The Republic: Does Justice Pay? Essay, Research Paper
In the Introduction of Plato’s Republic, a very important theme is depicted. It is the argument of whether it is beneficial for a person to lead a good and just existence. The greatly argued position that justice does not pay, is argued by three men Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. By incorporating all three men into a collective effort I believe I can give a more flattering depiction of injustice.
First, we must explore the basis of the moral skepticism argument in The Republic, given by Thrasymachus. Thrasymachus’ view follows the disbelief in morality that was common during the time. The principle part of his argument is, the interests of the stronger (or ruling) party in a society are what defines justice. I believe this is true because many societies think of justice as having to with law and order. If that is so, it is only fair to say that since the laws are made by a ruling power, it must define justice. He also points out the ability that rulers had to exploit justice in their own interests. I believe the right of a ruling power is a valid argument under the pretense that following the rules is defined by society as just.
Beyond this basic, yet essential description of moral skepticism, Thrasymachus’ argument begins to fall off. Socrates makes a few very strong refutes, which will be discussed later, and seems to dishearten the argumentative spirit of Thrasymachus. The argument begins to fall apart when he is forced to restate his main point. The restatement is that “ordinary morality is simply the behavior imposed by exploiter on exploited, and thus is ‘someone else’s interest’ ” (342 e). In this version of his original point, he also touches on a very important fact that, in everyday life, the pursuit of self-interest is natural and just. Thrasymachus depicts this point by undeniable fact that in a professional sense no one wants to work for free, and that they expect some benefits in their own interest for their efforts. After showing dissatisfaction with Socrates’ refutation, Thrasymachus gives way to Glaucon who begins to argue for the benefits of injustice in everyday life.
Glaucon’s argument begins with a question of whether the just or unjust man is happier, and continues on a tangent from there. He states that morality is based on convenience, and that it is natural to pursue one’s own interests. He says that justice can pretty much be summed up as splitting the difference of two evils. The first, being forced to restrain one’s self from certain interests, and the other being becoming the victim of injustice from another person. This, to me, is the most convincing part of the entire book, because it narrows morality down to an interpretation of the age-old Golden Rule. That being the fact that people would rather act justly, than to have injustice inflicted upon them.
Glaucon then continues by sketching out two theoretical men, one perfectly unjust and the other perfectly just. He lays out the unjust man with his basic characteristic, the pursuit of self-interest, regardless of others. He continues by showing the benefits that unjust man from his actions. Glaucon also depicts the just man with his only basic characteristic, which is his conviction toward “doing right”, despite the lack of benefits which he draws from blind justice. He then tests the just man, by depriving him of all the benefits that the injustice, including a good reputation. A very important distinction is made by Glaucon referring to reputation, and the difference between seeming good and doing good. He points this as the main difference between the two men, in that an unjust man devotes much time to making himself appear just, whereas the just man may not seem to be.
After an adequate portrayal of the nature of justice Glaucon moves on to a powerful analogy about a mythical item, the ring of Gyges. This so-called test puts a just and an unjust man in a situation where there would be no consequences brought about by their actions. He concludes that under these circumstances there would be no difference in the course of action between the men.