Sunday, February 6, 2011

Plato: Republic I

Read book I,
text available at
Journals due on Feb. 13.

Guidance questions:
1. Can justice do good to friends and do harm to enemies?
2. Does justice mean the advantage of stronger?
3. Is injustice more useful than justice?


  1. Tawnya Ridi

    This reading was not the easiest for me to wrap my head around.I found the men talking in circles, and out of everyone I agreed with Cephalus. I want to start with the Oxford definition of justice. According to the Oxford dictionary justice is just behavior or treatment, the quality of being fair and responsible (wooooo I like that definition! If I was to state what I believe justice means I would say the latter.), and lastly the administration of the law or authority. This definition does not use any of the keys words that were used to explain "justice" according to the ancient Greeks. Is this to say because times have changed so has our language and meaning of this language?

  2. Tawnya Ridi continued

    My favorite part of the reading has nothing to do with justice, but at the beginning of book 1 Cephalus and Socrates are having a conversation about the "threshold of old age". I find this much more interesting than the topic of "Justice". I also ponder what will come to me as I grow older. I know that my looks will fade, and my step might not be as swift, but what is the secret to being happy at an old age? According to Cephalus it is being able to look back on your life and have no regrets or debts to people. My favorite line in this part of book 1, and a line I take with me as advise from an elder is this "for to the good poor man old age cannot be a light burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace with himself". This quote coming from an old rich man is saying at the end of life it does not matter how much you have acquired during your life, but how you have lived it. If you were a lying scum bag it will haunt you till the end of days whether your were a rich man or a poor man. However, if you were a good honest man you will have a light and easy old age. This is something I take with me from this book. To have a moral code and abide by this moral code, which is to say includes honesty, integrity, and empathy for the fellow man/woman will lead me to a happy old age in my coming years. But this is only a very small part of the conversations that take place in Book 1. Indeed, this quotes said by Cephalus to Socrates leads the Book 1 to its namesake of "justice" and what does it all mean at the end of life. The first mention of 'justice' I believe is the best representation of this noun which is said by Cephalus. He states "Hope, he says, cherishes the soul of him who lives in justice and holiness and is the nurse of his age and the companion of his journey;-hope which is mightiest to sway the restless soul of man". For me, the entire conversation and pondering of justice could stop there, but everyone knows that Socrates could not end it there, he had to know what the old man meant by 'justice'. What is it? How does one serve justice for themselves, their friends, and their enemies? I believe that this pondering done by the men in the semi-circle can be summed up by a verse from Matthew 7:12 "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." I feel that this line is a better explanation of what Cephalus is trying to say to Socrates then going on and on about what one believe's 'justice' means in life. Justice is served when one man that has done wrong receives his punishment. Socrates asks Cephalus "but as concerning justice, what is it?--to speak the truth and to pay your debts ---no more then this? " Socrates feels there must be exceptions to the rule. These peculiarities to the maxim is what makes this word such a tricky noun especially to Socrates.

  3. Tawnya Ridi continued

    To speak of justice we must understand what injustice is too. Injustice must be in the world so that justice has a polar opposite or to say a yin g to its yang. However, According to Thrasymachus it is the unjust that contain the power and come out on top of the other men. He even lists the reasons unjust men are more powerful and rich by stating "First of all, in private contracts: where ever the unjust is the partner of the just you will find that, when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always more and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings with the State: when there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income; and when there is anything to be received the one gains nothing and the other much. Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is the just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, and getting nothing out of the public because he is just, moreover he is hated by his friends and acquaintance for refusing to serve them in unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is more apparent". This I feel is the exact opposite of what Cephalus was trying to share with the men at his house. Cephalus was trying to tell the men that to feel good in your old age you must be happy with your decisions and not hurt anyone in the process, along with do not lie about what one owes a person that has loaned money or goods. How the argument got so misconstrued baffles me, but I feel that a simple argument got turned upside down.
    In the end of Republic the truth of the matter is boiled down to one sentence which is "But whether the just have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons which to have given ; but still I should like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life." I also agree with the statement and will end my journal with this....If you live your life as an equal you will not tip the scale of justice against your favor and will live a long fulfilling life full of happiness and merit gain.

  4. REPUBLIC, BOOK ONE: When Socrates goes to Polemarchus' house, he sees Polemarchus' father, Cephalus. As they converse with one another, Socrates starts asking Cephalus questions, the last one being what justice is. Cephalus says that justice is "speaking the truth and paying your debts." However, Socrates makes a good point, that if he were to give a friend his weapon back, knowing that the weapon will be used to hurt someone else, is that ok? Is that paying your debt to whom you owe? Then, Polemarchus tells Socrates that justice is doing good by your friends and harm to your enemies, but Socrates then questions the people presumed to be so called "friends". Socrates points out that although some people are seemingly good, sometimes they are truly not. In this case, it is assumed that one who is being kind to their friend is really being kind to their enemy, which results in being unjust. Thrasymachus says that believing in justice is wasteful thinking, and the final question after all the debate is whether the man who is just is happy or unhappy.
    In my opinion, being just means to pay ones dues to those who are deserving, as long as it does not result in someone else getting hurt. On the other hand, doing harm to ones enemies is not justice. It is best to simply be a friend to an enemy as long as it does not affect anyone else, because if not, than doing harm to an enemy would just create more hostility, hence injustice. Justice is actually more useful than injustice because when one knows they are doing right by others, being sincere, honest, and helpful, they tend to feel better about themseleves in the long run. Justice does not have the advantage of stronger. Although someone may have more money or power, it does not mean they are noble, and it does not mean that they are genuine and honest in everything that they say and do.

  5. In Plato’s Republic Socrates is on a mission to figure out what is the meaning of Justice. As he is speaking with close associates of his they begin to discuss what is/means to be just or in just. Since no one is able to satisfy Socrates in the sense of giving him a logical explanation he pursues a debate with Thrasymachus.
    Socrates believes in so many words that just means good for good. Treat your enemies as you would want to be treated. He says there will be unjust (evil) people breaking the law by committing crimes but hurting others but hurting the evils doers isn’t justice. He doesn’t feel for example that sentencing someone to death because he murdered someone is in fact justice. While Thrasymachus feels otherwise, that anyone with power to take justice into their own hands should do so. It doesn’t matter the sacrifice, hence justice is the advantage of the stronger. In his eyes it’s about power and how it would benefit only you everyone else does not matter. It is better to rule than to be ruled. Not all friends are just an even those just friends do bad things. In Justice for Thrasymachus is what brings happiness to the possessor and misery to everyone else. It almost like saying people who chose to live their unjustly always have the upper hand; he possesses the good and the bad.
    Whether it is better to live justly, Socrates is yet to figure out. Being just and in just brings tough times for both. This is something we see every day, whether it’s the simplest situation or the toughest. At the end of the day bad happens to good people. So is it better to live just or in just I think it all depends on the individual because not Socrates can figure this out. I feel he still doesn’t have the confirmation he is looking for.

  6. justice. this reading was intresting i found it more about the difference between living right and living wrong than i found it about justice. the story says to me that when people get old they start reflecting on the life they lived. If they have lived a good life or a sinfull one. the story suggests that people who live a good life feel hope at the end of there days. But when one has lived a sinful life they become fearfull of the unknown, and the end becomes filled with thoughts that they may be punished for things that they have done in this life.
    my thoughts on justice i believe justice can be both harmfull to friends and enemys alike justice is fair and in that sense it is equal if the law is broken or a wrong has been done it dose not matter who did it. justice dosent make one stronger it protects those who are not strong because they cant defend themselves. now the difference of justice and injustice wich is better. i believe to have justice is better than injustice because injustice means wrongs dont get made right and people that commit these wrongs do not get punished for them and the people who are wronged are not protected and thus left defenceless if they are weak.

  7. I agree with Magaly that In the statement in which Socrates believes that good does good even to their enemies. such as if the your bitter rival is on trial and your decision were to change the verdict and you know he didn't do it you would choose him not guilty for that is what is just. I also agree That justice isn't death for the person who is on trial is basically going to get the easy way out if sentenced to execution. Also as Socrates states "...a man could ignorant and have evil friends..." and that the just thing to do would be to persecute those who wrong others.

  8. Justice can do harm to friends and enemies and do good to friends and enemies because depending on the severity of the situation or scenairo if your seeking eveidence to help you get to the truth and its there through knowledge you can receive justice no matter if your a friend or a foe. Justice doesn't necessarily mean the adavantage of stronger because you could be weak mentally and emotionally but if you seek out the truth through the knowledge you acquired you could become stronger as an individual thus making you stronger.Justice is more useful then injustice because if your seeking the truth through your good doing and knowledge it will be more helpful to you later on in life. Then just doing wrong and trying to gain more knowledge through that and seek the truth you won't be able to because your focused and just accoustomed to doing wrong and you won't actually find the truth but something that comforts or helps you explain your wrong doing.

  9. On the Republic by Plato, Socrates in once again in the position of seeking for the truth. He uses his characteristic ways of questioning, to test the ideas that people associate with a particular concept.
    This time around Socrates is on the quest of defining Justice and Injustice. So in an assumption that he does not know anything he reaches to other men to define Justice and Injustice for him. Socrates starts his argument with who is an older man who's life experience appeals to Socrates this man is Cephalus. The men talk about the feelings of being old and how money is not the answer to happyness at all times. Once Cephalus had to step out, his son Polemarchus provided Socrates with a definition of Justice that had been coined by Simonides. The definition is: "(...)justice is giving each man his due". Socrates casts this definition upon different scenarios, demonstrating that this definition cannot be taken a hundred percent as the law, because it is not definite. Sometimes the just thing to do is to give each man his due, but other times to do so is to provide injustice. Another man that discusses with Socrates is Thrasymachus. I identify with Thrasymachus when he tell Socrates: "You should not try to score points simply by refuting your opponents efforts; you ought to provide your own definition." I find Socrates's questioning hard to follow sometimes when I am reading (And I can go back to it as many times as I want). However, I wonder how possible is for a person to define and be a hundred percent assertive about his or her convictions when being bombarded with innumerable questions. I have come to an understanding that Socrates's ways are a good path to really discover one's points of view but I am still a concerned about how people including myself would be able to answer all the questions logically.
    Is there more merit on Thracymachus by putting himself though this reasoning process, defending his position and acknowledging his flaws in thinking? or has it more merit to just sit around listen and not contribute to the train of thought under the argument of ignorance?

    Finally after a long discussion and between Thrasymachus and Socrates, the later draws the conclusion that:
    "Just men are like the wise and good, while the unjust are like the ignorant and the evil" which clearly sets the men in a closer path to define justice.

    Another reasoning subject is when Thracymachus proposes that Injustice is better than justice. The main argument from Socrates, when I actually decided he had a great point was when he said: "Could (...)any group seeking to realize common purposes succeed if the group members where constantly trying to wrong each other?"
    And the answer of his opponent was no.
    Socrates draw the conclusion that: "Only justice can create unity and love". I agree with Socrate's reasoning in the matter and rather live within justice that injustice.

  10. Can justice do good to friends and do harm to enemies? Well according to the republic just because someone is and enemies it does not mean that person is a bad person. In the republic form hesiodic to cephalus they all have different view on what justice. But what I do believe that they all have in common is the objective standards of morality, which is just being a good person.
    Does justice mean the advantage of stronger? Just means advantage according to Socrates, weak arguments are in favor of justice.
    Is injustice more useful than justice? Yes I do believe injustice is more useful, because time and time again we see the injustice that life can bring. Thus we all say life is not fair, but what I believe that the story was trying to say is to be a fair person and have morality.

  11. In “The Republic” by Plato, there are two major themes discussed, the action of doing good vs. doing evil, and justice vs. Injustice.
    At first, it was discussed that justice is carried out by telling the truth and to pay ones debts. No exceptions. This is believed by Simonides when he states, “repayment of a debt was justice, and friends ought always to do good to a friend and never evil.” I agree with this statement, even though it is very vague, I do believe justice is carried out when whatever is owed is paid. For example, someone (A) owes something to someone (B), justice is the act of (A) repaying (B). But then Socrates goes deeper and asks if the just ever owes anything to the unjust, which Simonides answers with “(the unjust) are to receive what we owe them, and an enemy, as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or proper to him, that is to say evil.” This statement also I support, for an enemy/evil will be more likely to run in the crowd of other unjust-doing folks and will do or repay each other in evil ways. But just people with properly do what is equal and fair and for the lack of a better word, just, to each other. Therefore, justice can do good to friends and to harm to enemies, something like Karma.
    Does justice mean the advantage of stronger?... this discussion begins with Thrasymachus stating, “I proclaim that justice, is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.” At first I could see what Thrasymachus was trying to say, for history teaches us that the law of the land is usually written by men who are either a strong military general, a rich aristocrat, or a hereditary monarch, thus, the law is written in their interest in mind. Those who are poor and who must obey the law never create the law, thus they are treated unjustly because they are weak. But as the discussion goes on, I start to change my mind for Socrates does have a way of making you want to completely change your mind… The one great statement Socrates makes in opposition to Thrasymachus’ statement, “there is no one in any rule who in so far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own interest, but always what is for the interest of his subject.” To sum up his statement and section of Book I, a smart ruler would not only look out for his own interest and not of his subjects for if he does, he can easily be replaced, for he is only one man. Egypt for example, the citizens were sick and tired of the dictatorship they were under and not being heard in their government. After some protesting, the President of Egypt has now resigned, and the people have spoken. Thus, justice does not completely mean the ‘advantage’ of the stronger but justice is fortified and supported but whichever side is right, or just. This can be the government who wants to create universal health care for all of their citizens or the oppressed citizens who wants to get rid of their dictator President.

  12. ...continued

    During the discussion of injustice being more useful than being just, there were a few comparisons made by Thrasymachus, which paralleled the two topics. First, justice vs. injustice became a parallel to virtue vs. vice and another parallel, sublime simplicity vs. discretion. But Socrates disagrees and states, that justice is in fact virtue and wisdom, and injustice is vise and ignorance for the unjust often goes beyond their means. This clear opposition actually offends Thrasymachus, so Socrates shifts to another topic half discussed before, the idea that the unjust is believed to be more powerful than the just. But Socrates analyses that “injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, Justice imparts harmony and friendship.” This statement simply states that the unjust cannot be stronger or more powerful than the just for the unjust inflicts negative karma and divisions and evil which makes the unjust weak and fragile. But friendship, harmony are words both associated with unity and strength, which makes the just much more powerful than the unjust. To end with a summarizing quote from Plato’s work, “happiness and not misery is profitable…injustice can never be more profitable than justice.”

  13. I will have to agree with Socrates pointing out that injustice is not more profitable then justice. As we all know, that a person who acts in just ways, brings on good fortune and lives a problem free life with happiness.(for the most part, there will always be problems in life, but they will more than likely not come from doing wrong or injustice acts.) A person who acts in injustice ways, we have seen by others, or lived them ourselves, always end up paying highly for the injustice. Be it from loss of materials, fortune, or happiness. Injustice will never be more useful then justice-never.
    Now, there is one thing I do not agree with Socrates about. At the end of Book I, Socrates is talking with Thrasymachus about virtue and function. Socrates asks Thrasymachus "can you see with anything except eyes?" Thrasymachus answers, "of course not." This is were I have to disagree. I believe that there is a way of see things besides using the eyes alone. The other way of seeing things is with our minds and it surprises me to think Socrates did not know this. Maybe they were not that advanced in their understanding about sight. I believe we see with out minds just as much as we see with our eye-maybe even more so.
    I mean, what are thoughts? To me, thought are pictures within our mind trying to piece together everything we take in, from sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. When our eyes are closed, we are still seeing.When we are asleep, we dream, and in dreaming we are seeing. So I think, using the eyes as being the only thing we see with as an example may not be right. The ears would be correct, you can do nothing else with the ears but to hear with. The eyes-is not necessarily true.

  14. I found the Republic to be an interesting reading assignment more so than the Apology and Euthyphro. To me, the “flow” of the Republic – Book One seemed to give a better insight of Socrates personally. Beginning with Socrates and Glaucon going to the Piraeus to view the festival to his conversation with Cephalus. It seemed as if Plato wanted to paint a societal and communicable view of Socrates – like he was a real person who actually had friends, followers and acquaintances that enjoyed his company and variety of questions.
    I must say that I admired Socrates in our last assignment but this one formed a different opinion and view. I felt as if instead of being a philosopher, Socrates sounds more like a lawyer in this assignment. He had several points to address (as usual) but he seemed to make his own assumptions of wealth based on his own understanding. Now, if he was indeed the philosopher who searched and seeked to gain knowledge from others that are just and wise, why was he constantly proving them wrong and “re-working” their answers. I got the sense that Socrates had a way of asking questions to gain understanding but he did it in a way that allowed him to maneuver the discussion in his favour. The examples given (i.e. the one that strikes a blow/fighter, guard of a camp, etc) allow him to infer his own insight and draw conclusions that are benefiting to him and his theories.

    While it was refreshing to hear that Socrates had supporters and contributors, I truly agreed with the fiery of Thrasymachus. He was direct and made his points according to his beliefs except for the fact that he contradicted himself at the final thought of what justice and injustice really is – the benefits that the unjust man receives are far more greater than those of the just man. This can be said on a variety of levels – what we do to others can both benefit and cause turmoil to others. We do things to friends that hurt them that we would never do to our enemies….this is a reality and one that all of us either faced or will face someday….

  15. According to Socrates in Plato's "The Republic: Book One" injustice will not ever be the better choice when fairness comes to question. Both justice and injustice have their advantages and disadvantages. Their advantages, and probably the only kind of "advantage" injustice can possibly have, would be for someone to use something as an alibi in order to get away with something they might or might not have done. As well, another advantage that comes with being just would be that you know you are being the better person by simply being truthful. On the other hand, the disadvantages would be that no matter what sooner or later someone will end up getting hurt whether it be mentally, physically, or emotionally. Justice is the advantage of the stronger because justice will eventually lead to the advantage of the stronger. This is to say that those who are acclaimed to be the "stronger" of the few are the ones who put themselves in charge of defining which acts are just as well as which acts are unjust. Once again, both justice and injustice have their consequences whether they turn out to be positive or negative. Therefore, when it comes to prevailing to be the better person justice will always be the better option. Injustice on the other hand will only bring you greater problems than you began with.

  16. As I began to read this story, I thought to myself, "What was Socrates reasons for trying to undertand justice?" Why didn't Socrates seek to understand, "threshold of old age?" Socrates stagnant dialogue with Polemarchus continued to no avail with use of analogies, implications, and assumptions. What I thought to be a never ending conversation, had quite a twist when Thrasymachus said, "Socrates has taken possesion of you all." I thought to myself the same as Thras, "Why did Socrates feel the need to disect every statement, answer, and theory?" Why couldn't Socrates have his own answers rather than to trying to learn from someone elses answers? As I read Socrates questions and use of anaolgies, I could not help to wonder was Sorcates really that ignorant? I wondered if Socrates refutes were based on the fact that he tried to mask his ignorance and lack of education behind his questions and whether that was his basis for him seeking knowledge. For example, I could not understand why he used anaologies of cooks, pilots, sailors, horsemen, etc. What did any of those things have to do with justice? I realized that he used the reference to horsemen in his arguments often leading me to believe that his lack of knowledge only allowed him to use these types of analogies to gain better understanding of his topics. He could only compare what he knew. As I continued to read, what felt like, a never ending story, I started to think were Socrates and Thras really seeking to define justice. Is Socrates trying to prove Thras definition of justice to be untrue because he felt that he was insulted by him and perhaps even made to feel somewhat foolish infront of the others? Was Thras trying to prove to the others that Socrates knew nothing and was only trying to learn from the knowledge of others? As the argument ensued, it seemed that egos were enflamed. While Socrates started saying in the begining that he had no money but only could offer flattery as a means to compensate for a persons knowledge, Thras had is own version of flattery when he told Socrates, "Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will not appose you, lest I displease the company." At the end of the argument, Thras left scolding while Socrates felt he never got the answer of justice. I could not help but to think that this was a battle of the egos between them both and a circus display to the others. Whether either of them were right or wrong, it didn't seem to matter, they both left unsatisfied! However, I must agree with Thras definition of justice. In todays times, justice is devised from government rules that dictate to us what is right and wrong in society. How many innocent people are in jail? How many guilty go unpunished? Why do the wealthy recieve less jail time while the poor get harsher sentences? In the end, justice can be defined as the interest of the stronger and someone will benefit in some way, form, or fashion.

  17. Shellyann Ally
    When it comes to the matter of justice do we really know what we're talking about? Achieving justice is like the pursuit of happiness, do we ever get the results desired? One would expect it to lean more so towards the positive side, but how is that so if justice and revenge go hand in hand? (That's a tricky one) As human beings we're always looking for "justification"; for our actions, those of others, and for everything that goes wrong or is bad. I think justice is like silly putty, it is molded and shaped to the design of the craftsman. It can do good as well as harm to friendships and ravages at will. Justice doesn't mean the advantage of the stronger it just levels the playing field. There is no real distinction between friend or foe; after all what are friends but enemies? (The easiest made at that) It makes me think of this Buddhist quote that I've always loved "An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind." However I do believe justice is more useful than injustice. Injustice will just provoke individuals to do worse; it will be their drive. At least with justice they feel like something has been accomplished...I suppose. ^_^

  18. I had taken interest in the statement “is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person; in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not at unity with himself...?”, as it seems to offer insight of what spawns injustices. For example the disunity Cephalus mentions between men of his age and their discontent with aging. Those who complain about their aging are also those who place false cause on their troubles. Their displeasure with their lost passions and age are signature of a “defect of the soul” and makes them project their unhappiness onto others; unhappiness which is a sign of injustice according to Socrates.

  19. Before answering any comparative questions about justice and injustice one must consider its definitiion. The definition of justice throughout the first book of The Republic undergoes several changes by the thinking process of several orators. In the arguement of whether justice does good to friends, I gathered that repayment of a debt has no meaning or value in this case, because the two parties are friends. Whether the debt is paid or not is not of particular importance to the lender, in this case unless he has some degree of selfish concern. Their relationship is stable enough that the word justice really does not apply. Then, there are some friends who seem to be good, but aren't so it would be wrong to be just with them. Many points were made, but none of the definitions involving "giving to each man what is proper to him" or "obedience to the interest of the stronger" were sufficient in trying to understand its true nature. If injuring another is malicious and not just, the reverse is true; that when servicing the subject one is being good, and just. One thinks justice has to do with personal interest/gain, but when you chose to lend to a friend you do it to help that person, not thinking about yourself so much as doing what you think is right. Second, no one talks about "recieving justice" from their friend as they pay them back. Truly, justice has another definition, otherwise that would make sense. A more accurate definition for justice is the excellence of the soul and injustice the defect. However, I want to add to that. Let's make it the excellence of the soul in exerting persecution/"harm" unto the wrong ones; the level of righteousness. My question then is, how can it be considered "harm" if the wrong ones are defective/ignorant of their defect in their soul, or evil? My second question is how can one properly know they are righteously executing punishment if they know not what it is? So, what we think is "justice" is not justice. Justice is perfect as it is linked to the true wisdom, and no one has accurate knowledge of higher things. Therefore, our forms of justice, may by this train of thought, be deemed "unjust." This idea of punishment for wrong lingers though. If "justice and the just are in reality another's good" then anything that does harm would be considered injustice. In the eyes of the persecuted that is their understanding; They've been wronged. Does justice/injustice keep going until someone stops? "Karma is a bitch" they say. But is it up to us to administer "justice," or leave that to the one who is more capable than we are to deliver that sort of pay, God? I think I just answered my own questions. Thank you very much, have a nice day.