Plato's argument for the benefits of a just life is intrinsically linked to his
definition of good and its relation to people's desires. He begins by showing
that when the objective of a desire is simple (e.g. quenching a thirst), the
desire must be correspondingly simple. Since thirst is a simple desire, the
man's objective must also be simplistic and should we assign an adjective to his
objective, we would falsely complicate it. In addition, Plato believes that we
would be seriously erring if we assign a value of good to an desire.
In common use, the adjective good would denote something that is good in
relation to others of its kind. We consider a drink good if it contains
characteristics that we look for in a drink (e.g. pleasantness or taste). Plato
takes this a step further and states that something that is good must not only
be good in relation to others but it must be wholly good. Thus a drink cannot
be truly good if evil results from it. This poses an interesting question for
Plato's readers namely, since no one wants bad things to happen to them, why do
people engage in self-destructive activities? The answer lies in the fact that
the only reason that we desire to drink is that we anticipate the result of our
thirst being quenched. Our appetites see no further consequences than the
immediate fulfillment of our desires; they do not contemplate the results of the
actions we take to fulfill our desires.
For this reason, Plato believes that we must separate the soul based on how it
reacts to desires. There must be a part of the soul, Plato reasons, that
contemplates the end result of our actions and makes decisions based on a higher
reasoning than desire. So we see two distinct parts of the soul. The first is
said to be appetite (which desires without reason) and reason (which considers
the consequences). Reason may thus work against anything that is not for the
total good of the man. Plato holds that if the... [continues]
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