Monday, September 10, 2012
Plato's Republic: What is Justice?
The new study edition of the Republic that I put together with Stephan Mayo is now out and I'm using it this semester with a core group of very bright philosophy majors (The Elite!). The text was based upon a series of course notes that Steve and I put on-line over ten years ago, and it has been at least six years since I've explored the wisdom in this masterpiece of philosophical literature.
I've always felt that the Republic deserves to be called the greatest work in the field of philosophy, not only because of the influence it has had on the entire history of philosophy, but also because it treats virtually every important issue that any serious student of philosophy should care about.
Of course, the main question that Plato/Socrates addresses is, "What is Justice?" Now, this work was written almost 2,500 hundred years ago, but it seems that we are no closer to answering this question than the ancient Greeks were. Liberals would argue that justice is caring for the most vulnerable members of the society, libertarians that it is allowing for maximal personal freedom and the most minimal government possible, and religious conservatives maintain that justice is only possible in a society which respects biblical values and ideals.
Everyone has his or her own ideas about what justice is and often these ideas come into conflict with one another. As a communitarian and distributivist I certainly have my own ideas about what justice is. Of course, the kind of society that I would create if I were the Philosopher-King would probably alienate just about everyone, except the three other people in the country who share my rather peculiar world-view.
Some day soon I hope to articulate my own distributivist position on justice on this site, but right now what I'd really like is to find out what other people think justice is. And I'd like to see if there's any commonalities among these views.
So, if you have your own ideas about what justice is--no matter how wacky they might be--feel free to share them with the rest of us!