How Does Socrates Show That Justice is Not Possible in the City?

Essay by SKDbagUniversity, Bachelor'sA, January 2007

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This essay will examine how Socrates shows that perfect political justice is not possible in the city, and determine whether Plato provides enough proof in the Republic to support his claim. Plato suggests that justice in the city is impossible because of the conflict between self-interest and common interest. He goes into further detail in book V when he discusses the three waves: equal education for women, community of women and children, and the philosopher king.

Plato argues that justice is about the whole community and that for a ruler to be truly just, the ruler would need to seek the good of the whole. He then points out that there are two problems with this. The first problem is diversity; everyone's needs are different and so the good of the whole is difficult to determine. This is difficult to solve, but possible. The more prominent problem is that rulers rule in their own interests.

Self-interest is universal. This brings Socrates to the most fundamental political problem: the conflict between self and common interest. Socrates presents a possible solution, namely the noble lie and communal living, which will not be explored in detail in this essay. This solution is extreme and not practical. Glaucon and Adeimantus bring up problems with this city, and Socrates tries to answer their questions and solve the problems by using "three waves".

Socrates uses the three waves, the first being the equality of women , to go delve further into the questions; is the just city possible? And if it is, is it desirable? A problem with this is that women and men are different in nature. To avoid this setback he first needs to ask the question: equal in what? Socrates states that men and women are equal in the ability to learn, remember...