POL200Y1 Chapter Notes -Allan Bloom, Polemarchus, Glaucon
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In order to be just as Polemarchus understands the term, you would have to
know who your friends and enemies are. Like most of us, Polemarchus
thinks he does know. But do we? What are the difficulties in our usual
understanding of friends and enemies at which Socrates takes aim?
Of the characters in the Republic, only Polemarchus champions justice in its
usual political sense of loyalty to one’s city and fellow citizens against
enemies outside the city and dishonest people inside it. What is Glaucon’s
critique of justice conceived as dedication of this sort? If being a good
Athenian is good enough for Polemarchus (who isn’t even a full citizen of
Athens) why shouldn’t it be good enough for him? If even Toronto FC lives by
the motto “All for one and one for all,” why won’t Glaucon buy into it?
In answering this question don’t neglect the problems in Polemarchus’
position exposed in his conversation with Socrates, to which Glaucon has
been listening and which may have shaped his own views.
Aspects to discuss - the good that comes from it, soc critique of poly, laucon seeking a
fundamental understanding of justice free of presupposed ideas of social order (i.e.
politics), justice might mean that the greatest good must be sacrificed and how it relates
to poly’s understanding (maybe it means that politics and the current social order
represent the lowest end of Glaucon’s hierarchy?), mention glaucon compelling Socrates
to continue (page 15) and interrupting the argument in page 24
The way in which each interlocutor addresses the subject of justice gives us a reflection
of them and how they think: their experiences, their values, and their prejudices, among
other things. Socrates, in challenging the interlocutors to answer the question, “what is
justice?” forces them to face, if not reconcile with who they are. Glaucon witnesses to
this process and seeks to both reconcile with his ideals and help formulate the best
answer to the question “what is justice?” reached thus far in the dialogue. He does so by
making the strongest case for injustice, in hopes that he and Socrates will develop the
strongest case that can be made for justice. This case for injustice is essentially a critique
of justice. It is a particular aspect(s) of this critique (what is/are it?) that when juxtaposed
with Polemarchus’ conception of justice exposes a paradox in Polemarchus’ argument
that Glaucon cannot accept. (or the paradox has previously been exposed and Glaucon
cannot reconcile with it.)
Established social conventions inform how Polemarchus interacts with Socrates and
approaches the task of defining justice. These conventions are relevant to his morals,
values and status in life. He begins his discussion with Socrates by stating that justice is
“paying what is owed”, an argument previously argued by his father Cephalus, in
reference to his life and the debts to which he owed the gods. Cephalus dominated the
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