On Socrates' Debate with Polus

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In this excerpt of the discussion between Polus and Socrates, they are trying to decide if suffering something unjust is worse and more shameful than actually doing what is unjust. Polus states that it is worse to suffer, but more shameful to commit, an unjust act. When Socrates begins his argument against this, he questions Polus on the distinction between what is admirable and good, and what is shameful and bad. In Polus’ eyes, these pairs of words do not hold the same meaning. However, Socrates believes that what is good and bad actually defines what is admirable and shameful.

He supports this claim by asking Polus what it is about certain things that makes them admirable. Together they come to the conclusion that what is admirable is defined as what is good and pleasurable; consequently, what is shameful is that which is painful and evil. Using this definition, Socrates questions whether or not it is more painful for a person who acts unjustly than for one who suffers injustice. Polus quickly denies this, and so Socrates is able to say that doing what is unjust is more shameful and evil than suffering from it.

Personally, I find that Socrates’ conclusion that committing injustice is worse to be the right one. Seeing as how Socrates was oftentimes more concerned with the wellbeing of the soul over the body, it makes sense that he would decide that acting in an unjust way would do more damage to an individual than having someone act that way towards them.
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