Giving What is Owed
Giving What is Owed

Giving What is Owed

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A philosophy worksheet from the FHSU Scholars Repository.

Giving What is Owed

​Socrates wonders if Cephalus’ ideas about rewards and punishments in the afterlife are based upon a true conception of justice, and he indicates a willingness to explore the matter. Cephalus, however, would rather return to the public celebration, and so he hands the conversation over to his eldest son Polemarchus who is eager to continue. As a starting point, Polemarchus proposes a definition offered by the poet Simonides: justice is giving to each what is owed to him. This doesn’t mean that justice requires returning a borrowed weapon to a dangerously insane friend. It means, he thinks, that to our friends we owe “something good . . . never something bad,” but to our enemies we owe “something bad.”


Is justice “to give to each what is owed to him”?


Polemarchus thinks we owef riends and enemies completely different things. Do you agree? What about other differences between people? Do husbands owe different things to wives than wives owe husbands? Do children owe different things to adults than adults owe children? Do we owe our children different things than we owe other people’s children? Do we owe older people different things than we owe younger people? Do we owe our neighbors different things than we owe people in far away lands?


It is sometimes said that justice requires us to treat people equally. What does this mean? Is it true?


Is there anything that we owe to each and every person?


​Philosophy at FHSU Scholars Repository