The Principle of Specialization for a “just” city


In the so-called “just city” that Socrates explains in the book The Republic By Plato, it is clear that one of the main ideas he expresses throughout the book is the principle of specialization. The principle of specialization is set up to create a “desirable” city suited for everyone. It is a place where personal freedom and creativity is not valued because these desires to Socrates mean creating unjust individuals eventually leading to an unjust society.


The people living in this city are forced to perform a role that they are naturally suited whether they enjoy it or not. There is not space for disagreement as everyone has a set role and duty they are expected to fulfill. Similar to society today, there seems to be three main classes; the producers, auxiliaries, and guardians. Unlike society we are living in today, the classes are based upon whether you are fit to rule, carry out the jobs of the rulers, or just a normal every day person with a job. Sadly, if you are a producer in this city there is no chance in becoming an auxiliary or guardian/ruler. Even if you are a naturally gifted doctor with hidden passions to become a businessman, there are no exceptions here as it the best way in Socrates’ mind to ensure people do their jobs to keep the system productive. By separating the classes, creating a division of labor towards the “good life,” Socrates believes all of this will allow the city to become simple yet “just.”


Although Socrates creates a just city, the meaning of justice or being just is quite subjective and uncertain between himself as well as his peers. Justice to Cephalus is “living up to your legal obligations and being honest” where as Polemarchus and Thrasymachus have other ideas to this meaning. Polemarchus sees justice as “[owing] friends help, and [owing] enimes harm”, meaning giving back what is lawfully due to a person. While Thrasymachus sees justice as “nothing more than the advantage of the stronger.” Oddly enough, as Socrates observes these men’s definitions of justice, he presents no opinion of his own. It then comes to my attention that if Socrates cannot fully define what “justice” is, how can his theory using the principle of specialization be legitimate towards a just city?

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