What is Justice?
Justice, for the great Greek philosophers of ancient times and even for the great philosophers of today, is a controversial issue and has been up for immense discussion and review. The nature of justice and injustice has been stated and reviewed many times, however, the origin of the reviewing comes from the Greek Thrasymachus, who’s thesis is later reviewed and modified by Glaucon. Glaucon’s position is revised yet again by Thomas Hobbes, who’s version is now the accepted form of explanation for the origin of justice and injustice. Although there are various examples for the origin and nature of justice and injustice provided by these three men, I will provide supporting examples for the conclusion that the thesis and arguments made by Hobbes are the ones most acceptable and relevant in today’s society.
First, Thrasymachus offers his origin of justice; he says that justice is doing what is advantageous to the stronger. The strong or rulers, he claims are the ones who make the laws in their favor or advantageous to them. Consequently, they force all the commoners to abide by the rules that they set, so the people who are just, simply, who abide by the rules, are doing what is advantageous to the stronger. This is the first argument stated by Thrasymachus, whereas in the second argument, he brings up the position of the shepherd and asks if the shepherds are taking care of the sheep for their own good or for the good of the sheep? He points out that the rulers act in exactly the same manner, where justice is doing something good for others at a loss to oneself, and injustice is doing something beneficial for oneself at a loss of others. Thrasymachus says that, having to look at who gets the better on a grander scale, the unjust person always gets more. He who does anything for their own good is unjust, looking out for themselves in their ordinary life they are innocent, however, it would difficult if everyone were unjust of course. He concludes that justice is high-minded innocence as injustice is good counsel, stating the way of the unjust is better. (338d-44c)
Glaucon follows with his thesis stating that justice is good solely as means but not in itself. Glaucon wants Socrates to prove to him how it can be good both as means and in itself. Glaucon says that no one is willingly just, but rather compelled to act justly caused by nature, while they try to better themselves, ultimately saying that the life of the unjust is also better. Glaucon’s argument contains three parts; justice being good in itself, purely as means, the third dealing with its goodness for both reasons. Glaucon says that justice is a mean between doing what is best; which is doing injustice without paying the penalty and suffering injustice without being able to avenge oneself. Therefore, justice is not cared for because it is good, however, it is honored due to a want of vigor in doing injustice. He makes a second point on why people are unwillingly just, saying that the only reason the just are just is because they follow the rules and are afraid of being caught. However, if such a person were invisible and free to do whatever he or she wished, then they too would be unjust. Why would a person incapable of being caught by authorities be just? This is the question that Glaucon presents stating that anyone, no matter just or unjust would thrive at the opportunity to be invisible or invulnerable, then they would act in the same manner as the unjust. His last view of his argument represents the just man in a totally unjust environment, while placing the unjust man in a totally just situation, and still taking away neither the just man’s justice nor the unjust man’s injustice. He says the perfectly unjust man must be given his opportunity to do the greatest injustices, while having provided himself the greatest reputation for justice. The perfectly just man must have the things taken away from him to make him seem just, such as his honors, gifts and so forth. On the other hand, let the just man be given the reputation for total injustice, in order for his justice to be tested to see if it is softened by bad reputation and its consequences. Finally, with both men being unchanged until death so when the two men reach the ultimate extreme of both justice and injustice, then we would be able to decide which of the two men were happier. (358e-62c)
Glaucon adds to Thrasymachus in that he states that no one is willingly just and they are only compelled to be as such by the situation or condition they are in by nature. Glaucon says that people seek to get the better for themselves and it is good, therefore the lives of the unjust are consequentially better, as they receive more. Glaucon agrees with Thrasymachus in that the way of life of the unjust is better, however, Thrasymachus does not mention the idea of “pleonexia” as seeking to get the better of someone. Glaucon does not even mention the idea, directly, as stated by Thrasymachus as justice being advantageous to the stronger or that justice is high-minded innocence and injustice is good counsel; Glaucon does not touch upon that either.
To add, subtract and refute is Thomas Hobbes on the earlier positions of Glaucon and Thrasymachus, respectively. Hobbes states that the justice of persons has to do with the want to do the actions that are just. He goes on to say that one is not really just if they are afraid to do the just actions they would normally do have there no awful consequences to them. One must have a certain nobility of courage to be able to perform their characteristically just actions in any situation, not the ones that are beneficial to them. He adds that these people believe it is beneath them to break their covenant, and that merely justice of actions does not tell one anything about a person. Hobbes states that everyone is equal in mind and body, they act the way they do based on passion, and that everyone is able to kill everyone else and just as capable to manage their things as well as any other person. In this context, everyone wants glory, bad enough where they would take someone’s life or risk their life to attain it. Consequently, they want to be treated the same as all of the other and if this does not occur, then they want to kill the person who does not treat them the same as anyone else. Hobbes’ characteristics of the state of nature, his reasons for are the competition for gain of everyone, the feeling and need for security and protection for themselves only coming from themselves and finally, their pursuit of attaining glory at any cost.
Hobbes then offers his reasons for the possibility of the escape from the state of nature for those who feel they can’t survive on their own and need a sovereign to rule them. The first passion aiding in the exit from the state of nature is the fear of violent death, where people have the pursuit to preserve their existence instead of being killed in the situation with everyone fighting for themselves. Secondly, their desire to have a comfortable life and the acquisition of those things that will bring these desired most efficiently. Lastly, the people hope to survive by means of hard work and self-reliance as opposed to having to look out for themselves all the time, thus receiving no time to make life more accommodating to oneself. Hobbes then offers three main principles of reason residing in people in order for them to remain from the state of nature. The first and most important, of course, is to make peace with everyone so that there will be no questions of competition resulting in injury. Secondly, one must transfer all of their rights over to the sovereign if they expect to be led, they must, in turn, no longer be a judge to anything. Finally, everyone must perform and respect all of the covenants made until or unless the sovereign is unable to protect and/or control you. He offers principles coinciding with the first three, however, are not as important, like gratitude, accommodation, pardon, no revenge, no contempt, equality, no reservations, and equity.
The arguments of Hobbes in comparison to both Glaucon and Thrasymachus are extremely different, while still commenting on the same issues, they attack different subjects and ideas. Glaucon and Thrasymachus did not directly state the idea of the state of nature and all three men have dissenting opinions on the origin and nature of justice. Hobbes agrees with Glaucon in saying that no one is willingly just, but they must want to do the just actions for themselves. However, Glaucon says that their justice comes inhibited and not aware to them, while Hobbes says that is not true. Hobbes believes that the people who are truly just will do their characteristically just actions no matter what consequences may come about from their actions. As for Hobbes’ position in relation to Thrasymachus he says that even outside of the state of nature, where a sovereign rules, that person still will not do what is completely advantageous to their self because the result would be a complete overthrow by the people who object to those rules. In addition to his refute, he adds his principles for people to abide by in order to get out and stay out of the state of nature and benefit for themselves until their sovereign is unable to lead and protect them.
In conclusion, assuming that we are limited to one and only one option, then the position and arguments that Hobbes makes, I believe are the most convincing for the idea of justice in America’s society today. Hobbes makes every point that is relevant and also present in today’s society, therefore, it is the most easily taken view today and the point that I agree with the most. There is obviously competition for gain in the workplace in the entire world, no job is open for more than a few days after it is made available. If one person refuses to work hard at a skill, the person or persons in charge merely fire that person and find another person who is willing to make the commitment because they know there are thousands of people aching for jobs every hour of every day. As for the security and protection and glory, they are still evident in the American society; however, they are not as prominent in today’s era. Everyone is in fear of violent death, no one wants any kind of genocide to occur, that is why whenever a comparable event is shown on TV, there are objections and riots all around the country.
Two extremely relatable characteristics in American society are that everyone desires for a comfortable, material life for themselves and of course, they believe they can achieve it by hard work and if this doesn’t occur, they will fall back to the state of nature with almost no gain possible. Hobbes makes three wonderful points given to the people in order to stay out of the state of nature and I believe these three principles are extremely valuable in today’s society and the lifestyles of people in this time period. Peace can be the ultimate solution for anything, for everyone to live peacefully should be the goal of every single person in the world, especially those able to do a larger part than commoners. Also, for people not to be judgmental of anything and to be non-critical or unbiased on one’s opinions of everything and finally, to perform and respect the covenants that you make. If one breaks the covenants and promises occurred often, then there could not possibly be any sort of trust present in the world. Hobbes makes three special points so pertinent to the lifestyles of the Americans today; making peace, transferring rights while not being judgmental and keeping the covenants we make, this is why I believe that his arguments are the most convincing.
Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’ Leviathan