Why Be Moral
Grand Canyon University: PHI-305
October 5, 2014
Why Be Moral
Plato’s idea of justice is along the thought of morality, or righteousness while Thrasymachus thoughts were that justice meant superiority. This essay will discuss the two views of justice as well as give purpose to the question of “why be moral?” Before answering the question, one must compare the two views of the scholars to get both sides. There could be several reasons for living by a moral code, this essay will discuss two. Plato writes in The Republic about a place of ideal perfection, especially in laws, government, and social conditions, called the city. This city has three parts to it, Guardians, Soldiers, and Workers that make it function justly (Rosen, 2005). The analogy that he gives to a just city he also compares to that of a three part person. Plato claims that people have three parts to them- reason, spirit, and appetite (Clark & Poortenga, 2003). If the just city can live and abide by the four virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice, then so can a just person (Clark & Poortenga, 2003). Justice is defined by Plato as a morality or righteousness. He uses the Greek word Dikaisyne, which ultimately means righteousness. Living a life of righteousness, or a moral life, will bring human happiness (Clark & Poortenga, 2003). Thrasymachus, on the other hand, argues that the stronger you are the more just you are. His reasoning leads to the thought of rulers being moral and just, and people who are under them are those of injustice (Hourani, 1962). After debate with Socrates, Thrasymachus definition of justice being obedience to the laws is modified as Hourani (1962) points out to: “obedience to those laws which are in the real interest of the stronger” (p. 120). With both views of justice in mind, let us look to the scripture to learn about justice and righteousness. In Hebrews 1:9 the author states that “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions.” With this thought, neither Plato nor Thrasymachus are correct. Justice is not about being stronger or living a “right” life. Justice is about loving righteousness and hating lawlessness. This takes away the thought that the stronger you are the more just you are as well as the more moral you are, the better you are. In the Bible, Jesus fulfilled a law (Romans 10:4) “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Justice or righteousness is only achieved by believing in Christ. One cannot obtain it from any act they do or status they have. A person is not righteous because they do good things as well as a person in not unrighteous because they do bad things. We are who we are in Christ no matter the actions we do. God legally sees us a righteous. Philippians 3:9 says “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” And Ephesians 4 says “22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” You cannot obtain righteousness by being a good person according to God’s Word. It is only through faith in Christ and His redemptive work that this is achieved. No matter which philosopher you like, they will always miss the mark when they stray away from the God of Creation being the reason we have or have not. When we put things in the hands of humans by way of action, it takes us away from the true meaning of the question “why be moral”. My answer to the question is: I will be moral because Christ in me in moral. He is the driving force inside me. I will be a good person and follow the laws because of who I am in Christ, not because of what I want to get out of it. Plato’s analogy of man being three in one follows Paul’s thought in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where he states that we are to be whole, spirit, soul and body. Man is a spirit; he has a soul and lives in a body. This is the driving force behind being a good person. If one accepts Christ in their life, then their spirit in righteous. The issue we face is that we have a soul (mind, will, and emotions) that needs to be aligned with our spirit. Once this alignment happens then our bodies will be made whole, or glorified (Philippians 3:21) “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Another reason to having a moral code has nothing to do with God at all. Say that there is no Heaven of life after this one. There is not eternal reward for living a life with morals. The quality of life that a person has by following a moral code is worth it. Living a life with moral is more rewarding than living a life without them. In conclusion, Plato and Thrasymachus argue the point of justice being something that is decided by human effort. No matter which philosopher you follow, they both give tribute to man and not to God. Once one realizes that it is only by serving God that one can see true justice in the sense of righteousness, they will truly have justice. It is not whether you follow some moral code or if you are born to a certain family that makes justice happen, it is a Just God that brings justice to His people.
Clark, K. J. & Poortenga, A. (2003). The story of ethics: Fulfilling Our Human Nature, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Hourani, G. F. (1962) Thrasymachus' definition of justice in plato's "republic", Phronesis Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 110-120, Published by: BRILL Retrieved From: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4181704
Life Application Study Bible is the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.
Rosen, S. (2005). Plato's republic : A Study. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com