44 pages 1 hour read


The Republic

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | BCE

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Chapters 1-2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary: “Convention under Attack”

Socrates is returning from a religious festival at Piraeus, a seaport near Athens, when he is seen by someone he knows called Polemarchus. Polemarchus invites Socrates back to his house where several others, including Polemarchus’ father, Cephalus, his brothers, and Thrasymachus of Chalcedon are staying. On entering the house, Socrates is greeted by Cephalus, and they begin discussing the advantages and disadvantages of old age. Cephalus suggests that despite the complaints of some older people, old age is pleasant since it frees one from interest in many physical desires. Thus, he says, it makes one feel “like a slave who has got away from a rabid and savage master” (5).

Socrates notes that Cephalus is wealthy, and asks him “What do you think is the greatest benefit you’ve gained from being rich?” (7) He responds by saying that it is the ability to pay back anyone to whom one still owes money, or who he has wronged. This takes away a great deal of anxiety and fear. His comment leads into a discussion about the nature of morality with Polemarchus. Building on his father’s point about the repayment of debts, Polemarchus defines morality as “the art of giving benefit and harm to friends and enemies respectively” (10).