What is the nature of justice? Looking from Plato’s perspective justice can be broken down to its simplest forms. Plato starts where we start; with forms. Forms are the building blocks that build complex ideas and tell us the nature of those ideas. In this case Plato reveals his ideas on the nature of justice through forms. The nature of justice can be simplified to basic forms and rebuilt for everyone can understand. Early in discussion is the topic is consent. Consent must be under free will though. One can give consent under great pressures, which would ultimately be false.
The way Plato described the natural city begins with need and consent. Everyone agrees to how their lives should be lead, and they all work together to achieve that. This interdependence is what the natural city thrives on. I’m on the side of Plato in his argument of the natural city. This logic is not only seen in cities but every day life. The idea of a city is similar to that of a team. Within a city and a team, each person has a particular job that helps others. If only one person were to do all the work a city would collapse and a team would lose.
I believe that consent is comparable to cooperation. Again, a city must work together in order to progress, and give consent to one another for the good of the city. Of course one cannot lead and force others to consent, but for one to lead for the good of the city requires justice. After the establishment of consent, there is an issue of opinion versus fact. Basic knowledge is a key for a just city in the sense that there is a point at which people of a city may agree. Plato opens the idea of forms, basic knowledge common to all.
People can agree on what a certain object may be, even though particular objects vary and perish, those objects are recognized by a form. These forms as Plato states are imprints that we conceive. We imagine what courage is by imaging a soldier holding his ground or an officer in the line of duty. These forms are not something we don’t originally know, but something we uncover through experience. These forms are not material, and do not fade. An object itself may perish, yet we still perceive what form an object was or will be due to our knowledge. As we said a desk is a desk; that is simple.
So Plato challenges what justice is. The form of justice can be complicated through discussion and said to be perceived differently by people, but justice on simplest terms is common between us all. Justice may be helping another pick up the books they dropped, and injustice would be the person that knocked those books out of the person’s hands. The cause of justice can be described through morals of sorts, but can be easily distorted through words. So when Plato tells us that we have knowledge of these forms, though they are used to describe infinitely different situations, the forms are constant.
I believe in this because I wouldn’t walk outside and call one tree a tree, then the next a basket. There are many trees, but the form of one is an imprint in my mind that I can picture without one in front of my face. The use of forms allows us to describe justice without twisting images as words tend to, just as sophist often did. Plato considers each person has an art in the city. He brings forth that one man is better at farming rather than making clothes. It wouldn’t make sense that a baker would take on the art of a doctor. ‘Again, would one man do better working at many tasks or one at one?…
the result, then, is that more things are produced, and better and more easily when one man performs one task according to his nature…’ (151-153). Plato suggests that each person has something to offer the city; an art that they practice to serve others. The practice of an art though is to the benefit of the weaker by those who possess the intellect and just morals to serve their art. Since no single person can be self sufficient they depend on others for services. Arts of any kind are not only assigned to one person. For instance there is more than one doctor, and say both of those doctors treat a patient.
The just doctor would prescribe medicine to his patient to make him better. That is the art of a doctor. The unjust doctor would let his desire for money control his art, so he would control his patient’s health for the extra gain of wealth. The cause of the injustice is greed and personal desire over one’s reason to act morally right. There is an argument that Plato faces suggesting that the just person is not intelligent and does not have morals. He presents that the just doctor would not try to outdo another doctor, unless that doctor was unjust.
The unjust doctor would try to outdo everyone in his art, and by prescribing cheap and useless medicines he is not performing his art, he is not caring for his patient. If it was truly more profitable to be unjust, and the unjust were more intelligent and held virtuous, then there would be no world. With so much injustice there would be so much competition that society would dive itself out of existence. Therefore I believe in Plato’s stance, that those who posses an art are just, that there cause comes from seeking happiness through helping the weak and ensuring the longevity of society.
By using forms Plato explains how an art, ruling or anything other, is assigned specially to a person. Plato replaces the art with simple instruments. ‘Once more, you could use a dirk to trim vine branches and a knife and many other instruments…But nothing so well, I take it, as a pruning-knife fashioned for this purpose…Must we not then assume this to be the work or function of that? ’ (103). Like the pruning-knife, each person has an art that they can perform and are assigned to. Plato goes on to tell us that having that art or purpose has excellence or virtue.
‘Of necessity, then, a bad soul will govern and manage things badly while the good soul will in all these things do well…And did we not agree that the excellence or virtue of soul is justice and its defect injustice?… The just soul and the just man then will live well and the unjust ill? …Then the just is happy and the unjust miserable…But it surely does not pay to be miserable, but to be happy’ (105-107). In this aspect is more profitable to be just, as the just man has excellence, and performs his art for its proper function. Besides the fact that a person is designed for an art, is the cause that drives them.
In these cities the people that perform arts receive money, so the question of money as a cause arises. Plato defends that the cause of an art is much simpler and less selfish than that. Cause is questioned because if cause behind the art is for money, then it is also for a number of other things. The unjust man would offer his services to gain the money because he wants power. The unjust man wants to control his patients so that he always has business and can force his will. The just man, who performs his art for the right cause has a much simpler desire. Ultimately the just man desires happiness.
He performs his art to serve the weak, so that they are not at disadvantage. If no one is at disadvantage that the operation of a city is efficient, just, and has no cause for selfish desires. With a few principles in place Plato takes one more step. He talks about balance between just and unjust. Existences of complete just or unjust societies are not possible. It is true that there is an opposite of all forms. The opposite of love is hate, of desire is accomplishment, thus the opposite of justice is injustice. I believe that this principle cannot be debated. Picture first a completely unjust society, where each citizen cares for themselves.
Before the city could advance it would already face collapse. The amount of stealing, lying and corruptness of arts would exist in each person. Therefore everyone is in constant competition with one another for their self desires. If each person were to attempt to become self sufficient then there would be great problems and too many obstacles for one person to face. On the other hand, imagine a complete just society. Each person has an art, wisdom and serves the weak. Yet, there would be no citizens at a disadvantage that require service, and the cause that drives the just people would not exist.
In essence, there would be no purpose for arts, and basically no meaning to what a person does. With arts to serve the weaker the natural city emerges. One person works for the good of all, and in turn they are aided in what they need, so each person contributes what they can to the city. Everyone has a job, some that require a precise art, to create equality, so that no single person can unjustly take from those who deserve. Each person contributes what they make to the others, so that in return they receive what they need. At this point everyone’s needs are met and there is no need for a government, armies, protection and so on.
In this version of the natural city there is no vision of growth, people are content and satisfied. This simple way of life becomes too little for some though, as citizens desire more. They desire tools of relaxation, the relishes, and more food. In order to have more possessions they need more land, so they must grow. The city begins to grow and expand until they reach land that is already occupied. This desire for the land they do not have is a sign of jealousy. Through this wrong desire, a city led without justice would take from another.
In this deal one can see that the unjust would walk away more profitable, but the way this city continues to grow is a means to its end. There is a balance between the just and the unjust as Plato states. The world cannot be completely one or another, it is illogical. So if an unjust city was to continuously grow it would suffocate itself. The city would grow and continue to take without giving, until there is nothing left to take. Eventually the city would turn in and take from itself, and the people in this city destroy one another. Yet desire is natural, desire for
advancement and something better. The natural city can evolve but must be guided through justice. The luxurious cities that emerge next stem from desire. This luxurious city is what Plato believes he can define justice. ‘It is not merely the origins of a city, it seems, that we are considering but the origins of a luxurious city. Perhaps that isn’t such a bad suggestion either. For by observation of such a city it may be we could discern the origin of justice and injustice in states’ (161). The structure is based on a strong ruler who supports those close to him by governing the weaker.
Arguments between Thrasymachus and Plato go back and forth about the ruler. Thrasymachus presents the idea that a ruler is unjust and rules only in favor of himself. Yet, Plato argues that rulers do not always govern for themselves. Because rulers are human they err, so consequently a ruler could pass laws for the benefit of a citizen. By passing the laws for the citizen they do not rule for themselves. Thrasymachus can only defend that a ruler is not a true ruler and is not in his right mind when he passes such laws, so that the art of ruling does not err. I support that a ruler is a ruler in any state of mind.
I am with Plato in saying that a ruler can be just, that a ruler has a government for the people. It’s not unheard of that a ruler is unjust though; not everyone is made to be a ruler. Everyone differs due to their nature. Plato suggested the nature of people differs, and I believe that is unquestionable. Not everyone is designed the same, and everyone has a separate soul. Like the soul, each art is used in society due to its need, and every art has a proper function. Although the luxurious city emerges through desire, the formation can be just, and justice can be ever present.
Eventually a city may face downfall due to its great desire and spiral towards injustice. If the city was a patient then, it would require a doctor. ‘Just as if, you should ask me whether it is enough for the body to be the body or whether it stands in need. That is the reason why the art of medicine has now been invented, because the body is defective and such defect is unsatisfactory’ (61). The city is like a body that can repair itself and functions properly due to its nature.
At points though our body cannot overcome an illness and needs assistance to continue. Like the doctor helps a patient to manage their body, a ruler and government are in place to adjust the city in such a way it practices justice. Those who protect and manage the weak and those of the arts are what Plato calls guardians. The guardians are the strongest of those in the society, and make up less than ten percent of the population. This small number is taken from birth and trained like Spartans to be fierce, strong, and wise. This guardian class is not an art in the same way that being a cobbler is an art.
The guardians must have four aspects; they must show sobriety, wisdom, courage, and justice. These four principles dictate the life of the guardian, as they are in place to serve the weak and defend their city. Plato has already made the statements that the guardian class must be strong physically if they are to be guardians, but they must have an even stronger mind. The guardians are not protectors against an imaginary foe, the guardians will do battle; they will be situations where they take life, and in ones that they may lose theirs. For this reason the guardians must not fear death.
The guardians have fear though, for that is the opposite of courage. They are taught to fear slavery, for in death there is glory and a kind god. The guardians are censored from much culture that is exposed to others. Beyond being censored from evils, the music and stories they listen to are controlled. Stories would not tell tales that would distract the guardians from the values instilled in them. Also tales of the gods must be altered, so that the gods are not depicted as fighting with one another. If the guardians saw the corruption between gods, they would not strive to emulate them.
‘Neither must we admit at all that gods war with gods, and plot against one another and contend – for it is not true either – if we wish our future guardians to deem nothing more than shameful than lightly to fall out with one another; still less must we make battles of gods and giants…’ (181). Plato believes that the music should promote liberalness, that is to say giving. He states that the guardians are a giving class, and should not have possessions. Without possessions this eliminates desires such as jealousy or envy between guardians. Guardians own no land, nor do they have families or children.
Without such attachments the guardians are able to be ‘high-minded’ and become a truly fearless and free warrior. Plato goes so far as to say that the guardians should not be affected by the death of any family or friend. This requirement I believe would go against other teachings of the guardians. Not to feel for those deaths would be showing no compassion, and I believe the guardians should show great compassion for those they protect and serve. They do however have to endure pain, and have the ability to tolerate hardships. If a guardian is able to face that someone close to them is gone then they show great courage.
Guardians may be held at higher standards, and train to endure and push, yet they feel pain just as any other human. After detailing the characteristics of the city, Plato continues by stating a class arrangement. The city has three classes; of the guardians, there are the counselors and then there are the warriors, and of the wage earners. The wage earners have been described before as those who have such arts to serve the weak and each other, and the warriors, just noted, are physical guardians. The counselors are the old and wise that govern the city, and control the other classes.
This higher class must hold great virtue, and must be just in order to ensure the fate of the city. Summing up all the values that Plato teaches, these three classes are all individuals with basic knowledge, yet differ by nature. The difference in those destine for each class are their souls. Plato tells us that each soul has a place in life. In the myth of the medals Plato describes the existence of different souls together. A person is born with one of three metals in their soul. Those with bronze souls belong to the wage-earners; silver souls belong to the warriors; gold souls belong to the counselors.
These souls are different, yet they all must function together in the city. Again, I find much sense in this; different souls lead to different nature, which determines what placement in society a person should have. The souls also have three different parts; reason, spirit and desire. Like the guardian class our soul holds the principles of wisdom, courage and sobriety, respectively. Our soul, also like the city, requires balance, because without balance one is inclined to injustice. The All things considered, Plato says that justice can be defined now.
Originally I imagine justice and injustice as right versus wrong, but that statement can change and be debated greatly because right and wrong differs by opinion. Since we all have different natures and different souls, our view of right and wrong are in regard of those differences. Plato states that there is a different definition for justice. He says that justice is for a soul to have proper fitting, and that injustice is for a soul to be out of place. It would be unjust for a bronze soul to be anything than a wage earner, especially a counselor, which would be the greatest injustice.
Courtney from Study Moose
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