Skip to comments.Thrasymachus to Socrates: From Plato's Republic
Posted on 01/30/2008 2:01:16 PM PST by johniegrad
Thrasymachus (to Socrates): You think that shepherds and cowherds seek the good of their sheep and cattle, and fatten them and take care of them, looking to something other than their master's good and their own.
Moreover, you believe that rulers in cities - true rulers, that is - think about their subjects differently than one does about sheep, and that night and day they think of something besides their own advantage.
You are so far from understanding about justice and what's just, about injustice and what's unjust, that you don't realize that justice is really the good of another, the advantage of the stronger and the ruler, and harmful to the one who obeys and serves.
Injustice is the opposite, it rules the truly simple and just, and those it rules do what is to the advantage of the other and stronger, and they make the one they serve happy, but themselves not at all.
You most look at it as follows, my most simple Socrates: A just man always gets less than an unjust one. First, in their contracts with one another, you'll never find, when the partnership ends, that a just partner has got more than an unjust one, but less. Second, in matters relating to the city, when taxes are to be paid, a just man pays more on the same property, an unjust one less, but when the city is giving out refunds, a just man gets nothing, while an unjust one makes a large profit. Finally, when each of them holds a ruling position in some public office, a just person, even if he isn't penalized in other ways, finds that his private affairs deteriorate because he has to neglect them, that he gains no advantage from the public purse because of his justice, and that he's hated by his relatives and acquaintances when he's unwilling to do them an unjust favor. The opposite is true of an unjust man in every respect.
Therefore, I repeat what I said before: A person of great power outdoes everyone else. Consider him if you want to figure out how much more advantageous it is for the individual to be just rather than unjust. You'll understand this most easily if you turn your thoughts to the most complete injustice, the one that makes the doer of injustice happiest and the sufferers of it, who are unwilling to do injustice, most wretched. This is tyranny, which through stealth or force appropriates the property of others, whether sacred or profane, public or private, not little by little, but all at once.
If someone commits only one part of injustice and is caught, he's punished and greatly reproached - such partly unjust people are called temple-robbers, kidnappers, housebreakers, robbers, and thieves when they commit these crimes.
But when someone, in addition to appropriating their possessions, kidnaps and enslaves the citizens as well, instead of these shameful names he is called happy and blessed, not only by the citizens themselves, but by all who learn that he has done the whole of injustice. Those who reproach injustice do so because they are afraid not of doing it but of suffering it.
So, Socrates, injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice. And, as I said from the first, justice is what is advantageous to the stronger while injustice is to one's own profit and advantage.
Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.
Thanks. Sometimes these sort of things are not widely read on FR.
It is, as Socrates argues, still always better to be just. And later in this same dialogue we learn from the legend of Er, the slain warrior who comes back to life, that the tyrants and evildoers go to hell.
not one of my faves - Cave Parable is about the best writing in the past 2068 years
Which is why one should always check the premises - either stated, or unstated.
So are our present candidates just or unjust?
What about it?
Well, Thrasymachus was a Sophist.
Consider it a Rorschach test.
Probably both, with a preponderance of unjustness.
I assume that Plato has Socrates give an answer, one that Plato considered to be correct?
Thanks for posting.
Kind of puts that old adage that “cheaters never prosper” on it’s head, eh? LOL.
So? Where is the great Greek nation today, with such advice?
It’s not a Rorschach test. What are your views on reversing the common understanding of commonly used terms?
An answer from Socrates? LOL
Tain't we ALL Magee?
Oh brother (rolls eyes). Humble you ain't kid
LOL. I didn't say that I was the one to score it. Just posted it for sh*ts and giggles.
Yeah, well, we all know what Paraxamander of Melos had to say about Plato....
From which St John’s are you a grad?
It reads much like a certain Italian fellow wrote in The Prince.
And it merely deals with the tangible, not peace of mind or righteousness.
Here’s some worthwhile reading on the general subject.
Book of Psalms
Book of Proverbs
Book of Ecclesiastes
Nietzsche is anticipated by a couple of millennia. The catch is that strength, freedom, and masterliness...uh, masterhood? Domination? Puissance? Whatever...the catch is that these abstractions are not virtues in and of themselves, however noble they sound. Actually that was Nietzsche's problem as well. IMHO.
What is submerged in this glossover is that "justice" as Socrates seems to regard it is in fact restraint, the restraint of an individual with respect to his or her society. Taking less where one could have had more is an act of self-discipline, not weakness. It is a willing contribution to the public good.
Plato (and Kant somewhat later) had a good deal to say concerning whether such an act was virtue a priori or done so in the expectation that others would make a similar sacrifice. But clearly there is a difference of opinion here as to the degree to which society may make demands on one that are morally superior to one's commitment to self.
In fact, it is an open question as to whether the collective even has any demands separate from the demands of self of its constituent individuals. Too much emphasis on the former brings us the primacy of State; too little and we have moral anarchy, where government does not appeal to virtue or even a social contract but is pure coercion.
One sees several political models in this moral dilemma - a good dollop of Marxian cynicism coupled with the naive Marxian aspiration that things ought to be otherwise for some reason. (Touching faith for an athiest, and I am hardly the first to point it out.)
One reason the Constitution of the United States has enjoyed the success that it has is that it attempts to delineate the degree to which individual and State may make demands one upon the other. It should be no surprise that this is an item of such contention between factions who have drastically different notions of those boundaries.
And those notions hinge on one's interpretation of the term "justice," nowhere precisely defined, not even by Socrates. One's interpretation of that key concept does a great deal to describe one's politics, morality, and general personal philosophy. Nice article, and thanks for posting.
Thanks for the bit easier to understand discussion. Of course my philosophies are more geared so my young kids (and myself!) can understand it. Here’s the top two:
Rule 1: Life isn’t fair, and the sooner you learn it the easier it will be.
Rule 2: Nothing is easy.
Excellent point. One can argue that the unjust man, whom in the act of performing an injustice actually contributes to a larger justice, and is therefore just! WHEW!
Example: A greedy man accepts payment to assassinates an evil politician who intends to inject tyranny into an established free society. The end result of the unjust act is the preservation of said free society.
That potentially takes the concept of justice out of the realm of individual behavior, regardless of the definition of a personal moral code, and into the realm of action carried out for the common good! Is that just or unjust?
“carried out for the common good....”
Pardon me......should’ve said “results in preserving the common good.”
Well said, rob777.
That is simply remarkable.
Thanks for posting it.
Article site links back to FRee Republic.
Here is a link below to the Amazon source for that book.
Moderator might be able to fix it.
Indeed. Thank you so much for the heads up!