“the having and doing of one’s own and what belongs to one would be agreed to
be justice.” (The Republic 434a)
In other words the above statement means that justice, according to Plato, is
doing only the tasks assigned to them by nature. This is the fundamental notion for
his creation of an ideal city. It is both knowing what true justice is and where one
belongs in the city that the ideal can be achieved. What this means to politics in the
ideal city is that only a certain class of person has the ability to engage in politics, just
as only a certain person has the ability to engage in carpentry. Those who engage in
politics would be the philosophers because just as the ideal individual searches for
universal truth so must the ideal city. This is a concept that would make sense to a
philosopher such as Plato, but it assumes that those who do not or cannot seek the
truth, need it, or to be ruled by it in order to live in an idealistic city.
It is necessary for Plato to define what true justice means in order for it to be
prescribed in his city . Justice in a city, according to him, can be found in an
individual as well because it is a concept that is universal; it is found within the
individual and outside the individual. Thus, it is essential to the founding of a city.
Justice in a city is when a division of labour takes place amongst its residents. As an
individual uses his or her minds for thinking and hands for making and fighting, the
ideal city classifies people into what they do best. Those with an arete (an
excellence) for artistry would be artisans, or money-makers, those that could go
beyond mere materialism, those that could seek the truth, would be the rulers. As the
ideal individual naturally conducts himself or herself by placing reason as the guide to
their conduct, the ideal city will allow those with the most reason- the philosophers-
to guide the city’s conduct and act in the cities collective interest. A third class,
auxiliaries, would be in charge of carrying out what the philosophers, guardians of the
city, decided. However, Plato does admit that this system is a hierarchy with the
philosophers at the top, but he allows this because they are the only ones who can find
universal truths and pass it on to those who cannot see it. To Plato the above is his
vision of a justice.
Within his idea of justice, Plato also has three other virtues to help categorize
those within the city and find justice in the city itself- wisdom, courage, and
moderation, all ideals that would sustain the city and nurture it. Wisdom is found in
the philosophers, courage in the auxiliaries, and moderation found in all classes.
Philosophers need wisdom and the need to know what justice is. The auxiliaries, say
soldiers, need courage to protect the interests of the city. Finally, all classes need to
demonstrate moderation so as not to develop injustices through excess...