Plato's definition of justice


BUT now we have to look for justice. Find the other three cardinal virtues first, and then justice will be distinguishable. Wisdom is in the guardians; if they be wise, the whole state will be wise. Courage we find in the soldiers; courage is the true estimation of danger, and that has been ingrained in them by their education. Temperance, called mastery of self, is really the mastery of the better over the baser qualities; as in our state the better class controls the inferior. Temperance would seem to lie in the harmonious inter-relation of the different classes. Obviously, the remaining virtue of the state is the constant performance of his own particular function in the state, and not his neighbour's, by each member of the state. Let us see how that works out in the individual.

Shall we not find that there are three several qualities in the individual, each of which must in like manner do its own business; the intellectual, the passionate or spirited and the lustful? They must be separate, because one part of a thing cannot be doing contradictory things at the same time; your lusts bid you to do what your intelligence forbids; and the emotional quality is distinct from both desire and reason, though in alliance with reason. Well here you have wisdom and courage in the intellectual and spiritual parts, temperance in their mastery over desire; and justice is the virtue of the soul as a whole; of each part never failing to perform its own function and that alone. To ask, now, whether justice or injustice is the more profitable becomes ridiculous.

Now, we shall find that virtue is one, but that vice has several forms; as there is but one form of perfect state--ours--whether it happens to be called a monarchy if there be but one guardian, or an aristocracy if there be but one guardian, or an aristocracy if there be more; and, as it has four principal imperfect forms, so there are four main vices.

Here Glaucon and Adeimentus refused to let me go on; I had shirked a difficulty. What about women and children? My saying that the soldiers were to live in common might mean anything. What kind of communism was I demanding?

Well, there are two different questions: What is desirable? and What is possible? First, then, our defenders are our watchdogs. Glaucon knows all about dogs; we don't differentiate between males and females; the latter hunt with the pack. If women are similarly to have the same employments as men, they must have the same education in music and gymnastic. But should they share masculine employments? Do they differ from men in such a way that they should not? Women bear children, and men beget them; but apart from that, the differences are really only in degrees of capacity, not essential distinctions of quality; even as men differ among themselves. The natures being the same, the education must be the same and the same careers must be open.

BUT a second and more alarming wave threatens us: Community of wives and children. "You must prove both the possibility and the desirability of that." Men and women must be trained together and lived together, but not in licentiousness. They must be mated with the utmost care for procreation, the best being paired at due seasons, nominally by lot, and for the occasion. The offspring of the selected will have a common nursery; the mothers will not know which were their own children. Parentage will be permissible only between twenty-five and fifty-five, and between twenty and forty. The children begotten in the same batch of espousals will be brothers and sisters.

The absence of 'mine' and 'thine' will ensure unity, because it abolishes the primary cause of discord; common maintenance by the state removes all temptation either to meanness or cringing.

As to practicability: communism is suitable for war. The youngsters will be taken to watch any fighting; cowards will be degraded; valour will be honoured, and death on the field, with other supreme services to the state, will rank the hero among demigods. Against Greeks war must be conducted as against our own kith and kin. But as to the possibility of all this--this third threatening wave is the most terrific of all.

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