Plato’s Concept of Justice
Plato (427BCE- 346BCE) was a Greek philosopher. He was a student of the great Greek Philosopher Socrates, and hence most of his ideologies were aligned with his philosophies. Plato also happened to be a teacher to another great Greek philosopher by the name of Aristotle. However, some of Plato’s theories conflicted with those of his predecessors and successors. In his career as a philosopher, Plato specialized on three entities namely justice, equality and beauty. Most of his time and attention was devoted on the three concepts.
Plato offers an unparallel definition of justice from the other philosophers. Plato looks at justice from two perspectives; one is based on humanity and the other is from a societal point of view. Human nature, according to Plato, is consisted of three elements that make up the soul. The three components are reason, spirit and appetite. Justice only occurs when each of the parts performs its legitimate function without interfering with the others, but yielding a satisfactory result. Reason helps one to be rational in their decisions. It helps them avoid making decisions that may be unjust, or seem out of place. In short, reason should govern an individual’s behavior. Reason should take precedence over the other components of the soul. It should be followed closely by spirit and then finally appetite. However, despite the hierarchy, each of them has a role to play in making a just individual. For example, it is important to consider appetite given that it depicts the wish of the soul. What the soul wants to be manifests itself in the form of appetite. Therefore, for a harmonious and peaceful soul to exist, one’s appetite must also be considered and fully satisfied.
Both excess and deficient appetite is unjust. Take for example a thief. The appetite part of the thief makes them long for something. However, it drives them into taking something that does not belong to them. This way, a thief ends up not using reason in his or her decision making. They allow appetite to take precedence over reason which ultimately leads to injustice. It is not wrong to wish but at the same time it is not right to take something that belongs to someone else. A murder follows his wish of wanting someone else dead for something they have either done wrong or for their own benefit. Reason that such an act implies denying the other party their right to life is forfeited. Spirit should be governed by reason.
One may possess a certain spirit that defines their nature but it is only right that they do not allow that spirit to drive them into doing the unthinkable. This is made possible by physical and mental training. Therefore, if one’s spirit dictates a certain nature, they should reason out before displaying that spirit. If it seems the right thing to do, then they can go ahead and do what that spirit tells them. The reason as to why appetite is considered inferior to the other two parts is that it is driven by bodily pleasures. Individuals are created in such a way that some things or wants just manifest themselves. It is very normal to long for something. However, if fulfilling that want or need leads to harming, hurting or disadvantaging another person, than that is injustice. That is why reason and spirit should come before appetite. When all the three components collaborate to form an effective soul, the result is a just individual. Such people know what justice is and treat others in the right manner. They do not allow their desires to drive them into making irrational decisions. Reasoning takes the front seat in whatever they undertake. The outcome of just individuals is a just society.
As earlier said, Plato outlook of justice was from two perspectives; human and societal. The human nature and soul described above illustrates his first point of view. Having the different components of the soul harmonized to create a proper outcome creates a just individual. However, there are those components that make an ideal state or society. These components of a just state are aligned to their individual counterparts. According to Plato, when it comes to a just society, there are three classes: The guardians who happen to be the philosophers who rule the city; the auxiliaries representing the soldiers who defend the city or country; and the producers comprised of the peasants, farmers and other lower class groups of society.