Notes on The Republic, by Plato, 358b-362d Justice

Glaucon’s Conception of Justice


Glaucon discourses a general conception and understanding of justice. First, justice starts from surrender. People are not able to do injustice while getting far away from suffering injustice. Therefore, they set up contract, which encourage people to do justice. Second, justice is defined. It is not from people’s nature. People naturally do things unjust because they pursue for good things. Third, injustice makes people live better life and good reputation than justice.

Structure of Glaucon’s Conception of Justice

I. Justice is a mean between the best and the worst. Justice came from a contract which was made by people who are not able to do injustice while avoid suffering injustice all the time.

Justice is defined by the laws and compacts, which rule people neither to do injustice nor to suffer it. Glaucon argues that justice is a mean between what is best—doing injustice without paying the penalty—and what is worst—suffering injustice without being able to avenge oneself.

II. People practice injustice unwillingly. People could get everything that does not belong to them easily by doing injustice. Therefore, no one is willingly just but only when compelled to be so.

Suppose the just have the right to do things as the unjust. The just man, who was given license to do whatever he wants, would do injustice because of the desire to get the better(Example of shepherd). Any nature naturally pursues as good. And justice is forced by law.

III. People do injustice naturally for the life of the unjust man is far better than that of the just man.

In this part, two ideal people were polished up. To do the judgment, Glaucon took both the unjust and the just as perfect in their own pursuit. One is extreme of injustice, which is to seem to be just when he is not. The extreme unjust person seems to be just while he does everything unjust. He’s extreme hypocritical. The unjust man got reputation, wealth, happy marriage and good friends because he seems to be just.

In opposition, the just one is the extreme of justice. Doing no injustice, let him have the greatest reputation for injustice. The just person always does justice and goes unchanged till death. However, he is always been misunderstood. He insists on doing justice throughout his life although he is regarded as unjust. He is extremely kind. However, he will be whipped; he’ll be racked; he’ll be bound; he’ll have both his eyes burned out; in the end, he’ll be crucified and realize that one shouldn’t wish to be, but to seem to be, just. The just man got bad reputation. He was poor. He got nothing till death.

With gods and with humans, a better life is provided for the unjust man than for the just man. In a word, Glaucon thinks that people naturally do injustice for injustice brings people good things while people are compelled to do justice for getting far away from suffering injustice.

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