The Cities in Speech as response to their objection

Book II of Republic begins with Glaucon and Adeimantus arguing that, while justice is objective and advantageous, it is not what anyone wants for himself. Glaucon argues that anyone would be unjust if he could get away with it, and Adeimantus argues that if anyone had to choose between (a) being good but not being treated well and (b) being treated well even without being good, the choice for (b) is all but obvious. So sure, justice gives us the good of stable regimes where others don’t steal or wreck our stuff, but real human happiness is abandoning oneself to desire and appetite.

Socrates’s response requires proving that those who want to abandon themselves to appetite don’t know what they want. To do this, he starts setting up cities in speech, which is such a strange opening move that we lose sight of what exactly he wants to prove with it. But the argument seems to be this:

1.) Cities arise because no one is self-sufficient. It’s all but impossible for us to make one thing we need entirely from scratch (i.e. to make not just the product but all its ingredients and the tools necessary to work it) but it’s impossible to make all that we need. Human needs demand others. We aren’t spiders that can just spin a web and live off whatever flies into it.

2.) Our dependence is mutual. This is just a variant of (1).

3.) Unrestrained appetite is incompatible with mutual interdependence. Interdependence is essentially a matter of give and take.

So unrestrained appetite is a failure to understand human individuals in their reciprocal interdependence. To allow for unrestrained appetite would be like having a part of a machine that didn’t interact with the rest of the mechanism. There is literally no reason for such a part to exist, and therefore anyone claiming to want such an existence would not know what he wanted.

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