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How Does Plato Define Justice

[Summary]SparkNotes: The Republic: Overview Why do men behave justly? Is it because they fear societal punishment? Are they trembling before notions of divine retribution? Do the stronger elements of society scare the weak into submission in the name of law?

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SparkNotes: The Republic: Overview

Why do men behave justly? Is it because they fear societal punishment? Are they trembling before notions of divine retribution? Do the stronger elements of society scare the weak into submission in the name of law? Or do men behave justly because it is good for them to do so? Is justice, regardless of its rewards and punishments, a good thing in and of itself? How do we define justice? Plato sets out to answer these questions in The Republic. He wants to define justice, and to define it in such a way as to show that justice is worthwhile in and of itself. He meets these two challenges with a single solution: a definition of justice that appeals to human psychology, rather than to perceived behavior.

Plato’s Just State | Issue 90 | Philosophy Now

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Plato’s Just State

Chris Wright ponders Plato’s masterplan.

Plato's Ethics and Politics in The Republic (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

1. Introduction: The Question and the Strategy

1.1 The Nature of the Question

In Book One, the Republic's question first emerges in the figure of Cephalus. After Socrates asks his host what it is like being old (328d-e) and rich (330d)—rather rude, we might think—Cephalus says that the best thing about wealth is that it can save us from being unjust and thus smooth the way for an agreeable afterlife (330d-331b). This is enough to prompt more questions, for Socrates wants to know what justice is. Predictably, Cephalus and then Polemarchus fail to define justice in a way that survives Socratic examination, but they continue to assume that justice is a valuable part of a good human life. Thrasymachus erupts when he has had his fill of this conversation (336a-b), and he challenges the assumption that it is good to be just. On Thrasymachus' view (see especially 343c-344c), justice is conventionally established by the strong, in order that the weak will serve the interests of the strong. The strong themselves, on this view, are better off disregarding justice and serving their own interests.

Ethics Study Guide: Republic I

Ethics Study Guide: Socrates in Republic I

"You disgust me, Socrates. Your trick is to take hold of the argument at the point where you can do it the most harm."

The first book of Plato’s Republic is often treated as a stand-alone Socratic dialogue in its own right (we’ll talk about why later on), and we shall so treat it here. Like the Laches, it is an attempt to define a particular virtue, though in this case the virtue is not courage but justice.

Socrates Justice

Somewhere between the words of Socrates and the thoughts of Plato lies the profound question of what is ‘Just’. Is it defined by laws and men or is it something separate, something ideal? When one is wrongfully imprisoned, for example, is it okay to escape, to break the “law” as it is written? This was the quandary in which Socrates found himself when facing an unfair death sentence.

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