Eugene de Blaas
- Pleasures that are enjoyed for themselves
- Good that is valued because of its consequences
- Good that is desirable both for itself and what comes out of it.
Really it seems that Glaucon believes Justice would fit into the second category, a type of in-between good.
Then he tells a story of a shepherd called Gyges and his magic ring that helped him to become king (see Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book I). If one could act however one wanted without threat of punishment or recrimination, wouldn’t everyone act thus? Why should Glaucon be just if he can get away with being unjust? (Essentially he is asking: What is Justice on the level of an individual?) It’s only our fear of getting caught that holds us to the course of Justice, and Justice itself is a social construct. The Social Contract theory implies that people don’t really want to be just but because chaos would result from such a “free-for-all” society and therefore we enter into a “social contract” where we give up free reign on our desires for a greater good; certain rules are imposed on an individual that aren't part of their nature for a common good.
|King Candaules of Lydia (1858)|
Socrates proceeds in a round-about manner. Instead of directly commenting on how Justice works in an individual, he instead begins to examine how the same Justice works broadly within a state and then will apply what he discovers to the soul of man. And thus Plato starts to establish his Republic. The Republic begins with the need for a community ……. the need we have for each other for the basic provisions in life: food, clothing, shelter. In the Republic, everyone has a trade or purpose, a division of labour that works best to run the city efficiently. Right now, the city’s basic needs are met with simplicities, and no luxuries such as furniture, artists, meat, courtesans, perfume, etc. To Socrates, this city is true and healthy. It’s important to note that in English, we use the word “soul” but the Greek word is actually “psuche” [ψυχή] (the root word for psyche) which can be used in a variety of different ways, such as: mind, self, individual, etc. (Soul = that part of the human being which is not the body).
|The Soul Breaking the Bonds ...|
Socrates now critiques the education of children. In spite of the reverence given to the poets Hesiod and Homer, Socrates believes that the stories they have created will damaged the foundation of a good republic. How can the gods be both good and bad? Anything divine must be wholly good and it is impossible for it to be bad, therefore (Homer, in this case) is telling tales that are “impious, self-contradictory, and disastrous to our commonwealth.” All such stories should be censored in a healthy city. Also, death should never be depicted as something to be feared, so the Guardians of the city are not afraid to die in their defense of it; their defensive behaviour is part of the promoting of Justice and we do not want to impede them being just.
I had to admire Socrates in this section. Even though he at first appears to advocate a simplistic city that he feels is the most healthy and functional, he bows to Glaucon’s wishes for luxuries, perhaps realizing that it would not be sensible to attempt to eradicate these human desires, and therefore, gives up his “perfect” city for one that is more realistic. Plato is realizing the flaws in human nature and attempting to work within them. Quite wise, I would say.
⇐ Book I Book III ⇒
⇐ Book I Book III ⇒