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Plato’s Conception of Justice and the Question of Human Dignity

by Marek Piechowiak (Author)
Monographs 298 Pages

Summary

This book is the first comprehensive study of Plato’s conception of justice. The universality of human rights and the universality of human dignity, which is recognised as their source, are among the crucial philosophical problems in modern-day legal orders and in contemporary culture in general. If dignity is genuinely universal, then human beings also possessed it in ancient times. Plato not only perceived human dignity, but a recognition of dignity is also visible in his conception of justice, which forms the core of his philosophy. Plato’s «Republic» is consistently interpreted here as a treatise on justice, relating to an individual and not to the state. The famous myth of the cave is a story about education taking place in the world here and now. The best activity is not contemplation, but acting for the benefit of others. Not ideas, but individuals are the proper objects of love. Plato’s philosophy may provide foundations for modern-day human rights protection rather than for totalitarian orders.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • FM
  • Preface
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 What this book is about
  • 1.2 Dignity as a fundamental value in law
  • 1.3 Why Plato?
  • 1.4 Objectives
  • 1.5 Interpreting Plato
  • 1.6 The structure of this book
  • 2 The Timaeus on dignity: the Demiurge’s speech
  • 2.1 The Timaeus as a dialogue on justice
  • 2.2 Formal aspects of the text
  • 2.3 The complexity and mortality of the soul
  • 2.4 Dignity as existential perfection
  • 2.5 Prohibition on instrumental treatment
  • 2.6 Human beings and the gods
  • 2.7 The human being in relation to the whole
  • 3 Justice as a virtue
  • 3.1 Introductory remarks
  • 3.2 Some terminological issues
  • 3.3 Justice and happiness—justice as the most important of all matters
  • 3.3.1 Justice as the subject of the best possible art
  • 3.3.2 The greatest evil and the greatest good
  • 3.3.3 Utility as the foundation of one’s good
  • 3.4 Traditional formulae describing just actions
  • 3.5 The Republic as a dialogue on the individual
  • 3.6 The model of the state and the teaching of virtues
  • 3.6.1 Improvement of man
  • 3.6.1.1 Socratic questions
  • 3.6.1.2 Is the soul simple or complex?
  • 3.6.1.3 How to find justice in the state
  • 3.6.2 Wisdom
  • 3.6.3 Courage
  • 3.6.3.1 Common understanding of courage
  • 3.6.3.2 The specificity of Plato’s approach
  • 3.6.3.3 ‘What things are to be feared’ and human freedom
  • 3.6.4 Moderation
  • 3.6.5 Justice in the model of the state
  • 3.6.5.1 Introduction
  • 3.6.5.2 What justice in the state is
  • 3.6.5.3 Weakness of the evidence
  • 3.6.5.4 Beyond triviality
  • 3.6.5.5 Happiness of the state or happiness of the individual?
  • 3.7 What in truth is justice?
  • 3.7.1 Description of justice
  • 3.7.2 Justice in the model of the state as εἴδωλον—a phantom of justice
  • 3.7.3 The Phaedrus and the model of the state in the Republic
  • 3.7.3.1 Discourse in ink and discourse in the soul
  • 3.7.3.2 The subject of inner discourse and the aim of knowledge
  • 3.7.4 Justice as the internal unity and health of the soul
  • 3.7.5 Versatility of the just man
  • 3.7.6 Unity of virtues in just actions
  • 4 The content of just actions
  • 4.1 Socrates talks to himself about justice
  • 4.1.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 4.1.2 The form of the argument
  • 4.1.3 Detailed analyses
  • 4.1.4 The ‘head’ of Socrates’ conversation about justice
  • 4.1.5 A difficult step in the argument and Plato’s teaching on the Good
  • 4.1.5.1 From the justice in the soul to the justice of actions
  • 4.1.5.2 Shadows and statues of justice
  • 4.1.5.3 The Good
  • 4.1.5.4 Education
  • 4.1.5.5 Reconsidering the difficulties in the argumentation in the Gorgias
  • 4.1.6 Further applications
  • 4.2 Negative and positive characteristics of just actions
  • 4.2.1 The harm principle
  • 4.2.2 Just actions as something beneficial for others
  • 5 Justice of the law and justice of the state
  • 5.1 Foundations
  • 5.2 The wisdom and freedom to shape one’s life and Plato’s alleged totalitarianism
  • 5.2.1 Converging arguments against Plato’s totalitarianism
  • 5.2.2 Wisdom as the knowledge that oversees just actions
  • 5.2.3 The failure of Isaiah Berlin’s argument
  • 5.2.4 Freedom to shape one’s own life
  • 5.2.4.1 Short-term life planning
  • 5.2.4.2 Long-term life planning
  • 5.2.5 Concluding remarks
  • 5.3 Punitive justice
  • 5.3.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 5.3.2 Rhetoric as a counterfeit of punitive justice
  • 5.3.3 The principal aims of punishment
  • 5.3.4 The health of the soul as the foundation of justice
  • 5.3.5 Equality of proportions as a basis for the determination of punishment
  • 5.3.6 Injustice which punishment cannot repair
  • 5.3.7 The inevitability of punishment by the gods and two aims of the law
  • 5.3.8 Civil law aspects of punishment
  • 5.3.9 Concluding remarks
  • 6 Equality
  • 6.1 Initial remarks
  • 6.2 Equality in dignity
  • 6.3 Proportionate equality as a basis for shaping actions
  • 6.3.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 6.3.2 Arithmetic equality
  • 6.3.3 Geometric equality as the foundation of true justice
  • 6.3.4 Aristotle’s continuation of Plato’s teaching on geometric proportion
  • 6.3.5 Concluding remarks
  • 6.4 Justice and friendship
  • 6.4.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 6.4.2 Friendship with oneself
  • 6.4.3 Equality as the foundation of friendship
  • 6.4.4 Friendship as an aim of laws
  • 6.4.5 Non-violence in implementing justice
  • 6.4.6 Justice in giving and receiving
  • 6.4.7 Concluding remarks
  • 7 Some key issues in Plato’s conception of justice
  • 7.1 What is more excellent—justice of the soul or justice of action?
  • 7.2 Which activity is best and what is its best object?
  • 7.2.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 7.2.2 What is a proper object of love? What is a proper object of just actions?
  • 7.2.2.1 Abstract form or concrete individual—challenging Gregory Vlastos
  • 7.2.2.2 Engendering and birth as an aim of love
  • 7.2.2.3 Loving imperfect creatures
  • 7.2.2.4 Loving an individual
  • 7.2.3 Just actions over contemplation
  • 7.2.3.1 Back home from the top of the heavens—what are souls free of mortal deficiency doing?
  • 7.2.3.2 Back to the cave from the light of the sun—what is the use of abstract forms?
  • 7.2.3.3 What does the Good—the Demiurge—do?
  • 7.2.4 The Timaeus and Plato’s teaching on justice
  • 7.2.5 The elderly Cephalus on justice: foreword as epilogue
  • 7.2.6 Closing remarks
  • 7.3 The sharing of wives: testing the interpretation on a ‘hard case’
  • 7.3.1 Preliminary remarks
  • 7.3.2 The dolphin of Arion—an introduction by Plato’s Socrates
  • 7.3.3 Non-geometrical but erotic necessities
  • 7.3.4 Some instructions on how to read Plato
  • 7.3.5 What can be gained from the discussion about women?
  • 7.3.5.1 Fundamental equality of the sexes
  • 7.3.5.2 No justification for subordinating weaker minds to stronger ones
  • 7.3.5.3 The highest standards of friendship
  • 7.3.5.4 How to establish friendship in the soul
  • 7.3.6 Closing remarks
  • 8 Conclusions
  • 8.1 Dignity
  • 8.2 Justice of the soul
  • 8.3 Justice of actions
  • 8.4 Justice of laws and the state
  • Bibliography
  • I Works of Plato
  • a Collections
  • b Dialogues
  • II References
  • Indexes
  • Index Locorum
  • General Index
  • BM

About the editors

Marek Piechowiak habilitated in philosophy and is a professor of legal sciences. His scholarly work concerns primarily the philosophical foundations of international and constitutional protection of human rights, including in a historical perspective. His current research focuses on legal and philosophical conceptions of dignity. He works in the SWPS University Law School.

About the book

This book is the first comprehensive study of Plato’s conception of justice. The universality of human rights and the universality of human dignity, which is recognised as their source, are among the crucial philosophical problems in modern-day legal orders and in contemporary culture in general. If dignity is genuinely universal, then human beings also possessed it in ancient times. Plato not only perceived human dignity, but a recognition of dignity is also visible in his conception of justice, which forms the core of his philosophy. Plato’s Republic is consistently interpreted here as a treatise on justice, relating to an individual and not to the state. The famous myth of the cave is a story about education taking place in the world here and now. The best activity is not contemplation, but acting for the benefit of others. Not ideas, but individuals are the proper objects of love. Plato’s philosophy may provide foundations for modern-day human rights protection rather than for totalitarian orders.

Citability of the eBook

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

For Celina, Teresa, Dorota and Zofia

Contents

Preface

1 Introduction

1.1 What this book is about

1.2 Dignity as a fundamental value in law

1.3 Why Plato?

1.4 Objectives

1.5 Interpreting Plato

1.6 The structure of this book

2 The Timaeus on dignity: the Demiurge’s speech

2.1 The Timaeus as a dialogue on justice

2.2 Formal aspects of the text

2.3 The complexity and mortality of the soul

2.4 Dignity as existential perfection

2.5 Prohibition on instrumental treatment

2.6 Human beings and the gods

2.7 The human being in relation to the whole

3 Justice as a virtue

3.1 Introductory remarks

3.2 Some terminological issues

3.3 Justice and happiness—justice as the most important of all matters

3.3.1 Justice as the subject of the best possible art

3.3.2 The greatest evil and the greatest good

3.3.3 Utility as the foundation of one’s good

←7 | 8→

3.4 Traditional formulae describing just actions

3.5 The Republic as a dialogue on the individual

3.6 The model of the state and the teaching of virtues

3.6.1 Improvement of man

3.6.1.1 Socratic questions

3.6.1.2 Is the soul simple or complex?

3.6.1.3 How to find justice in the state

3.6.2 Wisdom

3.6.3 Courage

3.6.3.1 Common understanding of courage

3.6.3.2 The specificity of Plato’s approach

3.6.3.3 ‘What things are to be feared’ and human freedom

3.6.4 Moderation

3.6.5 Justice in the model of the state

3.6.5.1 Introduction

3.6.5.2 What justice in the state is

3.6.5.3 Weakness of the evidence

3.6.5.4 Beyond triviality

3.6.5.5 Happiness of the state or happiness of the individual?

3.7 What in truth is justice?

3.7.1 Description of justice

3.7.2 Justice in the model of the state as εἴδωλον—a phantom of justice

3.7.3 The Phaedrus and the model of the state in the Republic

3.7.3.1 Discourse in ink and discourse in the soul

3.7.3.2 The subject of inner discourse and the aim of knowledge

3.7.4 Justice as the internal unity and health of the soul

3.7.5 Versatility of the just man

3.7.6 Unity of virtues in just actions

←8 | 9→

4 The content of just actions

4.1 Socrates talks to himself about justice

4.1.1 Preliminary remarks

4.1.2 The form of the argument

4.1.3 Detailed analyses

4.1.4 The ‘head’ of Socrates’ conversation about justice

4.1.5 A difficult step in the argument and Plato’s teaching on the Good

4.1.5.1 From the justice in the soul to the justice of actions

4.1.5.2 Shadows and statues of justice

4.1.5.3 The Good

4.1.5.4 Education

4.1.5.5 Reconsidering the difficulties in the argumentation in the Gorgias

4.1.6 Further applications

4.2 Negative and positive characteristics of just actions

4.2.1 The harm principle

4.2.2 Just actions as something beneficial for others

5 Justice of the law and justice of the state

5.1 Foundations

5.2 The wisdom and freedom to shape one’s life and Plato’s alleged totalitarianism

5.2.1 Converging arguments against Plato’s totalitarianism

5.2.2 Wisdom as the knowledge that oversees just actions

5.2.3 The failure of Isaiah Berlin’s argument

5.2.4 Freedom to shape one’s own life

5.2.4.1 Short-term life planning

5.2.4.2 Long-term life planning

5.2.5 Concluding remarks

←9 | 10→

5.3 Punitive justice

5.3.1 Preliminary remarks

5.3.2 Rhetoric as a counterfeit of punitive justice

5.3.3 The principal aims of punishment

5.3.4 The health of the soul as the foundation of justice

5.3.5 Equality of proportions as a basis for the determination of punishment

5.3.6 Injustice which punishment cannot repair

5.3.7 The inevitability of punishment by the gods and two aims of the law

5.3.8 Civil law aspects of punishment

5.3.9 Concluding remarks

6 Equality

6.1 Initial remarks

6.2 Equality in dignity

6.3 Proportionate equality as a basis for shaping actions

6.3.1 Preliminary remarks

6.3.2 Arithmetic equality

6.3.3 Geometric equality as the foundation of true justice

6.3.4 Aristotle’s continuation of Plato’s teaching on geometric proportion

6.3.5 Concluding remarks

6.4 Justice and friendship

6.4.1 Preliminary remarks

6.4.2 Friendship with oneself

6.4.3 Equality as the foundation of friendship

6.4.4 Friendship as an aim of laws

6.4.5 Non-violence in implementing justice

6.4.6 Justice in giving and receiving

6.4.7 Concluding remarks

←10 | 11→

7 Some key issues in Plato’s conception of justice

7.1 What is more excellent—justice of the soul or justice of action?

7.2 Which activity is best and what is its best object?

7.2.1 Preliminary remarks

7.2.2 What is a proper object of love? What is a proper object of just actions?

7.2.2.1 Abstract form or concrete individual—challenging Gregory Vlastos

7.2.2.2 Engendering and birth as an aim of love

7.2.2.3 Loving imperfect creatures

7.2.2.4 Loving an individual

7.2.3 Just actions over contemplation

7.2.3.1 Back home from the top of the heavens—what are souls free of mortal deficiency doing?

7.2.3.2 Back to the cave from the light of the sun—what is the use of abstract forms?

7.2.3.3 What does the Good—the Demiurge—do?

7.2.4 The Timaeus and Plato’s teaching on justice

7.2.5 The elderly Cephalus on justice: foreword as epilogue

7.2.6 Closing remarks

Details

Pages
298
ISBN (ePUB)
9783631710906
ISBN (PDF)
9783653054255
ISBN (MOBI)
9783631710913
ISBN (Hardcover)
9783631659700
Language
English
Publication date
2019 (January)
Tags
ancient philosophy human person Plato’s state Plato’s Republic human rights law foundations of law ethics women
Published
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 296 pp.

Biographical notes

Marek Piechowiak (Author)

Marek Piechowiak habilitated in philosophy and is a professor of legal sciences. His scholarly work concerns primarily the philosophical foundations of international and constitutional protection of human rights, including in a historical perspective. His current research focuses on legal and philosophical conceptions of dignity. He works in the SWPS University Law School.

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Title: Plato’s Conception of Justice and the Question of Human Dignity