Dressler 1 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. Dressler 2 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 Dressler 3 that could not be disputed because his definition was so isolated from what it previously meant. 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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