In the opening books of Plato’s The Republic, Thrasymachus and Glaucon argue that justice, as it is traditionally conceived, is merely the advantage of the stronger over the weaker, that rulers simply rule for their own benefit and that people only act justly for its consequences. Despite Socrates’ opposing view on the meaning of justice, the events depicted in Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace support the views of Thrasymachus and Glaucon.
In Book I, Thrasymachus begins his argument by defining traditional justice. “…As I have said from the beginning, the just is the advantage of the stronger, and the unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself” (Plato, 344c). Here, Thrasymachus introduces his first point, that the unjust
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Rather, Thrasymachus would support the actions of Calderon, a drug lord in Mott Haven. Although Calderon is spoken of as “evil personified”, drug dealers working below him greatly admire his extensive business skills (Kozol, 120). Calderon ran a highly efficient, profitable drug ring in Mott Haven. Despite the obvious injustices associated with dealing drugs, Calderon’s drug ring was the only functioning system of the city. While Mrs. Washington was barely getting by, moving in and out of homeless shelters, Calderon was making an estimated $2 million each year. The contrasting lifestyles of these two people support Thrasymachus’ argument that acting unjustly brings more benefit to oneself than acting justly.
In Book II, Glaucon picks up Thrasymachus’ argument by explaining the origin of justice, why people act justly, and why the life of the unjust man is much better than the life of the just man. Glaucon argues that committing injustice is the best-case scenario and suffering injustice is the worst-case scenario, but the harm in suffering injustice far outweighs the good in doing it (Plato, 358e). Consequently, humanity came to a great compromise, agreeing to refrain from committing injustice in order to avoid suffering it. Humans would agree to this compromise out of fear of suffering injustice. However, Glaucon points out that a strong, smart person would not agree to this. Rather, if the negative consequences of injustice and the positive