Sunday, May 3, 2015
Stephen Ricketts (Blog Post 3/3) Section 8, Group 2
Plato on Happiness
Plato believes that justice is in the interest of those who are just. We have also seen, however, that Plato does not think that justice is good solely for its consequences; it is also good in itself, an intrinsic good. He shows this by arguing that justice is a component of the happy life. If the virtues were only an instrumental means to happiness, then they might fail to lead to happiness in other circumstances, and one might be able to achieve happiness with simply the appearance of virtue. But if virtue is the supreme constituent of happiness, then one could not be happy without being (genuinely) virtuous, and one could not be virtuous without being happy.
We have also seen that in the Republic, Plato divides the soul into three parts (reason, spirit, and appetite). He defines the just individual as one in whom each of the three parts performs the function or task naturally suited to it. A psychically just person is one whose soul is in this psychological state of proper functioning. One is psychically unjust to the extent that the parts of one's soul fail to perform their proper functions, e.g., if appetite overrules reason. Plato argues that the just person with an orderly soul has a better, happier life than anyone whose soul is not in order; and one with a thoroughly unjust soul, a soul in disorder and conflict, is thoroughly miserable.
Although this indicates Plato's connection between psychic justice and happiness, how are we to connect social justice with happiness? Even if we allow that one is happier insofar as one's soul is in order, and unhappy insofar as one's soul is in conflict, should we conclude that one who acts in accordance with the public demands of morality will be guaranteed both psychic justice and happiness? Is acting in accord with social justice an essential component of the happy life? How should we look for an answer to this question?