A Just and Wise Man

A Just and Wise Man

            The most honorable man is the just man. Justice should be sought, not only for its consequence but also for its own sake. In the Republic, Socrates constructs an allegorical city in order to define justice. This search for the definition of justice arises from a debate between himself and Thrasymachus. Thrasymachus believes that it is more profitable for a man to live unjustly because the perceived advantages it proposes over living justly. 

            Before a man can become just, he must first understand justice. Socrates creates a city to better understand the soul. For Socrates, justice is found when all the parts of the city fulfill their duties and are excellent in their respective natures. The just city is the city that possesses moderate workers, courageous guardians, and a wise ruler. The wise ruler uses reason and wisdom to ensure the city runs properly while the guardians keep the working class in check. The human soul achieves justice in a similar manner as the city. The reason controls the lower parts of the soul so that they act rationally. The spirit keeps the passions in check and the passions reward the soul with euphoria for acting according to the reason. For Aristotle, justice is seen as the mean of two vices. The courageous man is the man who has achieved the balance between cowardice and recklessness. Justice is defined similarly. He also views virtues as something acquired through habit. The virtuous man is someone who does virtuous acts regularly. Both Aristotle and Plato assert that this life is not only morally favorable, but profitable way to live.

            Once a man knows what justice is, he can attempt to obtain it. For Plato, becoming just starts in the soul. The soul must be ordered correctly and the separate parts must complete their natural functions to be just. For the soul to be properly ordered, reason must rule the soul . Justice, like the other virtues, can be discovered by using reason. Reason decides what is virtuous and what is not and should be the part of the soul with the greatest authority. The spirit is directed by reason and used to control the passions from running wild and causing disorder within the soul.

Similar to Plato’s view of the soul, Aristotle believes the virtuous man is someone who reasons well. The use of reason decides how someone should act. Aristotle describes two different kinds of virtue: intellectual and moral. The intellectual virtues are those that can be learned. The moral virtues are practiced. Justice comes, not only from the correct organization of the soul, but also by performing just actions. Aristotle claims that one must become virtuous through habit. Becoming a just man is a process achieved by habitually participating in acts of justice. The more frequently a person performs a just act, the more just the will become. Aristotle makes the claim that all acts are done voluntarily. Not only are all virtues done voluntary, but also are the vices. Aristotle compares an unjust man to a sick man. If an unjust person could simply cease to be unjust because they wished it to be so, then a sick person could do something similar concerning their health. He concludes that this person initially chose to do unjust acts and continued to do so until they became unjust. Conversely, the just man chose to do just acts and in doing so became just. The just person makes a personal decision to be just every time an occasion arises. Therefore, a just man is a man who seeks and partakes in things that are just.

The acts of justice performed by the just man are indeed important, yet the motivation for doing those acts is essential. There are three main reasons one performs virtuous acts: to gain something, being virtuous, or both. To be virtuous for personal gain is seen as a lesser reason than being virtuous purely for virtue sake. Performing just acts for both reasons is the greatest reason for a person to be just.

Both Plato and Aristotle, along with most ancient philosophers, would agree that it is far greater to live justly rather than unjustly. Although it is a common argument that the unjust man lives a better life than the just man, the ancient philosophers would concur that he only appears to live a better life and that the just man truly enjoys the greatest life of all. The man who lives a just life receives many benefits and lives according to his nature.

The soul is often compared to the regime. Socrates creates the just city because justice can be found in a city as it is found in a man. The types of regimes can allegorically be seen in the soul. An aristocratic government is one ruled by the thinkers of the society. The aristocratic soul would be the soul ruled by reason. A democratic regime is ruled by the poor, and the democratic soul is ruled by its passions. For Plato, the Aristocratic regime is considered the best because it is ruled by the thinkers, such as the soul should be ruled by reason. The passions are the lowest part of the soul, so the democratic soul is significantly less favorable because it is ruled by the passions.

Justice should not only be sought out for its consequences, but also for its own sake. The nature of the soul is to follow the will of the reason. The reason is able to discover those things which are virtuous and in accord with the nature of the soul. The soul becomes perfect when it is virtuous. Justice is seen by many of the ancients as the greatest virtue; therefore, it the just soul is the most excellent.

The just life provides certain positive consequences that Aristotle views happiness as the greatest achievement of the soul. To become happy a person must live a virtuous life. The virtuous life is positive for both the man living it and also those around him. If a man is just his soul will be ordered properly and he will become closer to happiness in that way. The just man will also perform just acts which will positively affect those close to him and the regime as a whole. Benefitting others will also contribute to a person achieving happiness. The man who lives a happy life will want to share his happiness with others and will seek out friends.

The acquisition of true friends is another reason a person would strive for a just life. For Aristotle there are three types of friendships: friendships in which both parties receive personal gain, friendships in which both parties are friends because they enjoy each other, and true friendship. The first type of friendship only exists as long as both parties continue to receive something from the other. They do not love each other in themselves but only what they can gain from the other person. The second friendship lasts only while both people enjoy each other’s company. This type of friendship is common among the youthful because they find pleasure in another person. The third and greatest friendship is between good, or just, people. In this friendship both people care deeply for each other, not for personal gain, but because they genuinely care for the other person. This is known as true friendship. It can only be achieved between two people who are both just. This fact contributes to the reasons that it is better to live as a just person.

 The just man possesses a particular favorable quality that does not belong to the unjust man. For Plato, the just man is the only one who is qualified to rule. In First Alcibiades, Socrates discusses who should be allowed to rule in a regime. Such as a shipbuilder is most qualified to build a ship, so is the just man the most qualified to lead a regime. The just man has a soul that is ruled by reason. The city, like the soul, should be ruled by reason. A commonwealth that is not just is not a commonwealth but a gathering of people. If the regime is unjust in cannot fulfill its duties. The regime should create just citizens. For this to happen it must have a just ruler. Therefore, a just man who rules not only is benefitted with the honor and prestige of ruling, but also by caring for the regime and insuring that more just citizens are created.

For the human soul to be excellent, it must adhere to its nature. The nature of the soul is ruled by reason. The soul ruled by reason is a just soul. Therefore, the just man is the most excellent man and lives the best life. The just life not only provides positive consequence, it is also the most virtuous and the makes the soul great. 

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