The Ethical Egoist: What's The Problem

1033 words - 5 pages

In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates tries to explain the value of justice to man. Other educated Athenians challenge him, however Socrates pokes holes in all of their statements. Socrates argues that there are many problems with their views on social philosophy, especially when it comes to Thrasymachus’ idea of ethical egoism. Plato delivers his view of justice through Socrates when he responds to Thrasymachus, Glaucon, and Cephalus on the issue. Throughout the discussion, Plato never argues against the egoism within humans, however he objects to the idea that the unjust man is better off then the just man; he believes that in order to reach eudaimonia justice is the self-interest that all men ...view middle of the document...

Plato tries to emphasize that an ethical egoist who thinks like Thrasymachus will cause a lot of problems within society. If everyone acted in their own self-interest, it would be impossible for all interests to be satisfied and this leads to conflict. Instead, Plato offers a revised definition of self-interest.
Plato’s idea of eudaimonia is crucial to understanding what he argues through Socrates in The Republic. According to Plato eudaimonia is the greatest form of good, so all men should try to reach this state. This is where Socrates and Thrasymachus disagree; Thrasymachus believes that justice, or the virtue of it, actually hinders anyone from reaching eudaimonia. Whereas Socrates, or Plato, argues that being just and good is essential to eudaimonia. This counters with the ethical egoist who believes that being just is not in the business of self-interest and therefore not good for eudaimonia. Socrates states, "Justice, although it resembles a mirage, is really concerned with internal rather than external activity - with the true self and its business” (Plato, 443C). This is important in understanding Socrates point on justice and how it makes a man good and virtuous. Everything is internal, or self-related, however, that is what makes a man good. So in reality, being good and just is a selfish thing, but it also is a selfless thing. Thrasymachus is an Athenian who believes that reaching eudaimonia involves things like honor and riches, but Socrates tries to say that none of that matters as long as they are just because that is when the soul is truly good.
One thing that Socrates never does, which is important to the whole discussion, is he never disagrees that man is egotistical. But where Thrasymachus makes this the center of his argument and states, “that justice is nothing else but the advantage of the stronger,” Socrates believes that a life of justice is in our own self-interest (Plato, 338C). Both men are arguing that self-interest comes into play, but they display...

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