Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Republic: Justice

Right and Wrong versus “advantage”

The sophists, such as Thrasymachus in this dialogue, believed that right and wrong were subjective – there being no absolute right or wrong. All actions were either for your advantage or disadvantage (i.e. might makes right). He thinks that justice is an unnatural constraint on our desires. It is like Thomas Hobbes Leviathan - we have all had to make compromises to live within a state and have laws to protect us. It seems that it is better to be thought of a just, but really be unjust.

“Appearance tyrannizes over truth”

Socrates says that justice is not only being honest and following laws. For example, you would take a weapon away from an insane friend. It is suggested that Justice is do harm to friends and harm to enemies, but this is imperfect since we can make mistakes. Also our friends are not entirely virtuous and our enemies may not be pure malcontents.

Socrates then explains that injustice is contrary to wisdom and therefore cannot be a virtue. He says that a virtue like justice is its own reward and that we all want justice and it protects us from injustice. “Laws exist to provide reason for those who are not strong enough to rule their own soul.”

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