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Justice through the Eyes of Plato and Hume
The philosophic debate of justice goes back millennia with many points of view on what it actually is and why we have it. Both Plato and Hume had ideas on justice and both differed. Plato, in his Republic, searches for justice by building a city from the ground up in our imagination. He starts with merely five to ten people each with their own job and states that justice is the virtue of the soul. David Hume tells us that “public utility is the sole origin of justice (Hume, 15).” David Hume sees Socrates’ approach to justice as misguided due to the abundance of resources in his “simple city,” the lack of advantage to justice in a group as small as Socrates’, and the lack of necessity for laws of foreign justice. The abundance of resources in Socrates’ city is apparent. With a town of ten people there ought to be enough resources to go around in excess. There is no need for justice when there is no need to fret about your supply of resources. If everyone has more than enough of everything than no one needs to protect what they have. When a resource then becomes limited then we impose justice to protect the supply we have. We impose justice on theft of a neighbor but not on breathing in a neighbor’s home because his valuables are limited in supply but air is not. Now, some people may argue that all people, no matter the amount of resources will instinctively protect the product of his work. This may be true to an extent of self-preservation as well as a family, but if the resource is so abundant, than a person does not need to protect a certain amount of it for himself. Rather he is able to use it freely without concern for supply and he will not impose justice to protect that resource for himself. Only as he starts running out of a resource will anyone start using justice to ensure the security of his supply. Air is a good example of this, that no man has laid a...
Cited: Hume, David. "Section 3: Of Justice." An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. 2nd ed. La Salle: Open Court, 1966. 15. Print.
Plato. The Republic of Plato: Transl. with Notes and an Interpretative Essay by Allan Bloom. Trans. Allan David Bloom. New York: Basic, 1991. Print.
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