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John Locke Versus Socrates in Ideas Concerning Just Society: Analytical Essay

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In John Locke’s book The Second Treatise of Government, he expresses the importance of property rights in regard to its reflexiveness toward labor. With property rights, others are able to own different things with full ownership and use it towards their own advantage however they would like. Thereby, Locke demonstrates that labor demonstrates the legitimacy of one’s possessions even if the Earth is held by the commons. On the other hand, Socrates would disagree with Locke’s idea of the importance of a property. Socrates argues that in a just society, it is essential to prohibit the ruling and auxiliary classes the use of money. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates stresses that rulers are required in order to maintain a just society. However, the reason why Socrates would disagree with Locke’s approval of money and property rights is due to the fact that money and property are a distraction from building a just society by taking away the attention from things that are purposeful. If rulers were to obtain property, they would be abusing their power and consequently begin ruling for their own gain rather than for the sake of the good for the entire city. Overall, the main contrasting points between these two books involve the opposing values Locke and Socrates place on money. On one hand, Locke believes that money is valuable since it is a reward for man’s labor. On the other hand, Socrates would not approve of the existence of money signifies selfishness and immoderation within society. These contrasting ideas are demonstrated in regards to taking in the world’s gift of nature for one’s own advantage, different views on how a just society should perceive money, as well as an overall different purpose for each book being written. Thereby, the purpose of both of these books written by two philosophers’ perspectives refer to their contrasting ideas on illustrating how a state should be ruled.

There are two differentiating sides in regards to taking the earth’s gifts of nature for one’s own advantage. On one hand, John Locke would argue that the importance of money and owning possessions are means of placing individual value towards something everyone has equal access to in nature. Thereby, the possessions one obtains is a reward for the labor one performs. Locke structures his argument on a property by referring to the idea that God has created man equally where all men are offered with the same privileges in nature. Thereby, the only thing a man truly owns is the labor that he performs. Thus, to place ownership on something whether this may be an object or a piece of land, one must be able to perform labor work to gain a profit so they are able to pay for the things they desire. According to Locke’s idea of individual property, “In the beginning, before the desire of having more than man needed […] or a little piece of yellow metal […] yet the same plenty was still left to those who would use the same industry” (Locke s.37). In this passage, Locke refers back to the beginning state before the stirrings of human desire for possession. It was before the invention of money, symbolized by a little piece of yellow metal’ being gold to represent the form of money in the past. Money allows man to gather more than he needs as long as he produces through his own labor. In regards to nature, Locke argues that a person may only be able to obtain as many things as they can reasonably use towards their own advantage. In chapter 5 section 45, he discusses man using nature’s gifts towards their own personal gain and obtained by the use of labor. Specifically, he states that “labor […] gave a right of property wherever anyone was pleased to employ it […] Men contented themselves with what unassisted nature offered to their necessities” (Locke s.45). To explain this quote, Locke demonstrates that the purpose of labor is to gain property in order to fulfill one’s necessities which may include food or shelter in order to survive. Considering that God created everyone equally, the things that one owns sets one man apart from another as well as the labor that they produce in order to obtain these things. Thereby, the labor a man performs exclusively belongs to man when he removes something from nature through hard work and no longer becomes a common property of mankind. Thereby, the importance of property earned by money according to Locke is that anyone can attain anything they want as long as they are able to work and obtain the things that they deserve. With that being said, one of the reasons why Locke condones the idea of money is the reason money is a reward of labor. Although nature is accessible to everyone, the labor performed by man demonstrates the only true gift a man owns considering everyone in society is viewed as equal according to Locke.

On the other hand, Socrates has other circumstances in regards to taking the gifts of nature God has offered to mankind. Socrates would disagree with Locke’s purpose of money and possessions as it acts as a distraction from constructing a just society. In Book 4, Socrates and Adeimantus discuss how money is less valuable than nature. Thereby, in order for a man to fulfill his soul’s purpose, he must eliminate the distraction of money in his life. Socrates informs Adeimantus that “with the entire city growing thus and being fairly founded we must let nature assign to each of the groups its share of happiness” (Plato s.421c). To summarize, Socrates demonstrates how eliminating the distraction of money assists man in being able to focus on what they are naturally suited for which will help benefit the city to become more good and just. However, this can only occur if the individual is properly educated on the importance of being selfless and protecting the city for the sake of goodness in one’s soul. Thus, children should always be surrounded with good role models whereas they will grow old to also become good examples for the next generation to follow onwards. In relation to sustaining good role models, Socrates expresses the importance of the goal of the city where everyone is happy doing what they are naturally inclined to do. By doing so, proper education taught towards the youth teaches them what is means to be a just individual in society. In regards to the importance of education, Socrates states “the city, if correctly founded, must also be completely good […] then wise, courageous, moderate, and just” (Plato s.427). Thereby, the presence of money does not belong in Socrates’ definition for his ideal vision of constructing the city. Rather, the virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, and being just is what Socrates argued to be valued more than the importance of money. In regards to taking advantage of nature for one’s own possessions, nature remains untouched as it is forbidden by Socrates to own any possessions. In order to maintain a just society, a guardian must be a good role model and not promote the idea of obtaining objects to fulfill one’s own vices as it becomes a distraction from making the majority of the city happy. In turn, this would mean using money is not a determining factor of the goodness of society.

From an opposing stance, Locke argues for a state of liberty and equality rather than restriction where money is something that everyone must earn after performing their labor. However, it is still important for him to consider that one must be able to control themselves along with the things that they own by following the government’s laws. Locke specifically states that “reason, which is that law teaches all of mankind […] that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions” (Lock s.6). Hence, Locke argues that it is ok for a man to demonstrate a free will and obtain his own possessions as it presents the idea man is an independent being yet, an equal within society. Although being equal, this does permit man to turn against one another by robbing him from the possessions he owns. In order to ensure that crimes can be prevented, Locke suggests that natural law demonstrates how mankind must not steal or hurt another man. In regards to trusting one’s judgment, he states that “For the Law of Nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world […] and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders; and if anyone in the state of nature may punish another for any evil he has done, everyone may do so” (Plato s.7). To explain, Locke does believe in a democratic state, although he also believed that there should be limits by using punishments to prevent any wrongdoings. Thus, a democratic government is necessary whereas a balance between free will and punishment is put into place to maintain order. In regards to the topic of free will and money, earning money is a result of free will due to producing labor on one’s behalf. As a result, money is a necessity to Locke as it earns the right to property and man’s own independence within society.

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From contrasting views in The Republic, Socrates often refers to how a man should not be allowed to have access to his own property as this creates corruption within building a just society. Specifically, Socrates in Book 3 suggests that owning property should not be permitted due to the fact that this leads to immoderation and unequal distribution of happiness. Referring to the guardians, “Whenever they’ll possess private land, houses, and currency, they’ll be householders and farmers instead of guardians, and they’ll become masters and enemies instead of allies of the other citizens; hating and being hated, plotting and being plotted against” (Plato s.471 a-b). To summarize, Socrates refers to the guardians as figures that must not focus on giving into their own vices by obtaining any possessions. Thereby, their life’s purpose is not to obtain property for their own satisfaction out of selfishness. Rather, they must focus on maintaining a just society by fulfilling the roles of a guardian. In Book 3, Socrates discusses with Adeimantus how the guardians should live a life free of possessions considering that the possessions a guardian obtains can act as a distraction from fulfilling their role in society. During this conversation, Adeimantus questions Socrates in regards to how a guardian can truly be happy while living a life with such restrictions. Socrates argues that “in founding the city we are not looking to the exception happiness of any one group among us, but far possible that of the city as a whole” (Plato s.420b-420c). With that being said, Socrates would rather focus on satisfying the society as a whole rather than the guardian using his power to satisfy his own needs. Socrates also tells Adeimantus that there would be no poverty or wealth considering that there would be no money to quarrel over. Thereby, Socrates believed that the problem within every city is due to the dispute over money ultimately leading to corruption. As a result, the corruption of the city occurs when it encourages indolence whereas poverty becomes the impeding factor of the craftsman making high-quality goods. Onwards with Socrates and Adeimantus’ discussion, Adeimantus argues that a city without money is not able to properly defend itself from potential threats. Socrates responds to this considering by “looking to happiness for the city as a whole, where we must see if it comes to be in the city, and must compel and persuade these auxiliaries and guardians to do the same so that they’ll be the best possible craftsmen at their jobs, and similarly for all the others” (Plato s.421b). Thus, Socrates reminds Adeimantus that the city that does not place great value and attention on money will not be distracted from having the best warriors to protect the city. Socrates also adds that once neighboring cities recognize the resilience demonstrated by the guardian and auxiliaries, they would volunteer their own warriors to help protect their city. Thereby, Socrates is against money due to the fact that he believes that it is nothing but an impeding factor from building a society that the majority of people can be satisfied with. Instead, Socrates relies on the virtues demonstrated by the guardians in order to protect the city and prevent the corruption that money consequently encourages.

As a result of the two opposing views from Locke and Socrates, both of these philosophers demonstrate a different overall purpose within their books. The main idea of Locke’s book refers to the concept of how people are born with certain rights. Thereby, the government must protect every individual’s rights at all costs. To explain this concept, Locke supported the idea of the social contract theory where all natural nights exist and all wealth is the product of labor. Referring to the state of nature, Locke argues that “As if when men, quitting the state of nature, entered into society, they agreed that all of them but one should be under the restraint of laws; but that he should still retain the liberty of the state of nature, increased with power” (Locke s.22). Hence, Locke demonstrates his favor for democracy over any other type of government since laws must be set out in order to retain the state from any chaos due to the privilege of free will. In regards to property, every man is entitled to his own property where it is the job of the government to protect man’s well-deserved possessions by developing laws.

On the other hand, Socrates’ main purpose emphasized in Plato’s book is to build an ideal justice society. By doing so, Plato takes account of Socrates’ ideal society modeled on justice with a goal for other humans that come across the book to model their cities the way Socrates would have imagined. Simultaneously, he also takes account of how the soul is governed by justice which is consequently an element in regards to constructing an ideal just society. As the book is written with dialogue taking place at all times, the reader is guided toward the discovery of the meaning of justice. Socrates reminds readers that “justice is among the greatest goods […] those that are worth having for what comes from them but much more for themselves, such as seeing, hearing, thinking, and, of course, being healthy and all the other goods that are fruitful by their own nature and not by opinion—upraise this aspect of justice” (Plato s.367c-d). To summarize, Socrates believes that injustice cannot be a virtue considering that justice is more desirable as it is a reward for health to the soul. In relation to his idea of property and money, Socrates would consider money to be an injustice as the individual earnings of man do not benefit the city as a whole, it only benefits one’s own personal needs.

In summary, the main differentiating points between these two books involve the opposing values Locke and Socrates place on money. On one hand, Locke believes that money is valuable as a reward for man’s own labor. On the other hand, Socrates does not approve of the existence of money and the value placed on it signifies selfishness and immoderation within society. Thus, these different ideas are demonstrated in regards to taking in the world’s gift of nature for one’s own advantage, different views on how a just society should perceive money, as well as an overall different purpose for each book being written. Overall, the purpose of both of these books refers to the different ideas to demonstrate how a state should be governed.

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