Cephalus' Definition Inconsistent

The dialogue is told by Socrates a day after it has occurred, although we do not know who he is talking to. The interlocutors in the dialogue are Socrates the narrator, Cephalus the aged man, Polemarchus the son of Cephalus, and others. Although the central theme of their conversation is about justice, they are engaged in other topics that may shape their opinion about justice. During their conversation, they cannot come up with a precise definition of what justice is, rather they have tried to utter their opinions about what justice is. While Socrates keeps asking for clarity by breaking down the opinions suggested by the other interlocutors. Do differences in age, beliefs, experience, and level of education have an impact on their understanding of justice? I argue that there is no difference among the interlocutors on their opinions about justice. Their real difference lies in their difference in their level of questioning the inconsistencies that existed in established knowledge.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Socrates begins his narration of the dialogue by describing how he recently visited, with Glaucon, the port of Athens- Perius to pray and to witness a religious festival that was being held. Socrates is pleased with what he saw in the holiday. As Socrates and Glaucon are leaving Perius, another friend of theirs sees them and sent his slave who grabs Socrates’s coat and says that his master, Polemarchus, insists that they wait for him.Polemarchus, together with Adeimantus and others, catches up Socrates.Considering that Glaucon is with Socrates and Ademintus, Glaucon’s brother, with Polemarchus, it is fair to assume that this two people, Socrates and Polemarchus are intimate friends. As Polemarchus and Adeimentus convince him, Socrates agrees to visit Polemarchus house and, together with the rest of the people, heads over to Polemarchus’ house. Upon arrival, they meetCephalus, Polemarchus’ father, and others.Everyone sits down next to Cephalus, who's impressively glad to see Socrates.Cephalus, the wealthy old metic who welcomes Socrates and offers his hospitality to those who would engage in philosophical discussion, provides the very first definition of justice to be found in the dialogue. Cephalus who is archetypal of a morality of the ancient class established the traditional concept of justice. However, the first reference to the term justice appears not right at the outset of the dialogue. The dialogue starts with what is a friendly and innocuous conversation between Socrates and Cephalus, in which Socrates asks Cephalus what it is like to be old and rich, what he has learned from having lived a long life during which Cephalus has managed to acquire a certain amount of money. Socrates keeps asking Cephalus whetherthe experience of age have taught him something about life, whether he misses the sexual appetites, and whetherwealth is a good thing or a bad thing. Cephalus replies that he is free from baser desire , that wealth in age offers a man the liberty of always telling the truth (never misrepresenting himself in word or deed), and also to leave this life owing nothing to anyone and therefore without fear of having been unjust to anyone whether to God or human. It is at this point, Socrates asks Cephalus whether justice is simply telling the truth and paying back debt. Cephalus suggests that justice involves nothing more than telling the truth and repaying one’s debts. But Socrates points out that in certain circumstances, taking these simple rules without exception could produce disastrous results. (Republic 331c) Returning a borrowed weapon to an insane friend, for example, would be an instance of ensuing the rule but would not seem to be an example of justice.However, since Cephalus defines justice as both truth and a state of being debt free, Socrates’ argument of ‘returning a weapon to an insane person’ may not make Cephalus’ definition inconsistent.Socrates’ question is focussing on one part of Cephalus’ definition which is debt. But since truth is the second part of the definition, when Socrates suggested that returning a weapon to an insane person would not be just, Cephalus agreed. The truth part of Cephalus’ definition of justice helped Cephalus and Socrates to agree.

Polemarchus also holds a similar view of justice like his father’s, but with a little alteration. For Polemarchus, justice seems to consist in giving what one is owed. The simple implication of this conception of justice would be that "justice is doing good to friends and harm to enemies."This is, like Cephalus’ conception of justice, is a traditional morality of Greek. Polemarchus initially asserts that justice is “to give to each what is owed” (Republic 331d), a definition he picked up from Simonides. Although, through the unrelenting questioning of Socrates, Polemarchus’ definition of justice advances into “doing good to friends and harm to enemies” (Republic 332d), it is insufficient to Socrates. Its insufficiency is rooted in the circumstances of a risk that may emerge from a possibility of considering bad people as friends, and good people as enemies. The question posed by Socrates on assumption that animosity or friendship is a result of bad and good people. There is a possibility that good people can be enemies and bad people can be friends. People can be engaged with or against others not only based on their respective characteristics but the embedded conflict or alignment of interest of the respective parties.

Eventually, Polemarchus agreed reluctantly with the argument set down by Socrates that “it is never just to harm anyone” (Republic 335d). This definition is fundamental to the idea of a common good, for harming people according to Socrates, only makes them “worse with respect to human virtue” (Republic 335 C). Polemarchus also allows for the possibility of common good through his insistence on helping friends. To Polemarchus nothing is more important than his circle of friends, and through their benefit he benefits, what makes them happy pleases him.

During his conversation with Cephalus and Polemarchus, Socrates is not close in attempting to define justice. What makes Socrates different from his friends (Cephalus and Polemarchus) is that he just keeps to methodically question/challenge the established interpretation in the way that enables him to reveal an existing inconsistency, if any. He methodically poses a serious of logical questions so as to break down concept for the purpose of revealing their questioning the established interpretation of justice, attempts to identify inconsistency, seeks clarity with the p and