Plato's Republic: Unjust to Humanity Thesis

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Plato's Republic: Unjust To Humanity

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Since the beginning of time, many of the most conscious among the human race have been attempting to define justice and goodness both for the individual and the society. In Plato's Republic, one of the most noted Greek philosophers makes a similar attempt, though he is certainly not the first to do so. Plato aims to prove that being just is always better than being unjust. Because the primary goal of Plato's Republic is to discuss what makes a just individual and society, Plato provides for his readers a perfect state and a perfect individual, suggesting that if his ideas were to be followed the world would be encased in harmony. But although his ideas may lead to peace on earth, they are rather controversial. Speaking through Socrates, Plato presents justice first as a city, as he believes that "a good city would be just and that defining justice as a virtue of a city would help to define justice as a virtue of a human being" (Brown para. 1). In describing his just city, Plato argues that the best city would be composed of three classes. Guardians would make laws and guide the city, soldiers and warriors -- auxiliaries -- would defend it, and producers would simply follow the desires of the two higher classes and perform the tasks that they can perform in order to better society. Further, Plato suggests that the individual has components of the good city within himself or herself. The person's soul, according to Plato, has components -- the rational, emotional, and the focus of desire. Just like the perfect city, if the rational guides the person, requiring the emotional part of the soul and portion of the soul concerned with desires, Plato suggests that a person should be just.

Thesis on Plato's Republic: Unjust to Humanity Assignment

A major component of Plato's Republic, then, is that some humans are not capable of leading themselves, but must be governed by others. He argues that only certain guardians are capable of ruling society, of making good decisions. It is because of their leadership that a state is a good state, not because of the auxiliaries (warriors) or producers that make up that state. In the same vein, Plato argues that the human as a whole is not capable of ruling him or herself. Instead, Plato argues that a person's rationality is the only component of a person capable of leading a person to live a just life. While these may sound like perfect recipes for justice, however, their fault lies in the fact that they assume people are born with certain roles and responsibilities, that they cannot transcend their circumstances Thus, through an exploration of Plato's arguments regarding society and his arguments regarding the individuals in that society, one can understand that Plato's Republic is not conducive to modern society's conception of the person and the inner-self.

When one considers Plato's description of the perfect state, one quickly realizes that this state is based on the roles of certain individuals. In the second book, as be begins to form his city, Plato argues that "there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations." Further, Adeimantus and Plato agree that a person does better work if he or she has only one job instead of many jobs (Plato Book II). What Plato and Adeimantus are discussing in this book are the producers, those whose jobs are simply to make what is necessary for society to thrive, such as food, shoes, and buildings. Plato argues that each of these people should be designated to do only one job and "[leave] other things" (Plato Book II). Plato, with Adeimantus, even goes so far as to argue that those who protect the city in times of war should not be drafted from other occupations too serve in a war. Instead, Adeimantus and Plato agree that even a warrior, or auxiliary, should be chosen due to "the natural aptitude for his calling" (Plato Book II). While auxiliaries must be brave and able to fight for the state, they are not to be rulers themselves, as this is not their place. Instead, Plato notes that auxiliaries "are supporters of the principals of the rulers" (Book III). Thus the guardians, rulers of the city, are also designated according to their natural ability, and are not allowed to share talents with any other type of person in the city. Guardians "preserve us against foreign enemies and maintain peace among our citizens at home, that the one may not have the will, or the others the power, to harm us" (Book III). They are not to be questioned, even by those in the station just under them, as "auxiliaries were to be dogs, and to hear the voice of the rulers, who are their shepherds" (Book III).

Largely based on birth and hierarchy, the caste system that Plato proposes for his social and political organization can be criticized as it allows for virtually no social mobility. While one of the tenants of American government is the right to "the pursuit of happiness," Plato argues that even happiness is not enough to encourage social mobility, even downward mobility. In fact, Plato's social and political organization does not allow for the pursuit of anything! Instead, the society that Plato has contrived simply exists. People are born and put into classes based on their natural ability. They are never allowed to try anything new, nor are they able to pursue wealth, love, or happiness. Instead, their duty is to perform the tasks that nature has endowed them with. Plato argues that the intent of the social and political order is to provide happiness for everyone, not just happiness for some (Plato Book IV). But, in reality, none would be happy in this sort of arrangement. Although peace and proficiency may be found in this society, happiness, desire, and emotion, those things that Plato seems to abhor but which are the things that make us truly human, cannot be located.

In addition to presenting a rather bleak outlook on human society, Plato's social and political arrangement provides the perfect opportunity for oppression. Here is a society in which each person is required to perform his or her duty for the benefit of the group, a society in which the rulers are not to be questioned by those who are not rulers. Further, it is a society where members have been taught that this is the correct way to behave and think in society. If a ruler, then, wanted to take advantage of the people, it would be all too easy for him to do so. All the ruler would have to do would be to make an order. As even the warriors are instructed to follow their masters like dogs, it would take only hours for the leader to claim a tyrannical power that threatened not only the city itself, but also its enemies and others in the international community. Thus, because of Plato's political and social organization, tyranny and inappropriate actions on the part of leaders would be all to calm.

Thus, in Plato's Republic, the philosopher proposes a political and social arrangement that focuses on the characteristic that he finds most important -- logic. Indeed, if this were a political and social community for robots who cared only about logic, it would be successful. But Plato intends his society for humans, and in this society humans would be vastly inhuman. Robbed of their happiness, desires, and motivation to pursue betterment for themselves of the world around them, humans would have little desire to function. Instead of simply placing a rigid caste system in place by which humans operate, the designer of a society must understand that it is within the basic makeup of a human being to attempt to progress, change, and move. Thus, Plato's Republic provides a vastly inappropriate social and political arrangement for humans.

In essence, Plato's social construct is not just. Although he seeks to determine why people should behave justly, or why justice is better than injustice, his attempt to prove justice through this city is flawed. Certainly, each human is unique. Each is born with certain attributes that set him or her apart from others. This does not mean, however, that justice is allowing a person to do only the thing that he or she is best at for the rest of her lives. In fact, justice is the opposite. People need to fail in order to learn who they are and in order to succeed. Of course, this is not captured at all in Plato's model, which does not focus on humans' needs outside their physical body. While it may spare people the injustice of crime, poverty, and social discrimination, Plato's model does not spare them from the greatest injustice of them all -- oppression and suppression. People have the right not only to be free of the most obvious criminal injustices, such as murder, but also to be… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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