The Republic Book 1 Essay

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The Republic Book 1

Book 1 of Plato's Republic raises the question what is justice? Four views of justice are examined. The first is that justice is speaking the truth and paying one's debt. The second is that justice is helping one's friends and harming one's enemies. The third view of justice is that it is to the advantage of the stronger. The last view is that injustice is more profitable than justice. The book begins by explaining that at the time many Athenians are celebrating the introduction of a new goddess at the city of Piraeus. Socrates and a companion, Glaucon, are returning from the festivities when Polemarchus see them. Polemarchus insists that they come to his home for some conversation with his friends and Socrates
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Thus, for Cephalus justice is a matter of self-interest, a view that agrees with the laws of the city and the traditional religious beliefs. Socrates objects to Cephalus by asking if there are times when one should not tell the truth or repay debts? Because Cephalus' definition of justice does not apply in all cases, Socrates says that it is not a good definition. Suddenly Cephalus says he must leave; there are still debts to be paid to the gods. He refuses to be drawn into a philosophical discussion because it might threaten his beliefs. The tone Socrates uses is casual and the language is simple. This serves to belie the complexity and elevation of the ideas which draws the young men into the conversation by feigned ignorance, only so Socrates can show that he does not know what he thinks he knows. The tone also complements truth and wisdom. After Cephalus leaves, the discussion becomes more serious and complex. Polemarchus carries on his father's argument. However, unlike his father he is not concerned with the role of justice in religious matters. Polemarchus relies on authorities other than the gods or laws. He borrows a saying from a poet that says that justice is "giving every man his due". Socrates says that he does not know what the poet means, so he asks what is it that is due and who is it due to. Socrates knows, for example, what the functions of medicine and cooking are. However, he does not know what the function of justice

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