Plato

This essay has a total of 2005 words and 8 pages.

Plato

Justice as a scale
A. Introduction
Can Plato's theory of individual justice, after 2,500 years, still provide an explanation
of what is going on in the minds of today's human beings?

After an explanation of Plato's theory of individual justice, I will try in a second step
to support its plausibility with a few examples; then I will state objections against his
theory and further give counterarguments to prove Plato's theory to be consistent and
plausible. The last part provides the conclusion.

B. Plato's theory of individual justice put to the test
I. Plato's theory of individual justice
Plato's theory of individual justice is based on his construction of an "ideal city" that
holds civic justice via an argumentum a fortiori (a maiore ad minus): "If we first tried
to observe justice in some larger thing that possessed it, this would make it easier to
observe it in a single individual" . That is why I am going to outline first the domicile
of the four virtues in the "ideal city" and explain in a second part, what individual
justice is.

Plato's "ideal city" has three different classes of inhabitants: 'producers', 'guardians'
and 'rulers'. Each of these classes wears a main virtue: the producers have 'moderation' ,
the guardians own 'courage' and the rulers must hold 'wisdom' . The fourth virtue,
justice, is to be found if each class does "its own work in the city" and are "not
meddling with what isn't one's own" . "It is the power that makes it possible for them to
grow in the city and that preserves them when they've grown for as long as it remains
there itself". Justice itself is claimed to be the major virtue as injustice is "the worst
thing that someone could do to his city" . So this major virtue is 'embracing' all the
other virtues and bringing harmony.

As stated before, these four virtues can be found in the individual's soul as well.: the
tripartite conception of the soul and an harmonizing individual justice as fourth virtue.
The three different parts are: the 'appetitive', 'spirited' and 'rational'. They
correspond each to the classes' of the "ideal city" and their function: first the
'appetitive' part corresponds to the producers' moderation, second the 'spirited' part
with the guardians' courage and third the 'rational' part of the soul with the wisdom
resided in the rulers. "We'll call the part of the soul with which it calculates the
rational part and the part with which it lusts, hungers thirsts, and gets excited by other
appetites the irrational appetitive part, companion of certain indulgences and pleasures".
Furthermore, "the spirited part is a third element in the soul that is by nature the
helper of the rational part"; and it must be different from the first, as "even in small
children, one can see that they are full of spirit right from birth"; it is "the part that
is angry without calculation". Individual justice is the embracing and ordering virtue
that steadies the struggling tripartite. "One who is just does not allow any part of
himself to do the work of another part. … He binds together those parts and any others
there may be in between, and from having been many things he becomes entirely one,
moderate and harmonious".

II. Plausibility and Critical Evaluation
In my point of view, Plato's theory of individual justice is a consistent way to explain
what both the virtue of justice is and what its functions are. I agree with his idea of
the tripartite conception of the soul as well as the idea that individual justice brings
harmony to those parts. Therefore it is a good model. It might be that more than three
parts exist, which have to be scaled, but that doesn't change the function of individual
justice at all.

III. Reasoning
In this part I am going to stabilize Plato's theory of individual justice in a first step.
After that, I will try to scatter the theory with four objections, each of them will be
followed by several counterarguments.

1. Plato's theory of individual justice, as it is to be found in politeia's 4th book,
needs a more modern stabilization. Therefore, I will try to reach a deeper understanding
of his theory.

a) Plato himself states an argumentum a fortiori in shape of a maiore ad minus in the
Politeia at 434d by saying that what is to be found in the "ideal city", has to be resided
in the individual as well. That is a good argument, as it lives on account of the idea
that the smaller, which builds the bigger, puts in it what the smaller wore first. This
argument is therefore the other way around, a minore ad maius . Both kinds of arguments a
fortiori - a maiore ad minus and a minore ad maius - do not have to be valid, because
still there could be an exception that disproved the rule: the smaller does not
necessarily hold the bigger and the other way around. It is rather possible, or quite
probable, to draw the conclusion. Unless one does not find a counterargument, which could
be hold up against an argument a fortiori to be a reason for an exception, it can stand
like this, holding that the smaller holds the proprieties of the bigger and the other way
around.

b) My concept of Plato's theory is as follows: the three parts of the soul lie on a
weighing scale. Each part has its own importance. The scale itself is the individual
justice. It is holding the three parts in balance. One time it turns more to the rational,
another time to the spirited part. But all in all the scale should be in balance. Truly
each person has his own scale, so that e.g. a mentally weak person starts from a scale
that isn't in balance on behalf of its rational part of the soul, but still the scale
alias individual justice is doing its work.

c) Anyone who has ever had an internal conflict, which had to aim to a decision, will
at least immediately claim a partite conception of the soul to be true. By recognizing the
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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