In Plato’s The Republic, we, the readers, are presented with two characters that have opposing views on a simple, yet elusive question: what is justice? In this paper, I will explain Thrasymachus’ definition of justice, as well as Socrates’s rebuttals and differences in opinion. In addition, I will comment on the different arguments made by both Socrates and Thrasymachus, and offer critical commentary and examples to illustrate my agreement or disagreement with the particular argument at hand.
The debate between Thrasymachus and Socrates begins when Thrasymachus gives his definition of justice in a very self-interested form. Thrasymachus believes that justice is only present to benefit the ruler, or the one in charge – and for that matter any one in charge can change the meaning of justice to accommodate their needs (343c). Thrasymachus provides a very complex example supporting his claim. He states that the man that is willing to cheat and be unjust to achieve success will be by far the best, and be better than the just man.
Thrasymachus’s definition of justice is incoherent and hard to conceptualize within the context of the debate. What remains unclear is Thrasymachus’s ideal definition of justice. At first, Thrasymachus definition of justice after passage 338c remains disputable. Justice, Thrasymachus states, “… is simply what is good for the stronger” (338c). Therefore, on its own, this statement could infer that, what can benefit the stronger is just and therefore can be beneficial to the weaker as well. Therefore Thrasymachus definition can be taken in different contexts and used to one’s discretion. Additionally, Thrasymachus changes his definition of justice multiple times during the discussion. Thrasymachus states that injustice is stronger than justice, and that it leads to a happier life (351b). He then proceeds to use the example of the tyrant who was made powerful and was happy with injustice. It is evident that Thrasymachus was not convinced by Socrates’ argument, notwithstanding his agreement with Socrates’ points. In a nutshell, Thrasymachus does not tell us what justice really is in an explicit form. He rates justice on whom it harms or whom it empowers (i.e.: the rulers, the poor, the good man…).
When Thrasymachus speaks of justice, he is speaking of justice between the rulers and those who are being ruled. All of the examples Thrasymachus presents to support his claim and definition of justice support the above said notion. For example, when the discussion about the advantage of the stronger, Thrasymachus provides an example of the ruling regimes in the city and those who obey them (338d). Another...