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Socrates and Thrasymachus on Justice

Elias Neibart majored in Political Theory and he wrote many papers about the nature of justice, including a paper on Thrasymachus and Socrates. An excerpt can be found below:

Socrates and Thrasymachus begin their discussion by first addressing how justice or “the just” should be defined. Thrasymachus believes that “the just is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger” (338c). Socrates, however, is dissatisfied with Thrasymachus’ definition and asks him to clarify what exactly he means. To elucidate his definition of Justice, Thrasymachus first argues that rulers in a political society are the “master,” such that in a democracy, the people are the master, or in a tyranny, the tyrant is the master (338d). He then claims that the laws these rulers make are always for their own advantage. And, these laws are “just for the ruled” and any subject who breaks these laws is a “doer of unjust deeds” (339a). Therefore, justice is the advantage of the stronger; what is just is what is promulgated by the master class into law and what is promulgated by the ruling class is to advantage of the ruling class. Underlying this definition is a connection between justice and obedience to law. If a subject breaks the law, they are being unjust, so it would logically follow that being just necessities not breaking or being obedient to the law.

Elias Neibart is a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, Georiga.

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