Socrates begins this book by first putting the discussion of the tyrannical man aside for the moment, and instead exploring the natures of the desires.
According to him, some of the unnecessary desires are totally lawless; they are awakened in sleep and pursued while dreaming, no matter how shameful. This untoward dreamlike behavior is exacerbated by unseemly real-life behavior. It has but one cure; if a soul devotes itself to rational discourse with quieted passions, and appetites that have neither been starved nor over-indulged, it will find a restful sleep with well-ordered, pleasant dreams, not chaotic dreams of lechery and licentiousness. Socrates’ point is that every one of us has terrible, lawless desires which, if nowhere else, may reveal themselves in our dreams; in some people, though, these forbidden desires are revealed and acted upon in real life. The tyrannical man is one of these latter people.
The tyrannical man begins as the son of a democrat. He is drawn toward lawlessness, which he believes to be complete freedom, until finally he is ruled by it, purging himself of all those desires that might infringe upon it. Drunken men and madmen are of this character, and so is the tyrannical one, whether it be by nature or by habit.
His progression is as follows: he will start by having many feasts and revelries until his revenues run dry, then he will borrow from his estate, then finally begin taking from others. As time passes, the tyrannical man will become bolder, more unjust, and more tyrannical. If tyrannical men exist in a state in small numbers and do not find themselves forced into exile, they will commit small evils; if there are many, though, one will be raised up as a true tyrant over the whole city.
The tyrannical man’s character is such that he associates with flatterers, while he is willing to fawn and abase himself to no end if it suits his purposes. He does not have “friends;” indeed, he does not understand the meaning of the word. He is faithless and unjust. In the end, he becomes the most evil of men-one who has acquired in reality all the dark qualities others only know from dreaming.
At this point, Socrates returns to the original theme of The Republic asking how happy such a man might be. He gives several separate, but interrelated, arguments. According to him, since there is a parallel between the structure of the soul and the structure of a city, it stands to reason that if the constitution of a city produces happiness for that city, the corresponding character produced by that city will likewise enjoy happiness, or justice, or whatever virtue, blessing, or mishap under consideration. Therefore, since the tyrannical state is the most miserable, and most unjust, so, too, must be the tyrannical man. In contrast, the truly aristocratic state and the truly aristocratic man are, respectively, the happiest, most just, and most virtuous of states and men.
Socrates goes further comparing the two cities and men to further delineate the point. In the tyrant state, most of the people are enslaved, with some small portion of it consisting of free men. So, too, must the tyrant’s soul be: the worst parts run free, while the best parts are enslaved. Accordingly, since the tyrant’s soul is enslaved, it will least of all do what it wishes; drawn by desire it will be full of confusion and repentance. Likewise, since the tyrant city must be poor, the tyrannical soul must always be needy and filled with unfulfilled desires. Furthermore, both city and man are filled with horrors. At this point, it is clear that the tyrannical man and the tyrant city are utterly miserable. Socrates even claims that the most miserable man of all is the one who claims the title of ruler over such a city, and is, in fact, a true tyrant. He is like a man with many slaves that he treats poorly: he does not fear them if he lives in a city, but if whisked away and set alone with them in the wilderness he will be beset upon by terror lest they destroy him and his family. To his dismay, he must emancipate some and become a flatterer of his own servants. If, however, he is surrounded by neighbors who believe no man can be master of another, his plight becomes worse and he finds himself utterly surrounded by enemies. That is the life of a tyrant as Socrates describes it: cowering in his own house, unable to travel abroad, or do anything else many free men would take for granted.
A real tyrant is enslaved by fear and servitude beyond compare; he is a flatterer of the basest of men; he is envious, faithless, unjust, friendless, impious, and a vessel and nurse of all iniquity. How could someone describe such a one as anything but unhappy? Turning back to the cities and constitutions discussed in Book VIII, the natures of each are ranked in terms of happiness and virtue. Not surprisingly, they are ranked in order as they were discussed: aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and tyranny. Then, Socrates returns to giving further demonstrations of how miserable the tyrant is.
He begins by saying that the tripartite soul has three pleasures, each corresponding to a particular part of the soul. Reason loves wisdom, spirit loves honor, and the appetites love gain. These relationships are epitomized in three different characters: the philosopher, the warrior, and the gain-lover. Socrates, being a philosopher, obviously argues that the pleasures concordant with reason are the best. He says, one can only determine the ultimate pleasure by experience, intelligence, and discussion. Invariably, the philosopher has experienced the pleasures of reason as well as the other two; neither the warrior nor the oligarch can make that claim. Further, reason and intelligence go hand in hand, and discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy. Hence, philosophy is the highest pleasure, and the most pleasurable life is the life of a philosopher. One should be aware while reading this that the platonic Theory of Forms is the backdrop for the whole conversation. Because of this, Socrates argues that those things approved of by the philosopher, as they are brought about through intellection, discussion, and ultimately apprehension of the Forms, are the most valid and true. Ranking them in order, the philosopher has the most pleasurable life and approves of the most real things, the honor-lover the next, and the gain-lover the least.
But he is not done.
He presents another argument. He notes that many people “mistake” lack-of-pain for pleasure. This is because when they are in pain, they long for nothing else than to be released from that pain and achieve peace. That is, there is a neutral state in between the two that when compared to one or the other extremes can be mistaken for the opposite extreme. Analogously, there are such terms as “up,” “down,” and “middle.” Here, “middle” is the neutral term. In this vein, most men (not philosophers) will be confused about the nature of unfulfilled appetites as they typically only view such pains from the vantage point of, at best, the neutral state. He argues that wisdom is the nourishment of the soul and it is more real than regular food (what we would consider real food). Then, he brings in his Theory of Forms to support him directly: wisdom consists of the apprehension of the most real, timeless things-the Forms-while food (like bread) and other earthly pleasures are just something from the world of growth and decay: they do not last. Accordingly, he argues that the multitude vainly try to satisfy the least real parts of their souls (the appetites), with the least real of things, those in the physical world (food, sex, etc…). The tyrant pursues these unreal pleasures most of all, and the aristocratic philosopher least.
At this point, he attempts something virtually impossible: he tries to calculate the measure of difference in pleasure between the philosopher’s life and the tyrant’s. The number he comes up with is 729. Although the formula is understood easily enough, it is another example of misapplying mathematics much like the statement in Book VIII concerning the “laws of reproduction.” We, of course, can forgive him as The Republic was written 2400 years ago.
Finally, he takes on the last task of the book: repudiating the claim that injustice is profitable to the unjust man who appears just (from Book II). He begins by listing the parts of the soul again (reason, spirit, and appetite) and correlates specific images with them (man, lion, and a multi-headed monstrous thing, respectively). According to him, if reason does not rule, the whole soul suffers: the monstrous, multi-headed thing takes charge pitting lion against man and leading the soul into ruin. Obviously, that should be avoided: everyone should be ruled by the divine (that is, reason) and the intelligent. He prefers that they rule themselves in this fashion, but if that does not come to pass, such rule should be imposed upon them by the state.
He ends the book saying that the wise man will bend all his endeavors to the virtuous development of his soul, and emulate the pattern of Socrates’ perfect city as it is set up in heaven.