Plato’s Republic Books I-IV: An Analysis Essay

Socrates’ Account of Justice

Examine whether Socrates’ alternate account of the origin of justice undercuts the idea of justice that Glaucon has provided.

……Socrates, on the other hand, has a different account of justice. While Glaucon’s justice has its genesis in peoples’ unwillingness to suffer injustice and banding together to create a social contract, Socrates puts his in the inability of individuals to efficiently meet their own needs and so, needs a community of others working together in order to fill all needs, creating the initial city, the City of Pigs (Book 2, 369b-c). He starts by founding a city in speech because it is easier to see justice on a bigger scale than trying to spot it in individuals and what could apply to a city could apply to a smaller scale of the individual (Book 2, 368d-369a). Each person within this City of Pigs is responsible for producing direct or indirect goods that satisfy the basic needs of its denizens, such as food, clothing, shelter and tools to carry out the means of production, etc (Book 2, 369d). Then, Socrates argues that in such a city, justice can be found in each person performing their designated task and only their designated task, ensuring that the most-needed commodities are produced with maximum efficiency and by the most experienced craftsman since it improves and maintains the overall survivability of the whole city (Book 2, 369e-370c). Since this sort of mutual benefit can only be achieved through this partnership of individuals, this contrasts sharply with Glaucon’s genesis of justice since it comes about from natural needs and isn’t practised reluctantly. Glaucon, then, raises the objection that the nature of men is so rarely confined to these simple needs and this forces Socrates to proceed on to describe the next stages of his city but we will talk about that in a later section. Glaucon’s account of the genesis of justice also assumes that the just man is unhappy while the opposite is true of the unjust man. As Socrates later demonstrates, justice, being one of the virtues, resides in the soul and if a person is unjust, then their soul is in disharmony and a disharmonious soul cannot be happy just like how a city cannot function during a civil war (Book 4, 443d).

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