Justice in Plato's Republic

Justice in Plato's Republic

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Justice in Plato's Republic


Justice. What is justice? In this world where many people look out only for themselves, justice can be considered the happiness of oneself. But because selfish men do not always decide our standards in society, to find a definition, society should look at the opinions of many. Just as in the modern society to which we live, where everyone feels justice has a different meaning, the society of Plato also struggled with the same problem. In this paper, I will look into the Republic, one of the books of Plato that resides heavily on defining an answer to the meaning of Justice, and try to find an absolute definition. I will also give my opinion on what I personally think justice is.

During the time Socrates and his fellow citizens spent looking for a definition, they came across many different examples. Well-known Athenians, such as Polemarchus, bring out their own definitions of what justice is, with examples like Justice is "Doing the right thing, or "Giving everyone his due." But soon after these definitions on justice were given, they were shot down by the quick wits of Socrates. Throughout the books of The Republic, I enjoyed reading the many ways that Plato picked apart the flaws in examples by others. It seems that Plato could find flaws without spending much time actually examining the definition. Friends and men of Athens had to restate and restructure their definitions time in and time out during the search for the meaning of Justice.

Without the skill that Plato possessed in examining faults in definitions, one can quickly assume that a faulty definition works to be true. I did this many times while reading through different definitions. For example, the definition Polemarchus gives in section two of book one, saying that justice is giving everyone what is "appropriate" to him. To me, an example like this would fit as a definition, because without much examination, it works well for most situations. For example, if a man is good, then an appropriate return for his goodness is to be good back to him. But if a man acts in a bad or troublesome way, an equally bad punishment is needed to counter his actions. I see this fitting, but Socrates of course easily found a flaw, finding this definition useless if followed, because of there not being a person best at benefiting friends and harming enemies.

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So the argument over what justice is goes on for some time throughout the Republic, only to lead to more unsolved definitions. Later, they talk about Justice on a more wide scale basis, rather that a personal basis. Stating that what is best for the community may in fact be what is best for the individual.

In the end, Socrates and his fellow gentleman seem to arrive after much time with no agreement on a definition, a pattern seen in much of his work. But this still leaves the reader with many unanswered questions, the main one, What is the meaning of Justice? So the way I take it, there is not an agreeable set definition. I think this undefined meaning of Justice is still prevalent in the society of today, looking at the different ways so called "Justice" is brought and used throughout society. Throughout my life, I have seen and heard through news and media, many different examples of justice in our society, but for the most part they are not similar or set in all ways. Criminals that commit the same exact crime might be issued differing sentences, depending on factors such as gender, age or even status in society.

Examples of this sort of injustice are seen almost daily, considering the crime filled world to which we live. An example of this could be rape or molestation. A man and a woman that both commit this crime would probably receive different sentences, in most cases, the man would get more time. But is this fair, are we being just in issuing unjust sentences like these? Status examples are also widely seen, cases where a famous or well known person might get off easy, because of who he or she is. To me, this seems a very unjust act, because I feel all people should be considered all the same when being tried. As for my opinion, I can't quite put a label on justice. I might see a court case verdict, and say to myself "Justice has been served", but I say this not because I know exactly what justice is, but because I feel the right choice was made. I think that my outlook on justice might be the same that our society accepts. Justice is making the right choice. The problem with this is that the person making the choice, is not always the best one to make the right choice. But because the person deciding justice has the given power in a situation, let's hope and assume that they were put there for a reason. Because they are just persons who make just choices. In conclusion, through this paper, I have brought up and shared some of my views and those that Socrates and friends have on Justice. I have looked for a definition to fit the meaning of justice by examining The Republic and my own personal experience with justice throughout life. In the end, just like Socrates, I have come to find no set definition of justice, only basic thoughts and opinions.

So I guess justice will have to be solved in the future. For now, I just hope that the people put in charge of justice in our country were put there for a reason, and hopefully will do their jobs right. This is just in case I might need "The right" Justice on my side.

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