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Example research essay topic: Definition Of Justice Good Person - 1,200 words

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The subject matter of the Republic is the nature of justice and its relation to human existence. Book I of the republic contains a critical examination of the nature and virtue of justice. Socrates engages in a dialectic with Thrasymachus, Polemarchus, and Cephalus, a method which leads to the asking and answering of questions which directs to a logical refutation and thus leading to a convincing argument of the true nature of justice. And that is the main function of Book I, to clear the ground of mistaken or inadequate accounts of justice in order to make room for the new theory. Socrates attempts to show that certain beliefs and attitudes of justice and its nature are inadequate or inconsistent, and present a way in which those views about justice are to be overcome. Traditionally justice was regarded as one of the cardinal virtues; to avoid injustices and to deal equitable with both equals and inferiors was seen as what was expected of the good man, but it was not clear how the benefits of justice were to be reaped.

Socrates wants to persuade from his audience to adopt a way of estimating the benefits of this virtue. From his perspective, it is the quality of the mind, the psyche organization which enables a person to act virtuously. It is this opposition between the two types of assessment of virtue that is the major theme explored in Socrates examination of the various positions towards justice. Thus the role of Book I is to turn the minds from the customary evaluation of justice towards this new vision. Through the discourse between Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus, Socrates thoughts and actions towards justice are exemplified.

Though their views are different and even opposed, the way all three discourse about justice and power reveal that they assume the relation between the two to be separate. They find it impossible to understand the idea that being just is an exercise of power and that true human power must include the ability to act justly. And that is exactly what Socrates seeks to refute. The Socratic dialogue begins of Socrates recounting a conversation he had with a number of people at the house of Cephalus. Returning to Athens from Piraeus, where they had been attending a religious festival, Socrates and Glaucon are intercepted by Cephalus, who playfully forces them to come to his fathers house. Socrates begins by asking the old man what advice he has to give the youth.

Cephalus regards his reliance on wealth as a condition which enables the good person to lead a life of justice. Socrates, which recognizes that justice is an attribute of the good person, still sees Cephalus view as only possible with sufficient material wealth. Cephalus is not a reflective person, it is obviously suggested when he states that a person can satisfy the requirements of a just and good life by possessing the right disposition and equipped with adequate wealth. But that is all that his life experiences have shown him and unlike Socrates, Cephalus is not a man for whom unexamined life is not worth living. Therefore Socrates response to Cephalus is not a direct confrontation. Socrates comments that the value of talking to old men is that they may teach us something about the life they have traversed.

They may tell us the benefits of old age, however, Plato exploits Cephalus account of old age to suggest that old age is not a source of wisdom. The wisdom and goodness which enables Cephalus to see his age as a beneficial state need not come with old age. To most men, as Cephalus recognizes, old age is a source of misery and resentment. Only those who have order and peace with themselves can accept old age with equanimity. And so it turns out that neither youth nor old age are conditions which enable people to perceive the just way to live; its character and a right disposition. Cephalus supposes that material possession is responsible for the correct perception of what makes a life good.

But take the consolations of wealth away and see whether the right character ensures the same peaceful acceptance of old age. Cephalus argues that finding old age as a good thing will depend on whether you have the disposition of those who have order and peace with themselves. And he identifies this disposition with the inclination not to tell lies or deceive and the willingness to fulfill obligations to gods and men. He believes that a life which manifests these disposition is the life of a just person, of a person conscious of having lived free from injustice. It is unclear whether Cephalus takes it that being conscious of having lived free from injustices is simply that one has not cheated or told lies and having fulfilled the obligations to gods and man. Because of the living of a just life is merely to follow these guidelines then it is not implied if these virtues are attributed to a specific personality, or of an orderly and peaceful character.

If his argument is not correctly linked then there is no reason to correlate living justly with the possession of a certain character; the just character. It could turn out that the benefits of just conduct are the possession of a particular sort of character. Socrates remarks that telling the truth and returning what is borrowed cannot be the definition of justice (as outlined by Cephalus), he claims that instances of the types of action Cephalus thinks of as just, can in different circumstances be identified as cases of unjust. Socrates launches into a description of the act of giving a borrowed weapon back to a friend who while being out of his sense, asks to reclaim it. Socrates claims that everyone would acknowledge that one should not return the weapon- it would be unjust to do so. And so we conclude based on Socrates argument that the just action is not merely a good or beneficial action: it is an action whose goodness is that which specifically belongs to justice.

But this is in contrary view to Cephalus, he is convinced that people for whom there is order and peace lead the life of justice and avoid injustices. According to Cephalus, not returning the weapon to an enraged friend is an action in which one does not like to see any harm coming to people or because he cannot tolerate any harm. But if these are motives in avoiding injustice, there may be circumstances in which that person may be forced to act unjustly. And most obvious is that even if just people do have gentle and orderly personalities as suggested by Cephalus, it is not obvious that their justice is due to that personality or rather the other the other way around. Cephalus account of what makes his life a good and just one does not show that he avoids injustice because he understand the harm of being unjust. And so paradoxically a life lived in accordance with justice may not in fact be life lived from injustice.

Cephalus failure to provide an adequate definition of justice shows that the life according...


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