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Greek Justice Apparently, then, injustice has the power, first, to make whatever it arises in - whether it is a city, a family, an army, or anything else - incapable of achieving anything as a unit because of the civil wars and differences it creates, and second, it makes that unit an enemy to itself and to what is in every way its opposite, namely, justice. (28) Republic, Plato Since the beginnings of civilization, the concept of Justice has been debated and argued, defined and redefined, molded and reshaped time and again. Wars and civil movements have begun because of conflicting definitions surrounding it. Countless governments have been planned and molded around each society's own interpretation of what it entails. It is altogether necessary for a functioning body of people in any situation. Given the enormous weight and import of justice, one might think a single, generalized explanation of the term would simplify virtually every aspect of modern life. But, as is the case with most integral human issues, the number of variations on justice is nearly equal to the amount of those who prescribe to its doctrine. Even in the reading of Pericles' Funeral Speech and Sophocles' Oedipus and Antigone (three texts by two authors from the same time and culture), three separate views on justice are communicated.
where the rewards for merit are greatest, there are found the best citizens." (33) While Sophocles' story of Oedipus is, like Funeral Speech, centered around community benefit through actions, the surrounding circumstances are slightly different. Thebes has been laid upon by a devastating plague and Oedipus is called to save the city; to do whatever it takes to free them from their malady. When it is found that Oedipus will be required to seek out and kill an assassin to cleanse the city of its ungodly pollution, he agrees. But the motives surrounding this forthcoming deed are deceptively far from patriotism. As an elder tells Oedipus, "You brought us lucky signs and good days; now you need to do the same for us again." (03) Oedipus' own motives are further still from the condition of his country, or even his subjects. He acts out of fear that the assassin "... could kill again and lay those deadly hands on me." (06) Thus, the interpretation of justice and right deeds takes on a more individualistic, self centered and comfort-focused view. This further diversifies the definition, turning justice into whatever is best for each person at a specific time. Also in Sophocles' illustration of justice, a layer behind Self lie the gods and a somewhat Karmic outlook of right living.
[Nor] do I think your proclamations had such strength that, mortal as you are, you could outrun those laws that are the gods', unwritten and unshakable." (38) The karmic aspect of justice portrayed in Oedipus is also taken a step further throughout Antigone. Not only will justice affect one's mortal life, but it Webb 5 reaches far beyond our physicality. As her death looms nearer, Antigone comforts herself by remembering that by doing the will on the gods on earth, she will have a better afterlife. In a brief monologue before her sentencing, Antigone reveals, "... I still nurse the hope that when I get [to Hades], I shall come dear ... to my own sweet brother." Once again, after tempering with the gods' irrefutable version of justice (thereby committing the injustice of hubris), Kreon is punished through the suicide of his entire family. Today, what we refer to as justice more closely resembles the models of Pericles and Plato, although it is becoming increasingly individualistic (as it was in Oedipus). While we have a centralized government doling out very simplified justice (in the form of punishment for infractions), the more obscure and abstract forms of personal justice are very much up to personal interpretation. Furthermore, there are hundreds of other existing cultures besides us, each with a (sometimes) completely different form of justice. In our world of misunderstanding, the best thing we can do is to take Plato's example; always continue communication and debate.
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