Plato introduces his concept of justice and the Good in his 10 books, which describe the ideal state and, which, in turn, embodies that justice (Plato 360 BC as qtd in Book Notes 2004).
Justice is an inherent and unavoidable social and political concept in the ideal society and state. “The Republic” describes justice as harmony between internal and external realities or conditions. The balance within the soul of each man creates that internal harmony and internal harmony is projected outside to establish external harmony in the state (433e). Plato perceived this balance of internal and external balance as proceeding from the virtuous, just or good person, but that such a person must and is assumed to live in an already just society or state. In his mind, external justice is impossible without a pre-existing internal jus...
tice in each member of society or state.
Social justice can develop only out of just individuals, who in turn, will not be happy living in an unjust society (433d-e).He constructs an analogy between the state and an individual, both of which are complex and consisting of several distinct parts (Plato 360 BC). He demonstrates the parallelism from an empirical basis of daily life. An individual who is faced with a decision to decide from among a range options must do so by distinguishing from the distinct elements of the self (436c). His physical body corresponds to the material elements of the physical city, such as the land and buildings and physical resources. A person correspondingly consists of the rational, the spirited, and the appetitive souls.
The rational soul uses the mind or intellect in discerning what is rea
and in making judgments. The spirited soul uses practical reason. And the appetitive soul is moved by emotion or desire (443d, 436b).Plato argues that human beings cannot function separately or individually in acquiring or performing common tasks they need. Thus, they form communities for the achievement of common objectives, with each person specializing in particular craft or goods to offer the communities (Kemerling 2001). The formation and separation of different functions and specializations he viewed to be the elements of a worthwhile and lasting society.
He figures that this society would consist of distinct classes – farmers, builders, teachers and others – according to their contribution to the common good, which is the common goal of the community or society. For the smooth operation of the social machinery or organization, certain additional services or activities may be created in order to attain additional objectives, such as settling of disputes among the members and concerted defense against outside attacks. To attain these objectives, he suggests the appointment of three groups of guardians of society: soldiers to protect the state against outside assault, rulers to settle internal conflicts, and leaders to govern the state (454d). But choosing the right individual for the responsibilities depends on the provision for the proper education for the guardians of society or the state. He proposed an elementary education for them in Book III of The Republic (as qtd in Kemerling) through a curriculum that balances physical training with musical performance and basic intellectual development. It also requires strict censorship of literary reading materials among children whose developing mental faculties can be dulled by these materials or whose over-active participation in dramatic
presentations can expose them to the mistakes and flaws of tragic heroes (as qtd in Kemerling, 395c).
Most importantly, he views that absorption in fiction can weaken one’s awareness and primacy of the truth.Plato advances that education and training are only for children who will be future guardians of the state and whose performance at the elementary level will indicate their qualification for intended tasks later in society (Plato 360 BC as qtd in Kemerling 2001). Each society should then design and develop its own educational system, which would sort out and train the children for these responsibilities, according to their demonstrated abilities in school. Plato believes that children should be raised and educated by society rather than by their parents in the interests of the state, which should screen them according to a curriculum. A simple course on breeding, nurturing and training of children enrolled in the guardian class would replace the natural pleasures of family life and directed towards the continuation or development of a city-state (Plato as qtd in Kemerling). Plato intensely believes that an ideal state can be formed out the highest and best human capabilities among its members if the right persons are put in the right positions (342e).
Plato agrees with Socrates’ belief that the best ruler is one who knows how to rule and understands ruling as a craft. Crafts aim at achieving or producing particular external goals and good practitioners of those crafts perform only for the sake of those goals, never for their own private interests. Good rulers try to do what is best for those they rule, work and seek the welfare of those they
rule (342e).And since Plato believes that only the wisdom of good rulers provides the key to the success of the city-state, these rulers or kings must first be philosophers (Kemerling 2001, 473d). Therefore, only those children who demonstrate a philosophical temperate will eventually develop the competence to rule, as they are those who can detect fact from illusion and distinguish between abstractions and concrete reality.
Plato’s philosophy singles out those philosophers who detach themselves from the senses and immerse themselves in mental activities against mere and idle dreamers. He es aware of the prevalent public disfavor towards philosophers, but Plato insists that the ideal society depends on the wisdom of these philosophers to put and maintain order in that society. What’s more, such philosophers are born, not made (Kemerling, 473d). In that case, Plato’s schools were tasked only to identify and train those promising children to become philosopher-kings of the future for the good of society (342e, 473d).Plato does not leave this duty to the spontaneous and risky control of natural parents and to the perils of young people’s focusing their attention and energy into the pursuit of wealth and fame and away from developing intellectual faculties (Kemerling 2001), which are more rigorous. Hence, he stresses that these select children should be provided with the best education that consists in a regimen of increasing levels of strict mental disciplines in the course of these children’s lives.
Plato draws the concept of this kind of education from his knowledge or perception of the Good as not only the awareness of particular benefits and pleasures, but also an acquaintance with the Form itself (Kemerling, 508e). Plato believes
that the structure of human knowledge consists of four levels. The lowest level was composed of shadows, images and the imagination. The second was visible and included physical objects and a person’s perception of them.
The third was in the intelligible level, where the human mind confronts numbers, shapes and other mathematical entities. And in the fourth and highest level, the human mind encounters true equality, beauty, the truth and the Good by intuition alone (Kemerling, 508e-509d). He maintains that the fundamental capacity of human reason in apprehending and comprehending the nature of reality (Plato as qtd in Kemerling).Plato believes that the knowledge of that Good is the highest goal of all education (508e-509d). In his opinion, it is not a mere awareness or acquiring of particular benefits and pleasures. It is acquaintanceship with the Form itself.
In the same way that the sun enlightens one in perceiving things in the visual world, the Form of the Good also serves as the ultimate standard by which the reality and value of everything are established (508e). One’s apprehension of reality happens in different degrees according to the nature of the object perceived. That apprehension or perception of reality differs from mere opinion. That standard thus establishes what things belong to the merely visible realm of sensible objects and what things constitute genuine knowledge where the invisible realm of the Forms is found (509d).
Plato assumes that future guardians who will possess these exceptional qualities must typically be offspring of those who already hold positions of honor in the community (Plato 360 BC). If the governed citizens become dissatisfied with their roles, Plato thinks they should be told
that they “possess different natures, which fit them to their roles for the proper operation of the community as a whole (415a).” Plato argues for severe restrictions for guardians, since they are already endowed with superior natures from birth. Guardians have no need for wealth, fame or other external rewards. They should not own private property and thrive only at government expense.
They thus must receive salaries, which provide their most basic needs to discourage greed and enable them solely to govern and seek the welfare of the state or community. As rulers who must make decisions, they are assumed to possess the virtue of wisdom (342e). They have and use the capacity to discern reality and make impartial judgments in its pursuit. As a result, the governed trust and follow these leaders instead of pursuing their individual and personal or private interest.
Personal desires are subordinated to the higher purposes of their office or responsibilities. When each of these ruling classes performs its duties and roles appropriately and does not grab one another’s power, the entire city as a whole should operate smoothly. Thus the harmony, which is genuine justice, is achieved (433e).Plato offers three arguments in favor of the intrinsic merits of justice in a society (Plato 360 BC). First, he asserts that the just life of an aristocratic person is the result of the natural and effortless mingling of internal elements of his soul.
This is opposed to the unjust life of a disorderly, greedy and tyrannical person who suffers from an imbalance and exerts enormous efforts to sustain that imbalance. He thus argues that justice is easier and more desirable in
a society (580a). He assumes that human beings will find it easier to be honest than to keep track of the consistency of falsehoods along the path of truth. Second, he believes that a tyrannical person can and will pursue only the pleasures of the physical body, money and public reputation, all of which are temporal and artificial. Aristocratic person, in comparison, may accept their pursuit only in moderation but naturally transcend them in their inclination towards intellectual achievement and delights out of their direct acquaintanceship with the Forms (583a).
And thirdly, he imagines that justice will be rewarded in the series of lives after this world.Plato’s concept of justice is not workable or feasible in real life, especially in current times. The assumption that a just society can proceed only from just rulers is a goal, not a given condition, and it is a condition that every individual in this world wants, but not everyone works for it in earnest or in actuality.His proposed curriculum that combines physical training with musical performance and basic intellectual development is not enough to detect who would be the best leaders of the future. Some children perform early in class and become stifled from some reason in adulthood, while others who do not perform well in the elementary level may be late bloomers and reveal their hidden capabilities in latter levels or in actual life.In a general sense, effective leaders are philosophers in the sense that their chosen wisdom guides their society or state to success or world leadership.
But many great rulers are not philosophers, musicians or capable athletes like most Athenians in Plato’s time. Some of
these rulers display their capabilities only in public life.Plato’s supposition on justice is the ideal to be attained and the premise on which the attainment should be conducted. But the mechanics should be drawn from hard and bold realities in life that more human beings deal with tangible, practical matters than intellectual perceptions, enjoyments and pursuits like Plato’s and his friends’. The fact of their spending much time discussing and arguing on philosophical matters and issues shows the value they showed such pursuits. Today’s thinkers and leaders have more complicated concerns than justice, or its interpretations have evolved, although the basic human yearning for it remains.
Everyone wants justice or to live in a just society, which will protect and promote his interests. The fact of individual differences will make this ideal impossible, so the best place to start in is the establishment of an ideal. That is how Plato starts and it is ultimately the best place to start.Plato lived in a time where much original thinking flourished. He and his contemporaries were supposed to have set the trend of thought, including thoughts of justice.
It was inevitable that they should form assumptions, including the assumption that people in a society necessarily want to be virtuous on their own and to do right by others. It is common knowledge that quite many advance their selfish interests ahead and on top of common interest. Selfishness appears to dominate society and this is why justice is needed. It establishes order and sense to what men do in society. It sets the rule on what people can or may not do. Plato’s concept is idealistic because it
is an ideal.
And ideals are the basic assumptions of the law and justice itself. In the long run, it is the only thing, which makes sense because it is what all people ultimate want to receive.In arguing that justice is better than injustice in a society, Plato advances the promise of ultimate reward in the next life or lives for the performance of just and good acts in this temporal world or time. But even that only motivates extrinsically rather than intrinsically and is, therefore, not genuine. #
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