Theme of Justice in Plato’s Republic

Plato was a well-known figure in Classical Greece primarily due to his philosophy. He is also famed for incepting the first institution of higher learning in the Western world, popularly known as the Academy. It was here that he would spend most of his time teaching philosophy and coming up with new ideas about the world around him. He is also known for laying down the building blocks for science and the development of Western philosophy later adopted across Europe. Among his many innovations were his dialectics and forms of written dialogue which he used to structure his political philosophy in the Republic. Plato’s primary objective in producing this discussion was to interrogate political questions using a philosophical outlook. It was in this manuscript that he would also critique the nature of justice and how it applies to the question of human existence. Plato also focuses on the virtue of justice and examines its application from many different angles. According to him, justice was expected to be moral and working in an equitable manner for man’s good (Lycos, 1987, p. 14). Justice also covered a person’s character and how it affects those around them at any given moment. He was a clamor to view justice as a quality of an individual’s soul which would allow them to set aside all their selfish desire in the pursuit of a decision that would benefit all.  In this essay, I will analyze the theme of justice as presented by Plato in the Republic while evaluating his stance on the subject.

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Plato wrote on justice at a time when he was increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the political condition in Athens. In reality, the situation had degenerated to a point where democracy was about to be perverted by forces beyond his control. In his view, freedom was the only remedy and would go on to save Athenian democracy from ruin. Plato noted with great concern that the ruling class was not agitating for anything that was for the good of the people and was driven by a form of amateurish politicking that was selfish. Teachings about self-satisfaction were responsible for the state of individualism witnessed in Athens where citizens wanted to capture State office for their selfish gain as opposed to the benefit of the people. It was this paradigm that eventually created a rift between the people and creating a classed society. Plato opines that the only way to building an ideal culture was by letting justice supersede all available constructs, reigning supreme and curing the evils that were in existence (Plato, Taylor, & Jacobs, 2010). It was only then that the people would be successful in creating an ordered society different from the rest. He explores the issue by starting from crude constructs to the most refined argument that would enable him to interpret society. Moreover, he draws some of his concepts from criticizing the ideas of Cephalus, a leading figure in explaining the nature of justice. As a custodian of traditional morality among the trading class in Athens, Cephalus saw justice as people’s right to conduct themselves as they saw fit. Justice was, therefore, an individual’s decision to speak the truth even in times of adversity.

Plato wanted to avoid a situation in life where person’s spirit of the right would be violated and the reason why he was critical of Cephalus’s principle in the first place. He saw it as an act of returning deadly weapons to man even when it had proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he had gone mad. Thinkers such as Thrasymachus had earlier developed critical views bolstering radical approaches to justice. The interests of the stronger were acknowledged and represented justice (Stauffer, 2001, p. 45). Thrasymachus, therefore, suggests that the strongest will always run government affairs and will work only for its interest. Justice can thus be equated to personal interests of those in the ruling class as they make laws that would benefit the most. Those who are contravening these laws were, therefore, rebels who deserved the full force of the law meted out to them. Justice here represents superior intelligence and character while injustice is when one lacks both. A person’s self-assertion is not the source of their strength as it may lead to conflict rather than bring people together around a common cause. Man is happier when justice prevails as he is now able to live a better life (Plato, Taylor, & Jacobs, 2010). Others like Glaucon put forth the social contract theory as the moral basis of judgment. His description of society’s evolution includes the truth as a defender of the weak. In his former primitive self, the man was free to engage in all activities where the stronger ones ruled, the weaker ones. Here justice was unnatural as it was artificially constructed. In all these theories, Plato noticed that the common denominator was the treatment of justice as an external convention that intervenes during the conflict.

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Plato was particular in referring to justice as the right condition that the human soul while interacting with nature. Justice resides internally and found in the souls of those in question. It acts as an inward grace as it involves the study of the inner composition of man in his natural state. Plato’s theory of justice puts a social organism against a human one.  A person, therefore, acts in a just manner when the does its work with no interference. Plato views justice as a form of specialization where persons have the will to fulfill the duties of their stations and not to interfere with those of another location (SANTAS, 2010, p. 35). Man is therefore expected to practice only those things that the body is adapted for as it is the rule of nature that should be adhered to the all duties. Real justice, in this context, was one that involved the principle of non-interference in all its affairs. Every citizen in a state forms the perfect whole to appreciate the effort made by all the other members of society. Justice in such a country would be bound together in a manner that is orderly as society is only for the fittest. Furthermore, justice holds human virtue together to form a community and all that is in it. Justice does not fight for the strong alone but sees to create a state of sufficient harmony as a whole.

In conclusion, Plato is famed for his thoughts and was responsible for penning down remarkable dialogues such as the Republic. Justice is one of the areas that he focuses on in his quest to create a just and balanced society. According to Plato, justice occurs in a binary state both in the individuals involved and in the community at large. Justice hence acts as a human virtue that makes man good and maintains the consistency of this demeanor.

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