Plato’s “Republic” centers on the definition of principles that should govern and be used to run ideal society. In this view, Plato addresses to certain significant issues about education, politics, morality, ethics, and the manner in that these issues can be applied to have ideal society. In addressing these issues, one important question arises. Is it always better to be just or unjust? It is better to be just. Plato viewed all the contemporary forms of government to be corrupt, and he theorized that the only way that true justice could be found for society and for individual person was in philosophy. Plato’s idea was that all the problems would end when real philosophers take up political power or when politicians become true philosophers. In order to be just, the three parts of the soul and the three parts of the state should work together in harmony and hierarchy.
In the “Republic”, justice is considered to be harmony and doing the job that one is required to do. In understanding the concept of justice, Plato differentiates the three sections of the soul and the three sections of the state. These two function as analogies that help in the understanding of the concept of justice. As stated by Plato, the soul is divided into three parts that include the appetitive, the rational and the spirited part. The appetitive part is the one that lusts and is overwhelmed by appetites. The second part is the one that calculates and makes reasonable and balanced decisions with the good as its most important interest. The third, the spirited part, is courageous and has a strong will that, when not corrupted, works hand-in-hand with the rational part.
Thus, being just means that the three parts must exist in a form of harmony and hierarchy. The spirited part works with the rational part in controlling the appetitive part. The state is also divided into three parts, which comprise of the workers, soldiers and rulers. All these people are directed by vast educational experience, thus, can perform their duties in a just manner. The workers are people who have the best quality to perform certain forms of labor. The soldiers are the people who have the best quality to fight and protect society. The rulers are the people who have the best interest of the whole in their mind, understand rules and love the state; therefore, they can do anything to protect the society. These divisions are done based on the natural abilities of people (Plato, 1976).
Justice is the same in the soul and in the state. Therefore, it is better to be just in the sense that one can achieve the virtue of moderation while serving in the various positions that one is placed. Being just means that a person should be able to use the spirited part in combination with the reasonable part to overcome the appetitive part. For instance, workers have the responsibility of providing requirements, for instance, food and clothing for the state. These people have the ability of avoiding greed by using the spirited part that provides courage to work and using the rational part to make balanced decisions that would prevent them from using the appetitive part to become greed and overly self-centered. Soldiers should also perform their roles similarly by ensuring that they use the spirited part to be courageous and the rational part to make rational decisions to put the state first, as opposed to self when performing the duties of providing security. The rulers must also use the spirited part and the rational part to overcome such issues as corruption, favoritism and negligence. They should put the state in front of their personal needs because the people expect them to perform their duties by representing the wellbeing of the people, rather than to their own.
It is better to be just, so that all people could live in harmony and could do their roles and responsibilities without being forced or hurting other people’s interests. Being just avoids issues of corruption, irresponsibility and negligence. It also avoids societal vices, because all people use their natural talents and education to perform their duties (Plato, 1976).
The oppositions to this view would be that each person should be left to follow the things that he or she desires. One objection would be that society is not right in any way to impose responsibilities on people just because they possess certain talents. This would be wrong because society will be forcing people to live lives that they are not willing to live. This is considered selfish in its own right, because certain positions occupied by workers, rulers or soldiers will be denied to other people who could have done it better. Denying people the chance to follow their desire is wrong. Thus, people should be given a chance to live and do activities that they desire to do irrespective of whether they have the talent to do what they desire or whether they do not have that talent.
A response to this objection would be that society does not impose responsibilities on its people just because they have talents. Rather, society makes use of the talents that people have to make society a better place for everyone to live. Society does not deny people the opening to decide where they want to work, but gives them a chance to work in positions that they can perform at their best because of the talents they have and with education.
Another objection to this view would be that man cannot survive without the appetitive part. This is because of the fact that the presence of the appetitive part means that it has an important role to play. Therefore, the view of using the rational and the spirited parts to suppress the appetitive part is bound to fail, because the appetitive part can overcome the rational and appetitive parts in certain cases. Therefore, man cannot rely on the rational and spirited part because the society wants him to. This means that being just is something that cannot be realized, especially using education and philosophy to make people rational beings. Desire plays an important role in determining the motivation that a person has, even when he is a worker, soldier or ruler, and sometimes these desires may not be in unison with the societal expectations. This is because man is not built to desire for society but for the self.
A response to this objection would be that it is true that man cannot survive without the appetitive part. However, the appetitive part should not be left to override the rational and spirited parts, because they act as guidance to the desires that the appetitive part wants. Therefore, suppressing the appetitive part will not fail, because it is not shut completely but allowed to rule, only when it has good desires that can be of benefit to society.
In conclusion, it is better to be just, because it provides benefit to the majority in society. The rational and spirited parts should be used in relation to the roles as differentiated in the state in combination with education, to produce harmonious society. Important questions that remain to be answered arise. How can the state achieve universal justice when people have different personalities? Does philosophy always lead to justice? Is justice an aspect that all desire to have or is it a preserve for leaders and other few individuals?
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