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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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JUSTICE IS PROFITABLE (588b-592b)

This section completes the circle on the topic of justice begun in Book 1. Socrates concludes that not only is the just life more profitable than the unjust, but also that it is better to be punished for wrongdoing than not.

Socrates employs "a symbolic image of the soul" for his proof on the considerable disadvantages of injustice. It goes like this: First image a many-headed beast that has a ring of tame and wild heads. Next image a lion and a man and join these with the beast. Enclose the three figures with an external shell that has the shape of a man. Now, what you have is an image of the tripartite soul.

Such men as Thrasymachus, who believe that injustice is profitable, appear to be saying that it is to one's advantage to nourish and to cater to the many-headed beast (the appetites, both necessary and unnecessary ones). But as the beast grows it drags the man wherever it will, it creates constant turmoil, and it devours the man from within. On the other hand, those men who affirm the profitable nature of justice give the man within the shell complete control over all parts of the soul. The internal man (reason) makes the lion (emotion) his ally and cares for the beast (appetite) in such a way that the beast is friendly and works for the good of the whole man.

Thus, being just-having harmonious unity within a soul guided by reason-is in a man's best interest. Analogously, the state ruled by philosopher kings is the happiest state and the best governed. Moreover, undetected and unpunished crimes feed the beast and starve reason. It is, therefore, in the wrongdoers' best interest to be punished lest the brutish part of the soul gains complete control.



At this point the compelling conflict of The Republic has been resolved. The proper choice between the philosophic and tyrannic lives should be clear. Even though the just man who is wrongly imprisoned or tortured cannot be happy, tyranny in the soul and state contains no element of happiness at all. The just life is profitable because justice is connected with self- sufficiency, self-esteem, and self-control.

This book ends with Socrates reasserting that the perfectly just state exists in theory only and is to be found nowhere on earth, now or ever. The just city, he says, is a pattern "laid up in heaven" for those people to follow who want to live the life of excellence.

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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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