Thrasymachus in the book The Republic

The Republic is Platos philosophical masterpiece it is a form of a debate sets in a conversational tone.  One central argument of The Republic is the definition of justice. In book 1, Socrates engages in a discussion with his friends as they try to give a definition for justice. When they cannot seem to arrive in a conclusion, Thraymachus aggressively offers a definition of justice that differs from that of the other interlocutors.

Thrasymachus begins his argument by saying that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. He refers to the government or rulers as the stronger and the subjects or the followers as the weak. He points out that government sets the rules for the people to follow. Whether the rules are fair or not, the people are supposed to obey. This is where the definition of Trasymachus applies the stronger benefits because the weak obey the rules. It is just for the subjects to obey besides, disobedience only results to punishment. The ruler sets the rules for their own purposes and interest and not for the benefit of the subjects. And the different forms of government make laws with a view to their several interests (Ib 53). It does not matter whether the rules oppress the weak or not as long as they benefit the strong. On their part, the subjects uphold the law by following the rules. Though their obedience is considered just, it gains them practically nothing but benefits only the rulers,

Thrasymachus also explains that people tend to do good not because they hate doing injustice on the contrary, people are being just because mainly of two reasons they are afraid to be punished, or they fear that unjust act may backfire to them. For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because they shrink from committing it.

Socrates reverses Thrasymachus claim by revealing that rulers do sometimes make
erroneous rules or laws that can cause damage to them. Since it is just that the subjects obey these rules, justice is not always for the advantage of the stronger. ...the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest, but what is for the injury of the stronger (Ib 55). But Thrasychamus counters this by making an exception to his earlier argument. Do you suppose that I call him who is mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken(Ib 57). He asserts that it is not appropriate to label anyone a ruler when he commits a mistake.

Thrasymachus refuses to concede and continues his diatribe. This time, however, instead of focusing to his definition of justice, he resorts to using injustice. He favors injustice to prevail over justice, for injustice man gains more than just man....for the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just...the just is always a loser in comparison with the unjust (Ib 63). This goes on to imply that injustice gives happiness and fulfilment to the possessor, while justice gives nothing to the doer but benefits the stronger. Thrasymachus strengthens his claim by citing that in practically all aspects of the society, the unjust man gains much more than the just man.


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