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Unformatted text preview: Plato Republic Book I 336b Thrasymachus demands that Socrates come up with a definition of justice, and not to say that it is the same as obligatory, useful, advantageous, profitable, or expedient, but a clear and precise statement. He accuses Socrates of shamming ignorance, and says he told others Socrates would refuse to commit himself. 337b Socrates complains that Thrasymachus puts too many limitations on him in his definition. He uses a mathematical analogy. He must be allowed to give any answer if it is right. Justice is what is in the interest of the ruling party. Socrates will pay the penalty of ignorance, to receive instruction, if T. has a better answer. 338c T.: "just" or "right" means what is to the interest of the stronger party. S: Polydamas is stronger than us and it is in his interest to eat beef for his muscles, so we should have the same diet? T: It's a trick to take my words in the most damaging way. T: The ruling element, whether despot, democracy, or aristocracy, is always the strongest, and the laws are made by the ruling party in its own interest, and thus define "right" for their subjects and punish the "wrongdoer": justice is what is in the interest of the stronger party in a state. 339b S: I agree that right is in a sense a matter of interest, but question "to the stronger party." T: It is right to obey the men in power. S: But they may make a mistake in framing laws, i.e. in the laws not being to their own interest, and yet the subjects are to obey any law they lay down, which means it would be right to do what is not in the interest of the stronger party. 340b Cleitophon suggests T. means "whatever the stronger believes to be in his own interest." But T. does not accept it. A man is not "stronger" when he is making a mistake. S: But you admitted that rulers are not infallible. T: A physician does not deserve the name when he makes a mistake insofar as he makes the mistake. No one who practices a craft makes a mistake. "The ruler, in so far as he is acting as a ruler, makes no mistakes and consequently enjoins what is best for himself; and that is what the subject is to do." 341c S: Is the physician in this strict sense earning money or treating patients, T: treating patients. S: So every craft has an interest, which is its own greatest possible perfection. The art of medicine was invented to help the body and provide for its interests. Asclepius, from the marble statue in the Louvre. Engraving by Jenkins. (London?, ca. 1860) 342a S: take the art of medicine itself: does it need some further perfection, requiring an art to study its interests and provide for its functions? does it need some further art to remedy its defects, and that art another, and so on? [infinite regress argument] or will every art look after its own interests? or is it that no art has any weakness or fault and it need only serve the interests of the subject matter, so long as it is true to itself? The last is the case. So medicine does not study its own interest, but the needs of the body. It does not seek its own advantage because it has no deficiencies. 342c S: Since every art has authority over its subject then no art ever enjoins the interest of the superior or stronger party but always that of the weaker over which it has authority. T. assents. S: the physician as such studies the patient's interest, etc., and no ruler, insofar as he is acting as ruler, will study his own interest Contrasting views of Shepherds 343a T: Socrates, have you a nurse? she has not taught you to know a shepherd and his sheep. A herdsman does not study the interests of his flocks, and in politics the genuine ruler regards his subjects exactly like sheep, and thinks of the good he can get for himself. The just man always has the worst of it. The less honest of a pair in a partnership comes out with the most. The honest man will pay more taxes to the state. The less honest will not give offence to friends and relations by failing to help them through dishonesty. 344a T: The man who can get the better of other people on a large scale is admired. It is in one's interest not to be just. The best form of injustice is despotism. Those caught in these crimes on a small scale are punished and disgraced. But those who turn their countrymen into slaves do not hear any ugly names, and will be called the happiest of men by the countrymen themselves. When people denounce injustice it is because they are afraid of suffering wrong, not of doing it. "Wrong" means what is for the interest and profit of oneself. Symbols of 20th Century Despotism From the title page of abolitionist Anthony Benezet's book Some Historical Account of Guinea, London, 1788 Wikipedia, accessed 4/12/10 344e S: question at issue: course of conduct to get the best out of life. My conviction is that injustice is not more profitable than justice. Even the unjust man who has full power to do wrong will not gain more than the just. 345b S: T. has shifted his ground. T. did not think it necessary to stick to the strict sense when speaking of the shepherd than when he spoke of the genuine physician. T: Rulers in the strict sense have no reluctance to hold office. S: In other positions of authority people accept wages on the assumption that the benefit of their action goes to their charges. The distinctive produce of wages is wageearning. The receipt of wages does not come to man by his special art, but in his further capacity as wageearner. A practitioner who is not paid gets no benefit from his art, but benefits his subjects. 347a S: The ruler must receive his recompense in money, honor, or punishment in case of refusal. The recompense of the best type of men for accepting authority is not honor or money. There must be a threat of penalty, the heaviest penalty being to be ruled by someone inferior to oneself. A society of perfect men would compete to evade office. 348b S: If we set up the advantages of justice we would need a jury to decide between us and T. If we go on as before, securing agreement of the other side, we can combine the functions of advocate and judge. 348c T: Justice is a defect or rather the mark of a goodnatured simpleton, and injustice an excellence, i.e. a good policy. The unjust who carry it to perfection, making them masters of cities and nations, are positively superior in character and intelligence. Injustice is also an admirable thing and a source of strength. 351a S: What is the nature and quality of justice as compared to injustice? If justice implies superior character and intelligence it will be hard to show it will also be superior in power to injustice. A state may be unjust and may try to enslave other states. T: It is the best sort of state that carries injustice to perfection. S: Can it do without justice when asserting its superior power? T: not if justice implies intelligence. S: No state or band of robbers would succeed in injustice if they were always trying to injure one another. Only fair treatment can make men friendly and of one mind. But if injustice implants hatred wherever it exists it will split any set of people into feuding factions, making the unjust enemies of each other as well as of the just. This will have the same effect also in the single person. Everywhere it makes united action impossible. 352a S: The individual will have a divided mind and be incapable of action: he will be an enemy of the just as well as of himself. The just includes the gods. The unjust man will be godforsaken. T: I will not give offense to the company. 352d S: Is the life of justice the better and happier life? This is the question, what is the right way to live. Some things have a function, for example a horse. The function is the work for which that thing is the only instrument or the best one. Seeing and hearing are the functions of eyes and ears. The function of the pruning knife is to cut vineshoots. If you take away the peculiar virtue of the eye it will not do its work well. Has the soul a function that can be performed by nothing else? Yes, deliberating and taking charge are its proper work. Living is above all the function of the soul. If the soul is robbed of its specific virtue it cannot do its work well. The virtue of the soul is justice, and so the just soul and hence the just man will live well, and the unjust will not. Living well involves wellbeing and happiness. So injustice can never pay better than justice. 354b S: But so long as I do not know what justice is I cannot know whether it is a virtue and whether it makes a man happy or unhappy. ...
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