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The Definition of Justice Essay

Decent Essays
The Republic by Plato examines many aspects of the human condition. In this piece of writing Plato reveals the sentiments of Socrates as they define how humans function and interact with one another. He even more closely Socrates looks at morality and the values individuals hold most important. One value looked at by Socrates and his colleagues is the principle of justice. Multiple definitions of justice are given and Socrates analyzes the merit of each. As the group defines justice they show how self-interest shapes the progression of their arguments and contributes to the definition of justice.

The topic of justice first comes about through a conversation between Socrates and Cephalus. The two are reflecting upon their old age,
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Socrates then tries to refute this by examining Polemarchus' thought processes. He asks the question of how one can tell if someone is good or bad, as well as how can a just man do harm to another. The two agree that Polemarchus' views do not truly define justice.

The debate moves on as Thrasymachus tries to define justice. Thrasymachus makes two critical points in his argument. He first says that justice is the advantage of the stronger. Thus the rulers govern on their own behalf. However Socrates shows that in fact the rulers are at the mercy of their subjects and make decisions that can be good or bad for the people and it is the right of the people to follow these actions or not. He states that "no knowledge considers or prescribes for the advantage of the stronger, but for that of the weaker, which it rules." [342d]

At this point Thrasymachus gets angered by Socrates exactness. In his anger he states that injustice is more profitable than justice. He defends this by saying that people condemn injustice for the simple fact that they don't want to suffer from it. This fear of injustice shows that it is more advantageous than injustice. Socrates counters this by looking at the capabilities of an unjust city. He shows that an unjust city could
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