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Case Study - Plato's Explanation of Justice - Summary of Plato's Account

Autor:   •  February 25, 2012  •  Case Study  •  2,594 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,546 Views

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Plato's explanation of justice is a complicated answer to a seemingly straight-forward question. He is less bothered with the definition of justice in the abstract and more concerned with creating an account of justice that everyone could agree upon. His basis for this account is an elaborate analogy between the similarities of a just city and a just individual "First find out what sort of thing justice is in a city and afterwards look for it in the individual, observing the ways in which the smaller is similar to the larger." (100) One soon discovers that determining whether this analogy strengthens or weakens Plato's argument is as complicated as the analogy itself.

Part I – Summary of Plato's Account

Plato's city-state relies on the principle of specialization – each individual takes up the role that he/she is best suited for in accordance with his/her nature. Those are naturally disposed to farming work will farm exclusively; those who are most skilled at administering health will serve as doctors and nothing else. To ensure that each job is done as well as possible, it is important that specialization is strictly maintained; doctors should not try their hand at farm work and farmers should not dabble in medicine. The citizens of the city-state must align themselves with their strongest virtue – they must do best what they are best able to do. Doctors, farmers, and all craftsmen are categorized as money-makers in Plato's polis. Soldiers comprise the second class of citizens who are best suited for the military vocation; they are tasked with protecting the city against intruders and barbarians. Ruling over the money-makers and commanding the soldiers are the Guardians – the governing class.

Plato claims that his "… city, if indeed it has been correctly founded, is completely good." (102) Therefore it must also be wise, courageous, moderate, and just. "Clearly [it must be so]." (103) Seeming to rely on intuition only, Plato boldly claims that the city is wise. "I think that the city we described is really wise. And that's because it has good judgment isn't it?" (103) The idea of ‘good judgment' is explained to be "… clearly some kind of knowledge, for it's through knowledge, not ignorance, that people judge well." (103) And this knowledge, or wisdom, lies with the city guardians. "… to this class, which seems to be by nature the smallest, belongs a share of the knowledge that alone among all the other kinds of knowledge is to be called wisdom." (104) In brief, the city is wise because the ruling class is wise – the guardians are meticulously educated and carefully reared to be the polis' most knowledgeable and by Plato's line of though, also the wisest citizens.

Courage, the second virtue, is attributed to the soldier class. By Plato's


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