The position Thrasymachus takes on the definition of justice, as well as its importance in society, is one far differing from the opinions of the other interlocutors in the first book of Plato’s Republic. Embracing his role as a Sophist in Athenian society, Thrasymachus sets out to aggressively dispute Socrates’ opinion that justice is a beneficial and valuable aspect of life and the ideal society. Throughout the course of the dialogue, Thrasymachus formulates three major assertions regarding justice. These claims include his opinion that “justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger,” “it is just to obey the rulers,” and “justice is really the good of another […] and harmful to the one who obeys and serves.” Socrates
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In contrast, the just man is content upholding laws and acting for the greater good and is therefore capable of experiencing a greater happiness than one who partakes in injustices. The dictionary goes on to state that happiness can also be defined as “feeling satisfied that something is right or has been done right.”8 Thus, an unjust man could never truly be happy, as they are aware of the injustices they have committed unto others in order to benefit themselves. In addition, if one is to look to the cardinal virtues, not only is justice itself included, temperance is as well. Temperance, meaning “restraint in the face of temptation or desire”9 is not a characteristic of an unjust man. In fact, Thrasymachus argues that one should always seek to fulfill their own desires exercising injustice as a way to do so. Virtue is said to be a measure of one’s worth, therefore, in turning their back on it, an unjust man could never be as self fulfilled and happy as a virtuous one.
The first book of Republic illustrates a diverse range of views in reference to the definition of justice. None, however, evokes such controversy and analysis as Thrasymachus’ dialogue. His point of view calls to the forefront a number of important questions regarding the issue, and is an essential piece to Plato’s puzzle of defining justice. Thrasymachus’s arguments in and of themselves, however, are