1. Critique of Prevailing Theories:
To develop his own theory of justice, Plato discusses the prevailing theories of justice. Three of them are:
i. Theory of Cephalus: Traditional:
Cephalus considers justice as speaking the truth and paying what was due to gods and men. This discussion assumes that justice is an art which gives well to friends and evil to enemies instead.
Plato holds that true justice means “doing good to all and harm to none”. Furthermore he says that it is not always possible to distinguish between the enemies and the friends. Plato argues that theory of Cephalus treats justice individualistic, rather than a social concept.
Instead, concept of justice should have a universal application. By treating justice as an art, it is made an instrument of those wielding power.
ii. Theory of Thrasyachus:
Thrasyachus represents the outlook of radical sophists. According to him,
“Justice is the interest of stronger”.
It believes in the prince, “might is right”. Plato rejects it out rightly and holds that justice can never be the interest of stronger. The government is an art and it aims at perfection of only act. Moreover, justice is always better than injustice and a just man is wiser, stronger and happier than an unjust man because he also knows his limitations.
iii. Theory of Glauco: Pragmatic:
He treats justice as an artificial thing—a product of social convention. This theory is the precursor of the social contract theory. In the state of nature there was no justice, or state.
Many weaknesses combined together and created the state. Justice is the child of fear and is based on the necessity of the weaker and not the interest of the stronger.
Plato criticizes it on the ground that it considers justice as something external or an importation. He holds that justice is rooted in human mind. Though it is located in both, the individual and the state, but encompasses it in larger quantity and in visible form.
2. Plato’s Theory of Justice:
As a perfect dialectician, Plato contrasts the three elements of state, viz., rulers, soldiers and farmers with three elements of human mind, viz., reason, spirit and appetite each representing the three attributes of human mind. This led Prof. Barker to remark “this triplicate of the soul, whatever its source is the foundation of much of the republic”.
3. How it can be achieved:
Justice for the society can be realized if each group performs the function; it is best suited to perform without interfering in the affairs of others. Thus justice implies a sort of specialisation and the principle of non-interference and harmony.
Justice is the bond which holds a society together, a harmonious union of individuals, each of whom has found his life work in accordance with his natural fitness and his training. It is both a Public and Private virtue because the highest good both at the state and its members is hereby conserved.
Basic Principle of Theory of Justice:
1. It means functional specialisation. In it each component of the state performs the functions, it is best suited to perform, and justice can be ensured in the society.
2. It implies non-interference. Only when no component of the state interferes with the sphere of other’s duty that unity can be ensured moreover, only by doing so a society can benefit from the work of an individual
3. It implies a principle of harmony. Three human virtue, viz., wisdom, courage and temperance representing three classes are harmonized by the justice.
1. Based on moral principles, but lacks legal sanction.
2. Three-fold, clear-cut division of classes is impractical.
3. Neglects the producing classes concerns in participation of government.
4. Is a case for absolutism?
5. For Popper “Open society and its enemies”, Platonic justice gives rise to totalitarianism and ignores humanitarian principles like liberty, equality etc.
6. Individuals are made a means to an end.
Despite limitations one cannot refuse to appreciate platonic eyesight into philosophical questions. If we take cognizance of his time, many of Plato’s criticism would fall flat; the greatest contribution is that he visualized a prospect for peace and order in a society where some form of political crisis was the order of the day.