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North American Philosophical Publications

The Psychology of Justice in Plato


Author(s): John M. Cooper
Source: American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 151-157
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the North American Philosophical
Publications
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American Philosophical Quarterly Paper presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the
Volume 14, Number 2, April 1977 American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division,
Portland, Oregon, March 1977

VIII. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF JUSTICE IN PLATO


JOHN M. COOPER

/^\NE important merit of the recent spate of IV. Plato's argument in the later books cannot be
^-^ articles understood properly except in conjunction with the
addressing the Republic's central thesis,
that all and only those who are just lead flourishing, book IV account, aspects of which it is intended to
fulfilled lives, is to have directed attention anew to fill out, and some of the recent literature on book
Plato's moral psychology?specifically to the links IV contains misconceptions about the argument
Plato tries to forge between the love for knowledge there that must be cleared away before we can
and understanding and the aversion to (at any rate) proceed.
much of what would ordinarily be counted as From the beginning of Republic IV it is taken for
unjust treatment of other people.1 It has rightly granted that to be just is to be in a psychological
been seen that the core of Plato's response to state which and directs one's
shapes voluntary
Thrasymachus' challenge lies in this novel?even actions, one's choices and one's preferences
over a
about the nature of what a very wide of concerns. for
paradoxical?thesis range practical Plato,
theorist would call "moral motiva? reasons we need not into now, takes it that such
contemporary go
tion." In this paper I want to examine directly and a
complex state cannot be
adequately understood
on its own account Plato's theory of the just by treating it as a disposition to exhibit any single,
person's psychology, leaving aside for the most part or even any complex set of,
independently and non
the controversies that have loomed so large lately question-beggingly specifiable sorts of action.
about his justification for using the word "just" Justice must be characterized instead in internal,
(Si/cato?) to describe the person whose psychology psychological terms, as a condition of a
person's
this is. The state of mind Plato describes has not, I action-, choice- and
preference-producing appara?
think, been adequately represented in the recent tus, specified by reference to interrelationships
literature, and my interest ismore in what kind of among the different elements of this apparatus
person this iswhom Plato calls just, than inwhether itself. So, having fixed these elements as three,
he is correct in calling him that. My discussion will reason, aspiration2 and appetite, Plato concludes
direct attention more than has been usual in this that justice is the condition of a person in which
context to the Republic's metaphysics, and less to its each of these three plays always and only a certain
political and moral narrowly conceived. I role, one for which it is naturally suited.
theory, single
hope thereby to illuminate somewhat the Platonic Reason, on its own and without interference from

conception of human
perfection and to
bring
out the others, determines how it is best for the person
both the close links between the psychology and to be and act; aspiration identifies with reason's
the metaphysics of the Republic and some of the directives, regarding them as to strive for
objects
often unnoticed consequences that Plato's meta? and making the person dissatisfied with himself if
physics has for his psychological theories. through his own fault they
are not attained; and
restrained and moderated reason and
appetite, by
drives him on toward of
aspiration, pleasures eating,
I
drinking, sex and other bodily gratifications when
Plato develops his account of the psychology of and as, and only when and as, reason approves.
the just person in two principal stages. The later When each of these three psychological elements
stage, found in Republic V-VII, is the more impor? performs just its assigned job, then, Plato holds, the
tant for present purposes, but before
turning to that person in that psychological condition is just; and
I must take up briefly the earlier account of book if in any way or to any degree these elements fail to

1 See
especially Richard Kraut, "Reason and Justice in Plato's in E. N. Lee et al., and Argument
Republic," (eds.), Exegesis
(Assen, 1973).
2For the idea for this rendering of the Greek I am indebted to J. C. B. Gosling, Plato ch. III.
OvfioeiSes (London, 1973),
151

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I52 AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY

do their jobs, or attempt to do anything else, such Shorey). And a little farther on he characterizes
a person is not just. It does not follow, of course, wisdom: "But [we call an individual] wise by that
that he is unjust. As Socrates admits (472b7~d2), it small part that ruled in him and handed down these
may well turn out that no one fulfills these con? commands, by its possession in turn within it of the
ditions perfectly; still, the definition is no less knowledge (emor^/x^) of what is beneficial for each
correct and no less useful for that, since we are free, and for the whole, the community composed of the
for all practical purposes, to count as just those who three" (442C5-8,
tr.
Shorey). So a
person's
reason

sufficiently nearly resemble the person so defined. is not doing its job unless three conditions are met :
If it can be shown that only a perfectly just person first, it knows what it is best for him to do ; second, it
is truly well-off, and lives a fulfilled life, then the makes all its decisions in the light of this knowledge;
more
nearly anyone approximates
to this internal and third, its decisions are effective.4 The main
condition the closer he will come to leading the contribution of books V-VII is indeed to work out a
perfectly flourishing human life: we need perfect theory of what this knowledge consists of; but
models of just and unjust persons so that "however already in IV Plato is explicit that unless one's
we find them to be as regards flourishing or its reason has this knowledge, whatever exactly it
reverse, we will necessarily have to agree also that amounts to, it is not performing its work fully and
whoever of ourselves ismost like them will have a adequately.
share [of flourishing] most like theirs," 472c7~di.3 It follows from what has been said so far that on
Strictly, then, only the person who fully attains Plato's account no one is just,
strictly speaking, who

precisely this psychological condition is just. does not have knowledge of what is best to do. True
Even so, it is obvious enough that Plato has belief is not sufficient for an individual's justice in
presented no sufficiently determinate theory of the Republic, nor, I think, though this is a more
justice until he explains more fully what the role of complicated question, for any other virtue of
reason is to be and how it is to go about performing individuals.5 It is true that Plato conspicuously
it. He explains at some length in books III and IV defines a city's courage (42ga-430c) in terms of the
what functions the other two parts
are to
perform, deep-dyed belief (not knowledge) of the soldier
but with the simple idea, which is all I have class in the correctness of the laws and institutions of
enunciated so far, that reason is to rule?to deter? the city they serve. But it is noteworthy that he
mine what is to be done and to put these determina? denies that this condition of belief makes the
tions into effect?one has at best a formal criterion soldiers themselves brave, except in a qualified
from which no substantive choices and preferences sense : it makes their city brave, but it gives them,
can be derived. Plato is deliberately vague in book as Socrates cautions, only "civic bravery" {ttoXitik-t)
IV on this point, since he is not yet in a position to ?vhpeia, 430C3),
not
bravery tout court. It makes them
define the role of reason more precisely ; but he is consistently do the things
one expects of brave
not so vague even in IV as he is sometimes are fearless and selfless soldiers and
nearly citizens?they
thought to be. For in the full statement of what the police officers?but they
are far from having the
function of reason is, Plato says not that strength of character, that
merely philosopher's pervasive
reason is to rule but that it is to rule with wisdom: will not let one rest content until one has achieved

"Does not it belong to the rational part to rule, the fullest possible understanding of what is good
being wise and exercising forethought on behalf of for oneself and why it is so.6 Similarly the city's
the entire soul, and to the principle of high spirit justice is defined as the condition in which each
to be subject to this and'its ally?" (44164-6, tr. class sticks to its own social work (432d-435a), but

3On the same Plato justifies the moral and political of everyone else in his ideal state to the philosophers:
principle subjection
as closely as is possible for them to the state of soul possessed by the philosophers, and so also
by being so subject they approximate
to the condition of flourishing enjoyed by them. See 5900-d.
4Thus it is clear that Plato does not work even in Rep. IV with what Kraut calls the "non-normative" of reason's
conception
rule (Kraut, op. cit., pp. 208-211).
5This has been denied "The Argument in the Republic that "Justice Pays','' The Journal of Philosophy. vol.
by Gregory Vlastos,
and its revision and expansion, and Happiness in the Republic" in Gregory Vlastos (ed.), Plato
65 [1968], pp. 665-674, "Justice
II (Garden City, 1971), pp. 66-95; see esp. the latter, pp. 92-94.
6 See : to give the best possible account of the virtues one must take a longer route than was taken in describing
503b7~504d3
them in book IV, one which makes explicit reference to knowledge of the good. Notice especially 503e :we require as rulers those
who do not shy away like cowards (a7roSaAtaaet) in the face of difficult intellectual tasks (and, to the same effect, 53505-9) ; see
also the martial and gymnastic metaphors of 534D8-C3.

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF IN PLATO
JUSTICE 153

this does not nor does Plato ments and ? and so in


mean, anywhere antipathies especially
suggest, that people who do stick to their social the case of someone who is so structured that there
work thereby show themselves to be just. They do is no possibility of opposition or resistance to the
what is just, but whether they are just is obviously effective and total adoption of the recommendations
not settled by pointing to their behavior alone. of his reason. And if one wants to know what the
"Doing one's own social work" is presented only
as state of mind of Plato's just person would be, one
a description of just action. It is not presented as will have to know something about how he thinks
part of the definition of the condition of justice and feels in these respects.
itself?except, of course, the justice of a city, which In book IV itself, as already remarked, little is
is a different matter entirely.7 Here Plato does not said about what the just person knows. It is note?
worthy, however, that the wisdom he is said to have
even allow an of "civic and for
analogue bravery,"
a very good reason : in as knowledge
defining the city's justice he is described merely of what is
has said nothing about the internal condition (s) of advantageous to himself (44205-8). Yet earlier in
the citizens, which cause(s) them to act justly, so the book the same name, <jo<j>ia, is given to the
he has not provided any ground here, as he has in knowledge, possessed by the rulers of the ideal city,
the case of for even a reduced "which takes counsel about the as a whole as
bravery, attributing city
form of the virtue to the individuals themselves. to how it would best order its relations to itself and
Once these points are
duly noted, one sees that to other cities" (428012^3; cf. 429a 1-3). Unless
Plato consistently restricts justice,
as a virtue of Plato is guilty here of a gross equivocation, he must
individuals, to those who possess within themselves suppose that it is one and the same that
knowledge
knowledge of what it is best to do and be.8 knows both these things.9 No doubt part of his
reason for supposing this derives from his conviction
that it is only in cities that human beings realize
II
their full nature ;but there is a more general reason
Clearly, then, one cannot know what the just
as well. For both of these accomplishments
person according to Plato is like until one has some involve knowledge of what is good (for
essentially
grasp, at least, of the nature and substance of this the city, for the individual) ; and you cannot, Plato
a
knowledge. For person's considered conception of thinks, know any such particular good without
how it is best to be and act inevitably colors his the "Whoever cannot mark
knowing good-itself:
attitudes to himself and to other people, as well as off in his discourse the form of the good, separating
establishing
or more attach it from all other . . . you will say knows
altering particular things

7
Vlastos concedes this point in the later version of his paper and Happiness in the Republic,"
("Justice op. cit., p. 79), but
insists that according to Plato a city can be
just only if its citizens are just. A moment's reflection shows this to be an extra?
ordinary view for anyone to hold, and especially so for Plato who, as we have seen, very
clearly requires wisdom and knowledge
of anyone who is just: surely he cannot have
slipped even temporarily into allowing all the citizens of his city to have this
knowledge? In fact the passage Vlastos cites for this view (43561-43633) of the kind. It does not say that in general
says nothing
"moral attributes," as Vlastos has it, come to be predicated of a city only by the antecedent of the same attributes
possession by
its inhabitants. Plato's point is a more limited one, in accordance with his aims in the passage in which it occurs. Socrates is
suggesting, as he will argue, that each of us contains three elements to the three classes of
presently psychological corresponding
the state. An indication of this, he thinks, is the fact that whole nations are commonly to have predominant characters
thought
('rjOrj,e2)?the Scythians, for example, to be high-spirited, the Athenians devoted to learning and the Phoenecians fond of money.
These characters must attach to these nations
by transference from their members (and given that the three characters in question
seem to suggest the of the ends of one or another of three distinct
prominence parts of the soul, this usage therefore implies that
human beings do have the three distinct in question). What is true of such predominant national characters need
parts
not be true of other properties, not even all "moral attributes"; and Plato nowhere says it is (544d-545b, the only other passage
where any similar point ismade, it to the same restricted set of attributes as we find in this So far as the moral
applies passage).
virtues are concerned, as I argue in the text, Plato
says different things about different ones :wisdom belongs to the city because
the rulers are wise (cf. the repeated on imarqfvn, 42806,
emphasis cu, d8, e8, 42931-3), bravery because the soldiers have a
qualified form, at least, of bravery ; justice and moderation, however, though they belong to the city in each case because of some
of the citizens, do not devolve it from the citizens'
property upon being even in a qualified way just and moderate. This seems
to me a perfectly sensible view; it is, in any event, for better or worse, what Plato
8 thought.
Hence for Plato only accomplished can be just. would have been different, if like Aristotle
philosophers Things and better,
he had conceived of a kirid of practical of the use of theoretical
knowledge substantially independent and scientific powers. He
was precluded from doing this by the status of the good-itself in his theory; see below, sect. III.
9
Aristotle, NE V, eori S? Kai r?
1141024?25, ttoAitikt) kccI 17 (?>p6vy?aLsr? avrrj /jlcv e?is, ro [livroi elvai ov ravrov aurais, ktX,
simply reformulates in his own this view of Plato's about these forms of
terminology ao<f>la.

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AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL QUARTERLY
154

neither the
good-itself nor any other good" every other good thing, essentially something else
(534b8-c5). To be sure, merely knowing the good (a meal,
a
person) that, for one reason or another,
will not by itself suffice?at any rate not for know? happens to be good (is accidentally good).12 Its
ing how best to run a city. This iswhy Plato insists goodness is not, therefore, diluted and compromised
that before coming to know the good his rulers by being mingled with and made dependent on
must spend fifteen years getting experience in city other features of things, as is true of every other
management (539^2-5). Still, the only part of what good. Thus its goodness is pure, as that of no other
either sort of person knows that counts, on a strict good is. Furthermore, it is the only perfect good.
view, as
knowledge (the
sort that encompasses Every other good, being good only in some respect
understanding, of why things are the way they are or relation or from some
point of view, is also not so
and how they ought to be) is knowledge of the good good,
or even
quite bad, in some other ways.13 No
itself. Without this, all the experience in the world other good can possibly be as good as this one : the
would be useless. So what Plato describes in book very best imaginable human life, for example, will
IV now as knowledge of how one ought to live still not be as good as this is, and so not as good as it
oneself, now as of how a should is possible to conceive as
knowledge city something being.
conduct its affairs, is in the end nothing less than Giventhe purity of the good-itself, and the
knowledge of the fieyiarov ?jLctdrj/jia, the good-itself. impurity of every other good, it should be apparent
Thus we are led directly up to the central meta? why Plato says that one cannot know any other

physical theories of the Republic. This part of the good except by knowing this one. Knowledge here,
dialogue is extremely difficult to interpret, since as usual in Plato, is taken to entail
understanding,
Socrates himself refuses to speculate about what the so that to know, e.g., a
good life is not just to know

good-itself might be (5o6b2-e5) and for the most which life is good, and from what points of view or
offers the treacherous and in what circumstances, and so on, but to
part only analogies precisely
parables
of sun, line and cave to convey those understand what this goodness itself is that one
aspects of it that he iswilling to hazard an opinion attributes to it with these qualifications. To under?
on. But without claiming to offer any proof that stand that, however, is to conceive a
good that
this is what Plato means, and avoiding scholarly stands apart from all such qualifications?in short,
controversy so far as possible, I risk the following to form one's conception of goodness on the good
summary of what is relevant in Plato's views on the itself.
good-itself for our present inquiry. Given the perfection of the good-itself, and the
First, pending a qualification to be entered imperfection of every other good, it is apparent why
directly, the good-itself is a good thing,
over and Plato insists that adequate practical thinking
above the good things of this world:10 over and requires constantly keeping this good uppermost in
above, that is, both individual good things like one's mind. Everyone
wants what is best, but the

particular persons and events, and such things


as a
only sure criterion of goodness in any other thing is
quiet, studious life or a cool drink on a hot day the degree
to which it approximates the goodness
which one might speak of as good things, though of this perfect good. Any other criterion of goodness,

they are not individuals but classes of individuals.11 based, say, merely
on some
conception of human
Unlike these other good things, however, it is not needs and interests, cannot fail to be
inadequate,
merely
a
good something-or-other,
or
good
as such since it must represent as the ideal, as the final
and such, or for so and so or from such and that cannot be that.
good achievement, something
such a point of view. To use Aristotelian language, Clarity and truth require that all partial standards
one could say its essence is to be good ; it is not, like be seen and treated as such.

10 I do not in interpreting
follow Vlastos Plato's claims is F as in most cases predicating
that the F-itself F-ness only of the F
things of this world?at rate this move
any cannot be made with the good-itself. See his "The Unity of the Virtues in the
Protagoras" and "An Ambiguity in the Sophist" in his Platonic Studies (Princeton, 1973).
11 I owe a debt here to N. R.
Murphy, The Interpretation of Plato's Republic (Oxford, 1951), ch. VI, and to J. C. B. Gosling,
"Republic Book V: r? 7roA?? KaX?, etc," Phronesis, vol. 5 (i960), 116 ff., though my interpretation is not identical, I think, with any
of the various ones they seem to have in mind.
12Hence it is misleading to say, as I just did, that it is a good thing. "Good" to it in much the way
belongs that "man" does
to me, and it would be misleading or nonsensical to call me a man "Man
thing: that would invite the inappropriate question,
what?" So the good is a good, but, Plato will insist (to Aristotle's exasperation, cf. Post. An. 83330-35) not a good thing.
13For a defense of this
interpretation of the perfection of Platonic forms, see Alexander Nehamas, "Plato on the Imperfection
of the Sensible World," American Philosphical Quarterly, vol. 12 (1975), pp. 105-117.

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF JUSTICE IN PLATO I55

So much for what one might call the functional This argument depends, of course, on somewhat

properties of the good-itself. How about its doubtful causal connections, and it isworth noting
substance or nature? Here Socrates is deliberately that much the same conclusion follows more

least informative. One may, however, render this directly and firmly from the very nature of what the
curious entity more concrete by thinking of it just person according to Plato knows. He knows
somehow or other as a of rational the and therefore whatever he values he
perfect example good-itself
order, conceived in explicitly mathematical terms : values strictly in the light of a comparison between
a complex, ordered whole, whose orderliness is due that thing and the good. Whatever exhibits more
to the mathematical relationships holding among fully and perfectly the sort of rational order that the
its parts. This is, I think, implied by the mathe? form of the good possesses as its essence he values
matical nature of the higher education that Plato more highly than other things. Naturally, it
prescribes in Republic VII (524d ff.) as preparing the would be rash to claim to know how he would rank
way for dialectic, which itself culminates in the things in the light of this knowledge. But it does
knowledge of this entity, and by the role which he seem inevitable that he would find in intellectual
assigns to knowledge of the good as completing and work generally, and contemplation
of the good
supporting the mathematical sciences of arithmetic itself in
particular, the most nearly adequate
and geometry (5iic6-di, 533b6-di).14 It should instances of rational order in the natural world.
be recalled that the last stage of the preliminary This is so because pure, i.e., theoretical, rational

studies, mathematical harmonics, already


encom?
thought is to the greatest degree possible completely
passes the idea that certain numerical relationships determined by the requirements of rational order
are in themselves harmonious and itself provides itself: by contrast, desires, material objects and
some explanation for why they harmonize (531C3 everything else that is a mixture or combination of

;
4) notice, too, that Socrates recommends the study thought and bodily things and/events, even when
of music for this reason especially, saying that this they do exhibit rational order, must remain a joint
makes it "useful for the investigation of the beautiful product of reason and something else. What such
and the good" (06-7).15 Thus mathematics and good things are like is largely determined, not by
philosophy merge at their borders, and mathe? the demand for orderliness* but by the nature of
matics itself is capable, on Plato's account, of these things themselves. The best pure thinking, on
handling and partially explicating evaluative the other hand, is almost wholly the product of
notions. rational orderliness itself. Thus the contemplation
of the good, and in lesser degree all other abstract
Ill scientific since in these activities the
thought,
If this account of the good-itself is right, what impulse for rational order confronts less in the way
must be the state of mind of the person who has a of alien material to work upon, must be the most
firm grasp on it ? First of all, as Plato emphasizes in perfect earthly embodiments of good; and just men
many he must be a lover of and women would know this and make this know?
places, learning (a
<f>i\ofiadrjs).This is so, to begin with, because only ledge effective in their own lives. Hence they would
prefer this kind of thinking to everything else ; in it
someone who felt a natural for and
affinity reading
thinking and abstract discussion and had learned they would be closest to the good-itself, the only
to value these things more highly than almost there is.
perfectly good thing
anything else could ever have persevered through On the other hand, it does not follow that they
the course of training that must be under? would choose to live a contemplative's
rigorous always life,
gone to achieve it, with the attendant restriction of retired their mathematical books and
among
bodily gratification and curtailment of other sorts constantly engaging in philosophical discussions.
of pleasant pursuit. This knowledge is obviously one would choose this if all he cared about
Perhaps
not easily won, and if justice was his realizing the good so far as possible. But a
requires having it, and
a
only studious sort of person, who cares
relatively just person is a devotee of thegood, not his own good ;
little for other pursuits in comparison with and these are very different the
things. Knowing
intellectual ones, can achieve then no one can what he wants is to advance the of
it, good, reign
be just who is not that kind of studious person. rational order in the world as a whole, so far as
by
14 It also
accommodates those later reports of a lecture On the Good that, to the surprise of some of its hearers, had to do with
mathematics and little else (cf. Aristoxenus, Harm.
15On 2.20.16-31.3).
this see Gosling, Plato, op. cit., ch. VII.

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AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL
156 QUARTERLY

his own efforts, alone or


together with others, he y?p St) SiKcdoi? lirn?^o^v, el). In saying this
can do this. He a criterion of Socrates is to common
recognizes single transparently appealing
choice: What, given the circumstances, will be sense principles of justice, which he elsewhere (see
most likely tomaximize the total amount of rational 538d6~539ai, esp. the implications of e6, r?
order in the world as a whole ? And here he has a ?krjdrj i?f? vp?GKrj)rejects as not true. But there is no
wide arena for possible activity. He can not only cause for alarm, since the purer principles Plato
rational order on his own soul, himself has been lead to the same con?
impose thinking espousing
rational thoughts and satisfying rationally con? clusion. That these philosophers
are
just means, on
trolled appetites of his own ; he can help to bring Plato's account, that they know the good-itself and
rational order to the souls of other individuals, and act
always with a view to advancing rational order
to their social life. To be sure, under certain in the whole world. And given the conditions pre?
conditions (for example, perhaps, those charac? vailing in the ideal state it does seem very reason?
teristic of Plato's own time : cf. 49605-62) he might able to think that they would, on their own prin?
find it rational not to work for the improvement of ciples, opt for the mixed political and intellectual
anything except himself. If conditions make it life which Socrates insists on.
impossible for his efforts to bear fruit, then his time On the other hand, it is right to emphasize the
would be wasted in interesting himself in others : other part of Socrates' reply
to Glaucon as well.
the reign of rational order would not thus be For, he insists, they will go down into the cave
advanced, or not to en as Glaucon
significantly enough compen? unwillingly (cos avayKaiov, puts it,
sate for the loss of pure thinking the world would 520e i ; cf. 54ob4~5), that is to say not thinking that
have to suffer in consequence of his taking time off (of all things!) the good is to be found in the
from his studies. On the other hand, conditions activities of ruling (cf. 52^5-6, b4~5) and recog?
need not always be so bad as that. There may be nizing that there is a life better than the political
others intelligent enough to reach the higher one (52oe4~5, 52^9). They deliberately and freely
intellectual realms themselves and willing to learn (52od6~7) choose a life for themselves that is less
from him how to achieve them; and society itself good than a more singlemindedly intellectual life,
may be ready, if he and others who know the truth of which however they are individually capable.
work together,
to accept their recommendations The life they renounce is better because, taken just
for its improvement. Under such conditions it by itself, the activities it contains exhibit, on
would seem that the interests of rational order balance, a
greater amount of rational order than do
would be better served by his devoting himself, the combination of activities in the alternative.
some of the to private and to co? Furthermore, this life can be said to be in general
time, teaching
operation with other intellectuals in bettering the the ideal best for any human being. There is no
condition of mankind addition, of that comes closer to embodiment
generally?in activity perfect
course, to a substantial amount of philoso? of the than with under?
doing good contemplation,
phical work of his own. This combination of standing, of the good-itself and the other forms;
it seems to say, would under and as Plato makes very clear, that human
activities, plausible given,
such conditions constitute his best answer to the can come into existence who can in
beings engage
:How can I maximize the total amount of this activity more or less it follows
question uninterruptedly,
rational order in the world as a whole ? that no other human life could be so good as this
Hence I believe Plato is perfectly entitled to the one. Hence if the degree of the philosopher's
answer his Socrates gives
to Glaucon's
complaint evhailiovia is judged by comparison with this ideal,
(519^8-9) that it is unjust tomake those who in the Plato's philosophers will settle for a less flourishing
ideal city have reached the goal of intellectual existence than they might have had (5igei-52oa4;
culture leave off intellectual work and spend some of cf. 42ob4~8, 465e4~466a6). On the other hand, as
their time putting their knowledge to practical use previously noted, a true
philosopher
never concerns

in the improvement of the lives of others. Socrates himself merely with his own good. His ultimate end
answers, in part, that, on the contrary, it would not is to improve not just the small part of the world
be fair of them to refuse,
seeing that they have that is constituted by his own life, but the whole of
themselves exploited the city's institutions for their it, this part taken together with all the rest. So if a
own intellectual benefit (52oa6-ci) : and, Glaucon philosopher opted, under the conditions Plato
now such as these men and to everyone else in order to make
agrees, just people, envisages, ignore
women are, will not refuse to do what is fair (StVata his own life realize the good more perfectly and

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF IN PLATO I57
JUSTICE

fully, he would fail to achieve the goal he was man; anything interests him only
as a means of

aiming at as nearly as he might have done. And if coming nearer to the good-itself. Certainly this
the degree of one's vScu?Mov?aismeasured by how must be true for most ordinary human activities
close one comes to realizing one's ultimate end, and interests, involving as they do the expression of
such a philosopher would be less evSal^cov than he appetites and emotions. To this rule there is a
would have been by living the mixed political and single exception, the activity of rational contempla?
intellectual life Socrates and his interlocutors were tion itself. Since that is the summit of human
urging. And if one further supposes, as Plato experience anyone who takes pleasure
in it and

certainly does, that human nature is such that left loves it for its own sake will not be in danger of
to themselves most people would always lead very compromising his pursuit of the ultimate end
disordered lives, it seems fair to say that any itself. Because the just person's decision whether to
philosopher who ever opts for the mixed life will use, or continue to use, his knowledge for the

actually be more evSalfx


v than
any who opts for benefit of others is contingent on factors outside his
the purely intellectual life : any philosopher would control, he must avoid developing sentiments of
always prefer the mixed life, and he would recognize attachment to other people and to the normal

any situation in which it was rational for him to round of social and political life. But there is no
choose a life of pure contemplation instead as one
possibility that someone who can contemplate the
where external conditions alone, by preventing his forms with understanding could ever be forced by
efforts on others' behalf from bearing fruit, forced circumstances to give up this activity entirely. This
him to settle for less than he had wished to achieve worldly attachment, therefore, is firm in a way that
on behalf of the good-itself. So, as Socrates intimates no other can be. This means that though the just
(420D4-5), his philosophers, making the choice to man in Plato is no egoist, and no altruist either, but
spend some of the time in the cave, but most of it in a sort of high-minded fanatic ; still, his fanaticism is
the world above, would be the happiest and most such as to allow him permanent and deep interests
men there ever in fact can be. in one of his own whereas he cannot
flourishing part good,
This shows beyond any reasonable doubt that similarly have any permanent and deep attachment
Plato's just man is no egoist, in any acceptable to any other person's good. This is the only
con?
sense of this term. Not only does he not do every? cession that one must grant to the common
charge
thing he does out of concern for his own good, he that Plato's just
man is a covert, or not so covert,
never does anything for this reason. Even where he
egoist.
acts to benefit himself, recognizing that he does so, I said a moment ago that all this is the conse?
his reason for acting is that the good-itself demands quence of the role played in Plato's theory by the
it. That his good demands it is strictly irrelevant. form of the good. Aristotle was right, I think, to
By the same token, at no time does he act to benefit insist most emphatically that there is no such thing
others out of regard for them and concern for their as a and that even if there were one
good-itself
just because it is theirs. he confers all not to direct one's at it as
good, Again, ought practical thinking
benefits out of regard for the good-itself, not out of ultimate end. At any rate, the consequence of this

regard for these more immediate human bene? insistence is something his own moral sensitivity
ficiaries. As Plato makes clear, the seems to have made him reluctant to :
philosopher very give up
turns to this work with co? cV ocvayKcctov, and the object of ultimate in the
regret, by placing pursuit
not with any attachment to these world Aristotle is able to make room for a wide
independent
activities themselves or to those at whose of human interests and
good they variety ordinary pursuits,
are directed. For him there is no or in? attachments as themselves constituents
pleasure permanent
terest in them for their own sakes. This is, I think, of the final good.16 He could therefore present a
the direct consequence of the role played in Plato's moral that corresponds much more
psychology
theory by the form of the good. It is the ultimate closely than Plato's does to ordinary moral

object of pursuit, yet lies outside the world. Hence experience. No doubt Plato would not regard this as
no worldly thing or activity can, because of its own a defect in his own theory or a point in favor of
properties, because of what it is, interest the just Aristotle's; but the fact itself isworth reflecting on.

University of Pittsburgh Received September i, 1976


16Cf.
my Reason and Human Good in Aristotle (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), esp. ch. II, and "Friendship and the Good in Aristotle,"
forthcoming in The Philosophical Review.

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