Plato’s Republic: Justice and Injustice in Thrasymachus' Account

6573 Words27 Pages
Plato’s Republic: Justice and Injustice in Thrasymachus' Account

ABSTRACT: This paper has a two-fold task. First, I show that there are three types of individuals associated with the Thrasymachean view of society: (a) the many, i.e., the ruled or those exploited individuals who are just and obey the laws of the society; (b) the tyrant or ruler who sets down laws in the society in order to exploit the many for personal advantage; (c) the "stronger" individual (kreittoon) or member of the society who is detached from the many and aspires to become the tyrant. Second, I argue that if Thrasymachus’s account of the perfectly unjust life of the tyrant is to be more than a theoretical ideal, then the stronger individual who aspires to the tyrant’s position would do well to lead a double life—namely, pursuing private injustice while maintaining the public ‘appearance’ of justice. My interpretation accords with that of Glaucon, noted at the beginning of Republic II. I want to extend Glaucon’s interpretation to include the stronger individual as well. I argue that the standpoint of the stronger individual, as distinct from the standpoints of the tyrant and the many, shows Thrasymachus’s three statements regarding justice to be consistent with one another.


In the beginning of Republic II, during a conversation with Socrates and Adeimantus about which individual is deemed happier, the one who is just or the one who is unjust, Glaucon states:

For the extreme of injustice is to seem to be just when one is not. So the perfectly unjust man must be given the most perfect injustice, and nothing must be taken away; he must be allowed to do the greatest injustices while having provided himself with the greatest reputation for justice...

... middle of paper ...

...ggestion commits him to the immoralist position and (quite unfortunately) to an inconsistent position overall. Cf.. "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply," p. 14; An Introduction to Plato's Republic, p. 42. In their commentary Cross and Woozley maintain that Thrasymachus’ position would have remained consistent had he accepted Cleitophon’s suggestion. As they see it, there would then be "no conflict between its being just to serve what the stronger (ruler) believes to be his interest and its being just to obey the ruler, for while a ruler may make a mistake as to what actually is his interest he will hardly make a mistake as to what he believes to be his interest; and if it is right for subjects to do what the ruler believes to be in his interest, it will not matter what the ruler is mistaken in believing so." Cf.. Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary, p. 46.

More about Plato’s Republic: Justice and Injustice in Thrasymachus' Account

Open Document