Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Thrasymachus to Socrates: From Plato's Republic
Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper ^ | 4th century BC | Plato

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.


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: elitism; plato; plutacracy

1 posted on 01/30/2008 2:01:18 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Jim Robinson

Ping


2 posted on 01/30/2008 2:03:57 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

Very interesting. Thanks for posting this.


3 posted on 01/30/2008 2:12:21 PM PST by wideminded
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: wideminded

Thanks. Sometimes these sort of things are not widely read on FR.


4 posted on 01/30/2008 2:13:18 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

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.


5 posted on 01/30/2008 2:14:11 PM PST by Unknowing (Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

not one of my faves - Cave Parable is about the best writing in the past 2068 years


6 posted on 01/30/2008 2:14:16 PM PST by spanalot (*)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad
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.

Which is why one should always check the premises - either stated, or unstated.

7 posted on 01/30/2008 2:15:37 PM PST by Socratic (“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” - Corrie Ten Boom)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Unknowing

So are our present candidates just or unjust?


8 posted on 01/30/2008 2:15:56 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

What about it?


9 posted on 01/30/2008 2:17:25 PM PST by RightWhale (oil--the world currency)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Socratic
Which is why one should always check the premises - either stated, or unstated.

Well, Thrasymachus was a Sophist.

10 posted on 01/30/2008 2:17:54 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: RightWhale

Consider it a Rorschach test.


11 posted on 01/30/2008 2:19:02 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

Probably both, with a preponderance of unjustness.


12 posted on 01/30/2008 2:20:57 PM PST by Unknowing (Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

I assume that Plato has Socrates give an answer, one that Plato considered to be correct?


13 posted on 01/30/2008 2:22:18 PM PST by Lucius Cornelius Sulla (Mike Huckabee: If Gomer Pyle and Hugo Chavez had a love child this is who it would be.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

Thanks for posting.

Kind of puts that old adage that “cheaters never prosper” on it’s head, eh? LOL.


14 posted on 01/30/2008 2:23:00 PM PST by khnyny (2008: A Space Odyssey/ Clintons=HAL)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

So? Where is the great Greek nation today, with such advice?


15 posted on 01/30/2008 2:23:08 PM PST by bvw
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

It’s not a Rorschach test. What are your views on reversing the common understanding of commonly used terms?


16 posted on 01/30/2008 2:23:56 PM PST by RightWhale (oil--the world currency)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla

An answer from Socrates? LOL


17 posted on 01/30/2008 2:25:21 PM PST by RightWhale (oil--the world currency)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad
Well, Thrasymachus was a Sophist.

Tain't we ALL Magee?

18 posted on 01/30/2008 2:31:03 PM PST by Socratic (“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” - Corrie Ten Boom)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad
Consider it a Rorschach test.

Oh brother (rolls eyes). Humble you ain't kid.
19 posted on 01/30/2008 2:36:10 PM PST by khnyny (2008: A Space Odyssey/ Clintons=HAL)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: khnyny
Consider it a Rorschach test.

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.

20 posted on 01/30/2008 2:55:29 PM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

Yeah, well, we all know what Paraxamander of Melos had to say about Plato....


21 posted on 01/30/2008 3:40:26 PM PST by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus (Former FredHead, now a Mittbot.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

From which St John’s are you a grad?


22 posted on 01/30/2008 3:44:51 PM PST by ThirdMate
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

btt


23 posted on 01/30/2008 6:48:58 PM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad; wagglebee

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 Job
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=22&version=9

Book of Psalms
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=23&version=9

Book of Proverbs
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=24&version=9

Book of Ecclesiastes
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=25&version=9


24 posted on 01/30/2008 6:54:05 PM PST by The Spirit Of Allegiance (Public Employees: Honor Your Oaths! Defend the Constitution from Enemies--Foreign and Domestic!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla
"I assume that Plato has Socrates give an answer, one that Plato considered to be correct?"


At the core of this argument was a difference of opinion as to whether humans had a particular universal nature, or whether human values were wholly subjective and determined by that culture's "convention". Socrates opted for the former and made the argument that justice is "rendering what is due". Since we have a universal human nature that transcends the conventions of particular cultures, there is a standard of justice based on that nature. This argument is at the heart of Socratic/Platonic thought, all else is an elaboration of this point. Socrates whole career as a philosopher was dedicated to refuting the moral relativism of the Sophists.
25 posted on 01/30/2008 7:35:11 PM PST by rob777 (Personal Responsibility is the Price of Freedom)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad
injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.

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.

26 posted on 01/30/2008 8:19:47 PM PST by Billthedrill
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: militant2

ping.


27 posted on 01/31/2008 2:26:12 AM PST by johniegrad
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: The Spirit Of Allegiance
Thanks for the poignant Scripture references.
28 posted on 01/31/2008 2:34:11 AM PST by endthematrix (He was shouting 'Allah!' but I didn't hear that. It just sounded like a lot of crap to me.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill

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.


29 posted on 01/31/2008 2:36:08 AM PST by geopyg (Don't wish for peace, pray for Victory.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: Billthedrill
“And those notions hinge on one’s interpretation of the term “justice,” nowhere precisely defined....”

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?

Militant

30 posted on 01/31/2008 10:37:30 AM PST by militant2 ("From time to time, the tree of Liberty must be nourished with the blood of tyrants!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: militant2

“carried out for the common good....”

Pardon me......should’ve said “results in preserving the common good.”

Militant


31 posted on 01/31/2008 10:52:33 AM PST by militant2 ("From time to time, the tree of Liberty must be nourished with the blood of tyrants!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: rob777; Alamo-Girl
Since we have a universal human nature that transcends the conventions of particular cultures, there is a standard of justice based on that nature. This argument is at the heart of Socratic/Platonic thought, all else is an elaboration of this point. Socrates whole career as a philosopher was dedicated to refuting the moral relativism of the Sophists.

Well said, rob777.

32 posted on 01/31/2008 5:00:39 PM PST by betty boop (This country was founded on religious principles. Without God, there is no America. -- Ben Stein)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad

That is simply remarkable.

Thanks for posting it.


33 posted on 01/31/2008 5:05:36 PM PST by Radix (If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: johniegrad; Admin Moderator

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.

http://www.amazon.com/Plato-Complete-Works/dp/0872203492


34 posted on 01/31/2008 5:12:38 PM PST by Radix (If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: betty boop
"Well said, rob777"


Thanks, I aim to please. :-)
35 posted on 01/31/2008 8:16:16 PM PST by rob777 (Personal Responsibility is the Price of Freedom)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: betty boop

Indeed. Thank you so much for the heads up!


36 posted on 02/01/2008 7:30:01 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson