Justice acting fairly, morality helps us make the

Justice and morality are concepts that can be very hard to comprehend.

While justice means acting fairly, morality helps us make the distinction
between what is right and wrong in order to be just. Plato’s account of
morality and justice is an interesting take on the concepts. I agree with
Plato’s account of justice and believe that he convinces the moral skeptic that
it is better to be just. This is because his division of the city and soul
supports his arguments. When the parts of the city and soul function together
harmoniously, there is prosperity. Any conflicts between these parts can lead
to havoc and uncertainty which hinders just behaviors. The way Plato
distinguishes between the life of a tyrant and a king and the life of a private
tyrant from that of a public one are also good arguments to convince the skeptic
to live a moral life.

To be moral, one needs to be just and in order to explain justice within
a person, we first look at justice in a city, because “a city is larger than
one man” and since “justice may exist in larger proportions the greater
subject, and thus (is) easier to discover” (Plato 368e 73). To explain this
Socrates introduces the concept of specialization. He says that everyone needs
to perform the job they are best suited for without obstructing another person’s
work diving the people into three classes.  The first class of people perform the tasks of
money making. These are the people such as doctors, farmers, teachers and craftsmen
who work to create objects of everyday use. These people are mainly driven by
their desires of earning money which leads to them accumulating a lot of
wealth. The presence of wealth creates the potential for war, but due to the
principle of specialization, the producers cannot defend themselves. This
introduces us to the second class of people, the auxiliaries. These are the
people who fight to defend the city with their life. They are ruled by their
spirit and are trained to have the knowledge about how to defend their city so
as to prevent them from going rogue and attacking the people they are meant to
defend. The third class of people are the guardians. They are the rulers and
act in the best interest of everyone. They are all knowing and have both
theoretical and practical knowledge about the welfare of the city. When all
three parts of the city work harmoniously, performing their own specialization,
the city is considered to be just.  

Just like the city is divided into three parts, there are also three
parts of the soul – appetitive, rational and spirited. It is believed that when
these parts work together the person is just. The appetitive part makes us act in
order to fulfil our desires. These desires are the that of hunger, thirst, sex
and money that need to be actualized. This part of the soul can be vicious and
is the root from where desires stem. The desires are impulsive and make people do
almost anything to satisfy them. For instance, “the soul of a thirsty man, in
so far as he is thirsty, has no other wish than to drink; but this it desires, and
towards this it is impelled” (Plato 439b 91). In order to satisfy his thirst,
a man driven by his appetite will be willing to drink anything without thinking
twice. The appetitive part of the soul, however, does not restrict itself to
biological desires. It governs any and all desires that a person could have. It
is the part that is most commonly seen to rule the producing class.

The part of the soul that helps provide structure to the impulsive
appetite is the rational. The rational prevents us from actualizing our desires
or at the least reasoning with the appetite. It is the part that reasons with
us against drinking salt water even when we are thirsty. It is helps
distinguishing between the good and the bad. The guardians are governed by this
part of the soul which makes them act and rule with good intentions for
everyone.

The spirited part of the soul helps make decisions about what needs to be
done, acts as the party that helps solve conflict between the appetitive and rational.

Although it might appear that the spirited part has an “appetitive character, but
now we say that, far from this being the case it much more readily takes arms
on the side of the rational principle in the party of conflict” (Plato 440e 92).

It is the part that controls our emotions which is why when we do not act
rationally we feel ashamed. Rational and spirit work together to make a person
do what is right since the spirit works at making the person the best version
of themselves.

It is important to highlight that the parts of the soul are in fact three
in number just like the parts of the city in order to support the claim that an
individual works like a city. Plato says that there are three parts of the soul
because one part cannot perform conflicting functions. He believes that the
part of the soul that encourages a person to satisfy their desires cannot be
the same part that forbids him from indulging in those desires, highlighting that
the appetitive and the rational act as two distinct parts of the soul. He uses
the examples of an archer to explain this. In the same way that it is not
possible “that his hands are at the same time drawing the bow towards him, and pushing
it from him – the fact being, that one of his hands pushes it from him, and the
other pulls it to him” (Plato 439b 91). In order to distinguish reason from
its ally, the spirit the example of a child is given. He says that “for even in
little children any one may see this, that from their very birth they have plenty
of spirit, whereas reason is a principle to which most men only attain after
many years, and some in my opinion, never” (Plato 441b 92). This means that
even children have emotions and reactions to things that they do but do not
have the maturity to be rational which highlights that the two are distinct
parts of the soul.

Now that it has been established that there are three parts to the soul,
it is important to see how they relate to justice. According to Plato if there
is justice in the soul, all three parts of the soul will work in unison. It is
similar to the working of a city, except the soul concerns itself with the
internal performance concerning a man’s own interest without worrying about external
concepts such as that of reputation while the city deals with the welfare of
all its people. In a person, the rational part acts as the leader with spirit
being its ally, trying to work harmoniously with the appetite. When the parts
work together without conflict there is justice in the soul.

After having talked about Plato’s account of justice we now focus our
attention to the question of why a person should be moral. To explain this
Plato talks about the life of a tyrant and distinguishes it from the life of a
philosopher. He says tyrant is someone who is ruled by his appetite. He is weak
because he gives into his desires while the rational and the spirited part of
his soul take a back seat. The desires that a tyrant indulges in are of
unpleasant natures like having intercourse with “a mother, or with any man or
deity or animal” (Plato 571d 108). A philosopher on the other hand is one who
has no conflict within his soul. Reason does not take a back seat. He also says
that the life of a tyrant is hard because he is a slave to his own desires. He
feels compelled to satisfy his impulses and if he runs out of money to do so,
he resorts to “theft, burglary, purse snatching, steal clothes, sacrilege, kidnapping”
(Plato 575b 110). He becomes a man nobody can trust and lives a disorderly
life as a slave to his own needs. This is however not as bad since he is not a
public tyrant. Socrates gives the example of a man who moves to a new land with
his slaves. This is a land where slavery is frowned upon and there are no laws
to protect the tyrant. If the slaves protest against him and the people of the
land also support the slaves, the tyrant has to fear a rebellion. There could
be threat to his life from the slaves who were poorly treated by him. This shows
us that the life of a just man is a better one than the nightmarish life of a tyrant.

The life of a tyrant is next compared to the life of a king to
demonstrate the same. It is evident which of the two will have a happier life. Socrates
calculates that a just king is 729 times happier than an unjust tyrant while
the latter lives more painfully in the same proportion (Plato 587e 120).

Another reason Plato gives to be moral is that a just man is a happy man.

As mentioned earlier the soul is divided into three parts –  appetitive, rational and spirted, and Plato
now categorizes people as lovers of each of these parts to highlight why the
just man is the happiest. When a person loves to indulge in his pleasures, he
does so with the help of money, thereby making him gain or money loving, our
first person. Since the spirited part loves winning and emerging the victor,
the second person will be called victory or honor loving. Our third category is
a person whose “constant aim is to know the truth as it is, and that this one
cares the least about wealth and reputation” (Plato 581b 115). He is the
lover of wisdom or learning. According to Plato if these people are asked if
they consider themselves to be the happiest each of them would agree that they
are happier than the other. This however is not true. The lover of wisdom is
all knowing and has experienced each of the pleasures. In spite of having
experienced all pleasures he chooses the love for wisdom which shows us that a
just man is the happiest. The lovers of gain and of honor have not experienced
the other pleasures to compare and choose which is why the lover of wisdom is
the best judge.

I do think that Plato’s account of justice offers compelling reasons for humans
to be moral. A harmonious life without conflict within the soul is a happy life.

The reasons Plato gives to live a just life is ultimately to be happy and not
conflicted. If we take a more modern instance with the example of the Trump
administration and the riots that had taken place when he was elected we can
understand this better. If we consider the United States as the city, Trump as
the guardian and the people as the money makers we can illustrate what Plato
meant about a just city. When Trump was made President, the three parts of the
city were not working together. Several people did not accept him as their
guardian which lead to discontent in the country for a while. Each part of the
city was not performing their own part which did make the city unjust. As time
passed, even though people were not completely happy with the government and their
policies, they did go back to each performing their respective tasks making the
city happier than before.

Justice within the soul can similarly be explained by the everyday choice
between giving into watching Netflix when a student knows they should be
studying. The appetite for watching Netflix needs reason to tell it that exams
are more important and the spirit contributes by instilling the emotion of
guilt if the appetite wins. When the three work together without letting the
appetite win, the student performs well in classes and is happier hence supporting
Plato’s reason of being just. When the person studies he becomes the lover of
knowledge and knows that it is better than the other pleasures but in today’s
day and age it will also help him attain the other pleasures of money and honor
which is another reason to be just and not give into appetite.

Plato’s reasons to be moral are as relevant today as they were during his
time. The life of bullies, criminals and terrorist are similar to the lives of
tyrants. They constantly live as salves to their desires of havoc and have
unpleasant lives ultimately which helps convince the moral skeptic that it is
better to live a just life.

Comments are closed.