Plato's City-Soul Analogy and the Nature of Justice

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Plato's City-Soul Analogy and the Nature of Justice

By | October 2010
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What is the purpose of the city-soul analogy and does it help us understand the nature of justice?

In his philosophy, Plato places a large emphasis on the importance of the idea of justice. This emphasis can be seen especially in his work ‘The Republic’ where, through his main character Socrates, he attempts to define the nature of justice and to justify this definition. One of the methods used by Socrates to strengthen or rather explain his argument on justice is through his famous city-soul analogy, where a comparison between a just city and a just soul/individual is made. Through this analogy, Socrates attempts to explain the nature of justice, how it is the virtue of the soul and is therefore intrinsically valuable to the individual, but it becomes apparent in the analysis and evaluation of the analogy that there may have been several purposes behind it. Inconsistencies within the analogy itself also raise questions to the validity in Plato’s definition and justification of justice. As previously stated, the most apparent purpose behind the city- soul analogy is to illustrate and justify how justice is intrinsically valuable for the individual. Socrates first explains that there is justice both in the city and in the individual, and as the city is larger than the individual, justice in the city is presented on a larger scale and will therefore be easier to see. By considering justice in the city first, the analysis of it will help shed light on the inquiry of the justice of the individual, identified with his or her soul. There seems to be legitimate reasoning behind this analogy as both the city and the individual have justice as a common variable, but when taken out of its philosophical realm and is identified with real human tendencies and ambiguities – so different to that of an organized structure of a city –it is hard to view the sole basis of this horizontal parallel analogy of the city and the individual as being wholly viable. This will further...
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