Plato’s Republic

A look at justice from Plato's point of view

    ”Do you mean, for example, that he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is mistaken? or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an arithmetician or grammarian at the time when he is making the mistake, in respect of the mistake? True, we say that the physician or arithmetician or grammarian has made a mistake, but this is only a way of speaking; for the fact is that neither grammarian nor any other person of skill makes a mistake in so far as he is what his name implies; they none of them err unless their skills fail them and then they cease to be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs at the time when he is what his name implies; though he is commonly said to err, and I adopted the common mode of speaking. But to be perfectly accurate, since you are such a great lover of accuracy, we should say that the ruler, in so far as he is ruler, is unerring, and, being unerring, always commands that which is for his own interest; and the subject is required to execute his commands; and therefore, as I said first and now repeat, justice is the interest of the stronger.”

    -Thrasymachus to Socrates

As we can see, clearly illustrated by the above quote, justice is not what we see it to be. I believe that if the reader is to look at more of the writings of Plato, he or she will observe his many writings concerning justice and a just society, and will see the point that he tries to, and I believe successfully, makes. If you think about what he is saying, you will see what he is trying to prove, which would seem to be summed up in the next quote:

    ”..This is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?"

    "That is the inference."

    "And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?"


    "And when you want to keep a shield or a lyre, and not to use them, you would say that justice is useful; but when you want to use them, then the art of the soldier or of the musician?"


    "And so of all other things;-justice is useful when they are useless, and useless when they are useful…”

It would seem to me that he is saying that justice is not useful, if we, as a people, have money. I must agree with him. If you look at out society, you will see that, as long as we have money, we can bribe our way out of any punishment given to us by the justice system or any policeman or law man. We can get out of anything, so long as we have money. If we don't have money, however, such as in a tribal state, we wouldn't be able to bribe our way out of punishments and we would be forced to serve our sentence. It is my firm belief that if we examine further into this novel we will see that Plato is showing us the true way to a just environment. I cannot convince you to change your mind, but consider what he is saying, for he is not entirely wrong. To look at an example, look at O.J. Simpson's trial. He won his trial, though many though that he was guilty, because, if for no other reason, than the fact that he had an excellent lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, who won the trial for him. Given the fact that most of the evidence pointed to O.J.'s being guilty, Mr. Cochran did an excellent job of represent Mr. Simspon in court. On the other hand, though, if that same case had been brought up in front of a tribal court, there wouldn't be a trial. Chances are that O.J. would have either been exiled or merely received "assisted suicide" and that would have been the end

It would seem to me, that Plato is most certainly correct in his assessment of our society being un-just, in the sense that justice is only useful when money and all other things are useless. Plato was not entirely looking at the bright side of things though. For example he thought that humanity would never be happy because we were constantly changing. His thoughts tended to look at and examine more closely the darker side of things. Take what he said with a grain of salt.