happiness of oneself. But because selfish men do not always decide our standards in society, to
find a definition, society should look at the opinions of many. Just as in the modern society to
which we live, where everyone feels justice has a different meaning, the society of Plato also
struggledwith the same problem. In this paper, I will look into the Republic, one of the books of
Plato that resides heavily on defining an answer to the meaning of Justice, and try to find an
During the time Socrates and his fellow citizens spent looking for a definition, they came across
many different examples. Well-known Athenians, such as Polemarchus, bring out their owndefinitions of what justice is, with examples like Justice is "Doing the right thing” or "Giving
everyone his due." But soon after these definitions on justice were given, they were shot down
by the quick wits of Socrates. Throughout the books of The Republic, I enjoyed reading the
many ways that Plato picked apart the flaws in examples by others. It seems that Plato could
find flawswithout spending much time actually examining the definition.
Plato wants to define justice, and to define it in such a way as to show that justice is worthwhile
in and of itself. He meets these two challenges with a single solution: a definition of justice that
appeals to human psychology, rather than to perceived behavior. Plato’s strategy in The
Republic is to first explicatethe primary notion of societal, or political, justice, and then to
derive an analogous concept of individual justice. In Books II, III, and IV, Plato identifies political
justice as harmony in a structured political body.
An ideal society consists of three main classes of people—producers (craftsmen, farmers,
artisans, etc.), auxiliaries (warriors), and guardians (rulers); a society isjust when relations
between these three classes are right. Each group must perform its appropriate function, and
only that function, and each must be in the right position of power in relation to the others.
Rulers must rule, auxiliaries must uphold rulers’ convictions, and producers must limit
themselves to exercising whatever skills nature granted them (farming, blacksmithing, painting,etc.) Justice is a principle of specialization: a principle that requires that each person fulfill the
societal role to which nature fitted him and not interfere in any other business.
During Plato's time, Greek thinkers had already established the idea that the good man
possesses four cardinal virtues: courage, moderation, justice, and wisdom. In Cephalus,
Socrates seems tohave met a man who, through the experience of age, seems to have
achieved the virtue of courage in that one's denial of the passions (one of which is boundless
sexual appetite) requires a kind of courage perhaps surpassing physical courage in combat; in
learning to temper his passions, he has achieved moderation, discipline. At the same time,
Cephalus seems to have attempted to achievejustice in that he tells the truth and repays his
debts, and he has tried to think his way through to achieving right conduct and, perhaps, the
good life. Butas soon as it becomes clear that Socrates has an intricate philosophical subject in
mind (the attainment of justice and the establishment of justice for all), Cephalus excuses
himself from the conversation: It is plain that he does notpretend to be a philosopher (to love
knowledge for its own sake), and, having achieved knowledge, to have achieved wisdom.
Socrates has made it plain in the dialogue that we have not achieved justice because we have
not even been able to define justice. Cephalus, in retiring from the conversation in order to
sacrifice to the goddess, may be said to be rendering a kind of justice to the...