of our discussion of Plato’s Republic. Since Plato’s writings were partly a response to the political and social issues of his time, it’s useful look at the political and social environment in which Plato lived and worked. That’s what we’ll do in this section.

One of the most important things to be aware of is that Attica, as ancient Greece is often called, was not a unified state in Plato’s time. It consisted of dozens of small city-states. Aristotle, one of Plato’s students at the Academy, collected the constitutions of one hundred and fifty-eight of these states for an analysis of different types of government in his work, The Politics. That’s why the words “state” and “city” are interchangeable in Plato’s writings. The states he knew consisted of a city and its surrounding area.

Athens was the wealthiest city-state in the region. Like Britain in the nineteenth century, its prosperity was based on the fact that many Athenian families had made their fortunes from trade. Like nineteenth century Britain, Athens developed a powerful navy to defend its shipping lanes and its merchant fleet.

The population of Athens at the time Plato lived is thought to have been between two hundred and fifty thousand and three hundred thousand. After one eliminates all of the women, children, slaves, and lesser tradesmen from the count, there were about thirty thousand citizens with a right to vote.

During a century or more before Plato was born, in or around the year 428 Before Christ, Athens was a functioning democracy, at least for the thirty thousand voting citizens. City counselors were selected by lottery with a rotating presidency, the justice system was trial by jury, and every citizen had a right to petition the council on issues that concerned them.

But the Athens of Plato’s time was in a state of flux. By the year 400 B.C it had just lost the Peloponnesian War against Sparta, a war that had sapped its resources and men for 28 years. After the war democracy gave way to oligarchy, the rule of a relatively small number of wealthy families.

This was the political environment that prevailed when The Republic appeared.

As well, it would seem that democratic values were giving way to decadence. With growing prosperity the sons of wealthy families became more materialistic and more decadent. These new attitudes were reinforced by the teaching of the Sophists.

In the dialogs Plato often has Socrates speaking out against the Sophists and their teachings. He debates with them, and through debate their views are presented as well. The sophists were materialists who taught a variety of materialistic values and even moral relativity and selfishness. Ivan Boesky, the Wall Street trader who famously said, “Greed is good,” a few months before being sent to prison on charges of insider trading in the 1980s, would have been a Sophist. In The Republic the Sophist Thrasymachus argues that immorality is a virtue because it enables us to advance in the competition of life. In the Gorgias, Callicles claims that conventional morality is unjust because it deprives the strong of their natural right to exploit the weak.

Another effect of prosperity in Athens was its rise as a cultural center and a magnet for artists. The arts were still flourishing in Plato’s time, but the previous century had been the golden age of Greek culture. That was the epoch when some of the greatest classical artists and playwrights lived.

Relationships between men and boys are known to have been widely accepted and condoned in ancient Greece. Some city-states prohibited it but many others did not. A large component of these relationships involved mentoring the youths, and many of the friendships were not at all sexual. In Plato’s dialogs Socrates speaks against sexual intercourse with the boys one loved. He glorifies the self-disciplined lover who abstains from it. That’s where our modern concept of “Platonic love” comes from – a non-sexual affectionate relationship involving two people of either sex. Plato’s ideal of love was a chaste but passionate relationship where sexual passion is redirected into the intellectual and emotional spheres.

Plato’s dialogs deal frankly with man-boy relationships. It appears that not only were homosexual practices widely accepted, homophobia was non-existent. It’s true that the charges leveled against Socrates included failing to recognize the gods of the state, of inventing new deities, but also of corrupting the youth of Athens. However, even there it’s not clear whether the oligarchy was more concerned about pederasty or the radical political ideas he was promoting.


Section Four
Welcome to Section Four of our discussion of The Republic of Plato. In this section we’ll provide an overview of the work to help prepare you for the book-by-book discussion in Section Five.

Plato’s Republic is the greatest of all his dialogs. Its main purpose is to define justice so as to show that it is a worthwhile goal in and of itself. He approaches this by relating it to human psychology rather than to perceived behavior.

There are many digressions along the way, and even the digressions form a fascinating body of knowledge. The story about the sailors who all wanted to be captain of the ship, the myth of Er, and the famous analogies of the Sun, the Line, and the Cave are all woven into the main argument about justice.

Plato was probably the first idealist. Surprisingly, he did not rate democracy as the top of the political scale. That’s because in a democracy we find many self-centered citizens who vote for what’s good for them while ignoring the good of the State. Plato’s ideal city is a monarchy in which the state counts for more than the individual. It is headed by a philosopher king who knows what is best for the city.

Plato’s strategy in The Republic is first to explain the primary notion of societal or political justice, then to develop a parallel concept of individual justice. Book One serves as a general introduction. In Books Two, Three and Four, Plato identifies political justice as harmony in a structured political body.

Plato says an ideal society consists of three classes of people. The first class is the Producers – craftsmen, farmers, artisans, lawyers, and merchants – those who produce goods and services. The second class consists of the auxiliaries or Warriors, the soldiers or policemen whose job is to defend the state. The third class consists of the guardians, who are the Rulers.

A society is just when these three classes operate in harmony. Each group must perform only its own function. Rulers must rule, auxiliaries must uphold the rulers’ convictions; and producers must exercise the skills nature has given them. The principle of specialization calls for each person to fulfill his role and not interfere with the others.

At the end of Book Four, Plato develops his view that individual justice mirrors the political justice of the state. He says the soul of every individual has a three part structure similar to the three classes of a society. The rational part of the soul seeks truth and is responsible for our philosophical inclinations. There is a spirited part of the soul, which strives for honor and is responsible for our feelings of anger and indignation. The appetitive part of the soul lusts after material things and money. If you’re familiar with the works of Sigmund Freud, the nineteenth century founder of modern psychology, you’ll recognize these tendencies in his description of the id, the ego, and the superego.

The just individual can be defined alongside the just society because the three parts of his soul have the same relationships of power and influence in regard to one another. In a just individual, the rational part of the soul rules. The spirited part of the soul supports this rule, and the appetitive part submits and follows wherever reason leads. In a just person the soul aims at fulfilling the desires of the rational part in the same way that in the just society the community aims at fulfilling the rulers’ will.

Plato tells us that the parallels between the just society and the just individual run deep. Each of the three classes of society is dominated by one of the three parts of the soul. Producers are dominated by their appetites – the urge for money, luxury, and pleasure. Warriors are dominated by their spirits, which give them courage. Rulers are dominated by their rational faculties, and so they strive for wisdom.

Books Five through Seven focus on the rulers acting as “philosopher kings.” Plato explains who the philosopher kings are and how they are related to his theory of the Forms.

In his theory of the Forms Plato says the world is divided into two realms. One is the visible, which we understand through our senses. The other is what he calls the intelligible, which we can understand only with our mind. The visible world is the one we see around us. The intelligible world is comprised of the Forms. Plato tells us that the Forms are abstract, changeless absolutes such as Goodness, Beauty, Redness, and Sweetness. They exist in permanent relation to the visible realm and make the visible possible. An apple is red and sweet because it participates in the Forms of Redness and Sweetness. Only the Forms are real objects of knowledge because only they possess the eternal unchanging truth that the mind – and not the senses – can apprehend.

One implication is that only philosophers whose minds are properly trained can grasp the Forms can know anything at all. In order to be able and just rulers the philosophers must know the Form of the Good. The Form of the Good is the source of all other Forms, and of knowledge, truth, and beauty.

Among Plato’s many intellectual talents was mathematics, and it’s likely that geometry was the origin of the theory of the Forms. If you draw a line, or a forty-five degree angle, or a triangle or a circle, it could be argued that all you have are representations of these geometric shapes. A line has only one dimension, but the width of your pencil mark gives it two, although one is very narrow. We ignore the second dimension for the purposes of a geometric exercise, but nevertheless it is only a representation of an abstract, absolute Line. Plato’s view of Goodness, Redness, and Sweetness are parallel to the abstract geometric concept of the Line.

Plato finds that his Forms are too abstract to be described directly, so he uses analogies. He says the Form of the Good is to the intelligible realm what the sun is to the visible realm. Using the allegory of the cave, Plato paints an evocative portrait of the philosopher’s soul moving through the stages of cognition through visible reality into the intelligible reality, and finally grasping the Form of the Good. He says education should not try to put knowledge into the soul. Instead, it should try to put the right desires into it – to instill the correct values. The way to do that is to fill the soul with a longing for truth, so that it wants to move past the visible world into the intelligible, and ultimately to the Form of the Good.

Philosophers are the only class of men who possess knowledge. Because they value truth above all else they are the most just men. To emphasize the importance of the ruler being a philosopher king, he contrasts this type of ruler to the most unjust man – the tyrant. In light of that comparison, Plato contends that justice is worthwhile for its own sake.

In Book Nine Plato presents three arguments for believing that it’s desirable to be just. As he sketches his psychological portrait of the tyrant, he shows that injustice tortures a man’s psyche. In contrast, the just soul is a healthy, happy one. Next he argues that each of the three main character types – money-loving, honor-loving, and truth-loving – has its own idea of pleasure and the good life. However, only the philosopher is wise enough to judge which is best because only he has experienced all three types of pleasure. The others should accept the philosopher’s judgment and conclude that the philosophical pleasures are the most pleasant, and that the just life is the best. He says that only philosophical pleasure is really pleasure at all, and that all other pleasure is simply the cessation of pain.

None of these arguments proves that justice is desirable apart from its consequences. Instead they establish that it’s always accompanied by true pleasure. The just life is good in and of itself because it involves grasping these ultimate goods, imitating their order and harmony, thereby incorporating them into one’s own life. In other words, justice is good because it’s connected to the Form of the Good, although he hints that the just man fares better in the afterlife.

Plato ends the Republic with a nasty comment on the arts. Having defined justice and established it as the greatest good, he says that poets must be banished from his city. He says poets appeal to the basest part of the soul by imitating unjust inclinations. By encouraging us to indulge ignoble emotions in sympathy with the characters depicted in poetry, and by extension in drama, poets encourage us to indulge these emotions. In other words, poetry contributes to making us unjust.


Section Five
Welcome to Section Five of our discussion of the Republic of Plato. In this section we’ll provide a more detailed examination of the work. The Republic is a long and intellectually challenging work. Some of the conclusions reached within its ten books are difficult to grasp because of the complexity of Plato’s ideas and unfamiliar philosophical terminology. There are differences of scholarly opinion on some points. We’ll try to present Plato’s main ideas as clearly as possible.

In The Republic Plato sets out to answer two questions: what is justice? and why should we be just? Book One is the scene setter that establishes these challenges.

When Book One opens, Socrates is returning home from a religious festival with his young friend Glaucon, one of Plato’s brothers. The travelers meet Adeimantus, another brother of Plato, and the young nobleman Polemarchus, who invites them to his house. There they join Polemarchus’ father Cephalus and others. The discussion turns to the subject of justice.

Socrates poses the question, “What is justice?” Then he refutes every suggestion offered but gives no definition of his own. All that’s achieved is that the others feel less sure of their beliefs. This is a familiar scenario in Plato’s dialogues. The dialogs usually end when the discussion reaches this deadlock. The Republic moves beyond and Socrates develops his theory of justice over the next nine books.

Cephalus is a rich, respected city elder and the group’s host. He’s Plato’s spokesman for tradition. He says justice means living up to your legal obligations and being honest. But Socrates counters by asking whether one should return a weapon to a madman. Legally you should, yet this would be unjust since it would jeopardize others.

At this point, Cephalus excuses himself to meet another commitment and his son Polemarchus gives his definition. He says justice means that you owe friends help and enemies harm. Polemarchus offers the view of the ambitious young politician.

Socrates replies that our judgment concerning friends and enemies is fallible, so this could harm good people and help bad ones. Not all of our friends are virtuous, nor are all of our enemies evil.

Now Thrasymachus, a Sophist, speaks up. Sophists were educators hired as tutors to the sons of the wealthy. Many of them did not to believe in objective truth or objective standards of right and wrong. They regarded law and morality as conventions.

In this dialog, Thrasymachus represents the Sophists’ campaign to do away with justice. He says justice is the advantage of the strong over the weak. He says being just works to the advantage of others. On the surface, the view put forward by Thrasymachus is that one should ignore justice because it’s an unnatural restraint on our desires. A more subtle interpretation would be that Thrasymachus is claiming that the norms of justice are conventions imposed by rulers to promote their interests and oppress their subjects.

Socrates puts forward arguments that make Thrasymachus admit that he’s promoting injustice as a virtue. Then he launches into a complex chain of reasoning which concludes that injustice cannot be a virtue because it’s contrary to wisdom, which is a virtue.

As the discussion continues in Book Two Glaucon, one of Socrates’ young companions, states that all goods can be divided into three classes. In the first category are things we desire only for their consequences, like physical training and medical treatment. Second are things we desire for their own sake, such as joy. In the highest category are things we desire both for their own sake and for what we get from them, like knowledge, sight, and health. Glaucon wants Socrates to prove is that justice belongs to the highest class of goods.

Glaucon says most people classify justice in the first group of goods. They view justice as a necessary evil because not having it is an even greater evil. Since we can all suffer from each other’s injustices, we make a social contract agreeing to be just to one another.

To emphasize this point, Glaucon invokes the legend of the ring of Gyges, which makes its possessor invisible. Glaucon contends that even the most just man would behave unjustly if he had this ring. He would indulge his materialistic, power-hungry, and lustful urges. He says this proves that people are only just because they fear punishment.

Plato has shown in other dialogs that discussion with people who disagree completely leads to deadlock. And so in the characters of Glaucon and Adeimantus, Socrates encounters disagreements on points or emphasis, but he can build his case by responding to them.

Socrates’ response to the challenge – to show that justice not only is good, but is good for us – takes most of the rest of The Republic to develop.

He begins by saying there are two kinds of justice. One is political, the justice of a city or state. The other is individual justice. First he develops his concept of the just city, and this continues right through Book Four. Instead of trying to locate political justice, he will create it by describing a perfectly just city.

In his perfect city each citizen specializes in the role for which he is best suited. There are three categories – the producers, the guardians, and the rulers.

The producers are further specialized. The carpenter confines his activities to construction, for example, and the farmer produces agricultural goods. The just city will be mainly populated with producers who provide the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, health, and shelter. To produce luxury goods, it will also have service providers like merchants, actors, tutors, and beauticians.

The city’s prosperity will lead to wars, so there must be a warrior class to keep the peace within the city and protect it from outside threats.

Guardians must develop the right balance between gentleness and toughness. They can be neither thugs nor wimps. They must be chosen carefully to ensure that they have the correct nature. The guardians should be spirited, or honor-loving; philosophical, or knowledge-loving; and physically strong.

Guardians must also be carefully educated. Socrates spends a lot of time detailing how they must be educated. He sees this as crucial to maintaining the city’s purity. The guardians require physical training for the body and music and poetry for the soul.

However, the music and poetry must be filtered. The stories told to the young guardians-in-training must be closely supervised because they will shape their values. The last part of Book Two is a discussion of stories that ensure that they aren’t exposed to negative role models.

A proper education is desirable for everyone, but Plato emphasizes that it’s vital for the guardians. There are many beautiful pieces of art and poetry that must, unfortunately, be sacrificed as the price of creating the just society. And so we see in Plato’s perfect city an important role for censorship.

In Book Three, Socrates continues to discuss the content of the stories for the young guardians. Heroes must never be presented as fearing death. Hades, the place of dead souls, must not be presented as a frightening place. Heroes must be portrayed as honest.

After Socrates finishes laying out the proper education for guardians, he introduces the third class of the just society: the rulers. The group called guardians is split. The best from this group will be chosen as rulers, and only they will be termed “guardians.” The rest will remain as warriors and will be called “auxiliaries.” Their role is to aid rulers by enforcing their decisions.

To ensure the right selection of rulers, the young guardians-in-training are closely observed. The best ones will move on to higher forms of education to prepare them to rule.

To ensure that there is never controversy over who should rule, Socrates suggests a fiction, “the myth of the metals.” The myth contends that each citizen has metal mixed into his soul. The souls of those most fit to rule contain gold, the souls of auxiliaries have silver, and the souls of producers have bronze or iron. According to the myth the city must never be ruled by someone whose soul has the wrong metal because an oracle states that the city will be ruined if that happens.

The myth states that iron and bronze people will usually produce iron and bronze children, silver people silver children, and gold people gold children, but not always. It’s important to observe the next generation to discover their class of soul. The just society’s adults have no social mobility, but that’s not the case with the children.

Book Three ends with a discussion about housing for the guardians. They will live together in housing provided by the city. Guardians receive no wages and hold no private wealth. They are supported by taxes from the producing class. Socrates’ reasoning is that if rulers acquire property, they will be tempted to abuse their power and rule for their own gain rather than the good of the city.

As you can see, Plato’s ideal city is turning out to be an authoritarian city, where the good of the state is valued highly and personal freedom hardly at all. Social classes are rigid and individuals have no input into deciding the kind of citizen they will be.

Although Plato sees truth and honesty as important virtues, the good of the state trumps even these vaunted values. He endows the state with power to engage in propaganda and create myths.

Adeimantus interrupts to say that being a ruler sounds rather unpleasant. Since the ruler has no private wealth, he can never take a trip, keep a mistress, or do things that people think make them happy. Socrates reminds him that the goal is not to make any group happy but to make the city as a whole as happy as it can be.

To show why the city cannot provide guardians with happiness that would make them something other than guardians, Socrates compares them to a statue. Suppose the most beautiful color in the world is purple. If we wanted to make the statue’s eyes as beautiful as possible, we’d paint them purple. We don’t though, because that would detract from the beauty of the statue as a whole. On the statue, as in the city, we must deal with each part to make things best for the whole.

Socrates says the just city has no need for laws. If the guardians are well educated, they will be able to decide any issues that arise. All matters of law can be left to the judgment of properly educated rulers.

Socrates now declares the just city complete. Since it has been created and defined to be the best city possible, we can be sure that it has all of the virtues. The next step is to look for each of the four virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.

Wisdom lies with the guardians because of their knowledge of how the city should be run. Their wisdom becomes the city’s virtue.

Courage lies with the auxiliaries. Only their courage counts as a virtue because they are the ones who must fight. A courageous farmer or even ruler would not help.

Now Plato has identified justice on a city-wide level. His next task is to seek parallel virtues for individuals.

Justice in the individual, as in the city, involves correct power relationships, with each part in its proper role. In the individual, the “parts” are aspects of the soul.

Socrates tells us that, just as the city is comprised of three types of people, the soul has three parts. There is a rational part of the soul that seeks truth, a spirited part that desires honor, and an appetitive part that desires everything else, including food, drink, sex, and money. These three parts of the soul correspond to the three social classes of the just city. The appetite, or money-loving part of the soul, predominates among the producers. The spirit or honor-loving part is most prominent among the auxiliaries. Reason, or the knowledge-loving part, dominates in the guardians.

Just relations among the three parts of the soul mirror just relations among the classes of society. In a just person the rational part of the soul rules the others. The spirited part keeps the appetitive part in line. In a soul ruled by spirit the entire soul aims for honor. A soul ruled by appetites aims at satisfying appetites. A just soul is geared toward fulfilling the knowledge-loving desires that reason produces.

Next, Socrates demonstrates that a person whose soul is arranged properly will behave according to the intuitive norms of justice. Since the just person is ruled by a love of truth, he will not be controlled by lust, greed, or desire for honor. We can be sure that he will not steal, betray friends or his city, commit adultery, neglect the gods, or commit any other unjust acts. His love of truth weakens urges that might lead to vice.

Socrates concludes Book Four by asserting that a just soul has its parts arranged appropriately, and so is healthy. An unjust soul is an unhealthy soul.

Having identified the just city and the just soul, Socrates sets out in Book Five to identify four other elements of city and soul. But Polemarchus and Adeimantus interrupt him. They ask him to return to a statement he made in passing about sharing spouses and children in common. Socrates launches into another discussion about the lifestyle of the guardians.

Socrates says females will be reared and trained together with males. They will receive the same education and take on the same roles. Though he admits that in many respects men and women have different natures, in one important respect — the division among appetitive, spirited, and rational people — women and men are similar.

Although Plato supports equal education for women, it would be wrong to say that he adopts the modern concept of sexual equality. In the dialog, Socrates elaborates on this, saying women are inferior to men in all ways, including intellect. Guardian women would be superior to men of the producer class but inferior to men of their own class.

Socrates then discusses the requirement that all spouses and children be held in common. Guardians will have no family. Sexual intercourse will take place only during certain festivals. Males and females will be made husband and wife for the duration of intercourse, with pairings determined by lot. Those who are most admirable might have four or five spouses in a single festival. All the children will be taken from their parents and reared together. No one will know which children descend from which adults. The children will consider that group of adults as their parents and each other as brothers and sisters.

Socrates explains that this is the only way to ensure a unified city because most people divide their loyalties. They care about the city, but they care even more about their families. In the just city, where everyone is considered family, there are no divided loyalties.

Is this a plausible requirement? Can anyone be asked to stick to a lifestyle with no family ties, no wealth, and no romance? Socrates explains how guardians could be compelled to live in this bizarre way. He says the system is only possible if the rulers are philosophers. At this point he defines the philosopher-king.

First, Socrates explains what he means by “philosopher.” The sort of people currently called “philosophers” aren’t fit to rule. They are pseudo-intellectuals whom Socrates refers to as the “lovers of sights and sounds.” These people are aesthetes and dilettantes who claim to be experts on beauty.

To distinguish the philosopher from the lover of sights and sounds Socrates invokes his theory of Forms. Plato doesn’t have Socrates explain what the Forms are. He assumes that his audience already knows the theory.

We learn in other Platonic dialogues that Forms are unchanging, universal absolute ideas, such as the Good, the Beautiful, and the Equal. Forms cannot be seen, only grasped with the mind. They make the things we sense around us into the sorts of things they are. Anything red that we see is red because it participates in the Form of the Red. A square gets its squareness from the Form of the Square. Anything beautiful participates in the Form of Beauty, and so on. The forms are absolutely timeless.

The reason philosophers differ from lovers of sights and sounds is that they apprehend the Forms. Pseudo-philosophers don’t know anything about the Form of the Beautiful. Because they don’t deal with Forms, Socrates says they can have opinions but never knowledge. Only philosophers can have knowledge, the objects of which are the Forms.

To back up his claim that only philosophers can have knowledge Socrates launches a long discussion of metaphysics and epistemology. It’s complicated, abstract, and challenging, but it’s an essential part of his argument. He divides all of existence into three classes: what is completely, what is in no way, and what both is and is not. What is completely, he tells us, is completely knowable. What is in no way is the object of ignorance. What both is and is not is the object of opinion or belief.

The only things that are completely are the Forms. Only the Form of the Beautiful is completely beautiful, only the Form of Sweetness is completely sweet, and so on. Sensible particulars both are and are not. The sweetest apple contains some sourness or not-sweetness. The most beautiful woman is plain or not-beautiful when judged against certain standards.

In Book Six Plato continues with his idea that only philosophers can have knowledge, and who know best what is good for the city and how to govern it. Socrates’ friends ask how we can know that these philosophers are virtuous. Socrates replies that by definition a philosopher loves truth above all. “Philosopher” means “lover of truth or wisdom.” The rational part of his soul rules, which means that he is just.

Adeimantus is unconvinced. None of the philosophers he knows are like that. Most philosophers are useless or vicious. Socrates agrees. He says the current philosophers were not raised properly. Men born with the philosophical nature are preyed upon by parasitic family and friends, who convince them to enter politics to win money and power, and so they leave philosophy. Others who lack the philosophical nature rush in to fill the gap and become philosophers. These are the vicious ones.

Society says the few good philosophers are considered useless because people don’t understand correct ideals. Plato compares this to a ship whose owner lacks sea-faring skills. The sailors quarrel over who should be captain, though none knows anything about navigation. Each uses trickery to convince the ship owner to choose them as captain. Whoever succeeds is called a “navigator,” a “captain,” and “one who knows ships.” Meanwhile, the true captain — the man who knows navigation — is called a useless stargazer. In Athens, no one has any idea that there is real knowledge to be had. Instead, charlatans use clever tricks and the few good philosophers are deemed useless.

Socrates concludes that all that’s needed to make his city possible is one philosopher-king — one person with the right nature who is educated in the right way and grasps the Forms. He believes it’s possible.

This leads him to the final stage in the construction of his just city: the question of how to produce philosopher-kings.

He said in Book Three that the guardians-in-training are subjected to tests, and that rulers are chosen from among them. One reason for the tests was to see who was most loyal to the city. Another is to see who is capable of studying the most important subject, the Form of the Good. In understanding the Form of the Good he would gain the highest level of knowledge and become fit to be a philosopher king.

Socrates repeats that the Form of the Good is not what is commonly held to be good. Some think the highest good is pleasure, while others think it’s knowledge. It is neither of these, but Socrates cannot say directly what it is. The best he can offer is an analogy.

This analogy is the first of three interrelated metaphors that stretch into the next book — the sun, the line, and the cave. As he develops these metaphors, Socrates explains what kind of man the philosopher must be.

Socrates tells us there are three ways in which the sun is to the visible realm what the Good is to the realm of Forms. First, it’s the source of light, and hence, visibility, while the Good is the source of intelligibility. Second, the sun gives us sight because the eye sees by incorporating sun-like stuff into it. Similarly, the Good gives us the capacity for knowledge. Finally, the sun causes things to exist, or to “come to be,” in the visible realm. The Good provides the existence of Forms, for the “coming to be” in the intelligible realm. The Form of the Good, Socrates says, is “beyond being.” It is the cause of all existence.

The Form of the Good is responsible for all knowledge and truth. It is the cause of the existence of the Forms in the intelligible realm. It’s the source of all that is good in the visible realm. That’s why understanding it is the ultimate aim of knowledge.

The next analogy helps us understand how important the Form of the Good is to knowledge. The analogy of the line illustrates the four grades of knowledge and opinion. Imagine, says Socrates, a line broken into four segments. The bottom two segments represent our access to the visible realm, while the top two represent our access to the intelligible.

The lowest grade of cognitive activity is imagination. A person in the state of imagination considers images and reflections the most real things in the world.

The next stage on the line is belief. Belief also looks toward the realm of the visible, but makes contact with real things. A person in the stage of belief thinks that sensible particulars are the most real things.

Further up the line, there are two grades of knowledge: thought, and understanding. Thought deals in Forms but uses sensible particulars as images to aid in its reasoning, as when geometers use a picture of a triangle to help them reason about triangularity. Thought also relies on unproven assumptions.

Understanding uses neither of these crutches. It’s purely abstract. This reasoning deals exclusively with Forms, working with an unhypothetical first principle, which is the Form of the Good.

To reach understanding, an individual uses the crutches necessary to thought to works his way up with philosophical dialectic toward the Form of the Good. Once he’s reached the Form of the Good, he has hit on the first principle, a universal proposition which makes all unproven hypotheses unnecessary. He now understands the Form of the Good and all the other Forms as well. In a flash, he has reached the highest stage of knowledge.

In Book Seven, Socrates presents the allegory of the cave. This metaphor illustrates the way education moves the philosopher through the stages on the divided line, and brings him to the Form of the Good.

Socrates’ allegory goes like this. A group of people has lived in a deep cave since birth, never seeing the light of day. They are tied up so that they can only look straight ahead. Behind them is a fire, and behind the fire is a partial wall. On top of the wall are statues, which are manipulated by a group of unseen people. Because of the fire, the statues cast shadows across the wall the prisoners are facing. The prisoners watch the stories that these shadows play out. Because the shadows are all they ever see, they believe them to be the most real things in the world. These prisoners represent the lowest stage on the line, imagination.

One prisoner is freed from his bonds and forced to look at the fire and at the statues. After a period of pain and confusion because of looking at the light of the fire, the prisoner realizes that what he sees now is more real than the shadows. He sees how the fire and the statues cause the shadows, which are copies of more real things. He now accepts them as the most real things. This stage represents belief. He has made contact with real things but he isn’t yet aware of the greater reality beyond his cave.

Next, the prisoner is dragged out of the cave into the world above. At first, he is so dazzled by the light that he can only look at shadows, then at reflections, and finally at real objects – trees, flowers, houses and so on. He sees that these are even more real than the statues. He has now reached the cognitive stage of thought. He has caught his first glimpse of the most real things, the Forms.

When the prisoner’s eyes have adjusted to the brightness, he lifts his sight toward the sun. He understands that the sun is the cause of everything he sees around him — the light, his capacity for sight, the flowers, trees, and other objects. The sun represents the Form of the Good, and the former prisoner has reached the stage of understanding.

The goal of education is to drag everyone as far out of the cave as possible. Education should not try to put knowledge into the soul. It should turn the soul toward the right desires. Continuing the analogy between mind and sight, Socrates explains that the vision of a clever, wicked man might be just as sharp as that of a philosopher. The problem lies in what he looks at.

The city must educate those with the right natures so that they can turn their minds toward the Form of the Good. But, once these people have achieved this, they cannot contemplate the Form of the Good forever. They must return to the shadows periodically to help other prisoners.

Many people want to rule for reasons of ambition and personal gain. However, the philosopher, who is reluctant to return to the cave, is best qualified because of his reluctance. His own ambition is contemplation, but because he is virtuous he recognizes his duty to the city. Remember, the first goal is to make the city as happy a place as possible.

Now we know what distinguishes the philosopher-king from everyone else. He knows the Form of the Good and has an understanding of everything. But how can we produce this sort of man? Socrates says the answer is simple. He must study mathematics and philosophical dialectic. These are the subjects that draw the soul from the visible realm to the intelligible realm.

Mathematics is the preparation, since it teaches one to deal in abstractions, and dialectic is the ultimate form of study. Dialectic leaves behind sense perceptions and uses only abstract reasoning to reach the Good. Plato’s students work toward a life of abstract thinking – but not empirical investigation.

Socrates then launches into a long and detailed description of how to choose and train the philosopher-kings. The first step is to find children with the right natures from among the guardians-in-training. There follows a series of stages of education and apprenticeship and periodic tests. Most of those chosen will fail the tests at some point and will join the auxiliaries. When they reach the age of fifty the few who remain in the elite group will be ready to grasp the Form of the Good. They will spend most of the rest of their lives on philosophy, but when their turn comes each must engage in politics and rule the city. Their other important task is to select and educate the next generation of auxiliaries and guardians.

Now Socrates has completed describing the just city. He ends Book Seven by explaining how to establish such a city. His solution is go to an existing city, banish everyone over ten†years old, and raise the children in the manner he has just outlined.

In Book Eight, Socrates returns to the task of describing the four remaining constitutions of city and man. He has already developed the concepts of the aristocracy and the philosopher-king ruler.

His analysis is insightful and thought-provoking – and rather depressing. There are four other parallels between city government and man’s soul. Socrates describes them in descending order of goodness. One is timocracy and the honor-driven man who resembles and rules that sort of government. Another is oligarchy, which resembles and is ruled by a man driven by his necessary appetites. Next is democracy, which resembles and is ruled by a man driven by his unnecessary appetites. Finally there is tyranny, which resembles and is ruled by a man driven by his unlawful appetites.

Tyranny is the most wretched form of government and the tyrannical man is the most wretched of men. Since our city is human and all human things inevitably degenerate, these four unjust constitutions are presented as the inevitable stages of degeneration that the just city will pass through over time.

The long psychological portrait of the tyrant is presented in the next book.

Book Nine opens with a long description of the tyrannical man. He is ruled by lawless desires which draw him toward criminal activities. Socrates’ examples are the desire to sleep with one’s mother and to commit murder. Socrates says all of us have lawless desires. The proof is that these desires sometimes emerge in our dreams, when our rational part is not on guard. But only the tyrannical man allows them to dominate his waking hours.

The tyrannical man is exposed to “drones,” the men with lawless desires. The drones incite him to all manner of lawlessness, banishing all sense of shame and moderation.

This man lives for feasts, revelries, luxuries, and girlfriends. He spends so much money that he soon runs through all he has and must borrow. When no one will lend him money, he resorts to deceit and force. He runs the gamut of unjust acts in his insatiable need to quench his erotic desires. First, he tries to get money from his parents. Then he starts robbing and committing murders. He is living a nightmare. He will do anything to feed his desires. Soon he has no friends. The most decent parts of his soul are enslaved to the most vicious part. His soul is full of disorder and regret. He lives in fear.

After this frightening image of the tyrannical life, everyone in Socrates’ group admits that no life could be more wretched. Socrates disagrees, saying there is a life even worse than this. That is the life of a man who becomes a political tyrant. He asks us to imagine what would happen if this private tyrant were moved to a deserted island with his family and all his slaves. Without the law to protect him from his mistreated slaves, would he not fear for his life and his family? This is what it’s like to be a political tyrant. The tyrant is in constant danger of being killed for the crimes he commits against his subjects. He lives in terror. He is also in a better position to indulge all his whims and to sink further into degeneracy. One thinks of Kim Jong-il, the “Dear Leader” of North Korea.

The tyrant is the most unjust man, and also the least happy. The aristocrat, the most just man, is the most happy. This is the first proof that it pays to be just.

Plato’s experience with tyrants involved those driven by lust and greed. What would he make of twentieth century tyrants like Hitler, Stalin or Mao Zedong? Would he conclude that they were driven by their appetites, or was it simply the perverse outcome of reason gone horribly wrong?

Socrates’ second argument shows that justice is worthwhile even without the rewards of pleasure. He says there are three sorts of people: truth-loving, honor-loving, and profit-loving. Each thinks he has the best life and the greatest pleasure, but only one can be right. Only the philosopher can make this judgment because only he has experienced all three pleasures. So we ought to believe him when he says that truth-seeking is the greatest pleasure.

The next argument also involves pleasures. Socrates argues that the philosopher’s pleasure is the only real pleasure because all others are relief from pain. Other desires can never be completely satisfied. All we do is quench our yearnings temporarily. The philosophical desire can be completely fulfilled by grasping the Form of the Good.

Finally, Socrates presents portraits of the just and unjust man. He asks us to envision every human being with three animals inside of him: a multi-headed beast, a lion, and a human. If a man behaves unjustly, he tells us, he’s feeding the beast and the lion and weakening the human. In the just person, the human is in control. He takes care of the beast like a farm animal, feeding and domesticating the heads and preventing the savage ones from growing. He makes the lion his ally. The three parts are friends with each other.

Socrates declares that it would be ideal for everyone to be ruled by divine reason. The second best scenario is to have it imposed from outside. This is the aim of having laws. The purpose of laws is not to harm people, as Thrasymachus claims, but to help them. Laws impose reason on those whose rational part is not strong enough to rule the soul.

Socrates has now completed the main argument of The Republic. He has defined justice and shown it to be worthwhile. In Book Ten he returns to the question of poetry and human beings. In fact, he banishes poets from the city. He has three reasons for seeing poets as unwholesome and dangerous. First, they pretend to know all sorts of things but really know nothing. By presenting scenes far removed from the truth poets pervert souls.

Worse, the images poets portray do not imitate the good part of the soul. The rational part of the soul is quiet, stable, and not easy to imitate or understand. Poets imitate the worst parts, the inclinations that make characters colorful. Poetry arouses, nourishes, and strengthens the baser elements while diverting energy from the rational part.

Poetry corrupts even the best souls. It goads us into feeling base emotions vicariously. We think there’s no shame in indulging them because these are not our own lives. But the enjoyment we feel indulging these emotions is transferred to our own life. They cause us to become the grotesque sorts of people we saw on stage or heard about in epic poetry.

Despite the dangers of poetry, Socrates regrets having to banish the poets. He feels the aesthetic sacrifice acutely, and says that he would be happy to allow them back into the city if anyone could present an argument in their defense.

Socrates then outlines a brief proof for the immortality of the soul. The proof is this: X can only be destroyed by what is bad for X. What is bad for the soul is injustice and other vices. But injustice and other vices do not destroy the soul; otherwise tyrants would not survive for long. So nothing can destroy the soul; it is immortal.

Once Socrates has presented this proof, he ends The Republic by laying out a final argument for justice. This argument, based on the myth of Er, appeals to the rewards the just will receive in the afterlife. According to the myth, a warrior named Er is killed in battle but does not really die. He is sent to heaven and made to see what happens there so that he can return to earth and report what he saw. He sees a system which rewards virtue, particularly wisdom. For a thousand years, people are either rewarded in heaven or punished in hell for the sins or good deeds of their life. Then they choose their next life, either animal or human. The life they choose will determine whether they are rewarded or punished in the next cycle. Only those who were philosophical while alive know how to choose just lives. Everyone else hurtles between happiness and misery with every cycle.


Section Six
Welcome to Section Six, the concluding section of our discussion of Plato’s Republic. In this section we’ll examine some of the points that Plato raised in his long treatise about justice. It was written more than two thousand years ago, but many of the issues he wrote about still engage our attention in the twenty-first century.

One of the most obvious is the question of individual liberty. What should come first – the good of the State or the good of the Individual? Most of us who are reasonably happy living in our imperfect democracy would argue for individual liberty. But even here some liberties are curtailed, especially in times of crisis. In the United States during the twentieth century there were two periods when compulsory military service was imposed. Goods were rationed in many countries during the Second World War. During the 1970s Canada went through a period of price and wage controls. However, even in the most desperate of times none of this approached the controls Plato wants to impose on citizens in his ideal city. Left-wing governments are less inclined than others to trust the individuals to make decisions in their own best interest, but we associate the loss of liberty on Plato’s scale with the now-defunct Soviet Union and other tyrannies and dictatorships. Still, there are those who would vote for more government control and less individual autonomy.

One of the liberties we treasure, that would be lost in Plato’s state, is the right to create or to enjoy works of art of any kind. Plato thought it was necessary to censor what people could enjoy, because he worried about the effects the arts might have on people’s values. We hear some of the same concerns being voiced today. Does the violence on television desensitize us to real life violence? What about the effects of explicit love scenes, or the pornography that any eight-year-old can download on his computer? How does that square with freedom of expression?

Closely related to the issue of censorship is that of national mythology. Plato was prepared to engage in myths to ensure the continuing loyalty of his citizens. Few modern nations are free from some sort of national mythology in the teaching of history. The Japanese have omitted parts of their history from the 1930s and 40s so that their children aren’t told about the atrocities the Japanese committed against the Chinese during that time. Only in recent years has the United States begun coming to terms with its sordid treatment of Indians during its westward expansion.

In The Republic Plato suggests policies to promote parenthood by the best and the brightest citizens. During their annual mating festivals the finest specimens were encouraged to couple with several women to maximize their progeny. Today, with recent advances in medicine and biology, we will soon have to contend with the moral dilemmas brought about by the possibility of using genetic manipulation to produce “designer babies.” Is that good or bad? In countries like China and India, many parents use advanced methods to predetermine the sex of their babies. In some areas the ratio of boy babies to girl babies is as high as one hundred and twenty to one hundred.

Rewards and punishment, both in this world and the next, are still live topics among citizens in today’s world, just as they were in Plato’s time. Are these acceptable incentives for achieving a just society? Many people disagree with Plato’s views, which in our time would be described as left-wing, but the debates continue right up to today.

We’ve only touched some of the issues of then and now. You’ll encounter others if you read The Republic in its entirety. The constant that keeps these issues alive is the fact that human nature today isn’t very different from what it was in Plato’s time.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of Plato’s Republic. Thank you for listening. 

At the end of Book Four, Plato develops his view that individual justice mirrors the political justice of the state. He says the soul of every individual has a three part structure similar to the three classes of a society. The rational part of the soul seeks truth and is responsible for our philosophical inclinations. There is a spirited part of the soul, which strives for honor and is responsible for our feelings of anger and indignation. The appetitive part of the soul lusts after material things and money. If you’re familiar with the works of Sigmund Freud, the nineteenth century founder of modern psychology, you’ll recognize these tendencies in his description of the id, the ego, and the superego. 
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