In this essay I examine the two main arguments for being just as they are put forth in the Republic namely, first, the benefits of justice, and, second, the rewards of justice. On the surface the two are quite different, as most of the discussion in the dialogue is concerned with the benefits of justice, that is, what justice does apart from any rewards and reputations that justice provides for the just person in some other way than how justice itself benefits him because of its own powers, and that makes injustice bad and justice good to someone who possesses it. We learn in the Republic that justice primarily is a good of this sort, that it benefits its possessor, and that this is the reason why we welcome justice for its own sake. On the other hand, the other rewards and reputations that is, what comes from justice apart from its benefits are fully added to the account of the benefits of justice in Book X. And the arguments concerning these rewards give way to a philosophically unpopular "popular" ethical account, namely, the idea of happiness as a reward for the just a reward that can be received both while we are alive and after our deaths. This is why we welcome justice because of what comes from it, although it is not why we should be just. I describe the two arguments and try to consolidate the philosophical with the ethically unpopular and show that the unpopular arguments wrongly are considered a flaw in Plato s ethical account. I argue that although the arguments on the rewards of justice are part of Plato s ethical and eudaimonistic account, they are so because they are ontological arguments, not ethical. That is, they tell us what will or can happen if we are just, but they take no part of the reasons we should be so. I begin the essay by re-examining some of the basic notions in eudaimonistic theory. By construing them Platonically I want to show that they by their very definitions support what is considered unpopular and un-philosophic in Plato s account. These interpretations then form the basis for my essay.
I believe that if we take what Socrates argues in the Republic seriously, we actually end up with two possible solutions to the ethical dilemma the arguments the idea of happiness as a reward of justice poses for Plato s ethical account:
1. Justice is a kind of good both for its own sake and also for what comes from it. We welcome it for its own sake, which Plato says is because of the benefits it causes for the just person. These benefits are all magnificent goods and add up to Plato s first conception of eudaimonia and they can be praised independently from the other rewards of justice. But when we add the rewards of justice, the goods that come from being just, we do not only live well we get an even greater eudaimonia, which we then truly may call summum bonum. But to be just only on the basis of these rewards Plato calls a façade of virtue, whereas the truly just person performs just actions and is just because of justice s own sake.
2. The arguments concerning the benefits of justice are the only arguments in the Republic that Plato intended as ethical arguments. The benefits of justice are necessary and sufficient for the summum bonum, and the only reason for which we should be just. Justice is, then, not simply a precondition for eudaimonia, but is identified with eudaimonia which is summum bonum. The arguments about the rewards of justice, on the other hand, are not ethical arguments per se, but a cosmic theorizing on what happens after our deaths, to just and unjust people. And whether Plato is right or wrong in these assumptions does not affect his ethical theory.
I conclude that although the arguments on the rewards of justice describe why it is so important to be just (ontological), they are not part of the reason why we should be just (ethical).
I also think that neither solution 1 nor solution 2 exclude the other solution, at least if they are properly argued and rightly construed, or understood. But, no matter which one of these solutions we opt for, I think we are on a more right track than if we merely disregard the arguments on the rewards of justice altogether.