Introduction and Historical Context
Platos Republic has been the most known and read dialogue since the mid-19th century. Like in other Platonic dialogues, the key character is Socrates. In the early dialogues of Plato, Socrates opposes the explanations of his debaters and the debate is ended with a non-satisfactory answer to the matter under investigation. However, in the Republican, there is an encounter of Socrates coming up with a position of justice and its connection to (eudaimonia) happiness. Socrates gives a long and complex, though cohesive argument, defending the just life and its necessary association to happy life.
The dialogue makes an exploration of two main questions. What is justice is the first question. Socrates handles this question in relation to political communities and in relation to the individual person or soul. Socrates does this to deal with the second question of the dialogues that is is the just person happier than the unjust person? or the question what is the relation of justice to happiness? this two question make philosophical concerns of Plato to be regarded as being both political and ethical.
In addressing the two questions, Socrates and his debaters come up with (Kallipolis) a just city in speech. Their aim is to offer an explanation as to what is justice and they continue by illustrating justice through human souls analogy. As he defends just life, Socrates makes a consideration of many different subjects like various opposing justice theories, opposing human happiness views, the nature and significance of philosophy, education, the afterlife, the family, and souls among others.
Socrates is concerned with establishing two key points that are all people want happiness as it is always the goal of their activity and secondly, happiness is not dependent on external things, but is instead dependent on the manner in which those things are used. A person with wisdom will use their money in the correct manner for the purpose of making their lives better while a person who is ignorant will waste their money and end up in a worse condition than they previously were in. Therefore, one cannot claim that money in itself is capable of making one happy. Money can be said to be a conditional good, with its goodness being experienced when it is possessed by a person who is wise. A similar argument may be applied to any external good inclusive of qualities, abilities, possessions or looks. For example, a person who is intelligent can turn out to be a worse criminal as compared to one is not intelligent.
Socrates applies other points to argue his points relating to the connection between pleasure and happiness and the connection between happiness, morality, and pleasure. Socrates first argument is in relation to the analogy between the bodys health and the souls justice. He states that everybody prefers being healthy though health is just the harmony among various body parts, with each playing its proper role. Justice is harmony among various parts of the soul. Socrates further defines injustice as a sort of civil war between the parts of the soul: a rebellion in which one rogue elementthe desirous part of our naturesusurps reason as the controlling power. On the other hand, the just soul has psychic harmony in that regardless of what life throws at a man who is just. A just man can never lose their inner composure and is capable of maintaining peace and tranquility irrespective of the situations of the harshest life. In this case, Socrates manages to efficiently redefine the traditional notion of happiness in relation to internal benefits and features instead of the external ones.
Socrates second argument relates to an examination of pleasure. Socrates aims at showing that living a life that is virtuous leads to more pleasure as compared to living a life that is not virtuous. Just like the first argument, the physic harmony that comes from a life that is it just comes with more peace and tranquility that is more pleasing in comparison with the unjust life that leads to guilty, anxiety and other features of a mind that are not healthy. Socrates, however, aims at showing that there are more considerations to stress the greater pleasures that a just mind provides[footnoteRef:6]. Not just the peace of mind but the enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge offers a nearly godlike condition in the human being. In relation to the relativity of pleasure, Socrates argues that many pleasures are not pleasures but just a consequence of the lack of pain. He claims that some pleasures are not relative since they relate to bigger parts of the soul that are not connected to the relativity that physical things produce.
Socrates, however, aims at proving that a person who is just is happier as compared to one who is unjust. As he has already provided his argument that by nature every man desires to be happy, ten all person should seek to lead just lives. He argues that justice is a perfect way of bringing happiness, and a combination of happiness, contentment, and success. According to Plato, justice is founded on the manner in which the soul of a person holds together. This is because only an individual whose priorities are all correct may be regarded as behaving properly and only such an individual is capable of living life to its fullest. Plato states that ...A just soul and a just man will live well, and an unjust one badly...And surely anyone who lives is blessed and happy and anyone who doesnt is the opposite. Therefore, a just person is happy, and an unjust one wretched. ... It profits no one to be wretched but to be happy ...Injustice is never more profitable than justice.
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Socrates argument belongs to the pure hypothetical syllogism form of argument. The first premise used in this argument is that everything carries out its function well if it has value. The second premise is that the souls activity is living to mean that a person lives by the soul. The conclusion from these two premises is that a person lives well if their soul is virtuous. The third premise is that justice is the souls virtue. The conclusion from premise three is that a person can only live well only if they are just. The fourth premise is that a person living well is happy and a person living poorly is miserable. The conclusion from this premise is that the just people live happily while the unjust live miserable lives.
The sketch points to the main body of the discussion, which is an elaboration, clarification and a defense to the above premises and conclusions. Even though one may question the second premise, that is, does a person really live by the soul only an not both the soul and the body, the key challenge in this argument is premise three that is, how justice is the souls specific virtue. A big part of the Republic is dedicated to providing an explanation and defense to this premise.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Socrates argument on justice and happiness several strengths and weaknesses. One of the weaknesses is that his argument fails to show that just life is better as compared to other types of unjust lives. Socrates has been said to give a difference between the tyrannical soul (most unjust) and the aristocratic soul (most just). He fails to portray the best soul in the least favorable situations and the worst soul in the most favorable situations.
One of the strengths is that Socrates manages to logically characterize the individual controlled by their lawless attitudes. He characterizes them as being capable of doing what they want, as being filled with disorder and regret, as having fear and as being poor and lacking satisfaction.
Another strength is Socrates argument is that it advocates for publicly entrenched standards to be used in evaluating and guiding chaos and disorderliness that cannot be avoided in the society. Socrates admits that not all persons can be just and their actions may lead to chaos, necessitating the application of democracy.
The strengths also include the fact that Plato provides an essential idea of justice through advancing several arguments to back his idea of his concept of justice. His analogy of the body and the soul has also been said to be effective in explaining the relationship between justice and happiness.
Another strength is that it advocates for personal success and happiness. Socrates makes the assumption that the success of a person provides them with decisive reasons to act and he adds that success needs acting with virtuousness.
Socrates concept of justice in his argument has been criticized. Socrates applies the parts of the soul concept of justice where justice includes in a particular proper- modification of the rational and the irrational section of people soul to each other. This modification concept has been argued to be a representation of a very different concept of what justice may be from the normal moral concept. Plato has been said to fail to adequately provide a connection between the two concepts of justice. Therefore, the conclusions by Plato regarding happiness and justice are not relevant enough to the dispute existing between Socrates and Glaucon.
Another weakness is that the political ideals that Socrates provides do not depict realistic pictures of human beings. It may be possible to conceive that idea of an ideal city though people may not be psychologically prepared to build and sustain that city.
Another weakness of the argument is that it fail to consider other factors that are necessary for happiness or that may lead to unhappiness. The argument prioritizes justice as the prime factor for happiness and states that those who are unjust cannot be happy. Love, peace and other important factors for happiness have not been factored in this argument.
Socrates argues that just man lives a better and happier life. There exists a certain virtue in all things that enable them to perform properly. If the things are deprived of the virtue, it performs badly. The soul has precise roles to play. When it plays those roles, it has precise virtue. If the soul is deprived of its precise virtue, it is not capable of performing its roles properly. Socrates adds that justice is the virtue of the soul. A more just is a soul that is happier, leading to the conclusion that a man that is just lives a happy life. This means that the soul that is just lives happily while an unjust one does not. The justice and happiness argument has several strengths and weaknesses. The strengths include its effective analogy of the body and the soul in relation to the concept of justice and happiness. The weaknesses include the assumption that only justice leads to happiness and the unrealistic expectations from human beings.