Thrasymachus’ Challenge

Plato along with Socrates and Aristotle were f...
Image via Wikipedia

Alright, enough preamble; let’s do some philosophy.

When I took Ethics, almost the entirety of the class was spent reading Plato’s The Republic, in which Socrates is portrayed as having a series of dialogues regarding the nature of justice and the ideal state. The one that always stuck with me—and troubled me for long after the end of the semester—was the dialogue that concludes Book I, between Socrates and Thrasymachus.

At this point, Socrates is still trying to come up with a satisfactory definition for the word “justice,” and Thrasymachus responds by sneering at his naïve attempts. He offers up two definitions. First, he says that, “the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own.”

Later, he argues that “justice” is a social construct—it is whatever is to the advantage of the stronger, ruling party.

Obviously, these two definitions are in conflict with one another, and Socrates shoots them both down eventually. It does not help Thrasymachus’ case either that he is, throughout Book I, hectoring, rude, and generally abrasive on a level not seen anywhere else in the text.

So why was the passage so troubling? Maybe because I didn’t find Socrates’ rebuttal persuasive. But before I get into why, I want to hear what you guys think of Thrasymachus’ argument.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Advertisements

There are no comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: