As one of the initial and most significant forbearers of Western political thought, the writings of Plato are amongst the most recognizable works in the world.
In his steadfast commitment to the promotion of critical thinking and reasoning, he helped transform Greek thought as we know it. Amongst is most influential texts is ???the Republic??? in which he takes an introspective look at the concepts which best define civilization and life such as virtue, education, and justice. It is the aim of Plato throughout this work to help define and isolate the concept of justice, as it applies to the individual person or soul, as well as to how it applies to a society, or city. It is within this pursuit of knowledge that Plato crafted the direction of this reading, in an effort to fully realize these essential concepts.
To bring a complete understanding to his conception of justice, Plato attempts to draw and make significant analogies between ???Justice of the Soul??? and ???Justice of the City???. Plato infers that the understanding of these theories of a just or ???ideal??? city will also lead to determining what is defined by ???Justice of the Soul.??? Although Plato undoubtedly has left certain ambiguities in his attempt to make a connection between the two understandings, the parallels are solidified enough to stand on their own.
The compatibility between the two interrelated concepts of justice is best viewed through the separation of the subjects that Plato highlights to help make clear his definition. These subjects include the utmost importance order has in the pursuit of justice both the city and the soul. To get to the crux of the matter, similarities must be drawn and considered between the two concepts of justice. In order to be able to see to the coexistence of this parallel, the role they play in supporting each other also must also be understood. Through emphasizing the similarities on their reliance in order, the comparable separations between different aspects of the individual and the city, and finally expanding on their shared values, Plato clearly displays the compatibility of the two types of justice. In understanding this role and all of its relevant aspects, Plato devises a narrative that flows until the conception of justice is developed enough to stand on its own. It is within this development that the key to understanding whether the two concepts of justice are able to coexist together are to be derived An initial inquiry into whether the two forms of justice are compatible must begin with an understanding of what Plato believed just to represent. The central theme in the series of discussions Socrates engages in throughout the Republic is aimed towards determining what justice is indeed.
Initially Socrates aims his efforts towards establishing what justice is not. By dismantling Thrasymachus??™s theory of justice being the ???rule and advantage of the stronger???, Socrates begins to set the stage for a clearer definition, of the elusive concept of justice (Plato, 341b, 19). In his proceeding conversations with Glaucon and Adeimantus, Socrates agrees to provide a platform towards understanding what justice indeed represents. This platform entails creating a city in which justice indeed exists, and it is only after the creation of this city, can justice in an individual also be understood. Plato frames the justice of the soul to represent a microcosm of the justice of the city; a significant reference to his definition of justice made by Socrates in the pursuit to defining the just city. He outlines justice in the city as ???the money-making-auxiliary- and guardian classes doing what??™s appropriate, each of the minding its own business in a city.
…..would be justice and would make the city just.
???(Plato 434 B, 113). Furthermore after isolating this definition of justice, Socrates continues by determining that the true nature of justice in the city will be the same and in fact better evidenced in a smaller entity, such as a man. Socrates explains why the city is divided into classes by a incorporating a myth known as the ???noble lie???.
At the top are the gold, who correspond to the rulers, followed by the silver whose function it is to guard the city and finally the bronze which consist of the working classes. Plato chooses to use a city with different classes to explain how different parts of the soul are divided. Amongst the virtues that accompany this part of the soul are knowledge, courage and temptation. It is this complementing relationship between the functions of the classes and there virtues that most explicitly notes the compatibility of the justice in the soul and justice in the city. Socrates also clearly outlines four virtues which could be found in a just state. These virtues include wisdom, which should be exemplified by the rulers of the city, courage which should be displayed by the defenders, moderation by the rest, and finally justice. He continues to identify justice as the most important virtue by attempting to define it through first clearly finding justice in the city.
Plato hopes to bring the reader to a closer understanding of the entire concept of justice, by first displaying it within a city. Justice in the city according to Socrates is ???each man??™s minding his own business in the city??? conducting their own functions in their different classes without interference (Plato 433d, 112). The just city according to him, had justice at its presence most effectively when each of the classes stuck to their well defined roles, without interfering with one and another. Socrates continues to expand on this definition by elaborating on what injustice in the city is, by noting that ???meddling among the classes, of which there are three, and exchange with one another is the greatest harm for the city.
.??? (Plato 434 c, 113). With these concepts aside Socrates continues to expand on this understanding by defining the hierarchy of the order in the city, as well as their various roles.
The three classes separate into three types of people in chronological order they are : the rulers, the soldiers, and finally the producers. The rulers serve at the top of the hierarchy in order to rule the city, while the soldiers serve an important function by carrying out the rulers orders as well as defending the city. The producers represent the rest of society and complete the rest of the functions that must be met in order for the city to function. These classes are assigned to people by what ???nature??? sees them most fit at accomplishing (Plato 433a, 111).
Due to citizen??™s roles in the just city being predetermined it is important that they do not interfere with their nature. It is this interference that forms the crux of injustice in the city. It is in the relationship of these three parts of a just city, and their interactions with each other that Socrates believes the answer to justice in the city lies. To support the assertion that justice in the city and justice in the soul are indeed compatible the functions evidenced in the city must exist in the individual. Plato clearly outlines that similar concepts exist between the two types of justice. His assertion that ???.
..that, if we should attempt to see justice first in some bigger thing that possessed it, we would more easily catch sight of what it??™s like in one man.???, is supported by the similarity in the division of the soul??™s functions (Plato 435a, 113). Socrates backs this conclusion while introducing the three parts of the soul that accompany its justice. These three are the appetitive part of the soul, the rational part, and finally the spirited part of the soul. As is the case with the city??™s classes, these three parts have roles that are divided, yet are all relevant to the soul??™s makeup.
As is the case with justice in the city, it is the order and division an individual makes between these different parts of the soul that determines whether he/she is just or unjust. Those who are successful in this division manage to accurately play the different competing parts of the soul against each other, similarly as to how a ruler would manage his soldiers and his fellow producers in order to maintain his reign. The functions the various parts of the soul play are also very similar to those found in the city. The rational part described as ???calculating??? by Socrates is deemed as the part that rules the soul, can be better understood as an equivalent to the ruler in a city (Plato, 441e, 121).
The reasons that are provided for its rule are attributed to its powers of wisdom and forethought regarding the entire soul (Ibid). Similarly the spirited part is described as the ???obedient ally??? that helps provide courage to the soul, a fitting equivalent to the guardian??™s of the city (Ibid.) It is of utmost importance for order to be maintained amongst these aforementioned parts of the soul, as managing justice in oneself according to Socrates can serve as a crucial precursor to justice externally. This concept is well related when Socrates emphasizes that justice is ???not with respect to man??™s minding his external business, but with respect to what is within, with respect to what truly concerns him or his own.??? (Plato, 443 d, 123).By avoiding interference between the competing aspects of the soul, justice can be maintained in an individual, and further expressed externally.
The final and perhaps most important point displaying the compatibility of the two forms of justice is evidenced in relation to their shared virtues and values. These common points help further display the interdependence between the two forms of justice, in consideration to the striking similarities in their descriptions. Amongst these shared virtues include that of courage, wisdom and moderation. All three of the aforementioned virtues rest in different parts of a just city, and the just soul. The courage of virtue is relevant to the city in the form of its defenders (Plato, 429 B, 107). It is also shared by the spirited part of the soul, which helps motivate an individual into making courageous decisions. Another similarity between virtues is displayed through wisdom in the city.
A crucial virtue that contributes towards the citys justice, it is well entrenched in the guardians or rulers of the city. This wisdom is also important to the rational part of the soul that must discern how to manage the conflicting decisions that the soul must make to manage competing desires. The final important characteristic or value, that signifies the overlap between the two forms of justice, is that of moderation. This value has been emphasized in pertinence to gaining justice in both the soul and the city. Moderation is described by Socrates as ??? a certain kind of order and mastery of certain kinds of pleasures and desires, as men say when they use- I dont know in what way- the phrase ??? stronger than himself???…???( Plato 430e, 109).
In the quoted passage, Socrates makes a passing reference to the effect of moderation in the individual, while explaining why it must be present in a just city. In the extraordinary philosophical career of Plato, filled with timeless literary contributions, ???The Republic??? undoubtedly stands amongst the most renowned. The contribution of a definition of justice in both the individual, and the city has been significantly discussed for centuries by a myriad of students and scholars. By defining and elaborating on a definition of justice, opposite of the popular discourse, Platos text took on a radical perspective of the essential concept of justice. Plato accomplishes this difficult task by making analogies between two types of justice he feels best describe the concept, that being Justice in the Soul and Justice in the City.
Through gaining a complete understanding of one form of justice, it is possible to gain an understanding of the other, and have a well rounded education of what justice means. Through emphasizing the similarities on their reliance in order, the comparable separations between different aspects of the individual and the city, and finally expanding on their shared values, Plato clearly displays the compatibility of the two types of justice. As related by Socrates in an exchange with his disciples, ???we should attempt to see justice first in some bigger thing that possessed it, we would more easily catch sight of what its like in one man???. ( Plato 434 e, 113). It is otherwise impossible to be able to define justice, as defined by Plato, without fully taking into account the two similar definitions.