In The Republic, Book I by Plato, Socrates is ambitiously set on showing and proving that just people are happier than unjust ones. Despite Socrates’ sound argument that justice is like a virtue or a skill (349b), it is strongly believed that the statement in question cannot be evaluated as valid or invalid based on the reasoning that takes place in the original step-by-step explanation. It can be concluded that Socrates’ argument is rather weak, does not fully prove the point and needs support to be validated. In this paper, Socrates’ premises that prove the statement will be evaluated, and explanation why the argument would be valid only if adjusted and accompanied by further justification will be provided.
Socrates is arguing that justice is a virtue and a power that is meant to bring harmony among people. His argument consists of the following premises:
- The just man is wise and good while the unjust one is considered to be ignorant and, for instance, bad (349b).
- Justice is powerful and valuable.
- Injustice causes disharmony, hatred, and dissension that affect the right cause of actions among a group (351b).
- Justice is a virtue that determines how things function, and an unjust person does not live a happier life in comparison with a just one.
The matter of the just living a happier life than the unjust as argued by Socrates may lose validity if based on the original premises. However, the point, in this case, cannot be convincing and self-justifiable without further evaluation of the reasoning in the premises.
Socrates’ argument concerning the question of justice being a source of might and the unjust being bad people and enemies of themselves cannot be convincing enough based on the first two premises which lack reasoning to support their accuracy and presumably are a mere assumption (Irwin, 1995).
Socrates advances his defense to prove the validity of the just living a good life by claiming that justice leads to friendship and harmony within a group that aims at achieving a common set of objectives. For instance, the example of thieves keeping together due to fear and obligations they have toward one another, is supported by the third premise (351c 7-10). Socrates argues that justice among the gang is what produces co-operation that leads to the achievement of their unjust goals (352a 3). More so, if Socrates claims that justice is what keeps the gang together, then it is hard to understand the reason behind the unjust act of theft. As far as we know, thieves do not have any knowledge on the matter of justice within themselves as a gang, but what we believe is that they keep together due to the fear of one another or the gang’s leader (Lycos, 1987).
Considering the defense of justice as a virtue by Socrates as in the forth premise (352d), he claims that justice is a virtue not of the body, but of the soul. The soul refrains from doing certain things due to adherence to certain rules to achieve common goals. For instance, the ruler of a bad soul rules his citizens badly and may enslave them and other cities. Socrates probably means that a bad soul can yield no positive results in the course of actions due to its corruption.
Justice, as a powerful virtue of the soul which entails doing right and meeting one’s obligations, which, in return, make a person happy, can be absurd if it is beneficial only to another person, not the one performing the act. Thus, the argument of Socrates can be valid only after a little rephrasing given that justice is a virtue beyond mere wisdom.