Justice and the health of the soul
Civic virtues - courage, wisdom and moderation
During Plato's lifetime he was agonizingly aware of the sufferings associated with conflict as his home state - Athens - was involved in
some thirty years of active disputation with Sparta, in which Athens was the loser.
Athens ceased to be democratic and was under the rule of "Thirty Tyrants" for a time and Plato's much loved and respected friend and
teacher, Socrates, was condemned to death, as seventy-year-old, by Athenian authorities who found cause to greatly disapprove
of what he was teaching to the youth of Athens.
Small wonder, then, that Plato would ask searching questions about the nature, and possibilty, of an Ideal State.
Plato's eventual view of what constitutes an Ideal State, as the following video clip makes clear, is very directly related to his, (and Socrates'), considered view as to what constitutes Justice.
Plato's Ideal State, as envisioned in his most famous work 'The Republic', was suggested of as being peopled with three categories,
or classes, of citizens - artisans, auxiliaries and philosopher-rulers.
Each of these categories of citizens were suggested of as being made up of persons who had similar behavioral tendencies
and outlooks to each other.
In The Republic, and another work Phaedrus, Plato suggests that individual Human Beings each have a Tripartite Soul with the
three aspects featuring in this Tripartism-of-Soul being - appetite, spirit and reason.
Appetite - channeled through the "appetative" artisan class - would produce goods and services, spirit - channeled through the "courageous" auxiliaries
- would provide potential for defence of the state, reason - channeled through the philosopher-rulers (who Plato's suggests of as having
had some fifty years of
training in preparation for their exercise of authority in the Ideal State) - could provide for the
guidance of appetite, and of spirit, in order that the state was ruled wisely in the interests of all.
In Plato's Ideal State three civic virtues, Wisdom, Courage and Temperance, prevail. Plato sees this as being a situation where Justice
is established allowing conditions favorable to the health of the soul of each individual.
According to Plato where reason, spirit and appetite each "does its own work," and "does not
meddle with what isn't its own", Justice will result in the lives of all individuals, and
in the functioning of the state.
Some selections from Dr. Will Durant's - The Story of Philosophy - convey important information about this:
Let us study The Republic.
[Dr. Durant here takes the view that:
The most important parts of The Republic (references are to marginally-numbered sections, not to pages) are
327-32, 336-77, 384-5, 393-426, 433-5, 441-76, 481-3, 512-20, 572-94. The best edition is Jowett's; the most convenient
is in the Everyman series. References are to The Republic unless otherwise stated.]
… we are ready at last to answer the question with which we began - What is justice? There are only three things
worth while in this world - justice, beauty and truth; and perhaps none of them can be defined. Four hundred years after Plato
a Roman procurator of Judea asked, helplessly, "What is truth" - and philosophers have not yet answered nor told us what is beauty.
But for justice Plato ventures a definition. "Justice," he says, "is the having and doing of what is one's own" (433).
This has a disappointing sound; after so much delay we expected an infallible revelation. What does the definition mean?
Simply that each man shall receive the equivalent of what he produces, and shall perform the function for which he is best fit.
A just man is a man in just the right place, doing his best, and giving the full equivalent of what he receives. A society of just men
would be therefore a highly harmonious and efficient group; for every element would be in its place, fulfilling its appropriate
function like the pieces of a perfect orchestra. Justice in a society would be like that harmony of relationships whereby the planets
are held together in their orderly (or, as Pythagoras would have said, their musical) movement. So organized, a society is fit for
survival; and justice receives a kind of Darwinian sanction. Where men are out of their natural places, where the business man
subordinates the statesman, or the soldier usurps the position of the king - there the coördination of parts is destroyed,
the joints decay, the society disintegrates and dissolves. Justice is effective coördination.
And in the individual too, justice is effective coördination, the harmonious functioning of the elements in a man,
each in its fit place and each making its coöperative contribution to behavior. Every individual is a cosmos or a chaos of
desires, emotions and ideas; let these fall into harmony, the individual survives and succeeds; let them lose their proper plan and
function, let emotion try to become the light of action as well as its heat (as in the fanatic), or let thought try to become the heat
of action as well as its light (as in the intellectual) - and disintegration of personality begins, failure advances like the
inevitable night. Justice is a taxis kai kosmos - an order and beauty - of the parts of the soul; it is to the soul as health
is to the body. All evil is disharmony: between man and nature, or man and men, or man and himself.
… Justice is not mere strength, but harmonious strength - desires and men falling into that order which constitutes intelligence
and organization; justice is not the right of the stronger, but the effective harmony of the whole. …
Another brief selection from Dr. Will Durant's - The Story of Philosophy - reads:
… And what shall we say to this whole Utopia? Is it feasible? And if not, has it any practicable features which we could turn
into contemporary use? Has it ever in any place or measure been realized?
At least the last question must be answered in Plato's favour. For a thousand years Europe was ruled by an order of guardians
considerably like that which was envisioned by our philosopher. During the Middle Ages it was customary to classify the population
of Christendom into laboratores (workers), bellatores (soldiers), and oratores (clergy).
"Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant
and universal principles of human nature." David Hume
Such celebrated "Men of Letters" as Emerson and Shakespeare have accepted that Human Nature is 'Tripartite' and Emerson accepted that there was an investigable association
between Human Nature and History.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882) was, in his time, the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States. He remains widely influential
to this day through his essays, lectures, poems, and philosophical writings.
In the later eighteen-twenties Ralph Waldo Emerson read, and was very significantly influenced by, a work by a French philosopher named Victor Cousin.
A key section of Cousin's work reads as follows:
"What is the business of history? What is the stuff of which it is made? Who is the personage of history? Man : evidently man and human nature.
There are many different elements in history. What are they? Evidently again, the elements of human nature. History is therefore the development of humanity,
and of humanity only; for nothing else but humanity develops itself, for nothing else than humanity is free. …
… Moreover, when we have all the elements, I mean all the essential elements, their mutual relations do, as it were, discover themselves. We draw from the
nature of these different elements, if not all their possible relations, at least their general and fundamental relations."
Introduction to the History of Philosophy (1829)
Even before he had first read Cousin, (in 1829), Emerson had expressed views in his private Journals which suggest that he accepted that Human Nature, and Human Beings, tend to display three identifiable aspects and orientations:
Imagine hope to be removed from the human breast & see how Society will sink, how the strong bands of order & improvement will be relaxed & what a deathlike stillness would take the place of the restless energies that now move the world. The scholar will extinguish his midnight lamp, the merchant will furl his white sails & bid them seek the deep no more. The anxious patriot who stood out for his country to the last & devised in the last beleagured citadel, profound schemes for its deliverance and aggrandizement, will sheathe his sword and blot his fame. Remove hope, & the world becomes a blank and rottenness.
(Journal entry made between October and December, 1823)
In all districts of all lands, in all the classes of communities thousands of minds are intently occupied, the merchant in his compting house, the mechanist over his plans, the statesman at his map, his treaty, & his tariff, the scholar in the skilful history & eloquence of antiquity, each stung to the quick with the desire of exalting himself to a hasty & yet unfound height above the level of his peers. Each is absorbed in the prospect of good accruing to himself but each is no less contributing to the utmost of his ability to fix & adorn human civilization.
(Journal entry of December, 1824)
Our neighbours are occupied with employments of infinite diversity. Some are intent on commercial speculations; some engage warmly in political contention; some are found all day long at their books …
(This dates from January - February, 1828)
The quotes from Emerson are reminiscent of a line from another "leading voice of intellectual culture" - William Shakespeare.
There's neither honesty, manhood, nor good fellowship in thee.
William Shakespeare: Henry IV (Pt 1), Act I, Scene II
"The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents;
and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole spring of actions."
Georg Hegel, 1770-1831, German philosopher, The Philosophy of History (1837)
Several truly notable authorities endorse Tripartite Soul Theory