Glaucon on the Institution of Justice Arising
Glaucon had a radical idea that the institution of justice did not arise from the desire to do good but it came out as a means to an end and that to his mind it is a compromise between good and evil. Therefore, the institution of justice arose from the fact that two parties are in disagreement and in order to protect themselves they enter into agreements, covenants and establish laws so that they will not be caught by surprise if the other person or group decided to be unjust and with treachery and evil intent take away what is not theirs and to overpower the weaker or unprepared person or state. It is evil but a lesser evil according to Glaucon.
Thus, according to Glaucon those who are just are only doing so because they are bound by agreements, covenants and laws and not because they really want to do the right thing. In their heart of hearts there is no wellspring where virtue and goodness can come forth. In the heart of the “just” is actually the heart of the unjust but having no power to show forth its true color or character. For Glaucon this is living a lie and living a dishonest life is the same as being unjust. It can be implied that majority of those who appear to be just in the outside are actually unjust in the inside and that is their true character.
Aside from hating duplicity Glaucon also pointed out that it is better to be unjust because at the end the just will suffer, will lose everything and doing all the suffering for nothing because he is not really just and pretending to be just. While the unjust reveals his true self and gain significantly by being true to himself and asserting his control over those who are timid and unable to decide whether it is desirable to be shrewd and decisive. These are not bad qualities in themselves but the unjust person can be highly motivated and not bound by useless rules and at the end he will triumph.
Socrates was able to easily defeat Glaucon’s arguments when he said that the afterlife is worth more than riches and fame. Socrates also pointed out that doing the right thing will benefit the rest of the State and since the State is essential for the survival of a particular group of people then it follows that the State must be just as well as the people under it. Without justice the whole system will crumble and that everyone will go away empty handed, achieving nothing and harvesting pain and misery. Socrates reiterated his claim that the just will reap rewards more than what money and fame can give. The just man will receive the ultimate prize which is happiness and contentment.
Socrates ended his arguments by stating that the inner person is much more important than the external. Socrates was well aware not only of the afterlife but also by the fleeting nature of physical life. The once healthy body will surrender from the constant barrage of earthly problems and worries. The skin will grow old, the knees will grow feeble and then after a few short seasons man is gone without a trace unless he will create monuments before his death or if his descendants and admirers will go out of their way to immortalize his name. Thus it is better to work on something that will not be subjected to decay.
In Socrates’ view the inner man is the soul and this can be made more perfect by being just, by doing the right thing and refraining from doing evil. The soul can be likened to a precious stone that be polished into a glimmering wonder by every great act but it can also be easily tarnished by every evil act. By being just the person ensures that he will not only have a happy life in the present but he can be certain of helping his fellowmen. But there is more at the end of his life he will be rewarded by God and his soul will be made more precious in the sight of his Creator and the rest of his creation. But for the unjust a bleak end awaits him and unspeakable terror once he enters the grave.