I plan to post over the next several days on responses to the famous paper of David Sachs (Phil Rev 1963), in which he argues that there is a fallacy in the basic argument of Plato's Republic. What is the alleged difficulty? What are the best responses to it? Surely it would benefit to 'pool resources' on this difficulty. What do we think about it?
Sachs' difficulty, in a nutshell, is this. Distinguish:
'ordinary justice': A trait of character by which someone consistently avoids committing ordinary injustices (murder, theft, fraud) and carries out ordinary just actions (pays off his debts, shows honor appropriately, acts lawfully).In book I, Socrates and Thrasymachus have a debate about ordinary justice. Socrates argues that ordinary justice brings happiness; Thrasymachus maintains that ordinary injustice leads to happiness. But in books II-X, Socrates argues, rather, that internal justice yields happiness. Thus there is a lack of connection between what the Republic aims to show, and what was necessary to be shown.
'internal justice': A trait of character consisting of the apt ordering of the three parts of the soul: the reasoning part rules; the spirited part assists; the appetitive part is duly constrained.
To complete the argument, Plato would need also to show:
(A) If a person has internal justice, then he has ordinary justice.Why? Because otherwise Socrates might be wrong: it could be that there were people who were unjust in an ordinary sense but who were happy (because they had internal justice), or just people in an ordinary sense but who were unhappy (because they lacked internal justice).
(B) If a person has ordinary justice, then he has internal justice.
But (i) Plato seems unaware that he needs to show these things; and (ii) these claims are in any case implausible. Against (A): there seems to be no reason why someone might not commit (say) fraud with internal composure. Against (B): there would seem to be a variety of ways in which someone might succeed in being duly lawful and respecting the rights of others, without yet having the full internal harmony which is internal justice.