, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 258-272
Date: 18 May 2011

“Justice is happiness”?—An analysis of Plato’s strategies in response to challenges from the sophists

Abstract

The challenge from the sophists with whom Plato is confronted is: Who can prove that the just man without power is happy whereas the unjust man with power is not? This challenge concerns the basic issue of politics: the relationship between justice and happiness. Will the unjust man gain the exceptional “happiness of the strong” by abusing his power and by injustice? The gist of Plato’s reply is to speak not of “justice” but of “intrinsic justice,” i.e., the strength of virtue which, in his account, is the fundamental good of man. Nevertheless, many contend that intrinsic justice is actually injustice, for the division of power in the state is undemocratic while in the soul, the suppression of desire by the reason. Plato’s advocacy of hierarchical, elite political system has enraged democrats, while his idea of “philosopher king” has enraged the aristocrats as well. So, who will appreciate Plato’s effort?