Justice and Morality in Plato's Republic

Topics: Morality, Platonism, Philosophy Pages: 8 (3158 words) Published: April 26, 2013
Justice and Morality in Plato's Republic
Explain and evaluate the reasons given by Plato in the Republic, to support the contention that justice is superior to, or more beneficial than, injustice? What is the relationship between justice and morality?

This essay discusses and clarifies a concept that is central to Plato's argument in the Republic — an argument in favour of the transcendent value of justice as a human good; that justice informs and guides moral conduct. Plato's argument implies that justice and morality are intimately interconnected, because the excellence and goodness of human life — the best way for a person to live — is intimately dependent upon and closely interwoven with those 'things that we find desirable in themselves and for their consequences [1]. Hence, we acknowledge that Plato Is moral thesis cannot be interpreted either as a deontological or as a consequentialist argument — or as an act centred or agent centred moral concept. Plato's thesis is informative, in philosophical terms, precisely because it enables us to find new and more fruitful ways of looking at those basic questions concerning justice and morality, and the manner in which they are interrelated [2]. In the Republic Plato endeavours to answer complex questions about justice by introducing a unique account of what justice actually is, and how morally sensitive people are educated and informed about the real nature of justice and morality [3]. Our understanding of justice is more profound if we insist that what really matters is not merely the observance of external demands — normative and conventional moral rules — but the character of the truly just person [4]. Justice and goodness, based upon judgement as the virtue of a decent life, are seen as congruent in the context of a well ordered society. — o O o —

Plato's fundamental claim, in the Republic, is that justice is so great a good that anyone who completely embraces it is thereby better off, even in the face of the distress and pain of severe misfortune. The basic moral equation, clearly asserted by Plato, seeks to establish that: 'Justice discounted by pain and dishonour is more advantageous than injustice supplemented by the rewards of justice' [5]. However, Plato fails, throughout the dialogue, to explicitly justify this unusual and complex formula. But he clearly believes that people do act against their own immediate interests for the sake of justice, and for the sake of the good of the civic community as a whole. He does not think that the only motive for acting justly is to increase one's own happiness. Plato recognizes that a tension between duty and self-interest is certainly conceivable; that duty and self-interest are two independent concepts neither of which can be reduced to the other. To resolve this tension we must know what is best, without qualifications The Theory of the Forms occupies a crucial and central place in the justification of what may seem to be an extraordinary claim [7]. The Forms are those eternal, changeless, imperceptible and bodiless objects of the understanding, which are central to the education of the philosopher of the Republic, and which engender in him a passionate reverence for such abstract ideas as Beauty, Goodness, Justice, Wisdom etc. [8]. The Platonic philosopher, as a lover of knowledge and wisdom, always strives for a clear and distinct understanding of these abstract ideas — the Forms — and in doing so his life becomes superior to any other. Because, through a study of the Forms, the philosopher of the Republic comes into proximity with the highest order of reality — seen as a great intrinsic good — and he therefore frees himself from those systematic errors which impoverish and disfigure the unreflective life [9]. Plato I s argument for the Theory of Forms enables the philosopher to participate in, or understand, the Form of Justice and, unless he achieves this level of understanding, then any...
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