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
‘an advantage of the stronger’ employed to suppress ‘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: ‘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...