Plato's Republic I
The beginning is half of every work
Most of Plato’s dialogues have an opening scene and they are particularly important for understanding the remainder of the dialogue.
Socrates: Down I went to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon, son of Ariston, to pray to the goddess; and, at the same time, I wanted to observe how they would put on the festival, since they were now holding it for the first time.
We should note that Socrates narrates this dialogue and it is natural to think that the narrated dialogues are particularly important, because Socrates can tell us things that we would have to guess at in the dramatic dialogues.
Socrates provides his editorial commentary at certain points, and because he does not do so throughout, we should pay special attention when he does. For example, he tells us, upon first meeting Cephalus that he looked or seemed very old to him because he had not seen him in a long time. This is important, for in light of Cephalus’s welcome, we can gather that for some reason Socrates does not delight in speaking with him.
Moreover, take Socrates’s comment at 328e: “For my part, Cephalus, I am really delighted to discuss with the very old,” which shows that he will subtlety and ironically abide by the appropriate customs – deferring to one’s elders; showing respect to a man in his own home. That is, Socrates seeks to make the discussion unpleasant for Cephalus. Compare here what he says editorially at 329e: “I stirred him up, saying: ‘Cephalus, when you say these things, I suppose that the many do not accept them from you, but believe rather that it is not due to character that you bear old age so easily but due to possessing great substance.’” Socrates basically insults him here: it is not your character but your money that allows you to bear old age well.
Going forward, you should pay attention to such editorial comments and think about how they bear upon the action and argument of the dialogue.
Let’s return to the beginning: