Bringing the Just Man Back into World Politics
By JC Collins
“Until political power and philosophy entirely coincide… cities will have no rest from evils,… nor, I think, will the human race.”
(Plato, the Republic 473c-d)
The “Just Man” was a core theme of the Republic, a series of dialogues written by Plato in 380BCE. Book two of those writings puts forward the suggestion that the “Just Man” who is considered by the world to be “Unjust” is in fact more fulfilled and living in alignment with wisdom than the “Unjust Man” who is considered by the world to be a “Just Man”.
It is in essence a debate between whether the “Unjust” life is better than the “Just” life or vice versa. It was argued that the only reason men would be just is because they are afraid of the costs and punishment of not being just. Injustice with impunity was presented as the case for the “Unjust Man” to be happier than the “Just Man” because the “Unjust Man”, through acts of injustice, could obtain riches and favor in the world which the “Just Man” could not do while in service to justice.
It was assumed in some arguments that injustice was the natural state of man.
Plato, through his Socrates dialogues put forward the case that the “Unjust Man” could never be as happy or fulfilled as the “Just Man” even with all the riches of the world. Scholars have debated the outcomes of these debates and dialogues in the Republic, or what Plato may have meant, but I believe the case is clear that the “Just Man” living a life of justice is in better favor with himself than the “Unjust Man” masquerading as a “Just Man” because in his heart the truth cannot be denied.
Understanding the definition of justice is also an important part of interpreting the meaning and outcomes of the dialogues. There is much discussion both within the Republic and in subsequent interpretations on what justice is. It is my own personal interpretation that justice is selfless action taken in service of others and for the advantage of others.
A casual study of modern politics and political “leaders” would strongly suggest that a large majority would fall into the “unjust” category to varying degrees of injustice. The selfish needs of the individual are put forth as the redeeming qualities in a world in which the “Unjust Man” is considered the “Just Man” based on the accumulation of power and material things.
The “Just Man” can put forth his own selfish needs when it is not at the expense of others, though others may see that it is just to put forward the selfish needs of others for the benefit of a larger whole.
In such areas of discrepancy comes the potential for confusion of the masses and corruption of those in power, as those who attempt injustice justify their selfish behavior by convincing themselves that it is for the greater good. The masses, subjected to propaganda and alternative definitions of justice and injustice, become convinced that the “Unjust Man” is in fact the “Just Man” and the protests of the “Just Man” are interpreted as the rantings of the “Unjust Man”.
The argument put forth by Plato is that the “Unjust Man” can never know true peace and happiness and as such cannot trust anyone else, leading to the typical behaviors of tyrants and despots. Only a “Just Man” who is well-versed in the ideals of philosophy and wisdom can obtain true wisdom and happiness and personify the typical leadership traits of justice.
It is pointed out that the human tendency towards corruption and self-gratification give birth to power hungry leaders who implement forms of tyranny under varying ideals of democracy, oligarchy, and other methods of control and dictatorship.
The corruption and tyranny of the “Unjust Man” is predominantly manifested in our world through the ideals of democracy and socialism. The merging of philosophy and politics can provide an alternative which is structured around the selfless service of the “Just Man” who will then no longer be perceived by the world as the “Unjust Man”. – JC
Also see The Rise of the Philosophical Class