Plato's On Self-Interest And Common Good

896 Words4 Pages
Comparing and Contrasting Plato’s “Republic” and Cicero’s “On Duties” with an Emphasis on Self-Interest and the Common Good

In “Republic”, Plato argues that what is good for the ruler is good for everyone in the society. He claims that self interest derives from the common good; this suggests that according to Plato self-interest and common good are different entities. However in Cicero’s “On Duties”, self-interest and common good are considered to be identical, meaning that what is good for an individual equals what is good for the society. In this paper, I will argue that Cicero’s argument fails because self-interest and the common good are in fact not identical. Cicero’s argument about self-interest and the common good can be explained
…show more content…
“In this way, with the whole city developing and being governed well, we must leave it to nature to provide each group with its share of happiness” (421c). I believe he is claiming this because he believes that individual interests can be served with the mutual dependency individuals have on each other, which is the common good. The distinction Plato makes about self-interest and the common good has a common denominator which is the ruler. The natural obligation of the ruler is maintaining the well being of the bigger picture. As the painting analogy suggests happiness of the city is not about individual well-being but rather the common state of majority being happy. “(…) not picking out a few happy people and putting them in it, but making the whole city happy (420c)”. Plato argues that suitable happiness of the parts (individuals’ self-interest) is expendable for the greatest possible city as a whole (common good). His argument could be understood as the differentiation of the city and the citizen; happiness of a city is something other than the happiness of the citizens, it is not reducible in that sense, however they are intertwined because a city cannot exist without citizens to reign over. The relationship between these two entities is that nobody should be allowed any kind of happiness that would prevent them from doing their jobs. However, this doesn’t mean that one should minimize self-interest to maximize the common good. One should consider his self-interest accordingly to the benefit it can make as the common good. For example marriage is an institution guided by two individuals’ self-interests, at least on paper, of the holistic union of a man and a woman till death due them part (accordingly to the heteronormative perception) but according to Plato “the
Open Document