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Justice has remained the keyword which runs through various different and at times diametrically opposite thoughts in Western Political Thought. Western Political thought has remained a search for a perfect state, enshrined within it the conception of Justice. Such a conception of Justice and State appears in Western Political Thought and Jurisprudence from the times of Ancient Greek Philosophy to the modernist philosophy of Ideologies and Social Contract to the post-structuralist philosophy of socially-constructed linguistic structures.

Jurisprudence remains a search for the structure to both define the boundaries of the close set of such an idealist society and to define the relationship between the members in the society. Jurisprudence as a search for closely worded and codified legal instruments, has been a requirement of modernity where the word took precedence over the metaphysics of un-said and felt. In pre-modern, ancient Greek thought, Jurisprudence was a discipline allied with and at the same pedestal as any other discipline of Humanities including Ethics, Epistemology, a concern with Literature etc. Jurisprudence could not be understood differently from the Philosophy of Ontology, the larger purpose of Universe and an appreciation of the philosophical assumptions of the system.

Modern Philosophy tried to create a distinction among the various socio-political and economic facets of thought. Jurisprudence was separated from the domain of the social and elevated to the task of constructing the social for the members of the political-community. The creation of the social space with a desire for survival translated into the tasks for Jurisprudence in the tumultuous times of modernity: codified laws which worked for the sovereignty of the State with the protection of the status-quo of social-political and economic paradigm, while imagining development in a linear manner.

Ancient Greek thought on the other hand is a concern with Aesthetics. Political Aesthetics is the basic concern of Ancient Greek Political thought. The notion of the “Good” and the “Beautiful” laid the tasks for the Jurisprudential thought. Good and Beautiful were to be searched in the Social, where the individual was still not recognized as a atomistic whole (was was done by modernity).

The questions raised by Ancient Greek thought have defined the intellectual pursuits of Western Political thought and Western thought on Jurisprudence for more than past 2000 years. Renaissance and Enlightenment though with the advent of modernity changed the stakes of understanding and answered the Greek Political Thought through the lens of Power and Subjugation.

This paper shall try to understand the Jurisprudential thought of the Ancient Greeks, with an emphasis on the idea of Justice. This paper shall study the works of two Classical Greek philosophers: i.e. Plato and Aristotle and seek to develop a comparison and contrast of the two.

Socrates was among the first person in Greek philosophy who applied philosophy to the problems of human existence. Pre-Socratic philosophers and Sophists of Socrates’ age, dealt mainly with questions of larger cosmos. Please remember that this course mainly deals with questions in Western Intellectual Tradition (which we also face, since our Decolonization process never completed), and will not engage in Classics of other traditions. Even before the Greek tradition we can find traces of jurisprudential thought in Babylonian, Egyptian, Indus-Valley and other ancient civilizations.

Plato was the student of Socrates. Socrates was mainly a social deviant (punished for his deviance: the account given in the classic dialogue by Plato "Phaedo"), who dealt with ethical and social issues. We know of his philosophy through his students, largely through Plato.

Plato developed his metaphysical world view called the "Theory of Forms" (Ideas is also used in place of Forms, but is rejected by much of philosophical community). For him the difference was between Being and Becoming. What we have in this material world is Becoming, the crude or polluted form of Being.

As soul is immortal (he shows in many dialogues, mainly Phaedo), human endeavors should be to relish the soul by aiming to reach the glimpse of Forms. His Jurisprudence or Republic, was an Oligarchic rule, a step short of modern day Fascism and Totalitarianism (for an extended view of this critique, please refer to Sir Karl Popper's book "Open Societies and its Enemies: Vol. 1"). This Republic and its guardians were to serve the purpose of elevating the human being to the world of Forms.

Aristotle was the student of Plato. He is reported to have said, "Dear Plato, but dearest is the truth". This statement has defined the relationship between two antagonist political thought in the precedent history of Western political Philosophy; one can refer to the tenacious relationship between Althussar as a structural Marxist and Habermas as an avowed Kantian Liberal Cosmopolitan.

Aristotle on the other hand was an intuitivist (the reaching of general conclusions through the study of particulars). Naively we may call him a Materialist as opposed to Plato who was a Dualist in his Ontological views (to pigeon-hole such great minds in these linguist inventions of later modernity is a misdemeanor in itself). Aristotle believed that we may gather wisdom from the study of change in this world. Befitting enough, for him the central academic discipline was Biology, the study of change i.e. growth and decay in human life.

His Jurisprudence is gathered from his writings on Ethics. The Greek tragedy of Antigony is taken from the parallel strand of Greek thought to which belong the kinds of Homer and Hessoid (although Plato rejects much of it in his Dialogue Ion). It explains the Jurisprudential question through the plot. Please remember that Aristotle said that the primary element of a Tragedy is plot as distinct from characters (Aristotle in Poetics). A careful reader can gather this point and its parallel and distinction to the thought of the Greek philosophers through a careful study.

Plato’s theory of Jurisprudence is taken from his allegory of the cave. We have to keep in mind that Plato believed in the theory of transcendent form. In short, Plato believed that the physical world is just an illusion, a light of the World of Pure Forms and Shops which exists in a transcendent universe above and beyond the world of physical laws. This underlies the method of philosophical study which Plato used as well i.e. Induction. Induction refers to the creation of universal laws by observing the natural phenomenon and determination of universal natural laws from it.

From this theory we can deduce that the Truth does not exist in this universe but exists in the transcendent form. Only by aiming to achieve the truth in the transcendent form will we be able to aim at the truth proper. The jurisprudence and the legal thought of Plato aims at such an achievement, by declaring the rule of the Philosopher King. The philosopher king is going to be the guide to lead the humankind in general to the truth of the transcendent.

Heidegger in his writings on tragedy observed that it was the drinking of hemlock by Socrates in 399, by his own hands, even when he had the choice of escape, which led to the emergence of tragedy from the stage to the real life. In a similar way, we can observe that Socrates has had a considerable influence on the Platonic thought. Socrates called himself “the midwife of reason and rationality”. A midwife is not the creator. Midwife is just a person engaged in the production of a truth. In a similar way, the Philosopher King is not the creator of the Truth. Nor is the king the person who will know in absolute where the Truth is and in what form it will lay.

The Philosopher King is the person who will only lead or guide the general population to the Truth. The philosopher king will only guide in the process of the discovery of the truth. Plato observes this in this allegory of the cave, where he shows how the general population is tied to the lies of the world of the physics. He argues that it would require someone with the intellect and rationality of the Philosopher King to lead the population to the Truth. Plato remarks that:
“This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.”[1]

From this conception of the Truth arises the Platonic conception of Justice. For the conception of Justice to take place, Plato divides the world into three different classes, based upon three different parts of the human body:
1.         Head
2.         Chest
3.         Stomach

The reasons for the classification are the general characteristics associated with the three. Head is generally associated with rationality; Chest associated with valor and bravery; stomach is the least of the three as it is prone to corruption and greed, therefore it requires the virtue of temperance. It is the association with and reservation of these virtues that Plato divides the population into a system of division of labor in his vision of the Republic, with a target population of about 5,050.

To the modern sensibilities and liberal conception of meritocracy, the division of Human Labor as such defies the basic principles. However, we can argue that it is even implicit in modern thought and has been a part of economic thought since the times of ancient Greek thought and will continue to be. The Platonic idea is a mere reflection of Plato’s deep thoughts on human sensibilities. A modern historian of economic thought defends it in the following words:

“Historically division of labor originates in two facts of nature: the  inequality of human abilities and the variety of the external conditions  of human life on the earth. These two facts are really one: the diversity of Nature, which does not repeat itself but creates the universe in infinite, inexhaustible variety. . . . Had the strength and abilities of all individuals and the external conditions of production been everywhere equal the idea of division of labor could never have arisen. . . . No social life could have arisen among men of equal natural capacity in a world which was geographically uniform. . .”[2]

We can view the effects of and influences of Platonic division of Labor even in the contemporary liberation and revolutionary thought. In the thought of Rousseau, the modern thinker, which was the influence upon the French Revolution of 1789, we find the Platonic division of Labor taken to the extreme. Rousseau argues that:
“I should like each rank, each employment, each honorific reward to be detained with its own external badge or emblem. I should like vow to no office-holder to move about incognito, so that the Maris of a man’s rank or position shall accompany him wherever he goes. . . .Every citizen shall feel the eyes of his fellow-countrymen upon him every moment of the day. . . . Everyone . . . shall be as completely dependent upon public esteem as to be unable to do anything, acquire anything, or achieve anything without it. The resulting emulation among all the citizens would produce a ferment that, in its turn, would awaken that patriotic fervor which raises men-as nothing else can raise them- above themselves. ”[3]

However, it should be kept in mind that there is no exact similarity between the thought of Rousseau and Plato. The difference is the result of a difference “toward specialization and the division of labor color their views on who should formulate policy on political questions.”[4]

Aristotle as a name in Western Philosophy is synonymous with the disagreement with his great master, Plato. Aristotle’s theory of the just or the right, disagreed with Plato on the Ontology and resultantly Epistemology of the Truth. Aristotle argued for an imminent form, preexisting in the object, rather than a Transcendent Form, existing in the World of Forms or Ideas. Aristotle gives the example of the Oak to explain his theory. He argues that Oak grows, under normal conditions into an Oak tree, not because of any form existing in the transcendent universe, but because the property is inherent in the Oak. Oak contains the form of the future, the vision of what is to come provided suitable conditions are provided. His theory of Justice also followed the same logic. He believes in the theory of good to be imminent in the human being (the definition of Human Being refuses to allocate status to Slaves, Females and Foreign Aliens). The good has to be nurtured through the proper conditions of a balanced Constitution.

Aristotle looks at the concept of justice in his Book V of Nichomachean Ethics. Aristotle actually defines “Just” by defining “Unjust”. For him, a man is unjust who breaks law and also the one who gets more than his actual share. From this, he concludes that those people who abide by law and are fair in their dealings are the just ones. According to Aristotelian view justice is the fundamental element in achieving the virtue. For Aristotle the only possible way of administering law is to separate the two concepts that are just from unjust. “The concept of justice in Aristotle’s theory applies primarily to a set of relations among men who are free and relatively equal to one another –relations that play a very slim role in the argument of the Republic”[5]. Aristotle divides justice into two categories.
1: General Justice;
2: Particular Justice.

Aristotle distinguishes these two kinds of justice and view “General Justice” as conforming, yielding and showing obedience of people towards the laws. So one can infer that this in nothing but obedience of laws whether stated or unstated.
The “Particular justice” deals with economic problems and distribution of wealth of society among individuals. This also encircles the concept of civil and criminal law. Aristotle in his Book V of Nichomachean Ethics divides “Particular Justice” into two sub-branches, which makes “Particular Justice” somewhat more complex than “General Justice”. This division of “Particular Justice” comes in form of
1: Distributive Justice;
2: Corrective Justice.

The “Distributive Justice” deals with division and distribution of divisible things between people. “Distributive Justice is concered with the transactions between the Polis and individuals. The question answered by distributive justice is which standards shall be used to determine the distribution as a geometrical, i.e. proportional, relation (ratio) of public good”[6]. The purpose of distributive justice would be fulfilled when two equal individuals get equal share, and if they are not equal then their share would not be equal. In other words, it talks about the benefits one can get according to one function and nature of work in a society. It deals with the way of division of the economic, monitory benefits and honor in society.

While corrective justice is which is exercise by judge to settle and mediate disputes among citizens and punish the unjust and unfair people. “Corrective justice is concerned with the transactions of private individuals with each other. Corrective justice assures maintenance of status quo ante despite whatever material transformation.”[7]

Plato and Aristotle represent the two extremes of Greek political and jurisprudential thought. Plato emphasizes the distribution of classes and the development of class consciousness in a pyramid of consciousness, which would eventually lead to the realization of the Truth of Forms. Aristotle on the other hand found Justice in the understanding of Comparative Politics and Constitutions of the various Greek Polis. Justice for Aristotle is a character virtue.

Written By: Fahad Khan Mehsood

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