This article is by Mohd. Ariz Khan, while doing the internship under LeDroit India.
Plato’s Theory of Justice, as articulated in his seminal work “The Republic,” is a philosophical exploration that dives into the nature of justice, both within the individual and the ideal state. This article provides an in-depth analysis of Plato’s theory, examining key components such as the tripartite soul, the construction of the just individual and state, and the role of education. The article also explores Plato’s critique of democracy, the challenges posed by individualism, and the enduring relevance of his ideas in contemporary society. While Plato’s theory raises ethical dilemmas, particularly in the realms of censorship and noble lies, its profound impact on moral and political philosophy underscores its enduring significance. As we navigate the complexities of modern governance and ethics, Plato’s theory of justice continues to serve as a philosophical touchstone, prompting reflection on the timeless quest for societal harmony and the balance between individual freedoms and the common good.
There have been many eminent political thinkers and political philosophers in this world, and one of them was Plato. He was the student of Socrates. Plato was one, who was futuristic in his words and thoughts. Born in the year, 428 – 348 B.C., Athens Greece. According to many sources Plato was not his real name it was the name given to him by his wrestling coach, due to his wide and strong shoulders. His real name was Aristocles. Plato’s theory of justices also known as the Architectonic theory of justices explained in his book The Republic, was his best work and is still read by every political and philosophical student it sets an example, of what elements should be presented in an ideal state. He considered justices as one of the important parts of the Ideal state. In his book The Republic, Socrates and the other interlocutors are involved in a discussion about what justice means in society, and to individuals. To the extent this article delves into Plato’s theory of justice, examining its core tenets, its relevance in contemporary society, and its enduring impact on moral and political philosophy.
THEORY OF CEPHALUS AND POLEMARCHUS
According to Cephalus, his theory of justice was – “justices consist in speaking the truth and paying one dept.” so as we can see his concept was like a straight flowing river without any turns. Speaking truth refers over here to do things in the right way and the right manner –(righteousness).
Plato objected by giving an example- If your friend gave you a gun in a sound mind and asked you to return the gun in an unsound mind will you return the gun to your friend in this situation? If yes, is this paying debt and establishing justice for him?
Palto rejected his theory by adding – that if an individual reveals secrets of the country by speaking the truth to the enemy country, then justice cannot be established there.
According to Polemarchus, his theory of justice was – “According to him “justice seems to consist in giving what is proper to him” which simply means doing good to the friends and bad to the enemies.
Plato objected to the theory of Polemarchus by saying – Can this theory be applied in the profession of medicine and cooking?
Palto rejected his theory by adding- that doing injustices against anyone cannot be part of justice, and Plato further added that what if, to whom we are saying a friend is not a friend but an enemy, simply it is difficult to tell who is our friend and who is our enemy. Would this be justices?
THEORY OF THRASYMACHUS
Thrasymachus was the son of Polemarchus, and he also gave his theory on justice that is – “Might is right and justice is the interest of stronger government make the law to serve their interest and there and whatever serve their interest is justices”
Thrasymachus explained that a stronger does not make mistakes but as to what is to their advantage.
Thrasymachus continued and said –
- Injustices bring happiness.
- Injustices bring strength
- An unjust person is always superior to the just
Plato responds with a discussion of art or craft and points out that it aims to do what is good for its subjects, not what is good for the practitioner.
Plato explains by giving the example that the true function of a doctor is to cure the patients not to earn money likewise a government is art and his motive is – the being of the governed.
Plato responded to the statement of –
- The just man is wiser and better, than an unjust man.
- injustices produce internal disharmony.
- unjust is a negative term that anyone can say brings superiority, it’s bad and is considered as stupidity.
THEORY OF GLAUCON
He divides good things into three classes: things good in themselves, things good both in themselves and for their consequences, and things good only for their consequences. Plato places justice in the class of things good in themselves and for their consequences.
According to him Glaucon – “justices are the child of fear and it is the need of the weak who constitutes the majority of the society”
He further added that the word justice came into existence because of the weaker person in the society because they were afraid of suffering injustices by the stronger.
The unjust person with the reputation of justice is always exalted and ecstatic, whereas a person who is just with an unjust reputation is always wretched.
There is a need for weak in the society to follow the path of justice, and a stronger person has always been there in the position of just.
Plato made his criticism of the theory by saying that justice cannot be established by fear or power rather they should be done naturally.
PLATO’S THEORY OF JUSTICES
Plato categories his theory into a level –
- Justices at individual level
- Justices at social level
At the individual level, Plato said that every soul has 3 elements-:
“INDIVIDUAL JUSTICE IS HUMAN VIRTUE”
This is the tripartite division of the individual soul, based on which 3 social classes in the state are divided. Plato divides the human soul into distinct parts: the rational, the spirited, and the appetitive. The rational part, located in the head, seeks wisdom and knowledge. The spirited part, in the chest, embodies courage and honour. The appetitive part, residing in the belly, represents desires and appetites. For Plato, a just individual is one whose three soul parts are harmoniously aligned, with reason holding authority over the other two.
An individual is considered just when each part of their soul fulfils its functions without interfering with the functions of other elements. For instance, reason should govern the entire soul with wisdom and foresight. The element of spirit should submit itself to the rule of reason. These two elements are harmonized through a combination of mental and physical training. They are given authority over the appetites, which make up a significant part of a person’s soul. Therefore, reason and spirit must control these appetites, which have the potential to become excessive due to bodily pleasures. These appetites should not be allowed to dominate the other elements and seize control that is not rightfully theirs. When all three elements agree that reason alone should govern, there exists justice within the individual.
And all three elements are not in equal proportion in every soul.
According to Plato justice is not a legal concept but a moral concept.
For Plato at the individual level, justice is self-control on yourself.
As to establishing justice at the individual level people should choose their profession based on the dominant element of their soul.
The Challenge of Individualism Plato’s- theory of justice receives criticism for potentially limiting individual freedoms. The strict hierarchy and predetermined roles in the ideal state raise concerns about autonomy and personal choice. Critics argue that Plato’s vision overlooks the variety of human talents and aspirations, imposing a rigid structure that could suppress individual creativity and self-expression.
As per Plato social justice is –
Plato kept the rational class on the top of the list because he believed that they are the ones who are wise and reasonable, with wisdom and knowledge, so Plato said this class would be a ruler class or a class of philosopher class he said this class is born to rule and govern.
Next, he talks about spirit class which denotes power, strength, rational, and honour. They are also known as an auxiliary class they are born to fight. This class can also be called a warrior class and Plato said that the class of rational + class of spirit = Guardian Class. Justice is thus a kind of functional specialization. It is simply the desire to fulfil one’s duties without meddlesomeness. Therefore, every citizen who carries out their duties in their assigned position embodies justice in their mind. It is the fundamental principle established at the inception of the State, “that each person should focus on one specific task that aligns with their natural abilities”. According to Plato, true justice consists of non-interference. Plato views the State as a perfect entity in which each individual, as an essential component, functions not for their benefit but for the well-being of the whole. Every component fulfils its appropriate function. Therefore, justice in the Platonic state would resemble the harmonious relationship that holds the Planets together in their orderly movement. Plato firmly believed that a society organized in this manner is capable of survival. When individuals are displaced from their natural positions, the coordination of parts breaks down, leading to the disintegration and dissolution of society. Thus, justice is the citizens’ understanding of their duties, one’s justice forms a part on an individual level it is easy to build at the social level.
“STATE IS INDIVIDUAL WRIT LARGE” – PLATO
THE ROLE OF EDUCATION
In Plato’s ideal state, education plays a crucial role in shaping individuals and, consequently, society. The philosopher-kings go through a demanding educational system that nurtures intellectual and moral virtues. Plato’s focus on the transformative impact of education reflects his belief in the changeability of human nature and the capacity for individuals to rise from ignorance to enlightenment, similar to the prisoners in the Allegory of the Cave. Education also plays an important role in seeking your inner self and shall serve justice to yourself and society.
CRITICISM OF PLATO THEORY OF JUSTICES
- It should have been a legal concept, Plato’s justice is based on ethical and moral principles and hence, is not enforceable. It gives utmost importance to self-control in the interest of society which makes it vulnerable to violation by different individuals.
- His ideas seemed liberating initially but later they took a turn and formed a regimentation approach which was inappropriate for privacy and individuality.
- Concentration of power is in the hands of the philosopher class and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Division of class may result in class war.
- Order and harmony are more important than emotion and passion.
- Third, Plato’s political theory is tainted by elitism as political decision-making in his ideal state was in the hands of a few philosophical rulers who would be oriented towards the common good. However, Plato was so strongly an elitist that he believed that the vast majority of human beings had no reason to decide important things for themselves.
Plato’s theory of justice, as presented in “The Republic,” is a significant contribution to philosophy. Its examination of the 3 elements of soul, the creation of an ideal state, and the transformative influence of education continue to stimulate thought and discussion. While some aspects of Plato’s theory may be questioned in light of modern values, its enduring relevance highlights the ongoing pursuit of justice, morality, and the harmonious coexistence of individuals in society. As we navigate the complexities of the contemporary world, Plato’s theory of justice remains a guiding principle, encouraging us to contemplate virtue, governance, and the pursuit of the common good. In the ongoing conversation of human ideas, Plato’s concepts persist, challenging us to ponder the timeless questions that lie at the core of our collective existences.
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy