Just So Lustful

Justice is desirable. Socrates believes the men who praise it are more generously rewarded than those who worship injustice. The question of the matter is.. how does one come to be “just”?

Socrates explains a just man must have a “healthy” soul. If a man is able to acquire this, then he shall enjoy numerous pleasures in the afterlife. His belief in this theory can be seen when he first speculates on the matter and declares how justice “profits the one who has it, whether he is believed to be just or not” (P72, 329c). Even before he has a firm grasp on the concept of what justice is, he is convinced it is more advantageous to devote oneself to it. With this, I found it interesting how the myth of ER  relates to the just and unjust man. It indicates the souls of either men are able to choose if they wish to be reincarnated as animals. However, the animal they were to become was often a representation of the nature within their soul. For instance, those who are just, transformed into tame and graceful creatures such as the “eagle” (P325, 620b-5).  On the other hand, those with unjust and selfish appetites are represented to be ridiculous and have beastly characteristics, such as the “ape” (P.325, 620c).  Similarly, Socrates concludes the soul of a just man saves him from facing punishment in the next life, more specifically a thousand years of it. In other words, if one continues to practice virtuous and moral actions, they can avoid this agony altogether. If this is the case for the afterlife, then what about the mortal world? Is it equally rewarding?

Contrary to what one may think, Socrates claims the benefits are mutual in the mortal world. This can be shown with the metaphor of the shepherd and his sheep.  For instance, the shepherd provides the sheep with adequate care. In return, the sheep produces wool to be sold and brings income to the shepherd. As a result, both parties form a relationship of mutual benefit. However, should he desire to make profit, the shepherd must ensure his product is of the highest quality. In order to achieve such task, he must then make the sheep’s well-being his top priority.  Of course, this is assuming his income is decided by the quality rather than quantity of the product. What if the wage is fixed, where the price of wool is the same for either finer or poorer merchandise? Are we to believe that the shepherd will put in the same amount of effort as he did before?

The majority are likely to believe he would not do so.  Despite this, if the ideal city of Kallipolis revolves around the idea of  “justice is superior to injustice”, then it is rational to say the shepherd will continue to work as he always had. For example, Socrates indicates Kallipolis has a hierarchical structure of Rulers, Guardians, and Producers. He states justice is demonstrated where each individual respects their role in society. In other words, each class is satisfied with their place and will not venture outside of their ranking. As a result, balance is formed and maintained in this way. Then in the case of the shepherd, he is satisfied with his role as a Producer. On the other hand, if he attempts to boost his ranking, he would be charged for disturbing the harmony and acting upon injustice. Therefore, it is far more likely he will continue to function in his usual way, as it is all the more natural for him to do so.

It is with this logic, that if a just man, like the shepherd, follows the structures of their city and respect it, then their souls are similarily just. Nevertheless, when they reach the afterlife, their souls will be undoubtedly rewarded for their dedication to justice.


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