Political Justice: Plato and Aristotle

Topics: Justice, Aristotle, Plato Pages: 6 (2195 words) Published: November 26, 2008
Plato and Aristotle had different ideas of politics and political justice. In The Republic, Plato creates the ideal city, which is needed to guarantee justice. He aims to create a peaceful united city that will lead to the greater good of the community and individuals. Unlike Plato who imagines the ideal city, Aristotle looks at actual cities in The Politics. He doesn't want to create the ideal city; he aims to improve the existing city. While their ideas about politics and justice were different, they both strived to find a better way of life for society and hoped to achieve political justice.

In order to define justice, Socrates attempts to create an ideal city, one that is healthy and just. Socrates begins by "investigating what justice looks like in the cities" in order to "go on to consider it in individuals" (Plato, 45). He believes that it is through speech that one will see the way in which both justice and injustice come into being. Socrates argues that people come together as partners and form cities based on mutual needs because "each [person] isn't self-sufficient but is in need of much": food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities (Plato, 46). It is in the need that the men have of one another in a healthy city that justice can be found (Plato, 49). In the Republic, Plato argues that justice is social, structural, and peaceful. He also believes that people function best doing one thing well.

According to Socrates, people naturally differ in nature; "different men are apt for the accomplishment of different jobs" (Plato, 46). Socrates argues for specialization by saying, "one man, one art" (Plato, 47). He argues that this concept of specialization is the only way to make certain that each job is done well. Socrates goes on to divide the city into three distinct classes: producers, warriors, and rulers. Socrates believes a just city requires a division of labor in order to guarantee the stability of the city and provide the common good for the citizens. He states that, "each thing becomes more plentiful, finer, and easier, when one man, exempt from other tasks, does one thing according to nature" (Plato, 47). A strict division of labor is the only way to construct a just city, in which few laws are required. Socrates uses the analogy of the healthy city to describe how "justice and injustice naturally grow in cities" (Plato, 49).

A healthy city becomes an unhealthy, "feverish" city when people become driven by desire and want more than the mere necessities of a healthy city. Some people will not be satisfied with the mere necessities; thus, relishes will be added. When people desire more and more luxuries, the city must be made bigger again and again because the healthy one is no longer adequate (Plato, 50). As the city grows, more land is required in order to be sufficient. At some point, one must "cut off a piece of [their] neighbors' land" (Plato, 50). Socrates argues that encroachment will ultimately lead to war. He goes on to state that because of thisß inevitable war, the city will require Guardians.

According to Socrates, the Guardians of the state must have a very spirited soul be very well trained (Plato, 52). He goes on to argue that a good Guardian must be "a philosopher in nature, spirited, swift, and strong" (Plato, 53). They must never turn against the city and must know whom to do violence to. Therefore, "[the Guardians] must be gentle to their own and cruel to enemies" (Plato, 52). To ensure that they will never turn against the city, Socrates believes that they must be educated morally "in speech" through the stories of the Gods and heroes (Plato, 54). Socrates argues that the tales should be supervised and modified if need be, in order to instill the idea that Gods can do no wrong. Only the stories that display bravery and dispel the fear of death should be taught to the Guardians. As a citizen, a Guardian must defend their city, make war together against any enemy of the city,...

Bibliography: ristotle, The Politics. Translated with an introduction by Carnes Lord. (Chicago, 1984).
Plato (380 B.C.). Republic, translated by G. M. A. Grube, 2 nd ed., revised by C. D. C. Reeve, Indianapolis: Hackett (1992).
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