Sense Of Justice In Plato's "Republic"

Some thoughts on the Socratic sense of justice in the kallipolis as described in Plato's

The basis of justice, according to Socrates, is that you do what is socially most beneficial or what you do best.

Socrates, however, consistently cites that the people of the kallipolis, raised in virtue, justice, and with a knowledge of what is good, will realize the justice of the kallipolis and act according to their sense of justice and for the good of the city. This argument is fine in and of itself. When you reach the political structure of the kallipolis, however, certain ideas are brought into question.

Socrates asserts that he born most like a leader, should be the guardian of the city. He later explicates that the guardian would be a philosopher, acting with a true understanding of justice, beauty and virtue. He concludes that the city would be either and aristocracy or a kingship. If the leader must make decisions based on his sense of justice, why does his innate ability to be a leader of men apply? Do organizing techniques, oratory skills, and a keen perception affect one's sense of justice?



Socrates asserts that only he who is "by nature good at remembering, quick to learn, high-minded, graceful, and a friend and relative of truth, justice, courage, and moderation" (487a) qualifies to be a philosopher, and thus, a guardian. The question remains, if the "inferior masses" have a correct sense of justice, why must they remain pawns of the guardian and make no use of their own sense of justice, except to approve of the guardian? The obvious answer is that by Socrates' definition of justice, if a carpenter does anything but build, he is not being just.

But this carpenter was isolated from anything but justice and virtue from birth, making it impossible that he would act unjustly. Does this mean that Socrates' justice is simply doing what you are told? Socrates himself acknowledges that this argument will not hold in Book 1 of The Republic.

It seems however, that the intrinsic sense of justice that members of the kallipolis naturally have is useful only in terms of "following the laws," not for anything more abstract or permanent, as Socrates argues in Book 1 of The Republic.

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