definition of justice
What is justice? --
To speak the truth and to pay your debts --no more than this.
But suppose that a friend when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he
asks for them when he is not in his right mind, ought I to give them back to him? No
one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing so, any more than they
would say that I ought always to speak the truth to one who is in his condition.
are quite right, he replied.
But then, I said, speaking the truth and paying your
debts is not a correct definition of justice.
Tell me then, O thou heir of the argument, what did Simonides say, and according to
you truly say, about justice
He said that the repayment of a debt is just
, and in
saying so he appears to me to be right.
I should be sorry to doubt the word of such a
wise and inspired man, but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of
clear to me. For he certainly does not mean, as we were now saying that I ought to return
a return a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks for it when he is not in his
right senses; and yet a deposit cannot be denied to be a debt.
Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am by no
means to make the return?
When Simonides said that the repayment of a
debt was justice, he did not mean to include that case?
Certainly not; for he thinks that a
friend ought always to do good to a friend and never evil.
You mean that the return of a
deposit of gold which is to the injury of the receiver, if the two parties are friends, is not
the repayment of a debt, --that is what you would imagine him to say?
enemies also to receive what we owe to them?
To be sure, he said, they are to receive
what we owe them, and an enemy, as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or
proper to him --that is to say, evil.
Simonides, then, after the manner of poets, would
seem to have spoken darkly of the nature of justice;
for he really meant to say that
justice is the giving to each man what is proper to him, and this he termed a debt
That must have been his meaning, he said.
By heaven! I replied; and if we asked him
what due or proper thing is given by medicine, and to whom, what answer do you think
that he would make to us?
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat
and drink to human bodies.
And what due or proper thing is given by cookery, and to
Seasoning to food.
And what is that which justice gives, and to whom?
definition of justice #2
If, Socrates, we are to be guided at all by the analogy of the preceding instances,
justice is the art which gives good to friends and evil to enemies
That is his meaning