Socrates, whose "role" in the dialogues is always that of the probing philosopher, clearly dominates theRepublic
; it may have been Plato's intent to portray Socrates here as what Plato saw as the ideal
philosopher trying to think his way through to the creation of the ideal
state. For generations of men and women who have engaged the study of philosophy, Plato and his successors have provided a shining pathway to the truth of the twentieth century's W. B. Yeats' pronouncement that "Wisdom is a butterfly / And not a gloomy bird of prey." The Socrates of the dialogues is enduringly amusing: witty, occasionally droll and puckish, sometimes caustic in his analysis of any topic attempted and its attendant arguments; Socrates causes the dialogues to flourish through the centuries. And Socratic method interests us almost as much as the man's matter; if we attend him closely, we emerge from the dialogues better thinkers ourselves from having observed a first-rate thinker thinking.
As noted at various points in the commentaries, Socrates implements the entire arsenal of Western logic and rhetoric to accomplish his end of rarifying and finally fixing the point of a given dialogue. If we may adopt the Shakespearean metaphor of art as a mirror held up to nature, it may be that, for philosophy, we see ourselves mirrored in the arguments we advance and are made intellectually and spiritually better for having reflected so much and having been so reflected.