"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


First Principles of Social Organisation

(pages 116 – 122)

Book I

Takes place in the house of Cephalus, in the port of Piraeus, on a festival day…Polemarchus invites Socrates to his house, along with Glaucon and several others. The conversation is mainly between Socrates & Cephalus, Polemarchus’ father.
This debate concerns the nature of old age, wealth & justice)


In this discussion, Cephalus criticises those who lament old age, for in his mind old age is a welcome relief from the passions and urges of youth:
the more the pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure and charm of conversation

 Socrates asks Cephalus how he feels at the “threshold of old age”….. To which Cephalus replies that old men often lament the passing of youth by saying:

“I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled away..”

However he (Cephalus) feels that this is the wrong mindset, quoting Sophocles thus:

“Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad and furious master.”

 “For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many.”

Socrates considers this to be a fine proposition, but thinks that this disposition of Cephalus’ is due more to his wealth than an inherent ease with old age:
 “…they think that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your happy disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well known to be a great comforter”

“for to the good poor man old age cannot be a light burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace with himself”

Then Socrates asks him if he acquired his wealth by his own work or if he inherited it. Cephalus replies that he acquired it, describing how his grandfather had created two or three times what he now possesses, but that his father had “reduced” its value below what he now had. Socrates replies that he asked the question as Cephalus seems indifferent about his wealth, which is often the hallmark of those who inherit it, while those who create it guard it most jealousy and can speak or think of little else, like “authors of their own poems” and “parents of their own children“.

Socrates asks Cephalus what the greatest benefit of wealth is, to his mind and experience. Cephalus replies that is gives calm to a man before his death, knowing that he has little to fear of his sins and transgressions. Simply put, it gives an old man hope.
Socrates now changes the topic to JUSTICE. He questions Cephalus about the nature of Justice, enquiring as to whether it is simply:

to speak the truth and to pay your debts –no more than this?”

Socrates then proposes that to “speak the truth and pay your debts” would not be wise in the case of a friend, of sound mind, depositing arms with you and returning in a state of anger wishing to retrieve them. Cephalus agrees with Socrates’



(1) In the Introduction to Plato’s Republic, Socrates asks Cephalus if old age is a difficult time or not.

(a) Outline the reply of Cephalus to Socrates’ question. (20)

 (b) According to Cephalus, what is the advantage of being very rich as one nears the end of one’s life? (15)

 (c) What is your opinion of Cephalus’ views on the advantage of wealth as one approaches death? (15)


(2) What is Thrasymachus’ concept of Justice and how does Socrates refute/ deconstruct his theory of Justice being what is “in the intetrest of the stronger”?


(3)  What



















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