Discussion Question 2

What to Read: Books 1.352d-354a, II.368c-end, IV, V.471c-end, VIII, IX.

In the passage from Book II, Socrates and crew decide to continue the investigation by the method of hypothesis, assuming that Justice is one and the same in the just city and the just individual. Why might one think that Justice is the same thing in cities and individuals? Why might one think the contrary, i.e. that justice might be different in each? If you think the former, do you think it makes sense that Justice would be easier to find in the larger? If you think the latter, is there any meaningful connection between Justice in the city and the individual, and how might one investigate that?

9 thoughts on “Discussion Question 2

  1. At the end of book one the function of the soul is discussed: to rule, judge and deliberate. In other words, a soul’s function, which can only be done with it or can be done best with it, is to judge. Since it is an individual’s soul’s virtue to be just, it is only natural that then society’s justice takes great inspiration from what is already there. Though of course, the justice in society cannot be an exact replica of an individual’s since society’s justice must adhere to the greater good.
    When a person lives in a citie they cease to be “one” and become part of a greater “One”. In Plato’s eyes this “One” must be heavily regulated at the price of what one might consider “just” to the individual. It is in the interest of the society as a whole to pursue a new kind of justice, the one for the greater good. Thus the city’s culture is governed with a tight fist in which potentially poisonous elements such as the wrong kind of education and art might turn things for the worse.

  2. The argument for Justice being the same for the cities and individuals seems like it might be an obvious one. This is because one might argue that a city is only representative of it’s population, comprised of individuals. There can be no city if there are not people to populate it. Therefore, one could say that a conception of justice for the city mirrors justice of the individuals. An argument against this might be that justice may not be uniform in between individuals, and if individuals within a city can’t agree on justice, then the justice that defines the city as whole must be different than that of the individual.

    I’m not exactly sure if it would be easier to find justice in a city than in an individual. I agree with the first, and believe that there seems to be a general set of beliefs within a population that would roughly defines what justice looks like for a city.

  3. Socrates asserts in Book II of Plato’s Republic that Justice is one and the same in the just city and the just individual. In attempting to interpret this curious statement we might begin by noting that a city is comprised of a multitude of different persons, each playing some role in the polis. The individual similarly hosts a multitude of psychological components that drive his actions. Given the complexity inherent in both cities and individuals, it is inevitable then that conflict will on occasion arise between constituent parts of the greater whole. So it is necessary to have in place some mechanism for fairly resolving these struggles. In other words, Justice is required to keep both cities and individuals running smoothly.

    But is Justice really the same in each? I will argue that the outcomes of Justice are essentially the same in both the city and the individual (but unfortunately these are often less successful than Plato would have us believe). However, the workings of Justice are visible in only one of these cases. In the city we may frequently observe Justice being enacted between individuals in conflict. Fair resolution of these conflicts often involves some arbiter in the form of an impartial individual (police officer or judge), or adherence to some existing legal statute. So it is true that one may more easily find examples of Justice here than in the individual, where its mechanisms are somewhat more mysterious and are largely hidden from view, perhaps even from the individual himself.

  4. While Socrates and his fellow interlocutors predicate arguments on the idea that a city may be in states of harmony and discord, I think that very few of them would argue that a city is a living thing (at least, in the same way that a person is). Accordingly, a city may only be ‘Just’ – or otherwise virtuous – if its constituency is also ‘Just’ or virtuous. Furthermore, this correlation means that though the virtue of a city will manifest itself in a slightly different way than in an individual (because of the unavoidable difference of physical form), the nature of the ‘Justness’ or virtuosity of a city will indeed be reflective of and correspondent to the nature of these traits in the city’s individuals.
    Now, I understand that what I have just attempted to demonstrate appears to be answering a question slightly different from the one asked. However, I believe that, because a city’s ‘Justness’ is solely a function of the ‘Justness’ of its inhabitants, the virtue of ‘Justness’ cannot possibly be different in individuals and cities. As further refutation, the Socratic mode of inquiry seeks the ‘universal form’ of a thing – an invariable definition. Therefore, if ‘Justness’/’Justice’ is different in cities and individuals, an incorrect conception of ‘Justice’ is being applied (making it impossible for Justness’/’Justice’ to be different in cities and individuals). [Note: I apologize if my arguments seem like sophistry, and I note their flaws/holes/fallacies. I am simply trying to show some arguments that could be made on behalf of a particular view.]

  5. Justice is the same within the individual as well as the city if justice is viewed only as ones just role within a society. Socrates associates justice in the city as individuals adhering to their natural call of duty. Performing their functions within the society correctly and to the best of their abilities for the betterment of the city as a whole. Justice within the city then translates to an individualistic sense of responsibility as a virtue suggesting that a “just” individual would be to act as part of a “just” society and they would be one in the same.

    However, it seems easier to find justice within a city and harder within the individual. It is easier to base justice off of the physical state of a city (buildings, health, food supply, safety, etc…). The health of the city, then, would directly relate to the level of justice. When looking closely at the cities’ residents, justice becomes more subjective. If a cobbler was a natural born talent, but hated being a cobbler and wanted to be a blacksmith instead, is it just for him to stay a cobbler? According to the needs of a society, yes, but in terms of the needs within the individual, no. It seems that with Socrates’ discovery of justice within the city and the individual, they are very different.

    Socrates’ warns against poverty and wealth as being the antithesis to justice and speaks of justice as living comfortably, but not excessively. He calls for the careful monitoring of art and story telling, education and economy. In these, however, I felt that Socrates’ definition of Justice opposes certain individual freedom. To live in a just society, certain individual freedoms (freedom of story telling as an example), accumulation of wealth, moving up in social class from ones “destined profession”, etc.. would oppose justice. In this case, justice could not exist in the city and the individual at the same time. Is it just to dictate one’s freedom for the betterment of society? When taking this into consideration, we in today’s society, give up certain individual freedoms in order to live in a just society where we feel financially and physical safe due to the implementation of laws and regulations. Gong back to the cobbler example, for the cobbler to be “just”, he must then adhere to his own natural call which for him, is not the call of his role in the city, but rather the role within himself which is his desire to be a blacksmith. Justice then, isn’t something that necessarily lies within the individual, but rather in that individual’s role in a “just” society. When trying to find justice in the individual, one will instead find a competition between justice and freedom, therefore I believe it is easier to find justice in the city than the individual.

  6. According to Socrates, since a city is composed of individuals, Justice in the city should be not only the same as that of the individuals, but also more apparent for investigation. Personally, however, I think that while Justice in the city and that in the individual have some overlapping, they may have different focus.

    Justice in the city lies in the laws; the city’s most fundamental job is perhaps to make sure that its citizens obey the laws, and punish those who do not; justice, in many cases on the grand scheme, is simply decided by the laws. While Justice is the same for both the city and the individual in the sense that the fact that citizens must obey the laws applies to each individual, note that there is some division when it comes to the problem of who has the authority. For example, when a murderer is given a death sentence by the authority according to some relevant laws, a city has done its Justice; however, if you as an individual feel so angry about a murderer’s deeds that you kill the murderer, you in turn become an unjust murderer who has not done any justice according to the laws.

    On the other hand, besides an individual’s duty to the laws, there are other aspects of an individual’s personal life that have to do with justice but may not be within the reach of laws. For example, imagine that you have a brother, and you notice that your parents like him more than they do you. Your parents have completed all their basic parental duties (giving you food, clothing and shelter, etc.), and they have never done anything against the laws (for example, beating you) to you. However, they give new toys only to your brother, take only him to the movies, and even have him sleeping on a bigger bed. While you certainly think that your parents are unjust, knowing that your brother is not better than you are, the city may think that they have done enough job raising you up. Thus, I think overall the city focuses on legal issues, while the individual also focuses on moral issues; since they have different focuses, I am not certain of where it would be easier to find Justice.

  7. From Plato’s perspective, the justice is that every one appropriately limits their desire and turns wisdom into practice, no matter he or she is a governor or citizen. Furthermore, the purpose for doing so is to complete their duty on different areas, or we can say specializing their own work instead. He believes that justice is a kind of standard agreed by people which allows the whole society staying in a stable and harmonious order, further developing. When a group of the excellent individual duty organizes together, the whole country will be benefited. Thus, justice of citizens and city seems to be a single concept as they make efforts to achieve a common destination, which means that they agree on one potential rule, for their life and eventually for their country. Thus, Plato’s model is constructed on the interest of the large scale–a country.

    Personally, I hold the contradictory view with Plato’s. I think that individual justice should be differentiated from the city justice. And it also should not be dominated by the latter one. Conditions for Plato’s assumption are simply based on the stability and eternality of social composition, which seems to be very unachievable in the real world. Furthermore, he emphasizes the polarization of groups, which means that the generation for governors should be governors forever. Obviously he does not consider that the corruption, known as another desire towards power and money will occur in human being and do other potential factors. So it is so vulnerable to connect individual justice with social justice in such an ideal and consistent model. Admittedly, there will be a certain link with individual justice and social justice, as individuals of a group share some common properties. Humans owns the creative and self-initiated ability, pursuing for self-achievement and even for virtue, which is regarded as an individual justice; while justice of cities attempts to build the rules or law in order to maintain the living order and mediate the relationship between citizens. Thus, they might have certain dichotomy. In a nutshell, justice admitted by citizens should be useful and beneficial itself, and it needs time to examine.

  8. Over the course of the books, Socrates and crew struggle to decipher what justice means as a virtue, and how an individual sense of justice translates into one within a society, and vice versa. The reason one might think that Justice is the same between cities and individuals may be due to a variety of reasons, the simplest being this: because a society is made up of many individuals, and because Justice is the ‘same’ between said individuals, the many parts of which make a whole should not change the rudimentary definition of ‘justice’ and what is supposedly ‘just’.

    Contrarily, one might think differently in the sense that once an individual must enter a society, their role changes, and with it their values, or perhaps even their sense of justice when pertaining to a civilization. One might be more concerned with the role they play within the community, and for those around them—and thus, when there are more factors to consider, a ‘just’ individual may differ from another ‘just’ individual, as it is difficult to say what is ‘just’ or if all Justice is the same, and how to reconcile the differences into one overarching Justice within a society. Justice may be easier to find in a city, simply because there often exists a system of Justice/determination (i.e., government), wherein things such as punishment for specific crimes are consistent throughout. It would be meaningful to explore the connection between how individual senses of what is ‘just’ changes once being part of a society, if it changes at all. (Do you prioritise yourself, or do you hold the needs of others above all else and call that Justice?)

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