Socrates Value Of Justice Essay

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Justice: a set of values deemed "just" that are often used to establish law codes or serve as the basis for governments. And yet, despite its ability to invoke a moral high ground, the concept of justice may often go unexamined. However, in Book I of Plato's Republic, Polemarchus is forced to not only articulate a concise definition of justice, but is also forced to come to its defense in response to an inquisitive Socrates. Through the conversation between Polemarchus and Socrates, Plato forces the reader to question the traditional Greek perspective on justice and attempt to develop a new definition. Central to comprehending the conversation between Polemarchus and Socrates lies in understanding Polemarchus' notion of justice. Arriving …show more content…
When first asked about the value of justice, Polemarchus claims that it is useful "in making war and being an ally in battle" (332e). While Socrates does not contradict this statement, both he and Polemarchus agree that constricting justice just to wartime is insufficient. Nevertheless, it is here where his argument begins to fall apart. Even though Polemarchus argues that justice is useful in partnerships, namely to protect money, he concedes that justice is only necessary when money lacks utility (333b-d). Here, Socrates highlights one fundamental flaw of Polemarchus' argument: justice is only "useful for useless things" (333e). Consequently, if the value of Polemarchus' justice lies solely in defending such useless things, then it shouldn't be viewed as important as he insists. Upon closer inspection, Socrates discovers a more fundamental issue with Polemarchus' justice. Socrates argues that since an individual capable at protecting money should additionally be competent at stealing money, the just man which Polemarchus recognizes could also commit acts of theft upon his enemies to aid his friends (334a-b). Unlike the prior issue, this realization comes at a great shock to Polemarchus, as it implies that his justice would include dishonorable acts. It is this realization that Polemarchus makes an attempt to redefine his …show more content…
The first major change Polemarchus makes is in his redefinition of a friend to one wo "seems to be, and is, good" (334e). While this maintains that a friend is only within a certain group, this modification adds the requirement that the friend be a good person. Despite being unable to address the possibility of human error when considering who is a friend or not, Polemarchus' reclassification makes explicit the need of justice to be good. Beyond reclassification of a friend, Polemarchus makes a more substantial shift: he concedes that there is no justice in harming another, whether friend or foe. After agreeing with Socrates that "justice [is] human virtue" (335c) and that animals are harmed become worse with respect to virtue, he is forced to concede that "it is not the work of the just man to harm either a friend or anyone else" (335d). This point marks a significant shift in his conception of justice, as it reveals Polemarchus' rejection of harming others. While his view of justice continues to be relatively insular, he rejects the idea that it would be just to harm his enemies—a core belief of the

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