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Plato's Republic/ Kallipolis

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What Is Justice?

Webster McGuire


Theoretical Critique Paper #1

Roudy Hildreth POLS 205

What is justice? Obviously, the word can have multiple meanings. If we were to walk in the Student Center and ask ten people what justice was, they probably all would have different responses. I am not saying that they would not have some of the same ideas, but ultimately, their responses would vary. Having said that, what if one of the people's ideas of justice included injustices? For example, Adolf Hitler believed that justice would be reached by completely wiping out Jewish people and creating a "perfect" blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan race. He also wanted to rule the entire world. Now, was this actually justice? I would definitely have to disagree, but by the same token, he had thousands of followers. The thought of this is heinous and ludicrous, but it is the truth. I think that a similar argument could be made against Plato. To me, Plato errs in his definition of justice. Plato comes up with the Kallipolis, his idea of a just society. In this society, he strives for perfection. However, he is definitely in contradiction. The problem with this "just" society that he fabricated is that many injustices occur while attempting to reach this level of perfection. In my opinion, justice cannot be reached by using injustices to do so. By the same token, I feel that no matter what, perfection could never be reached because in striving for justice, there is always going to be someone or something that ends up being treated unjustly.

Plato comes up with his final definition of justice as basically, people doing what it is that they were born to do, and not stepping outside the boundaries and interfering by trying to do something other than this (Plato, 139). As stated earlier, Plato comes up with many ideas on how to achieve this level of perfection which he strives to attain. In the end, Kallipolis ends up looking like an oligarchy. Plato sets up his regime by creating three classes of people, the philosopher kings, the guardians, and the producers. As one may have assumed, people are sorted into these classes and must remain within them. The power within the society lies in the hands of only a few individuals, this being the philosopher kings (Plato, 164). They are given the power of ruling the society because they are the individuals with the knowledge. The guardians are the fighters/protectors of Kallipolis and they have courage. Lastly, the producers are the "lower class". They produce things for Kallipolis. All of this is determined by what Plato refers to as a "noble lie" (Plato, 128). Basically, the original leaders of Kallipolis tell a lie for the "good" of society. They tell everyone that all people have metal in their bodies, and that based on the metal that a person has, that will determine their place within society. People with gold in their bodies are the rulers, silver is the guardians, and bronze is everyone else.

For starters, the foundation of the society is built on a lie. They are using a fabrication to trick people into following. I do not care how "noble" the lie is, rulers lying to their citizens to "sway the masses" in their favor is wrong, even if it is for the so-called good of the society. One could argue and say that this is how politics are currently in our society. Politicians tell lies all the time in order to gain support from people. They make promises that they either do not intend to keep or are unable to keep. Well, my response to that would be that maybe our system is unjust and/or corrupt. Who is to say that our form of government is supreme? It certainly is not beneficial to each and every American. Also, a person being segregated into these separate factions is also unjust. Since the rulers are the ones deciding who belongs in each group, not everyone is getting a fair opportunity to better themselves. This process reminds me a lot of slavery. Slaves are lied to, etc., but most importantly, they are forced into a role that they did not choose. This may not be the case in Plato's era, but I feel that in today's society, slavery is one of the telling signs of an oppressive society.

Next, Plato talks about the roles in which poets and playwrights play in Kallipolis. Basically, they do not have a role. Plato wants to ban and silence all of the poets and playwrights (Plato, 113). He feels as though they are menaces to society. They were storytellers, and we all know that storytellers have the ability to get people's attention. Plato said that they would distract the citizens of Kallipolis with their stories and keep them from focusing. This could eventually lead to uprisings. Also, he did not like the idea that these individuals would write plays and stories about the gods doing the same things as humans do, whether their actions were negative or positive. For example, gods would be sleeping with women, arguing and carrying on, etc. Now, this was an oppressive approach to a perfect JUST society, right? This sounds



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