Trasymachus’ Account by ellonnic


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                               Trasymachus’ Account

        In an attempt to reclaim some of the dignity that Socrates had stripped from him

by refuting Trasymachus’ arguments and portraying him as inferior, he began a new

tactic to explain what justice is. This refute has been debated upon by critics as being

either consistent or inconsistent. Although his devised definition is a bit confusing,

irrelevant, and useless, it all fits together in single a cognitive, idea.

        It appears at first, that his account makes little or no sense at all. He explained

several definition phrases, which through being highly ambiguous, were probably

intentionally meant to confuse his opponent, Socrates. In doing this, he restricted the

ground that Socrates could have used to ridicule his opinion, and at the same time, left

enough room for him to expand upon and change his own argument in any which way he

chose without the restriction of his own previously stated words to contradict himself.

        Trasymachus’ view of justice referred to a more political definition rather than a

moral one. According to his account, when rulers make laws, they are almost always

advantageous to themselves and harmful to the people that are ruled by them. The ruled

automatically assume that these laws are just ones. As a result, one’s definition of justice

depends exclusively on such given laws. Since they are assumed to be just, and are also

made because rulers (defined as ‘the stronger’) see them as advantageous to themselves,

the drawn conclusion is that justice is whatever is advantageous to the stronger (338 c).

So an expanded version of his definition would be; justice is obeying laws made by a

ruling body.
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       However, this approach at explaining justice has many overlooked holes which

the definition does not seem to cover. For one thing, if a person does any seemingly

neutral action that does not somehow benefit someone stronger, such as recreational

activities, or even talking to friends, they are considered unjust actions by definition.

Also, the ruler can never be argued as being a just one or an unjust one because nothing

he does ever benefits someone stronger than he, and so he is always unjust, where as in

the common world, the word ‘just’ is applied to distinguish good rulers from bad ones.

Laws are technically unclassifiable because a law is a completely different topic and

subject from the ruler and so it cannot be compared. Which is ‘stronger’, a ruler or his

law? When the word justice is used in this way, it can only effectively and clearly be

applied to a relationship between the ruler and the ruled, not an idea and a ruler.

Trasymachus’ new definition is inadequate when applied to social issues involving

individuals with relatively insubstantial power differences, such as two friends

conversing or fighting. Who is the stronger? Assume one person is obviously more

powerful than the other, but what is advantageous to him is not to an even more powerful

person, such as a king? So it would depend on the relationship when concluding whether

or not an action was just. Hence, Trasymachus basically leaves us with a completely

useless definition of a once very powerfully used word; justice.

       Since he has stripped the word of it is usual meaning, he has more or less created

his own. As an apple is defined as a red, green, or yellow crunchy fruit the size of one’s

fist grown from a tree, so it could be of one’s opinion that the word apple means a type of

government in which a randomly selected person is selected from the citizen population

to serve as the ruler. Since the word was undefined, he came up with a bizarre definition
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that could not be disputed because his definition was so isolated from what it previously


         By saying that justice is really the good of another and harmful to the one who

obeys and serves (343 c), is simply reiterating the previous definition, but in another

manner. However, even with these additions, the previous holes still exist and the word

justice still has been stripped of any useful meaning. What he means by ‘good’ is

‘advantageous to’, and what he means by ‘another’ is ‘someone with the power to rule.’

They add up to a single coherent idea that is not practically applicable to society.

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