7 March 2014
The robins have arrived in this part of the east. I noted one on Thursday afternoon among two others in a dormant Persimmon stand. The quietude of this time of year allowed me a moment to ponder your closing remark in your last letter, the “one man one trade being justice” bit. This I believe has its roots in the dialogue in Book IV between Glaucon and Socrates in Plato’s work The Republic, though it took me a moment. Specifically, I seemed to recall it having been attributed to the city. Allow me to quote below,
‘“Well, I (Socrates) said. “Listen and hear whether there is anything in what I say. For at the beginning when we were founding our city, the principle which we then stated should rule throughout, or at least a form of it, was, I think, justice. We stated surely, and if you remember, have often repeated our statement, that each individual should pursue that work in this city for which his nature was naturally most fitted, each one man doing one work.”
“Yes, we did.”
“But we have often said ourselves, and heard others saying, that to mind ones own business and not be meddlesome is justice.”
‘Yes, we have.”
“Well, then, my friend,” I said, “this in some form or other is what justice seems to be, minding one’s own business. Do you know how I infer this?”
“Do tell me,” he said.
“We have examined,” I said, “temperance and courage and wisdom, and I think that the remaining virtue in the city is that which enabled all these to find a place in it, and after they have appeared preserves them so long as it is present in the city. But we said that if we found the first three, the remaining one would be justice.”
“Yes, inevitably,” he said.
“But,” I said, “if we had to decide which of those virtues by its presence does most to make the city good, it would be hard to say whether it is the unanimity of rulers and ruled, or the preservation of lawful belief concerning what is and what is not to be feared, that makes its appearance among the soldiers, or the wisdom and guardianship of the rulers, which most contributes to the city’s goodness; or whether, finally, it is not this principle abiding in child and woman, in slave and freeman and artisan, in ruler and ruled, that each minded his own business, one man one work, and was not meddlesome.”
“It is, in truth, a hard question,” he said.
“Then apparently the principle of each man doing his own business in a city competes in promoting that city’s virtue with its wisdom and temperance and courage?”
“Certainly,” he said.
“But would you not affirm that the principle which competes with these in promoting a city’s virtue is justice?”
“Consider now whether this point of view brings us to the same conclusion. Will you make rulers in the city judge lawsuits?”
“And in their decisions, will not their aim be merely to prevent either party having what belongs to others or being deprived what is their own?”
“Yes, that will be their aim.”
“On the assumption that that is just.”
“So from this point of view the possession and practice of what belongs to us and is our own, would be acknowledged to be justice?”
“Consider now whether you agree with me. Do you think it will do any notable harm to the city if a builder attempts a shoemaker’s work, or a shoemaker’s a builder’s, or if they take one another’s tools or pay, or even if the same men try to do both, and there is a general interchange in such professions?”
“No,” he said.
“But I fancy when he that is by nature a craftsman or a moneymaker of some kind is so elated by his wealth, or his numerous supporters, or his bodily strength, or some such qualities, that he essays to enter the warrior class; or when one of the warriors aspires to the counseling and guardian class when he is unworthy of it, and these take one another’s tools and privileges, or when the same man tries to combine all these offices, then, I fancy, you think with me that such change and meddling among those classes is death to the city.”
“Our classes are three, and meddling and interchange among them is the greatest of the injuries to the city, and might justly be described as the extreme evil doing.”
“It is exactly as you say.”
“Then will you not admit that the worst kind of evil-doing to one’s own city is injustice?”
“This then is injustice; and conversely the opposite of this – when each class, money-makers, auxiliaries, and guardians, attends to what belongs to it, each doing its own work in the city – will be justice, and will make the city just.”
“I certainly think,” he said “it is as you say.”’ (1)
1. The Republic, Everyman’s Library – Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1906 & 1976, page 114 and 115.
The two, Tetraneuris, ultimately reach the understanding as well that “the just man will in no way differ from the the just city.” Comparing the presence of the three types of natures in the city, temperance, courageousness and wisdom as operating in one’s soul, produced by reasoning. Pursuing what nature guides one to enjoy. I’m not certain how you found yourself wrapping up the latest writing with this tract? However, a refresher in the passage was most welcome. So, how’s the weather out west? Oh, and what do you make of the situation in Crimea?