- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic

Essay by   •  November 2, 2010  •  Essay  •  2,212 Words (9 Pages)  •  2,367 Views

Essay Preview: Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic

Report this essay
Page 1 of 9

In the first book of the Republic Socrates and Thrasymachus argue about the nature of justice. Thrasymachus claims that justice is the advantage of the stronger. He also claims that Socrates' arguments against that position stem from a naive set of beliefs about the real intentions of rulers, and an uncritical approach to the way words acquire their meaning.

Present the arguments on both sides. Who do you think is right? Justify your position.

In the first book of the Republic Plato orchestrates a dialogue between his teacher Socrates and one of his peers Thrasymachus in order to demonstrate the desirable nature of justice. In this essay I shall present Thrasymachus argument that justice is a tool of oppression wielded by the strong over the weak, whereas injustice provides a happy and fulfilled existence, and Socrates notion that justice is a desirable commodity and characteristic that benefits all individuals and is the only way to achieve any common goal. I believe that both philosophers have elements of truth in their arguments, however in the essay I intend to show that it is not possible to agree entirely with either party because of the underlying premise of their argument. I shall demonstrate that neither party has a correct view because they base their arguments on examples whose essence is incompatible with the concept of justice, and refute their claims due to the obvious fallacy of arguing two extremes when considering human nature.

In the first book of the Republic, Thrasymachus states that justice is not desirable. He describes human behaviour as fundamentally self-interested, and states that justice is

Ð''an advantage of the stronger' employed to suppress Ð''the weaker' . He submits the view that injustice is therefore preferable in relation to politics and to common living. Thrasymachus postulates that it is right and just to obey the rules of the state created by the ruling power, but that the ruling power will be making rules that benefit themselves. He supports his claim that the ruling power capitalise upon the weaker party by drawing a parallel between the profession of government and the profession of sheep herding: Ð''The shepherd and the herdsman study the good of their flock and herds (for) the good of their masters and themselves' . He considers that rulers rule with the objective of procuring some profit from them. On a basic level pursuit of self interest is natural, right and serves the individual best. For example, during the crusades King Richard raised the taxes of the people in order to pursue the Holy Grail as it served him best and not because it served the people best. Thrasymachus has inferred that rulers are unjust by default, but strengthens his view by emphasising that these men are submitting to their nature. However, there is also the proposition only unjust men will become rulers because they will compete for the honours and financial gain, whereas the just man is too humble for this kind of contest. The rulers compete for leadership in an unjust way to prevent themselves being ruled by another unjust man. Thrasymachus claims that this realisation about the nature of justice is a strength and that the unjust man will fight for the commodities in life that ultimately engender happiness. Therefore, since he believes that the just man is ignorant and unwise because he is being manipulated, while the unjust man leads a more fulfilling life of power, freedom and enjoying everything he desires; justice is undesirable while injustice is a virtue.

In his dialogues with Thrasymachus about the nature of justice Socrates does not forward a complete theory of what justice is and why it is a desirable feature in society. Instead Socrates disputes the theory posited by Thrasymachus, and draws his beliefs by reversing Thrasymachus' argument. Socrates strives to prove that justice is not the implement of the stronger or ruling power, that injustice is a weakness and that those who utilise injustice have less fulfilling lives than the just men.

Socrates attempts to justify that justice is not an implement of the strong that is exercised over weaker parties in order to exact behaviour that will benefit the stronger party. He founds this belief in the following argument. Justice cannot serve itself; it must have a subject to which to be directed. Socrates uses the analogy that a Ð''true' doctor is not a businessman or wage-earner but a professional that serves the pursuit of health. Socrates also attacks Thrasymachus example of a sheep herder stating that the business of a shepherd's skill is devoted to the welfare of the flock of which he is in charge, and his procurement of a wage is additional to his vocation. This is because Ð''we differentiate between one art or profession and another by their different function' and not because of the financial gain. Therefore, a person practising the art of governing works in the interest of the obedient general public, and justice is what is best for them not the ruler. It may be questioned why a just man would consent to take up office since it means that he must always rule for the benefit of others and not himself, but Socrates supplies that just men agree to rule because they are aware that if they refuse then the position may be bestowed upon a man less just than himself.

Socrates then endeavours to establish that justice is a virtue and strength, while injustice is a deficiency and weakness. He posits that in the same way that doctors do not attempt to surpass the skills of other doctors a just man will not attempt to excel other just men, and will only challenge unjust men. Alternatively, unjust men will challenge just men but also challenge other unjust men, equally a man that lacks knowledge will dispute both parties with and without knowledge. Therefore, if the ethics of the unjust man are parallel with an ignorant man, it must follow that unjust men are also ignorant men. If it is possible to associate unfavourable characteristics such as ignorance with injustice, then injustice cannot be a virtue. Socrates asserts that we cannot make an association between injustice and strength because unjust men cannot achieve any common action, since their disputations and disunity between themselves as individuals and as a group, compounded with their conflict with just men, would make any action impossible. Using this evidence it appears that unjust men could not rule tyrannically, as oppressing their subjects and maintaining this oppression could not be achieved, which proves injustice to be a weakness.

Finally Socrates attacks Thrasymachus claim that unjust men live more fulfilling and happier lives in comparison with just men. He suggests that everything



Download as:   txt (13.1 Kb)   pdf (143 Kb)   docx (13.4 Kb)  
Continue for 8 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 11). Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic. Retrieved 11, 2010, from

"Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic" 11 2010. 2010. 11 2010 <>.

"Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic.", 11 2010. Web. 11 2010. <>.

"Present and Discuss the Views Submitted by Socrates and Thrasymachius in the First Book of Plato's Republic." 11, 2010. Accessed 11, 2010.