Justice Through the Eyes of Plato and Hume

Name Course Instructor Day Month Year Justice through the Eyes of Plato and Hume The philosophic debate of justice goes back millennia with many points of view on what it actually is and why we have it. Both Plato and Hume had ideas on justice and both differed. Plato, in his Republic, searches for justice by building a city from the ground up in our imagination. He starts with merely five to ten people each with their own job and states that justice is the virtue of the soul. David Hume tells us that “public utility is the sole origin of justice (Hume, 15). David Hume sees Socrates’ approach to justice as misguided due to the abundance of resources in his “simple city,” the lack of advantage to justice in a group as small as Socrates’, and the lack of necessity for laws of foreign justice. The abundance of resources in Socrates’ city is apparent. With a town of ten people there ought to be enough resources to go around in excess. There is no need for justice when there is no need to fret about your supply of resources. If everyone has more than enough of everything than no one needs to protect what they have.

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When a resource then becomes limited then we impose justice to protect the supply we have. We impose justice on theft of a neighbor but not on breathing in a neighbor’s home because his valuables are limited in supply but air is not. Now, some people may argue that all people, no matter the amount of resources will instinctively protect the product of his work. This may be true to an extent of self-preservation as well as a family, but if the resource is so abundant, than a person does not need to protect a certain amount of it for himself.

Rather he is able to use it freely without concern for supply and he will not impose justice to protect that resource for himself. Only as he starts running out of a resource will anyone start using justice to ensure the security of his supply. Air is a good example of this, that no man has laid a claim on his “supply” of air because it is unlimited, but we claim tables as our own because there is only a small supply of tables like it. When in a group as small as Socrates’ city begins with than there is no use for social justice. As long as the group can work like one family, knowing no one else will ake what they have; justice is merely a notion that is unnecessary for us to live in peace. When the small population grows and starts to break into different families than that knowledge dissipates and justice is imposed to keep other people out of your property. This justice gets adopted by the community as a whole and becomes law and anyone that breaks this law is punished by the community. Justice on a familial level may come around if someone slacks on his/her part in the town, but that will be dealt with differently as different people see fit and therefore is not a stable, sturdy guideline for people to follow.

Justice is solely for the benefit of the community as a whole, this is why families follow rules with no set punishment. These rules are tailored to each family’s specific needs and punishment varies with the severity of the break in the rule. Punishment in the community tends to vary with the law broken and its severity. Murder can get a man death or life in prison while theft can get months to ten years in prison, but in a home not doing chores could get you grounded and so can hurting your sibling.

Socrates’ simple city runs on just the basics but no more and they don’t even have money or an army. The city would need no one or be envied by any one because of their basic nature. They do not have any foreign justice partly due to the lack of force to uphold it, and partly due to how small the city is; as well as their neutrality in foreign affairs. If a city or country does not have enough influence or power, than it cannot uphold justice with other cities and/or nations. Humian and Platonic ideas of justice differ in many ways.

Plato thought that justice was the virtue of virtues, nothing was above it but all other virtues fit into it. Hume wrote that justice was artificial, created only for society’s use and benefit. Plato’s approach to justice was flawed in the eyes of Hume. Plato lacked need for justice due to an abundance of resources, lack of utility, and lack of influence to uphold it with foreign states. In a small city of ten people, everyone has their own job and more than enough food, water, and shelter.

The city is so small that everyone can trust one another and can live without worry of their neighbor. Also, Socrates’ city is too small to enforce, and too basic to warrant any need for, a foreign policy. Therefore, the Simple City has absolutely no need for justice. Works Cited Hume, David. “Section 3: Of Justice. ” An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. 2nd ed. La Salle: Open Court, 1966. 15. Print. Plato. The Republic of Plato: Transl. with Notes and an Interpretative Essay by Allan Bloom. Trans. Allan David Bloom. New York: Basic, 1991. Print.

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