Socrates and the Mirage of the Just Republic

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates attempts to determine what justice is by refuting a number of incomplete definitions. He then contemplates how a perfectly just city would be constructed and how it would work in an attempt to further elucidate the nature of justice. But in doing so, Socrates makes a startling revelation: the concept of perfect justice is a myth that can’t be realized. Continue reading “Socrates and the Mirage of the Just Republic”

Weighing Desert: Justice for Kings, Justice for New Yorkers

One man is on trial for murder under the threat of the death penalty, and a jury must decide his fate; he lives. This is the basic outline of Aeschylus’s The Eumenides and Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, except one courtroom is in ancient Athens, while the other is in 1960s New York City. In The Eumenides, protagonist and Mycenaean prince Orestes is on trial for the killing of his mother, Clytemnestra, who herself murdered her husband Orestes’ father Agamemnon. The Greek gods Apollo and the Furies cannot agree on whether Orestes’ murder was just, so Athena conjures up a court of ten jurors she intends to become the model for justice in Athens. The jury is tied, but Athena has already cast her own vote in favor of Orestes, so he goes free. In Twelve Angry Men, a working-class boy is accused of murdering his own father. The prosecution’s case is strong; a mountain of evidence suggests the accused did the deed. But one juror believes there is room for reasonable doubt, and as he untangles the facts of the case and dismantles the prejudices of the others, he gradually convinces the entire jury to return the verdict “not guilty.” Continue reading “Weighing Desert: Justice for Kings, Justice for New Yorkers”