Plato’s Theory of Justice

If one would go searching for the meaning of justice in Plato’s Republic, the conclusion would normally be either one of the two meanings mentioned below:

  • Justice is nothing but harmony.
  • Justice means doing one’s job to the best of his capability.

However, these conclusions can only be drawn after fully understanding what Plato has to say. Just finding the two lines or something similar wouldn’t be enough. Two different analogies have been offered by Plato in order to get the meaning of justice. He says that the soul is divided into 3 different parts; the spirited part, rational part and the appetitive part. The appetitive part is the part with which the soul becomes hungry and thirsty, lusts and gets excited by other things. The rational part is the part with which the soul makes sensible decisions and calculates different entities. The third part i.e. the spirited part is the one that is courageous, strong willed and vigorous. Plato also mentions that the spirited par, if not hampered by inappropriate upbringing, always complies with the rational part.

By differentiating between the different parts of the soul, Plato demonstrates that the soul has different wants and wishes; but for the soul to remain in the proper path, it is necessary to have some kind of hierarchy. He says that the spirited part is a brave ally of the rational part which in turn controls the appetitive part. Similarly, the state is divided into three different divisions of people; the rulers, the soldiers and the workers. When the same division of types of people is placed alongside the contemporary capitalist society, it tends to look a nit awkward and immature to the common man. But in the end, if we examine our society, we will find that this division is not only correct, but it is also the only possible division. We must not forget to keep in mind that, in the Republic, Plato implies that each individual is motivated by a vast amount of education and cares for the work that he must carry out excellently. He also mentions that children should be separated, at the time of birth, from their parents in order to receive an equal and fair opportunity to become a soldier, worker or ruler regardless of their family background.

Description: Plato’s Republic mentions that justice is nothing but harmony and carrying out one’s work to the best of his capabilities. In order to explain this, he divides the human soul and the state into three different parts and explains the role of each.