A perfectly just man

No single man can embody justice in its perfection, nor can he embody injustice in its perfection. Justice is a much more complicated concept, and the discussion in the entirety of the Republic surely makes that quite obvious. Whether justice is a virtue of man, or a form (as in the theory of the forms), or just a rational connection a person makes in their observations of reality, it is most clear to all that justice is not something that can be understood in all its perfection through a single example, such as a perfectly just man.

Regardless of what justice is, there can be no perfectly just or unjust man, and so Glaucon's use of these men in his argument is not legitimate. I understand that examples are often useful and needed in arguments, but using extremes like this is not useful here because it is not a possible situation, even in principle. What is important is not that a man cannot be perfectly just, but that we cannot understand or learn about justice through the example of a single man.

This makes the only reasonable examples of man the second and third, making the second best position the best, which means that it is best for man to be just and also seem that way. This is supported by Socrates in book five when he discusses how, in real life, nothing can fully embody those fundamental ideas that it represents, like justice. (Plato, p. 152-3) Another problem with Glaucon's argument is that its own assumptions make it irrelevant. The argument that Glaucon presents assumes that all men truly do not care for justice and only practice it out of fear of the consequences of not doing so.

If this were so, then people would not be afraid of acting unjustly at all, because all the other people would expect nothing other than unjust actions, knowing that injustice was more advantageous. I cannot condemn a person for acting unjustly when I would do the same because I am like everyone else, and we all know that we will do what is advantageous. To be stated more clearly, if none of us care for justice then we will not carry out some silly charade of trying not to look unjust, we will just do what we have to do for advantage, and we will fully expect the same from others.

Since this is not how things are in reality, and we do fear the consequences of behaving unjustly because we know that everyone is not the same as us, it must be true that there are relatively just people and relatively unjust people. The argument could be posed that we are all hypocrites and so we still need to put on a fai?? ade. This is not true however, because looks would be meaningless if we all were hypocrites and all knew that when a person seems just, it is just a fai?? ade, and so any benefits one might receive for looking just would not come.

This does not tell us which is most advantageous, but it tells us that it is not so inherent in us to do the unjust or not care for the just. If anything, it tells us what is being exemplified in the discussion of justice in the text itself, that some think it is more advantageous to be just and some think it is more advantageous to be unjust. This tells us one of two things: Either some people are correct and the others confused, or neither is correct, and acting justly or unjustly has nothing to do with human advantage.

We know, however, that justice has something to do with human advantage because regardless of what we as humans strive to achieve, every decision we make is either advantageous for this goal, or disadvantageous, and every decision is also either just or unjust. Now most people would admit that the actions they consider to be just are the ones that are an advantage towards this goal, and the actions they consider unjust are the ones that are disadvantageous. If people are in disagreement about what is just, then they must be in disagreement about what the goal of humanity is, and herein lies, perhaps, the true problem of justice.

Socrates and Plato hold truth as the goal of humanity, which makes perfect sense given that they are lovers of wisdom and knowledge and so justice must be the pursuit of this. I say this because we all seek the good or a good life, and no matter what leads us towards this good, understanding the truth will allow us to best achieve this. It is difficult to prove that an objective truth that orders life and reality exists, but we can gain a glimpse of it by recognizing that the changing world before us carries consistencies or at least consistencies of probability.

This would not be possible unless there was a truth or 'how things are' to guide reality and keep it from complete randomness. It is very unlikely that we would be able to predict future events if there was no consistent truth to predict. On the other side, Glaucon (or rather the person he is posing as) and many non-philosophers believe that gaining immediate advantage and material pleasures is the goal of humanity, so it is not surprising that they consider short term consequences to be important and that they think the pursuit of this is what is commonly considered injustice.

Again, what is universal about all people is that they all seek a common idea of pleasure or good of sorts. Non-philosophers are generally consequentialists and relativists. Glaucon makes this obvious by giving consequence based arguments to prove the advantage of injustice. Non-philosophers, like the tyrannical man Plato describes in book nine, will do whatever it takes to have an advantage in a given situation, since their goal is to get the best out of every situation as it comes, and this is what is commonly known as unjust, but to them it is just, in the same way that the pursuit of the truth is just to Plato.

This is why Glaucon takes "injustice" to be a virtue. In this way, consequentialist arguments can be used to support any action, and therefore true justice cannot be based on consequences, or else every action could be shown to be just. The moral argument for justice and the temperateness of the philosopher can be put several ways. We all look for some principle on which to base our decisions. We can go in a completely experience based direction (e. g. the tyrant), and judge each situation as it comes, guessing at the consequences and choosing with desire.

The problem with this is that we will never become any better at choosing the advantageous path because the path is never the same, it changes, heading for whatever is good at the time. We will be making no connections amongst the apparently random reality unfolding before us. This will ultimately lead to us becoming confused about what is advantageous and what is not and we will probably choose unwisely. As Socrates mentions in book five, these people love material things and immediate satisfaction and they do not see the higher concept or virtue that these things share in common.

We could also go in a completely theory or principle driven direction (e. g. the noble, the tradition), and base our decisions on predetermined frameworks of morality and justice. In other words, the dictates of nobility or tradition are designed to tell us what is just for the sake of the rules themselves, not for the sake of the consequences of conforming to the rules. This works better than the previous direction because it allows us to be consistent with the decisions we make, and ultimately make better ones.

The problem with this method however, is that it assumes our ability to know and understand how matters of justice should go. This will never work because we are constantly building, or as Plato would say in relation to the forms, recalling our understanding of justice through each example of it as we observe moral situations. Remember that we cannot be certain of future events before they have unfolded, especially human related events. Since we do not truly know what will happen next, we must take each situation into consideration while constantly refining our system for moral judgment.

We must moderate between our current notions of justice and analysis of each situation as it comes in order to make the best decisions that will help us towards our goal, and our goal will become much clearer if we think in this way. This is the way of the philosopher and the rational part of the soul as described in the opening portion of book nine of the Republic. To go by immediate experience is the way of the tyrant and the appetitive part of the soul. To go by an unchanging principle that you assume is correct is the way of the honour lover and the spirited part of the soul.

In agreement with what I have said, Socrates says that the rational part of the soul must keep the other two parts in check, or they will run the person's life, and it will not go in the direction of humanity's goal. Socrates shows us that the goal of humanity is truth as described by philosophers and this is the correct goal because the philosopher, in his higher position of wisdom, is able to understand the pleasures associated with the goals of the others as well as his own.

In other words, the knowledge of the philosopher allows him to compare his own pleasures and how he obtained them (through truth and justice) with the pleasures of non-philosophers and how they obtained them. (Plato, p. 261-4) The philosopher is therefore a better judge of which pleasures are better. Given this plus the fact that the philosopher's goal is truth itself (so they have presumably gotten closer to it), it is obvious that the philosopher would be in the best position to judge which way of life is best.

This may be putting much trust in the philosopher, but perhaps this is reasonable given the fact that the philosopher has experienced the life of the non-philosopher and the philosopher, and so he has essentially risen to a new level of enlightenment with regards to pleasure. This leads us into a discussion of theory of knowledge and its importance to our human goal of truth. First I will discuss knowledge in general, and then I will explain how what I say fits in and is supported by Plato's theories on knowledge in relation to the forms.

We know that in any circumstance, it is far better to be wise than to be ignorant. Wisdom allows us to have a much greater understanding of what our goal is and how to get there. If we are to give ourselves an advantage in this reality then it only makes sense that we would want to have as good an understanding as possible of how the world actually "is". As I stated at the beginning, I am interested in how to achieve the good life here on earth, and so having a greater understanding of how reality is structured on earth must give us a greater understanding of how to achieve the good life here on earth.

After all, we are nothing more than a product of this reality. So we set out to do this and as we gain knowledge we realize that using it falsely only leads us further away from the truth, while using is properly will lead us closer to the truth. So we realize that there is an order to the progression of knowledge, and that we must direct our pursuit for the truth according to this, and not contradict ourselves by doing otherwise. In other words, there must be a solid or true method of getting to what is solid and true.

We also realize that although the material world around us is constantly changing, there is a certain order to it as well. There are certain connections between our simple observations, certain eternal truths that govern reality that are not directly observable. We attempt to understand these truths, because they are as close as we have gotten to the truth itself. We try to use these truths to better allow us to act truthfully in each subsequent situation that we encounter, and our understanding of the truth gets closer to the actual truth as we do this, because we have more to base our impression of truth on.

To convince a skeptic of this, I need only point out that the idea of a 'good life' implies a life that is ultimately good overall, not just good sometimes. Even if there are varying degrees of good lives, there must be a life that is the best and most good. If a life is to be consistently the most good, it must not vary or be relative, and therefore it must be based on a steady and concrete truth. Life can only be defined as a relationship between a person and their surrounding reality, and so living one's life in contradiction to the truths of one's reality can never result in a good life in one's reality.

During all this we also realize that by treating situations falsely or by doing what is wrong and not in accordance with finding truth, we can gain pleasures quickly and easily. Since these pleasures are immediate and easier to gain, we might mistake them for our goal, however if we are wise we will realize that these pleasures are only temporary, not solid, and will not give us a "true" sense of happiness.

If we are wise we might also realize that they do not lead us closer to how things really are, nor do they give us any knowledge that will help us better ourselves in the next situation. We should realize that such pleasures are not the pleasure; they are merely pleasures that never get any better, and cause us to constantly seek them over and over again, which will never satisfy us since they do not last and never get better.

In this way, ultimate happiness must be postponed until we achieve a full understanding of the good life, but we can still experience increasing happiness if we are consistently heading in the direction of truth. Once we get to a certain point of understanding we will realize that we can only use truths (as best as we can know them) to develop a greater understanding of other truths, or the truth, because mere examples no longer have anything new to teach us.

Although we may never fully reach an understanding of the truth, we will live much more enjoyably because we will be riding a structured rollercoaster with a great view rather than an ever changing rollercoaster in the dark. We will also be able to take much more enjoyment in the truths themselves, because instead of waiting for the truth to shed a brief and incomplete example of itself every time, we will be able to observe the truth more directly, and will not require particular examples of it to bask in its pleasures. Why must we accept the idea of tracks?

Life does not stop, it continues whether we acknowledge it or not, and even if there are many equally good lives, it is obvious that only certain tracks will lead us to them, and so if we are interested in a good life, we must choose when we can, and accept the fact that the only thing we cannot choose is the consequences of our actions (and in this we accept riding the rollercoaster). What this has to do with justice is this: seeking the truth as a human goal and acting in accordance with what must be done to do this is justice.

The reason that some people do not act justly is that they are confused about what their goal is, or they have not obtained enough wisdom to recognize the fact that gaining more knowledge of the truth requires the solid structure of justice. This is the dangerous part of truth, because if a person has gained much knowledge, but not enough to understand that obtaining a good life requires justice, then they may use this knowledge in the name of injustice. To learn, if learning is to get closer to a truth, one must conform to justice, and to properly conform to justice, one must learn.

If a person learns without recognizing how what they learn is connected, or if they use fragments of knowledge (a better word would be information at this point rather than knowledge) at once without being aware of the big picture, they may learn without being just, and use their information for injustice. Learning individual pieces of information is quite possible to do by conforming only to the paradigms of those pieces and not to true justice. This is sort of like directing partial justice to those certain pieces of information, and not to the overall truth.

Since practicing injustice requires a person to be relative about their decisions, it can never be solid, in fact injustice is the opposite of justice, it is the pursuit of deceit and embodies all that is relative and not solid, which is why it provides benefits that have similar qualities. What is real, true, correct, knowledge, right, the good, are all the same, and justice is the human adaptation to these principles. To do what is right is just because what is right is true, and what is true must act in accordance with the truth. All of these concepts are the same just like all the diversity of reality is dictated by a single truth.

The reason we have many concepts for essentially the same thing is because they are different ways of looking at the same reality. To recognize that they are all the same and pursue them with consistency is to be just. Socrates uses the theory of the forms to explain these arguments that I have put forth. I cannot prove the existence of the forms any more than Socrates or Plato can, however their existence is not necessary as they are just a way of dealing with and organizing our understanding of reality and truth and are just a metaphysical explanation for how things really are.

In other words, we are probably not able to ever fully comprehend reality in all of its complexity, so ideas like the forms are sometimes required to help us grapple with complex problems. A similar explanation could be used instead of the forms, as long as it properly reflected reality in the same way. The truths that I have been speaking of are like the forms, and the truth is like the good. Socrates knows that the truth is better understood through the realm of the intelligible, rather than the realm of visible things.

Socrates says, using the divided line metaphor, that understanding of the forms (which leads to knowing the good/truth) is at the top and is of greatest relevance to true understanding, thought is of second most importance, belief due to general observation is third, and of least importance is imagination. Understanding of the forms and thought are within the realm of intelligible things whereas belief and imagination are of the visible realm. Imagination describes understanding objects through only ideas, or pictures created in one's head due to a lack of first hand perception of such objects.

Belief is understanding objects through our senses. Plato would say that only belief can come from our senses because he thinks that there is something more behind the seemingly relative perceptions we have, some kind of eternal structure, or truth to how things are. The sensory world is not reliable for anything beyond belief because it is always changing due to forces of motion, which also means that our own ability to sense things is changing as well as it is part of the sensory world. It is possible to enter the intelligible realm by using thought.

To Plato, thought consists of using the first two modes of understanding (imagination, belief) to make reasonable hypotheses about things and then attempt to reason them through from there, on the basis that the original hypothesis is assumed as first principles, and truth. Since this reasoning is based on things other than the forms themselves, it is not reliable, just like our senses are not reliable, but it is in the realm of the intelligible because the hypotheses are as close to the forms as is possible with what is known at the time.

To get as close as possible to the good and a true understanding of things, one must utilize the forms (including justice). This begins with making hypotheses as with thought, but then inquiring about it by way of dialectic using only the forms, toward knowledge of the forms. The hypothesis in this method of understanding is not taken as first principles at all; in fact it is only used as a hypothetical stepping stone in order to work the inquiry back to forms using forms.

This way of inquiry works towards the beginning or a first principle which Plato believes (given his theory of the forms and soul) is actually the end or goal, and the whole, all at once. This makes sense because of the eternal nature of the forms and the truth. Knowledge begins with the forms and ends with the forms, just as knowledge must begin and end with justice. Knowledge begins with the forms in the sense that all the examples of reality that we use to eventually recognize the forms are all created in the image of the forms.

The good is what allows us to understand the forms, and it defines the forms, just as the forms define everything below them, and allow us to understand everything below the good. So as both I and Plato have stated, our goal, or the good, is very definitive in nature, as in it is the truth, and so the pursuit of this goal, as precise as it is, must also be definitive and consistent with the truth. If actions towards this goal can only be either just or unjust, it can only make sense that they must be just because justice has these definitive and consistent qualities, whereas injustice has the opposite qualities.

Now let us look at comparing the benefits of just behaviour to the benefits of unjust behaviour in a more direct, common sense way. As individuals, people are restricted by the fact that they can only live through themselves, and ultimately must live with themselves and deal with their decisions made. Since, as subjective beings, nothing outside us is consistent with our reality, in the end, we must be at peace and happiness with ourselves, because we are the only thing we must live with. By this I mean that our physical reality is constantly changing but in many ways our inner reality is the only thing that remains the same.

We are not so independent as to only live with our own minds, but our own minds are the only things that we always live with. If we all thought injustice was acceptable, then this would not be a problem, but we do not all think it is alright because we try to at least appear just or be relatively more just than others, as mentioned earlier. This means that people who do unjust things for material benefits have a sense that their injustice is wrong, even though they will do it to gain what they think is happiness.

This notion will stay with a person far longer than the material benefit of any unjust act. A person cannot be pleased with life in its later stages if they are constantly thinking about the people they had to outdo in order to gain those short lived pleasures. It is possible to forget about such guilt, but it will always return when the person, not changing their ways, commits more unjust acts. Repressing these feelings may also be possible, but this will probably cause psychological problems and take some uncomfortable effort.

Having to think about it at all cannot be a good thing. Besides this kind of guilt, people will be in constant confusion, not being able to ever fully please themselves with the immediate pleasures that they mistook for happiness. Reality will be a constant series of random ups and downs for such a person and no lasting happiness will ever be achieved. Fear will be a factor as well, as the unjust person must necessarily live in fear of other people getting revenge on them, or other people like them who are out to outdo them.

This kind of person can never take pleasure in the pleasure of others either, because they are constantly trying to gain more pleasure than everyone else. If a person does not care about this sort of thing then they can still enjoy certain parts of the ride, however the good life will not be found for them. Many of us live unreflectively, yet it is very hard not to reflect on these things as a human, we have such vast and complicated memory, and we cannot help but be with nothing but ourselves from time to time.

On the other side of things, a just person will have achieved a much more lasting happiness through the pursuit of truth because they are pursuing something that is much more solid and unchanging, and the pursuit itself is the same. In book nine, Socrates speaks of the same sort of unsatisfactory life that I have discussed, in terms of the life of the tyrant, who is the greatest doer of injustice. He also talks about how much greater the pleasures of the pursuit of knowledge and truth are compared to the pleasures of the man of experience, the unjust, the tyrant.

It is at this part of the Republic that Glaucon finally agrees with Socrates that being just is far more advantageous than being unjust, and rightly so, because Socrates has quite firmly proven his point. Finally we come to the topic of justice between people and I will not discuss it in much length because it relates to justice on a larger scale, and I have already stated that this is not my concern, however talking about justice between more than one person is almost unavoidable if we are to be thorough and it can still add to the argument.

In a group situation, it is obviously detrimental and contradictory for individuals to behave unjustly, or for injustice to be taken as a virtue. As Socrates states in book one, unjust men must still behave justly toward one another in order to deliver great unjust plans. If injustice is a virtue, then trust among people is lost, and people cannot gain advantage by collaborating at all. Since the truly unjust must act alone, they are weaker compared to the collective that rests on justice. This makes he who is unjust disadvantaged because he must compete with all, including those like himself.

Due to its contradictory nature, injustice is self destructive and cannot be willed universally. Injustice has the power of making groups as well as individuals enemies to themselves. Justice does still exist beyond multiple person relations, because in order to live a good life, a person must be true to themselves. The conflict that ensues when a single person is not just is less recognizable because it is an inner conflict of the mind, and can only result in that single person not achieving the good life.

Since behaving unjustly takes away from the good life of the actor, it also takes away from the good life of others if they are involved as well. Justice becomes much harder to achieve and maintain in groups of people because they are so closely connected that the effects of an unjust act are amplified, and education of the truth becomes more difficult. Socrates says that the good and wise man is the same as the just man in the sense that he will not wish to give himself advantage over others like him or beyond what his knowledge dictates, he will only wish to give himself advantage over the bad and ignorant.

By advantage here I mean the happiness that comes from understanding the truth better than others, knowing that you have escaped the position of the ignorant, and gaining better prediction powers. The bad and ignorant man is like the unjust man because he wishes to advantage himself over everyone, those alike and unalike, and since he is ignorant in what will advantage him, he will fail to benefit himself. It is as simple as the fact that just men can get along with each other, unjust men cannot get along with each other, and mixtures of the two cannot get along with each other.

Since no one person can be perfectly just as this would require them to have fully realized the truth, we must remain partially just and partially unjust. All that can be said is that being as just as possible will provide as good a life as possible, even if we can never achieve the most good life. The fact that we cannot ever completely know what will happen in the future restricts us from being able to be perfectly just, and this is why humans must make mistakes, but if we learn from these mistakes then we are being just. The more just we become, the better we can predict, thus allowing more justice still.

As far as getting along with one another, this is very difficult if we are not on the same level of education, and can only be solved by teaching one another as much as possible. When considering a group of people, there is no doubt that everyone being just is the best situation. Even if being just only benefits others and not ourselves, in a group situation, this would result in everyone being benefited if everyone was just. When Socrates discusses how Greeks should behave when he is discussing war in book five, it is like he is using the Greek people as a microcosm for the whole world.

He says that Greeks should unite, and that if they do get into a fight with one another, they should be well to each other in defeat because they are so closely related. The point is that all people are essentially closely related, and we should all act practice justice for this very reason. We can only outdo ourselves by outdoing others. In conclusion of this analysis on Plato's Republic and discussion of justice I find that there is no way that unjust behaviour can truly benefit a person more than just behaviour. Being just is definitely more beneficial than being unjust no matter how you look at it.

It is not one hundred percent clear that justice is the actual pursuit of our goal, and it is also not completely clear that there exists a definitive truth that is that goal. What is clear however is that we can recognize similarity and structure in our ever changing reality, and we can use it to understand our world as best as possible, whether there is a truth or not. It is also clear that the best way to do this is to be consistent with what we are looking for, and therefore to be just. It is clear that to learn, one must be just, and to be just, one must learn.