Plato 's Life Of Excellence Essay

Plato 's Life Of Excellence Essay

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Throughout all of history, a just man has been considered an individual who lives a life of excellence. However, as time has progressed, so has the definition of a “life of excellence” itself. Thus, an individual who was considered just in the 5th century BCE would possess very different characteristics than a just man today, despite the fact that both were considered to be men who achieved areté: the life of excellence.
Throughout The Republic, Plato constructs an ideal community in the hopes of ultimately finding a just man. However, because Plato’s tenets focus almost exclusively on the community as a whole rather than the individual, he neglects to find a just man. For example, through Socrates, Plato comments, “our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole” (The Republic 420b). In other words, the goal of this “utopian” Republic is not to make any one individual happy, but rather to make the city as a whole as happy as possible. Plato’s focus on the community makes it near impossible to find a just man. While Plato does not find a just man himself in The Republic, that is not to say that a just man did not exist in the 5th century BCE. In order to characterize and ultimately seek out a just man, Plato devises a theory: the Myth of the Metals.
According the the Myth of the Metals, Plato’s “noble lie,” a just man is simply an individual who performs his duty. In other words, a just man is an individual who does only what he is good at, “we affirm that justice [is] doing one 's own business” (The Republic 433a). One’s “own business,” however, varies greatly depending on an individual’s societal status:
Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale,...


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...er words, a just man does the right thing for the sake of being a genuinely good person. If a man is truly just, he will act out of the goodness of his heart without expecting a reward, “love your enemies and do good to them, / and lend expecting nothing back; / then your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35). As a judge, W. James O’Neill consistently put the needs of others before his own, though he “expected nothing back.” As District Attorney Michael O’Keefe stated in W. James O’Neill’s eulogy, “The overarching theme of Jimmy’s life was figuring out the right thing to do and then doing it without regard for the media or public opinion.” In other words, O’Neill spent his life as a judge in order to help the community, not to bring himself personal glory. Judge O’Neill, then, acted without regard for outside sources; he acted simply out of the goodness of his heart.



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