Welcome to Week 5 of Reason and Persuasion. We're moving on to Plato's Republic, Book 1. Now our question is, what is justice? Our hero Socrates has not one, not two, but three debate partners this time. There's the old man Cephalus, his son Polemarchus, and last but not least, Thrasymachus the sophist. The father and son tag team is for sure the undercard fight. Socrates versus Thrasymachus is the main event. He's a great villain. He's a very satisfying boss battle, or maybe we should say, Thrasymachus is like the Grinch who stole justice. Then he got an idea, an awful idea. The sophist got a wonderful, awful idea. Okay. Justice is the advantage of the stronger. That's his wonderful awful idea. Only, plot spoilers. In the end, he doesn't have an ethical epiphany like Dr. Seuss's Grinch. What if justice, he thought, isn't just taking stuff? What if justice perhaps means that isn't enough? Nah, that doesn't happen. Okay. Let's get serious. Through Senecus, he's kind of a bully, but he's smart. He's cynical. He gets how this Socratic definition game is supposed to be played. Let me say that again, Thrasymachus is the first interlocutor we've met who gets how to play this game which, as readers, comes as a huge relief frankly. Thrasymachus defends his contrarian theory with some degree of theoretical sophistication. Justice, he says, is the advantage of the stronger. And he thinks a couple moves ahead in the chess game. He can see that committing himself to this unconventional view means some other pieces have to shift around too. And Thrasymachus chews the scenery when he loses. Who doesn't love a sore loser? Thus, we will have plenty to say about him next lesson. As I said, it's easy to overlook the old man and his son, but we shouldn't. The father son pair, Cephalus and Polemarchus, they stand humbly in the shadow of Plato's great masterpiece, Republic. Republic is, in case you don't know, well it contains a blueprint for Utopia, an allegedly ideal political order. Even though we're only reading chapter one in effect, book one. We're basically just going to admire the entryway into this building, not venture into the main structure any great length. So, here we are at the gateway. What sort of figure would you expect to meet you at the gate of Utopia, which is kind of like the gates to Heaven. Someone pretty special, I guess. Some charismatic megafauna, an angel with a flaming sword, or I don't know, a three-headed dog. The ancient Greeks liked to have lions as funerary monuments. There should be something special to greet us as we pass from one world into a different sort of world altogether. And who is it? Well, I already told you. Cephalus, retired businessman, and not just that, he talks like a retired businessman too. What a great guy to guard the gates of Utopia. Such clever casting against type. Plato is a very clever writer. So, what does this retired businessman, at the gates of Utopia, have to say to us, as we prepare to sojourn from one world to the next? What wisdom does he have to impart? Cephalus doesn't exactly answer Socrates' question, what is justice? Because Socrates hasn't actually gotten around to asking it yet, but Cephalus does offer, pencils out, kids, this could be gold, a philosophy of money. Yes, that's how Republic starts, philosophically speaking. In Greek mythology, you're supposed to place a small value coin, an obol, in a dead person's mouth, as payment, or a bribe for Charon, the ferryman, who takes you across the water into the underworld. How much is an obol worth? Huh, it'll buy you a can thorough worth of wine. It's pretty cheap to buy, bribe a God, apparently. We've heard that complaint before. Isn't it weird that you can buy off the son of night and shadow for the price of a pitcher? Anyway, wouldn't it be even funnier if Charon, instead of taking your little bribe, just made you listen to some prudent wisdom about the value of money? An obal saved is an obal earned. Alright, money. What is it good for? Cephalus says it's wrong to think money is there so you can just fulfill all your wildest desires for fast chariots, for fast women, that kind of stuff. If they'd had iPhones in ancient Athens, Cephalus would have been the guy who lectures you about how it's stupid to feel you always have to have the newest, latest, shiniest model. Remember that myth I told you about a few lessons back? Lesson two, I think it was. All the Gods are having this big party, but Eris, discord, showed them all a new and shiny apple. And suddenly, they were unhappy. They had to have it, so all the Gods waited all night at the Apple store. Inevitably, there was fighting. The point is, ever wanting the new, new, shiny thing means ever wanting because there's always some new shiny apple of some sort. Even if you don't fight with other people waiting in line, if you're ruled by your desires, you'll be fighting with yourself. Cephalus says that's the great part about being old. You're just too tired to run after all that stuff. What a relief. All right, if buying whatever shiny thing catches your eye isn't the best use for money, what is the best use for it? For Cephalus, the best use for money is that you can afford to be a good person. I think you should agree. Surely, being a good person is the greatest good. Yeah, but is this a good that's for sale in the market? Back to the iPhone analogy. People often ask what is Apple going to do next. This company, who revolutionized personal computing, brought us the iPhone, the iPad. Everyone reads Steve Jobs's biography like some of that mojo might rub off on them. Good luck with that. So, what's next for Apple? Okay, picture this. The new iAmgood. It's a compact personal gadget, mm, some sort that, by the very fact of your possessing it, makes you a good person. Now, that's a killer app. Everyone in their right mind would run out and stand in line at the Apple Store all night to be a new iAmgood, still with the shrink, shrink wrap on it. Oh, but wait, I said I was going to be serious, didn't I? But I am being serious. Maybe, let's think about this. Okay, I'm not serious about the new iAmgood in your pocket. That's silly. But in your soul? Yeah, that's where it would go. But how is what is in my wallet going to put anything like that into my soul? Consider this. If you've got money, you can always give what is due, to both Gods and men. That is, you can speak truth and pay your debts. You don't have to worry about that Charon will refuse to carry you over the River Styx just because you can't afford one lousy obol to buy him a drink, or whatever. This is what Cephalus says. This is the closest he comes to defining justice. Justice is giving everyone what they are due. That is, it's speaking truth and paying your debts. What does he mean by that? Well, in his affairs, public and private, Cephalus is never tempted to lie, cheat, steal. He's got enough money in the bank. He's never desperate. He can conduct all his affairs above board and a little extra to keep it all on the level. For example, he can afford to do the very thing he's actually doing at the start of the dialogue. Namely, paying to conduct a proper sacrifice to the Gods. In this case, there's a new goddess in town, Bendis. I'll introduce you to her in the next video. Money makes Cephalus secure, and thereby makes it possible for him to always do the right thing. So here's how you buy an iAmgood, save some money. If you need that money for something actually important, like justice, you've got it. So here's the question. Quiz time. Is it easier to be a good person if you're rich? A, Yes. B, No. Because I like good old Cephalus, retired businessman, I give credit for A. But I'll bet you answered B, right? Well, give credit for that, too. It's pretty obvious why money shouldn't be able to buy you moral goodness. But let me spell it out. We understand what sorts of institutional structures make it possible for someone to say truly this. I never really had to work in life. I had a trust fund, I lived off that. But this, the following thing, makes no sense. I never really had to work hard in life to be a good person. I had a moral trust fund, I just lived off that. No, that's impossible we want to say. That's, that's a moral absurdity. Well, why is it absurd? It's obvious, but like I said, let me spell it out for you. Xenophon, who was a student of Socrates, writes that Socrates said, his small sacrifices to the Gods had to be as well received as any rich man's lavish offerings, because if the Gods could be bribed, if there is any sense in which it's easier to count as a good person just on account of your bank account. Well, it wouldn't be worthwhile for humans to live in a world like that. Seriously. What kind of a God takes a petty bribe off a rich guy. Too big to fail. That's obnoxious enough. Too big to fail morally? We all agree that sounds double awful, right? Euthyphro's made uncomfortable, if you remember, when he gets pushed in this direction regarding service to the Gods. Then again, exactly what is Zeus's claim to goodness? He's large and in charge. Cephalus is, maybe, kind of like Euthyphro in this regard. He doesn't mean to be saying anything that sounds so amoral, or frankly, awful. He's not a bad guy. Imagining an amoral universe and how he could prosper in it. But maybe he's confused. He's a businessman, so he wants to solve his problems oh, in a way that he understands, businesslike with money. But maybe there's things money can't buy, so Cephalus is confused about how to acquire them. But consider, for most of us, there's a fine line between paying for your sins, that is authentically and properly atoning for whatever you've done wrong, in some appropriate way. And just plain paying your way out of some jam you got yourself into. Another quiz. Do you think it's okay that some crimes, generally minor ones, carry only a financial penalty? A parking ticket you have to pay, for example? A, Yes. B, No. If you said B, you're weird, and you can sit out the next round. Alright, let's have another quiz. Do you think people should regard themselves as having the right to park in No Parking zones, so long as they're willing and able to pay any fines? Yes, that's A. B, No. I'm guessing more of you went with B this time. Could you sell licenses to commit crimes or wrongs? Make it into a business. Let rich people buy get out of jail cards free, in advance. Maybe people could give prepaid iAmgood cards as gifts at Christmas or other religious holidays. Give the gift of not being guilty to your uncle, who you know likes to park in those No Parking zones. Being good is worth more to your uncle than some other new gadget or gizmo. Everyone should be a good person. So if money can pay for your wrongs then that's the best use for your money. All this sounds a bit crazy and off right? Where did it go wrong? What's the difference between saying sometimes paying money can make something good, and saying that you should be able to buy a license to do the wrong thing, and saying that money can actually turn wrong into right. I could make another quiz here. But let me just say, pause the video and jot down whatever you think makes sense. What is money good for in a moral sense? What can it buy you in a moral sense? Maybe it comes down to this. Our metaphors for justice are often financial. What is the symbol of justice? A scale, right? Who uses scales? Merchants, that's who. To what extent can we make sense of justice by cashing it out in broadly money terms. Let's back up, try to figure out how we got into this funny corner. There's more to life than money, right? Money can't buy you, fill in the blanks, with a lot of the finest things in life. There's love, there's family and friends, there's honor and achievement, there's competition and community. There's how you appear in other people's eyes. Cephalus's son Polemarchus is very concerned with all of this. Honor, status, standing. Money can't buy these things. But let's be honest, it's not irrelevant to your ability to acquire these things and to hold on to them once you've got them. One last note, can your daddy leave you a moral trust fund to make your life easier? Of course he can. Wait, what? How? Remember how that jerk Meno owned a perfectly nice boy, and no one was saying anything about it, like, slavery, this is morally outrageous! No, let me rephrase that. Remember that question I asked you about slavery while I was discussing Meno? What makes us morally better than those ancient Greeks? How are we so good that we don't own slaves whereas they were so bad? That they did. Is that some new advanced breakthrough in moral mathematics? Mm, yes and no. I wouldn't want to downplay the important role that philosophical argument eventually played in convincing people slavery was wrong, but at the same time, who am I kidding? Our moral minds don't work differently today then their moral minds did back then. They owned slaves because it was normal. And everyone else thought so too. That's also the reason we don't own slaves today, it's not normal. And everyone else thinks so too. Taking your cues from the neighbors, the way we do. If we'd lived back then, we would have owned slaves with the best of them if we were lucky. Either that or we would have been slaves. Anyway, as I was saying, the real reason we don't own slaves is not that our brains now work differently, we aren't running some new morality 2.0 software in our brains. But then again, aren't we? We do think thoughts about human rights and equality that they literally never thought, or they didn't write them down if they thought them. So in a sense, our old hardware, that same monkey hardware the ancient Greeks had, it is running new software. Same old monkey brain but genuinely new thoughts about morality in those brains. Beyond that, there are huge institutional differences. Our noble ancestors in their moral wisdom banned slavery. Why did they do that? Well, they felt guilty towards the slaves due to those new moral thoughts of theirs. But they also wanted their children, their descendants, to be better people. They wanted them not to be slaves and not to own slaves, because what more would you want for your kids than that they should be fundamentally good people. People who own slaves are bad. They could have just left us a pile of money, our ancestors. That way, if owning slaves is bad and we die owning slaves, we can maybe give Charon a bit of money on the side as we cross into the underworld, pay for our sins. But I think on the whole, leaving us less unjust institutions was a better form for the moral trust fund to take. I'll bet when you look back on your life, you're proud of the good things you did and you're ashamed of the bad. Well, here's something to be proud of. You've never owned a slave. I hope. Because you weren't allowed to legally. And it is greatly frowned upon by the neighbors. It's easier to be a good person in a good society. A truly just society is like a moral trust fund for those who live in it. I'm not saying I know that's true, but it's an interesting idea. There's only one problem, just society, hm truly just society. What would that be like, I wonder. Oh, hey. A free republic.