Schur, David. 2015. Plato's Wayward Path: Literary Form and the Republic. Hellenic Studies Series 66. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_SchurD.Platos_Wayward_Path.2015.
5. Digressing toward a Possible Regime
Questions of Procedure
Here the hope held out by the second question depends on our accepting the conditional statement (if we should watch that, we would see this) posed in the first question. The second question functions much like the first: if we see that, then there is hope of seeing this. The argument confirms the theoretical (intellectually visual) underpinnings of the proposed approach, and we may recall that the modern notion of theory derives from the Greek verb theaomai ‘to watch’. Socrates’ appeal to ease may also be read as a gesture of compromise. Here we may compare a saying quoted by Glaucon later in the dialogue during a consideration of method and path: “The fine things are difficult [khalepa].”  This crucial step in the conversation remains open to doubt and may also be a shortcut, capitulating to the difficulty of investigating this important topic.
The Short Path to a Definition
By taking this shortcut, the speakers clearly make a compromise, and Socrates will later refer back to this decision (504b, 504c; discussed below). The detour here is a turn away from the longer path, and the shorter path of method is preferred because it is easier; it keeps the conversation going, but it is another deviation from the best path.
Instead of declaring that justice has been found, Socrates makes a hyperbolically indirect and metaconversational observation that functions as a question. He begins with a future-less-vivid condition about making an assertion. The second half of the conditional statement (the then-clause) is a negative conjecture (“I don’t suppose”) about possibly seeming to say something exaggeratedly wrong. On the basis of this fantastically noncommittal utterance, Socrates and Glaucon agree, using hortatory subjunctives (“let us assert”), to assert something. But that is the extent of their eureka moment: instead of asserting—they talk about asserting it. With a third-person imperative—“so be it”—Socrates is ready to move on, even though he is also about to embark on his greatest detour.
Socrates’ Great Detour
I draw attention to the verbs kineō ‘to set in motion’ and dierkhomai ‘to go through’, which characterize the conversation as a dynamic movement that is being forced to continue. The word dierkhomai (which can also mean ‘to pass through, complete’) is often used (in a perfectly ordinary manner) in the Republic to describe the movement of the discussion, the participants having traveled through topics by means of words.
Here we can observe complicated elements of qualification in Socrates’ hesitation, when the difficulty of explaining difficulties is aggravated by doubt. Socrates has not just a quantity of separate doubts but an accumulation of doubts in which some are subordinated to others. “It isn’t easy to go through” here presumably conveys the (metaconversational) difficulty of explaining the controversial conditions for women, children, and guardians in the politeia; but these are also doubts about continuing the conversation and about explaining the doubts. The second occurrence of dierkhomai, in the phrase “matters we went through before,” evidently refers to the subject matter of the discussion, casting doubt on earlier stages of the conversation and thus calling the discussion’s cumulative chain of argumentation into question. The two uses of the same verb in close proximity give a microcosmic view of the dialogue’s self-reflective preoccupation with method; the idea of verbal movement draws a parallel between the verbal articulation of current metaconversational difficulties and an earlier part of the conversation into which these difficulties are being projected back, rhetorically, and in which they are embedded. This digressive pause in the conversation is in fact no less a part of the overall conversation (or of the overall design of the Republic) for being self-reflective.
Whether this dramatic picture of Socrates and friends tumbling into error is tragic, comic, or both, one might compare it with the scenario of the cave as a descent toward death and murder, because Socrates rounds out this volley of doubts by declaring he would rather commit involuntary manslaughter than mislead his friends in a discussion of important topics. Be that as it may, the imagery of tripping, lying down, and dragging participates in a network of metaphors frequently used in Plato, in Greek, and in general to describe methodical movement. The prospect of tripping and falling in the pursuit of truth, viewed as murder of a sort, is a rhetorically forceful articulation of the speaker’s hesitation to continue speaking. Glaucon laughingly reassures Socrates that the others will not hold him responsible for any investigative crimes occasioned by the logos ‘discourse, thought’ (451b). And so this digression concerning doubts and fears, which is described by the narrator as a moment in the conversation where a near ending got turned into a new beginning, functions to qualify the discourse concerning women, children, and education that follows, which is itself a digression from the topic of conversation that preceded.
Dodging the Politeia
The choice depends, in the first place, on figuring out what justice is; Socrates now evidently does not think that this has been accomplished.  As we have seen, the definition was accepted earlier in very roundabout and questioning terms (444a), and now the status of that earlier conclusion has been downgraded, making the knowledge of justice only conditionally accessible, and far from accepted (as of this latest reflection on the conversation, at least). As a consequence, the verb agapaō ‘to be pleased, content’ acquires a sense of compromise when Glaucon says that he and his companions would be content with a practical reality that came close to the ideal (472c).
The methodological concession is again expressed in the form of a complex condition, with the attainment of one goal dependent on reaching another. If it should prove possible to find (heuriskō) that a government near enough to their verbal model was possible, then they would say that they had found (heuriskō) the possibility of realizing the city-state in deed. I take it that “what has been said” refers to a plan, a paradeigma, that would be like, but is no longer necessarily equivalent to, the definitions of a just man and a just politeia that were reached earlier in the conversation. In any case, Glaucon agrees that he would be content with Socrates’ proposed preference for verbal portraiture over practical implementation. Having agreed already that “it is the nature of action to attain to less truth than does speaking” (φύσιν ἔχει πρᾶξιν λέξεως ἧττον ἀληθείας ἐφάπτεσθαι, 473a), Glaucon now allows, in effect, that if something could come close to an ideal verbal portrait, it would be close to the truth, regardless of actual reality. 
On the other hand, the sameness is qualified, because Socrates feels that some “long and difficult” explanations, mainly concerning radical innovations in philosophical education, have not yet been ventured. Much as he hesitated to talk about women and children when designing the politeia earlier, Socrates now contends that some other topics were “not sufficiently clarified” because he was afraid of being rebuked (οὐχ ἱκανῶς, εἶπον, ἐδηλώθη, 497d–e). Socrates’ words are striking for the directness with which he names Adeimantus a lawgiver, putting him in the same position as a philosopher-ruler. Nevertheless, whereas he was able to act as the founder of a city-state in conversation, enacting a politeia in reality would require “something” else (ti) besides Adeimantus. In Adeimantus’ view, a plan already exists: he actually did help to design an ideal politeia. Socrates, hedging his own view of the existing plan, does not criticize the conversation’s achievement (its contents) directly so much as raise metaconversational reservations about its conduct.
This sentence is difficult to describe because Socrates embeds complex conditional statements inside a conditional question. To put it another way: would not the city’s approval depend on its perceiving the truth of what we are saying; namely, that its happiness would depend on philosopher-painters, whose worthiness as legislators would depend on their copying laws from a divine model? The question is rhetorical, but it functions to express likelihood (and not certainty) for the sake of argument, while it also acknowledges how hypothetical the overall proposal is.