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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Essay on Plato - The Concept of Justice

Why do we have a concept of justice? Is it because of our society? Is it due to the fact that we are afraid of heavenly punishment? Is it a good thing in itself? What is justice in the first place? These are some of the questions people seek the answers to. Plato answers these in “The Republic”.

As one search for the meaning of justice in the “The Republic” written by Plato, one would probably find a lot of definitions. Two good examples are justice is harmony and justice is doing one’s job.  (Plato) However, we cannot clearly get a definiton of justice out of these two phrases. Plato also offers analaogies in order to evaluate the definiton of justice.  (Frede)

The first one is the division in the parts of the soul and the parts of the state. The soul is divided into three parts: appetitive, spirited and rational. The appetitive is the part of the soul that has no rational awareness with its desires. The spirited is the courageous and strong willed part of the soul. The rational is the part that can enable a person to make good decisions about his or her life. The state is also divided into three main types of people: workers, soldiers and rulers. In the Republic, the children are taken from their parents at birth and they will be assessed in accordance with their natural qualities.  The workers’ role is to provide food, shelter, clothes and other things needed by the state. These people are ruled by their appetitive part. The soldiers will do everything in order to defend the state from enemies. They are ruled by their spirited part. The rulers are the ones who possess wisdom. They do not want fame or power. The rulers are ruled by their rational part. Plato argues that justice is the same in the soul as well as in the state. The three parts of the soul which rules the three classes in the state will work together in order to achieve the good for the whole soul or state. When this happens then we achieve harmony.

There are no mistakes in the division of classes in Plato’s state. With the intention of identifying with the thought of a just state we must regard that each human being is working the most excellent activity he is naturally fit for. Each human being is practicing what they are most excellent at which is considered to be a virtue. One should not try to do anyone else’s job.

However, can justice really exist given these situations? Why would the workers continue to work? Why would the soldiers continue to defend the state? Plato answers that this problem will be solved by control and understanding. And which part has these qualities? There is none other than the rulers. Plato claims that there would be no justice until the philosophers became kings. The reason for this is that philosophers understood what the real meaning of justice is in the World of Forms.

Plato explains that the definition of justice is best illustrated by the parts of the soul and the state as well as their interactions.  Only the Philosopher King would rule because he clearly understands what justice is thus he will be able to be just producing a just state. Without a just state then there would be no harmony.

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