Thrasymachus Justice Is The Advantage Of The Stronger

According to Thrasymachus ‘Justice is the advantage of the stronger’. What does he mean by this and does Socrates succeed in proving him wrong?

The name Thrasymachus means fierce fighter, and this certainly represents the character of the same name, who appears in book one of Plato’s Republic. Thrasymachus enters Plato’s world with a statement designed to shock, stating that “justice is the advantage of the stronger”. The idea is that rulers make the laws in their own best interests, and adherence to those laws is what constitutes justice for the individual. Socrates leaps at this opportunity to further his discussion on the subject of justice in book one: what it is, and whether or not it pays to be just. In this essay I will clarify Thrasymachus’
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If Socrates is to successfully refute Thrasymachus and prove that it does in fact pay to be just, then he needs to find out precisely what it means to be just before moving on to whether or not it is beneficial to act in accordance with justice. However the only way in which good progress can be made is Socrates can get his opponent to sincerely believe in their discussion, and he fails to do this. After the “wage-earner” argument, the reader is reminded that the essence of Thrasymachus’ argument is that the unjust life is better and more profitable than the just. Socrates announces he will use a question-and-answer technique to tackle this position on justice, Thrasymachus is given no choice but to comply. When Socrates asks his opponent to answer truthfully, Thrasymachus responds by asking whether or not it even matters if he says what he really believes. Anyone familiar with the Socratic elenchus would anticipate a response from Socrates explaining why it is critical for Thrasymachus to be properly involved in the conversation, and not merely a puppet who agrees with every point. John Beversluis refers to this as the “existential dimension” in which Socrates “examines his interlocutors’ lives as well as their theses”. Yet Socrates does no such thing, instead deciding to proceed with the discussion whether Thrasymachus believes him or not. There are two ways to look at this, firstly, we can again give Socrates the benefit of the doubt. Thrasymachus has shown himself to be a Jeremy Clarkson-esque, stubborn, bullish man who is willing to lash out when he is in an uncomfortable spot. We can empathise with our protagonist, and would likely respond in the same manner if put in the same situation. However, Socrates is not an ordinary man. By giving up on trying to convince his

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