In the book, Plato Republic, Socrates had a discussion with Thrasymachus and Glaucon about justice and unjustice. In this essay, I shall argue that Plato’s solution of the temptation of the ring is successful in a few ways. I will describe Thrasymachus and Glaucon’s idea about justice, and how Socrates discuss with them in terms of the justice of the city, justice of individual soul, his theory of forms and the importance of the knowledge of the good, and the sun analogy and the allegory of the cave.
While Socrates discuss with Glaucon about just and unjust, Glaucon told a story about the ring of the Gyges. The story is a about a man named Gyges, he was a shepherd in Lydia. One day there was earthquake, and it broke open the ground and created a chasm. Gyges went into the cave, and he discovered there was a corpse, who wore a golden ring. Gyes took the ring, later he discovered the ring has the power to let him became invisible by adjusting it. He then became one of the messengers who sent report to the king. After discovered the power, he used his power to seduce the queen and with the help of the queen, he murdered the king, and became the king of Lydia himself.
Before Glaucon told the story, Socrates was discussing the problem with Thrasymachus. Which Thyrasymachus held an opinion of justice is advantageous for the stronger. He gave an example of the rulers that “each rulers declares that what is just for its subjects is what is advantageous for itself- the ruler- and it punishes anyone who deviates from this as lawless and unjust”(Public338e). After he stated his view, Socrates asked him if just is subjects must obey whatever laws the rulers make, and what if rulers made mistakes? And they order their subjects to do things that are disadvantageous to them. So in another words, in Thrasymachus opinion, “what is advantageous for the stronger is no more just than what is not advantageous”(Public340b).
While everyone was questioning Thrasymachus, he said that he think injustice is more masterful than justice. And Socrates asked him if he thinks unjust people is wise and good, Thrasymachus thought injustice is being prudent, and it has benefits in someway. And Socrates kept examining him, by the end Thrasymachus conflicted himself and agreed to Socrates that just people are good and wise, on the contrary, unjust people are ignorant and bad. And they kept discuss is just better than unjust. Socrates said that unjust people would never be able to work together, because they will harm each other by doing all kinds of the unjust. A city can okly become stronger by justice not injustice. After all, Socrates did not figure out what is just and what is unjust, he still tried to find out whether just is wisdom or ignorance.
As for Glaucon, the reason he told the ring of Gyges story is because he had a point of view that people practice just is because it is something necessary but not something good. Even though some one is being just, that person could be justice only for the honors and rewards. It is hard to tell whether a person is being justice for the sake of justice or for the sake of honor and rewards. And Glaucon believed that life of the unjust people is much better than those who are just. Glaucon stated, “Suppose we grant to the just and the unjust person the freedom to do whatever they like. And we will catch the just person red-handed, traveling the same road as the unjust one.
The reason for this is the desire to do better than others”(Republic 369c). Glaucon believed that everyone will done unjust things with impunity, because everyone know injustice is more profitable than justice. Because an unjust person has no scruples about doing unjust, they could gain benefits from whatever they do. As a result they become wealthy. While being just is difficult and onerous, but being unjust is sweet and easy to acuire, why should not everyone want to be unjust? Also, Glaucon claimed “As for what people say, they say that there is no advantage in my being just if I am not also thought just, where as the troubles and penalties of being just are apparent; but the unjust person, who has secured for himself a reputation for justice, lives the life of a god”(Republic365b). These are Galucon’s arguments about unjust is better than just.
After Galucon expressed his opinion, he asked Socrates to keep argue the question about just and unjust. And Socrates thought it would be easier to find just if they look into larger things. So they decided to find out what sort of things justice is in cities. And Socrates began built up a city with Galucon. Socrates first introduced the principle of “how each person must perform the role for which he is naturally best suited and that he must not meddle in any other business”(Sparknotes). For example, farmer must only farm and carpenter must only build. In Socrates’ opinion, the just city will have craftsmen, farmer, and doctors. Each of them will do their own job produce whatever is necessary for the city’s needs and will not engaging in any other role, they are called the “producing class” by Socrates. However, Galucon argued that this city is the “city of pigs”, and this city is unreachable.
Because there are only basic desires in the city, once people’s basic desires are satisfied, they will have unnecessary desires, like luxurious surroundings, arts, rich food. So Socrates agreed that they would build up a luxurious city, which they will have merchant, actor, and poet. As a result, the city will become bigger, and it will lead to wars. They will need warriors, which Socrates called them the guardians, to protect the city. But the producing class cannot act as warriors, because they can only perform their assigned jobs. Later, Socrates spent a lot of time discuss with Galucon about the nature and education of the guardians. They believed that the crucial guardians must have is the right balance between gentleness and toughness, they must not be thug, nor wimpy. And the guardians must be carefully selected; they will need to have correct nature and strong physical body condition. In particular, as Socrates stated, “philosophy, then, and spirit, speed, and strength as well, must all be combines in the nature of anyone who is going to be a really fine and good guardian of our city”(Public3765).
After Socrates discussed the education for guardians, he introduced the third class of the just city: rulers. In Socrates’ opinion, that the best from the guardians group will be chosen as ruler, while the rest will remain as warriors and will be called as “auxiliaries”, because their role is to aid rulers. Moreover, Socrates considered about how to prevent controversy over who should rule. So Socrates came up with an idea that telling all citizens a useful fiction, let all citizens believe that they has certain sort of metal in their soul. “In the souls of those most fit to rule there is gold, in those suited to be auxiliaries there is silver, and in those suited to be producers there is either bronze or iron. And the city must never be ruled by someone whose soul is mixed with the wrong metal”(Sparknotes). However, in order to build a just city, the next generation of these might have different kind of soul. They will observe the next generation, if the children of the producer seem to have the nature of a guardian or an auxiliary will be raised to be. Similarly, children of the guardians who seem more fit as producers will be removed to the class of society. And these are the elements that Socrates thought what a just city will be.
After Socrates found the justice in society, he and Galucon then turn to look for individual justice. In order to prove individual justice parallels with social justice, Socrates listed out there are also three parts of the soul, the appetite, and spirit, and reason. In Socrates’ opinions, a just soul is the reason part of the soul rules other parts with spirited part help to keep appetitive part in line. It is just like the justice in city, that guardians rule, and auxiliaries help to keep the producers in line. After identified the connection between justice city and justice soul. Socrates claims that justice is the result of the structure of the soul. Socrates and Galucon agreed that it is just that “no citizen should have what is another’s or be deprived of what is his own”(Public433e). And they reached a conclusion of that a just person “does not allow the elements in him each to do the job of some other, or the three sorts of elements in his soul to meddle with one another. Instead, he regulates well what is really his own, rules himself, pits himself in order, becomes his own friend. And he binds together all of these and, from having been many, becomes entirely one, temperate and harmonious”(Public443d-e). Whatever he does regarding to his three elements in his soul is just, but whatever that impede is unjust.
A very important subject for a philosopher-king to study is the Form of Good. If the someone understands the Form of Good, that means he had gain the highest level of knowledge and he is fit to be a philosopher king. Socrates explained that the Form of Good is not the commonly good; it is not pleasure or knowledge. However, even Socrates could not exactly explain what it is, he can only gave an analogy of the sun. Then With the analogy of the sun, Socrates figured that the Form of the Good is the cause of all existence, and it is responsible for all knowledge, truth and for the knowing mid. In Book VII, Socrates presented a famous metaphor: the allegory of the cave. This metaphor illustrates the effects of education on the human soul. Socrates told this allegory to show people that the goal of education is to drag every man out of the cave as far as possible. For example, the city of justice will educate those with the right natures, so they can reach the Form of the Good eventually. However, they will not be about to remain contemplate the Form of Good forever once they have reach it. They will have to keep learning and thinking, or their minds will be like stuck in the cave and they can only see the shadows. The meaning of the allegory is the importance of learning and thinking. Only education can moves people through different stages, and ultimately lead them to the Form of the Good.
It is really hard to exactly tell and define what is just and what is unjust. And we were educated since we are little that just is better than unjust. But it is very interesting that Thrasymachus and Glaucon argued that unjust is more profitable than just. However, I think Plato’s solution to the problem of just and unjust is successful. In the end, Socrates persuaded Thrasymachus and Glaucon to agree just is better than unjust, and they finally reach an agreement of what is justice by build an ideal just city.