Justice According to Plato and Aristotle

Topics: Plato, Justice, Ethics Pages: 5 (1769 words) Published: December 25, 2012
Justice According to Plato and Aristotle
Justice has always been an interesting topic for philosophers and also for ordinary people. Justice can be defined briefly as “the fairness in the way that people are treated” (Collins Cobuild, p. 910). Plato and Aristotle, two leading figures of ancient Greek civilization, were earliest philosophers who thought about justice and developed theories about the sublime aspects of being just. This assignment is an attempt to prove that pursuing a life of justice would make living more worthwhile than being unjust or a combination of just and unjust life. In order to reach this point, I am going to explain the concept of justice and its superior aspects from the perspective of both Plato and Aristotle by taking help from their famous works “The Republic” and “The Nicomachean Ethics”. I will also give place to counter arguments and their rebuttals. I will make my own comments at the final part of the assignment. Plato (427 BC-347 BC) was one of the earlier and most important philosophers of the world and is also known as the founder of “The Academy”. Plato’s most famous work is “The Republic” in which he tries to draw the qualities of a just individual and a just state by explaining the sublime nature of justice. In the first two books of The Republic, dialogues between different characters focus on different meanings of justice. During the conversation two conventional definitions of justice (“giving a man’s due” and “doing good to your friends, harm to your enemies”) are refuted brilliantly by Socrates and finally take the form of “doing good to your friends if they are good and doing harm to your enemies if they are bad” (Plato, p. 13). In the following parts of Book one, Thrasymachus appears with all his anger towards Socrates. Thrasymachus defines justice or what is right as “what is the interest of the stronger party” (Plato, p. 19) and rejects previous definitions. Socrates approaches to this definition analytically. He first makes it clear that according to Thrasymachus it is right to show obedience to the ruling power whatever the condition is. Socrates later by asking questions learns Thrasymachus’ view that rulers are not infallible and they are liable to make mistakes. So, he concludes that according to this equation, the justice can also be the interest of the weaker party since rulers are fallible and can make decisions that will harm and decrease their power and people have to obey orders whatever the condition is. Having his words turned around by Socrates, Thrasymachus gets angry and asserts that in any kinds of relationship the unjust person always gets the better then the just person. In order words, he suggests that the pursuit of self-interest or injustice pays better than that of justice. He makes the remark that justice can be morally better but injustice is always stronger. He concludes his words by saying that injustice always prevails over justice. Socrates rejects this view and begins refuting this view by explaining the supremacy of just way of living. Socrates first claims that there are many different professions in the society which help other people such as being a doctor or a shepherd. He proves that the doctor’s function is not directly to increase his benefit and harming others. A doctor takes wage and makes profit only by curing the patient. Moreover, the doctor has a great responsibility about this patient’s health condition. Same can be seen for the shepherd who has to fatten his fleet of sheep. Shortly, Socrates argues that “any kind of authority, public or private, pursued only the welfare of the subjects under its care” (Plato, p. 28). That is why first of all, Thrasymachus’ claim is wrong because he accepts that rulers always think of their self-profit. However, from a Socratic perspective, a ruler’s power comes from his people and he is responsible for the well-being of these people. The second basis of Socrates’ rejection of Thrasymachus’ theory...

Bibliography: • Plato, 1987, “The Republic”, London: Penguin Books
• Aristotle, 1998, “The Nicomachean Ethics”, Oxford University Press
• “Collins Cobuild English Dictionary”, 1995, London: HarperCollins Publishers
Composed by: Ozan Örmeci
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