Plato’s Republic – Notes from a first reading Book 2 – blow by blow

June 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

Is injustice more profitable than justice?

Justice is “to be valued by anyone who is going to blessed with happiness, both because of itself and because of what comes from it.” (Book 2, 358a)

The alternative view is that common sense suggests that justice is valued for the rewards and popularity that come with a reputation for having it (the left). This idea of reputation makes justice a superficial possession suggesting that injustice is the true state of mans priorities.

What is Justice and what are its origins?

The argument represented by Thrasymachus goes as follows: To do injustice is naturally good. To suffer injustice is naturally bad. To suffer injustice far outweighs being able to be unjust. Those who lack the power to at once be unjust and avoid suffering injustice, decide that it is profitable to come to agreement with others neither to do nor suffer injustice. Those with the power to be unjust and avoid suffering injustice would not enter such a social contract.

Glaucon wishes to put this idea to the test and so devises a competition between two examples of the extreme version of an unjust man, and that of a just man. The unjust man must be absolutely successful in his injustice and so must be perceived to be a just and righteous man. If his injustice were to be found out he would have the powers of persuasion and force to turn this opinion, as they are tools of the unjust. On the other hand, the just man must be perceived by his community to be unjust and wretched in order that we are sure that his justice is for its own sake and not for reputation or other profitable motivations above the level of the righteousness of justice for its own sake.

Socrates takes up this task to respond to the formula as stated by Glaucon: that is, to account for the virtue of justice in and of itaelf, removed and separate from any notion of a beneficial reputation or other superficial reward.

1) there is the justice of a single man
2) there is the justice of a city
3) the justice of the city is larger than that of the single man.

The City:

A city comes to be because none of us is self sufficient. All of us need many things. This is the soul principle upon which a city is formed. Each person joins the settlement of givers and takers because they find it beneficial. The break down of labor and needs: a farmer for food, a builder for shelter, a weaver for clothing, a cobbler for infrastructure, a doctor for medical care. It is evident that one person is better at a trade if they focus only on that trade i.e. a builder focuses on building and not on farming. In this sense more plentiful and better quality goods are more easily produced under this principle of cooperation. A city will also need imports and so is, like the individual, not self sufficient no matter how organized. As a city grows, it grows exponentially as these demands are met. At this stage Socrates describes a ‘healthy’ city in which all needs are met and everything is functional and happiness is pursued and attained by the citizens. Next the discussion turns to a city with a ‘fever’. This is a city essentially with vice. To this formula artists, poets and musicians are added. The needs of the city grow exponentially as people engage in more and more luxury i.e. more cattle for more meat eating, and more doctors in response to more health problems. The need to seize the land of neighbors etc. Here we find the origins of war.

The conversation now turns to the appointment of guardians of the city. Just like a soldier must be trained in and devoted to the skills of soldiery, so must a guardian of the city. What is required is a person in whose nature it is to harbor these qualities (just as in the case of a soldier, or a woodworker etc). A guardian must be gentle to his own people and harsh to the enemies of the people: at once gentle and ‘high spirited’. To find such a person requires raising such a person. The justification is developed that children must undergo a state-specific education that will build their minds in the correct manner to hold these qualities of a city guardian. Second to this concept of education is the concept of state censorship as Socrates argues that stories with false premises as told by poets (such as the poems of Homer) must be kept from poisoning the reasoning of people. Therefore there must be laws enacted that prevent the telling of these stories.

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  1. *Updated* Best, Mediocre and Worst: Drugstore Dry Shampoos - June 5, 2013

    […] Plato’s Republic – Notes from a first reading Book 2 – blow by blow Is injustice more profitable than justice? Justice is “to be valued by anyone who is going to blessed with happiness, both because of itself and because of what comes from it.” (Book 2, 358a) The alternative view is that common sense suggests that justice is valued for the rewards and popularity tha … Tue, 4 Jun 2013 23:11:00 CDT more info… […]

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