Hobbes And Plato Essay Research Paper One

Hobbes And Plato Essay, Research Paper

One of the main concepts in both Plato’s Republic and Hobbes’ Leviathan is justice. For Plato, the goal of his Republic is to discover what justice is and to demonstrate that it is better than injustice. Plato does this by explaining justice in two different ways: through a city or polis and through an individual human beings soul. He uses justice in a city to reveal justice in an individual. For Hobbes, the term justice is used to explain the relationship between morality and self-interest. Hobbes explains justice in relation to obligations and self-preservation. This essay will analyze justice specifically in relation the statement “ The fool hath said in his heart, there is no such thing as justice” Looking at Hobbes’ reply to the fool will demonstrate that his main goal was to declare what people ought to do when interacting with others and what can be expected in return for that behaviour. By analyzing the Republic, it will be shown that Plato would most likely differ with the statement made by the fool because the main of premise the book in itself is to discover the definition of justice.

To understand Hobbes’ reply to the fool, one must first define justice according to Hobbes. He believes that justice is men performing their covenants made and the constant will of giving every man his own. A covenant is a part of a contract, or ‘mutual transferring of right, in which at least one of the parties ‘is to perform in time to come’. Hobbes maintains that it is never against reason to complete a covenant when man has the security that others will also perform covenants made with him. However, the problem that arises from forming covenants is that just because people enter into a covenant to perform some action, it does not necessarily mean that both parties will adhere to them. Thus, Hobbes begins his reply to the fool by stating that:

For the question is not of promises mutual, where there is not security of performance on either side; as when there is no civil power erected over the parties promising; for such promise are no covenants: but either where one of the parties has performed already; or where there is a power to make him perform; there is question whether it be against reason, that is, against the benefit of the other to perform or not.

In this first part of the response to the fool, Hobbes claims that in a state of nature, a covenant is beneficial if both people involved comply but dangerous if either does not comply. Hobbes makes this clear in Chapter XIV by claiming that one person cannot count on another to act rationally and that it is not safe for the first party to follow through for risk of irrational non-cooperation by the second party. However, it seems as though Hobbes is also hinting that reason or self-interest could foster a breach of covenant because if one person could gain by violating his covenant then he would. A breach of covenant is what Hobbes defines as an injustice. This would be in agreement with the fool ‘s statement that “to make or not make covenants, keep or not keep, covenants were not against reason, when it conduced to one’s benefit. However, Hobbes’ second statement in reply to the fool appears contradicts his first.

In his second statement, he asserts that ‘when a man doth a thing, which notwithstanding any thing can be foreseen, and reckoned on, tendeth to his own destruction, howsoever some accident which he could not expect, arriving may in turn it to his benefit; yet such events do not make it reasonably or wisely done’. Contradicting his previous statement in reply to the fool, Hobbes is now asserting that is unreasonable to break contracts even if there is a possibility that it will be beneficial because people might not gain from the circumstances. Hobbes is now presenting a dilemma that if one makes a covenant, then it would be unjust to break it. But if it is to one’s advantage, then it cannot be contrary to reason or self interest. To further this point, Hobbes uses the example of Coke, who asserts that if an heir to the throne kills the king, the punishment of treason will be void because the heir is now king. Hobbes claims that Coke’s reasoning would allow for heirs to kill kings and replies by stating that rebelling against kings is not rational because ‘this specious reasoning is nevertheless false’ Thus, Hobbes attempt to convince his readers that people will benefit from breaking covenants is weak as this is the only example provided.

The discussion of cooperation within covenants is debated in the next statement in Hobbes’ reply to the fool. He claims that ‘ in a condition of war…. there is no man who can hope by his own strength, or wit, to defend himself from destruction, without the help of confederates’. The war Hobbes is referring to is his notion that man, in a state of nature, is in a constant state of war. From this view follows his fundamental law of nature, “that every man ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of attaining it, and when he cannot he may resort to the advantages of war” Thus, in this part of the reply Hobbes is asserting that to survive in the ‘state of constant war’ man must enter into cooperation with others otherwise, he will not be able to survive.

Hobbes next considers the argument that in the short run, breaking a particular covenant may be beneficial, but in the long run it will be detrimental. This occurs because no man is strong enough to be dependent or self-sufficient by himself forever. Thus, if a man does not cooperate with others, he will eventually suffer in all aspects of life. As Hobbes describes it, ‘he which declares he thinks it reason to deceive those that help him, can in reason expect no other means of safety, than what can be had from his own single power.’ A man, who claims it reasonable to deceive those who help him, can expect no help from others. As a result, any man that breaks a covenant will be regarded as untrustworthy and if he ‘consequently declareth that he thinks he may with reason do so’, he will only be allowed in to a society through the errors of others. Therefore, it appears that it would be better to fulfill covenants and miss opportunities for gain, rather than fighting alone in the state of nature.

Hobbes’ final reply to the fool’s statement is that ‘errors a man cannot reasonably reckon upon as the means of his security: and therefore if he be left, or cast out of society, he perishteh.’ The final reply from Hobbes suggest that if a man violates a covenant, it will become known to members of a society and those members will most likely exclude the violator. This occurs because in the ‘constant state of war’, there is a need for security and reliable cooperation between men. To obtain security, man needs protection from other men in society. And the only way to achieve this security, is to grant all power to the state through and absolute sovereign. Without the sovereign, the notions of justice and injustice have no place because there is no one to enforce the covenants. Thus, according to Hobbes reply, sovereigns will not accept unreliable and unjust men who violate agreements because those men risk the security of the state.

Hobbes’ reply implies that people are capable of rational cooperation in the state of nature and because this is possible justice prevails. His view that man is in a constant state of nature which generates war, suggests that cooperation among men is necessary, even if it is temporary. Since faithfulness to covenants must always be expected to further self-preservation, a man who reasons correctly will find himself with sufficient motive to fulfill his covenants. In order to ensure that man is motivated to keep his covenant, Hobbes considers that some power must hold men to these covenants, and is led claim that there need for an absolute sovereign. Thus, there is such a thing as justice when a sovereign makes it reasonable to fulfill a covenant and man follows through with his moral obligation.

The next notion of justice that will be analyzed in response to the fool’s suggestion that ‘there is no such thing as justice’ is from Plato. The main difference between Plato and Hobbes notion to justice is that Plato believes that justice is good in itself, where as Hobbes believes that justice is for self-interest. Plato explains justice in two different ways: in the city and in the individual human being. Both the city and the soul of the individual human being are composed of three different parts. The city contains a ruling class, an auxiliary class and craftsmen class. Similarly, the soul has a reasoning, a spirited and an appetitive part. Plato contends that in both the human and the city, justice is when each part of the city or soul performs the job it is naturally fit to do.

Plato begins by responding to the challenge from Glaucon to show that being just is better then being unjust. First, Plato asserts that there are three different types of goods and justice falls into the category of being good not only ‘for its consequences’ but also ‘for its own sake’ . Conversely, Glaucon claims that morality and justice are based solely on convenience, and that it is natural to pursue one’s own interests. Furthermore, justice is seen as the difference of two evils: the first, being forced to restrain oneself from certain self-interests, and the other being the possibility of becoming the victim of injustice from another person.

The first problem that Plato and Glaucon debate is whether justice is good in itself or only when one is forced to be just. This problem is exemplified in the story of the Ring of Gyges. This ring allows a person to become invisible whenever he chooses and thus if any just man were put in the position with the ring and could act unjustly without being caught, he would use it to his benefit. And this Glaucon claims ‘ is great proof that one is never just willingly but only when compelled to be’ This is similar to Hobbes’ notion that a man must fulfill a covenant because he is bound by society to do so.

Plato begins refuting Glaucon’s claim that people are only just when compelled to be by showing that people will eventually come to act justly. This is because people having suffered injustices, will agree not to commit or suffer any more injustices. Plato asserts that laws arise that make it favourable at times to be just. His reasoning for this is that the damage of being treated unjustly is less than the benefits of treating someone else unjustly. This is due to the fact that in society, the weak normally suffer more injustice and want to prevent injustice altogether.

Glaucon then continues by outlining two men, one perfectly unjust and the other perfectly just. He describes the unjust man with certain distinct characteristics such as, the pursuit of self-interest and the disregard of others and outlines the benefits that unjust a man receives from his actions. Glaucon also depicts the just man with the characteristics of being good and noble. He then tests the just man, by depriving him of all the benefits that man receives from being just such as honour and reputation. . Plato now has the challenge of proving that the just man is better off the unjust man because justice is good in itself.

Plato discusses how justice in the city, will allow us to see justice in the individual. The city is introduced to provide human needs because individuals are not self-sufficient. He identifies four of the virtues that are required for a good city: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice and then looks at each virtue separately in terms of the perfect city-state. However, he acknowledges that of all the virtues, justice exists between men and not just in man as an individual. Therefore, justice is a virtue that requires cooperation and is the greatest virtue because it makes the other virtues work together for the common good of every man. Thus, when the other three virtues work together within the city, justice is produced. But for justice to be produced, each person must perform his natural task. In the city then, justice, is when the rulers rule, the auxiliaries perform their military duties and the craftsmen do their crafts . Having accounted for justice in the city, Plato moves directly to an account of justice in the individual.

Plato introduces his notion that the soul had three parts: reason, spirit and appetites. For an individual , justice is found in the soul where reason rules, spirits are angry when they ought to be, and appetites are exerted with moderation. And accordingly, Plato believes that the soul performs best if it is ruled by reason. Thus, the idea that a person must complete one’s task is merely an image of justice and not the entire picture. To be more precise, justice in the individual is not only in relation to one’s actions but rather the harmony among the parts of the soul. Now that justice is defined, one can look at the truly just and unjust individual.

Plato claims that only a just man will be the happiest man because he will have more true pleasure than anyone else And only philosophers or kings have the knowledge to understand why this is so. Plato gives three reasons for accepting the philosopher’s judgment about which life is the most pleasant. First, only the philosopher has experienced all types of pleasure including that of reason. Second, Plato claims that only the philosopher can use his experience to understand knowledge. And because the philosopher is the only one that can reason, he is the only one who can decide which life is the most pleasant and just. Plato goes even further with the just life and claims that the king lives seven hundred and twenty-nine times as pleasantly than the dictator. In addition, if the good and just man has a life that is much more pleasant than the bad and unjust man, then the just life will also have more grace, beauty and excellence. This confirms Plato’s idea that being just is good in itself and for its consequences. In this case, being just provides one with reason and thus the capabilities of achieving true happiness.

The life of the most unjust man is that of the dictator. This unjust man’s soul is in complete disorder and the parts of the soul are far from performing their natural tasks. Plato claims that a city governed by dictatorship is the unhappiest, as a result, the soul of the dictator will be like the city: enslaved and ruled by the part that is the worst. The most miserable of dictators is he who is the dictator of the city. The dictator is constantly threatened by attacks by those who are enslaved and he himself is enslaved by the need to cater to those who help him maintain his position. Here, Plato succeeds in showing that the unjust man lacks justice in his soul and thus results in his ultimate unhappiness.

In the end, Plato successfully demonstrates that the truly just man is happier than the truly unjust man. While doing so he also showed that there is such a thing a justice within a city as well as in an individual. Thus, Plato’s reply to the fool would be that indeed there is such a thing as justice. And justice is good because it benefits in this life as well as the next. Therefore, even though a man may wish to behave unjustly when he can, as with the myth of the ring of Gyges, behaving justly will have the most rewards.

Both Plato and Hobbes present different views of justice in reply to the fool. Plato, claiming one should be just because it is good in itself, where as Hobbes claims being just is good for the pursuit of self-interest or preservation. Despite the difference of opinion on justice between the two philosophers, it is clear that the fool’s statement has been refuted. For there is such a thing as justice despite the differences in how the term is defined.


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