'The Republic' 347e-367e

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Susy
  • Created on: 26-01-14 11:54

Argument Overview

Socrates now turns to the other part of Thrasymachus' argument that the pursuit of self-interest or injustice pays better than justice. He deals with this in three stages:

  • Firstly, Socrates draws on the argument from Techne. In this section there are ambiguities in the Greek which are difficult to render in English and this section of the argument has been called 'embarassingly bad' by Cross and Woozley. However here Socrates suggests that no two craftsmen or professional men are in disagreement about the standards of correctness in their own particular craft or profession, and in this sense are not in competition with each other and since the just man does not compete with one another either then he is analagous to the craftsman and is 'wise and good' - words which in Greek imply that he has both knowledge and the effectiveness to lead the best kind of life.
  • Secondly, Thrasymachus claims that injustice is a source of strength. On the contrary, Socrates says, it is a source of disunity and therefore weakness. There must be co-operation among theives if they are to achieve common action.
  • Thirdly, Socrates shows that the just man is happier than the unjust. Using the idea of 'function' he arguese that a man needs justice to enable him to perform his own particular function and so to achieve happiness. Justice, however, remains undefined.
1 of 9

The Argument from Techne (Stage 1)

  • Socrates and Thrasymachus agree that out of injustice and justice, one is an 'excellence' and the other is a 'fault' and - after some tongue in cheek irony and playfulness - Thrasymachus proposes that it is injustice which is an excellence and justice which is the fault.
  • Socrates muses that Thrasymachus, having ranked injustice with wisdom and excellence, must also attribute to injustice 'the strength of character that we normally attribute to justice'.
  • Socrates argues that just men do not compete against one another whilst the unjust man will comepte against both the just and unjust men. (It is interesting to note that in the 'Gorgias' pleonektein is employed a lot to discuss people getting the better of others and Socrates identifies pleonexia as the archetypal fault of the unjust man in the 'Gorgias'.)
  • At 349d there is a shift in the argument and they begin to discuss just and unjust men in term of mon of knowledge and ignorance.Thrasymachus agrees that the unjust man is like a 'good sensible' man (i.e. combines virtue and knowledge).
  • Thrasymachus is persuaded to throw in the idea that 'the unjust man must be like others of his kind'
  • At this point Socrates introduces the argument from Techne arguing that musicians are intelligent and that they do not try to out-do one another, for example, when tuning a lyre whilst they do try to out-do the non-musical types. The same is true of doctors.
2 of 9

The Argument from Techne (Stage 1 and part 2)

  • It is possible that Socratees is being a little unrealistic about non-competition within professions e.g. there are international classical music competitions the world over and you cannot really progress without winning one. Moreover, doctors are in continual competition.
  • Next Socrates clarifies that the professional man with knowledge is wise, and thrasymachus agrees, and that intelligence and wisdom are good.
  • Thrasymachus has greed that only the unjust men compete agianst everyone, just and unjust, whereas the just man only competes with the unjust.
  • Now he has been forced to agree that the ignorant and bad man does the same and so the ignorant and bad man must correspond with the unjust man and as the unjust man 'is of the same kind as the one he is like' thus all unjust men are 'ignorant and bad' whilst the just man 'resembles the good man who has knowledge' and so is 'wise and good'.
  • The section concludes with a little more goading and 'Thrasymachus blushing' which is a subtle signpost Plato has planned to show Socrates' victory.
3 of 9

Disproves that injustice is a source of strength (

  • In this section of the argument Socrates addresses Thrasymachus' claim that 'injustice was strength' and is associated with the 'strength of character we normally attribute to justice'.
  • The crux of Socrates' response is that bad men cannot work together or be friends as they will have no strength as they will always wrong one anoter, engendering 'hatred and dissension'. This relfects the idea behind the unelightened egoist and game theory thought experiments. Ultimately they will be incapable of any 'common action'. However, according to Socrates if they 'treat each other justly, there will be unity of purpose and friendly feeling among them'
  • A further disadvantage of injustice, according to Socrates, is that 'the gods, of course are just' and so 'the unjust man is an enemy of the gods, and the just man their friend.' This is a pretty unexamined piece of reasoning, somewhat begging the question how we know what the gods are like.
  • However, Socrates asserts that he has 'shown that just men are more intelligent and more truly effective in action.'
4 of 9

The Argument from Function (Stage 3)

  • Socrates asserts that everything, horses, eyes ears, chisels, pruning forks etc, all perform a function which can be defined as 'that which only it can do or that which it does best.' Each thing achieves its 'particular excellence' or arete when it fulfils its function.
  • Socrates now makes a large jump from his earlier examples to that of the 'function of the mind' which he defines as controlling, paying attention and deilberating. He argues that 'a good mind will perform the functions of control and attention well' demonstrating its particular excellence whilst a bad mind will do this 'badly' demonstrating its defect.
  • Socrates then continues that justice is 'the peculiar excellence of the mind and injustice its defect.' Lee suggestst that this is in 350c when socrates argues that the just man is wise and good and the unjust man ignorant and bad however it seems that this, which itself was the culmination of a not wholly convincing argument, is not entirely the same as being the 'peculiar excellence of the mind'
  • From this point Socrates feels that it is sufficient to conclude that 'the just mind and the just man will have a good life, and the unjust a bad life' because the good man will fulfil his function and be happy and Socrates will of course argue that it does not pay to be miserable and so therefore injustice does not pay better than justice.
5 of 9

Adeimantus and Glaucon Restate the Case for Injust

There has been a touch of broad caricature about the picture of Thrasymachus, and Plato evidently thinks that the view which he represents needs a clearer statement and fairer treatment. Accordingly Glaucon says that he is not content with the way Socrates has dealt with Thrasymachus and proceeds to restate the argument in a different way.

Glaucon argues that justice, or morality, is a matter of convenience and that it is natural for ment to pursue their interests regardless of others but it would be impossible to run an orderly society on that basis, and the sytem of morality is arrived at as a compromise. But it is only a compromise and has no other authority, as can be seen easily enough by considering how a man would behave if his sanctions were removed. And as a contrast between te perfectly 'just' and perfectly 'unjust' man shows conclusively that injustice is the more paying proposition.

Adeimantus, supplementing what Glaucon has said, stresses the unworth motives commonly given for right conduct. Men only do right for what they can get out of it, in this life and the next. They much prefer to do wrong, because in gnereal it pays better; and they are encouraged to do wrong by contemporary religious belief which tells them that they can void punnishment in this world if they sacrifice to the gods lavishly enough (i.e. you can by absolution of injustice).

6 of 9

Glaucon's Argument

Glaucon is reduced to an aporetic state by Thrasymachus and Socrates' discussion ('I don't believe all this myself Socrates but Thrasymachus and hundreds of others have dinned it inor my ears til I don't know what to think')

Glaucon then outlines the three types of good and asks Socrates which category justice is in:

  •  Good wanted for iteslf and not for the consquences of it e.g. pleasure
  • Good which is desired for itself and its consequences e.g. wisdom, sight, health etc.
  • Painful and beneficial things like medical treatment, exercise etc.

Inevitably Socrates chooses the second option but Glaucon arguest that it is the third category in which most people tradditionally place justice.

Glaucon pleas: 'I want to bet old what exactly each of them is and what effects it has as such on the mind of its possessor, leaving aside any question of rewards and consequences.'

He justifies this with a three-part argument

7 of 9

Glaucon's Argument

Nature and Origin of Justice - Glaucon argues that it is a compromise between the most desirable (doing wrong and avoiding punishment) and the most undesirable (suffering without capability of rederss) and 'justice lies between these two'. 'For anyone who had the power to do wrong and was a real man would never make any such agreement' if he thought he could get away with the first without any reprisals.

Why justice is practised - According to Glaucon, justice is practised because we are unable to get away with doing wrong. The Gyges story taken from Herodotus is told as an analogy. Curiously, Glaucon regards this legend as 'strong evidence' that no man is just of his own free will, but only under compulsion.

The Reasonableness - Glaucon dichotomises two men: one is perfectly unjust and yet everyone thinks him unjust and only manages 'to seem just when he is not' whilst the other wants 'to be good and not to seem good'. The prefectly just man endures horrible torment (e.g. scourged, blinded, crucified) whilst the unjust man outdoes everyone and becomes rich. Because he sacrifices to the gods men feel that the gods must care for hims more than for the just man. 'to conclude Socrates, a better life is provided for the unjust man than for the just by both gods and men'

8 of 9

Adeimantus' Argument

  • People hymn the worth of self-control or justice
  • But it's hard to succeed in being just and virtue costs much sweat whereas self-indulgence and injustice are easy.
  • People only praise justice by convention - the poor and powerless are actually 'despised'
  • 'the gods often allot ill fortune to the just' and so we might as well do our evil and then perform the right sacrifices to avoid the god's wrath.
  • Thus it seems more likely that we could reach 'the higher stronghold' by deceit rather than justice.
9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Plato resources »