Throughout the first few
books of The Republic, the meaning of
the word “justice” is consistently debated and ostensibly ambiguous. There are various
definitions of the word “justice” offered by Celaphus, Polymarchus, and
Thrasymachus. Socrates denies all definitions given and ultimately states that
justice is “minding of one’s own business” at the end of book IV (The Republic 433b). Furthermore, whether
justice is profitable or not can be determined by the Socrates’ meaning of profitability.
Socrates proves that the word “profitable” does not have any relation to money,
wealth, or innovation, but rather relates it to the overall happiness and
security of a city. However, it is vital to note that the concept of justice
being profitable is only possible in the city Socrates constructs where all
people are educated and strive to live just lives. Thus, Socrates’ definition
of justice proves that justice is profitable in the long run based on the examination
of Thrasyachus’ argument, structure of the “just” city, and the meaning of the
soul in relation to a city.
The first idea that justice is profitable is derived from
Socrates’ dissecting of Thrasyamachus’ argument of profitability and injustice.
Thrasymachus originally states that “just is nothing other than the advantage
of the stronger” (The Republic 338c).
Socrates responds that according to Thrasymachus’ argument that “it’s just to
do not only what is advantageous for the stronger but also the opposite, what
is disadvantageous” (The Republic 339d).
Socrates is not convinced that doing what is advantageous for the stronger is
always vital. Thus, Thrasymachus redefines justice as “the advantage of the
stronger, and unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself” (The Republic 344c). There are several
problems Socrates notes with individuals acting out selfishly and unjust in
order to gain profitability in society. Socrates states that injustice leads to
“factions, hatreds, and quarrels, while justice produces friendships and
unanimity” (The Republic 351d).
Injustice is not profitable in that sense because it would produce enemies
which would be a threat to security. Additionally, unjust individuals would not
be able to accomplish anything with one another due to hatred. Injustice would
be utterly damaging to the overall health of a city, thus making it unhealthy.
Justice is good and profitable, but only possible in a
city where all people are educated and desire to live just lives. The
definition that “minding one’s business” is just and profitable in a city where
people are designated to specific classes and jobs. Socrates says “All of you
in the city are certainly brothers…but the God in fashioning those of you who
are competent to rule, mixed gold in at their birth; this is why they are the
most honored; in auxiliaries, silver; and iron and bronze in the farmers and
other craftsmen” (The Republic 415a).
Socrates believes that all men in the city are equal; however, certain men are
fit for particular jobs, and it is best to put specific individuals in jobs
that are suited for their level of intelligence and skills. No group of
individuals would ever get resentful or jealous of another group due to the
fact that they would be separated. All men would feel important for the job
that they are doing. Therefore, this supports “minding one’s business” because
no one would be focused on what other groups are doing. Ultimately, this would
bring the most profitability to the healthy city because it would bring
happiness to the individual, and bring stability and security to the city. Men
would be happy with the job they are doing do to the fact that it fits their
talents and needs. The city would be secure and stable because they men would
be able to accomplish the necessary job to satisfy the needs of the city as a
Socrates reveals that the soul is a balance of three
characteristics which can be regulated by moderation. The three parts of the
soul are characterized by reason, courage, and desires. In the beginning of
book IV, Adeimantus is worried that certain individuals will not be happy in
Socrates’ city (The Republic 419a).
Socrates states that he wouldn’t be surprised if the men in his city are
actually the happiest because “in the founding of the city we are not looking
to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but, as far as possible,
that of the city as a whole. We supposed we would find justice most in such a
city, and injustice, in its turn, in the worst-governed one” (The Republic 420b). Like the soul, the city
needs moderation in its people which will, in turn, lead to justice,
profitability, and happiness. The guardians equate to wisdom, the auxiliaries
equate to courage, and finally the common people equate to desire. With all
three represented in the city, Socrates believes there will be moderation and
in return, happiness, solidarity, and safety. All in all, moderation is vital because
it allows for balance within the city between the three classes, which allows
for overall profitability.