Plato (Glaucon’s Challenge):
• Plato, along with his student Aristotle, was one of the two most important philosophers of
antiquity and is among the most important figures in the entire Western intellectual
• His wide-ranging discussions addressed nearly every philosophical topic imaginable.
• Writings that take the form of dialogues that feature his teacher Socrates.
• The selection that appears here is drawn from Plato’s long dialogue, The Republic.
• In the passage, two characters, Plato’s teacher Socrates, and Plato’s brother Glaucon, are
engaged in a conversation about the nature and value of justice. Glaucon, the challenger,
advocates the view that the only reason people act justly is because they believe that
doing so will help them attain desirable ends (rewards, and good things).
• He believes that it is better in every way to be just than unjust
• He believes that we welcome good things not for their own sake, but for the sake of
rewards and other things that come from them.
• He looks at what justice and injustice are by themselves in the soul, leaving out the
rewards and the other things that come from each of them.
• The three main things he argues are:
1. What justice and injustice are?
2. He argues that those who practice it do so unwillingly, as something necessary, not as
3. He’ll argue that they have a good reason to act as they do, for the life of an unjust
person is, they say, much better than that of a just one.
!Laws and covenants have been made, and what the law commands, they call lawful and
just. This, they say, is the origin and essence of justice.
!Doing injustice is naturally good, and suffering injustice is bad, but the badness of
suffering outweighs to the goodness of doing it, that those who have done and suffered
injustice, and have tasted both, but who lack the power to do it, and avoid suffering it
decide that it is better and profitable to do injustice or to suffer it.
!People who do good things, usually do it to get the recognition and rewards that follow
along with it.
!People lack the power to do injustice. People are usually afraid of the consequences and
punishments that follow unjust acts, and which therefore makes them too afraid and weak
to act unjust; people know the likelihood of them getting away with unjust acts is very
small. Therefore, we settle with these implemented rules to protect ourselves.
(Example) The story of the ancestor of Gyges of Lydia: He was a shepherd, and one day
there was an earthquake that opened up the ground. With amazement, he went into the ground,
where he found a human sized corpse, wearing nothing but a gold ring on its finger. He took the
ring and left. He wore the ring at the usual monthly meeting that reported to the king on the state
of the flocks. As he was sitting with others, he happened to turn the setting of his ring towards
the inside of himself to the inside of his hand. When he did this, he became invisible to those
sitting near him, and they went on talking as if he had gone. He wondered at this, he then turned