Injustice in city and soul Notes for February 10

Main points

We talked about three topics:

  1. The story of degeneration through the five types of cities and souls.
  2. The implications of this story for the relationship between the analogy between city and soul. This is where I compared the part-whole rule with the predominant part rule. Is a whole (the city) just (or oligarchic, democratic, etc.) if its parts (individual citizens) are just? Or is it just, etc., if its predominant part is? The first answer is the most attractive for justice, the second answer is the most accurate for the degenerate cities.
  3. Some general remarks about justice.

Remarks about justice

I granted that the unjust person that Plato describes is a very unattractive figure. Who would want to live like that? But I questioned whether Plato had shown that an unjust person has to be that way. The unjust characters that Thrasymachus and Glaucon described seem more realistic to me.

I mused about a possible explanation for this. Injustice, as Glaucon and Thrasymachus described it, is an indifference to the rules of justice and fairness. But all the characters in the book are willing to accept a slightly different characterization of injustice as involving a kind of motivation or desire. This is the desire to outdo others or to have more.

I agree that the simple desire to have more than others or just to constantly have more, without thought to what having more is for, is pathological. But I denied that the first way of understanding injustice, as involving an indifference to the rules, has to involve this kind of pathology.

This page was written by Michael Green for Social & Political Philosophy, Philosophy 33, Spring 2010. ΒΆ It was posted February 11, 2010.
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