Justice in Socrates’ City Essay

Justice in Socrates’ City Essay

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Justice in Socrates’ City

While Adeimantus and Glaucon appear to enthusiastically accept Socrates’ conclusions about the nature and benefits of justice at the end of Book IV, even going so far as to complete his argument about the profit of justice themselves, they only do so because they have followed Socrates’ argument linearly without going back to test new claims against established premises. Had they done so, they would have been to discover the gaps in Socrates’ logic and the full implications of his constructed city—a city that not only failed to illustrate how justice was profitable in itself and correlated with happiness, but actually proved the precise view of justice as a sacrificial act that it was constructed to disprove.

Glaucon and Adeimantus’ uncritical willingness to agree with Socrates’ claims throughout the argument is especially dangerous when it leads them to ignore cues that something in his argument is misleading. They assent to the censorship rules he puts forth even as he admits himself that they are somewhat questionable. When Socrates suggests banning all poetry that paints a bleak picture of Hades, he admits that they would, in effect, be banning the best poetry when he says, “the more poetic [the verses] are, the less they should be heard” (III, 387) . Later, when he suggests banning sensuous Marsyan instruments, he admits that the move constitutes “purging the city that a while ago we said was luxurious” (III, 399). In both cases, Glaucon and Adeimantus are quick to justify the suppression of things even Socrates ascribes virtue to in the name of the greater good of the city, but in so doing, they are themselves subverting one of their own purposes in the argument—to show that the common good co...


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...le to be both happy and just for the city’s citizens, but it is the existence of men like Glaucon and Adeimantus—those whose knowledge extends beyond the city and from whom the “noble lie” emanates—that in effect proves Thrasymachus’ point that justice is unprofitable drudgery on someone else’s behalf. The rulers, Socrates explains earlier, are the only citizens permitted to lie (III, 389). Since it is agreed that “to possess the truth [is] a good,”(III, 413) when the citizens are necessarily deprived of the good, it is in their best interest to grasp for power, as Thrasymachus suggests, because power confers knowledge in the city. Thus, we are returned to Thrasymachus’ introduction to the dialogue, which begins when he demands a fine if Socrates is found to err. His conflation of knowledge and power at the expense of justice is precisely the method of Socrates’ city.

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