Socrates' Defense of Justice in Plato's "Republic"

Dissertation, Boston College (1993)

In this dissertation, I examine Socrates' defense of justice in Plato's Republic. I contend that recognizing the problematic character of Socrates' defense of justice in the Republic is a key to understanding his teaching regarding justice. In response to the request made by Glaucon and Adeimantus at the beginning of Book Two, Socrates tries to show, in the bulk of the Republic, that justice is intrinsically good and that it is better than injustice. In doing so, he relies especially on the definition of the justice of the individual that he provides at the end of Book Four, i.e., allowing each of the parts of the soul to mind its own business. But this definition is paradoxical and appears to have little link with justice as ordinarily understood. It contrasts with the more commonsensical definitions of justice offered in Book One, e.g., that justice is giving to each what is owed and telling the truth. In Book Five through Book Ten, Socrates continues his defense of justice by equating the just man and the philosopher--indeed, by making clear that the philosopher is just more or less in the sense outlined in Book Four. But Socrates implicitly points to the problematic character of the equation of the just man and the philosopher by revealing, among other things, that the philosophers must be compelled to rule in the best regime even though it would be a matter of justice for them to rule willingly. I attempt to comprehend why Socrates provides such a problematic defense of the justice of the individual in the Republic. So too, I explore Socrates' equally problematic defense of the justice of the city. In particular, I consider the possibility and goodness of Socrates' three paradoxical proposals aimed at bringing about the greatest justice attainable within a city--namely, the community of women and children, the equality of the sexes, and the philosopher-kings
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