Platonic Justice

Topics: Plato, Justice, Soul Pages: 6 (2152 words) Published: March 21, 2007
Plato, who began his philosophical career as a student of the Socrates, is in the pursuit of showing the weaknesses of where he lived-Athens-. He attacks ‘the democracy of Athens' which found in the degenerated conditions and he came to propose construction of an ideal society in which justice symbolizes the virtuous, since Plato believed justice is there to be the prescription for the evils. He used the Greek word "Dikaisyne" for justice which refers the work ‘morality' or ‘righteousness'. The English word justice and the Greek word ‘Dikaisyne' capture imperfectness when explaining the same concept because the Greek one implies both law-abiding behaviours and institutions, and virtues of people in social context. However, neither justice nor fairness embrace the essence of Dikaisyne, but I use justice as a translation. It is essential to point out that Plato approaches the justice at two levels: justice in the soul and justice in the city. Firstly, it is to be noted that many theories of justice were prevalent before Plato's analysis. Thus, before discussing his own concept of justice, it is necessary to analyze those traditional theories of justice were objected by him. Cephalus who was a representative of traditional morality of the ancient Greece established the traditional theory of justice . According to him 'justice consists of speaking in the right way and paying one's payment. Thus Cephalus identifies justice with right conduct. Beside, Polemarchus also maintains the same view of justice but with a little alteration. The simple implication of this conception of justice may be that ‘justice is doing good to friends and harm to enemies'. The views propounded by Cephalus and Polemarchus

were criticized by Plato in the voice of Socrates. The view point of Cephalus is criticised on the ground that there may be exceptions in which this formula may involve the violation of the spirit of right. On the other hand, the oppositions of Plato force Polemarchus to find what benefits friends and harms enemies in number of specific contexts. There is a unclarity of words ‘friends' and ‘enemies.(Pappas,1995:36). But if the friends only in seeming, and an enemy in reality, then what will happen? Socrates concerns with the role of justice regardless of the differences between individuals like enemy or friends etc. If the direction of discussion is changed, the new framework, that we are faced with, is what good is justice. Thrasymachus who acts upon the rhetoric just like sophists propounded the radical theory of justice. He defines justice as "the interest of the stronger". In the other words, ‘might makes right'. For Thrasymachus justice means personal interest of the ruling group in any state, we can further define it as "another's good". Any governing group passes laws that benefits itself. Those who violate such laws are punished because violation of such laws is equal to the violation of justice. (Pappas,1995:40). Socrates firmly disagrees these points of Thrasymachus by focusing on the nature of justice. He firstly attacks the idea of the advantage of the stronger and exploits his comments about an ideal ruler –philosopher king- to make his fallacy as the Machiavellian cynicism.(Pappas,1995:41). Socrates determines the the ruler character as the fact that the unjust attempts to find better of all others, the just only get better of unjust. In this conjucture, Socrates would like to show how justice can be profitable:

justice requires cooperation, injustice separation. Therefore, the domination of justice over injustice will not result in the profitability of particular social pattern. Glaucon and Adeimantus initiates the Book 2 with the concentrating the Thrasmachus point of view. They suggest a form of what was later to be known as a social contract theory, arguing we are only moral because ‘it pays us or we have to be.' They want a...
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