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A Critique of Plato's Just Society using the Notion of Fairness from John Rawls - Essay Example

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Both Plato and John Rawls had a view of a just society grounded on the relationship of the individual to society. Plato maintained that justice in society ought to reflect justice in the soul. Just as the soul was governed by reason, so should society…
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A Critique of Platos Just Society using the Notion of Fairness from John Rawls
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A Critique of Plato's Just Society using the Notion of Fairness from John Rawls

Download file to see previous pages... He viewed that there could be a harmony or just society, only when these inequalities were either factored in or eliminated, and this notion of 'fairness' will be presented as a fundamental critique of Plato. The most explicit discussion of the tripartite part of the soul, and the primacy of reason therein, occurs in the fourth book of the Republic (435b). One of the first preliminary aspects of the soul, is that although the parts of the soul are distinct in their virtues, Socrates also stresses that in the functioning of these parts, the soul must be considered as a “whole” [Plato, 1992, p. 436a]. What is implied by this, is as follows. If for example, one desired food, and this desire originated in the appetites, it would still require reason both to discern the means of satisfying this desire, but also it would require reason to know when one has had enough for the sake of health in which case, reason would act upon the ‘will’ to suppress desire, so to speak. This is a ‘chain of command’, so to speak, which will be explored both as it is outlined in this section of the Republic, but also in terms of how this is established in the three classes of the state [Haworth, 2004, p. 13]. Further, it is important to similarly stress that the appetites are as necessary for reason for the sake of surviving. In other words, someone who had no appetite would starve, just as someone who had no ‘will’ or ‘spirit’ would have no discipline to stop eating or drinking. Thus, Socrates stresses that although reason is given privilege within the scheme of the soul, he also stresses that all three aspects constitute the ‘whole’, and this ‘whole’ is necessary for surviving. In some ways, his position on the soul can be said to be a refutation of Thrasymachus' position from the beginning of the dialogue where he argues that the just society is the one ruled by the “stronger” [Adams and Dyson, 2003, p. 4]. Socrates defines this relation, using, for example, the compulsion to “drink” extending from the appetites or the “irrational” [Plato, 1992, p. 439d] part of the soul: “Doesn’t that which forbids in such cases come into play – if it comes into play at all – as a result of rational calculation, while what drives and drags them to drink is a result of feelings and diseases? Apparently” [Plato, 1992, p. 439c-d]. Although the surface appearance, suggests that there is a complete opposition between the appetites on the one hand, or, desire, impulse, etc.., and on the other hand, the rational component of the soul, it is as though there is a harmony of opposites which Socrates is arguing here. What is implied by this, is as follows. Even though reason and irrationality are opposed, they are united in the very functioning of the soul. While the appetites are controlled through the “spirit” or the will [Plato, 1992, p. 440a], it is reason which makes the decision concerning how much control, or when to control the appetites. Again, it is important that we have appetites, and that they are necessary for survival, which reason is aware of, for the same reasoning, that is, for the sake of surviving or health, they must also be controlled. In keeping with Socrates example of drinking, it is often the case that an alcoholic, who is overcome by their appetites, may end up dying or being sick at the very least. Thus, the relationship between the parts of the soul, can be described as created a ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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