The Republic

Main Sections

Cephalus and Polemarchus

The conventional view:

Speaking the truth and paying your debts is justice


The cynical view:

Justice is the interest of the stronger

Cephalus and Polemarchus

The Characters

Cephalus: a rich Syracusian.

Polemarchus: his heir

The Definition

Speaking the truth and paying your debts is justice

A convenient definition, if you happen to be well off.

the great blessing of riches is ... [the rich man] is not in apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debts which he owes to men.



Reframing the Debate

  1. Not talking about literal debts

  2. Art of giving what is due, or proper (good to friends, evil to enemies)

Failure of Definition

What's Socrates' First Criticism? (7-9)

What's Socrates' Second Criticism? (9)


True friends, or seeming friends?

Traits of Justice

  1. Not quite like an art (not exercised at our discretion).

  2. Concerned with the real correct action, not with our perceptions (one could act unjustly because of a factual error)



The Character

Successful Sophist

A big jerk

The Definition

Justice is the interest of the stronger

Basic idea?

Justice is acting in the interests of the strong?

Reframing the Debate

  1. Not talking about the interests of actual rulers. (Why?)

  2. The interests of idealized rulers, or rulers insofar as they're rulers.

Socrates' Reply

The arts improve their objects (and are a kind of rulership of those objects).

So if we're taking about the art or skill of ruling, that should be for improving the lives ruled.


Thrasymachus: So, the shepherd, insofar as he is a shepherd, is not fattening the sheep for slaughter?

Socrates: I'll bite that bullet.

Thrasymachus Regroups

Justice is acting in the interest of the stronger---it profits others.

Injustice is acting in your own interest---it profits you.

Socrates' First Tactic

Wouldn't you say justice is a virtue?


So likely too [sarcasm] seeing that I affirm injustice to be profitable and justice not.

Socrates: So, justice is a vice, and injustice a virtue?

Thrasymachus: I'll bite that bullet. Injustice is like wisdom and goodness.


Three replies:

  1. Disanalogy with excellence in the arts (what's this?)

  2. Unjust collectives are not strong (what does this show?)

  3. The function of the soul (what's the idea here?)