Social Utopias: Will Saada Fall 2015

October 18, 2015

Response Paper 2

Filed under: Portfolio — William Saada @ 3:25 pm


Plato’s Use of the Socratic Method to Define Justice


Plato teaches the reader about justice specifically through two techniques: asking questions and creating analogies via his teacher Socrates.  First he poses broad questions such as, “What is Justice?” and whether or not is it more beneficial than injustice?  He allows others to answer him and finds flaws in their arguments. Socrates disproves two common definitions of justice.  By finding out what is not justice it will help determine what it is.  In addition, Plato has Socrates ask very specific and simple questions to prove his points.  For example, Socrates asks, “But with natures like that, Glaucon, how will they avoid being like savages to one another and to the other citizens?” (Plato).  Socrates already knows the answer to this question but he is making sure everyone can follow his argument.  By taking it slow and asking questions, he leaves no holes in his argument.  Asking questions also gives his listeners a chance to follow along and notify Socrates when they are confused.  Many times in chapter two Glaucon asks questions such as “In what way?” so Socrates can clarify his meaning.   The next technique is his use of analogies to draw similarities between his arguments and real world scenarios.  In the quotation above Socrates refers to his analogy connecting a dog and how a good guardian should act.  He later makes the point that because a dog can be both “high-spirited and gentle,” then it must be possible for humans to acquire these natures as well.  He then states, “and what we are seeking in a good guardian is not contrary to nature” (Plato). By making analogies with things found in nature he proves his point.  Because dogs can have both of these natures than it must be possible for man to have them as well.  This is helpful for the reader because it establishes a connection between his point and something similar found in this world.  By finding connections to nature and asking questions Socrates makes his point very efficiently and carefully.  

In addition to asking broad questions, Socrates uses a broad strategy to define justice.  Instead of focusing on what a just individual is like, Socrates seeks to build a just society, step by step. He looks for justices within his Republic and plans to find similarities between that and the individual.  This is both important and effective because it is difficult to simply find justice for an individual.  Without a society justice is non existent.  One man alone can not be just or unjust there must be other people to interact with.  The Republic is Socrates’ means of finding how justice can be achieved by a society.  Then, once the society has been made, the just individual will become more clear.  For a society to be just members of the society must be just as well.  Even if there is a very strong legal and political system, people in the society can still be unjust.  The only way to truly create a just society requires justice both in the society and in its members.

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