Book I from the Republic of Plato highlights the effort by Socrates to achieve a reasonable conception of justice. Socrates engages speakers to explore the best possible concept of justice. Socrates does not, however, give any definition, and instead refutes every proposal. In Book 1 Socrates, a young nobleman Polemarche and Adeimantus, Plato’s brother to the house of Polemarchus, walk with his friend at a religious ceremony. When they arrive the conversation begins with Polemarchus’ dad Cephalus. During the discussion, Socrates brings up the aforementioned question which is answered by all the parties, albeit in different ways. Cephalus terms justice as being honest and living to one’s legal obligations. Socrates counters this by noting that when one returns a weapon to madman then that doesn’t amount to justice as he/she might end up hurting others. Cephalus leaves immediately and Polemarchus provide his own definition that justice amounts to harming your enemies and helping your friends. Socrates as well objects to this by highlighting that our judgment towards enemies and friends is fallible which makes the definition incoherent. Finally, Thrasymachus joins in and notes that his definition is based on the fact injustice is a virtue. Socrates still counters this as he highlights injustice can’t be a virtue as it is contrary to wisdom. Ultimately due to Socrates’s skepticism, they all fail to get to a consensus.
Book VII provides an interesting illustration of how education is a journey that moves a philosopher through stages to the form of good. He uses the story of a prisoner who has been locked up since birth and released from bondage to illustrate the different stages in education. The first stage is the imagination which is the lowest stage which represents the things the prisoners has always believed since birth. The second stage is the belief phase which outlines the first new things the prisoner encounters once they are freed up. Unknown to them is that there is a completely different world from the cave. The third stage is the cognitive stage of thought which is the phase where the prisoner is able to catch a glimpse of the real things and a world which is completely unknown to them. The fourth and final stage is the form of the good which represents a phase where the prisoner begins to understand the completely different world. Through this illustration, Socrates wanted to highlight that as people progress in education they are driven far away from the cave as possible. Ultimately with this illustration, Socrates wanted to present the most famous and beautiful metaphor commonly referred to as the allegory of the cave.
In book I section (336c) was the most intriguing as Thrasymachus becomes agitated by the fact that Socrates is countering all the answers provided and he fails to provide his own definition of what amounts to justice. As a result, Thrasymachus shifts the burden of discussion from defining justice to proving if it is indeed worthwhile. Socrates as usual counters by offering a comprehensive reasoning why his arguments are baseless. In book VII section (514a) is the most interesting as Socrates provides a rather true ideology when he compares the journey to gaining education as that which begins with a man tied up in a subterranean cavern. Further, in this section, he likens the image of the cave as a way to properly illustrate the world of thought and the world of sense-perception.