The Doctrine Of Thrasymachus In Plato's Republic

Great Essays
Plato, The Republic, trans. John Llewelyn Davies and David James Vaughn, revised by Andrea Tschemplik (Lanham, MD.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), in Classics of Political and Moral Philosophy, 2nd ed., ed. Steven M. Cahn (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2012): 31-168.

According to Shmuel Harlap (1979), there is a rich debate regarding how Thrasymachus should be interpreted among academics, beginning with G. B. Kerferd’s “The Doctrine of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic” (1947). His thesis, that Thrasymachus’s position on justice should be interpreted as the advantage of another, was challenged by C. F. Hourani in his “Thrasymachus’ Definition of Justice in Plato’s Republic” (1962), who instead posited that Thrasymachus
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McDonald, “Three Forms of Political Ethics,” The Western Political Quarterly 31, no. 1 (Mar., 1978): 7-18.

G. B. Kerferd, “The Doctrine of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic,” Durham University Journal, no. 9 (1947), cited in Harlap supra note 2; G. B. Kerferd, “Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply,” Phronesis 9, no. 1 (1964): 12-16.

P. P. Nicholson, “Unravelling Thrasymachus’ Arguments in ‘The Republic’,” Phronesis 19, no. 3 (1974): 210-232. Nicholson corroborates Kerferd’s interpretation of Thrasymachus’s view on
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Ibid., 12.

Leslie Stephen, Science of Ethics (1882), 148, quoted in McDonald supra note 3, 12.

McDonald, 12.


Supra note 2.

The Republic, 39.

Ibid., 43.

See R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley, Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary (Toronto: Macmillan, 1966), 26-41, where they describe the paradoxical nature of Thrasymachus’s dual assertions and provide possible interpretations in order to resolve this paradox. See also supra note 2 where I describe the dominant interpretations taken by Platonic scholars.

Note that this essay does not attempt to evaluate which interpretation of Thrasymachus’s principle of justice is correct. It simply attempts to describe each interpretation using McDonald’s typology and present one of them as preferable to the other in terms of their real-life application.

Nicholson, 210. See also Kerferd, “Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply,” 12.

George F. Hourani, “Thrasymachus’ Definition of Justice in Plato’s ‘Republic’,” Phronesis 7, no. 2 (1962): 110.

Supra notes 4 and 5.

Nicholson, 218. See also Kerferd supra note 22.

The Republic, 39.

See Kerferd supra note 22.

Nicholson, 213-214.


Nicholson, 223.

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