Justice and the Virtues in the City-Soul Analogy
PHI 1301- 07
February 23, 2012
The soul, in Plato's Republic, or more specifically the soul which is just, is explained through the analogy of the city. The just city is developed through the harmonious interaction of the three classes of the city – the guardians,the auxiliaries, and the craftsmen, all having been well educated and with a clear hierarchy of the classes. The city is perfectly good when it embodies the four essential virtues and so is “wise and courageous and moderate and just” (IV.427e). Likewise, the soul is composed of the trinity of the Reasoning, the Spirited, and the Desiring, and achieves the good when each embraces virtue. Justice isachieved when each person in the city meddles only in his own business, and it is achieved in the person when each element of the soul does only that which it ought.
The common people of the city, the craftsmen, are analogous to the desiring part of the soul. Much like the craftsmen, the particular parts of desire are responsible for specific arts. One craftsman is a smith while another is acarpenter; similarly one part of desire thirsts while another hungers. It is from the craftsman of a city that a city can produce what it needs, and likewise the desiring part recognizes that which is good, such as food and drink. But for the desiring to do its role correctly requires the virtue of moderation. Of course, Plato gives moderation domain over all of the soul, but this virtue is mostclearly applicable to the desiring. A craftsman who is immoderate in the form of having too much or too little wealth will not work efficiently: “riches and poverty… the one brings in luxury, laziness, and upheaval, and the other brings in stinginess and bad workmanship, in addition to upheaval” “wealth and poverty... the one produces luxury, idleness, and innovation, while the other producesilliberality and wrongdoings, in addition to upheaval” (IV.422a). To have too little results in an inability to do one's delegated role properly, and to have too much results in complacency.
The auxiliaries are warriors for the city, called upon to protect the city from external threats. This component of the city is analogous to the Spirited part of the soul, which drives a person to act, and to agreat extant protects the soul from the external and, perhaps at times, internal foes. The virtue of the Spirited part of the soul is courage. Courage, defined by Socrates, “is a certain kind of preservation... of the opinion instilled by law through education about things and what sorts of things are to be feared... keeping it intact when one is in the midst of pains and pleasures and desiresand terrors and not dropping it” (IV.429c). It is through the aid of the courageous warriors that the city is able to flourish and maintain its end of the good, true, and just state of being – safe from any form of corruption, whether external or internal.
The final but perhaps most important component of the city is the guardians. While the guardians are themselves warriors, they are first andforemost, the rulers of the city, influencing the other components of the city so as to lead them towards the good. It is this component of society which is to have the greatest knowledge of the good and the component for which it is most crucial to be well educated. The role of the judge is an art that is entrusted to the guardians, for they have the greatest understanding of the good and thebad. Correlating to this class of the perfect city is the Reasoning, the rational part of the soul, and the part that is most in control in a just man. The virtue of the reasoning is wisdom, so that the reasoning part of the soul, when allowed to rule the soul “has knowledge in it of what's advantageous for each part and for the whole” (IV.442c). It is this part of the soul that Socrates declares...