Developing a Definition of Justice
In Book I of Plato's 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 company's 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 argument.
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 life's 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 shouldn't return them, and wouldn't be acting justly if he did. Nor should someone be willing to tell the whole truth to someone who is out of his mind"...
Cited: Grube, G.M.A., Reeve,C.D.E. Plato:Republic. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing
Company, Inc. 1992.
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