Socratic Dialogue

In Philosophy class after reading Plato’s Republic, my teacher asked us to write a Socratic Dialogue about anything we wanted! Here’s mine, about peace.

Socrates asks Thrasymachus a definition question regarding peace in response to a discussion between them in which they used the term ‘peace’ without defining it.

“What is peace, Thrasymachus?” I asked. “We might look at examples first, or what peace is not, in order to come to some sort of conclusion.”

“Well,” said Thrasymachus. “Peace is not war. War is fighting between people or nations. So, peace is not fighting.”

“War is one kind of fighting,” I agreed. “But there are other types and degrees of fighting. Would you go as far as to say that peace is not disagreement? That it is not any kind of conflict?” I asked.

“Disagreements and conflicts occur when people do not share the same opinions or values. They want to make choices based upon those values. If people desire different outcomes because of their different values, then there is conflict.”

“So you would say that peace cannot equal conflict at the same time?”


“This is good,” I agreed. “But what if we only talk about the self, one person? Can there be such a thing as conflict within oneself? Keep in mind that we are aiming towards defining peace, not conflict.”

“Yes, I think one can be conflicted in themselves. For example, one could want to fall asleep very badly, but not be able to do so. Also, the apostle Paul says, ‘I do what I don’t want to do and I don’t do what I want to do.’  He’s showing that we do not always agree inside of ourselves what the best course of action to take is, or what we really, truly want. I think he’s on to something.”

“Precisely, Thrasymachus,” I replied. “So we have established that an individual can contain conflict within itself. If an individual is conflicted within itself, then how does that individual find peace from that conflict? Have not we established that peace and conflict are not simultaneous?”

“Yes, we have. I think that peace is a good feeling or a reassurance that nothing is wrong.”

“Maybe, but consider this example: A girl was tossing a softball back and forth with her friends at a nearby diamond when a man she didn’t know approached her. He asked her to follow him, but the girl was immediately wary and uneasy. The man proceeded to reassure her that it was okay and he would give her something good if she did. The girl, even having been reassured, was not at all comfortable in that situation. There was reassurance, but was there peace?”

“There was not peace,” Thrasymachus answered. “But I guess I meant reassurance within oneself, inner reassurance. The girl, for example, experienced outer reassurance, but not inner reassurance.”

“So peace is only present when it is within a person and is non-existent when reassurance exists between two people?”

“No, I would say that peace can be outward and inward.”

“Okay,” I nodded. “What is the difference, then, between the two? Are inner peace and outer peace different things, or the same?”

“I think peace within a person is calmness. I think that outer peace with others is probably different, maybe in that it is harmony or order among people, though not necessarily a feeling of calmness.”

“You might be onto something there, Thrasymachus,” I replied. “I wouldn’t jump quickly to say that they are very different, but you certainly gave some good examples of what peace may be. Many times when we speak of peace, we are talking about order and lawfulness in society or within our community. Does this definition of peace remove the conflict of which we discussed earlier? Meaning, do laws and the order of the court remove differing choices based upon different sets of values?”

“It does if people who do wrong because they think it is right are convicted. It does not resolve conflict and create peace unless one person breaks that law.”

“So you’re saying that the law only establishes peace between parties if that law has been broken. The law has no authority in matters of conflict which are not against the law.”


“How might we reconcile this paradox? The law is a form of peace-making, but does not always have authority. What has the authority to make peace if conflict occurs within the law?”

“I don’t know, Socrates,” Thrasymachus replied. “Maybe personal or familial moral codes make peace in matters within the law?”

“That is very possible,” I said. “Let’s explore your proposition more closely.”

Socrates and Thrasymachus proceed to discuss the nature and character of peace.

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