Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Ethics, Injustice, Socrates, Morality, Justice, Supreme Court, Law, People

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/21

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In everyday life, one constantly sees instances of people who are unjust seemingly leading perfectly happy lives, while the good people who live honest lives suffer. This is a question that is constantly bothering humanity since time immemorial. In the Western civilization, the Greek Philosophers Socrates and Plato were amongst the first to examine this question. This essay will clearly argue that one should be moral since morality has benefits that immorality does not possess by examining the episode of the conversation between Socrates and Thrasymachus as well as from Plato’s Apology.
During one of their regular philosophical discussions, Thrasymachus (a philosophical opponent of Socrates) argues on this belief with Socrates. His contention is that an unjust person is happier and wiser than a just person. Also, due to the nature of his dealings, an unjust person stands to be benefitted more than a just person in his dealings. (PlatoII, 8) In sum, Thrasymachus questions the very basis of morality since, as he puts it, the unjust man (both individually and collectively) is at a huge advantage compared to his just counterpart. Thus, Thrasymachus advocates that “perfect injustice is more gainful than perfect justice.” (12) On hearing this argument, Socrates puts forth an intriguing, yet a simple argument of his own. He questions Thrasymachus about his conceptions of Justice and Injustice. While Socrates recognizes Justice to be a virtue and Injustice to be a vice, Thrasymachus claims Justice to be ‘sublime simplicity’ and Injustice to be ‘discretion. (12) Socrates, therefore, perceives Thrasymachus’ view as having slotted Injustice with wisdom and virtue, while, at the same time, slotting Justice with foolishness and vice. Socrates gets Thrasymachus to admit that a just man would not try to gain an advantage over a just man, but, on the contrary, a just man would try his level best to gain advantage over an unjust man. On the other hand, the unjust man would try to have more than all and, in the process, he would try to take advantage of both just and unjust people alike. In short, as per Thrasymachus, a person acting without scruples and in an immoral manner has an advantage over a just and moral person. The essay would now prove this argument wrong by arguing that morality (justice) confers better benefits on a person as compared to immorality (injustice).
As per Thrasymachus, since a person with knowledge is wise and a wise person is good, such a person would not desire to earn more than his own kind, but rather try to compete with the opposite. However, Socrates points out to Thrasymachus that his earlier point was in contradiction of this new claim. The new claim essentially meant that the just people are wise and good, while the unjust people are ignorant and evil. This argument, therefore, brings the focus back to the essential fact that justice is a virtue, while injustice is a vice. On the point of the strength of the justice as compared to injustice, further, Socrates says that since justice being identified with virtue and wisdom is definitely stronger than injustice which is essentially ignorance and vice. This is one of the main reasons for a person to act in a moral manner, although acting otherwise may seem to confer more benefits on such a person. The essay will now discuss if people act morally out of fear of punishment or there are any other reasons.
Most people would pursue the path of justice for reasons other than penalties or fear of punishments. While penalties deter people from taking the path of injustice, Socrates argues that the fear of penalties need not and should not be the sole reason for pursuing a path of justice. For instance, in the Apology by Plato, Socrates is held for trial with the jury and others knowing well that he is standing in the dock only because of some frivolous complaints. (PlatoI, 1-2) Even in such a trying time, Socrates refuses to budge from the path of justice and while his rivals make complicated and, sometimes, unsound claims he keeps his arguments plain, simple and truthful – the same path that Thrasymachus keeps talking in derogatory terms. In doing so, Socrates is awarded the worse of penalties – the death sentence, which he gladly accepts. One could construe this as a classic example of an instance when a person faces penalties, although he is just and on the righteous path. In this case, if he wished to, Socrates could have employed Thrasymachus’ ideas and got out of the situation, but chose not to do so. One could argue that Socrates exhibits a behavior that is characteristic of a just person who gracefully accepts the punishment rather than use unethical techniques to get out of the situation. Therefore, the fear of punishment may not always be a good enough deterrent for an immoral person to exhibit a moral behavior. At the same time, for a just person, even a fear of punishment would not convince such a person to move away from the path of justice. The essay would now explore the reason for a person to be moral for reasons other than a penalty or a punishment.
If the above contention is true, then there has to be a good reason for a person to exhibit a good and moral behavior. As per Socrates, injustice has a tendency of inciting hatred and discontent amongst all categories of men. Such tendencies are collectively harmful since they set people at odds and prevent any action that is either mutually or collectively beneficial. In such cases, therefore, if more than one man or the entire society is unjust, nothing can be worse since no progress or good work will happen in such a society since people will only be aiming at mutually destroying one another or possibly other acts of injustice. Even when two unjust people end up feuding mutually they become enemies to one another and would continue on their downfall by resorting to unjust means in order to prove supremacy to the other person.
Even at an individual unit level when injustice is present in a person to a large degree such a person is left incapable of any progressive or positive action. A person of this nature would be distracted and distraught to such an extent that he would become his own enemy as well as the enemy of anyone who opposes his thought. Through this statement, (one can argue) Socrates subtly tells Thrasymachus that he could be best slotted in this particular category. Further, on the subject of injustice within an individual, Socrates tells Thrasymachus that when injustice exists in a single person, it not only makes such a person incapable of just action, but also makes that person an enemy of justice. Such a person, therefore, would do anything in his power to violate the sanctity of the law and ensure that he would achieve things through unjust means. This precise reason should be enough for a morally sound person to continue being just and for an unjust person to attempt changing oneself and becoming just. One must, therefore, consider the fact that injustice renders a person incapable of common action, enemy of oneself as well as others, and combined with the fact that these are vices.
Lastly, Socrates argues that Thrasymachus’ concept of perfectly unjust and perfectly just does not exist. He argues that if perfectly evil men existed, they would have attacked one another as well as just people and would have been incapable of just action. The fact that this does not happen means that there are essences of justice within all human beings since even seemingly evil people sometimes (albeit rarely) do just acts. Further, through the illustration of the sense organs and their ends, Socrates tells Thrasymachus that justice is the excellence of the soul, while injustice is its defect. (20) From this point, Socrates’ contention follows that the just man would live well, while the unjust man would live ill. Consequently, a just man would be happier than an unjust man.
In conclusion, a person should act morally because justice is virtuous and injustice is a vice. First and foremost, a person acting morally is virtuous and since justice is virtuous it is also stronger than injustice. The concept of injustice comprises both ignorance and evil which makes it a path less desirable. Further, a just person would be capable of just action, while an unjust person would not be capable of such an action. In the short run, therefore, injustice might confer more benefits on a person, but in the long run it is always better for a person to be on the side of justice.
One must know that such a moral behavior may not be purely on account of penalties or punishment. The tendency of injustice to sow discontent and incite hatred between men is a reason enough to be moral. These negative tendencies of injustice harm not only an individual, but also harm the entire society if it happens on a collective basis since immoral men are not capable of just action. Therefore, the tendency of injustice to bring about discord in society is a greater reason than any punishment for a person to never stray from the moral path. For these reasons, a person ought to strive to be moral and just.

Works Cited

PlatoI. The Apology. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. n.d. Pdf File.
PlatoII. The Republic – Book 1. (Thrasymachus & Socrates Excerpt). n.d. (336b – 354c). Pdf File.

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WePapers. (2021, February, 21) Why Be Moral? Essay. Retrieved June 15, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/why-be-moral-essay/
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Why Be Moral? Essay. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/why-be-moral-essay/. Published Feb 21, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.
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