Plato Essay, Research Paper
The Use of Dialectic to Define Justice
Through the use of Socratic dialogue, Plato has an advantage at obtaining answers by refuting other philosophers. Plato is able to achieve an answer to the question, what is justice. He derives this answer through an analogy of the ideal city. The ideal city parallels the concept of the ideal person as Plato uncovers with the aid of dialectic. Plato defines justice as a function of harmony, which must first be achieved in an individual before being extended to the city. Speaking through Socrates Plato defines justice as a philosophical understanding of excellence in the organization of society and human soul.
In book IV Socrates refutes the notion that justice is visible, while using the Socratic method of dialogue. He questions that justice is the virtue that has no physical representative. Through the state, Socrates inferred that justice can be understood as opposed to being seen. In order to grasp the concept of the ideal city or the happy state one must first analyze its components. Plato does this with dialectic. Then he questions that each individual is a member of one of three groups: Rulers, Guardians, and the Producer class. Each one of the specifications of labor
within the kallipolis accompany a chief characteristic. The rulers were considered to have wisdom as their virtue. People chosen to be a ruler exhibited a special knowledge for leading the state. In the kallipolis rulers make their judgment for the happiness of the state as opposed to their own individual happiness. “Is there some knowledge possessed by some of the citizens in the city that does not judge about any particular matter but the city as a whole and the maintenance of good relations both internally and with other cities?”(pg.104,428d) The next virtue, Plato discovers through the Socratic method, was courage. “This power to preserve through everything correct and law-inculcated belief about what is to be feared and what isn’t is what I call courage.”(105,430b) This virtue resided mainly in the guardians. Each soldier was trained from their childhood about what to fear and what not to fear. Courage was apparent in the soldier s beliefs in the state laws as well as doing whatever was necessary to protect the state. Through the Socratic method, Plato makes an analogy of the soldiers to poorly dyed wool, stating that a soldier will never present a ridiculous and washed out appearance. The next virtue, moderation, Plato discovered through the Socratic method was needed in every member of the kallipolis, but he divulged that it was the attribute of the
producer class. “Unlike courage and wisdom… Making the city brave and wise respectively, moderation spreads throughout the whole.”(pg.107,431e) Moderation was necessary for each class, especially this one since the craftsmen are considered the appetites of kallipolis. Through dialogue with Glaucon, Plato concludes that producers were moderate; guardians were moderate and courageous; and the rulers were moderate, courageous, and wise.
After Socrates has found the other three virtues in the kallipolis, he then moves on to justice. Socrates felt that justice was the virtue that was left over. Justice was an understanding in the kallipolis of each individual performing their job without interfering with that of another. Socrates placed the other three virtues first and as a result he arrived with the conclusion that justice or morality is achieved through a harmony of the others. Therefore Socrates defined justice as a function of wisdom, courage, and moderation all working together to produce the best for the state. Justice was considered as the harmony of the city as well as an individual.
Socrates felt that through examining the state and its parts he could discover justice in the individual. Each individual was as the state, with three different parts:
mind, body, and spirit. The mind acted in each individual as a ruler. The virtue of the mind was wisdom just as the ruler of the state. Courage is also found in the soul of the individual in the form of the spirit. The spirit acts as the guardian of the soul just as the soldier does for the city. “And isn’t in the individual courageous in the same way and in the same part of himself as the city?”(pg.117,441d) Moderation is throughout the soul but mainly focused in the body. The body is parallel to the producer class of the city. Socrates determined that an individual is just if the other three parts of the soul are doing one’s own work. Compared to the city an individual achieved harmony and morality just the same. ” And surely we have not forgotten that the city was just because each of the three classes in it was doing its own work.”(117,441e) Socrates felt that through looking at the larger scope first, he could then infer more about the smaller scope. I believe in Plato s use of Socratic method to obtain a philosophy of the state and the human soul. The two concepts parallel each other as well as they are inseparable. The individual and the state are dependent upon one another. How can a state be just without individuals who are just? I believe Socrates answer to justice is manifested in individual morality as well as
communal justice. Socrates state is centered upon a communal attitude in both the individual himself and the internal parts of the city.
Plato felt that to attain justice was to attain harmony in the state as well as the individual. Through conversing with Thrasymachus in a dialectic method, Plato philosophizes that both the state and the individual consisted of three separate parts, which must harmoniously commune with one another to achieve the virtue of justice.
Justice is the virtue found within the other three virtues: wisdom, courage, and moderation. Each of these virtues exists in the state as well as in the individual in the form of the mind, body, and soul. Within the state the ruler is wise and rules for the happiness of the state. This is paralleled in the individual through the mind. The individual s courage is contained in the spirit, whereas, the state s courage comes from the guardians. Only through the use of dialectic could Plato have come to the conclusion that moderation is the virtue that is consistent in each part of the individual and the state. “And when the citizens agree in this way, in which of them do you say moderation is located? In the ruler of the ruled? I suppose in both.”(107,431e) This is exemplary of the advantages that dialectic gives to a philosopher. Here Plato
is able to make a statement about moderation through the dialectic used with Glaucon. Through Socrates, Plato derives that moderation is the attribute of the producer class in the state as well as the body of the individual. Plato felt everyone within the state had to give there loyalty to the state. Plato defines this as everyone doing their own work for the happiness of the state, while not interfering with the work of another.
Through the use of dialectic Plato was able to define justice. Plato does this with an analogy of the ideal city. The advantage of Socratic dialogue is that through continuous interrogation one can shape the size of the question until the question that is asked becomes the answer that the philosopher has been searching for. Dialectic is the thesis then formed into an antithesis to conclude with a synthesis of ideas. Plato is able to exemplify this method of philosophy while defining justice with an analogy of the ideal city as well as the ideal person.