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HPT 2015 1. Plato's Republic
Transcript of HPT 2015 1. Plato's Republic
What is justice?
A Socratic dialogue
Socrates talks to a character about some moral quality -- courage, piety, friendship -- and uncovers the fact that the beliefs he holds about it are inadequate, or even incoherent
The general lesson
People who possess or claim to know about a moral quality are quite likely to have wrong or unsatisfactory beliefs about it, and to be unable to withstand intellectual probing on the matter
A discussion with a rich man (
) who believes that riches help one to be just sparks off a discussion of justice, which exposes common beliefs about it as radically wrong, but concludes that we are still in the dark as to what justice is
The stage and the characters
are visiting the Piraeus, the port of Athens, for a festival, and are jokingly forced to visit the house of
and his sons
. Cephalus is not an Athenian citizen; he is a 'resident alien' from Syracuse who has grown rich from trade and manufacture. In Athens the citizens in the main made their living from land; trade and most of what we would call commercial forms of moneymaking were in the hands of Greeks from other cities, who lived in Athens without citizen rights. Cephalus is a man who has chosen to spend his life making money by living in a foreign city and renouncing all the rights, duties, and activities of a citizen, things vitally important to the self-respect of most Greeks.
The security based on wealth which Cephalus had spent his life building up, and which is so much stressed here, was wholly illusory: only a few years later, when Athens fell, the family was totally ruined, Polemarchus executed, and Lysias driven into exile.
Money cannot provide even the security it promises, and a life devoted to the pursuit of money is something which can be lost through the actions of other people
Cephalus is a limited and complacent man
He begins by saying that Socrates really ought to visit more often, because he himself finds that he enjoys discussion ever more as he loses the capacity for bodily pleasures.
But Socrates probes a bit further: is Cephalus able to achieve tranquillity because of his temperament, or because he is well-off?
The chief consolation of riches, Cephalus says, is that a man can die in tranquillity. Even someone who sneered at tales of rewards and punishments in the next world when he was young, starts to worry about them when he gets older, and it is a great help to have had the aid of wealth in avoiding wrongdoing; the rich man need never lie or keep what was not his, so he can have a clear conscience.
Justice as compliance to external rules, enforced merely by sanctions (Prudent compliance to rules)
The only motive to be moral is fear. Most people only perform their duties because they fear punishment - if not here, then after death. Motives are not important, for what matters is that the debts be paid, in whatever spirit. The only reason for being just is that, perhaps in the very long run, it is better for you. If you neglect justice, you may be tormented in your old age by fear of hell-fire; and who knows, maybe there is a hell-fire.
There may be occasions when telling the truth and giving back what one has received may not be just. If you borrow a weapon from someone and then he goes mad it would not be right to give it back when he asks for it; nor is it always right to tell the truth to someone not in their senses
You cannot say what a virtue is by giving a list of kinds of action, for the same kind of action might not display that virtue, and the virtue might be displayed in other kinds of action.
Those rules to be understood in a very external fashion: what matters is whether or not you perform certain actions, like sacrificing to the gods, and not the spirit in which this is done. This is why Cephalus thinks that it is harder for a poor man to be just ; he may owe someone money, or owe the gods a sacrifice, and not be able to afford it, and so may die having done wrong, though unwillingly. Right and wrong consist in the performance of certain actions (which riches help you to do): the kind of person you are does not matter. Morality is something entirely
, a matter of rules to follow and duties to perform; and these are taken over without questioning whether these are the right things to do - whether, for example there should be duties which the rich can perform better than the poor - or questioning the spirit in which they should be done - whether, for example, they should be such that you could fail to do them even unwillingly.
Doing right consists in observing a few simple rules or maxims like 'don't lie' and 'give back what isn't yours',
: justice is trivial, because there is no special field for it to be concerned with. The characteristic scope of justice, Polemarchus says, is to do good to your friends and harm to your enemies. But to help your friends you have to help them in some specific way. But the best person to help you when you are ill is a doctor, and the best person when you are at sea is a navigator. The just man has no expertise of his own.
: Is it just to harm someone who is in fact good, but it is our enemy -- or to help someone who we believe is good and our friends, but mistakenly? Is not justice an impartial notion that might require one to recognize virtue in an enemy and wickedness in a friend? Justice cannot merely be helping your friends and harming your enemies - your friends must be good for it to be just to help, and your enemies must be bad for it to be just to harm them.
Rude and overbearing, insulting Socrates in the grossest manner and accusing him of hypocrisy, losing with a bad grace and vulgarly demanding money. Obviously the real Plato detested the real Thrasymachus.
Justice is nothing but obeying the laws. We do in fact conform to the laws and institutions that we live under, and we do so because we have to - if we do not we will be punished or subject to various forms of social pressure. In fact talk about justice is really, if we look at the facts, talk about power and who holds power. Justice is in the interest of the stronger.
Justice as imprudent vice
Justice has a real existence all right, and is embodied in some laws and institutions, but anyone with any sense will see that conforming to it is a bad thing from the agent's point of view. Justice benefits the weak, and what is so good about benefiting the weak? Justice has a real existence independent of convention, but there is nothing admirable in it.
Is justice rational, or prudent?
Does justice benefit its possessor?
Every government sets up laws in its own interest. A democracy sets up laws of a democratic spirit, and analogously for oligarchies, tyrannies, and so on. In making these laws they declare that this is just for their subjects, namely what is in their own interests, and they punish the man who transgresses them as a lawbreaker and unjust man.
The stronger is the ruler, and the interest of the stronger comes down to the fact that rulers rule in their own interest. So there is nothing more to justice than obeying the laws of one's own state, what ever that is. Justice turns out to be what the rulers say it is
: rulers may make mistakes. So they may make the laws, which are in their interest, badly. We may get a situation, then, where the rulers make laws which are not in their interest. But if justice is obedience to the laws, it is just for the subjects to obey the rulers' laws whether they are in their actual interest or not. So justice may lead to one's doing not only what is in the interest of the stronger, but its opposite - namely, what is in fact against the interest of the stronger, but has been ineptly made law by the rulers.
Thrasymachus was assuming that the ruler will always be the stronger: that is, that the existing legal and social structure always accurately reflects the distribution of power. Socrates pulls the two apart and makes Thrasymachus choose. Is he going to tie justice to what is, at any given time, actually in force and legal? Or is he really interested not in the ruler as such but in the stronger? The latter turns out to be the case. Thrasymachus was interested in the ruler only as long as he unreflectingly assumed that the ruler would be, in fact, the man who was the stronger, the one with the greatest command of resources and power.
Thrasymachus compares the ruler to a shepherd or herds
man : he takes care of his flock, but his attitude is basically exploitative. Taking this as his model he concludes that in general justice is 'another's good' (
) and injustice is 'one's own good'. The unjust man seeks his own good, whereas the just man does not - he acts in such a way that his actions are to the advantage of others. The just man pays taxes, the unjust avoids his. The just man acts honestly in public office and so damages his own affairs, while the unjust man uses public office as an opportunity for corruption and nepotism.
So Thrasymachus identifies the unjust man with the man who successfully forwards his own interests. And because he assumes throughout that most of the time most people's interests will inevitably conflict, the unjust man who forwards his own interests before anything else will necessarily come into conflict with the interests of others. He is bound to outdo others, chiefly the just, who lay themselves open to such exploitation. Thrasymachus admires the unjust man as being strong, self-reliant, and intelligent. He is even prepared to admire criminals if they are successful: petty wrongdoers are not admirable, but crime on the scale of the Mafia is something that demands respect. But the man he chiefly admires is the tyrant or dictator, the man who pushes his own interests at others' expense in such a ruthless and successful fashion that he gets into a position where nobody can challenge him. Injustice, if it can attain such a position, is 'stronger and freer and more masterful' than justice (
). In other words, justice is acting in a way which defers to and promotes the interests of others, and injustice is acting to promote your own interests, at others' expense if need be, which it probably will be. This makes injustice seem overwhelmingly reasonable. Why let others take advantage of you, when you could be defending your own interests? Why not admire the man who uses his brains on his own behalf?
The admirable life is the life of the person who disregards justice and goes ruthlessly and unjustly after his own interests.
: Thrasymachus wants injustice to be associated with strength; the unjust man achieves great things, and in particular, rule over a city. Socrates maintains that in fact it produces weakness rather than strength, because it precludes co-operation. If everyone is known to want to outdo the others, nothing will ever get done, because nobody can trust anyone else to refrain from pushing their own aims at the expense of whatever common good it is that they are co-operating to achieve. Nobody can develop purely competitive virtues if he needs the help of others to achieve his ends.
: Thrasymachus is not interested in the achievement of ends that require genuine co-operation; he is interested in the unjust individual, the would-be tyrant. And he doesn't need justice; all he needs is the common sense to persuade people to rely on him as long as they won't thwart his ends. At most he needs to pretend to be just. To become a successful tyrant you need to simulate justice to a judicious extent, but there could be a successful and ruthless individual tyrant who was uninterested in justice.
: no skill or art includes the idea of doing well for oneself out of it, so that it positively excludes self-aggrandizement. No skill includes as part of itself the skill of making money, for this is a quite separate skill ; thus rulers do not rule in their own interests, for if they get anything out of ruling it is not qua ruler. Regarded as a skill, ruling is not essentially exploitative, as Thrasymachus had claimed. No skill is as such essentially exploitative; it can be practised from a variety of motives.
This is, to say the least, a back-handed compliment. For Socrates, discussion and philosophy are the most important and urgent things in life - 'the unexamined life is not worth living'. Cephalus is saying, in a tactless and insensitive way, that this sort of thing is fine once you have nothing better to do. 'Philosophy' is thought of as something old men do when they look back and make vague and complacent comments about Life.
[...] you ought to come here more often. I want you to know, you see, that in my case at least, as the other pleasures—the bodily ones—wither away, my appetites for discussions and their pleasures grow stronger.
Cephalus is better than most in that he at least does not resent old age and the waning of desire; this is the nearest someone like this can get to philosophical detachment.
[...] old age brings peace and freedom from all such things. When the appetites cease to stress and importune us, [...] we escape from many insane masters.
Cephalus' answer shows the limitations of his mind. Riches, he says, are not actually sufficient for a man to be just ; but they do help. It is very hard for a poor man to be just throughout life, though rich men also can fail to be just.
I imagine when you say that, Cephalus, the masses do not accept it. On the contrary, they think you bear old age more easily, not because of the way you live, but because you are wealthy. For the wealthy, they say, have many consolations.
[...] a good person would not easily bear old age if it were coupled with poverty, but one who wasn’t good would not be at peace with himself even if he were wealthy.
[...] when someone thinks his end is near, he becomes frightened and concerned about things he did not fear before. It is then that the stories told about Hades, that a person who has been unjust here must pay the penalty there—stories he used to make fun of— twist his soul this way and that for fear they are true.And whether because of the weakness of old age, or because he is now closer to what happens in Hades and has a clearer view of it, or whatever it is, he is filled with fore- boding and fear, and begins to calculate and consider whether he has been unjust to anyone. If he finds many injustices in his life, he often even awakes from sleep in terror, as children do, and lives in anticipation of evils to come. But someone who knows he has not been unjust has sweet good hope as his constant companion [...].
[...] the possession of wealth is most valuable, not for every man, but for a good and orderly one. Not cheating someone even unintentionally, not lying to him, not owing a sacrifice to some god or money to a person, and as a result departing for that other place in fear—the possession of wealth makes no small contribution to this
[...] justice is simply speaking the truth and paying whatever debts one has incurred.
[...] everyone would surely agree that if a man borrows weapons from a sane friend, and if he goes mad and asks for them back, the friend should not return them, and would not be just if he did. Nor should anyone be willing to tell the whole truth to someone in such a state.
Polemarchus retreats to the claim that the just man is specially useful in business, where his honesty can be relied on. Yet even this is limited; for any specific purpose, someone else will always be better at using the money or goods or whatever it is that is required. The just man is only really useful when they are being deposited with him, not when they are being used.
'So in all spheres justice is useless when you are using things, and useful when you are not?
Polemarchus is implicitly thinking of justice as being like a skill with a given end: but in this case there is no important given end that justice helps us to attain.
it is just to give to each what is owed to him.
I [...] believe this, that benefiting one’s friends and harm- ing one’s enemies is justice.
[...] it is just for many people— the ones who are mistaken in their judgment—to harm their friends, since they are bad for them, and benefit their enemies, since they are good.
[...] it is just to treat friends well and enemies badly. Now you want us to add to this: to treat a friend well, provided he is good, and to harm an enemy, provided he is bad?
Now, while we were speaking,Thrasymachus had tried many times to take over the discussion but was restrained by those sitting near him, who wanted to hear our argument to the end.When we paused after what I had just said, however, he could not keep quiet any longer: crouched up like a wild beast about to spring, he hurled himself at us as if to tear us to pieces. Polemarchus and I were frightened and flustered as he roared into our midst:
What nonsense you two have been talking all this time, Socrates! Why do you act like naïve people, giving way to one another? If you really want to know what justice is, don’t just ask questions and then indulge your love of honor by refuting the answers.You know very well it is easier to ask questions than to answer them. Give an answer yourself and tell us what you say the just is. And don’t tell me it is the right, the beneficial, the profitable, the gainful, or the advantageous, but tell me clearly and exactly what you mean. For I won’t accept such nonsense from you.
I say justice is nothing other than what is advantageous for the stronger.
Each type of rule makes laws that are advantageous for itself: democracy makes democratic ones, tyranny tyrannical ones, and so on with the others. And by so legislating, each declares that what is just for its subjects is what is advantageous for itself—the ruler—and it punishes anyone who deviates from this as lawless and unjust.That, Socrates, is what I say justice is, the same in all cities: what is advantageous for the established rule. Since the established rule is surely stronger, anyone who does the rational calculation correctly will conclude that the just is the same every- where—what is advantageous for the stronger.
According to your account, then, it isn’t only just to do what is advantageous for the stronger, but also the opposite: what is not advantageous.
[...] a ruler, to the extent that he is a ruler, never makes errors and unerringly decrees what is best for himself, and that is what his subject must do.Thus, as I said from the first, it is just to do what is advantageous for the stronger.
[...] no [...] craft considers what is advantageous for itself—since it has no further needs—but what is advantageous for that with which it deals. [...] Now surely,Thrasymachus, the various crafts rule over and are stronger than that with which they deal [...] So no kind of knowledge considers or enjoins what is advantageous for itself, but what is advantageous for the weaker, which is subject to it. [...] Surely then, no doctor, to the extent that he is a doctor, considers or enjoins what is advantageous for himself, but what is advantageous for his patient? For we agreed that a doctor, in the precise sense, is a ruler of bodies, not a moneymaker. [...] So a ship’s captain, in the precise sense, is a ruler of sailors, not a sailor [...] Doesn’t it follow that a ship’s captain and ruler won’t consider and enjoin what is advantageous for a captain, but what is advantageous for a sailor and his subject? [...] So then,Thrasymachus, no one in any position of rule, to the extent that he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is advantageous for him-self, but what is advantageous for his subject—that on which he practices his craft. It is to his subject and what is advantageous and proper for it that he looks, and everything he says and does, he says and does for it.
You think that shepherds and cowherds consider what is good for their sheep and cattle, and fatten them and take care of them with some aim in mind other than what is good for their master and themselves. Moreover, you believe that rulers in cities—true rulers, that is—think about their subjects in a different way than one does about sheep, and that what they consider night and day is something other than what is advantageous for themselves.You are so far from understanding justice and what is just, and injustice and what is unjust, that you do not realize that justice is really the good of another, what is advantageous for the stronger and the ruler, and harmful to the one who obeys and serves. Injustice is the opposite, it rules those simpleminded—for that is what they really are—just people, and the ones it rules do what is advantageous for the other who is stronger; and they make the one they serve happy, but they do not make themselves the least bit happy.
[...] a just man must always get less than does an unjust one. First, in their contracts with one another, when a just man is partner to an unjust, you will never find, when the partnership ends, that the just one gets more than the unjust, but less. Second, in matters relating to the city, when taxes are to be paid, a just man pays more on an equal amount of property, an unjust one less; but when the city is giving out refunds, a just man gets nothing while an unjust one makes a large profit. Finally, when each of them holds political office, a just person—even if he is not penal- ized in other ways—finds that his private affairs deteriorate more because he has to neglect them, that he gains no advantage from the public purse because of his justice, and that he is hated by his relatives and acquaintances because he is unwilling to do them an unjust favor.The opposite is true of an unjust man in every respect. I mean, of course, the person I described before: the man of great power who does better than everyone else. He is the one you should consider if you want to figure out how much more advantageous it is for the individual to be unjust than just.
You will understand this most easily if you turn your thoughts to injustice of the most complete sort, the sort that makes those who do injustice happi- est, and those who suffer it—those who are unwilling to do injustice— most wretched.The sort I mean is tyranny, because it uses both covert means and force to appropriate the property of others—whether it is sacred or secular, public or private—not little by little, but all at once. If someone commits a part of this sort of injustice and gets caught, he is punished and greatly reproached—temple robbers, kidnappers, house- breakers, robbers, and thieves are what these partly unjust people are called when they commit those harms.When someone appropriates the possessions of the citizens, on the other hand, and then kidnaps and enslaves the possessors as well, instead of these shameful names he is called happy and blessed: not only by the citizens themselves, but even by all who learn that he has committed the whole of injustice. For it is not the fear of doing injustice, but of suffering it, that elicits the reproaches of those who revile injustice. So you see, Socrates, injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterful than justice. And, as I said from the beginning, justice is what is advantageous for the stronger, while injustice is profitable and advantageous for oneself.
There are no reasons to be just. Indeed, being just often means being prey of unjust persons -- accordingly, being just amounts to be easily harmed. As it is obviously rational to avoid being harmed, and indeed reason dictates promotion of one's self-interest, justice seems to be irrational.
or, more generally, giving everyone what is owed, namely what is due or appropriate, or better, helping your friends and harming your enemies
Sometimes, keeping promises or telling the truth isn't just; therefore, justice cannot be a common property of a list of kinds of action. It should be something different.
Justice not a common feature of actions
1982, A.J. Pakula, M. Streep
1979, William Styron
1st kid saved &
2nd kid killed
1st kid killed &
2nd kid saved
1st kid killed &
2nd kid killed
a. 1st kid saved
b. 2nd kid killed
c. 1st kid killed
the agent can do each of the actions; but the agent cannot do both (or all) of the actions.
the agent is required to do each of two (or more) actions;
the agent thus seems condemned to moral failure; no matter what she does, she will do something wrong (or fail to do something that she ought to do).
Care for your relatives
Divine, or natural, law
Care for the common good, the safety of the political State
Bury your brother Polyneices
. requires not-
Prevent expectable causes of harms
Give back the weapons
. requires not-
. requires not-
. Give back the weapons, when the owner is sane
. Keep promises, in so far as consequences of keeping are not worse than consequences of not keeping
Specification, not dilemmas
"The square root of two is irrational"
"The economy is in decline"
"Proxima Centauri is our Sun's closest big neighbor"
"You ought to be nice to your grandmother"
"Lying to little children to serve your own ends is wrong"
"Stealing is wrong"
"Be nice to your grandmother!"
"It is such a good thing when you are nice to your grandmother!"
"As a matter of fact, people approves when one is nice to one's grandmother"
"As a matter of fact, stealing is punished by legal or social sanctions"
"As a matter of fact, powerful people will punish whoever steals"
"The action of being nice to one's own grandmother exemplifies a specific property, the property of being right"
"The action of being nice to one's own grandmother has a further property, common to each good (or right) action"
There are no moral facts or properties
Moral discourse can be fully reduced to descriptive discourse
. There are no objective, i.e. universal, moral standards. Moral principles are context-dependent
There are moral facts or properties
Moral discourse is autonomous, and it cannot be reduced to non-moral discourse
Realism about justice (or morality), and divergence between morality and practical rationality
Justice is something real. There are moral properties of actions making them just.
Just actions are altruistic, or not self-interested actions, aimed at benefiting others (by keeping promises, acting for the sake of the common good, and so on)
However, justice is not the only source of standard of rightness. It is right to be just, but it is right also to promote our self-interests. More weakly, it cannot be right to act against one's self-interests.
Whereas justice dictates altruism, practical rationality dictates egoism, or prudence
Morality's demands, if contrasting with prudence, are irrational, and not to be followed. Any viable theory about morality should show that morality and prudence can go the same direction
The immoralist challenge
Suppose we grant to the just and the unjust person the freedom to do whatever they like.We can then follow both of them and see where their appetites would lead. And we will catch the just person red-handed, traveling the same road as the unjust one.The reason for this is the desire to do better than others.
They would especially have the freedom I am talking about if they had the power that the ancestor of Gyges of Lydia is said to have possessed.3 The story goes that he was a shepherd in the service of the ruler of Lydia.There was a violent thunderstorm, and an earthquake broke open the ground and created a chasm at the place where he was tending his sheep. Seeing this, he was filled with amazement and went down into it. And there, in addition to many other amazing things of which we are told stories, he saw a hollow, bronze horse. There were windowlike openings in it and, peeping in, he saw a corpse, which seemed to be of more than human size, wearing noth- ing but a gold ring on its finger. He took off the ring and came out of the chasm. He wore the ring at the usual monthly meeting of shepherds that reported to the king on the state of the flocks.And as he was sitting among the others, he happened to turn the setting of the ring toward himself, toward the inside of his hand. When he did this, he became invisible to those sitting near him, and they went on talking as if he had gone. He was amazed at this and, fingering the ring, he turned the setting outward again and became visible. So, he experimented with the ring to test whether it indeed had this power—and it did. If he turned the setting inward, he became invisible; if he turned it outward, he became visible again. As soon as he realized this, he arranged to become one of the messengers sent to report to the king. On arriving there, he seduced the king’s wife, attacked the king with her help, killed him, and in this way took over the kingdom.
Let’s suppose, then, that there were two such rings, one worn by the just person, the other by the unjust. Now no one, it seems, would be so incorruptible that he would stay on the path of justice, or bring himself to keep away from other people’s possessions and not touch them, when he could take whatever he wanted from the marketplace with impunity, go into people’s houses and have sex with anyone he wished, kill or release from prison anyone he wished, and do all the other things that would make him like a god among humans. And in so behaving, he would do no differently than the unjust person, but both would pursue the same course.
[...] whenever we speak of men who are unjust acting together to effectively achieve a common goal, what we say is not altogether true.They would never have been able to keep their hands off each other if they were completely unjust. But clearly there must have been some sort of justice in them that at least prevented them from doing injustice among themselves at the same time as they were doing it to others. And it was this that enabled them to achieve what they did.When they started doing unjust things, they were only halfway corrupted by their injustice. For those who are wholly bad and completely unjust are also completely incapable of acting.
No one can cooperate without complying with even minimal pacts, and without sharing a minimal amount of mutual trust. Even a gang of criminals should have some rules. Those rules could be an initial stage of justice
The fruits of successful cooperation as a reason to be just
Justice as the second best
What most people think is that justice is a second-best, and they think this because ideally people would prefer to be free to wrong one another. However, in a situation where one is free to wrong others one stands a high chance of being wronged oneself, and because of the contingencies of fortune one can never feel really secure. So people reach a compromise neither to wrong nor to be wronged. Justice is thus satisfactory as a second-best which stabilizes the conditions of life, but it is not what anyone would choose if he could get away with being unjust without the attendant risks.
People say, you see, that to do injustice is naturally good and to suffer injustice bad. But the badness of suffering it far exceeds the goodness of doing it.
Hence, those who have done and suffered injustice and who have tasted both—the ones who lack the power to do it and avoid suffering it—decide that it is profitable to come to an agreement with each other neither to do injustice nor to suffer it.
As a result, they begin to make laws and covenants; and what the law commands, they call lawful and just.
That, they say, is the origin and very being of justice.
It is in between the best and the worst. The best is to do injustice without paying the penalty; the worst is to suffer it without being able to take revenge. Justice is in the middle between these two extremes. People love it, not because it is a good thing, but because they are too weak to do injustice with impunity. Someone who has the power to do it, however—someone who is a real man—would not make an agreement with anyone, neither to do injustice nor to suffer it. For him, that would be insanity. That is the nature of justice, according to the argument, Socrates, and those are its natural origins.
1. Natural goodness
2. Artificial goodness: a contract among the weak
3. Justice is compliance with laws, in the interest of the weaker
4. Contractual origins of justice
5. Justice as the second-best
It is injustice that pays if one is clever�enough to avoid the consequences of getting caught, and these exist because of the collective fears of the weak and vulnerable, who stand to lose most in a situation where all are free to get away with what they �can
Justice is for the weak
The just man is only just 'through compulsion' ; as soon as he can get away with it he will act unjustly. And this shows that what is actually valued is not being just, but only ��seeming to be just ; as long as one can seem just the life of injustice is clearly better, whereas it is futile to be just regardless of appearances
Being just and seeming just
[...] if he is to be completely unjust, let the unjust person correctly attempt unjust acts and remain undetected.The one who is caught should be thought inept. For the extreme of injustice is to be believed to be just without actually being so. [...]
while doing the greatest injus- tice, he has nonetheless provided himself with the greatest reputation for justice. If he does happen to slip up, he must be able to put it right, either through his ability to speak persuasively if any of his unjust activities are dis- covered, or to use force if force is needed, because he is courageous and strong and has provided himself with wealth and friends.
Justice for its own sake or for its consequences?
Plato and modern normative ethics
: factors of outcomes, actions, or mental states whose presence made them right, to be chosen
GLAUCON: Tell me, do you think there is a sort of good we welcome, not because we desire its consequences, but because we welcome it for its own sake— enjoying, for example, and all the harmless pleasures from which nothing results afterward beyond enjoying having them?
SOCRATES: Certainly, I think there is such a thing.
GLAUCON: And is there a sort of good we love for its own sake, and also for the sake of its consequences—knowing, for example, and seeing, and being healthy? For we welcome such things, I imagine, on both counts.
GLAUCON: And do you also recognize a third kind of good, such as physi- cal training, medical treatment when sick, medicine itself, or ways of making money generally? We would say that these are burdensome but beneficial to us, and we would not choose them for their own sake, but for the sake of their rewards and other consequences.
SOCRATES: Yes, certainly, there is also this third kind. But what of it?
GLAUCON: In which of them do you place justice?
SOCRATES: I myself put it in the finest one—the one that anyone who is going to be blessed with happiness must love both because of itself and because of its consequences.
If justice is to be recommended from a moral point of view (as opposed to a prudential or self-interested one) then it must be shown to be what one should choose regardless of consequences. This is because, on this view, the properly moral appeal of justice must come from its own nature, its being what it is, and not from anything it can offer in the way of consequences that would give one a reason to pursue it (consequences such as happiness, or a good reputation). Deontologists tend to stress this contrast by saying that, whatever the consequences, it is our duty or obligation to bejust.
appeal to good consequences does provide a moral justification for being just.
GLAUCON: That is not what the masses think. On the contrary, they think it is of the burdensome kind: the one that must be practiced for the sake of the rewards and the popularity that are the consequences of a good reputation, but that is to be avoided as intrinsically burdensome.
The puzzle of the artificial consequences of justice
The problem is to rule out the artificial consequences of justice, i.e. those depending on the existence of human practices and conventions, those which would not accrue to the possession of justice in the absence of these: they can sometimes follow the mere appearance ofjustice without the reality, because humans are gullible and their institutions are defective; they do not flow inevitably from the mere possession of justice.
The real issue
Why be just, if you can get away with merely seeming to bejust while in fact reaping the rewards of injustice?
What is justice?
Prudent compliance to social or legal rules
The interest of the stronger
The interest of the weak
Is justice rational?
1. Yes, because the unjust man will be punished
2. No, because only the unjust man will achieve his ends
3. Yes, because only on a basis of minimal justice cooperation can obtain
The parallel between just person and just city
The investigation we are undertaking is not an easy one, in my view, but requires keen eyesight. So, since we are not clever people, I think we should adopt the method of investigation that we would use if, lacking keen eyesight, we were told to identify small letters from a distance, and then noticed that the same letters existed elsewhere in a larger size and on a larger surface. We would consider it a godsend, I think, to be allowed to identify the larger ones first, and then to examine the smaller ones to see whether they are really the same.
We say, don’t we, that there is a justice that belongs to a single man, and also one that belongs to a whole city?
SOCRATES: And a city is larger than a single man? ADEIMANTUS: Yes, it is larger.
SOCRATES: Perhaps, then, there will be more justice in the larger thing, and it will be easier to discern. So, if you are willing, let’s first find out what sort of thing justice is in cities, and afterward look for it in the individual, to see if the larger entity is similar in form to the smaller one.
The nature of a city (the essential conditions for the existence of a city): how a city might arise
An association of not self-sufficient people based on need and self-interest, far-sighted enough to specialize and divide their task
[...] a city comes to exist, I believe, because none of us is individually self-sufficient, but each has many needs he cannot satisfy. [...] because we have many needs, and because one of us calls on another out of one need, and on a third out of a different need, we gather many into a single settlement as partners and helpers.And we call such a shared settlement a city. [...] And if they share things with one another—if they give some- thing to one another, or take something from one another—don’t they do so because each believes that this is better for himself?
A minimal state will consist of, say, four people (a farmer, a builder, a weaver, a shoemaker) whose competences are specialized in such a way that the needs of each are best fulfilled.
The principle of specialization
One person should do one job.
In any association, even one as small as four people, the needs of all are best met if each can 'perform his own work as common for them all' (
); and this is impossible, Plato claims, unless each person does only one job. He is not interested in efficiency as such, only efficiency in an association where people's lives are interdependent. Once people stop seeing everyone else as in competition for what they need, and start to co-operate to fulfil their needs, specialization of labour is required for the needs of all to be fulfilled in the best available ways.
The specialization of labour is natural, not merely a conventional way of arranging matters
[....] we are not all born alike. On the contrary, each of us differs somewhat in nature from the others, one being suited to one job, another to another. [...]
[...] would one person do better work if he practiced many crafts or if he practiced one?
ADEIMANTUS: If he practiced one.
SOCRATES: And it is also clear, I take it, that if one misses the opportune moment in any job, the work is spoiled.
ADEIMANTUS: It is clear.
SOCRATES: That, I take it, is because the thing that has to be done won’t wait until the doer has the leisure to do it. No, instead the doer must, of necessity, pay close attention to what has to be done and not leave it for his idle moments.
ADEIMANTUS: Yes, he must.
SOCRATES: The result, then, is that more plentiful and better-quality goods are more easily produced, if each person does one thing for which he is naturally suited and does it at the opportune moment, because his time is freed from all the others.
Natural inequality in social roles, not spontaneity and individuality
One thing Plato does not mean is that individual differences between people are important and that society benefits when these are developed and encouraged.
The differences of aptitude that interest him are not the differences which distinguish one person from everyone else, but differences which suggest that people come in different types suited for different kinds of life.
Plato is claiming that there are important differences of kind between people, whatever preferences they actually express.
That is why Plato does not bother to ask whether the farmer, although he is good at farming, would not prefer to do something else occasionally. For him this is irrelevant, because the farmer needs to specialize if he and the others are to have an adequate life based on their joint co-operation. Indeed, if the farmer were to insist on a variety of activities because he preferred this and found specialization boring, this would be irresponsible, because the needs of all would thereby be worse met. For him to neglect the task that he can best do, just because he yearns to do a bit of shoemaking occasionally, would for Plato be self-indulgence at the cost of the common good.
Natural differences between people indicate differing complementary roles they play in and for the community as a whole. Diverse aptitudes are seen as differing means for co-operation. Plato sees people as essentially social; he is interested, not in what makes a person unique among everyone else, but the ways in which he or she is distinctively fitted to co-operate with others in joint efforts. He does not begin by stressing what makes each person concerned to live his or her own life as he or she sees best, and then ask how such people might co-operate. Rather he sees individuals as finding their natural place in some co-operative association ; he sees it as simply obvious that each individual is not self sufficient (369b) and therefore needs some place within a society to live a life that fulfils his or her potential. And so even in the first city, differences of talent are seen solely as means towards the greater good of the whole.
If the good of others does depend on my doing what I can best do, and I neglect this just because I don't fancy doing it, then this is immature and selfish behaviour. Furthermore, it not only penalizes others, it lessens my own welfare, since I would have done better also if I had co-operated fully with others by doing my own proper job as well as I could.
But Plato thinks that this is always the right way to think of the Principle of Specialization, even when (as in the ideally just state) pressing need is not in question. He thinks that someone who follows his or her own personal inclinations, rather than the inclinations that spring from the social role for which they are best fitted, is always irresponsible and immature, and that the person who is unwilling to co-operate as fully as possible in producing the common good is always selfish.
1. The first city
2. The corruption and purging of the city
expansion of the city
The more needs we have to take into account, the more competences we will have to have in order to fulfil them, and there will be more needs just because of the circumstances of any city, including the need to trade with other cities (
) . There will thus be various kinds of farmers, sailors, and trades-men.
As needs become more sophisticated (as people go beyond basic needs to unnecessary gratifications), we get hunters, service professions like those of barbers and confectioners, more doctors, and, interestingly, performers (
Catering for all these needs means that more territory is required, so we get an army. A good army, however, must be specialized as much as any other trade, if not more.
Socrates expands on the qualities that these soldiers need; gradually we find that the soldier class are called the 'Guardians', and interest shifts to the training necessary for them to be, not just good soldiers, but good organizers and rulers of the city.
The general argument:
from facts about human nature and cooperation, and luxurious needs, to a specialized army which becomes the Guardian
[...] we prevented a shoemaker from trying to be a farmer, weaver, or builder at the same time, instead of just a shoemaker, in order to ensure that the shoemaker’s job was done well. Similarly, we also assigned just the one job for which he had a natural aptitude to each of the other people, and said that he was to work at it his whole life, free from having to do any of the other jobs, so as not to miss the opportune moments for performing it well.
The city should be ruled by the best people for the job; the Guardians are the best people (or better, are educated to be such); the Guardians should be the ruler
Platonic education of the Guardians is as much aesthetic as strictly moral: Education is to produce people who are attracted to good and feel repulsion for evil, finding it ugly and vulgar.
Education is a training of character rather than an acquisition of information or skills
The final products of the Guardians' further education are the philosophers in whom reason is most fully developed and whose rule is based on the claim that their understanding of matters important for the welfare of the state surpasses that of everyone else.
Plato's programme of education is authoritarian in two ways. It is the only education offered ; there will be no works of art other than the ones deemed beneficial, and
there will be no alternative schools. Plato is quite frank about the prevention of alternative systems, or the presentation of alternative values as desirable. And further, people are not to be brought up to question their beliefs. It is made clear that free intellectual inquiry is to be limited to the elite who have come through the long secondary education; nobody else is to be encouraged, or allowed, to put forward ideas that have political import.
Plato seems to think that receptiveness to accepted moral values in youth can co-exist with an intellectually adventurous mind in maturity.
Plato thinks that it is a good thing that a small elite, who have been selected for their intellectual competence, should go through a process of asking for the grounds for all beliefs accepted on any authority. But this is because such people are well placed to get somewhere by their inquiries; there is some point in their doing this since they will advance to further comprehension and may produce valuable results.
Nothing similar is needed for ordinary, intellectually mediocre people who will not make any important contribution to the subject.
Plato attaches no value to an individual's coming to hold his or her beliefs for himself, as a result ofhis or her own thought; it matters more that one should have the right beliefs, live a life dominated by correct perceptions of oneself and one's capabilities. Plato does not think that there is any intrinsic value to criticism and questioning of established ideas unless this is done as a means to further progress, by people who have had a long intellectual training and will not stop at the stage of being critical.
When a carpenter is ill, he expects to get a drug from his doctor that will make him throw up what is making him sick or evacuate it through his bowels; or to get rid of his disease through surgery or cautery. If anyone prescribes a lengthy regimen for him and tells him that he should rest with his head bandaged and so on, he quickly replies that he has no time to be ill, and that it is not profitable for him to live like that, always minding his illness and neglecting the work at hand. After that, he says goodbye to his doctor, resumes his usual regimen, lives doing his own job, and recovers his health; alternatively, if his body cannot withstand the illness, he dies and escapes his troubles.
[...] won’t we say that Asclepius knew this, too, and that he invented the craft of medicine for people whose bodies are healthy in nature and habit, but have some specific disease in them? That is the type of person and condition for which he invented it. He rid them of their disease by means of drugs or surgery, and then prescribed their normal regimen, so that affairs of politics would not be harmed. However, he did not attempt to prescribe regimens for those whose bodies were riddled with disease, so that by drawing off a little here and pouring in a little there, he could make their life a prolonged misery and enable them to produce offspring in all probability like themselves. He did not think that he should treat someone who could not live a normal life, since such a person would profit neither himself nor his city.
[...] they assumed that their drugs were sufficient to cure men who were healthy and living an orderly life before being wounded, even if they happened to drink wine mixed with barley and cheese right afterward. But they thought that the lives of naturally sick and intemperate people were profitable neither to themselves nor to anyone else, that the craft of medicine shouldn’t be prac- ticed on them, and that they should not be given treatment. 408a-b
Plato was mainly concerned with popular culture and its impact on education: the culture that surrounds children as they grow up; in a present-day setting his concern would be with novels, movies, and TV. In his context he focused specially on poetry, which was learned and recited in children's formative years
His concern was about people having faulty and limited beliefs picked up from the poetry and literature they know
Plato on art
Plato distinguished between good and bad poetry, and claimed that good poetry should avoid to stir identification of the audience in characters, especially if characters display moral vices. When poetry is 'imitative' (which is Platonic term of art for this), it has bad effects -- it lowers the character and fragments it
[...] if we are to preserve our first argument, that our guardians must be kept away from all other crafts so as to be the most exact craftsmen of the city’s freedom, and practice nothing at all except what contributes to this, then they must neither do nor imitate anything else. But if they imitate anything, they must imitate right from childhood what is appropriate for them—that is to say, people who are courageous, temperate, pious, free, and everything of that sort. On the other hand, they must not be clever at doing or imitating illiberal or shameful actions, so that they won’t acquire a taste for the real thing from imitating it. Or haven’t you noticed that imita- tions, if they are practiced much past youth, get established in the habits and nature of body, tones of voice, and mind?
[...] there is one kind of style and narration that a really good and fine person would use whenever he had to say something, and another kind, unlike that one, which his opposite by nature and education would always favor, and in which he would narrate his story.
It improves the character to imitate good people, to put oneself in the place of someone doing a glorious deed ; but equally it may expand the horizons for the worse to identify with someone doing a callous or revolting or treacherous deed. Plato thinks that not all experience is worth having, even vicariously. Literature does change people, and enlarge their experience, and it is not clear that this is always good.
Moreover, there are dangers in having conflicting role models; one cannot try to be like both St. Francis and Napoleon
Moral dilemmas, again
The force of much of tragedy (and of parts of the
, though not the
) lies in the moral conflict embodied in what happens. When we read Hector's farewell to his wife, or the ransoming of Hector's body by his old father, or watch the story of Oedipus, part of the way we are affected lies in the fact that we cannot sum up what happens as being, all told, good or bad, right or wrong. We can see why the protagonists come into irreconcilable conflict, or destroy themselves, without being able to reduce the outcome to a moral plus or minus. We are left feeling the force of both, or all, points of view. We cannot make a single moral judgement which will dispose of everything that we have been made to feel the force of. We are left feeling that there is no single statement of moral truth which does not leave out something vital.
For Plato, conflict at the moral level is never final; it is always, at least to some extent, a matter of appearance, of faulty or partial viewpoint. In the end, moral truth transcends tragedy, because what appeared to be moral conflict is resolved. For such a point of view, epic and tragedy must be dangerous, because they encourage us to empathize with different characters and therefore feel very forcibly the validity of irreconcilable points of view. All the dramatic resources of poetry make us feel the impossibility of giving a single finally right moral appraisal of certain situations; and for Plato this is wrong, and dangerously wrong, because it encourages us to stay at the level of drama and theatre rather than to persevere in the search for moral truth.
The task of good art
Art should give a a perceptible representation of ideals and concepts in a form that can be appreciated by those who would not be capable of purely intellectual understanding. Art, however, is essentially marginal, and of use only in educating the young and the immature; better, good art is so difficult to find -- so difficult is finding art that has no bad influences, that art
be a central means of education, but as a matter of fact it is marginal
A sketch of the ideal state
A class state
1. Guardians proper: the rulers, having the city's interest most at heart because they see as identical with their own
2. Auxiliaries: functioning predominantly as warriors
3. The rest of citizenry
The noble falsehood
the Guardians must own no private property and have no dealings with wealth. They will live in common, with no private houses, rather as if in a camp (
Purity of the classes should be ensured by redirecting unsuitable children into other classes, and by guarding the education
The Guardians will also protect the state against other states, by ensuring that the citizens are tough fighters uninterested in gaining wealth from war, and thus more attractive as allies than as opponents.
The unity of the state must be preserved by preventing extremes of wealth and poverty. Often states so-called are often really two or more states, if they contain mutually hostile groups like rich and poor.
The Guardians will keep the city at a suitable size, not growing beyond the point which would destroy its unity (
the unity of the State
based on education not on laws and rules
If the education is properly maintained, there will be no need of care over minor regulations about behaviour in public or styles of hair or clothes, or rules for markets. On the other_ hand, if the citizens' education is neglected, no amount of regulations will produce a well-ordered state. Politicians who spend all their time trying to remedy abuses do not realize that they are wasting their time, because abuses will always recur as long as the citizens are badly brought up and put their own interest before that of the whole society (
involving some manipulation of the ruled by the rulers
of the State: A real city is a unity and not divided (
). A city containing important groups which are at odds with one another because their interests conflict is not really a city. A city is a group where there is unity of interest; so only Plato's state is really a city, because only there are all the citizens at one in finding harmony between the interests ofthe city as a whole and their own interests as members of their own group. Actual cities are by this test not really cities, because they contain groups that see themselves as having conflicting interests (like rich and poor) .
Unity requires common possession of property and the removal of nuclear families. Plato's aims is not the regulation of conflict of interests, but simply the removal of them.
For Plato, a pluralistic society must be considered as a failure
The only necessary laws for Plato are laws for the production of rulers, not for defining citizens' rights and duties. The education of Guardians replaces a constitution, or a code of statutes. Once we have the right people to do the job, laws will turn out to be fairly trivial. There is no need of bill of rights, or of written laws, as safeguards against exploitation and abuse, because the rulers will be good people who will not exploit or abuse the other citizens
The parallel State/virtuous man: to be virtuous a person must be a person of a certain kind, and detailed duties are not laid down in advance to be followed come what may, but are thought of as minor, on the grounds that they will be obvious to the fundamentally virtuous person .
SOCRATES: Moreover, we have to be concerned about truth as well. For if what we said just now is correct and a lie is really useless to the gods, but useful to human beings as a form of drug, it is clear that it must be assigned to doctors, whereas private individuals must have nothing to do with it.
ADEIMANTUS: It is clear.
SOCRATES: It is appropriate for the rulers, then, if anyone, to lie because of enemies or citizens for the good of the city. But no one else may have anything to do with it. On the contrary, we will say that for a private indi- vidual to lie to such rulers is as bad a mistake as for a sick person not to tell his doctor or an athlete his trainer the truth about his physical condition, or for someone not to tell the captain the things that are true about the ship and the sailors, or about how he himself or one of his fellow sailors is faring—indeed, it is a worse mistake.
ADEIMANTUS: That’s absolutely true.
SOCRATES: So, if anyone else is caught telling lies in the city he will be punished for introducing a practice that is as subversive and destructive of a city as of a ship.
the rulers are justified in using lies 'medicinally' whereas the other citizens are in the wrong if they lie to them.
In the interests of unity, the citizens are to be brought to accept a story which is avowedly not true.
Justice and virtues of the classes/parts of city
The city was thought to be just because each of the three natural classes within it did its own job; and to be temperate, courageous, and wise, in addition, because of certain other conditions or states of these same classes.
The city has certain virtues because of its structure, its class-structure, and not because of the virtue of its citizens: the city's virtues, although they involve the virtues of the people in the city, are not reducible to these but belong to the city in its own right, because of its overall structure.
The city's wisdom (and similarly its other virtues) belongs to it in its own right, and is not reducible to the wisdom of some or all of its citizens. It is not the mere presence of wise people that makes it wise, but their role - they rule. If there were wise people in the city but they did not rule (as is the case in most actual societies) then the city would not be wise merely because they were. The city is wise because it is so structured that the wise people rule; that it has this structure is a fact about it and not merely about the wise people.
It's overall practical wisdom, the fair judgment shown in planning for a whole without favoring any of the parts. Plato assumes that only the few Guardians can have it
The city is brave in virtue of the bravery of the Auxiliaries, who form the army; the behaviour of the other citizens is not relevant (
). It is especially clear here that it is the role of the brave people in the state that makes the state brave, notjust their presence. For the Guardians are presumably brave too, and for the same reasons; yet it is not their bravery that is said to make the state brave, and this is because they do not form the army, having other things to do.
In the city consists not of the role of any one class, where what the others do is indifferent. It involves a relation of all three classes. It is the agreement and unanimity of all three classes as to who shall be in charge (
) and is likened to harmony and concord (
It involves two elements. Firstly, all citizens, from whatever class, agree in their opinion that the right people are ruling. This is the element of
; the rulers know that they are the right people for the job, and the ruled know that they are not the right people for the job.
Secondly, there is the element of
. For this agreement results in very different kinds of behaviour on the part of ruler and ruled. Each makes demands which are appropriate to their nature; so moderation requires the rulers to impose their own desires, and the ruled to acquiesce in the imposition of these desires on them.
Justice is doing one’s own work and not meddling with what is not one’s own.
Meddling and exchange among these three classes is the greatest harm that can happen to the city and would rightly be called the worst evil one could do to it.
A city cannot be just unless it recognizes and institutionalizes basic natural differences between peqple.
Justice is a virtue of the city as a unity, for it requires of each citizen a recognition of his or her own role as contributing in some characteristic way to the common good. For to be just one has to 'do one's own', know what one's natural talents are and the ways these should be developed for the common good
Justice as a pattern, as a relation among parts of the city
Plato on the parts of the soul
The basic claim
We will not understand an individual's actions unless we see that actions do not come from a single motivational source. There is more than one origin of behaviour within a person, and the way the person lives and acts indicates how these sources of behaviour are related.
This is the part by virtue of which we learn (
436a, 580d, 581b
) and reason (
It has two main functions. One is that of searching for the truth and increasing one's knowledge; it is the only part of the soul that can do this, and so it is the part of us that desires to extend our knowledge of truths and finds pleasure in doing this (
Its other function is to rule in the soul (
). (It corresponds to the Guardians who are to rule the other two classes.)
There are two main reasons why it is appropriate for reason to rule in the soul. One is that it is the only part that cares for the interests of the whole soul and not just itself, whereas the other two parts care only for themselves and not for the whole of which they are parts (
). (The intended parallel is clear with the Guardians, who are the only class to care for the whole city including the other classes, and not just them selves.) Reason, then, is the source of practical judgement about what is best for the person as a whole.
The other ground for reason's rule over the whole soul is that a life which is shaped by devotion to the aim of reason, searching for truth, is a better life for the person to lead than a life shaped by devotion to the ends ofthe other parts.
it is called 'the part that loves honour and winning' .
Plato seems to be talking about two very different kinds of thing. One is a tendency to aggression and violence. Thus, spirit is said to be found in children and animals (
), and here Plato must mean assertiveness towards others in the pursuit of what one wants. However, at
it is the part that delights in victory and honours, that is, not just in pushiness but in getting what one can be proud of, what is sanctioned by one's perception of what is right.
Leontius, the son of Aglaeon, was going up from the Piraeus along the outside of the North Wall when he saw some corpses with the public executioner nearby. He had an appetitive desire to look at them, but at the same time he was disgusted and turned himself away. For a while he struggled and put his hand over his eyes, but finally, mastered by his appetite, he opened his eyes wide and rushed toward the corpses, saying: “Look for yourselves, you evil wretches; take your fill of the beautiful sight.
There is something in Leontius which is capable of opposing desire because of feelings of shame, feelings about what is right and decent. These feelings are not to be identified with reason, but they oppose a particular desire because of the way the person feels about moral notions.
Sometimes spirit seems to be quite crude, and sometimes to be very like reason in demanding a perception of what is acceptable to the person as a whole.
Spirit involves some reference to the self, and some reference to ideals. It involves the self in so far as one particular desire (like Leontius' desire to look at corpses) may be rejected because the person as a whole does not, as we put it, identify with that desire. Leontius felt shame at giving in to a desire which, in modern jargon, did not fit his self-image; he did not want to be the kind of person capable of doing such a thing. Ideals come in because a particular desire like Leontius' desire is not rejected because it is inconvenient, or imprudent, but because it is felt to offend against what is accepted as right and good by the person. Leontius feels shame, which is a reaction only intelligible in someone who has done what he feels to be wrong, not just imprudent or dangerous.
In both these respects spirit is like reason, and may indeed seem to be doing the samejob as reason (and Plato admits that they may seem too similar,
But spirit is thought of as educable and plastic; people can be trained to feel one way rather than another. (Spirit is analogous to the Auxiliaries in the state; their characters have been so trained that they repudiate aims that offend against their ideals, but they lack reasoned understanding of their way oflife and its basis). Plato tends, on the other hand, to think of reason not as a disposition to be moulded, but as a gift which can be used or misused; it is not malleable, or attachable to different ends, without destroying its nature.
Desire is thought of as manifold and often chaotic because desire can fix on objects of just about any kind; there is nothing that unifies all cases of desiring except that some particular thing is sought for. (This is meant to be parallel to the productive class in the state, who do not have any unifying ideal but are each set on his or her own particular aim.)
All the emphasis on the basic and forceful nature of desires makes it look as though no cognitive performance at all should be ascribed to this part.
But in spite of Plato's vigorous language this cannot be the whole story. Even in Book 4, Leontius desires to see some corpses, a more complex desire than simple thirst (possibly, though, it is based upon a sexual desire, since we know from a fragment of contemporary comedy that Leontius was known for being attracted by young men as pale as corpses).
The later Books 8 and 9 make it quite clear that this part can indeed perform some reasoning about what it wants, and that bodily desires are thus only the clearest examples of the kind of desire Plato has in mind, not the only ones.
Bodily desires are 'clear' examples of desires not because of their objects but because they display clearly the fact about desire which Plato takes to be the most important: desire is limited to its own fulfilment and has no motivational impact on the person's wider concerns. The person can desire something, and in so far as he or she desires it, try to get it, regardless of their estimate of the rightness, or prudence, of such a course. This is true of the thirsty man who drinks regardless of whether this is wise or not, and equally true of the avaricious man who subordinates his sense ofgood and evil to the getting ofmoney. Desire is blind to any considerations beyond those of getting what it wants. (It is meant to be parallel to the members of the productive class, who are blind to any higher considerations than those of getting what they want.) It might in fact be better to think of desire as 'gratification', for this suggests both its self-contained nature, and the fact that it is not limited to immediate bodily desires but may involve quite a lot of calculating of the means to obtain gratification.
Each part has its own desires and pleasures (
) . They are aware of one other ; desire can outwit the others; reason can control them; and they can conflict, producing 'civil war in the soul' (
). Spirit and desire can try to usurp what is not their proper role (
) . Ideally they should agree (
); spirit can be said to retain what reason declares (
). Reason has desires of its own ; desire can carry out enough reasoning to attain its goals. All three parts have enough cognitive capacity to recognize one another, conflict or agree, and push their own interests.
An individual is wise when reason rules, and makes decisions in the interests of the soul as a whole (
) . He or she is brave when spirit has been made the ally of reason as a result of training that ensures not only recognition of what is right but the power to stick to that recognition and feel motivated to act in accordance with it (
). He or she is moderate by virtue of the recognition by all the soul's parts that particular gratifications should be subordinated to reason's overall planning, and by virtue of the desiring part's submission in accordance with this recognition (
The person is just because of the fact that each of his or her parts is functioning properly and 'doing its own' (
). Justice does not require anything further from any of the parts other than what is required by the other three virtues, but it is the virtue of the person as a whole, of all three virtues in so far as they are the virtues of a functioning unity.
A person is just, then, if each part is acting virtuously and as it should : if reason is ruling, spirit is ensuring that reason has adequate motivational backing and desire is acquiescing in control by the other two rather than pressing its own particular claims. Justice in the individual is the appropriate and harmonious flourishing of all aspects of him or her (
Justice is an internal state of the person, and an arrangement of the city, rather than an external behaviour to others, or a set of actions dictated by principles
cares for honour and physical prowess above all (
). He defers to the powerful but is harsh to the defenceless, and has no internal restraint against caring too much for money
thinks that money is all-important. He drives spirit from the throne in his soul and establishes there desire, with its demand for money. Reason and spirit are made to squat like slaves before the Persian king, and carry out the orders only of desire.
rids himself of the authority and discipline of money-grubbing (
). He keeps open house among his desires, letting none dominate but yielding rule to whichever happens to be uppermost. Reason and spirit presumably help in gratifying whichever desire he happens to have.
) has a soul enslaved to one master desire, lust, which produces a chronic state of unsatisfied need, no part of the soul achieving its proper end.
The three classes in the state are thought of as made up of three different kinds ofpeople : those whose souls are ruled by reason, the Guardians; those whose souls are ruled by spirit, the Auxiliaries; and those whose souls are ruled by desire, the productive class (
proceeds, Plato in fact loses interest in anyone but the Guardians: he identifies the just person with the Guardian type and does not care if the other citizens in his city are not strictly speaking just.
Only the Guardians, whose souls are ruled by reason in the strong sense, are self-motivated to be just. The other classes are just only in a city where the Guardians' justice is imposed on them and thus counteracts the natural tendency of their souls to go wrong because they are led by goals that do not on their own ensure justice. The Guardians too require a political context to be just, but not because they would otherwise go wrong without external direction, rather because they would otherwise be ineffective and not able to exercise their justice. So in a sense they are the only class that is just - that is, they are the only class that can be just from their own resources, without having to be controlled from outside. And Plato drifts into proceeding as though the other two classes were not really just, and loses interest in them, because he is not very interested in justice that requires external sanctions to exist. He is only interested in people who can be freely and autonomously just - the Guardians, whose souls are ruled by reason.
The principle of conflict
[...] one thing cannot act in opposite ways or be in opposite states at the same time and in the same part of itself in relation to the same other thing
Despite our everyday assumption that a person is a unity (after all, he or she comes in a single body) none the less the facts of human behaviour compel us to treat a person as containing more than one motivational source.
A man may desire to drink, yet control this urge. Thus there is a conflict: he both accepts and rejects the same thing at the same time. This can only be explained by saying that he is not a unity, but contains distinct parts: distinct in that there can be no common motivational root of the urge to drink and the urge to refrain . If they were not distinct, they would not have created the appearance of conflict in the person as a whole.
SOCRATES: Well, then, if you call a bigger thing and a smaller thing by the same name, are they unalike in the respect in which they are called the same, or alike?
SOCRATES: So a just man won’t differ at all from a just city with respect to the form of justice but will be like it.
GLAUCON: Yes, he will be like it.
SOCRATES: But now, the city, at any rate, was thought to be just because each of the three natural classes within it did its own job; and to be temperate, courageous, and wise, in addition, because of certain other conditions or states of these same classes.
GLAUCON: That’s true.
SOCRATES: Then, my friend, we would expect an individual to have these same kinds of things in his soul, and to be correctly called by the same names as the city because the same conditions are present in them both.
Justice must be single in form ; if cities and people are truly just, then they cannot be just in radically different ways, even if they are very different kinds of thing. What makes a person just cannot be something quite different from what makes a city just; otherwise there would be two distinct kinds ofjustice, and Plato cannot accept this.
4. Yes, because justice is harmony of the soul and the city, and harmony is obviously beneficial
Justice is what produces inner harmony in a person (
) and is to the soul what health is to the body (
). It is clear what the benefits of justice so conceived are: who want to be in a state analogous to confusion and illness? Once you see the difference between a life that gives all the elements in a person's make-up proper scope, and one that frustrates and misdirects them, you cannot seriously doubt that it is valuable to have the state that ensures the former.
Is Thrasymachus countered by the claim that it doesn't pay to be unjust in the sense of having a disordered soul? He claimed that it paid to be unjust in the common or garden sense of doing various actions usually regarded as unjust. And Glaucon and Adeimantus wanted Sacrates to show that it paid to be just in the sense of not doing those actions, even if one could get away with it. What is the relevance to this of psychic harmony?
Psychic harmony is a condition of your own soul - that is why having it benefits you - whereas ordinary justice concerns behaviour to other people. Why should having a rightly ordered soul make you keep your hands off other people's property?
Plato does believe that Platonic justice entails ordinary justice, even though not
; for after characterizing justice as the right ordering of the soul he goes on to claim that a person j ust in this way would never perform any of a variety of commonly recognized unjust actions - embezzlement, theft, public and private betrayals, promise-breaking, adultery, neglect of parents and the gods (
). But he simply asserts this, without producing a argument, and there seems no obvious ground either for hi further claim that the Platonically just agent would not do an ofthese things because he is Platonically just (
[...] when a person’s desires flow toward learning and everything of that sort, they will be concerned, I imagine, with the pleasures that the soul experiences just by itself, and will be indifferent to those that come through the body—if indeed the person is not a counterfeit, but rather a true, philosopher.
Strong inclinations in one direction, says Plato, weaken those in other directions; so the just man, who is set on the intellectual goals of philo sophical discovery, will have no interest in the pleasures of the body, or the money needed to obtain them. Concentration on the aims of reason makes one lose interest in other things.
The Platonically just man would lack most discernible reasons that lead people to be ordinarily unjust. Why would he be unjust ifhe is not interested in power or money?
Two kinds of theory
Focus on the notion of the right act; the primary question is, 'What is the right thing to do?' and the primary notions are
- the acceptable answers to the question, what is the right thing to do, will be a list of duties and obligations.
The good person is the person who does what he or she ought to do, that is, the person disposed to perform the right action on all or most occasions.
Focus on the notion of the good agent or good person. The primary questions, 'What kind of person should I be?' 'What is the good life?' 'What kind of life is admirable ?' We find out what is the right thing to do, by asking what kind of thing the good person would do in these circumstances. The right thing to do is identified as the kind of thing done by the good person. primary notions are not duty and obligation, but
The whole progress of Books 2 through 4 has been an attempt to build up a notion of the just agent. This process began even in Glaucon's speech, where he made the high point of his case against justice the comparison of the lives of just and unjust men (
Plato has, in Books 2-4, through the extended soul-state comparison, concentrated on the individual's soul, goodness, and virtues. He has set aside the question of just acts to consider at length the environment that would produce and reinforce good people, the education that would bring them about, the proper artistic surroundings that they should have, and the psychological basis for all this.
He has made the just agent primary, not the question of just actions which dominated the concerns of Thrasymachus, and of Glaucon and Adeimantus.
[...] justice [...] is not concerned with someone’s doing his own job on the outside. On the contrary, it is concerned with what is inside; with himself, really, and the things that are his own. It means that he does not allow the elements in him each to do the job of some other, or the three sorts of elements in his soul to meddle with one another.
The good man is the norm for just action; he can tell you what the right thing to do is, because he is just. The just man identifies the just action by reference to the state of psychic harmony which is Platonic justice, not by reference to lists of duties accepted from any external source.
Plato is trying to replace the inadequate act-centred concept of justice, held by people like Cephalus and Polemarchus, by a more adequate theory, and he thinks that such a theory must be agent-centred.
The condition of having a just soul is created, fostered, and maintained by the doing ofjust actions - see
485d ff., 443d-444e
. The analogue here is health : as healthy actions produce health, so doing just actions produces justice, and doing unjust actions produces injustice.
Justice has been shown to be a state that is worth having for itself and not only its consequences. Health has good consequences, but we do not want to be healthy merely because of these: the difference between really being healthy and merely appearing to be is important to us because it is the difference between being in a stably functioning physical state and being in an upset and unstable state in which the various organs are interfering with one other's proper functioning and the whole person feels insecure. Justice is supposed to be analogous to health in these ways.
Therefore, in order that such a man [a man whose own reason is weak] be ruled by a principle similar to that which rules the best man, we say he must be
to the best man, who has a divine ruler within himself. It is not to harm the slave that we believe he must be ruled, as Thrasymachus thought subjects should be, but because it is better for everyone to be ruled by divine intelligence. It is best that he should have this within himself, but if he has not, then it must be imposed from outside, so that, as far as possible, we should all be alike and friendly and governed by the same principle.
Inequality of power, not of resources
The powerless productive class own all the property and have all the money,
Equality of self-respect and autonomy
The badness of oppression
Inequality of power in ideal conditions, for the wisest
Confused eugenics, the substantial idea being that social justice requires that the wise have absolute power over the less gifted
Prevalence of rational inclinations
Justice as health of mind
Happiness of the rulers is an aim to be achieved; the rest of citizens will be happy if their whole society flourishes. If all goes well in the whole city, then "we must leave it to nature to provide each group with its share of happiness" (
Inequality, not exploitation
In Plato's ideal State, all have equal rights in that there is no arbitrary discrimination, no unfairness due to lack of impartiality. The Guardians are not exploiters; the producers have a right to those benefits from the common workings ofsociety which are needed for them to function best in making their contribution to the common good.
If any class is exploited it is the Guardians, for it turns out that they would find greatest fulfilment in doing things which they do not have a right to spend their time doing.
But in general, all classes are protected in freely having and doing what is necessary for them best to fill their social role - and this by no means implies uniformity of individual needs and tastes.
But there is no substantive equality in the
over and beyond impartiality. Most of the citizens, because they are taken to lack the rational capacity to organize their lives in their own and society's best interests, are put totally under the control of those who do have this capacity. The Guardians are not constrained by a constitution, bill of rights, or code of laws - the function of laws is to put the Guardians' plans into practical operation, not to serve as checks on them. The only constraint on the Guardians' treatment of others is their disinterested moral character.
Most of the citizens in Plato's state have no rights if that is taken to mean that there are constraints on people's behaviour based on common humanity, not contributions to the common good. Theories of equality and human rights are grounded on the claim that there are some rights which all have equally, just because we are all equally human, and which are not gained or lost by virtue of rationality or moral goodness or social contribution. There are some things that cannot be done to people, however wicked or useless, because humans are 'ends in themselves', and not things to manipulate. Human beings have a special kind of value which all have equally just because it does not vary with talent or excellence.
This does not necessarily commits Plato to organicism, i.e. to the idea that the state is an entity distinct from the citizens making it up, or to the claim that the city as a whole has interests that take precedence over the interests of the citizens.
Plato subordinates individual desires and interests to the common good, but the common good is just the collective harmonization of the desires and interests that individuals ought to have, those they would have if there were 'doing their own'
Plato does not sacrifice individuals to a reified State. But he does not hesitate to sacrifice the needs and interests of actual people to those of the ideal individuals of his theory of human nature. He began by setting up the state as a mechanism for bringing it about that all the natural needs of human nature, in its different forms, would be harmoniously fulfilled. But he ends up imposing on people demands that most of them will see as externally sanctioned and not fulfilling their nature as they see it. We have gone from an attractive picture of the co-operative fulfilment of joint needs to a much darker picture in which all are compelled to joih in fulfilling needs which most of them do not recognize as their actual needs. This is because Plato believed that only a few have the qualities necessary for excellence, so that rational attainment of excellence will involve forcing most people to go along whether they like it or not.
, and right at the end of Book 8, the end of the main argument, Socrates says that it does not matter if the just society is an unattainable ideal, as long as it does serve as an ideal for the just person to try to realize in his or her life. None the less, throughout Books 5 and 6, he argues at length that the just society could come about - cf.
: it is hard but not impossible.
Plato wants us to read the
not as an enjoyable fantasy, but as something to affect how we live, and for this he has to show that the just city, the society of good people, is not impossible in principle.
The implementation problem
The just state is not brought about by progressive legal reform, but only by a total change in people's hearts and minds, such as needs a long training to produce. Because Plato downgrades so much the role of institutions in producing a just state, and emphasises exclusively the need for the rulers to have characters of a certain kind, he is in a bind. The just state can only be brought about by just people, but just people are the products only of a just state, such as nowhere actually exists.
Plato rejects gradualism: The just man in a bad society, he thinks, can only save his own soul (
); he is not called on to improve the lot of others. Presumably Plato thinks that his reforms are so drastic that tinkering will never produce them, and might produce more harm than good. He rests his hope on breaking into the circle : perhaps somewhere, some time, a just man might arise even in an unjust society (
) and have the power to stop tinkering and start afresh (
), even if this means the desperate step of taking over only the under-tens, to bring them up under an education that will make them just (
In fact Plato does not think it likely that any will come along in the foreseeable future, since the trulyjust and intelligent person is the most likely to be corrupted by society (
The just state remains more effective as an ideal to stimulate virtue in individuals than as a blueprint for any real society. We find here, unnoticed explicitly by Plato, a divergence between justice in the state and justice in the individual - a respect in which the uniform account he wants breaks down. Forwhile perfectly just people can exist only in the ideally just state, and the ideally just state can exist only when people are perfectly just, the effect of this is not the same on social and individual justice. Plato seems on the whole reconciled to leaving the just state as an ideal, whereas he wants individuals actually to improve by reading the
and using it as an ideal to which to conform themselves. This suggests that while for him justice in the state is an all-or-nothing affair, individual
justice is a matter of degree: one can be more or less just, and can improve gradually.
Later in the
, though, Plato seems to doubt of the realizability of his ideal. In Book 8, Plato claims that break-downs of unity in the Guardian-class, and then in the whole State, are possible, and that this produces degeneration of the ideal State (four forms of degenerate States, parallel to unjust men, are listed) (
The benefits of justice
The first proof
When States lose their unity, they degenerate -- becoming timocracies, oligarchies, democracies, tyrannies -- conditions whose unhappiness is apparent
Very weak. Difficult parallels individual-city, and strained descriptions
The whole force of the proof resting on the assumption that a unified condition, comparable to health, in which all the soul's parts are directed by the part, reason, that can plan for them all, is preferable to the various kinds of obsessive and disrupted lives that result when any other part imposes its priorities on the soul as a whole.
The second proof
A new version of the tripartite theory of the soul. Three parts: the part that learns and loves wisdom, the part that gets angry and loves honour, and the part made up of manifold desires, which loves money. These three parts produce three kinds of life (
) depending on which part predominates : the philosopher's life, the life of honour and the life of gain.
The just person's life is the philosophical life
This life is more pleasant than the alternatives, because it is so judged by who lives it -- but who lives it is the best judge for any kind of life. All three kinds ofmen think that their own life is the most pleasant kind. How can wejudge which is right? The appropriate way of judging is by 'experience, practical wisdom (
) and reason (
). The philosopher will have experienced all three types of pleasure, whereas the soldier and merchant lack the inclination and competence to enable them to taste the philosopher's pleasures. And wisdom and reason are the philosopher's special field ofcompetence. So hisjudgement is the most authoritative, and since he prefers his own life, the life of seeking wisdom is the most pleasant.
Plato's objective conception of pleasure
Plato clearly thinks that the pleasantness of a life is an objective matter. He is not denying that the soldier and merchant enjoy their lives as much as they think they do. He is, however, saying that this is not enough to show that their lives are as enjoyable and pleasant as the philosopher's. For a life to be properly called pleasant more is required than just that someone who has never thought very much about it, or experienced alternatives, should say (however sincerely) that he enjoys it. Lack of experience and thought disqualify a person from knowing what a particular kind of human life is like, what its possibilities are, what sources of pleasure it contains and what others are incompatible with it.
People with experience and wisdom are taken to pronounce with authority that one life is really more pleasant than another because they are in a position to weigh up rationally the advantages and capacities of each. Someone without experience and wisdom will be likely to pick their own life just because of unimaginative prejudice in favour of feelings they happen to have about their own life. (A simple example would be a person who has never travelled who refused to allow that any pleasure was added to a life by the possibility of travel.)
Plato is plausibly assuming that he pleasantness of a whole life is not something that can obviously be authoritatively settled by anyone's say-so; here it is plausible that the person with wide sympathy and under standing is at an advantage. People do, after all, go to older friends and careers counsellors to find out what to do with their lives. They are often ready to depend on the wisdom of others to find out what sort of life offers most chance of pleasure.
The third proof
. the philosopher's pleasures are the only true, real ones. Activities that most people think are pleasant are not really so, only apparently, and owe the appearance to a contrast with pain. Smells are offered as an example of pure pleasures that do not require a preceding pain for them to be experienced as pleasant, and the pleasures of anticipation as an example of merely apparent pleasures (
Here, the philosopher is the person who makes a just estimate of pleasures because he can take the rational view of his life as a whole and the lives of others, and so makes no errors because of wrongly estimating the importance of any particular time or point of view.
. Hunger and thirst are kinds of bodily emptiness, and there is a corresponding emptiness of the soul, which is ignorance and foolishness. To be filled with knowledge and truth is to be more really and truly filled than to be filled with food and drink, since what fills the soul is more real and true than what fills the body. So the philosopher's pleasures are the most real, since they are pleasures taken in the most real kind of replenishment. (
Plato is appealing to the contemplative conception of the philosopher, and the enormously greater value of the objects of his knowledge than that possessed by the objects of any other endeavours.
. When reason attains its proper pleasures, then all parts will be satisfied (
) whereas dominance by the desires of another part upsets the whole ordering of the person's life, so that no part is properly satisfied or attains its own pleasures (
). Just people are the happiest because only in them does reason rule so as to produce the pleasure that each part of the soul seeks when it is performing its own appropriate role.
Justice has as its consequence a pleasant and happy life, and thus is desirable both for itself and for its consequences, and belongs rightfully in the second class of goods.
Plato claimed that pleasure and happiness are intrinsic to the kind of activity and the kind of life that produce them. And so justice necessarily produces pleasure and happiness, because j ustice is the ordering of the soul that is brought about when all the parts of the person's soul are doing the appropriate things in the right conditions.
Plato is showing us that we will be made happy by having Platonic justice, that is, psychic harmony. And in the same way that that could not be equated simply with the common conception of justice, so the happiness it brings cannot be simply equated with the common conception ofhappiness or pleasure, as understood by all and sundry. For if justice is a state of one's soul, then the happiness that justice brings is the result of a state of one's soul; and this is not our ordinary notion of either happiness or pleasure, both of which we take to depend on a good deal more than the state of oneself.
The happiness which the tyrant can never have flows from a well-ordered soul; but Thrasymachus would not associate happiness with a well ordered soul. He would think of it as being in a position to do what one likes and satisfy any desire one happens to have.
ifjustice has happiness as its consequence, and a matter of one's own inner state, not only the actions, if justice is psychic harmony, then happiness must be the result in a person of having psychic harmony. What else could it be, after all, once we have revised the notion of justice as Plato has done ? He is bound to restructure our notion of happiness just as he did our notion of justice.
Happiness and moral luck
On the one hand, happiness surely cannot lie entirely in what the agent makes of his or her life; for this neglects the role of the environment, especially the social environment, and disasters and hostility do affect the agent's happiness. On the other hand, happiness surely must depend on what the agent does with his or her life; for to make it contingent on the favourableness of the environment seems to treat the agent merely as the product of the environment, and to leave out the fact that the agent makes his or her life, by the kind and quality of the choices that are made. How can my happiness, the result of my chosen way of life, be the outcome merely of luck ?
X acts paternalistic