A Defense of Thrasymachus’ Claim; “Justice Is the Advantage of the Stronger”

Topics: Plato, Justice, Political philosophy Pages: 4 (1336 words) Published: October 16, 2009
Khwaja Nabeel Asif U047073J

PH1101E – Reason & Persuasion
Khwaja Nabeel Asif U047073J DW7 Topic 5: A defense of Thrasymachus’ claim; “Justice is the advantage of the stronger”

Most people believe that they understand the essence of things like justice and virtue. Though, if they were asked to define these things, few would be able to do so without posing some contradiction. Thrasymachus puts his understanding of justice in these words; “justice is nothing, but the advantage of the stronger” (Plato’s Republic, Book 1, pdf p.14). A conventional description of justice may be that it is the conforming to some moral and social code when passing judgment; to make the decision that favors what is perceived to be right. Thrasymachus seems to be challenging the very basic idea of justice when he claims that it serves only the stronger. But we shall see that his statement holds deeper insight that is immediately apparent. As the argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus proceeds two things become clear. The statement is aimed at describing justice only in relation to the rulers of a state and their subjects. The word ‘stronger’ is used to describe the rulers of the state as they are the ones in the position of power. Secondly the statement is describing what justice actually is in reality rather than what it ought to be. Thrasymachus is implying that the ideas of justice as they exist in the mind of the common man (from now on referred to as ideal justice) are not what justice is in actuality. Thus the statement is not aimed at giving a universal definition of justice, but rather it is limited to describing the reality of the justice that is handed out by the government to its subjects.

As far as the state is concerned the laws that the ruler decrees are deemed justice in that state. Any action that breaks these laws is unjust. Thrasymachus is trying to say that the laws that each government makes are aimed at serving its own purposes, and as these laws are...
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