What is the nature of the problem that religion poses for the realization of justice within the city andor the soul How significant is this problem

Religion teaches us to be virtuous, self disciplined, to eschew corrupt practices and lead a moral, humane life. It also imbibes in us the idea that the rulers should not oppress, or exploit the weaker classes in society and should be a role model in dispensing equity, justice and good conscience. However, it is seen that in the context of Platos The Republic, the realization and use of justice is subject to its interpretations by the ruling class. Thus, according to The Republic, it is quite possible that injustice may become just, when the ruling class applies it. As Thrasymachus says, I declare justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger Republic 338c (Ross 2004).

In other words, it can be said that for the rich and the powerful, the end could justify the means and attaining wealth and happiness could be validated, even if these were procured through apparently unjust means. According to Plato-Chapter IV (1.347E-3540), Thrasymachus views that injustice rather than justice brings welfare and happiness (Plato and Cornford).

Thus, while religion states that both the means and the end of pursuing wealth and happiness need to be morally and ethically sound, in The Republic, Plato argues that each class in the society, intellectual, soldier class and traders have distinct and clear roles and duties. He further purports that, interference by these three classes with each others jobs could be said to be the worst of evils, when applied to ones own communitys injustice (Plato 1987). According to Plato, taking care of ones own affairs and non-interference with the duties of others is the best form of justice and needs to be appreciated. If each section of the society plays its role properly and stands up to its responsibility, justice would be served.

Further, Plato argues that just as the realization of justice within the city is achieved through its constituent political structural framework, in terms of occupation role playing, similarly the individual soul has several constituents- like sense parts which controls a persons appetites, hunger, thirst and hedonistic pleasures, the rational part which makes him distinguish between truth and falsehood, good or evil and the spirited part, which seeks out honor and pride. These are the three parts that govern a mans soul and help him to lead an honorable and moral life. It is quite possible that flouting religion and own conscience, one may attach more importance to ones part, perhaps ignoring the others. The problem that arises then is that while the Scriptures teach equanimity and moderation, the realization of justice in an individual context can be in contradiction, or even in conflict with religion.

In The Republic, Thrasymachus argues that there is no such thing as morality or sin. It is a mans own perception about what is immoral, amoral or moral that matters. This is in contradiction to what religion professes in terms of leading a good and contented life, in accordance with what has been enunciated in the Scriptures and other holy books. The three constituents of a man- senses, spirits and rationality- need to be in conformity to the actions and words but often this is not the case. Similarly, humans often denounce their souls in their pursuit for material pleasures and wealth aggrandizement.

This is a significant problem since the true basis of a persons life is the way one lives, and how one interacts with fellow human beings, peer groups, elders and others. If one is not able to follow religious texts and enforce those in life, one is no better than a non- human, non-sentient being whose life is guided by baser instinctive values and codes.

How does Plato handle (or avoid handling) the problem

Plato addresses the problem of justice and non-justice by making comparisons with certain occupations. Although the carpenters, farmers and artisans make contribution towards dissemination of knowledge, it is restricted to their own individuality and for meeting their own interests but not directed at the city as a composite whole. Thus, it transpires that the aspects of understanding and awareness should not confine to some individuals but extend to the state for the benefit of all its citizens. This could only be done through good governance and a strong sense of justice and fair play. These duties and responsibilities are entrusted with the minority governing class and it is the government that needs to distinguish, in each individual case between what constitutes justice and fair play and what is injustice. The transformation of knowledge into wisdom is most appropriately and definitely found in the governing class, since this needs to consider the overall well being and welfare of the total population. The main function of governance, according to Plato, is to dispense justice and this is what distinguishes it from other occupations and services. The four qualities of wisdom, courage, discipline and justice are most relevant to four classes courage is a boon for soldiers, wisdom and discipline for traders and businessmen, justice for the governing class. According to Plato, all problems could be solved if each individual takes care of hisher own business and refrains from interfering with the works of others. Through a process of non interference it is possible that each trade or occupation renders justice and fair play by trying to improve, sustain and advance ones own interests, without treading on the interests of others. According to Plato, the cause for injustice occurs if and when soldiers interfere in the matters of businessmen, the latter intervenes in governance or guardian functions. Plato goes on to compare the three classes, businessmen, auxiliaries and governors to the three elements of the mind. (Plato 217).

The three elements of the mind, viz. spirit, appetite and reason govern individuals just as traders, rulers and soldiers rule the country. In the same way, the preponderance of one element of governance over the others could create issues in governance. Likewise, if a person attaches more importance to one aspect of the personality and interaction, it can lead to disaster, and perhaps death. Plato goes on to argue, comparing the state of humans with that of the state. He believes that if the elements in a mans mind - reason and spirits - are in conformity and harmony, it is possible that these would be in a position to control and master the sense organs, or senses. This stage is called a state of perfect harmony and equilibrium of good health. Thus, it could be said that a person will be in good health if all these senses were controlled and brought to a harmonic focus. Similarly, in the case of the state, when all its three constituents - rulers, soldiers and traders  take care of their own affairs without intervening in the affairs of one another, then it becomes an absolute certainty that good governance will entail. Thus, he argues, that the absence of sickness and presence of good health is possible when all the three  constituents of body and mind work in unison and harmony, and this is also possible in the case of governance, or administration, when all three major classes work in harmony without interference in each others affairs. This gives scope for an interpretation that when a human beings senses are in harmony, one will attain good health. By good health, Plato implies a healthy state of mind and it can be deduced that a person who possesses a healthy state will be able to recognize and impart justice and become capable of offering correct judgments. In the same vein, a state where good governance exists, the authorities will attain the ability to recognize and serve justice to all its citizens, in its right perspective. When the allegory of justice and injustice in governance are compared with non-sickness and sickness in human body and mind, it is evidenced that justice is produced by establishing in the mind a similar natural relation of control and subordination among its constituents, and injustice by establishing an unnatural one (Plato 222).

According to Plato, there is a need for justice to prevail over injustice in human society, just as it is an absolute necessity to have a sound mind in a sound body. But he is confounded by the arguments put forth by Glaucon and Adeimantus that justice needs not be sought for its own sake but for the preservation of human values. According to Plato, it is always necessary to be just, despite the obvious constraints and troubles that a person needs to undergo. However, Glaucon and Adeimantus argue that his philosophies could only be laudable and tenable if justice could be proved that it is always better to be just (Platos Ethics and Politics in The Republic 2003). Essentially, the teacher needs to show that being just is better than being unjust. The difference between the results of a just man scorning wealth in pursuance of a just life as compared to an unjust man, who pursues wealth unjustly and would be put into disadvantage if failed to act unjustly, is the main issue at this stage. Thus, the apparent benefits of a person being just rather than unjust or not seeking justice is the area where Plato could not handle the philosophy of justice with consummate ease, unlike his earlier arguments. In essence what could be surmised is the fact that honest and virtuous people are being punished, perhaps for living a good and virtuous life, whereas unjust and amoral people are rewarded for their bad and evil actions. This is the universal axiom that needs to be answered. The comparison between the state of body and mind of a person devoid of illness is said to be a sound and healthy body, wherein the two states of reason and spirits are so well coordinated that they are able to control the senses. This is an ideal state for the body, according to Plato. It is also necessary that the governance of countries follows suit so that justice is served to all its citizens. However, one needs to appreciate that although at an individual level it is possible to gain equilibrium between body, soul and senses, this may not be possible in the case of nations, which may be beset with a large number of problems and issues and the reins of power remain scattered among many hands. At an individual level, it is possible for people to seek medication, treatment and regain their mind-body-soul equilibrium. On the other hand, this apparently will not be possible in the case of governance in which there are a plethora of problems and issues and different people who constitute the governing body. Platos concept of non-interference with the affairs of others may be theoretically possible, but has practical and empirical difficulties since in administration or governance, the impacts of different sets of power distribution and its accountability need to be woven together to form a continuum of events. In the real world, it is not possible to ignore the influences of one segment on the workings of another, and perhaps this could have a destabilizing effect on governance if there is no cohesiveness and co-ordination between the parties.

How successful is Plato at dealing with the issue

Plato was successful in dealing with this issue only to a certain extent. He could not answer in a plausible manner the arguments put forth by Glaucon and Adeimantus as to why injustice seems to be a better deal than justice and why people who commit injustices are apparently happy and contented while just people are condemned to live in relative misery and self abashment. Perhaps the main notion of comparing the individual self with the institutionalized governance might not have been keenly debated, more so in the context of justice and non-justice. It could also be said that what could be held out for individuals might not be applicable for state, in as much as there were major and crucial aspects, sometimes beyond redemption that might occur in the case of cities.

What do Platos arguments and maneuverings with respect to this issue reveal about his conception of justice, as regards its meaning, purpose, persuasiveness andor limits

Platos arguments and maneuvering with respect to this subject of justice and non justice could be viewed from the fact that justice, therefore, we may say, is a principle for this kind its real concern is not with external actions, but with a mans inward self, his true concern and interest (Plato 221). According to Plato, the sense of justice needs to be imbued in humans and they need to be able to distinguish between righteous and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust. By following these values themselves, human beings could not only set yardsticks for their own conduct and lives but also be able to enforce self-discipline, truth and justice in others. The answer is that the two blend in one, and are two faces of the same truth for justice is the order of the State, and the State is the visible embodiment of justice under the conditions of human society. The one is the soul and the other is the body, and the Greek ideal of the State, as of the individual, is a fair mind in a fair body (Plato and Jowett).


The Republic has been the magnum opus of Plato and through this writing he has touched, although only partly, on his views of justice and fair play, and the need for mankind to live a morally good life. Through such collective efforts it is possible for an ideal state to be reached, since all people would be following these high moral standards in their lives and would be able to enforce the same on others. Consequently, harmony and peace could be expected to prevail in nations across the globe.


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