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In Book I of Plato’s Republic, Socrates and Polemarchus debate the assertion “it is just to give to each what is owed to him,” that Simonides originally theorized. The postulation develops from Cephalus’ prior claim that a just man is one who “speaks the truth and repays his debts” (331d). Socrates undermines Cephalus’ definition of justice by proposing a scenario wherein a madman lends a sword to a friend, and the friend may either return the weapon or keep it from the obviously dangerous individual. Socrates concludes that returning the weapon, which would be the “just” action according to Cephalus because it constitutes honest repayment, is unjust. In his debate with Polemarchus, Socrates once again critiques the proposed relationship between ownership and justice and further, what is “owed.” Polemarchus’ claim is contingent on several premises that Socrates challenges, one by one. By presenting his interlocutor with a series of analogies which destabilize his theory. These analogies relate justice to professions and animals in an attempt to refine the definition Socrates seeks. Socrates ultimately comes to the conclusion that justice cannot be “to give each what is owed to him.” Socrates and Polemarchus both agree that because it is never just to hurt another man, to give each man–be he good or bad–what he “owes” is fundamentally unjust. The philosopher is closer to a definition of justice because he can reject Polemarchus’ assertion as a potential answer to the query “what is justice?” However, I take issue with Socrates’ theory of justice as a craft, and further, the idea that hurting another is never just on account of Socrates’ weak analogies and vague language.Polemarchus’ first premise is that justice is a craft.  Following Socrates’ contention that Simonides would side with Cephalus and return a weapon to a madman, Polemarchus narrows his definition of justice, by claiming that justice is to give each what they deserve or is “appropriate to him.” Further, when prompted by Socrates, Polemarchus claims that medicine lends, or “gives medicine, food and health to bodies” (332c) and cooking gives seasoning to meat. Thus, Polemarchus comes to the conclusion that  justice must give or “owe” what is good to friends and what is bad to enemies. Socrates then asks his interlocutor which profession or craft is most just in its treatment of others. He claims that, for example, a doctor will treat a sick patient with more skill than a just man, and conversely, be more adept at harming a patient, if he “deserves bad.” Polemarchus replies that justice is useful in war and peacetime only when it protects objects or money, otherwise a skillful man is preferred. Thus, Socrates concludes that if justice is a craft, it is “only useful for useless things,” such as watching money or a lyre. Furthermore, Polemarchus’ first premise, is critiqued by Plato on the grounds that (1) if justice is a craft, a more skilled individual is more equipped to “give what is owed” than a just one, and (2) that Polemarchus’ argument reduces justice to insignificance. Polemarchus’ second premise is that a just individual is equally capable in being unjust. Considering that Polemarchus’ first premise reduces justice to something “useless,” Socrates challenges the second premise that arises during the debate. Socrates invokes Homer, who claimed that “a just person is a sort of thief.” (334a) In other words, if justice is being a “clever guardian” (334a) then that same individual must be equally skilled at stealing. Socrates furthers this assumption by claiming that according to Polemarchus, justice acts in a manner similar to “Robin Hood”, stealing for one’s friends to the detriment of one’s enemies. Although Polemarchus quickly refutes this assumption, Socrates is wise to bring this faulty premise to light. A scenario in which a guardian steals and is considered just is a fallacy on Polemarchus’ part, which undermines the assertion that justice is “to give each what it is owed,” and is the last nail in the coffin of Cephalus and Homer’s previous theories. Next, Polemarchus reveals a third premise that a situation exists wherein a just man may hurt his friend or help his enemy. Socrates objects to Polemarchus’ restatement of his argument by examining the definition of a friend his interlocutors claim depends on. Socrates stresses the fact that human beings are often mistaken in their judgement when it comes to friendship. In other words, our friends may be individuals who are enemies in reality, and conversely, enemies who are good. Thus, Polemarchus is inclined to alter his definition of a friend to support his overall claim, so a “someone who is believed to be useful” (334e) becomes “someone who is both believed to be useful and is useful. Subsequently, the definition of an enemy adapted from “believed” form to “believed and is” as well.  Furthermore, Polemarchus agrees that it just to hurt or benefit an individual granted they fit the new definition Socrates has proposed he means. However, the philosopher is quick to critique the definition Polemarchus has just accepted by using animal analogies. Polemarchus’ belief that is “just to harm an enemy” (335a) is a fourth premise that Socrates objects to. The philosopher gives the example of a dog and a horse with respect to their unique virtue. Polemarchus’ accepts that if either animal “becomes worse” in their respective virtue, then a human being is made only worse in virtue if he or she is harmed. Furthermore, if a function of human being is to act in a just manner, good men can never make their counterparts worse through commendable behavior. Examples of other functions, such as music or horsemanship are used to emphasize the point that a skilled individual can never reduce the skill or virtue of another while being excellent. Here, Socrates highlights the fundamental incongruity in Polemarchus’ thought process: Polemarchus agrees that “it’s just to benefit bad people and harm good ones” while also accepting that “it is never just to harm anyone” (335e) Furthermore, Polemarchus’ entire argument that justice “is to give to each what is owed to him” has been completely unraveled by Socrates. Socrates does not establish a definition of justice by the end of his debate with Polemarchus. However, the philosopher is able to narrow his potential definition, by eliminating his interlocutor’s theory as an option. While the analogies Socrates suggest do undermine Polemarchus’ premises, I take issue with the claims that (1) justice can be viewed as a craft and (2) that a just person is incapable of doing harm. The two critiques are connected in their use by Socrates to disprove his interlocutor.Firstly, Socrates does not necessarily believe that justice is a craft. In fact, the philosopher only implies that he believes such in order to further his argument against Polemarchus. In my opinion, the parallels he draws between justice and physical crafts, such as medicine and cooking are weak. Socrates is wise to pick medicine as a profession in which one may benefit or hurt another human being. Cooking, which the philosopher uses in his first example gives seasoning to food, but does not impact the overall well being of man. Meanwhile, a doctor holds a the fate of a human being’s life in his hands, and so Socrates is able to link justice and morality. There is no moral choice where cooking is concerned. Furthermore, justice is not a craft in an of itself, it it used by a craftsman when deciding whether to benefit or harm another. First, Socrates states that a doctor is “most capable of benefiting” human beings, rather than a just person. Then he claims that it is never just to hurt another human being. Furthermore, a doctor may also be a just man. There need not be a distinction between an individual whose craft is justice and another who practices a profession. For example, a doctor is exercising justice (according to Socrates) when he heals a patient. By making justice and a profession two distinct crafts, Socrates is able to label Polemarchus’ second claim that justice “is to give what is appropriate to him” as unsound. Further, he believes that this claim makes justice useless. However, the distinction Socrates draws is unnecessary, and therefore his objection to Polemarchus is weak. Furthermore, the concept that a just person is incapable of doing harm, which is a conclusion drawn by Socrates at the end of the debate, isn’t refuted by Polemarchus as it should be. Polemarchus fails to provide any examples that may contradict the statement that “it is never just to harm anyone” (335e) In fact, the definition of harm that Socrates uses may be deliberately vague. All the situations Socrates draws upon are of conflicts between two individuals; the philosopher focuses heavily on the analogy of the doctor and his patient to make his point. Furthermore, Socrates fails to consider a scenario wherein harming one individual would benefit the greater good. The philosopher claims that “when human beings are harmed they become worse in human virtue,” but does not define harm when a definition is most necessary. A situation could exist where a violent individual is attempting to hurt a group of people. At this point in the argument, Socrates would consider a man who wounds this individual to stop him from injuring the group, “unjust,” and further, that he would only be made worse by being wounding another, like the horse mentioned prior. On a societal level, Socrates fails to consider a society with a unjust, tyrannical leader who persecutes his citizens. Again, it appears illogical that an individual who would assassinate this leader would be considered unjust, for he is not enacting violence for personal gain but for the benefit of the masses. Socrates’ concept that a person who harms is an unjust man relies on a vague definition of harm and ignores situations in which harm does produce good. Thus, the conclusion reached by Polemarchus and Socrates at the end of the debate is constrained to scenarios where human beings are “made worse like animals,” rather than human beings,  an unclear conception of “harm,” and analogies that include person to person relationships. The societal implications of Socrates statement are not determined as “just or unjust.” Therefore Socrates has only managed to discredit certain premises made by his interlocutor, including the root of his argument which lies in Cephalus’ reasoning, and Polemarchus’ mistaken definition of a friend or “good” individual. However, Socrates’ dealings with Polemarchus are not a complete failure. As previously stated, the philosopher  comes closer to defining justice in his debate with his interlocutor because the original definition proposed can be ruled out. Therefore, Polemarchus’ claim is refuted: justice is not “giving to each what he is owed.” However, to say that to harm another human being is always a case of injustice would also be too vague a statement.

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