Free Reflective Essay on Justice

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This paper seeks to provide a reflection on justice in Plato’s Republic. I will first talk about what the Republic entails, define what justice is, and how the Republic defines justice.

Plato’s Republic is a Socratic dialogue that focuses on education, justice, specialization, philosopher-king soul, and truth. Plato’s strategy in the Republic is to explicate the primary notion of societal or political justice and derive a concept of individual justice.

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In the Republic, Socrates engages in a discussion with Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Adeimantus about justice. Plato’s Republic answers two questions that are what is justice? And why should we be just?

Socrates, Cephalus, and others started a discussion about old age and the conversation quickly ended up in a discussion of justice. Cephalus was the first person to give a definition of justice. Cephalus definition of justice was triggered by basic Hesiodic conception; he defines justice as speaking the truth and paying whatever debts one has incurred. Living up to one's legal obligations and being honest constitute his definition of justice. Cephalus’ definition of justice was geared towards making peace with everyone and this ensures not holding anything against anyone.

Socrates did not agree with the definition of justice Cephalus gave and he raised objections against Cephalus’ definition. Socrates says there is more to justice than honoring legal obligations and being honest. Socrates says if Cephalus says giving to others what you owe them then when one owes a madman a cutlass and returning the cutlass to the madman is just then it means justice is now at stake since this madman is going to use his cutlass to jeopardize the lives of others. This makes Cephalus’ definition of justice hanging. From my point of view, Cephalus’ definition of justice is circumstantial in the sense that if a robber breaks into your house and asks where you have kept your money, one would not tell you because he knows he is a robber, one will only show the robber where his money is only if the robber threatens to kill him, and under this condition, one is not being just in the sense that he was force to tell the truth before he showed where his money was. I believe that a just person should always fulfill his or her legal obligation and also be truthful without being forced to do so. I think justice has to be objective and not subjective, As humans, our emotions rule us so if we are faced with a tough situation where telling the truth will lead us to hurt our loved ones then we will tell lies and this makes us unjust. Following this definition without imposing an exception will lead to a disastrous end. The application of Cephalus’ definition of justice is problematic since its application does not correspond with our ordinary notion of justice. Cephalus thinks of justice as external actions as a matter of behaving properly towards others rather than as a matter of the health of one’s soul.

Polemarchus defined justice as the art that harms one’s enemies and does good to one’s friends. Polemarchus’ definition of justice is an imperative one and this has to do with how people relate to and treat an individual. Socrates’ response to Polemarchus was judgment concerning enemies and friends are fallible and this will make us harm the good and help the bad. Polemarchus’ definition suggests that even when our friends do the worst things because they are friends, we should not condemn their actions, and this promotes unscrupulous behaviors in society. Polemarchus’ definition insinuates that when an individual does something good, we should not compliment them but rather turn our backs on them because they are our enemies. This will make an enemy who does good reverse their decision to do good and do bad since he will not be praised for the good thing done. I believe justice is being fair to all without any exceptions and if Polemarchus gives this definition for justice then it suggests that through justice we harm people, which should not be so. For instance, if you went to war with someone, the person becomes your opponent, so for Polemarchus, you will harm your opponent since he is your enemy, and whenever he does anything good you will still harm him since he is your enemy and this does not portray justice but rather being selective in giving judgment and justice as a whole.

Thrasymarchus defines justice as the advantage of the stronger. He argues that justice should be ignored completely since it does not pay to be just. If justice is to be rubbished in our society then the society is ready to accept bad behaviours from people. Socrates refutes Thrasymarchus’ definition of justice in three forms of argument.

The first argument Socrates presented was that Thrasymarchus’ definition promotes injustice as a virtue. Socrates argues that virtue is equal to wisdom so for Thrasymarchus to say that injustice is virtue; it insinuates that injustice is wisdom is, which false.

The second argument was that understanding justice is obeying certain rules to enable people to reach their goals. This means that is to help others alone at the expense of one’s benefit. For Thrasymarchus to say justice does not benefit the person is unacceptable because when one is just it promotes inner peace and peace in the society as a whole.

The final argument is that justice is nothing but the advantage of another. Thrasymarchus says people who are strong take advantage when it comes to justice at the expense of the weak ones in society

Glaucon defines justice as a social contract established to chain the selfishness of man and prevent people from suffering injustices of others. Glaucon says justice is valued not for itself but for its consequences. He argues that one way or the other man is intrinsically unjust and a greater number of people in society result to justice in order to forgo the evil that will befall them if they do away with it. He buttresses his point by involving the legend of the ring of Gyges. Some people in the society are just just because they want to do so not because of the consequences they will suffer if they become unjust so it is fallacious for him to think that people are just because of the repercussion of injustice.

Adeimantus seconds Glaucon’s definition of justice by saying it is a social contract that no man praises justice for its own sake but only for the rewards it allows one to reap in both this life and the afterlife. Adeimantus thinks that if not for the reward one will receive in his current and aftermath life then one will be unjust, but some people are being just not for the sake of the reward they will get rather than justice being something desirable to them. For instance, during this COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Ghana has passed a law that each of us should wear a nose mask, and if one refuses he will either be fined or jailed. Some Ghanaians wear the nose mask because they are afraid to contract the disease and some are also wearing just because they do not want to be fined or jailed. I think justice is how a person desires it.

Both Glaucon and Adeimantus say everyone will act unjustly if we strip themselves of religion, culture, norms, and justice and they say naturally humans are unjust because it is more pleasurable. This is fallacious since people are intrinsically just and not just because of any reason.

Socrates defines justice as a human virtue in the sense that justice is things we value for ourselves and their consequences, like knowledge. If things we value are justice then when one values bullying his fellow man then that is justice, and here lies the case that bullying is something wrong so for Socrates to define justice in this manner, it makes justice subjective rather than objective.

Justice for Plato is the principle of non-interference. He argues that justice exists both within the individual and in the society. He defines justice within the individual as being intrinsically good and justice is embedded in every individual. The question here is does the fact that justice is intrinsic make an individual just? Some individuals are so bad that they treat their fellow humans as if they are enemies and if this happens can we still say the person is intrinsically just?

According to Plato, justice in society is a sort of specialization. He argues that everyone in society has to specialize in one field that is one can learn how to do carpentry, and the other can learn how to do trade and this helps the society to grow or develop. This is what Plato calls justice. So if everyone specialises in his field it puts everyone in his place and others will only consult another when they are in need of their skill in a particular field. When one wants to specialize in more than one field, will we say the person is not just since he wants to specialize in many fields?

In conclusion, justice according to Plato is specialization and the various definitions of justice given by Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymarchus, Glaucon and Adeimantus are all wrong

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Free Reflective Essay on Justice. (2023, December 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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