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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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Socrates' principle of minding one's own business is more profound than it first appears. Upon reflection, you can see that Socrates has systematically constructed the principle of justice by using the other three virtues as building blocks, putting one upon the other. The producers must be moderate; auxiliaries must be moderate and courageous; and rulers must be moderate, courageous, and wise.

Socrates says that justice is a "residue" of the other three virtues. This means that the other virtues, when properly ordered and placed within the structure of a state, combine to create justice (perhaps in a fashion similar, to use a crude analogy, to the combination of fuel, heat, and oxygen that creates fire). Justice emerges from a well-ordered, smoothly running social organization. It is the fire of a properly ordered state. It is that quality which results when the individuals of the state perform their appointed tasks in accordance with their specific excellences of character. No class must meddle in the affairs of another class. Farmers must not tell rulers how to make laws, and rulers must not tell farmers how to grow corn.



Thus, justice in the state is the proper functioning of each individual doing his or her own work for the benefit of all citizens. It comes about and is maintained through the dynamic interaction of the virtues of moderation, courage, and wisdom properly ordered. In addition, its presence in a state depends on the knowledge and wisdom of the state's rulers. Each class must possess the knowledge of what its proper function is, but the knowledge of the functioning of the state as a whole belongs to the rulers. Rulers, thus, are the guardians of what is good.

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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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