The Republic and Old Age. The Republic is a dialogue by Plato as he dissects issues related the character and order of justice both for a man as well as the city. The dialogue presents a discussion between Socrates and foreigners as well as Athenian on what justice essentially means and the linkage between justice and happiness. In one of the discussions, Socrates has a conversation with Cephalus regarding old age and his enthusiasm in speaking with the aged as he notes comes from the realization that all individuals have to travel through that path. In his interaction with Cephalus, Socrates is interested in knowing whether the old age path is passable of difficult. From Cephalus’ point of view, being just and having lived right are the precursors to having a fulfilled life and having the ability to cope with old age. Cephalus is pointing to the importance of character and especially the notion that one must have gained his wealth through just means for them to be happy.
The conversation between Socrates and Cephalus points to the notion that Cephalus is a just and happy man who is content with old age despite his fear of life after death. For someone who is not content with his old age, this may have much to do with character and having lived unjustly. Essentially, one’s life prior to old age determines whether they can cope with old age and whether the path is difficult or passable. While one may be discontent even after having lived a just life, The Republic offers some kind of comfort through the reassurance that the individual will pass into a blessed afterlife. The Republic offers comfort for only those that have lived a just life and have an impeccable character.
The Republic and Old Age
Cephalus and old age
Wealth comes up as an important topic in the discussion of old age and the ability to cope, and this is informed by the fact that wealth may be gained in just or unjust means. Socrates is interested in knowing how old age feels and whether there is comfort or discomfort for those at that stage. Socrates makes the comment that Cephalus may be considered happy in old age because of his wealth and that he does not appear to care about riches since he inherited his. From this comment, one deduces that Cephalus is happy in old age but that this may not be informed by his character but the availability of wealth. Much more so, the fact that he inherited his wealth implies that he did not commit any injustices while trying to acquire his riches. Cephalus later admits that there are unspeakable blessings in being just and lacking the compulsion to do injustice out of poverty. The linkage between wealth and happiness at old age is evident in the notion that riches keep away individuals from engaging in unjust practices. Cephalus’ contentment with old age is seen as derived both from his just past and the availability of wealth that he committed no crime in getting.
The connection between wealth and happiness is further visible in the conceptualization of the term ‘justice.’ Socrates poses the question on what justice implies and the response given by Cephalus is that justice is about telling the truth and paying debts. Payment of debts as a determiner for justice and injustice alludes to the notion that those in poverty and unable to pay their debts are unjust. Cephalus notes that those that have been unjust will pay the price through horrors in Hades but those that have been just will escape such punishment. In essence, this means that the poor man incapable of settling his debts will have discomforts in old age since he is aware of the horrors that await him in Hades. The Republic essentially advances this point through the statement by Themistocles that a good poor man cannot be happy in old age. From this view, a poor man is in discomfort during old age for having been incapable of meeting the threshold of justice. Considering that The Republic pins comfort in old age to wealth and justice, this means that there is no comfort or reprieve for the poor old man since he has to face the horrors of Hades and answer for his character as an unjust person. To this end, character even in poverty is seen as vital in assuring the individual a good life in old age as well as in the afterlife.