Discussion Questions on Book VIII of the Republic


1. Plato discusses four forms of government, all of which are inferior to the "aristocracy" (government of the best) exemplified by his ideal Republic. They are (a) "timocracy" -- government of honor -- which is exemplified by Sparta, (b) oligarchy -- government of the few -- which was common in Greece, (c) democracy, and (d) tyranny. Each is, in Plato's view inferior to the previous one, and each can be regarded as deriving from the previous form.

What are these four forms of government and how (supposedly) do they derive from one another?

2. Why will oligarchie and democracies be badly governed? Do you think that Plato is right about this?

3. What is Plato's attitude toward democracies? What are his main complaints? What might be good about democracy?