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Republic, by Plato is a literary work that describes justice and the form of justice that is in the society and that of individuals. In his work, he examines justice from the perspective of Socrates and Athenians and examines whether the man who observes justice is happier that the unjust one. He looks at the example of a society under the rule of philosopher kings, that is, the Republic. His book focuses on the question of whether it is always good to be just, or one can be unjust instead. The Republic is a series of several books all trying to answer Plato's question of whether it is good to be just or unjust. The question is presented in his first book where Cephalus explains that wealth can help one not to be unjust and make a smooth life after. In the republic, Plato looks at what is justice, and focuses on ethics and politics in the republic.
Plato's republican focuses on ethics by defining what justice is and why one should be just. In his theory of justice, Plato explains that justice is doing what is required of one without interfering with what is not one's. In this theory, Plato was explaining how justice can essentially benefit one person and how it can also harm one. In examining what justice is, Plato gives two comparisons. These are division of parts of the soul as well as those of the sate. The soul is then subdivided into the appetitive, the strong-willed and the rational. He explains the appetitive as the part with which the soul lusts, hungers and becomes excited by other desires. It is also the part that desires immoral satisfaction and has no logical awareness for its desires. The rational is the part that controls the appetite and helps the soul to make a difference between what is good and what is bad. The spirited is the brave, energetic, and strong willed part of the soul. To achieve justice, one part of the soul has to be at the top of others. Looking at the state, Plato divides it into workers, soldiers and rulers. Workers are the people who have ability to do some forms of labour and they provide the basic needs of the society. Soldiers are the spirited people who are patriotic to their state and can defend the state for its enemies. Rulers are those who have wisdom, they do not seek to gain favour through ruling but are fit to rule the states (Plato, 67).
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Plato explains that the two accounts have similar structure and justice is the same in both. His suggestion is that the appetitive and the workers must be moderate in their desires, the soldiers and the spirited must maintain courage for them to guard entirely, and the ruler and the rational must maintain wisdom so that they can be able to control the appetitive and the workers, with the assistance of the soldiers and the spirited. Plato's argument is that all the parts of the soul must maintain what is required for them so that there can be justice, and that if the classes are divided appropriately in the state, there will be justice (Bloom, 301).
In explaining why people should be just, Plato argues by contrasting the tyrannical soul and the noble soul. The tyrannical is the most unjust while the noble is the most just. In his second book, he tries to indicate how those who are completely just, and still suffer misfortunes are still better that the entirely unjust, who regardless of being unjust he is prospering. In his ninth book, he explains that it is better being an unlucky philosopher that a lucky tyrant. He says that the lucky tyrant is enslaved by his unruly feelings, is not able to do what he feels like and is therefore filled with regrets and fear. This is because of his great appetite that makes him desire all what he considers. He therefore lives with a lot of desires that he cannot satisfy. This person therefore lives a miserable life due to many desires of things that he is not able to do. On the other hand, the unlucky philosopher can do all what he wants because he lacks regrets, fear and frustrations (Rosen, 14).
Plato on Politics
In The Republic, Plato talks of politics as surrounded by totalitarianism. He says that it applies to the republic unconditionally. Plato looks again at the state where its goodness is the aggregate goodness of its citizens. Citizens must therefore contribute to the goodness of the sates so that other citizens must also enjoy it. However, where there is totalitarianism, the rulers focus on the happiness of the entire state but do not consider individual interests of its citizens. But on the other hand, the Republic offers a picture of a happy state and at the same time of happy individuals. In the first book, Plato explains that the duty of the rule is to help the ruled. In the Republic, happiness of the state and of the citizens are independent, but ultimate good of the citizens falls the same with the goodness of the citizens. The Socrates therefore reels that philosophers look down on political power and they rule not for their own benefits but for the good of those being ruled. This is because they are obliged to do so by their personal justice. However Plato also says that defective constitution can promote selfish ruling (Plato, 221).
Plato finally answers the question by explaining that the better are the just since they will not live in fear. However, the virtues of justice which are discussed as ethics are restrained to appetite, courage and wisdom. Plato concludes by saying that a state can be harmed if its constitution allows for strife on who should rule. This may result in civil strife and may disadvantage those being ruled. The main goal of politics should be top ensure harmony among the citizens concerning who should hold the position of a ruler.