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Plato’s Republic

the having and doing of
ones own and what belongs to one would be agreed
to be justice. (The Republic 434a) In other words
the above statement means that justice, according
to Plato, is doing only the tasks assigned to them
by nature. This is the fundamental notion for his
creation of an ideal city. It is both knowing what
true justice is and where one belongs in the city
that the ideal can be achieved. What this means to
politics in the ideal city is that only a certain
class of person has the ability to engage in
politics, just as only a certain person has the
ability to engage in carpentry. Those who engage
in politics would be the philosophers because just
as the ideal individual searches for universal
truth so must the ideal city. This is a concept
that would make sense to a philosopher such as
Plato, but it assumes that those who do not or
cannot seek the truth, need it, or to be ruled by
it in order to live in an idealistic city. It is
necessary for Plato to define what true justice
means in order for it to be prescribed in his city
. Justice in a city, according to him, can be
found in an individual as well because it is a
concept that is universal; it is found within the
individual and outside the individual. Thus, it is
essential to the founding of a city. Justice in a
city is when a division of labour takes place
amongst its residents. As an individual uses his
or her minds for thinking and hands for making and
fighting, the ideal city classifies people into
what they do best. Those with an arete (an
excellence) for artistry would be artisans, or
money-makers, those that could go beyond mere
materialism, those that could seek the truth,
would be the rulers. As the ideal individual
naturally conducts himself or herself by placing
reason as the guide to their conduct, the ideal
city will allow those with the most reason- the
philosophers- to guide the citys conduct and act
in the cities collective interest. A third class,
auxiliaries, would be in charge of carrying out
what the philosophers, guardians of the city,
decided. However, Plato does admit that this
system is a hierarchy with the philosophers at the
top, but he allows this because they are the only
ones who can find universal truths and pass it on
to those who cannot see it. To Plato the above is
his vision of a justice. Within his idea of
justice, Plato also has three other virtues to
help categorize those within the city and find
justice in the city itself- wisdom, courage, and
moderation, all ideals that would sustain the city
and nurture it. Wisdom is found in the
philosophers, courage in the auxiliaries, and
moderation found in all classes. Philosophers need
wisdom and the need to know what justice is. The
auxiliaries, say soldiers, need courage to protect
the interests of the city. Finally, all classes
need to demonstrate moderation so as not to
develop injustices through excess luxury, the only
luxury that a city can have is philosophizing.
These virtues, if found in a city, can also help
one to distinguish it as a just city. Therefore,
within Platos definition of a division of labour
making a city just, he also identifies other
components of it. But, for the ideal city to be
nurtured, all the divisions listed must be
followed to avoid injustice. Plato goes on to
discuss examples of how to define this division of
labour into what is just and unjust. This he
states in 434a-d. If members of the same class,
such as a shoemaker and a carpenter, decide to
switch titles and tools there is no injustice.
However, if a craftsmen tries to become a guardian
of the city, this is an injustice. For if he
cannot be nurtured to become a guardian or
auxiliary through education and the ability to
know the truth, his authority as a guardian would
be illegitimate and he would bring about the
obvious decay of the ideal city. What is at stake
in all this is that Plato is not only defining
what justice is, he is applying the term to the
city, the political sphere and shaping an entirely
new and often since borrowed view of how a society
should be structured and how it can be
legitimized. He is claiming his right to the
throne, or those that share his view- as a
philosopher king- and presents his claim in the
text. This he does not only with the
aforementioned discussion of justice in the city,
but through a further judgment into the realm of
censorship of the arts, and creating myths. What
gives his argument validity is that we still
discuss his work today. Many philosophers since
Plato have drawn on his ideas, from Aristotle to
Karl Marx. Governments, our own included, have
used similar rationale for legitimizing their
authority. Regimes have used censorship to
maintain harmony within their realm, much as Plato
suggested the philosophers do to the auxiliaries
in order to both gain their allegiance and so that
the public would emulate good individuals who put
collective good in front of personal interests. He
also put forth an often imitated scheme to
convince the artisan, money-maker class of the
philosophers right to rule. He would claim the
gods endowed philosophers souls with gold- he
would convince them in terms that they could
understand, those regarding common religious
themes. Regimes since have consciously put that
idea into practice by writing history in a way so
that the masses would accept the founding of their
polis (or country). In the Soviet Union- who
followed Marxist ideas- this device was used .
Plato assumes philosophy is right. Since we look
upon philosophers, scientists, and other
intellectuals with such high esteem and their
principles are often used by regimes, and since
Western philosophers seem to all say similar
things to Plato, we can assume there is some
validity to his position. In The Republic,
Thrasymachus has a different interpretation of
what is just and unjust, but his argument is lost
to Socrates interpretation. Others, too, lose
arguments to Socrates. These arguments are obvious
contrived ploys to make Platos argument stronger,
so any attempt to use them to refute his argument
is to be done in vain. However difficult for
anybody to try and find an alternate, flawless
interpretation of justice, it is less difficult to
try and make Platos argument weaker. This might
be done on the basis that his definition does not
have universal applications, that what he calls
justice is tainted by his position in society, as
a philosopher. As a philosopher, would Plato not
see the world with his interest in mind? The
answer is simply yes, though an argument maybe
tainted by the person who says it , the fact
remains that if he claims it as universal, and
others support his idea, one cannot easily refute
him (without trying an alternate view- such as
there is no such thing as justice). Platos
concepts regarding justice in the city, and the
division of labour have continued to this day. And