The significance of poverty and wealth in Plato’s Republic

South African Journal of Philosophy 22 (3):189-206 (2003)
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Abstract

Plato’s views on the significance of poverty and wealth in The Republic challenge us to rethink the role and position assigned to wealth in contemporary society. These ideas on poverty and wealth play an important role in shaping the central arguments of the Republic. The themes and views expressed in the opening dialogue of Plato’s Republic (328b - 331d) serve to introduce some of the core ideas of the Republic. I start with an analysis of the opening dialogue and then I proceed to discuss the significance of Plato’s views on poverty and wealth in the context of the Republic. Through this analysis I want to establish the claim that Plato argues for the following: [1] that justice, in the sense of the morality of individuals and societies, is far more important than the acquisition of wealth, [2] that moderate wealth is important for its function to enable humans to live a moral life, [3] that poverty and excessive wealth have negative consequences for both individuals and societies, and [4] that desiring and possessing excessive wealth disrupts and destroys moral integrity and internal harmony in individuals and societies.

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Hennie Lötter
University of Johannesburg

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