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Platos Theory Of Justice

Ones search for the meaning of justice in Platos

Republic would finally lead to two
-Justice is Harmony. (book 4, 434c)
-Justice is Doing ones own job. (book 4, 443b)
Finding these two phrases, however, is hardly enough
to get a clear sense of what justice is. Plato offers two
main analogies to examine the definition of justice. The
division of parts in the soul as well as the parts of the
state; We would now examine the structure of the soul.
The soul is divided into three parts, the appetitive,
spirited and the rational. The appetitive is the part with
which it lusts, hungers, thirsts and gets excited by other
appetites (4, 439d). It is the part of the soul that can be
hungry for immoral gratification and has no rational
consciousness in its desires. That leads us to the need of
defining another part in the soul, the one that can keep
the appetite restrained, the part that enables
the soul to differentiate between good and bad. The
rational part is the part in the soul that calculates, makes
balanced decisions having the good of the whole soul as
its interest. The third part is the spirited, the part of the
soul that is courageous, vigorous and strong willed. The
spirited naturally, if it hasnt been corrupted by a bad
upbringing (4, 441a), allies with the rational part.

By the account of the parts of the soul we are shown

how a soul has different wills, yet in order for a soul to
stay in the just path it must have some sort of hierarchy.
Plato describes the spirited part as the courageous ally of
the rational part which has the control over the
appetitiveve part. Although the description of the soul
might furnish an idea regarding the definitions of Justice I
mentioned above, we should first examine the structure
of the state.
The state is also divided into three types of people, the
workers, soldiers and the rulers. It is obvious that that
sort of division seems awkward when placed over our
own capitalist society. We must keep in mind that in the
republic that Plato is describing each individual is
directed by vast education and the utmost care towards
the work he could do with excellence. The children in the
republic are separated from their parents at birth and
therefore get the same equal chance of becoming
workers or rulers without any prejudice regarding their
upbringing or family background, rather, they are
evaluated personally, purely according to their natural
The workers are the people that are best fitted to
practice a specific form of labor. The part of the Society
whose role is to provide food, clothes and any other
necessities the state requires. They are required to be
moderate and obedient to their ruler.
The soldiers are the people that are best fitted to fight,
people that are spirited and that pass the tests of the
state by holding firmly to the patriotic attitude needed in

order to defend the state from foreign and domestic

enemies. They most posses the virtue of courage and be
well educated in order to stay loyal and not harm the
citizens although they are naturally stronger. The rulers
are people which posses the virtue of wisdom, they must
not seek the glory and fame of being a ruler rather it
should be perceived as the duty of those who are fitted to
rule to take on the burden of ruling their state. The rulers
are people that have the interest of the whole in mind,
they love their state, they understand its rules and
therefore will do everything within their power to preserve
The division of people into pre-determined types in the
state is assumed to be done truthfully, according to their
natural abilities. To soldiers who cannot understand what
possessing wisdom means (because they lack it) or to
workers that lack both courage and wisdom, Plato uses
the noble lie. That is the idea that mother nature creates
people out of three materials, gold, silver and bronze
when obviously the golden people are fit to rule, the silver
are fit to guard and the bronze are best naturally fitted to
Both the accounts have a similar structure, Plato claims
that justice is the same in the soul and in the state. The
resemblance suggests that both the workers and the
appetitive share the virtue of moderation for they have to
be moderate in their desires. Both the guardians and the
spirited share the virtue of courage in order to guard the
whole. Finally, both the ruler and the rational share the
virtue of wisdom in order to control the workers and the
appetitive, with the help of the guardians/spirited, all in
one goal that is the good of the whole state/soul.

Would a soul that lets the appetitive part take over and
commits criminal acts regardless of their consequences
or allows the spirited to burst in irrational anger be
considered a just soul? This rhetorical question supports
the definition of justice as harmony. The condition in
Which the rational rules, the spirited guards and the
appetitive remains moderate while they all agree to this
condition out of understanding that that is the best for the
Could a state in which the cobbler rules, the guardian is a
farmer and the natural ruler plays the role of a soldier be
a good and just state? We must understand that in
Platos state there will be no mistakes in the division of
The classes . In order to understand the idea of a just
state we must consider that each individual is practicing
the very best activity he is naturally fit for. That society
has the most talented cobblers, the most fearsome
warriors and the wisest ruler, each practicing their part
with excellence that is considered a virtue. Therefore
contributing to the virtue of the whole state. In the
analogy of the state Plato supports the definition of
justice as doing ones own Work. It becomes obvious
that in order for justice to remain in the state each person
has To do his own work and not meddle with anothers.
Now that we have found and understood Platos
definition of justice, the question that inevitably has to be
asked is how could this justice exist. In other words, why
should the workers stay in their own work or why should
the appetitive obey the rational. The answer to that
comes in the form of both understanding and control.
Ideally, all the parts know that maintaining the harmony is

good for all and for the exception there are the guardians
and the spirited to help maintain order. The main problem
is yet ahead, who should be the rulers, who could be
wise enough to rule and to keep the interest of the whole
in mind?
To that Plato responds with his belief that justice will
not exist in its full until the philosophers became kings
and the kings became philosophers.
What Plato claims is that a king could rule in a just
manner, therefore maintain justice, only if he has
knowledge of the true form of justice. That is, true
knowledge of the forms. The forms represent the ultimate
truth, the way things really are in a more knowledgeable
sight then the one offered by science.
In order to explain what the definitive truth is, Plato
uses the analogy of the divided line. A vertical line,
representing the condition of the soul, is divided into two
unequal subsections. The low subsection is smaller and
represents the visible, the high subsection represents the
intelligible. Both subsections are divided again in the
same ratio whereas the high subsection in each is longer.
The lowest condition of a soul, be it out of ignorance, is
the lowest in the visible. Consisting of images, shadows
and the mere reflections of the objects they portray. This
stage of the soul is regarded as nothing more then
imagination. The second stage, still in the visible,
consists of objects that previously were only known by
their shadows and now, that the soul is in the stage of
belief, it can see the objects as they really are (confined
to the visible aspect). The third stage comes out of
investigating, that is when the soul reaches for the

reason things are and makes

hypothesis based on the objects discovered in the
previous stage. This condition of the soul is in the
intelligible realm, consists of mathematical entities and is
referred to as a stage of thought.
The fourth, and most tricky part of Platos analogy, is the
understanding of the forms. In this stage the soul reaches
an understanding far beyond the stage of thought, an
understanding of the true forms. The true form of justice
is one of them. Only after enormous difficulty and vast
education can a soul reach this level of understanding.
By the time philosopher-kings soul reaches that
intellectual height of understanding he is no longer
interested in the common rewards of fame and fortune,
rather he is occupied with the true forms and seeks to
guide his people towards the truth and justice.
Once acquiring this knowledge of the forms, and only
then, can a ruler be fit to rule in a wise manner for he is
able to truly put the interest of the whole as his own.
Thus, ruling in a manner where justice exists and is
carefully preserved.
In his theory of justice, Plato defines justice in the two
ways we have examined earlier. Supporting those
definitions by the parts in the state and the soul and their
interaction. The way justice should be is shown clearly
both in the state and n the soul and then comes the claim
regarding the philosopher-king which is the only
combination of a ruler that is fit to rule both in the sense
of a just state or a just soul.

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