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Essay Example: Socrates' Discussion of Justice in Plato's Republic

4 pages
870 words
Sewanee University of the South
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According to Republic by Plato, Justice has been largely explored as one of the two central questions on the dialogue. Socrates addresses the question of justice in both individual and political context. In order to explain and illustrate meaning of justice, Socrates together with his interlocutors construct a just city, Kallipolis, in their speech (Plato, Allan Bloom, and Adam Kirsch 128). The construction of this city was for the purposes of illustrating justice by analogy in human soul. In the dialogue, Socrates considers various subjects on the rival theories of justice, education, structure of reality, the virtues and vices, the forms, good and bad souls, competing views of human happiness, the nature and importance of philosophy and philosophers, good and bad political regimes, the role of women in the society, and many other topics to get a clear definition of justice (Plato, Allan Bloom, and Adam Kirsch 37). The wide scope considered by Socrates in the discussion presents various interpretative difficulties which has resulted into a library of scholarly works on the topic of Justice. Thus, understanding justice from the context of the dialogue in the Republic requires one to grapple with all the Socrates perspectives.

In the dialogues, Polemarchus proposes a definition involving doing good to friends and harm to enemies. However, this view by Polemarchus supported by Cephalus, is condemned by Plato on the basis that it was easier for people to speak of giving good to friends and evil to enemies (Plato, Allan Bloom, and Adam Kirsch 159). Nonetheless, on situations where friends are just friends from the looks but enemies in reality, it becomes difficult to do good to the friend or use digression in doing evil. Doing evil to individuals whether an enemy or not is inconsistent with most of the teachings as well as the elementary conception of morality. Thus, according to Plato (2008), Polemarchus conception of justice focuses on regulating the relations between the individual beings and their individualistic principles while ignoring the important aspect of the society.

Socrates argument of the dismissal of the Polemarchus proposed definition is correct. Often, human beings may pretend to be what they are not. In most cases, those who present themselves are always the true enemies. In addition, the standards of the morality in various societies today across the globe which has been largely borrowed from the different religious practices observed by most individuals. For Christians, the Bible teaches them to love their enemies instead of doing evil to them. The Quran also instructs Muslims to repel evil with good. Thus, the viewpoint of Polemarchus on doing good to friends and evil to enemies is not correct according to me, and also not applicable to the todays society, thus cannot be regarded as the correct definition of justice.

On the other hand, Glaucon presents a new point of view. His reasoning presented a social contract theory where he argued that human beings are only moral because it pays to be. He describes the historical evolution of the society basing his arguments of justice being a shield for the weaker in the society (Plato 209). During the primitive stages of the society, there was no law or government to regulate man. Thus, he had the freedom to do whatever he pleased. However, in this setting, the few who were stronger enjoyed this freedom at the expense of the weaker. In Ring of Gyges, he challenges Socrates to the defense of just life with a proof that justice is often preferable to injustice. In the argument, Glaucon presents a defence to injustice by asserting that individuals often find it desirable to inflict wrong doings on others but when on the receiving end, they regard these actions as undesirable (Plato 217).

However, those who have been on both ends realize the pain of being a victim outweighs the benefits of being a victimizer by far. As a result, people come together in the process in order to avoid being victims and forge agreements which they dub justice (Plato 247). Therefore according to Glaucon, justice is a compromise between what is most desirable to those doing misdeeds with impunity and most undesirable to the helpless individuals. From his argument, he makes it clear that individuals do not often enter agreements giving rise to justice on a free will. To Glaucon, people often accept justice because they are weak, in turn the individual with power would be a fool not to carry out his misdeeds.

From the arguments of Glaucon, and the perspectives of Socrates in defining justice, Socrates agrees with Glaucon. From his point of view, Glaucon challenged Socrates to defend the just life while he defended the unjust. He further challenged him to show that justice is often prefered to injustice. His argument presented the true picture of the current state of the society while giving reasons of how justice come about as opposed to Polemarchus argument. Thus, from his arguments he included the society which is critical as per Socrates argument. The Glaucons reasoning is also in line with the with the ideas of human nature which takes place around the globe.


Works Cited

Plato, Allan Bloom, and Adam Kirsch. The Republic of Plato. , 2016. Internet resource.

Plato, Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.


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