Mid-West Quarterly, The (1913-1918)


Date of this Version



Published in THE MID-WEST QUARTERLY 2:1 (October 1914), pp. 1-17. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons & the University of Nebraska.


If we seek a rallying point, to begin with, for Plato's political conceptions, we shall find, I think, that they all centre about a single idea - the idea of justice. No other problem has given rise to more discussion, I. suppose, than just this problem of the relation of justice to society and the individuals composing it; and in no age, perhaps, has it given rise to more discussion than it did in the age of Plato. The difficulty has to do partly with the nature of justice itself and partly with the discovery of a practical working definition. Abstractly it is easy enough to explain that justice consists in giving every one exactly what he deserves. But who in any conceivable state of society is able to determine exactly what anyone deserves-least of all himself; and how is it possible to make sure that he gets it, neither more nor less? It is bad enough to administer the approximate, the rough and ready justice of the courts of law without undertaking to settle such questions as these with the fallible judgment at our disposal.