Glaucon's Challenge and Plato's Theory of Justice in Plato's Republic

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Plato’s Republic focuses on one particular question: is it better to be just or unjust? Thrasymachus introduces this question in book I by suggesting that justice is established as an advantage to the stronger, who may act unjustly, so that the weak will “act justly” by serving in their interests. Therefore, he claims that justice is “stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice” (Plato, Republic 344c). Plato begins to argue that injustice is never more profitable to a person than justice and Thrasymachus withdraws from the argument, granting Plato’s response. Glaucon, however, is not satisfied and proposes a challenge to Plato to prove that justice is intrinsically valuable and that living a just life is always superior. This paper will explain Glaucon’s challenge to Plato regarding the value of justice, followed by Plato’s response in which he argues that his theory of justice, explained by three parts of the soul, proves the intrinsic value of justice and that a just life is preeminent. Finally, it will be shown that Plato’s response succeeds in answering Glaucon’s challenge.

Glaucon begins his argument to Plato by separating goods into three classes. The first class is composed of intrinsic goods that we welcome for our own sake, stripped of their consequences, such as happiness. The second class is the type of good that we like for our own sake as well as its consequences, such as health and knowledge. The third class is an extrinsic good that we desire only for their consequences, such as physical training and medical treatment. Plato believes that justice belongs in the second class of goods that we like because of itself and its consequences, while Glaucon suggests that it belongs in the third class of...

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...cting unjustly. Therefore, justice is determined to be intrinsically valuable from the negative intrinsic value of injustice that was demonstrated, as well as from parts of the soul working together correctly. Glaucon also wants Plato to show that a just life is better than an unjust life. It has been shown that when the soul is in harmony, it only acts justly. It is in a person’s best interests to have a healthy soul, which is a just soul, so that the person can be truly happy. This means that by showing justice has an intrinsic value, it can also be concluded that it is better to live a just life opposed to an unjust life. The conclusion that I have drawn is that Plato’s argument against the intrinsic value of injustice is sufficient to prove that the just life is superior, even if the unjust life may be more profitable.

Works Cited

Plato. Republic.
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