We are continuing our Slow Reading for Book I of the Republic. Yesterday, we considered the opening scenes up to and including Socrates’ dialogue with Cephalus. If you are just joining us, be sure to read the introductory post on Slow Reading and yesterday’s discussion.
Today’s text is 331d-336a, which consists of Socrates’ conversation with Cephalus’ son Polemarchus. The same ground rules apply as yesterday’s discussion: read slowly, observe every detail, and concentrate on this passage without anticipating the later dialogue. (It is OK to bring in texts occurring before however.)
1. Notice that Polemarchus “inherits” Cephalus’ definition of justice. We discussed the theme of inheritance a lot yesterday in the comments.
2. I forgot to mention yesterday but the word for justice in Greek, dikaiosyne, has a wider meaning than our English word justice. (It is the word usually translated as “righteousness” in the New Testament for instance.) Uprightness, fair dealing, moral probity, sense of equity — all of these notions are implicit in the Greek word.
3. In our Cephalus discussion, there was a connection made between wealth and wisdom. Perhaps we can make the same connection when the Polemarchus dialogue turns to safeguarding money.
4. The line at 334a is puzzling: “A just person has turned out then, it seems, to be a kind of thief.” Any speculation on this conclusion and the argument that led up to it?
5. Socrates applies the term for craft or skill (techne) to the practice of justice. How is justice like a skill? How not?
6. Finally, what happened to the part of Socrates’ version of Cephalus’ definition of justice about “speaking the truth”? (see 331c) Why was it dropped from the Polemarchus discussion? Is it still part of a full understanding of justice?
I think I will end my notes there. Be sure to monitor the comments. And please comment — it is a just thing to do! Remember, “friends owe it to their friends to do good for them…”