The Republic written by Plato attempts to define justice and the nature of a just city state and a just person. This is one of Plato’s famous works relating to philosophy and politics. In this book, Socrates together with the inhabitants of Athens, who include foreigners, explore the meaning of justice and the question regarding whether just people are more satisfied in life than unjust ones. The group also discusses the theory of forms, the eternity of the soul, and the purpose of a philosopher and a poet in society.
The Republic explores several things, but it is primarily concerned with a happy life. Plato’s suggests that a happy life can only be lived in an ideal society. An ideal society in this case is the one where justice prevails. In the book, justice is defined in several ways. Some of the participants in the discussion of justice, Glaucon and Adeimantus, perceive this virtue as something bad advocating instead for an unjust way of life.
Plato’s elder brother, Glaucon, contends that just people behave justly, as they are afraid of being punished or tarnishing their name. He uses the narrative of two rings to explain this view. The magic ring would render a person invisible if he or she turned it around his finger. Glaucoma was of the view that if two people, one just and the other unjust, were offered the rings, they were inclined to behave in the same manner. Specifically, they would enter into people’s houses and steal whatever it is that they desired. This implies that the just man would no longer see the need to behave justly. Essentially, he would be forced to live a double life. On the one hand, he would behave justly so as not to ruin his reputation in the society. On the other hand, he would behave unjustly by stealing shamelessly with the help of the magic ring. According to Glaucon, this shows that people behave justly out of necessity.
Plato examines justice at both the individual and the political level. He compares the meaning of justice at the individual level and its meaning at the political level. He identifies three qualities of a person that make him just namely wisdom, courage and moderation. These three qualities also characterize what can be termed as a just city according to Plato.
Plato’s ideal city is divided into three classes: producers, guardians and rulers. Moreover, each of the distinct categories has to reflect a different virtue, so that a just city can be achieved. For the rulers, they have to show wisdom in leading the other two groups. The purpose of the rulers’ wisdom is to make sure that the city exhibits good judgment.
The guardians on their part are supposed to be well-educated so that they can observe the state laws properly. This class is supposed to show courage in order to remain focused in observing the law. The last group, the producers, should portray moderation in order for the city to be just. Plato believes that moderation is important for justice to be achieved, because it brings people of all classes into harmony.
My Views on Plato’s Thoughts on Justice
Plato’s opinions on the requirements for the achievement of justice are unsound, because he disregards the fact that justice cannot be achieved without freedom, including political and economic freedom. He seems to be tolerant of stratification in society, which increases injustice by privileging some groups, namely rulers and capital owners, while oppressing the working classes. All societies that have been characterized by social inequality have always experienced civil strive as witnessed in many countries around the world such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone.