Plato’s Republic Book 2: Where in the good is justice?

22 Sep

This is my analysis of the argument Socrates and Glaucon discuss in lines of the Republic 357a-362c. This is the beginning of Book 2 where they glance upon Thrasymachus’ previous thoughts, and they move forward with what and where in good justice is.

After having discussed justice with Thrasymachus in the first book, Glaucon and Socrates begin to discuss justice and its place within the good. The main argument lies in justice and what its motive are, and this argument comes from Glaucon’s explanation of the three sorts or kinds of good that can exist. (357b)  First, there is, “… a sort of good we welcome, not because we desire its consequences but because we welcome it for its own sake…”  We like this kind of good to exist just because we prefer it. (357c) Second, there is a good that is, “…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.” And, finally, there is a third kind of good that is existent just ‘for its own sake’ and for the benefits. Once Glaucon discussed the three sorts of good that can exist and be exercised, the argument comes up between them as to in which good justice goes into.

When the argument of justice and which kind of good it is a part of comes up, Socrates and Glaucon discuss different opinions. (358a) It is Socrates’ opinion that justice goes in, “…the one that anyone who is going to be blessed with happiness must love both because of itself and because of its consequences.” Socrates expresses that he believes that justice goes in the third kind of good where good exists ‘for its own sake’ and because of the rewards that come from it. Glaucon declines to show his own personal opinion, but he discusses what the majority of the population thinks about justice’s place in the good. He states that the majority thinks that justice is a part of the kind of good that people place in society for its rewards only.

It is pretty clear that Glaucon believes what the majority believes because of how he exemplifies and explains his position. Justice in this kind of good done for its rewards is explained by Glaucon as a ‘burdensome’ yet rewarding thing that people of the majority do against their will. (359b) He also states the lack of power of the people to do anything other than things that are just: “We can see most clearly that those who practice [justice] do so unwillingly, because they lack the power to do injustice….” This gives sufficient proof to Glaucon’s argument that the people do just acts because they have little choice otherwise. Not only do they not have much choice to do unjust acts, but they want to be more just than people around them.

Glaucon’s argument is further proven when he discusses the Gyges of Lydia scenario. This is where a shepherd takes a ring from a dead body inside a hole in the ground that was caused by an earthquake. After having the ring for awhile he realized that when he holds the ring, he becomes invisible, and becomes visible again when not holding it as before. In the story of the Gyges, the shepherd conspires with and seduces the king’s wife, and they both kill the king. This story shows that any man given this opportunity to be invisible has the chance and opportunity to do unjust acts, and Glaucon explains it to show that any man (even the most just man) would do the most unjust acts in that position. Because any man would do any act in the Gyges of Lydia shepherd’s position, this helps prove that justice is an unwilling act that the majority does for the consequences that it yields.

The Gyges of Lydia story and Glaucon’s support for his argument shows that a man would not practice justice for any other reason than the fact that it brings about rewards and consequences along with the fact that a man has little other choice. Glaucon’s argument in response to Socrates states that justice is a burden to man and they only practice it because of its necessities in the world.

It is obvious with this story of the Gyges what any man would do when given the chance. Glaucon’s argument for ‘the masses’ is correctly proven.

Thanks for the support. My Classification of Beings is coming within this week. I have been working on it little by little as I have been busy with a lot of things. I expect that I will have it up by tomorrow night at the earliest.  I discussed my classification in my previous Bertrand Russell discussions, and I want to have it up soon.

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One Response to “Plato’s Republic Book 2: Where in the good is justice?”

  1. charles mc October 18, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    please your article on classification of beings interets me. May i have your proper reference for use in my work? My email is C. Mary Onuachu. Thanks.

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