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Plato and Amazing Grace

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jg00893
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In the opening books of Plato’s The Republic, Thrasymachus and Glaucon argue that justice, as it is traditionally conceived, is merely the advantage of the stronger over the weaker, that rulers simply rule for their own benefit and that people only act justly for its consequences. Despite Socrates’ opposing view on the meaning of justice, the events depicted in Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace support the views of Thrasymachus and Glaucon.

In Book I, Thrasymachus begins his argument by defining traditional justice. “…As I have said from the beginning, the just is the advantage of the stronger, and the unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself” (Plato, 344c). Here, Thrasymachus introduces his first point, that the unjust man will always be better off than the just man. He then defends this claim with three key examples. Thrasymachus states that in contracts between a just and unjust man the unjust man will always come up with more, in tax systems the unjust man will pay less taxes and receive higher distributions, and finally the just man will “incur the ill will of his relatives and his acquaintances when he is unwilling to serve them against what is just” (Plato, 343e). Unconfined by the rules of justice, unjust men are able to act selfishly and for their own benefit rather than acting for the good of others. This point of view is exemplified in the actions and resulting fortunes of Mrs. Washington in Amazing Grace. Mrs. Washington is the epitome of just. Living in one of the most diseased and dangerous cities in the world, she still “seems resigned to things the way they are. ‘That’s how it is. What can I say?’ she often asks” (Kozol, 17). Despite the unending injustices that her and her family suffer, Mrs. Washington does not break the laws of society. Instead, she lives day-to-day doing whatever she can for her son. Thrasymachus would argue that…...

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