Justice Versus InjusticeSeptember 30, 2015
The Three Kinds of Positives
I thought I was ending the discussion. But in reality, it proved to be only a beginning. Glaucon is always the most pugnacious. He was dissatisfied at Thrasymachus’ retirement and wanted to battle it out.
Socrates, you have not persuaded us that to be just is always better than to be unjust. There are three kinds of positives:
- Those which are desired for their own sakes, and independently of their consequences. Examples are: harmless pleasures and enjoyments. These delight us, even if nothing follows from them.
- Those which are desirable in themselves and for their results. Examples are knowledge, sight, health.
- Those that do us good even if we regard them as disagreeable. Examples are: gymnastics, the care of the sick, the physician’s art, and the various ways of money-making. No one chooses them for their own sakes, but only for some reward or result that flows from them. Where is justice in these three classes?
Thrasymachus seems to me, like a snake who had been charmed by your voice. But I want to know:
- what is justice
- how it inwardly works in the soul
- revive Thrasymachus’ argument and speak of the common view of the nature of justice
- show that all men who practise justice do so against their will as a natural consequence, and not as a good
- argue that this makes it reasonable to kill the unjust as being better than killing the just, though I do not think so
The Tale of Gyges Proves that Justice is Natural
I shall start with the nature and origin of justice. They say that by nature:
Laws and mutual covenants arise after men get tired of the injustice that they do to each other. They call whatever is ordained by law as lawful and just. They refer to the law as the origin and nature of justice.
Justice is a compromise or middle point between the best and the worst. It is:
Those who practise justice do so involuntarily because they do not have the power to be unjust.
If the just and unjust had the power to do what they want, then:
The just will see his own action as good, just as the unjust sees his own action as good. They are only diverted into just actions by the force of law.
This freedom may be given to them as a power that was possessed by Gyges, the ancestor of Croesus the Lydian.
Gyges was a shepherd under the king of Lydia. An earthquake opened up the earth where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he went inside the opening and saw a hollow brazen horse with doors. He saw inside a dead body with only a golden ring. He took this ring and went back up.
Shepherds meet regularly to send their monthly report on the flocks to the king. He went to this meeting wearing the ring. He happened to turn the ring and instantly he became invisible.
They began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. Astonished, he turned the ring outwards and reappeared. He tried this several times becoming invisible and visible again.
He then applied to be a court messenger. As soon as he arrived, he seduced the queen. With her help, he slew the king and took the kingdom.
Suppose that there were two such magic rings, one for the just man and another for the unjust.
No one would have such an iron nature as to do no wrong. No one would:
He would be like a God among men. Therefore, the the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust.
This is a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually.
A man is just as a natural consequence, because whenever anyone thinks that he can safely be unjust, then he is unjust.
Everyone believes that injustice is far more profitable than justice. If anyone gets this power of becoming invisible but does not do anything wrong, then he would be thought by the onlookers as a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.
Glaucon’s Thought Experiment on the Unjust Pretending to be Just
Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just.
First, let the unjust be like other masters of craft, like the skillful pilot or physician. They know intuitively their own powers and keep within their limits. If they fail, they can recover themselves.
Let the unjust make his unjust attempts. Let him stay hidden if he does great injustice. The greatest success of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not.
Therefore, the perfectly unjust man does the most perfect injustice while being reputable for justice. If any of his bad deeds come to light, let him force his way through his courage, strength, bribery, and connections.
Let the just man be the best of men all his life. Let the unjust man be thought the worst.
When both have reached their uttermost extremes who is happier?
I do my best. The eulogists of injustice will say the just man who is thought to be unjust will be scourged, racked, bound, have his eyes burnt out, and then impaled.
Then he will understand that he should pretend to be just but not be really just*. Aeschylus’ words apply more to the unjust than to the just. The unjust man really wants to be unjust.
“His mind has a deep and fertile soil. His prudent counsels come from that soil.”
In the beginning, he is just and is thought just and so he rules the city.
He can also trade and deal where he likes to his own advantage.. At every contest, he gets the better of his antagonists and gains at their expense and becomes rich. Out of his gains, he can:
*Superphysics Note: This is refuted by Socrates in Book 10, Chapter 2.
The Unjust Give Importance to External Appearances
Glaucon’s brother, Adeimantus, interposed.
Glaucon’s argument also implies that praise and censure is equally needed to bring out the meaning of justice and injustice.
Parents and tutors always tell their sons and students that they should be just not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputation. They hope to obtain some of those offices, marriages, etc. for those who are reputed to be just.
However, the unjust make more pretensions than the just. They:
This matches with the testimony of Hesiod and Homer. Hesiod says that many blessings are provided for the just. Homer has a very similar strain.
To them, the immortality of drunkenness is the highest reward of virtue. Some extend their rewards yet further and say that the posterity of the faithful and just shall survive to the third and fourth generation.
But for the wicked, there is another strain. While the wicked are living, they are brought to infamy. After death, they bury the wicked in a slough in Hades and make them carry water in a sieve. They have the wicked scourged, racked, bound.
Again Socrates, please speak about justice and injustice not like the poets, but like prose writers.
The universal voice of mankind always says that:
They honour wicked men when they are rich or influential. They despise and overlook those who may be weak and poor, even if they are better than the others. But most extraordinary is they say that the gods give calamity and misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked.
Mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power from the gods of making an atonement for the sins of a man by sacrifices or charms, with rejoicings and feasts.
They promise to harm an enemy at a small cost with magic arts and incantations binding heaven to execute their will. They cite the poets such as Hesiod as the authorities to smooth the path of vice:
It is a tedious and uphill road. Then they cite Homer as a witness that the gods may be influenced by men.
Hesiod also says:
They produce books written by Musaeus and Orpheus. They perform their ritual according to those books. They persuade individuals and whole cities:
They call atonements as “mysteries” which redeem us from the pains of hell.
The minds of the young are affected when the young hear:
Some young are quick-witted and are like bees on the wing which go to every flower. From what they hear, they draw conclusions as to:
Probably the youth will say to himself in the words of Pindar:
People say that:
This is because, as philosophers prove, appearance:
Therefore, I must devote myself to appearance. I will decorate the exterior of my house with virtue.
Archilochus, the greatest of sages, recommends us to be subtle and crafty foxes.
But I hear the concealment of wickedness is often difficult.
I answer that nothing great is easy. Nevertheless, the argument is that this is the path if we want to be happy.
We will establish secret brotherhoods and political clubs, with a view to concealment. There are professors of rhetoric who teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies partly by persuasion and partly by force.
With these, I shall make unlawful gains and not be punished. But the gods cannot be deceived, neither can they be compelled.
But what if there are no gods? What if they didn’t care about human things? Why then should we mind about concealment? We only know about the gods from the poets. These poets say that the gods may be influenced and turned by ‘sacrifices, soothing entreaties, and offerings.’ We must therefore have both concealment and offerings, or neither. If the poets speak truthfully, why is it better for us to be unjust and make offerings of the fruits of injustice?
If we are just, we may escape the vengeance of heaven but lose the gains of injustice. But, if we are unjust, we shall keep the gains. By our sinning and praying, and praying and sinning, the gods will not punish us. ‘But there is a world below where we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds.’ The mighty cities declare that there are mysteries and atoning deities which have great power. The children of the gods, who were their poets and prophets, bear a like testimony. On what principle, then, shall we choose justice rather than the worst injustice?
If we only unite the injustice with deceitful appearances, then we accept what the authorities tell us. How can a man who has any superiority of mind, rank, or wealth, be willing to honour justice? Many people are very ready to forgive the unjust because they know that men are not just of their own free will. They blame it on cowardice, age, or some weakness.
But once they attain the power of being unjust, they immediately become as unjust as possible. Glaucon and I were astonished that no one has ever blamed injustice or praised justice except with a view to the glories, honours, and benefits which flow from them. No one has ever adequately described in verse or prose the true essential nature of justice or injustice in the soul.
Thrasymachus would seriously reject this. They would use stronger words on justice and injustice to pervert their true nature.
You said that justice is one of that highest class of positives which are desired for their results, but in a far greater degree for their own sakes.
You see justice like sight, hearing, knowledge or health, or as any other real and natural, and not merely conventional virtue.
What is the essential good and evil which justice and injustice work in the just and unjust man? You have spent your whole life in this question so I expect something better. Please prove to us that justice is better than injustice.