A Just Life Leads To A Prosperous Life – Philosophy Essay
Plato’s view on leading a just life – as asserted through Socrates in Republic – lends one to suggest that being just leads to a life of happiness. I will attempt to show that leading a just life can be rewarding to someone who chooses to follow it.
In the Republic, Socrates is engaged in a spirited debate with Thrasymachus in which at one point the two men argue whether or not leading a just life would have an advantage over an unjust life. Thrasymachus maintains (using an analogy) that “…when a partnership is wound up, you will never find that the more honest of two partners comes off with the larger share” . Through cross-examination, Socrates concludes – based on the answers of Thrasymachus – that the problems that occur when injustice occurs – ignorance, lack of cooperation between others, etc. – culminates into an unsuccessful life where nothing can be achieved.
The claim in which leading a just life carries more rewards than leading an unjust life is true in the sense that what is achieved by leading a just life – knowledge, cooperation and happiness – far outweighs the product of leading an unjust life. Therefore, I find Thrasymachus flawed in his view on justice and injustice in regards to his argument that those leading just lives do not lead rewarding lives because his argument is based on a ‘worst case scenario’. I find his line of reasoning narrow because his argument fails to acknowledge the fact that a just life is also capable of being a happy life. He also fails to acknowledge the fact that leading an unjust life could also potentially lead to an unhappy life.
Take for example, a successful businessman practicing shady business tactics. He does so to achieve a high status within the business community but gets caught in this unjust act, loosing all the acclaim and honour he had, while his happy life going south. This goes contrary to what Thrasymachus believes the just man is worse off than those who practice injustice , where being unjust in this case does not necessarily lead to happiness. This situation is plausible today in such a wired society such as ours in which many transactions are tracked and human error in covering up the breaking of business regulations is probable.
Socrates later goes on to say in his discussion with Thrasymacus that the function of the soul – which is living a happy life – is dependant on whether the virtue of justice is present . This is true in the case that being just in discerning what is right or wrong is reliant on whether or not society will punish you if caught. Those who are just – according to Socrates – possess high intelligence and character ; essential elements for leading a just life.
It is easier to view injustice and justice as two branching paths: the path of justice is the harder path to take while the path of injustice is the easier, high-risk path.
To put this into perspective, we could use an example to prove this in the form of a typical student project situation involving the path of justice and the path of injustice. If you took the path of injustice and chose to ride the coat tails of your peers in a school project, you could do nothing to contribute to the project while achieving a high mark than researching, collaborating and contributing ideas with your peers in order to achieve a high mark. However, if you took the path of justice, you would be a willing contributor to the group, assisting in research and throwing in ideas in order to help your team mates. If you helped your teammates, it would display the character you possess to your peers and shows the intelligence you have in being able to contribute ideas to the final product, therefore leading a just path. On the opposite ends of the spectrum, failing to contribute can lead to your peers seeing how despicable you are and causing a break down in group chemistry, showing the people you work with how horrible of a team member you are and ultimately you could be reported as a faulty member of the group to the professor and be given a fail. In this case, the path of least resistance does not pay off as opposed to working hard and contributing.
One of the most common rebuttals that have been tossed around in response to Plato’s works is in the form of an example. A man who is at his wits ends, poor and unable to support himself through legal means. He is then forced to stealing food in order to support himself and his family, committing an injustice while being happy and content with his action. I find this example flawed, as it does not address certain issues. One must ask how he ended up in such a dire state. In many cases, it is the government’s role to reach out to every citizen’s needs – as many politicians claim – and succeed in doing so. However, this is not something that is done in many cases, and therefore an injustice has been committed by the government in being unable to fulfill their obligations in assisting the people that they are expected or pressured by citizens to help. Therefore, it is in my opinion that stealing in order to extend one’s lifespan and others he or she is responsible for is justified in this case due to the fact that the elected authority has failed to service this person.
Maintaining a sense of justice serves as a cog in the soul’s primary function of leading a happy life. Despite the fact that the path of justice is harder than following the path of injustice, the payoff and self-gratification one can get from the riches of a just life outweigh the massive risks one takes in taking a path of injustice.
Plato, Republic, A. Johnson, A. Reath, Ethics Selections from Classical and Contemporary Writers, (Thomson Wadsworth), 2004