The Republic

why is justice an immediate pleasure

from plato, this is socrates


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"Thus, we are finally prepared to understand the full force of Plato's answer to the original challenge of showing that justice is superior to injustice. He offered three arguments, each of which is designed to demonstrate the intrinsic merits of being a just person.

First, Plato noted that the just life of an aristocratic person arises from an effortless harmony among internal elements of the soul, while the unjust life of a tyrranic person can maintain its characteristic imbalance only by the exertion of an enormous effort. Thus, it is simply easier to be just than to be unjust. (Republic 580a) This argument makes sense even independently of Plato's larger theory; it is a generalized version of the fairly common notion that it is easier to be honest than to keep track of the truth along with a number of false stories about it.

Second, Plato claimed that tyrranic individuals can appreciate only pleasures of the body, monetary profits, and the benefits of favorable public reputation, all of which are by their nature transitory. Aristocratic people, on the other hand, can accept these things in moderation but also transcend them in order to enjoy the delights of intellectual achievement through direct acquaintance with the immutable Forms. (Republic 583a) This argument relies more heavily upon adoption of Plato's entire theory of human nature, as developed in The Republic and other dialogues; it is likely to influence only those who have already experienced the full range of intellectual advantages for themselves.

Finally, Plato resorted to myth (just as he had at the close of the Phaedo by imagining that justice will be rewarded with steady progression in a series of lives hereafter. This "Myth of Er" isn't philosophical argument at all. Even if it were literally true and demonstrable that the just are rewarded in the afterlife, that would be only an extrinsic motive for being just, not a proof of its intrinsic value.

Although it is a masterly treatment of human nature and politics, The Republic was not Plato's only discussion of these significant issues. His dialogue Gorgias includes an eloquent appeal on behalf of the life of justice and personal non-violence in all things. The Statesman devotes extended attention to the practical matter of securing effective government under the less-than-ideal conditions most of us commonly face."

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