In his quest to find the true meaning of justices, Socrates poses the onus of defining justice to Polemarchus. Polemarchus observes that justice entails giving each what is owed to him. However, exemptions are made in the event that the individual in question is of unsound mind. Therefore, he is incapable of using what is owed to him to his benefit but may inflict harm on him. Polemarchus’s interpretation is critical and entails the enforcement of individual right to access to any property that is rightfully owned by an individual. In the light of this, Polemarchus observes that it is just to give an individual what is owed as an enforcement of the fundamental right to ownership and entitlement. However, Polemarchus agrees that if giving what is owed may cause harm or injury to the owner, then restraint must be exercised on giving what is owed. This is significantly applicable in cases where the creditor is out of his mind. Polemarchus agrees that giving what is owed to a person of unsound mind cannot be construed as justice in spite of doing the right thing by giving what is owed. A just action is defined as the one which aims to benefit the receiver/creditor; therefore, in spite of the good intentions of giving what is owed to a person of unsound mind, such an action may not be construed as justice since it may cause harm to the person in case he is out of his mind (Plato 2009, p36). Therefore, Polemarchus advocates restraint when giving what is owed to a person who is out of his mind. He agrees that giving what is owed to a person who is out of his mind may constitute unjust action since a just action aims at benefiting the creditor and not causing any harm to him. This assertion critically asserts that giving what is owed is a just action; however, in the event that the person owed is of unsound mind, then giving what is owed does not constitute justice.
In an attempt to definitively decipher Simonides riddles as to the meaning of justice, Polemarchus asserts that Socrates’s observation that the statement of describing giving what is owed as constituting justice is not definitive. Therefore, an inherent meaning must be hidden within the statement. Polemarchus observes that Simonides intended to say that friends owe it to each other to do good between themselves and should refrain from causing harm to each other (Plato 2009, p36). Therefore, the principle of giving what is owed extends to friends and enemies as well. In the light of this, justice is described as giving each what they rightfully deserve. In the case of friends, reciprocal good deeds are recommended, whereas in the case of enemies bad things characterize justice in lieu of this interpretation. It is essential to note that, Polemarchus agrees to Socrates’s observation that if giving what is owed to a friend is likely to cause more harm to them, then it does not constitute a justifiable action. In light of this it is critical to evaluate the likely benefit and drawbacks that may arise as a result of giving an individual what is owed to him. The evaluation of the definition of justice, according to Polemarchus, entails doing good to friends, and harm to enemies (Plato, 2009, p45). However, this observation is critiqued by Socrates’s queries. Critically, justice is doing good to those who do good and harm to those who do not do good or cause suffering to others. Hence, friend loyalty to an individual is questioned and the extent in which they pretend doing good and actually do good is examined. Hence, a distinction is established between friends and enemies, where friends who are not useful and enemies are categorized together as unjust, whereas enemies doing good and friends doing good are considered just.
The assertion that bad people and enemies should be treated as enemies creates the question of who should be considered as virtuous and vicious. The characterization of un-useful friends as bad raises the question as to whether they should be categorized as enemies; Therefore, they should be dealt with as enemies - in a vicious manner. Socrates argues that treating bad people viciously, as one would do to an enemy, creates a dire situation where the bad are made to be worse in their characters. Therefore, a question arises as to the appropriate way in which to categorize and treat bad friends. The nature of human virtue is characterized by treatment an individual is exposed and subject to; thus, exposing people to extreme conditions reduces their virtue as human beings (Plato 2009, p476). This means creating a more precarious condition, where a bad situation is made worse. So, it is observed that contrary to the perception that in a just environment good people are rewarded while the bad people are harmed, justice requires the rehabilitation of bad people in an attempt of making them become good. Therefore, the Polemarchus’s claim that good should be extended to friends and harm to enemies has no justifiable basis in lieu of justice.
The arguments posed by Socrates are found to be sound in their characterization of justice and the ideal justice situation in the light of Polemarchus’s assertions. Hence, in his assertion, Polemarchus describes justice as conditional in relation to individual actions and their impact on others, and the existing relationships between individuals. For instance, he asserts that each should be given what is owed to him while asserting that in so doing it is crucial to observe that such an action does not constitute harm on the receiver’s part (Plato 2009, 47 – 48). On the other hand, bad people should not be subjected to harm but should rather be rehabilitated in an effort to turn them into good people. This, in Polemarchus opinion, constitutes justice.
Cephalus believes that ideal justice is dispelled when the truth is told while giving what one owes. This perception critically relies on an individual’s honesty in telling the truth as the basis on which justice is quantified. Cephalus’s observations regarding his peers’ opinions where they lament the effects of old age characterize them as being judged by their lifestyles. He observes that the fear that engulfs individuals when they reach the old age is based on the belief that the after-life is waiting to punish the evil doers. Therefore, a person who has lived unjustly feels frightened at the prospect of dying old. An individual’s actions are premised as the determining factors of the reception into the afterlife in case of death. Cephalus’s opinion of his own life is qualified by his description of his father’s inheritance if compared to his own and that of his sons. Therefore, his actions in life and the fact that he is closer to death give him an elaborate perspective on the dispensation of justice in the afterlife. Therefore, Cephalus observes that people whose lives have been characterized by acts of injustice find it difficult to cope with the prospects of the old age (Plato 2009, 30 – 31). Their proximity to death factors significant discomfort and apprehension, which leads to sleepless nights. The fear and foreboding in their lives is based on their self-examinations where they attempt to find in their failing memories whether in the course of their lives they have committed unjust actions against anyone. In this context, Cephalus asserts that just or unjust actions of an individual are punishable both when a person is alive and in the afterlife (Plato 2009, 33 – 34); however, the consequences in the afterlife are more feared since the actual knowledge of the events in the afterlife is based on mythological beliefs.