This week in Philosophy class we are deep into Plato with his one-sided dialogues with imaginary conversationalists. This blog is not dissimilar; too many one-sided dialogues between Microsoft Word and me. It’s time to break it up a little and give me some agents to converse with. True to Plato, my conversationalists will be named Thrasymachus, Apollo, Glaucon, Adeimantus, and Socrates (yours truly).
So what did you do today, Socrates?
Nothing much, Glaucon, I went to class this morning and listened at the feet of Apollo as he tried to refute the theory of Thrasymachus about injustice being better than justice.
What do you mean, Socrates? I thought you were of the opinion that justice is better in any situation than injustice.
Yes, you are right when you suppose me to agree with Apollo that to be just is better than to be unjust. However, I must say that Thrasymachus presents some convincing arguments that nearly persuade me of the folly of believing that people will always act in the interest of justice. Thrasymachus, do you have anything to contribute?
I believe people in power always act for the advancement of their personal interests. As I have proved by the story of the Ring of Gyges, when justice and injustice are stripped of their consequences, the most upright person will act injustly, and furthermore, we would think it wrong of him *not *to act injustly in such a situation.
Surely a person of good character and in possession of a sound conscience would continue to act in a just matter toward others, even were injustice stripped of its consequences. I am of the opinion that a person of stout morals would be able to act justly in any situation.
You are likely to be mistaken Glaucon. It may be at first that you would continue to act justly, but when discovery is made that acting unjustly has preferable consequences than justice your actions will tend toward injustice. Let us examine the hypothetical situation of two people: one, a just man thought to be unjust by all other people, even the gods; and the second, an unjust man thought to be just by all, even the gods. By all appearances the unjust man is just in all he does and his reputation is as flawless above that of a just man. He gains wealth by being grossly unjust but appears perfectly just to others. Because of his great wealth he gives more to the gods than others; even the gods consider the unjust man to be just because of his great sacrifices and just appearance. The just man goes through life without his reputation; that is, everything he does is perfectly just but appears to others as unjust. He is shunned by others and lives a poor life. Even the gods think he is unjust because he cannot make great sacrifices like the unjust man. In the end the just man will be stretched on the rack, beaten, and impaled, then rejected by the gods as unjust. The unjust man will be praised until death, will have a magnificent statue erected in his honor, and be rewarded by the gods. Surely, Glaucon, you think that to choose a just life under these extremes would be foolish; even you would choose the life of the unjust, am I correct?
No, the situation you have presented is flawed in two points: first in that it exaggerates justice and injustice far beyond their reasonable limitations; and secondly, it fails to take into account that all fathers want their sons to be just so they may live well and leave much to their sons. To live unjustly is to live in a way that fails to act responsibly toward those that follow.
I still maintain that the only reason people live justly is so their sons and daughters do not have to labor in the brick yards as a consequence of their actions. Were the consequences taken away, all would act unjustly. But this discussion must be continued at a later time; what happened after class?
I dined with a classmate, Adeimantus, and went looking for a job. Sitting around philosophizing is not paying the bills—
So, you are relegating yourself to a life of lower pleasures, Socrates? You are aware that work and money are lower pleasures that direct intelligence to fulfillment of bodily pleasures. Surely, you are not going to commit to a life that wastes intelligence in such a manner?
No promises, Thrasymachus. Bills are bills, and justice is still justice. As long as there is justice there is a duty to pay what I owe others. And it is my suspicion that justice will be around for awhile yet. Where there is justice there will be injustice, as in the case of the bike of Adeimantus that was stolen two days ago, and in the case of the bad check I accepted the other day with the result of me losing money—money that I need for food, clothing, and shelter. In a world without consequences to injustice, what could a person do to recover stolen property? Even in a world that professes knowledge of justice there is little action available to remedy cases of injustice, but I will address that topic in more detail at another time. After dining today at noon, I went to the weight room and, under the guidance of Adeimantus, completed a rigorous physical regimen meant to tone the body and strengthen muscles. In the course of this activity I made the mistake of stepping onto the scales—to be found not wanting, which reinforced my resolve to continue training under Adeimantus.
And with that, my blog readers, I will quit before you do. (I figure I have won if you are reading this…) ‘Til next time.