Plato’s Republic focuses on the discussion of the meaning of justice and explores a connection between the just man and his happiness providing evidence that supports the notion that inability to do “one’s own business” disrupts a person’s capacity to maintain “the unity of their souls” thereby breaking the link between justice and the good (433b-443e). This paper will discuss the relationship between justice and the idea of the good by analyzing a discourse between Socrates and Glaucon in the third, fourth, and fifth books of Plato’s Republic. Specifically, it will focus on the exploration of the contrast between the two different types of souls: tyrannical and aristocratic.
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The Republic provides a couple of different arguments supporting the idea that to be just is better for an individual than to be unjust even disregarding the perception of gods or other people judging them. Those explanations are being labeled as proofs and emphasize pleasure and psychological health. It seems that Socrates is willing to accept Glaucon’s arguments about the sorrow state of unjust souls by providing different accounts of defective psychological types (544cd, cf. 445c). The hasty comparison of unjust life with just life that is made through the exploration of tyrannical and aristocratic souls reveals that Socrates was already convinced by Glaucon’s exhortation to recognize a moral superiority of the unfortunate but just person over the one that is esteemed yet unjust. Taking into consideration the miserable characteristics of a tyrant that is being ruled by unjust desires and lawless attitudes Socrates and Glaucon conclude that desires such a person must have cannot be satisfied.
The philosophers argue that the state of the unjust ruler is exacerbated by a sense of regret over the realization that he was unable to satisfy desires in the past (577c-578a). Socrates and Glaucon conclude that not being able to fulfill one’s desires due to unlimited attitudes results in a miserable existence. They contrast the tyrant with the philosopher who can satisfy his wishes considering their restricted nature. The philosophers stress that, given the right circumstances, the philosopher is unlikely to be enslaved by his unlimited appetite; it is more plausible that he will attain the freedom to act upon his desires. Nonetheless, Socrates and Glaucon argue that the capacity to exercise the freedom to satisfy wishes might be restricted by certain conditions (cf. 590c-d).
Socrates calls justice a “principle of doing one’s own business” and emphasizes that defective psychological attitudes are inconsistent with the process of exercising this capacity (433b). It can be argued that the unjust ruler that is being torn apart by numerous unsatisfied desires cannot achieve a state of unity. Even though the form of the good is not presented clearly in the Republic and is being described as “the one form of sameness and difference that was relevant to the particular ways of life themselves,” it is nonetheless clear that Plato equates goodness with unity (454d). By focusing on unity as part of the mathematical order and its importance as a form of good, he inextricably links the two notions together. Moreover, he stresses that a virtuous person strives to become a unity (462a-b). It can be argued that the inability to do “one’s own business” disrupts a person’s ability to maintain “the unity of their souls” thereby breaking the conceptual link between justice and the good (433b-443e).
Plato, and Francis Cornford. The Republic of Plato. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1945. Print.