Book One of “The Republic” opens up with a discussion between Socrates and Cephalus, Polemarchu’s father, about old age and wealth. Cephalus conveys to Socrates that he believes being wealthy does not necessarily make you a happier person, but being wealthy makes it simpler to lead a good or moral life. Cephalus is quoted as follows,”It’s in this connection that wealth is most valuable, I’d say, not for every man but for a decent an orderly one. Wealth can do a lot to save us from having to cheat or deceive someone against our will from having to depart for that other place in fear because we sacrifice to a good or money to a person. It has many other uses, but, benefit for benefit, I’d say that this is how it is most useful to a man of any understanding”. Socrates argues this statement of opinion by Cephalus, by saying that if living a just life is simply just telling the truth or giving back your debts, than that can sometimes be the wrong or unjust thing to do. He gives the example of borrowing a knife from a friend, who eventually comes back for his knife but looks full of rage and has intentions of wrong-doing, than giving him the knife back which you owe him is certainly the wrong thing to do. Cephalus, not really interested in carrying on the argument exits from the conversation and his son, Polemarchus, protests Socrates argument and goes on to give his various definitions of what “Justice” actually means. Polemarchus initial definition was giving everyone what is appropriate or right to them, and it is not appropriate to give harmful things to your friends. Summarizing his definition, he is saying, Justice is pleasing your friends and harming your enemies. Socrates attacks this definition arguing that you shouldn’t return evil with evil because it is not just to pose harm to anyone.
After Polymarchus agrees with Socrates argument, Thrasymachus, who is tired of hearing all the arguing and debating wants Socrates to tell them what his definition of Justice is. Socrates explains to him that he doesn’t himself know what it is and he is in pursuit of finding out what Justice us. Thrasymachus then goes on to give his own definition of what is “Just”. His definition is based upon the idea that what is right is what is in the best interest of the stronger party, in which a ruler makes laws of his own interests, and that is right for the weaker party to follow his laws. The discussion has somewhat shifted from the definition of Justice, to the functions and duties of a ruler of a state. When Thrasymachus gets back to the original discussion of Justice, he says Justice is for fools and people live so-called “good” laws because they are trained that way and are actually afraid of doing otherwise. What he is basically saying is that “good” actions are foolish and cowardly, while “evil” actions are good for society. In the remaining of Book One Socrates attacks Thrasymachus distorted view of what morality is.
In Book Two Glaucon expresses his dissatisfaction with Socrates and Thrasymachus argument of Justice by saying “But I’m not yet satisfied by the argument on either side. I want to know what justice and injustice are and what power each itself has when it’s by itself in the soul. I want to leave out of account their rewards and what comes from each of them. So, if you agree, I’ll renew the argument of Thrasymachus. First, I’ll state what kind of thing people consider justice to be and what it’s origins are. Second, I’ll argue that all who practice it do so unwillingly, as something necessary , as they do, for the life of an unjust person is, they say, much better than that of a just one”. The purpose of Glaucon’s presenting these views, which are not his personal views, is in efforts of hearing what Socrates has to say against them. I feel that he is mainly seeking to find out from Socrates why it is actually better to live a just life versus an unjust life.
Socrates starts to answer