STUDY GUIDE FOR PLATO'S REPUBLIC
Book I: Refutation of definitions of justice.
1. Who are Cephalus, Polemarchus, and Thrasymachus?
Cephalus: Older man, father of Polemarchus
2. How does Cephalus define justice? How does Polemarchus? Thrasymachus? Cephalus: Justice is telling the truth and paying your debts. If a person follows this, they will be fine, and will be okay in the afterlife.
Polemarchus: Justice is being good to your friends and doing harm to your enemies.
Thrasymachus: Justice is defined as might makes right. The advantage of the strong. He is saying that it does not pay to be just. Just behavior works to the advantage of other people, not to the person who behaves justly. Thrasymachus assumes here that justice is the unnatural restraint on our natural desire to have more. Justice is a convention imposed on us, and it does not benefit us to adhere to it. The rational thing to do is ignore justice entirely.
3. How does Socrates refute each of their definitions?
Cephalus: Everyone would surely agree that if a sane man lends weapons to a 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. (Giving the gun to a friend that just said he wanted to harm someone)
Polemarchus: He points out that because our judgment concerning friends and enemies is fallible, this ideology will lead us to harm the good and help the bad. We are not always friends with the most virtuous individuals, nor are our enemies always the scum of society. Socrates points out that there is some incoherence in the idea of harming people through justice. (Ex: Friend selling drugs to 13 year olds)
- He makes Thrasymachus admit that the view he is advancing promotes injustice as a virtue. In this view, life is seen as a continual competition to get more (more money, more power, etc.), and whoever is most successful in the competition has the greatest virtue. - Conclude that injustice cannot be a virtue because it is contrary to wisdom, which is a virtue. Injustice is contrary to wisdom because the wise man, the man who is skilled in some art, never seeks to beat out those who possess the same art. The mathematician, for instance, is not in competition with other mathematicians. - Understanding justice now as the adherence to certain rules which enable a group to act in common, Socrates points out that in order to reach any of the goals Thrasymachus earlier praised as desirable one needs to be at least moderately just in the sense of adhering to this set of rules. - Finally, he argues that since it was agreed that justice is a virtue of the soul, and virtue of the soul means health of the soul, justice is desirable because it means health of the soul.
4. Are Socrates' arguments valid?
Books II-III: Glaucon and Adeimantus wants justice to be good for its own sake.
5. What do Glaucon and Adeimantus say about justice?
- Justice is at the advantage of the weak. You don’t harm me and I won’t harm you, but if you are strong, you don’t need to make this sort of agreement.
6. What is Gyges' ring? How is Gyges changed by having the ring? Why is this story significant to their discussion of justice? A just man is given a ring which makes him invisible. Once in possession of this ring, the man can act unjustly with no fear of punishment. No one can deny, Glaucon claims that even the most just man would behave unjustly if he had this ring. He would indulge all of his materialistic, power-hungry, and erotically lustful urges. This tale proves that people are only just because they are afraid of punishment for injustice. No one is just because justice is desirable in itself. Glaucon ends his speech with an attempt to demonstrate that not only do people prefer to be unjust rather than just, but that it is rational for them to do so. The perfectly unjust life, he argues, is more pleasant than the...
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