The position Thrasymachus takes on the definition of justice, as well as its importance in society, is one far differing from the opinions of the other interlocutors in the first book of Plato’s Republic. Embracing his role as a Sophist in Athenian society, Thrasymachus sets out to aggressively dispute Socrates’ opinion that justice is a beneficial and valuable aspect of life and the ideal society. Throughout the course of the dialogue, Thrasymachus formulates three major assertions regarding justice. These claims include his opinion that “justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger,” “it is just to obey the rulers,” and “justice is really the good of another […] and harmful to the one who obeys and serves.” Socrates continuously challenges these claims using what is now known as the “Socratic method” of questioning, while Thrasymachus works to defend his views. This paper seeks to argue the implausibility of Thrasymachus’ views through an analysis of his main claims regarding justice, as well as his view that injustice brings greater happiness.
In Book I of Republic, Socrates attempts to define justice with the help of his friends and acquaintances. After a number of suggestions prove false or insufficient, Thrasymachus tries his hand to define the term, convinced that his definition rings true. Thrasymachus begins in stating, “justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger,1” and after prodding, explains what he means by this. Thrasymachus believes that the stronger rule society, therefore, creating laws and defining to the many what should be considered just. He pertains, however, that the stronger create said laws for their own benefit and therefore in acting justly, the ruled are performing for the rulers benefit and not their own. This argument is not feasible for a variety of reasons. One of the key characteristics of justice is fairness, which can also be defined as being reasonable or impartial.5 Impartiality means that...
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