Plato’s Republic”the having and doing of ones own and what belongs to one would be agreed to be justice.” (The Republic 434a) In other words the above statement means that justice, according to Plato, is doing only the tasks assigned to them by nature. This is the fundamental notion for his creation of an ideal city. It is both knowing what true justice is and where one belongs in the city that the ideal can be achieved. What this means to politics in the ideal city is that only a certain class of person has the ability to engage in politics, just as only a certain person has the ability to engage in carpentry.
Those who engage in politics would be the philosophers because just as the ideal individual searches for universal truth so must the ideal city.This is a concept that would make sense to a philosopher such as Plato, but it assumes that those who do not or cannot seek the truth, need it, or to be ruled by it in order to live in an idealistic city. It is necessary for Plato to define what true justice means in order for it to be prescribed in his city . Justice in a city, according to him, can be found in an individual as well because it is a concept that is universal; it is found within the individual and outside the individual.
Thus, it is essential to the founding of a city. Justice in a city is when a division of labour takes place amongst its residents.As an individual uses his or her minds for thinking and hands for making and fighting, the ideal city classifies people into what they do best. Those with an arete (an excellence) for artistry would be artisans, or money-makers, those that could go beyond mere materialism, those that could seek the truth, would be the rulers.
As the ideal individual naturally conducts himself or herself by placing reason as the guide to their conduct, the ideal city will allow those with the most reason- the philosophers- to guide the citys conduct and act in the cities collective interest. A third class, auxiliaries, would be in charge of carrying out what the philosophers, guardians of the city, decided. However, Plato does admit that this system is a hierarchy with the philosophers at the top, but he allows this because they are the only ones who can find universal truths and pass it on to those who cannot see it.To Plato the above is his vision of a justice.
Within his idea of justice, Plato also has three other virtues to help categorize those within the city and find justice in the city itself- wisdom, courage, and moderation, all ideals that would sustain the city and nurture it. Wisdom is found in the philosophers, courage in the auxiliaries, and moderation found in all classes. Philosophers need wisdom and the need to know what justice is. The auxiliaries, say soldiers, need courage to protect the interests of the city.Finally, all classes need to demonstrate moderation so as not to develop injustices through excess luxury, the only luxury that a city can have is philosophizing. These virtues, if found in a city, can also help one to distinguish it as a just city. Therefore, within Platos definition of a division of labour making a city just, he also identifies other components of it.
But, for the ideal city to be nurtured, all the divisions listed must be followed to avoid injustice. Plato goes on to discuss examples of how to define this division of labour into what is just and unjust. This he states in 434a-d.If members of the same class, such as a shoemaker and a carpenter, decide to switch titles and tools there is no injustice.
However, if a craftsmen tries to become a guardian of the city, this is an injustice. For if he cannot be nurtured to become a guardian or auxiliary through education and the ability to know the truth, his authority as a guardian would be illegitimate and he would bring about the obvious decay of the ideal city. What is at stake in all this is that Plato is not only defining what justice is, he is applying the term to the city, the political sphere and shaping an entirely new and often since borrowed view of how a society should be structured and how it can be legitimized. He is claiming his right to the throne, or those that share his view- as a philosopher king- and presents his claim in the text. This he does not only with the aforementioned discussion of justice in the city, but through a further judgment into the realm of censorship of the arts, and creating myths.What gives his argument validity is that we still discuss his work today.
Many philosophers since Plato have drawn on his ideas, from Aristotle to Karl Marx. Governments, our own included, have used similar rationale for legitimizing their authority. Regimes have used censorship to maintain harmony within their realm, much as Plato suggested the philosophers do to the auxiliaries in order to both gain their allegiance and so that the public would emulate good individuals who put collective good in front of personal interests. He also put forth an often imitated scheme to convince the artisan, money-maker class of the philosophers right to rule.
He would claim the gods endowed philosophers souls with gold- he would convince them in terms that they could understand, those regarding common religious themes. Regimes since have consciously put that idea into practice by writing history in a way so that the masses would accept the founding of their polis (or country). In the Soviet Union- who followed Marxist ideas- this device was used. Plato assumes philosophy is right. Since we look upon philosophers, scientists, and other intellectuals with such high esteem and their principles are often used by regimes, and since Western philosophers seem to all say similar things to Plato, we can assume there is some validity to his position. In The Republic, Thrasymachus has a different interpretation of what is just and unjust, but his argument is lost to Socrates interpretation.
Others, too, lose arguments to Socrates. These arguments are obvious contrived ploys to make Platos argument stronger, so any attempt to use them to refute his argument is to be done in vain. However difficult for anybody to try and find an alternate, flawless interpretation of justice, it is less difficult to try and make Platos argument weaker. This might be done on the basis that his definition does not have universal applications, that what he calls justice is tainted by his position in society, as a philosopher. As a philosopher, would Plato not see the world with his interest in mind? The answer is simply yes, though an argument maybe tainted by the person who says it , the fact remains that if he claims it as universal, and others support his idea, one cannot easily refute him (without trying an alternate view- such as there is no such thing as justice).
Platos concepts regarding justice in the city, and the division of labour have continued to this day. And within.