Volume 36, 2011
R. Michael Olson
Doing Some Good to Friends
Socrates’ Just Treatment of Polemarchus
In this article I interpret the conversation that takes place between Socrates and Polemarchus in Book One of the Republic according to its dramatic logic by examining the rhetorical artfulness that informs Socrates’ argumentative tactics. After first examining Polemarchus’s character as obedient spiritedness, I then turn to the argument, showing that Socrates does not undermine Polemarchus’s original opinion but, rather, by making legitimate use of the analogy between justice and technē, moves him to attend to the useful knowledge implicit in his understanding of friendship, a knowledge by virtue of which he will be a more responsive guardian of what he values. Finally, I contend that Socrates enacts the definition of justice in question and indirectly argues for his own just art of rhetoric, which he employs in conversation with Polemarchus in his aim to be responsible to political life and to do it some good.