Plato on Justice and Injustice

In The Republic, Plato attempts to demonstrate through the character and
discourse of Socrates that justice is better than justice is the good which
men must strive for, regardless of whether they could be unjust and still
be rewarded. His method is to use dialectic, the asking and answering of
questions which led the hearer from one point to another, supposedly with
irrefutable logic by obtaining agreement to each point before going on to
the next, and so building an argument.

Early on, his two young listeners pose the question of whether justice is
stronger than injustice, what each does to a man, and what makes the first
good and the second bad. In answering this question, Socrates deals
directly with the philosophy of the individual’s goodness and virtue, but
also ties it to his concept of the perfect state, which is a republic of
three classes of people with a rigid social structure and little in the way
of amusement.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Although Socrates returns time and again to the concept of justice in his
discourse on the perfect city-state, much of it seems off the original
subject. One of his main points, however, is that goodness is doing what is
best for the common, greater good rather than for individual happiness.

There is a real sense in which his philosophy turns on the concepts of
virtue, and his belief that ultimately virtue is its own reward.

His first major point is that justice is an excellence of character. He
then seeks agreement that no excellence is achieved through destructive
means. The function of justice is to improve human nature, which is
inherently constructive. Therefore, at a minimum, justice is a form of
goodness that cannot be involved in injuring someone’s character. Justice,
in short, is a virtue, a human excellence.

His next point is that acting in accordance with excellence brings
happiness. Then he ties excellence to one’s function. His examples are
those of the senses — each sensory organ is excellent if it performs its
function, as the eye sees, the ear hears. Therefore, the just person is a
happy person is a person who performs his function. Since these are tied
together, injustice can never exceed these virtues and so justice is
stronger and is the good.

However, Socrates does not stop there. He goes on to examine the question
of the nature of justice and the just life. He identifies the four of the
Athenian virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. For the bulk of
the book, he looks at each virtue separately in terms of the perfect city
state, but our focus is on justice. But he makes the point that justice, of
the virtues, resides in man’s relations to other men, not just in man as an
individual. Thus, it is an excellence in social organization and in the
organization of the human soul. So justice is a virtue which must be
connected to the function of efficient and healthful cooperation. Justice
is in one sense the greatest virtue for it is key to making the other
virtues work together for the common good. If all the parts are to work
together as a whole, each must have on function to excel at. Like the
organs of the body, all contribute to the whole, but the eyes only see, the
ears only hear. They do not share functions. Using this analogy, justice
would be something like the moral mind which guides the body in its
activities. Justice, then is the head, at the top of the hierarchy in
social terms. When the other three virtues work together in orderly fashion
within the state, justice is produced. But for justice to be produced, it
must come from everyone doing his assigned function under the excellent
guidance of the ruling class.

Despite his emphasis of justice as a function of the perfect state,
Socrates also deals with justice as a personal virtue.He finds that there
is a parallel between the organization of the state and the organization of
the individual. Just as there are three virtues other than justice,
Socrates finds three parts in the individual soul — sensation, emotion,
intelligence. The just person, then must have balance between these
aspects. Each must function in moderation to contribute to the health of
the whole. Appetite and sensation are matters of desire. Desire must be
subordinate to reason, or else they will throw the individual out of
balance and lead him into injustice and unhappiness. Emotion (spirit and
will) also can master desire.

The alliance of emotion and reason is similar, Socrates says, to the rulers
and the guardians in the state. Thus, the individual is a miniature state,
and justice in the soul is like justice in the state.



Plato was a philosopher in the time of the distinguished Greek
philosophers. He wrote a book entitled The Republic in which he explains
some of his philosophy on subjects ranging from education to government.

The Republic discusses the nature of justice and the institutions of
society. In some ways it is idealistic in that it describes Plato’s ideal
society. But it also deals with human knowledge, the purpose and
composition of education, and the nature of science. The principle of
justice is the main theme of The Republic. Plato makes a connection between
the principle of justice and his Theory of Forms in The Republic. When
talking about the Ideal State, Plato is saying that one should never act
without knowledge. So, if one wished to build a just city, they should only
do so after they have understood the meaning of justice. But they cannot
achieve an understanding of true justice until they have grasped the Form
of Justice itself. Plato refers to his Theory of Forms throughout the
dialogue, as it plays a major role in understanding his views of an Ideal
State. Socrates is the main character and Plato uses Socrates as to voice
his own opinions about his Ideal State. Through a series of questions,
Socrates attempts to help his companions discover their own ignorance,
since the starting point of philosophy is the realization that you do not
have knowledge. Socrates is always at the center of the discussion and is
often contemptuous and ironical, but he never strays from the importance of
the subject being discussed. Socrates first states that justice is a good
character. He then seeks agreement that no excellence is achieved through
destructive means. The function of justice is to improve human nature,
which is inherently constructive. Therefore, at a minimum, justice is a
form of goodness that cannot be involved in injuring someone’s character.

Justice, in short, is a virtue, a human excellence. His next point is that
acting in accordance with excellence brings happiness. Then he ties
excellence to one’s function. His examples are those of the senses — each
sensory organ is excellent if it performs its function, as the eye sees,
the ear hears. Therefore, the just person is a happy person is a person who
performs his function. Since these are tied together, injustice can never
exceed these virtues and so justice is stronger and is the good. However,
Socrates does not stop there. He goes on to examine the question of the
nature of justice and the just life. He identifies the four of the Athenian
virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. For the bulk of the
book, he looks at each virtue separately in terms of the perfect city
state, but our focus is on justice. But he makes the point that justice, of
the virtues, resides in man’s relations to other men, not just in man as an
individual. Thus, it is an excellence in social organization and in the
organization of the human soul. So justice is a virtue, which must be
connected to the function of efficient and healthful cooperation. Justice
is in one sense the greatest virtue for it is key to making the other
virtues work together for the common good. If all the parts are to work
together as a whole, each must have on function to excel at. Like the
organs of the body, all contribute to the whole, but the eyes only see, the
ears only hear. They do not share functions. Using this analogy, justice
would be something like the moral mind which guides the body in its
activities. Justice, then is the head, at the top of the hierarchy in
social terms. When the other three virtues work together in orderly fashion
within the state, justice is produced. But for justice to be produced, it
must come from everyone doing his assigned function under the excellent
guidance of the ruling class. Plato attempts to demonstrate through the
character and discourse of Socrates that justice is better than injustice
and that justice is the good which men must strive for, regardless of
whether they could be unjust and still be rewarded. His method is to use
dialectic, the asking and answering of questions which led the hearer from
one point to another, supposedly with irrefutable logic by obtaining
agreement to each point before going on to the next, and so building an
argument. Early on, his two young listeners pose the question of whether
justice is stronger than injustice, what each does to a man, and what makes
the first good and the second bad. In answering this question, Socrates
deals directly with the philosophy of the individual’s goodness and virtue,
but also ties it to his concept of the perfect state, which is a republic
of three classes of people with a rigid social structure and little in the
way of amusement. Although Socrates returns time and again to the concept
of justice in his discourse on the perfect city-state, much of it seems off
the original subject. One of his main points, however, is that goodness is
doing what is best for the common, greater good rather than for individual
happiness. There is a real sense in which his philosophy turns on the
concepts of virtue, and his belief that ultimately virtue is its own
reward. Despite his emphasis of justice as a function of the perfect state,
Socrates also deals with justice as a personal virtue. He finds that there
is a parallel between the organization of the state and the organization of
the individual. Just as there are three virtues other than justice,
Socrates finds three parts in the individual soul — sensation, emotion,
and intelligence. The just person then must have balance between these
aspects. Each must function in moderation to contribute to the health of
the whole. Appetite and sensation are matters of desire. Desire must be
subordinate to reason, or else they will throw the individual out of
balance and lead him into injustice and unhappiness. Emotion (spirit and
will) also can master desire. The alliance of emotion and reason is
similar, Socrates says, to the rulers and the guardians in the state. Thus,
the individual is a miniature state, and justice in the soul is like
justice in the state. In the opposite case, the situation of the unjust,
whether state or individual, desires hold a tyranny. Because there is a
lack of internal control, outside things move the unjust around at will.

Thus the unjust lives a life of fear and anxiety, the fruit of being out of
control. Socrates asserts that only the man of reason has pure pleasures.

All others have varying degrees of unhappiness. By equating the philosopher
with the man of pure reason, he sets up a situation where proof is not so
much necessary for any of his points as it is to say that the philosopher,
the only one who sees clearly, says so. Interestingly, Socrates couches a
form of despotism in terms which are intended to seem benevolent. Since
happiness is the sign of justice, and pleasure is one sign of happiness,
then the just person is the happy person. Interestingly, he equates true
pleasure with knowledge, the province of reason and the philosopher.

Socrates and had virtually the same beliefs about man’s relation to the
State, although Plato’s political theory of the State was more rational
than Socrates. Socrates and Plato believed that man was not self-
sufficient, they believed man would be most happy living in a State. They
also believed that all men wanted to live the truly good life where they
could be in tune with the truth and achieve their ultimate goals. Plato’s
view is more rational than Socrates’ in the sense that he created an ideal
State. These philosophers that were from ancient Greece believed that no
man was self-sufficient enough to live on his own. Plato believed A State
comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing. This indicate
the importance of a State to an individual according to Plato. These two
philosophers believed that man would be much happier if he was part of a
State rather than on his own. Socrates once stated, We are all more
productive if we specialize in one thing rather than try to excel at many
things. As Socrates stated above within the State you would specialize in
one thing only, while a different individual would specialize in something
else and this would allow the quality and the quantity of the product to
increase. Plato, who concerned himself with the truly good life for man, it
was imperative to determine the true function of the State. He believed
that the State was crucial in order for man to live a good life. Plato
wrote that a proper government would lead to a peaceful, ordered society in
which all humans needs are met. Meeting the needs of the people was very
important within the State, and to help meet the needs of the people Plato
thought that the relationship between the individual and the State would be
similar to the relationship between parents and their children. This meant
that the government would have power over the people but the people would
be considered in the decision making. Socrates also believed in man’s true
happiness, which is what is in man’s best interest, not just something that
will make him temporarily happy, such as alcohol. He believed that in the
‘Just State’ was where man would be truly happy. Plato’s political theory
is developed in close connection with his ethics. He believed strongly in
the wants of man, The State does not exist simply in order to further the
economic need of men, for man is not simply ‘Economic Man,’ but for
happiness, to develop them in the good life. In Plato’s Republic we wanted
poets, but he also objected to the way they speak about the gods, and the
way that they portrayed immoral characters. Therefore if he was going to
have poets in his State they would have to produce examples of good moral
character, and Lyric poetry would only be allowed under strict supervision
of the State authorities. Socrates also says that Women are to be trained
as men: in the ideal State they will not simply stay at home and mind the
baby, but will be trained in music and gymnastics and military discipline!
just like men. These regulations and theories were part of Plato’s Ideal
State. By creating an ideal State Plato was expressing the only way the
State would be run and remain successful according to his point of view.

Plato thought long and hard about what would be the perfect system of
government. He thought that everyone should be educated from birth to the
highest level possible for their abilities and interest. This would then
result in three classes of people. The first being the minority ruling
class who were able to reach the highest level of education by the virtue
of wisdom. This class would in turn be supported by the military class who
were able to boast courage as their virtue. In turn, they would be
supported by the merchant class whose unique virtue was temperance. The
military class and merchant class would be the less educated people who
were destined to this role by the mere fact of who they descended from. The
same can be said of the ruling class, whose families were educated as well.

The three virtues of wisdom, courage and temperance were accompanied by a
fourth, justice. Justice characterized the people as a whole. Plato also
thought that philosophers should be kings. Until philosophers are kings, or
the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of
philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those
commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are
compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils —
nor the human race, as I believe, — and then only will this our State have
a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Plato regards a
philosopher as some one who loves wisdom. The philosopher has passion for
knowledge and wants to keep expanding his brain. A true philosopher is
characterized by his love for the truth. Plato defends his theory of a
philosopher making the best king by writing, a good ruler must have a good
character as well as a good mind; he must always be truthful, high-minded
and disciplined, and never mean, petty, or cowardly. A philosopher will
satisfy these requirements. For example since the philosopher loves truth
he will always be honest. Money or possessions will not matter to him. Thus
he will rule for the good of the state and try to better the society. Plato
talkes about the Theory of Form at book V. It is here that he compares
knowledge and belief. Socrates points out that to know is to know some
thing; thus, knowledge must have objects. Likewise, to believe is to
believe something; therefore, belief also must have objects. But knowledge
is different from belief in that knowledge is infallible. Knowledge also
involves the fact that the thing known exists. The objects of knowledge are
also unchanging and eternal. Belief, on the other hand, may be true or
false and the objects of beliefs may or may not exist. The distinction
between actual objects and ideal objects are also discussed in Book V.

Actual objects are the objects of opinion and sensation and the ideal
objects are the objects of knowledge and intellect. This distinction is
crucial to Plato’s Theory of Forms. There are forms of things and forms of
thought, and it is the forms of thought that the philosopher is concerned
with. An example of a form of thought is beauty. The man who sees beauty
itself has knowledge and the man who sees only beautiful things has mere
belief. A person who sees a rose may believe that the rose is beautiful,
but they do not really understand the nature of beauty itself, they are
only basing their opinion on the image of the rose. However, philosophers
realize that the ordinary things of life, such as the rose, are nothing but
fleeting and changeable images of what is truly real (the forms).

Therefore, only philosophers can be said to have knowledge. Images, such as
the rose, can be beautiful one day, but, over time, may become less
beautiful or not beautiful at all, such as shriveled, dying roses. But the
idea of beauty never decays and is eternal. Plato says that the reason that
the Forms are truly real is because only something that never changes is
real in the fullest sense. The ordinary objects around us a real only in a
secondary sense and these are images or imperfect copies of the Forms.

Socrates’s Allegory of the Cave describes how most people are trapped in
their own little world, oblivious to what is really going on around them.

The story is basically made up of five parts, the shadow, the fire, the
common man, the ascending man, and the descending man. The shadow
represents what is perhaps Plato’s most difficult philosophy to understand.

The idea of forms was an original idea of Plato that has held up under the
scrutiny of many until even the present day. According to Plato, things you
can see, feel, or touch for example, a chair, are not a genuine article,
but merely a shadow of the real thing. He believed that these forms existed
in parallel somewhere, and had was the essence of the real thing. For
example, the form of a chair exists somewhere, and embodies everything that
all chairs have in common. It doesn’t mean that we can describe it, because
not all chairs have four legs, or any legs for that matter. Not all chairs
are meant to be sat in, or have arms. What does every chair have in common?
No one can fully answer that question. When stated like this it can easily
be understood, but when someone asks what all chairs have in common, or
what all windows have in common, the idea of this form becomes cloudy
because these questions can not be answered. The same can said about a
truly just decision, or an action . He believed the same about ideas, such
as truth and justice. For example when I perform a just act, it is just
because it conforms to the ideal form of justice. The idea of forms is
carried on to earth by the fact that all things such as ideas, and objects
have a tangible existence. We act out these ideas, and make chairs,
therefore they are tangible. The second idea in the Allegory of the Cave is
the common man. According to Plato, they represent all people before they
are fully educated. The common man sees nothing but the shadows on the wall
of the cave. These shadows represent everything that we have ever seen, and
since they are the only things we have ever seen, they constitute all that
is real to us. Being fully educated involves the ability to see everything,
including all that is outside the cave. The third part, the fire, is merely
there to shed light on the forms, casting a shadow into the cave. Thus
creating the only reality that the common man sees.The fourth part is the
ascending man. This is the one man who manages to emerge from the cave that
shelters the common man. Once he comes out, he finally understands the
forms, and becomes fully educated. He sees that the shadows only hinted at
the truth of reality. The fire can give you a vague idea of what the
reality of things are, but until you surface, then you only see the shadow
of reality. The final part is the descending man. He’s the person who came
out of the cave and became enlightened. He’s on his way back to tell the
others what he’s learned, and try to get them to understand that there
really is more to life than the shadows that everyone sees. The story that
basically tells us of Socrates trial by his peers because of what he saw
that they could not. The man in the cave tried to return to the cave after
being released, so that they might experience some of the beauty that he
was allowed to view. He was murdered for his attempts to persuade. Truly in
our times we have many freedoms including that of free speech. But our
taking advantage of those freedoms, not using them for positive thought,
puts us in that cave. The only way to release ourselves from the malaise or
bonds of everyday lives, is to attempt to see every situation or thought as
valuable in some way. We owe it to philosophers to at least give their
beliefs an honest evaluation without condemning them. We all know what
exists outside the cave. The people in the cave however, truly believe that
the man allowed to leave was psychotic when he told them of what he had
seen. …all the customary rules of religion and moral conduct imposed on
the individual by social sanctions have their origin in human intelligence
and will and always rest on tacit consent. They are neither laws of nature
nor divine enactments, but conventions which man who made them can alter,
as laws are changed or repealed by legislative bodies. It is assumed that,
if all these artificial restraints were removed, the natural man would be
left only with purely egotistic instincts and desires, which he would
indulge in all that Thrasymachus commended as injustice. Plato continues
his discussion of Forms later on. Socrates is trying to convince his
companions why a philosopher would make the best king. On reason is that
being a philosopher, the king will have knowledge of the Forms, and
therefore have true knowledge. It is very important to Plato for a ruler to
have knowledge of Justice and Goodness, so that he may administer justice
and act for the good of his people. The Form of Goodness is the highest and
most important of all the Forms, it is not on a level with the other forms,
for the other Forms derive their truth and reality from Goodness. Socrates
goes on to use an analogy of the sun to explain the highest for of
knowledge, Goodness. Light is what makes things visible and the best source
of light is the sun. The sun is not the same as visible things, but it is
what makes vision itself possible. Similarly, the good is not the same as
the objects of knowledge, but it is the source of knowledge. To see
requires sun, to know requires reason. The analogy can be stated as, the
idea of good is to reasoning as the sun is to seeing. Also in this book,
Pluto expands on his distinction between knowledge and belief. He divides
them into four kinds of objects. There are two degrees of knowledge and two
degrees of belief. The highest degree of knowledge is Goodness, followed by
the other Forms. The first degree of belief are physical objects, as the
second degree of belief are shadows and images of the physical objects. In
the last book, Plato criticizes poetry and the fine arts. Plato feels that
art is merely the imitation of the imitation of reality, and that poetry
corrupts the soul. Socrates says that artists merely create things. As an
example, if a painter draws a couch on his canvas, he is creating a couch.

But the couch he creates is not the real couch, it is nothing but a copy of
an ordinary, physical couch which was created by a craftsman. But the
ordinary, physical couch is nothing more than an imperfect copy, or image
of the Form of Couch. So, the couch on the canvas is nothing but a copy of
a copy of the real couch and is therefore three times removed from reality.

Socrates then goes on to explain that an artist’s knowledge is also third-
rate. If an artist is painting a picture of a table, for example, he is
copying a table that has been manufactured by a furniture-maker, and this
furniture-maker has more knowledge of the table than the painter does. But
there is someone who has ever more knowledge about the table, the person
who wants to have the table made. He is the one who gives the furniture-
maker instructions to follow when making the table, according to its
purpose for the buyer. So, the buyer of the table knows more about the
table than the furniture-maker, and the furniture-maker knows more about
the table than the painter. Socrates believes that only philosophers have
the first-hand knowledge of things, since they believe in The Forms.

Socrates also denounces Homer. Socrates feels that in his writing, Homer
has pretended to be people he is not, such as a politician, general,
businessman, teacher, and philosopher. Socrates feels this is wrong because
Homer is claiming to be able to perform these functions that he has written
about, but never really performed himself. He feels that Homer is
abandoning reality. Plato feels that poetry has no place in his Ideal
State, and should be banished until it can show itself to be a friend of
philosophy. Socrates also mentions about the existence of an immortal soul.

With this concession, he makes the point that good is that which preserves
and benefits. Justice is good, so it therefore preserves and benefits in
this life as well as the next. Therefore, even though a man may wish to
behave badly when no one is looking, as with the myth of the ring of Gyges,
in fact, behaving justly will have the most rewards. The Republic was
Plato’s ways of expressing his Theory of Forms and Justice. The main idea
perhaps is to make people understand that there can be no justice within a
society whose people are not just within themselves. There needs to be an
internal justice, within the people, and within each person, in order to
bring peace to the society. From reading the Republic, I realized that some
issues he mentions are very clear, and some are not clear since I live in a
different society and time. Plato does not describe his ideal society in
great detail since he is considered with the ideal idea itself, and it is
hard for me as a materialist to understand without seeing. One thing that
is clear is that Plato tries to defend his theory all along and lets us,
the unknowledged, experience a glimpse of the good. Plato’s belief seemed
that life was to involve a movement upward toward the good, as this was a
movement of the Soul.

Plato on Justice and Injustice

In The Republic, Plato attempts to demonstrate through the character and discourse of Socrates that justice is better than justice is the good which men must strive for, regardless of whether they could be unjust and still be rewarded. His method is to use dialectic, the asking and answering of questions which led the hearer from one point to another, supposedly with irrefutable logic by obtaining agreement to each point before going on to the next, and so building an argument.


Early on, his two young listeners pose the question of whether justice is stronger than injustice, what each does to a man, and what makes the first good and the second bad. In answering this question, Socrates deals directly with the philosophy of the individual’s goodness and virtue, but also ties it to his concept of the perfect state, which is a republic of three classes of people with a rigid social structure and little in the way of amusement.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now


Although Socrates returns time and again to the concept of justice in his discourse on the perfect city-state, much of it seems off the original subject. One of his main points, however, is that goodness is doing what is best for the common, greater good rather than for individual happiness. There is a real sense in which his philosophy turns on the concepts of virtue, and his belief that ultimately virtue is its own reward.


His first major point is that justice is an excellence of character. He then seeks agreement that no excellence is achieved through destructive means. The function of justice is to improve human nature, which is inherently constructive. Therefore, at a minimum, justice is a form of goodness that cannot be involved in injuring someone’s character. Justice, in short, is a virtue, a human excellence.


His next point is that acting in accordance with excellence brings happiness. Then he ties excellence to one’s function. His examples are those of the senses — each sensory organ is excellent if it performs its function, as the eye sees, the ear hears. Therefore, the just person is a happy person is a person who performs his function. Since these are tied together, injustice can never exceed these virtues and so justice is stronger and is the good.


However, Socrates does not stop there. He goes on to examine the question of the nature of justice and the just life. He identifies the four of the Athenian virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. For the bulk of the book, he looks at each virtue separately in terms of the perfect city state, but our focus is on justice. But he makes the point that justice, of the virtues, resides in man’s relations to other men, not just in man as an individual. Thus, it is an excellence in social organization and in the organization of the human soul. So justice is a virtue which must be connected to the function of efficient and healthful cooperation. Justice is in one sense the greatest virtue for it is key to making the other virtues work together for the common good. If all the parts are to work together as a whole, each must have on function to excel at. Like the organs of the body, all contribute to the whole, but the eyes only see, the ears only hear. They do not share functions. Using this analogy, justice would be something like the moral mind which guides the body in its activities. Justice, then is the head, at the top of the hierarchy in social terms. When the other three virtues work together in orderly fashion within the state, justice is produced. But for justice to be produced, it must come from everyone doing his assigned function under the excellent guidance of the ruling class.


Despite his emphasis of justice as a function of the perfect state, Socrates also deals with justice as a personal virtue.He finds that there is a parallel between the organization of the state and the organization of the individual. Just as there are three virtues other than justice, Socrates finds three parts in the individual soul — sensation, emotion, intelligence. The just person, then must have balance between these aspects. Each must function in moderation to contribute to the health of the whole. Appetite and sensation are matters of desire. Desire must be subordinate to reason, or else they will throw the individual out of balance and lead him into injustice and unhappiness. Emotion (spirit and will) also can master desire.


The alliance of emotion and reason is similar, Socrates says, to the rulers and the guardians in the state. Thus, the individual is a miniature state, and justice in the soul is like justice in the state.


Plato was a philosopher in the time of the distinguished Greek philosophers. He wrote a book entitled The Republic in which he explains some of his philosophy on subjects ranging from education to government. The Republic discusses the nature of justice and the institutions of society. In some ways it is idealistic in that it describes Plato’s ideal society. But it also deals with human knowledge, the purpose and composition of education, and the nature of science. The principle of justice is the main theme of The Republic. Plato makes a connection between the principle of justice and his Theory of Forms in The Republic. When talking about the Ideal State, Plato is saying that one should never act without knowledge. So, if one wished to build a just city, they should only do so after they have understood the meaning of justice. But they cannot achieve an understanding of true justice until they have grasped the Form of Justice itself. Plato refers to his Theory of Forms throughout the dialogue, as it plays a major role in understanding his views of an Ideal State. Socrates is the main character and Plato uses Socrates as to voice his own opinions about his Ideal State. Through a series of questions, Socrates attempts to help his companions discover their own ignorance, since the starting point of philosophy is the realization that you do not have knowledge. Socrates is always at the center of the discussion and is often contemptuous and ironical, but he never strays from the importance of the subject being discussed. Socrates first states that justice is a good character. He then seeks agreement that no excellence is achieved through destructive means. The function of justice is to improve human nature, which is inherently constructive. Therefore, at a minimum, justice is a form of goodness that cannot be involved in injuring someone’s character. Justice, in short, is a virtue, a human excellence. His next point is that acting in accordance with excellence brings happiness. Then he ties excellence to one’s function. His examples are those of the senses — each sensory organ is excellent if it performs its function, as the eye sees, the ear hears. Therefore, the just person is a happy person is a person who performs his function. Since these are tied together, injustice can never exceed these virtues and so justice is stronger and is the good. However, Socrates does not stop there. He goes on to examine the question of the nature of justice and the just life. He identifies the four of the Athenian virtues: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. For the bulk of the book, he looks at each virtue separately in terms of the perfect city state, but our focus is on justice. But he makes the point that justice, of the virtues, resides in man’s relations to other men, not just in man as an individual. Thus, it is an excellence in social organization and in the organization of the human soul. So justice is a virtue, which must be connected to the function of efficient and healthful cooperation. Justice is in one sense the greatest virtue for it is key to making the other virtues work together for the common good. If all the parts are to work together as a whole, each must have on function to excel at. Like the organs of the body, all contribute to the whole, but the eyes only see, the ears only hear. They do not share functions. Using this analogy, justice would be something like the moral mind which guides the body in its activities. Justice, then is the head, at the top of the hierarchy in social terms. When the other three virtues work together in orderly fashion within the state, justice is produced. But for justice to be produced, it must come from everyone doing his assigned function under the excellent guidance of the ruling class. Plato attempts to demonstrate through the character and discourse of Socrates that justice is better than injustice and that justice is the good which men must strive for, regardless of whether they could be unjust and still be rewarded. His method is to use dialectic, the asking and answering of questions which led the hearer from one point to another, supposedly with irrefutable logic by obtaining agreement to each point before going on to the next, and so building an argument. Early on, his two young listeners pose the question of whether justice is stronger than injustice, what each does to a man, and what makes the first good and the second bad. In answering this question, Socrates deals directly with the philosophy of the individual’s goodness and virtue, but also ties it to his concept of the perfect state, which is a republic of three classes of people with a rigid social structure and little in the way of amusement. Although Socrates returns time and again to the concept of justice in his discourse on the perfect city-state, much of it seems off the original subject. One of his main points, however, is that goodness is doing what is best for the common, greater good rather than for individual happiness. There is a real sense in which his philosophy turns on the concepts of virtue, and his belief that ultimately virtue is its own reward. Despite his emphasis of justice as a function of the perfect state, Socrates also deals with justice as a personal virtue. He finds that there is a parallel between the organization of the state and the organization of the individual. Just as there are three virtues other than justice, Socrates finds three parts in the individual soul — sensation, emotion, and intelligence. The just person then must have balance between these aspects. Each must function in moderation to contribute to the health of the whole. Appetite and sensation are matters of desire. Desire must be subordinate to reason, or else they will throw the individual out of balance and lead him into injustice and unhappiness. Emotion (spirit and will) also can master desire. The alliance of emotion and reason is similar, Socrates says, to the rulers and the guardians in the state. Thus, the individual is a miniature state, and justice in the soul is like justice in the state. In the opposite case, the situation of the unjust, whether state or individual, desires hold a tyranny. Because there is a lack of internal control, outside things move the unjust around at will. Thus the unjust lives a life of fear and anxiety, the fruit of being out of control. Socrates asserts that only the man of reason has pure pleasures. All others have varying degrees of unhappiness. By equating the philosopher with the man of pure reason, he sets up a situation where proof is not so much necessary for any of his points as it is to say that the philosopher, the only one who sees clearly, says so. Interestingly, Socrates couches a form of despotism in terms which are intended to seem benevolent. Since happiness is the sign of justice, and pleasure is one sign of happiness, then the just person is the happy person. Interestingly, he equates true pleasure with knowledge, the province of reason and the philosopher. Socrates and had virtually the same beliefs about man’s relation to the State, although Plato’s political theory of the State was more rational than Socrates. Socrates and Plato believed that man was not self-sufficient, they believed man would be most happy living in a State. They also believed that all men wanted to live the truly good life where they could be in tune with the truth and achieve their ultimate goals. Plato’s view is more rational than Socrates’ in the sense that he created an ideal State. These philosophers that were from ancient Greece believed that no man was self-sufficient enough to live on his own. Plato believed A State comes into existence because no individual is self-sufficing. This indicate the importance of a State to an individual according to Plato. These two philosophers believed that man would be much happier if he was part of a State rather than on his own. Socrates once stated, We are all more productive if we specialize in one thing rather than try to excel at many things. As Socrates stated above within the State you would specialize in one thing only, while a different individual would specialize in something else and this would allow the quality and the quantity of the product to increase. Plato, who concerned himself with the truly good life for man, it was imperative to determine the true function of the State. He believed that the State was crucial in order for man to live a good life. Plato wrote that a proper government would lead to a peaceful, ordered society in which all humans needs are met. Meeting the needs of the people was very important within the State, and to help meet the needs of the people Plato thought that the relationship between the individual and the State would be similar to the relationship between parents and their children. This meant that the government would have power over the people but the people would be considered in the decision making. Socrates also believed in man’s true happiness, which is what is in man’s best interest, not just something that will make him temporarily happy, such as alcohol. He believed that in the ‘Just State’ was where man would be truly happy. Plato’s political theory is developed in close connection with his ethics. He believed strongly in the wants of man, The State does not exist simply in order to further the economic need of men, for man is not simply ‘Economic Man,’ but for happiness, to develop them in the good life. In Plato’s Republic we wanted poets, but he also objected to the way they speak about the gods, and the way that they portrayed immoral characters. Therefore if he was going to have poets in his State they would have to produce examples of good moral character, and Lyric poetry would only be allowed under strict supervision of the State authorities. Socrates also says that Women are to be trained as men: in the ideal State they will not simply stay at home and mind the baby, but will be trained in music and gymnastics and military discipline! just like men. These regulations and theories were part of Plato’s Ideal State. By creating an ideal State Plato was expressing the only way the State would be run and remain successful according to his point of view. Plato thought long and hard about what would be the perfect system of government. He thought that everyone should be educated from birth to the highest level possible for their abilities and interest. This would then result in three classes of people. The first being the minority ruling class who were able to reach the highest level of education by the virtue of wisdom. This class would in turn be supported by the military class who were able to boast courage as their virtue. In turn, they would be supported by the merchant class whose unique virtue was temperance. The military class and merchant class would be the less educated people who were destined to this role by the mere fact of who they descended from. The same can be said of the ruling class, whose families were educated as well. The three virtues of wisdom, courage and temperance were accompanied by a fourth, justice. Justice characterized the people as a whole. Plato also thought that philosophers should be kings. Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils — nor the human race, as I believe, — and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. Plato regards a philosopher as some one who loves wisdom. The philosopher has passion for knowledge and wants to keep expanding his brain. A true philosopher is characterized by his love for the truth. Plato defends his theory of a philosopher making the best king by writing, a good ruler must have a good character as well as a good mind; he must always be truthful, high-minded and disciplined, and never mean, petty, or cowardly. A philosopher will satisfy these requirements. For example since the philosopher loves truth he will always be honest. Money or possessions will not matter to him. Thus he will rule for the good of the state and try to better the society. Plato talkes about the Theory of Form at book V. It is here that he compares knowledge and belief. Socrates points out that to know is to know some thing; thus, knowledge must have objects. Likewise, to believe is to believe something; therefore, belief also must have objects. But knowledge is different from belief in that knowledge is infallible. Knowledge also involves the fact that the thing known exists. The objects of knowledge are also unchanging and eternal. Belief, on the other hand, may be true or false and the objects of beliefs may or may not exist. The distinction between actual objects and ideal objects are also discussed in Book V. Actual objects are the objects of opinion and sensation and the ideal objects are the objects of knowledge and intellect. This distinction is crucial to Plato’s Theory of Forms. There are forms of things and forms of thought, and it is the forms of thought that the philosopher is concerned with. An example of a form of thought is beauty. The man who sees beauty itself has knowledge and the man who sees only beautiful things has mere belief. A person who sees a rose may believe that the rose is beautiful, but they do not really understand the nature of beauty itself, they are only basing their opinion on the image of the rose. However, philosophers realize that the ordinary things of life, such as the rose, are nothing but fleeting and changeable images of what is truly real (the forms). Therefore, only philosophers can be said to have knowledge. Images, such as the rose, can be beautiful one day, but, over time, may become less beautiful or not beautiful at all, such as shriveled, dying roses. But the idea of beauty never decays and is eternal. Plato says that the reason that the Forms are truly real is because only something that never changes is real in the fullest sense. The ordinary objects around us a real only in a secondary sense and these are images or imperfect copies of the Forms. Socrates’s Allegory of the Cave describes how most people are trapped in their own little world, oblivious to what is really going on around them. The story is basically made up of five parts, the shadow, the fire, the common man, the ascending man, and the descending man. The shadow represents what is perhaps Plato’s most difficult philosophy to understand. The idea of forms was an original idea of Plato that has held up under the scrutiny of many until even the present day. According to Plato, things you can see, feel, or touch for example, a chair, are not a genuine article, but merely a shadow of the real thing. He believed that these forms existed in parallel somewhere, and had was the essence of the real thing. For example, the form of a chair exists somewhere, and embodies everything that all chairs have in common. It doesn’t mean that we can describe it, because not all chairs have four legs, or any legs for that matter. Not all chairs are meant to be sat in, or have arms. What does every chair have in common? No one can fully answer that question. When stated like this it can easily be understood, but when someone asks what all chairs have in common, or what all windows have in common, the idea of this form becomes cloudy because these questions can not be answered. The same can said about a truly just decision, or an action . He believed the same about ideas, such as truth and justice. For example when I perform a just act, it is just because it conforms to the ideal form of justice. The idea of forms is carried on to earth by the fact that all things such as ideas, and objects have a tangible existence. We act out these ideas, and make chairs, therefore they are tangible. The second idea in the Allegory of the Cave is the common man. According to Plato, they represent all people before they are fully educated. The common man sees nothing but the shadows on the wall of the cave. These shadows represent everything that we have ever seen, and since they are the only things we have ever seen, they constitute all that is real to us. Being fully educated involves the ability to see everything, including all that is outside the cave. The third part, the fire, is merely there to shed light on the forms, casting a shadow into the cave. Thus creating the only reality that the common man sees.The fourth part is the ascending man. This is the one man who manages to emerge from the cave that shelters the common man. Once he comes out, he finally understands the forms, and becomes fully educated. He sees that the shadows only hinted at the truth of reality. The fire can give you a vague idea of what the reality of things are, but until you surface, then you only see the shadow of reality. The final part is the descending man. He’s the person who came out of the cave and became enlightened. He’s on his way back to tell the others what he’s learned, and try to get them to understand that there really is more to life than the shadows that everyone sees. The story that basically tells us of Socrates trial by his peers because of what he saw that they could not. The man in the cave tried to return to the cave after being released, so that they might experience some of the beauty that he was allowed to view. He was murdered for his attempts to persuade. Truly in our times we have many freedoms including that of free speech. But our taking advantage of those freedoms, not using them for positive thought, puts us in that cave. The only way to release ourselves from the malaise or bonds of everyday lives, is to attempt to see every situation or thought as valuable in some way. We owe it to philosophers to at least give their beliefs an honest evaluation without condemning them. We all know what exists outside the cave. The people in the cave however, truly believe that the man allowed to leave was psychotic when he told them of what he had seen. …all the customary rules of religion and moral conduct imposed on the individual by social sanctions have their origin in human intelligence and will and always rest on tacit consent. They are neither laws of nature nor divine enactments, but conventions which man who made them can alter, as laws are changed or repealed by legislative bodies. It is assumed that, if all these artificial restraints were removed, the natural man would be left only with purely egotistic instincts and desires, which he would indulge in all that Thrasymachus commended as injustice. Plato continues his discussion of Forms later on. Socrates is trying to convince his companions why a philosopher would make the best king. On reason is that being a philosopher, the king will have knowledge of the Forms, and therefore have true knowledge. It is very important to Plato for a ruler to have knowledge of Justice and Goodness, so that he may administer justice and act for the good of his people. The Form of Goodness is the highest and most important of all the Forms, it is not on a level with the other forms, for the other Forms derive their truth and reality from Goodness. Socrates goes on to use an analogy of the sun to explain the highest for of knowledge, Goodness. Light is what makes things visible and the best source of light is the sun. The sun is not the same as visible things, but it is what makes vision itself possible. Similarly, the good is not the same as the objects of knowledge, but it is the source of knowledge. To see requires sun, to know requires reason. The analogy can be stated as, the idea of good is to reasoning as the sun is to seeing. Also in this book, Pluto expands on his distinction between knowledge and belief. He divides them into four kinds of objects. There are two degrees of knowledge and two degrees of belief. The highest degree of knowledge is Goodness, followed by the other Forms. The first degree of belief are physical objects, as the second degree of belief are shadows and images of the physical objects. In the last book, Plato criticizes poetry and the fine arts. Plato feels that art is merely the imitation of the imitation of reality, and that poetry corrupts the soul. Socrates says that artists merely create things. As an example, if a painter draws a couch on his canvas, he is creating a couch. But the couch he creates is not the real couch, it is nothing but a copy of an ordinary, physical couch which was created by a craftsman. But the ordinary, physical couch is nothing more than an imperfect copy, or image of the Form of Couch. So, the couch on the canvas is nothing but a copy of a copy of the real couch and is therefore three times removed from reality. Socrates then goes on to explain that an artist’s knowledge is also third-rate. If an artist is painting a picture of a table, for example, he is copying a table that has been manufactured by a furniture-maker, and this furniture-maker has more knowledge of the table than the painter does. But there is someone who has ever more knowledge about the table, the person who wants to have the table made. He is the one who gives the furniture-maker instructions to follow when making the table, according to its purpose for the buyer. So, the buyer of the table knows more about the table than the furniture-maker, and the furniture-maker knows more about the table than the painter. Socrates believes that only philosophers have the first-hand knowledge of things, since they believe in The Forms. Socrates also denounces Homer. Socrates feels that in his writing, Homer has pretended to be people he is not, such as a politician, general, businessman, teacher, and philosopher. Socrates feels this is wrong because Homer is claiming to be able to perform these functions that he has written about, but never really performed himself. He feels that Homer is abandoning reality. Plato feels that poetry has no place in his Ideal State, and should be banished until it can show itself to be a friend of philosophy. Socrates also mentions about the existence of an immortal soul. With this concession, he makes the point that good is that which preserves and benefits. Justice is good, so it therefore preserves and benefits in this life as well as the next. Therefore, even though a man may wish to behave badly when no one is looking, as with the myth of the ring of Gyges, in fact, behaving justly will have the most rewards. The Republic was Plato’s ways of expressing his Theory of Forms and Justice. The main idea perhaps is to make people understand that there can be no justice within a society whose people are not just within themselves. There needs to be an internal justice, within the people, and within each person, in order to bring peace to the society. From reading the Republic, I realized that some issues he mentions are very clear, and some are not clear since I live in a different society and time. Plato does not describe his ideal society in great detail since he is considered with the ideal idea itself, and it is hard for me as a materialist to understand without seeing. One thing that is clear is that Plato tries to defend his theory all along and lets us, the unknowledged, experience a glimpse of the good. Plato’s belief seemed that life was to involve a movement upward toward the good, as this was a movement of the Soul.

x

Hi!
I'm Adrienne!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out