Justice: For the Benefits or For Itself?

On Tuesday, our class talked about the discussion that Socrates has with Glaucon and  Adeimantus about what justice is and which class of goods it belongs in. Socrates argues that justice comes from the kind of good that we like for its own sake and also for the sakes of what comes from it. This reminds me of a religious folk story that can be related to this idea of justice. The story begins with an older religious man standing outside of his apartment building when it begins to rain. There is talk that the town his lives in is going to suffer from a terrible flood. A policeman drives up to him in a car and offers to drive him to safety before the flood gets out of control. He refuses the help saying that his Lord God with save him. A few hours later the water from the flood is now up to the fourth floor windows of the apartment building and the man is standing on a fifth story balcony. Some rescue workers drive up on a boat and tell that man that they will bring him to safety from the flood. Again, he refuses saying that his Lord God will save him. Finally, a few more hours later, the flood is almost up to the roof of the building where the man is now standing. Some more rescue workers fly up to him on a helicopter and offer to fly him out of town to a safe location. He adamantly states that he has faith in his Lord God to save him. The men leave and within another hour the old man drowns. When he awakes in heaven, the old man confronts God and says to him, “I never stopped believing in you and you still let me drown. Why did you turn your back on me Lord?” God replies to him, ” I never once turned my back on you. I sent you a police car, a rescue boat, and, finally, a helicopter and you turned down all of the offers. It appeared you did not have enough faith to find safety with these aids.” This brings up the question of justice. The old man expected the just way of God to save him would be through some glorious, miraculous event where angels would come down and whisk him away from the area of the flood or something of a similar nature. Clearly, he was only thinking of justice in what comes from it rather than having justice for what it is and be saved. God, as told in many books of the Bible, tends to work in mysterious and simple ways. By his account it was equally just to have a common rescue workers save the old man than it would have been to have the heavens open up and “have a big parade.” The old man’s vision of justice stems from the third category of goods that Glaucon mentions in Book II which is not about justice for it own sake but rather for the sake of the rewards and other thing that come from it. What comes back to the old man is the question of whether he was faithful because he loved his Lord God or he was waiting until an appropriate time, such as this flood, to ask for benefits as a reward for his continued and ever present “faith.” It is something to think about when reflecting upon oneself as Socrates suggests that every mind should do.

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