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Once Socrates and Glaucon have divided the city into three classes and given them separate responsibilities and restrictions, they consider happiness in Book 4. Anytime one is defining justice, it is reasonable to consider whether a just city means a happy city and whether restricting the freedom of one class more than another class might inhibit them from achieving happiness. Furthermore, their discussion also raises the question regarding the importance or relevancy of happiness within a just city. Can the city function properly without guaranteeing the happiness of guardians?

Adeimantus points out “you’re hardly making these men happy” (4. 419a) when referring to the guardians because they “enjoy nothing good from the city as do others, who possess lands… they get no wages beyond the food” (4.419a-4.420a). They cannot “make a private trip away from home… or make expenditures wherever else they happen to wish” (4.420a). As determined in the past books men do not decide which class they would like to join, it is determined for them. In the case of the guardians “the man who has a memory and is hard to deceive must be chosen” (3.413c). Therefore, not only do they not choose to fulfill their passions through choosing their own profession, but they are also limited in fulfilling their desires, such as visiting family and owning property.

Socrates responds to Adeimantus’s objection by arguing that “in founding the city we are not looking to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but… that of the city as a whole” (4.420b). Relating it back to justice, he states that “we supposed we would find justice most in such a city, and injustice… in the worst-governed one” (4.420b-420c). However, based on governments today and the benefits that soldiers in the U.S. military receive, guardians should be rewarded rather than given restricted freedom. Although the guardians are few compared to the overall population, they are the protectors of the city and deserve the opportunity to fulfill certain moderate and reasonable desires like privately visiting family. The United States and other countries acknowledge the sacrifices of being a “guardian” or soldier and have determined that it is necessary to reward them.

Furthermore, Socrates even admits in Book 3 that the guardians “must be provided with houses and other property such as not to prevent them from being the best possible guardians and not to rouse them up to do harm to the other citizens” (3.416d). He does not explicitly say that guardians would revolt because not having a home would be unjust, but it seems implied. The guardians are capable of harming the other citizens if they are unsatisfied. Therefore, Socrates himself gives us a reason for which guaranteeing the happiness of the guardians is beneficial to achieve peace between the ruled and the rulers and essential for them to function the city properly.

Still addressing Adeimantus, Socrates demands “don’t compel us to attach to the guardians a happiness that will turn them into everything except guardians” (4.420d-420e). However, if moderation does indeed “stretch throughout the whole from top to bottom of the entire scale” (4.432a) “like a kind of harmony” (4.431d), then the guardians should be capable and permitted to fulfill their moderate desires. Socrates does not specifically express the impact of making the guardians happy, other than arguing that it “will turn them into everything expect guardians” (4.420d-420e) and that it will “utterly destroy an entire city” (4.421a) without elaborating on how making the rulers of a city happy would result to such drastically negative consequences. Therefore, I am assuming that if guardians did not moderate their desires, it would distract them from their role and disable the city from functioning properly.

Based on their definition of justice as “the minding of one’s own business and not being a busybody” (4.433a), happiness does not seem to have a role in helping the city function. However, it is usually when men are unsatisfied with their lives or feel that their freedom is too restricted, in other words when they are unhappy, that they tend to mind the business of others and notice that “the grass is greener on the other side.” Therefore, there is a crucial link between justice and happiness; they go hand in hand based on Socrates’s definition of justice. If men are not happy, they will not be just.

Today, the definition of justice is more closely related to equality, such as equal rights between genders, equal opportunities between races, and the common saying when someone is treated different than another person “life is unfair.” This definition initially seems far from Socrates’s definition because treating everyone equality includes “being a busybody” (4.433a) to assure that one’s coworker, classmate, and neighbor is treated equally by the rulers. However, he does show importance to equally when determining that “the possession of women, marriage, and procreation of children must as far as possible be arranged according to the proverb that friends have all things in common” (4.423e-424a). Therefore, if equal opportunity is granted regarding women and families, Socrates appears to acknowledge the importance of equality within justice, though he does not mention equality in his definition.

In Socrates’s closing argument, he ends the discussion by state that:

“We have to consider whether we are establishing the guardians looking to their having the most happiness. Or else, whether looking to this happiness for the city as a whole, we must see if it comes to be in the city, and must compel and persuade these auxiliaries and guardians to do the same, so that they’ll be the best possible craftsmen at their jobs, and similarly for all the others, and… we must let nature assign to each of the groups its share of happiness” (4.421a-421c)

Therefore, Socrates does not ultimately give us any reasons for which guardians should not have the unalienable right of the “pursuit of happiness” and ends his argument by considering that happiness, as I have argued, is essential for the city to function well and for it to be just.

 

 

20 Responses to “The Guardian’s Happiness Related to Justice”

  1. khoneycutt says:

    I think you are right to suggest that justice today is much more an issue of fairness and specifically of fairness within institutions. This makes Plato sound strange to us sometimes.

    That said, he has to be taken on his own terms; the US military may allow or even reward our “guardians” with private property, but part of Plato’s point, it seems, is that people worried about their family (or making it back to their family) will not be primarily worried about defending the city. The key for Socrates in the Republic is how one can have the greatest unity in the city/soul.

    Aristotle, in Politics 2, agrees with you to an extent in that he thinks the proposals of common women, children, and property actually do not lead to unity in the way that one would want. Or, more specifically, it’s too much unity–unity rather than harmony.

    I think Socrates is concerned with the whole city (and thus the whole soul) is happy, not whether a part of the city (or a part of the soul) is unhappy or happy. My appetites are bound to be unhappy to a certain extent if my soul is well-balanced overall, because they can’t do whatever they want. But I think Socrates would say my soul would as a result be happy on the whole.

    We can’t forget all the political stuff is largely, if not wholly, at the service of the psychic stuff.

    KH

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