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Response Paper 2


How does Plato teach the reader about justice through Socratic dialogue?

            Through dialogue, Plato succeeds in depicting both his philosophical questions and thoughts about knowledge in a non-single-minded fashion. Even though the voice of Plato is principally Socrates himself, the text is itself a conversation between multiple individuals, who, by human nature, think differently, and hence room for discussion between them exists. This leads the reader to sense that all conclusions arrived at are collaborative, which makes them have . Because dialogue is , the reader is more easily immersed in the text, and is then taught about “justice” while feeling participant, as a listener, of the complex, philosophical conversation that Plato sets forth.

Plato teaches about justice through dialogue, beginning with the first conversation between Socrates and Cephalus. Socrates listens to Cephalus affirming that he defined justice as “paying whatever debts one has incurred (Plato 5),” and then immediately challenges such statement. He points out that it would not be reasonable for a man to return borrowed weapons to his “mad friend,” as such action would be dangerous, and thus states that to “repay what one has borrowed is not the definition of justice (Plato 5).” It is clear then, that a conclusion was drawn from two conflicting ideas between two individuals; the reader begins to learn about justice after witnessing evidence that is discussable, approached by more than one perspective, and then agreed upon. (explain how it is discussable with more examples)

Soon after, Polymarchus claims “justice” to be “treating friends well and enemies badly (Plato 7).” Again, after ideas are discussed, Socrates explains that it is not “the function of a just person to harm a friend or anyone else (Plato 12),” and thus Polymarchus’ definition of “justice” is not accurate. The reader is once again presented the opinion of a different individual, and then lead to unravel, along with the individual himself, the flaws of such opinion. (more dialogue between the two, how the individual “accepts” defeat, how exactly Socrates challenges him). Even though Socrates is the one guiding the reasoning, his peers end up agreeing with him, and at the same time invite the reader to do so as well. (I, for instance, blab la) Plato effectively establishes different, even contrary, courses of thought within each scenario he describes, making the reader be attentive to understand each. Such attentiveness makes the reader become a passive participant (because he or she is only able to listen to the conversation) of an intellectually bold lesson on the definition of

Thrasymachus then explains that to him, “justice” is “nothing other than what is advantageous for the stronger (Plato 14).” After an exchange of arguments and counter-arguments between Thrasymachus and Socrates, the claim is devaluated when it is agreed by both of them that “what is advantageous for the stronger is no more just than what is not advantageous (Plato 17).” Plato leaves room for the reader to first analyze the first claim, perhaps agree with it, but then identify the flaws in such stereotypical definitions of “justice”.

From only these three different discussions Plato is able, perhaps not to define what “justice” is, but to at least teach the reader three different ideas of what “justice” is not. It is evident, that it is by depicting an array of different approaches to the idea of “justice”, and by establishing a natural connection between the characters’ conversation and the reader, both possible because of dialogue, that the reader is taught about “justice.”



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x.Daniel Majluf