Why Be Moral
Grand Canyon University: PHI-305
Instructor: Dr. Cornell Horn
Justice played a very important role in Plato’s philosophy. After chastising different theories of justice, he came up with his own theory, he said justice was a human virtue; it is what makes a person good. Individually, justice can make a person good and self-consistent, but socially it could bring harmony to society. Plato’s idea of justice was all about virtue and goodness. Plato also believed that justice was an essential part of an ideal society. Because it brought more light and could cure bad things. Plato believed that philosophers had to rule the state and that they were the only ones that could judge what justice is because they had the wisdom. Such people in charge were capable of making accurate judgments. They had an idea of important issues in human life. According to Plato justice is understood only for enlightened people. Before Plato found what he thought was the ideal term of justice, he questioned other people. Their answers were all very different from one another so he had to sum them up; most of their views were rejected for specific reasons. So Plato came up with his theory of justice from the rejected theories of other people. In Plato’s book, The Republic, Glaucon and Thrasymachus argued that justice is believed to be seen as the stronger having a slight advantage over the weaker. Rulers simply rule for their own benefit and that people only act decently because of its consequences. Socrates’ had an opposing view on the meaning of justice; Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace, depicted the events and supported the views of Glaucon and Thrasymachus. In the first book, Thrasymachus begins his argument by defining what traditional justice is. “As I have said from the beginning, the just is the advantage of the stronger, and the unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself” (Plato, 344c). This is where Thrasymachus presents his first point that the unjust man will always be better off than the just man. He states in the contracts between an unjust and just man, the unjust man will always come up with more. In the tax system, the unjust man will always pay less in taxes and receive higher distributions and the just man will always incur the ill will of his acquaintances and relatives when he is compelled to serve them against what is just (Plato, 343e). Unjust men act selfishly when unconfined by the rules of justice; they do this for their own benefit rather than acting for the good of others. Thrasymachus would argue that when acting so justly and continuing to work for the common good, you are working against your better interest. In the second book, Glaucon injects on Thrasymachus’ argument by explaining the origin of justice and why people act justly, why the life of the just man is not as good as the life of the unjust man. Glaucon argues that committing injustice is the best-case scenario and suffering injustice is the worst-case scenario, but the harm in suffering injustice far outweighs the good in doing it (Plato, 358e). Consequently, humanity came to a great compromise, agreeing to refrain from committing injustice in order to avoid suffering it. Humans would agree to this compromise out of fear of suffering injustice. However, Glaucon points out that a strong, smart person would not agree to this. Rather, if the negative consequences of injustice and the positive consequences of justice were removed, all humans would disagree with this compromise and act unjustly. When analyzing justice in the ruling classes, Thrasymachus compares rulers to shepherds. Thrasymachus makes this comparison because shepherds appear to be benefitting the sheep by feeding and grooming them, however in the end these actions are done only for their own gain (Plato, 343b). Similarly, those in power do not rule for the advantage of those whom they are ruling. Instead, they make...
References: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy “IEP”. Retrieved from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/thrasymachus/
Jonathan Kozol. (2000). The hopeful years: Children of the South Bronx. Christian Century, 117, 536-541. Retrieved April 22, 2008, from: http://web.ebscohost.com.avoserv.library.fordham.edu/ehost/detail?vid=1&hid=116&sid=e829d572-1334-4877-9871-c4561f57be46%40sessionmgr108
Michelle Costantino and Dr. Kathleen King. Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol. Retrieved from: http://faculty.fordham.edu/kpking/classes/uege5102-pres-and-newmedia/Jonathan-Kozol-Amazing-Grace-Presentation-M-Costantino.pdf.
George F. Hourani . Definition of Justice in Plato’s Republic. Phronesis Vol. 7, No. 2 (1962), pp. 110-120. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4181704?uid=3739672&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21104789331603.
Kelly James Clark and Anne Poortenga. (2003). The Story of Ethics: Fulfilling Our Human Nature. Retrieved from: http://gcumedia.com/digital-resources/pearson/2003/the-story-of-ethics_-fulfilling-our-human-nature_ebook_1e.php.
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