Study Guide

The Republic Justice and Judgment

By Plato

Justice and Judgment

If you're looking for a book that gets real on the topic of justice, look no further than Plato's Republic. You could almost say that this is the book to read on justice—period—since it spends hundreds of pages trying to examine justice from every possible angle.

The characters in the Republic are so committed to defining justice that they invent an entire city just to help them do this. When was the last time you were that serious about some abstract topic?

Even if the concept of justice specifically isn't your thing, don't worry. For Plato, justice is such a universal topic that it affects pretty much every aspect of human life, like poetry, music, math, government, the nature of the human soul, philosophy... you know, everything. Take your pick, and find out why justice is so important even in these far-flung disciplines.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. How does the topic of justice come up in this dialogue? Why might that be important?
  2. What are the various positions offered about justice that Socrates disagrees with? Did they seem rational to you? Surprising? What aspects of justice were they focused on?
  3. What exactly is the relationship between the topic of justice and the creation of the imaginary city? Why is imagining a city a way to think about the definition of justice?
  4. After all is said and done, what is Socrates's definition of justice? Is it convincing? Do the other characters seem convinced, too? Is Socrates's definition of justice anything like what you think justice might mean?

Chew on This

There is no way that a person who thinks slavery is okay (ahem, Socrates) can have anything useful to say about justice.

It's impossible to come up with a definition of justice everyone will agree on. What justice means to individual people is always going to be different.

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