The Truth Of Justice Essay, Research Paper
The Truth of Justice
Throughout the plight of man, there has always been an ongoing search for justice. Within this journey, exists the question, ?What is true justice?? In bringing together the topics of truth and justice, many conclusions can be drawn to answer the above question.
In Plato?s Apology, he is able to defend his position and explain how truth and justice go hand in hand. From the beginning, Plato makes clear to the audience that what he has to say is truthful and just, ?I put my trust in the justice of what I say? (Morgan, 6). During the first part of his defense, both truth and justice are introduced together. Plato is simply making clear the fact that without any doubt, he fully believes and trusts in the justice of his own defense. This is important because the base of his defense lies in telling the truth to achieve justice.
Plato realizes that to seek justice, one must not consider oneself wise. In class, we have discussed this issue and defined it as a certain type of search. In order to learn knowledge, one must search. If one believes he has knowledge and does not search, there is no way to find justice. Plato is smart because he knows that he does not know. He is aware of the fact that he must search and ask questions in order to seek out the truth that lies within justice.
Unfortunately, this quest brings about conflict. Plato?s search makes others within the community nervous. They believe that the knowledge they possess allows them insight above everyone else. These leaders do not to bring about new questions and searches, making their quest for justice false. In turn, the leaders of the community who ?think? they possess knowledge bring forth the unjust prosecution of Plato.
As Plato continues with his speech, he discusses his own personal search for wisdom. He goes to three groups of people and finds different levels of knowledge within each. When Plato first visits the politicians he finds that they do not really possess knowledge. Their techne allows them the understanding of how to do certain tasks the job requires; yet it is a lower level of knowledge than wisdom. Plato then visits the poets and finds they have a similar background as the politicians. He states, ?because of their poetry, they thought themselves very wise men in other respects, which they were not? (9). The poets believe they have wisdom; therefore they do not search for the truth. Finally, he goes to the craftsmen and is startled to find that they knew things he did not, therefore making the craftsmen wiser than he. Plato?s discovery of the truth scared the people who were said to possess so-called wisdom.
It is unfortunate that the discovery of truth frightens individuals into unjust actions, such as the prosecution of Plato. In the quest for justice, truth must be discovered. Plato was able to discover the truth, yet it appears as though the truth put an end to his life. Yet one must realize that justice within the city is not a pure form of justice. Plato becomes the victim of a great act of injustice.
The people of the city do not condemn Plato for seeking the truth. Rather, they accuse him of corrupting the youth. Therefore, the people prosecuting Plato make it look as though they too are interesting in seeking the truth. Plato sees through this lie and states, ?It would be a very happy state of affairs if only one person corrupted our youth, while others improved them? (11). This statement proves that the city is hiding the truth from its youth. In the quest for justice, one cannot cover up or hide the truth. Many members of the city do this, and make the city an unjust place to live.
During his speech, Plato discusses the topic of death. This is clever because the discussion of death is relevant to his speech and also to the search for truth. Plato himself is faced with the possibility of his own death and states, ?no one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils? (13). Plato is revealing a simple fact, that men have no wisdom regarding the subject of death. Men act as though they know what they do not. They fear death, but for what reason? Fear comes from a lack of knowledge. This lack of knowledge renders the truth obsolete and justice unachievable.
Plato then begins to speak directly about the truth and how it will lead him and the city towards justice. He does not want the city to be angry with him for speaking the truth. He is seeking justice for the city and for himself. He admits that what he is accused of having done, others could have seen as unjust. Regarding the accusation of corrupting the youth, Plato makes the point that, ?If I corrupt some young men, then surely some of them who have grown older and realized that I gave them bad advice when they were young should now themselves come up here to accuse me and avenge themselves? (16). No one is present to back this accusation. Plato is using the truth to seek out his own personal justice.
Plato?s response to his sentence to death is honest and truthful. He knows that justice did not fail him, rather the lack of wisdom demonstrated by others failed him. Plato states, ?I leave you now, condemned to death by you, but they are condemned by truth to wickedness and injustice? (19). When the truth is revealed, these men will be faced with injustice, just as he was. He continues, ?You are wrong to believe that by killing people you will prevent anyone from reproaching you for not living the right way? (19). Plato is telling the judges who have sentenced him to death that their minds will not be free. They are no closer to justice than when the trial had started. They are further from the truth that is found within justice. A great injustice has taken place because of the common inability to understand and respect the truth when it is spoken.
Lastly, Plato returns to the inevitable topic of death. Men believe to be educated about death, when really they are not. Plato puts one last thought in the minds of his executors, ?there is good hope that death is a blessing. . .? he continues, ?for it is one of two things: either the dead are nothing and have no perception of anything, or it is, as we are told, a change for the soul from here to another place? (20). Plato sees himself as having an advantage. His own search for the truth within justice has brought him to death. He has found the end of his journey through seeking justice.
The judges have sought injustice and lost sight of the truth, therefore sentencing a just man to death. This is a sad reality, but the truth is not always pretty and the quest for justice is not always easy. The road towards wisdom is fogged with many lies and deceptions of reality.
Plato has one final remark for his fellow city members, ?I go to die, and you go to live. Which of us goes to the better lot is known to no one, except the god? (20). This statement is important because Plato understands the fact that he is searching for knowledge to achieve wisdom. He knows no better than the men who sentenced him to death. He understands that in the search for justice, the truth must be revealed. Plato revealed the truth and was sentenced to die. No one can be sure whether his death was just or unjust. It was his time to go.
In his search for justice, Plato found different levels of knowledge and wisdom possessed by members of the community. He did not establish himself as greater than anyone else. He sought the truth to achieve justice and accomplished this task. Men see death as the end, yet what can really be seen without wisdom? Nothing. Although Plato was killed in his quest for justice, no one has the wisdom to say that his quest was in vain.
Morgan, Michael L., ed. Classics of Moral and Political Theory. Cambridge: Hackett
Publishing Company, 1996.