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Socrates/Plato In Euthyphro/Republic Essay, Research Paper

I. In the Euthyphro, Euthyphro himself gives three proposals of piety. First, the pious is to prosecute the wrongdoer and the impious is not to prosecute the wrongdoer. Socrates disputes this example as lacking generality. He believed that in order to define piety, one had to find the form that made all pious acts pious. An example of a pious act does not in turn define piety. Euthyphro?s second attempt stated that the pious is loved by the gods, while the impious was hated by them. Again, Socrates objects, saying that although it passed the generality requirement, there was no conformity among the objects dear to the gods. After all, the gods had different opinions as did humans. Euthyphro then tries to modify his second attempt by narrowing the requirement to what is loved by all gods or hated by all gods. Socrates deflates this notion as well. He questions wether the pious is loved because the gods love it, or do the gods love it because it is loved. To be loved is a quality given by an act of love. The mere fact of being loved by a god does not give meaning to piety or make the act pious. The point was to find out what a pious act is before declaring it to be god-loved. Euthyphro?s third proposal was to say that piety is a knowledge of how to give to, and beg from the gods, or a part of justice concerned with care of the gods. However, Socrates was pretty blunt in pointing out that the gods lack nothing a human could provide, therefore making those acts of prayer or sacrifice, nothing but for the pleasure of the gods. The acts would then fit under what is beloved by the gods, which was already defeated as the second proposal. The definition of justice was left for a later discussion in the Republic.

In the Republic, the first attempt at defining justice was by the father of Polemarchus, Cephalus, who believed that speaking the truth and paying off one?s debts made one just. Quickly, Socrates asked wether it would be just to return a gun owed to a friend out of his mind, who had originally lent the gun when he was sane. Those involved in the discussion agreed on the need for further refinements to the original statement, but before they could continue a gentleman by the name of Thrasymachus wanted to interject and force Socrates to give his definition of justice. After Socrates states that he doesn?t know and would like to learn, Thrasymachus then says that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger, the stronger being the established rule. Socrates? rebuttal was to say that the ruler actually rules for the benefit of his subjects, the ones he is craftsman of. For to be a ruler is a craft and a craft was established as that which provides what is advantageous to it?s subject. Then to continue their discussion, Socrates wanted to address Thrasymachus? view of wether the life of an unjust person is better, or more profitable, than that of a just one. Thrasymachus declared that injustice was stronger and had more power than justice – that it was better to be unjust than just. He said that to be unjust was to be clever and good, while to be just was the opposite. They went on to debate which was clever and good and which was bad. It was discussed that who tried to outdo whom defined the clever and good versus the bad. After a lengthy talk, Socrates was able to turn Thrasymachus? definition of a just person into it?s opposite and got his audience to agree that justice is virtue and wisdom and that injustice is vice and ignorance.

At the end of Book I, it appeared that Socrates had won the argument over just being better than unjust, but he was not completely satisfied. During all their discussion, they had not finished their original quest of defining justice. In Socrates? view, a good definition would include generality and conformity for all examples of it?s defined term. It could not merely give reference to the notion of, but would have to give meaning to the notion itself.

II. Plato?s idea of a virtuous, excellently functioning individual was outlined with great detail, while in pursuit of justice, in his writings collectively called the Republic. His writings usually consisted of dialogue between fellow philosophers in order to give each perspective a voice. The Republic was just that and he used it as an outlet to brake down the soul into three main parts: the appetite, spirited, and rational. Plato, through his characters, then went on to discuss strength and unity, excellent function, and health and happiness within the individual. Using the three parts of the soul as the foundation, he also explained why it is better to be just than to merely appear being just.

The Republic started out as a means to find what justice is. In his writings, Plato was led to create his own ideal city, or kallipolis, where he believed that in doing so it would be easier to recognize justice in something larger such as this city, as opposed to something specific, which was a human. He paralleled his findings of the perfect city, including the three main parts, to that of the perfect individual. Just as the kallipolis had an appetitive beginning, so did humans. The most primitive of needs such as food and drink were considered to be the essence of the appetite. He was concerned with the natural desires of the body, so appetite wasn?t the want for a specific food or drink, but the actual physical need for such. To help decipher the second of three parts, there was discussion wether one thing could be itself and its opposite, or similarly, could one will a desire and its opposite at the same time? The unanimous conclusion was certainly not. What they found was a force that would determine wether or not to heed the appetite. While the appetite is of a natural urge, there is still a force that can cause a thirsty or hungry man not to partake in food or drink even when his appetite calls. This second of the three parts was labeled the rational calculating ability of an individual. Included in that ability, would be the possession of some kind of knowledge or wisdom pertaining to such decisions. It refers to the cultural aspects or skills indoctrinated that have the potential to override the natural instincts of the body. The third part was the spirited desires or emotions such as anger, hatred, love, and honor. This spirited part was to be separate because they found the varying emotions to be the result of varying actions or conflicts between the first two. In those cases of conflicts, although mostly siding with the rational, they found the spirited side sometimes taking its own course. When appetite called and rational agreed, because of other feelings or beliefs, the spirited side could still overcome those urges and cause a different outcome. One such example is that of fasting. The body?s appetite calls for food, and while the rational approves of the hunger, because of religious beliefs, the spirited part of the soul reigns.

Putting all three of these together produced the whole of the soul. In order to encompass all humans, Plato had to find all the varying possibilities of the three interacting on behalf of its whole. He wanted to find a balance allowing for the dominance of one trait, but not to completely stifle either of the other two. But, in order to achieve balance, one had to know what balance was. The individual must undergo proper learning in order find out more about ones self. He would have to know his own strengths and weaknesses in order to maintain or direct the elements of his soul. Knowledge would be the beginning to the wisdom of balance. For balance to be achieved, all three parts had to function in a way as to complement the others or at least enable them to function on their own, in essence functioning in excellence. When each part of the soul was learned and mastered, one would be able to perform the tasks he was born to perform to the best of his ability. His fruits of extensive training and perseverance would be considered top quality. Then, having allowed all three elements to function according to their appropriate role, one could find his way to fulfillment. With each human providing his best to the community, the community itself would also benefit. Humans, in their fulfillment, interacting and supporting each other, collectively maintain a successful city; a city in which their individual strengths can be united to better themselves and their neighbors. When all parts of the soul are balanced, body and mind, and the individual fulfilled, health and happiness was also present. People excelled in their craft, and specialization allowed for collaboration, reaping rewards for all to share. If a doctor practiced only to be a doctor and was master of medicinal knowledge, then all those that had need for medical attention would be well taken care of. This combined effort of excellence was considered to be the best explanation for justice, and each of its parts therefore were also just.

For further clarification, because of dissension among the group, there was a need to find out if it was better to be truly just or merely appear to be just. They asked themselves if the consequences of a just act, or being just, often included valuable rewards, would one still want to be just if those rewards never came to fruition? In order to find their answer to being or appearing just as the best course, they had to set aside those consequences and find out what justice was. They found true justice equated to harmony of the soul where as injustice was likened to that of a civil war between its three parts. The civil war obviously causing harm to ones soul. To be out of balance, or at war with ones self, was akin to being unhealthy and unhealthy would then be unhappiness. Without the societal rewards of being just there were inherent rewards for taking care of the mind and body, therefore it was better to be just.


Euthyphro and The Republic-Books 1-9

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