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Justice In Plato's Republic And Hobbes' Leviathan

2841 words - 11 pages

One of the main concepts in both Plato's Republic and Hobbes' Leviathan is justice. For Plato, the goal of his Republic is to discover what justice is and to demonstrate that it is better than injustice. Plato does this by explaining justice in two different ways: through a city or polis and through an individual human beings soul. He uses justice in a city to reveal justice in an individual. For Hobbes, the term justice is used to explain the relationship between morality and self-interest. Hobbes explains justice in relation to obligations and self-preservation. This essay will analyze justice specifically in relation to the statement ? The fool hath said in his heart, there is no such thing as justice? Looking at Hobbes? reply to the fool will demonstrate that his main goal was to declare what people ought to do when interacting with others and what can be expected in return for that behaviour. By analyzing the Republic, it will be shown that Plato would most likely differ with the statement made by the fool because the main of premise the book in itself is to discover the definition of justice.

To understand Hobbes? reply to the fool, one must first define justice according to Hobbes. He believes that justice is men performing their covenants made and the constant will of giving every man his own. A covenant is a part of a contract, or ?mutual transferring of right, in which at least one of the parties ?is to perform in time to come?. Hobbes maintains that it is never against reason to complete a covenant when man has the security that others will also perform covenants made with him. However, the problem that arises from forming covenants is that just because people enter into a covenant to perform some action, it does not necessarily mean that both parties will adhere to them. Thus, Hobbes begins his reply to the fool by stating that:
For the question is not of promises mutual, where there is not security of performance on either side; as when there is no civil power erected over the parties promising; for such promise are no covenants: but either where one of the parties has performed already; or where there is a power to make him perform; there is question whether it be against reason, that is, against the benefit of the other to perform or not.

In this first part of the response to the fool, Hobbes claims that in a state of nature, a covenant is beneficial if both people involved comply but dangerous if either does not comply. Hobbes makes this clear in Chapter XIV by claiming that one person cannot count on another to act rationally and that it is not safe for the first party to follow through for risk of irrational non-cooperation by the second party. However, it seems as though Hobbes is also hinting that reason or self-interest could foster a breach of covenant because if one person could gain by violating his covenant then he would. A breach of covenant is what Hobbes defines as an injustice. This would be...

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