Just or unjust: which will you be?

In the Plato’s Republic, Book 1, Thrasymachus claims that “justice is the advantage of the stronger” and that therefore, it is better to be “unjust” than “just” because of the ability, just like a shepherd and his sheep, to use and manipulate the weaker to manifest its own benefits and goods. A true ruler of the people is (at least, is supposed to be) always right in determining his own interest in order to make the right choice that would prevent the detriment of his won rule and thus is what advantageous (in order to maintain his own interest) to those he rules. This then brings up the question of what kind of a “good” justice is- as discussed in class, we pondered on whether: it is a good we welcome for its own sake? Or is it something we welcome for its own sake and for its consequences? Or is it something we welcome not for its own sake but only for its benefits? We established in class that Socrates would most likely answer the second question as what we would welcome justice as, while the third question would most likely be the point where most people (including Glaucon) would welcome justice as. This conversation reminded me of something I once learned in my piano pedagogy class, where the teacher advocated that the makings of a “good” teacher lay in the important fundamental fact that the lessons were all focused on and about the student, and that the ideal and “good” teacher would focus solely on what teaching methods/approaches would specifically benefit and aid the learning process of the particular student in question. It made me realize how Thrasymachus’ point, about justice being the “advantage of the stronger”, could possibly be applied to this teacher/student relationship or situation. A “good” and “just” teacher would ideally, teach in a way that was favorable and tailored to fit the need of the individual student, but a “bad”, “not-so-great” or “unjust” teacher might use a student (particularly ones who have great potential and talent) to help establish a name for themselves, and even help to build up their own selfish pride as the teacher of the acclaimed student. And since the student, like the sheep being tended by and under the shepherd’s care, may not have the knowledge or understanding as to what the teacher’s (the stronger figure in this situation) intentions or motives may be, he/she therefore blindly follows and executes whatever the teacher instructs he/she to do. In the pedagogy class, the professor also mentioned that as potential teachers, it was important that we always kept in mind of how and what we used to perceive and evaluate our level of “success” as teachers. He emphasized on how whether we should question if success should be based on how many students win various competitions, or instead on how many students we are able to engage and educate in order so that they too, could come to understand (and hopefully enjoy) the wonders (as well as pleasures) that music was able to provide as a form of art. The pedagogy professor advocated that as an ideal teacher, we should focus on promoting music so that ideally, in the long run, our students will have come to enjoy music (and not think of it as a “duty” or even view it as something repugnant because they had been forced into doing it, or as a means of “potential income”) for what it can potentially provide, and for what it is in itself. If one, as a potential teacher, tends to rely on reputation and fame (that may provide pleasurable and invigoratingly exciting results in the short run) and thus take advantage of being in the “stronger” position and therefore indulge in the pleasure involved with leading an “unjust” life, one may never be able to understand the “higher” pleasure that are involved with leading a “just” life. Therefore, as we had established in our last discussion in class on Thursday, one who has been living an “unjust” life would never be able to comprehend, nor be able to ever achieve the same sense of contentment as one who has been living a “just” life. As my piano professor once told me, “It is my goal to make my students as excited as I am about making and being curious about music- to be able to share my passion for great music with them”, I hope that in the future, I too would be able to fulfill such a desire and hopefully thus lead a life that when I look back, I can say that it was fulfilled for and in the interest of my students, and for those who may potentially be around me at the time.

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