On the concept of “justice”. Platonic and Aristotelian perspectives
Keywords:justice, utility, law, power, political realism, soul, friendship, concord, happiness, education
This contribution provides some remarks on the notion of justice in Plato and Aristotle, with some current implications. The paper is divided into three parts: the first part tackles Thrasymachus’ and Glaucon’s argument in Books I and II of Plato’s Republic respectively. This argument — which is a remarkable case of political realism in antiquity — presents justice as a product of power and individual interest, or as a contract. As a reply to this proposal, the second part of this paper will introduce some coordinates on Plato’s notion of justice in his Republic, which is based on the association between human soul and political organization. For Plato, only this association ensures the pursuit of the unity of the State and the common good. Finally, in the third part Aristotle’s reply to both Thrasymachus and Plato will be considered. By distinguishing different meanings of justice, Aristotle grounds political justice in friendship, that is in equality and reciprocity. This provides both the common good — basically, social concord — and individual happiness — that is, the fulfillment of human life. In order to reach this goal, for Aristotle, as well as for Plato, a proper education (paideia) is required.