PLATO AND JUSTICE
In his famed dialogue The Republic, Plato wants to answer the fundamental question: What is justice? And also, what is the relationship between justice and happiness? Later the philosopher also methodically proves his theory that it pays to be just. Plato’s task of defining justice is twofold. He provides a definition for individual justice as well as one for political justice. And he sets to prove that the two mirror each other.
In the Republic Book IV, Plato claims that the soul of every individual consists of three parts, similar to the three classes of his society.
Reason: The rational man searches for the truth and reason is the part of the soul that rules.
Spirit: The spirited man seeks honor for himself, he supports the rule.
Appetite: The “appetitive” man lusts all earthly goods, mostly money. This part submits to and follows the ruler’s will.
Plato defines political justice as a balanced harmony in a structured political entity. To debate the subject, Plato and his interlocutors (Socrates, who is the narrator, Glaucon, Adeimantus, Polemarchus, Cephalus, Thrasymachus, Cleitophon) create the first Utopian state of Kallipolis. Plato’s theory is that an ideal society consists of three classes:
Guardians (Rulers): They are the only ones who seek the truth and are able to judge with reason (philosophers).
Auxiliaries (Soldiers): This group is in charge of safety from outside (army) and from inside (police). They are the auxiliaries.
Producers (working class): The last group provides for all the needs and goods in the city.
Justice according to Plato exists when each of the three classes above, performs their specialized task without interfering with the others.
The correlation between Individual and Political Justice
Plato describes the parallels between as follows: The Appetite part of the soul dominates the class of the Producers, the Spirit dominates the Warriors and the Reason dominates the Rulers.
It pays to be just
Plato presents three arguments for the claim that it pays to be just in Book IX of the Republic. He depicts the unjust tyrant as a wrecked individual, while a just soul is calm. He contends that only philosophical pleasure is a real pleasure. And all other pleasures are just medicines for pain. He asserts that only a philosopher is capable of experiencing all types of pleasures resulting from money loving, honor-loving and truth loving.
Also, read the related Blog posts as follows: Plato Totalitarian Plato’s Dystopia Plato’s Academia, Plato’s Duality, Plato’s Imitation Theory, The Republic Lead subjects, Plato’s Regimes, Art as Imitation, Duality in Plato’s Republic, Plato and Art, Dystopia Connotations, Utopia Connotations, What is Utopia, Plato’s Republic, Who was Plato, Plato’s Visual Utopia book
Featured image artwork, “Justice” – Illustration by Daniel Heller.