Developing a Definition of Justice
Developing a Definition of Justice
Developing a Definition of Justice
In Book I of Platos The Republic a definition of justice begins to develop in Socrates
conversations with Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus. Through these conversations we,
as readers, come closer to a definition of justice.Three definitions of justice are presented: argued
by Cephalus and Polemarchus, justice is speaking the truth and paying ones debts; Thrasymachus
insists that justice is the advantage of the stronger; Socrates suggests that justice is a craft like
such as aiding the sick or being a captain of a chip. Through speculation Socrates disproves the
later definitions. Also, through said speculation certain defining characteristics evolve. Socrates
disproves his companys arguments of what justice is through the use of analogies and
syllogisms. The syllogisms lead us closer to the definition of justice as two definitions are
eliminated by Socrates and only his proposed definition survives the scrutiny of the mens
Socrates finds many flaws in Cephalus and Polemarchus definition of Justice as
speaking the truth and paying ones debts. The conversation about justice arises when Socrates
questions Cephalus about the greatest good his wealth had brought to him. Cephalus replies that
wealth aids one to live a just life by saving one from having to cheat and deceive in order to have
lifes necessities. Wealth helps to insure that no sacrifices or money is left owed at the end of
ones life, therefore, one can die a just person without fear of Hates. Socrates discredits Cephalus
account of justice by suggesting a situation where speaking the truth and paying ones debts
would not be just: ” . . . if a sane man lends a weapon to his friend and then asks for it back when
he is out of his mind, the friend shouldnt return them, and wouldnt be acting justly if he did.
Nor should someone be willing to tell the whole truth to someone who is out of his mind” (5).
Here Socrates shows that Cephalus account of justice cannot be accurate if there are clearly
exceptions to it. Here is the point of the conversation where Polemarchus, Cephalus son,
replaces him in the discussion. Polemarchus quotes Simonides stating, ” it is just to give what is
owed” (6). However, he adds to the definition that one owes a friend only good and never harm,
where as enemies only owe bad to each other. Socrates uses a series of analogies and syllogisms
to disprove this account. First he analogizes justice as a craft such as that of medicine giving and
cooking. Then he points out that one who is best able to guard against disease is also best able to
produce it. A person who is best at making food taste good also knows best what makes food
taste bad. Likewise, then , if a just person is most lever at being a guardian, as Palemarchus
suggests, the person must also be most clever at stealing it. Since stealing is not associated with
justice, Polemarchus account cannot be correct. This argument which Socrates constructs
against Polemarchus definition of justice is a syllogism. Socrates continued use of these
syllogisms demonstrates his logical and mathematical way of thinking. Polemarchus seems to
accept this way of thinking because each time his thought is proven to be illogical he tries to
adjust his thought to a more accurate definition. Once Socrates proves again that his thinking is
illogical he accepts defeat.
Socrates also

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Definition Of Justice And Point Of The Conversation. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from