Socrates was a revolutionary philosopher whom at his time challenged society. He was a man of questions. When in conversation with others, he would merely answer questions with more questions of his own. When asking others questions to their questions, it not only helped him try to understand their point of view, but also helped him strengthen and guide his argument as well as weaken their own. As Socrates questioned other philosophers on justice, it helped make his argument strong that justice is a good in itself.
He was able to disprove others definitions, while defining justice himself using an example of an ideal city as well as what makes a soul for an individual. Plato’s Republic gives four definitions of justice by four different characters. These four philosophers all had their discussions with Socrates, who successfully defended his argument by simply asking questions back to those who questioned him. Socrates questions weakened the arguments of the others. This started with Cephalus. Cephalus defines justice as following laws and repaying one’s creditors.
Socrates argues if it would be right to return a weapon that was borrowed to the owner if the owner was a mad man. If a mad man got hold of a weapon, they may use it for the wrong reasons. They are not thinking rationally and therefore may use it for harm which is considered unjustly. Cephalus’ son, Polemarchus, explains justice as being good and helping friends but being bad and harming those who aren’t friends. Socrates counters this argument by suggesting mistakes can often occur, and mistaking people as real friends or as enemies can happen.
This mistake could lead to helping an enemy or harming a friend. Therefore, again, Socrates does not agree with this definition of justice. Thrasymachus gives defining justice a try by saying that “justice” and “right” are relative. He believes that the stronger decide what justice is. Socrates opposes this idea with the thought about how people who are in charge make mistakes and may mistakenly make laws that benefit their people rather than themselves. This means that Thrasymachus argument is inconsistent and means the weaker would actually benefit from being unjust and the stronger would not benefit.
Glaucon is the last to attempt to define justice. Glaucon states “all who practice justice do so unwillingly, as something necessary, not as something good. “. This definition of justice falls into one of Glaucon’s three classes of good. Plato argues that the three classes of good are; things that are good in themselves, things that are good both in themselves and for their consequences, and things that are good only for their consequences. If something is good for its own self, it can be said it is intrinsically good. It is done for its own good, not for further benefit.
If something is good in itself and for its consequences, it is done for the benefit of the outcome as well as for its own good. If something is good only for its consequences, it is done only for the benefit of the outcome. Examples of the three classes of good would be eating candy, shopping, and studying. Eating candy is only good for its own good. You eat the candy and enjoy it. Shopping is an example of doing something for its own good and for the further benefits. When you shop, you have fun and gain new clothing in the process. Studying is an example of something that is good only for its consequences.
It is not fun to do, but the benefit of completing it is more knowledge. Glaucon views justice as something that is done for the good generated by it. He believes people are hesitant to be just as they don’t want to do it for its own purpose, but rather only do it for the benefit of the outcomes. In society, a fear is created that makes people be just. People are worried of punishment if they are not just. And people want to be treated with just so being just themselves creates an environment where people in return will be just to them. Glaucon uses a story about Gyges of Lydia to support his idea. He took the ring and came out of the chasm… If he turned the ring inward, he became invisible; if he turned it outward, he became visible again. When he realized this, he at once arranged to become one of the messengers sent to report to the king. And when he arrived there, he seduced the king’s wife, attacked the king with her help, killed him, and took over the kingdom. “. The purpose of the story is to prove that someone can be unjust without having a negative impact as long as they are not caught. So in a way, there is no difference, and therefore no reason to choose being justice over being injustice.
However, Socrates, and therefore most likely the author Plato. believed differently. He believed that justice is something that can be good itself as well as good for something else. Socrates uses an ideal city to support his reason. Justice is found in Socrates ideal city if the city is set up the right way. Socrates city is made up of different parts. There are craftsmen, merchants, soldiers/rulers. Craftsmen make the desired items people may want to buy, and merchants sell them. Soldiers and rulers make and enforce laws, that run the city.
There is a hierarchy of intelligence, with the most intelligent being the rulers and the least intelligent being the craftsmen. All the different roles of the ideal city work in harmony and complement each other. But at the same time, they each have their own set of rules, nature, and function. Socrates argues that justice is each part of the ideal city doing their own separated roles whilst working all together perfectly. Therefore, injustice is one or more parts of the ideal city not working in harmony with each other or not completing their specific role.
Socrates defends his idea that justice is good in itself from a big picture, using an ideal city. But he goes on to successfully defend his idea at a smaller level, as justice is found in individuals as good in itself. Socrates finds justice in an individual the same way it was found in a city, by looking at different parts that make up a whole. “We agreed that this larger thing is a city, and so we established the best city we could, knowing well that justice would be in one that was good. So, let’s apply what has come to light in the city to an individual, and if it is accepted there, all will be well“.
Socrates states that the soul has three different parts to it. It has an appetitive irrational part, a calculative rational part, and a spirited part. These different parts are similar to the three different parts/roles of an ideal city. In the soul, the irrational part is what the soul wants, the rational is what takes control as it knows what is right for the soul, and the spirit part of the soul is the emotional part of an individual. Just like in the city where there is found to be a hierarchy amongst the different roles, there is said to be a hierarchy between the three parts of the soul.
Socrates suggests that the spirit and appetite parts work below the rational part, which rules the soul. Therefore, justice in the soul is when the soul’s three parts, the spirited, the appetitive, and the rational parts, all complete their own tasks whilst simultaneously working in harmony with one another. Socrates argument that justice is found in the soul and in his ideal city helps to make his argument that justice is a good in itself strong. “Isn’t everything that has to do with virtue the same in both? Necessarily. Moreover, Glaucon, I suppose we’ll say that a man is just in the same way as a city.
That too is entirely necessary. And we surely haven’t forgotten that the city was just because each of the three classes in it was doing its own work. I don’t think we could forget that. Then we must also remember that each one of us in whom each part is doing its own work will himself be just and do his own“. If the different individual parts of a city or soul were to do other jobs, or were on different hierarch levels, the city or soul would not function properly. This dysfunctionality amongst the parts would cause an unhealthy city or soul, and therefore be considered injustice.
If the different parts complete their own tasks and stay in the right hierarchy levels, they work well amongst each other and create a healthy soul or city. This would be considered justice. As this is what an individual would want, a healthy soul, they desire justice. Justice can then be said it is a good in itself. You want justice for its own. As shown, Socrates was able to prove his idea and definition of justice. He proved other philosopher’s definitions of justice to be incorrect, and in the process proved his definition to be strong.
He used an ideal city to look at the big picture of the definition of justice. He created this ideal city to have three different parts to it, which he later compared to the three different levels of an individual’s soul to determine justice in a person. Justice is what an in individual wants to get, and therefore it is thought as something one gets and does for its self. Although not the strongest argument, the other philosophers could not argue successfully against Socrates reasons. Deeming Socrates argument that justice is a good in itself strong and correct.