What is Justice?

Essay by renren July 2005

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Justice. A term used as means to bring light to societal and cultural norms, has been an issue of deliberation for several centuries. Philosophers have long debated over what justice is and how it should be applied. Philosophers such as Plato view justice as being a matter of knowledge; being aware of the good creates an implication to do good. Others, such as Glaucon view justice as a legally enforced compromise between doing injustice to others and having injustice done unto oneself. Basically this means fair treatment or moral rightness should be seen as a compromise between doing wrong to others and having wrong things done to you. People publicly praise justice, but they do not care for it. The best thing, in this view, is to be thought to be just while in fact reaping the benefits of injustice. The worst thins is to be reviled as unjust for whatever reason, but in fact to lead a good and virtuous life, for this brings the difficulty of justice with no rewards.

Glaucon's first argument is that doing injustice and not being punished for it is much more pleasurable than suffering injustice at the hands of unjust rulers and practicing justice. Glaucon's brother, Adeimantus, backs up his brother's speech by stating that an unjust man with a deceivably just reputation is also better than the just man. But Socrates counters these two strong speeches by proclaiming that, in an average city, justice is needed for the Senate to build the city, for citizens to trade and barter with foreigners, and for training and educating soldiers for battle. Socrates also states that justice comes from God and those who follow his example become just.

Although these two arguments are striking contrasted content-wise, there is a connection between them. If...