What are Plato’s three views of justice?

Answered by Cody Janus

In Plato’s dialogue, “The Republic,” Socrates presents three distinct views of justice. According to Socrates, justice is a harmonious balance between reason, spirit, and appetite within the individual. He explores these different aspects of justice and how they relate to each other. Let’s delve into each view in more detail.

1. Justice as a Balance of Reason:
Socrates argues that reason should govern the other parts of the soul. Reason represents our ability to think critically, make logical decisions, and seek knowledge. When reason dominates, it leads to a just individual. Such an individual would be guided by wisdom, intellect, and rationality when making choices and decisions. They would prioritize the common good over personal desires and act in a fair and just manner.

2. Justice as a Balance of Spirit:
Socrates suggests that spirit, or the spirited part of the soul, is responsible for our emotions, courage, and motivation. It is the part of us that enables us to fight for what we believe in and defend ourselves and others. When spirit is in balance with reason, it can support justice by acting as a guardian of the virtues and ensuring that the individual remains steadfast in their pursuit of what is right. However, when spirit overpowers reason, it can lead to an unjust individual who acts out of anger, aggression, or arrogance.

3. Justice as a Balance of Appetite:
Appetite refers to our physical and material desires, including our basic needs and wants. It encompasses our desires for food, shelter, wealth, and other bodily pleasures. Socrates argues that when appetite is properly controlled and moderated by reason and spirit, it can contribute to justice. In this context, justice would involve maintaining a balanced and harmonious relationship with our desires, ensuring that they do not become excessive or lead to selfish behavior. However, when appetite becomes dominant and overwhelms reason and spirit, it can lead to injustice, as individuals prioritize their own selfish desires above the needs and rights of others.

Socrates views justice as the proper balance and harmony between reason, spirit, and appetite within the individual. Injustice occurs when one of these virtues becomes dominant and disrupts this balance. By understanding and cultivating a harmonious relationship between these aspects of our soul, we can strive towards a just and virtuous life.

It is worth noting that these views on justice are presented within the context of an ideal society in “The Republic.” Plato explores how justice can be applied not only to individuals but also to the governance of a city-state. He believes that a just society can only be achieved when each individual finds the right balance within themselves, reflecting the harmony of the whole society.