• Shawn
    12.8k
    Alfred North Whitehead said that since Plato, we have been writing footnotes to his philosophy.

    Yet, there is one philosopher that stumped even Plato, and made his sentiment mentioned in his Republic. His name was Thrasymachus, and his statement was of, quintessentially, that might makes right. Here is the quote from the Wiki article on Thrasymachus:

    In Republic I, Thrasymachus violently disagreed with the outcome of Socrates' discussion with Polemarchus about justice. Demanding payment before speaking, he claims that "justice is the advantage of the stronger" (338c) and that "injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice'" (344c). Socrates counters by forcing him to admit that there is some standard of wise rule — Thrasymachus does claim to be able to teach such a thing — and then arguing that this suggests a standard of justice beyond the advantage of the stronger. The rest of the dialogue is occasioned by Glaucon's dissatisfaction with Socrates' refutation.Plato on Thrasymachus

    The exact quote in English is the following:

    Listen—I say that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.
    —Plato, Republic, 338c

    Now, we can see the history of humanity as mired with battle and warfare. One can say that war is the medium, by which, the advantage of the stronger is displayed and realized. Further, you have philosophers, like Leo Strauss, that believe, to some degree, what Thrasymachus' sentiments might have meant.

    Regardless, do you believe that Thrasymachus has not been held in esteem by philosophers? Do you think his point has been constantly displayed in the history of humanity? There are many things that can be said about his philosophy, and some people to this day despise how he viewed justice and how it (justice) becomes a mouthpiece for the victor in war.

    What are your thoughts, either positive or negative?
  • 180 Proof
    14.5k
    "Might makes right" now (i.e. zerosum); however, reciprocal might deters wrongs (i.e. non-zerosum). I suspect even Thrasymachus would agree.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.3k


    Positive. as I believe, with Nietzsche, that this is essentially where philosophy took a wrong turn, in siding with Plato's idealism (as all of western philosophy is a footnote to it afterall) over Thrasymachus realism.

    Insofar as philosophers have been idealists, of course they didn't esteem him, they cannot, because it flies in the face of all of their basic assumptions.

    Justice is the advantage of the stronger, might makes right, is a description of how things work, not a declaration of how we want things to be.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    Thrasymachus realismChatteringMonkey

    Interesting way to put it. Plato really couldn't fit into his picture Thrasymachus' portrayed psychopathy or sociopathy that pervades humanity instead of being guided by man's intelligence (nous) and strivings for eudaimonia.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    All things considered, I view Thrasymachus' sentiments as a negative. Mostly due to the fact that I don't support his insistence on challenging the powers, pace, Strauss' noble lies.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.3k
    Interesting way to put it. Plato really couldn't fit into his picture Thrasymachus' portrayed psychopathy or sociopathy that pervades humanity instead of being guided by man's intelligence (nous) and strivings for eudaimonia.Shawn

    This is how Plato would frame things perhaps ;-).

    Thrasymachus or any realist would say that Plato is essentially doing the same thing, i.e. vying for (political) power with his philosphy, he just isn't as aware of it as they are. Or if he was and his whole philosophy was a conscious ploy for power than he was even more devious than any sophist.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    Thrasymachus or any realist would say that Plato is essentially doing the same thing, i.e. vying for (political) power with his philosphy, he just isn't as aware of it as they are.ChatteringMonkey

    Plato leaves little room for individualism, as this aspect of behavior is determined by the classes governing Plato's Republic. Do you think this is true?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.3k
    Do you think this is true?Shawn

    Are you asking if that is what Plato said, what his view on it was. Or if what Plato said is true in reality, in how things play out?

    I don't think I really understand what you are getting at.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    Are you asking if that is what Plato said, what his view on it was. Or if what Plato said is true in reality, in how things play out?ChatteringMonkey

    Well, I was only asking about your opinion about whether you think Plato was not accounting for the needs of the individual in Plato's Republic.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    1.3k
    Are you asking if that is what Plato said, what his view on it was. Or if what Plato said is true in reality, in how things play out?
    — ChatteringMonkey

    Well, I was only asking about your opinion about whether you think Plato was not accounting for the needs of the individual in Plato's Republic.
    Shawn

    In the sense that the individual doesn't get a say in where or what he has to contribute to society? Yes I would say that his political philosophy is indeed a bit totalitarian and leaves little room for the individual to develop himself in more organic ways.

    But this wouldn't be my main problem with his views, as I do think that liberalism for instance has gone to far in making society cater to the individual, rather than the other way arround. Insofar as he values the collective above the individual, I would agree with him on that point because individuals are ultimately a product of society. And so if everybody only looks to what he wants as an individual and nobody takes care of the whole, or no sacrifice can be asked from individuals for the whole, then you get a bad functioning society... and as a consequence also badly formed individuals.

    My main problem with Plato's political views would be that they seem very theoretical and idealist to me. You almost never actually get to draw up a society from scratch, but have to work from existing societies and try to improve on those with all the real-world limits and restrictions that come with that.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    there is one philosopher that stumped even PlatoShawn

    That is a surprising comment! I think Socrates handled him quite well.

    Regardless, do you believe that Thrasymachus has not been held in esteem by philosophers?Shawn

    These is for some an admiration, but I don't think that he has generally regarded as a philosopher.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    These is for some an admiration, but I don't think that he has generally regarded as a philosopher.Fooloso4

    Yes, Thrasymachus was a sophist; but, a very astute one in what he regarded justice to be. It seems to me that Thrasymachus, with respect to what history can tell us, isn't entirely 'wrong.'

    His philosophy of might making right has been witnessed-many times over-by what history can tell us.
  • Mikie
    6.4k
    stumped even PlatoShawn

    That’s not how I recall the interaction with Socrates.
  • Fooloso4
    5.7k
    Plato opposes 'might makes right' with 'the stronger argument'. I think he was well aware of the ways in which power in one form or another dominates. The power is in Plato's hands. Thrasymachus says whatever Plato wants him to say. He is in this respect powerless and silenced.

    The Republic opens with an exchange that points to the question of persuasion. Socrates is prevented from leaving the Peiraeus by Polemarchus:

    “Well,” said he, “do you see how many of us there are?”

    “Of course I do.”

    “Then,” said he, “you should either grow stronger than all of these men, or stay here.”

    “Is there not another option?” said I. “Could we not persuade you that you should let us leave?”

    “And would you be able to persuade us,” said he, “if we were not listening to you?”

    “Not at all,” replied Glaucon.

    Force and argument are very different means of persuasion. The former leaves little or no room for deliberation and reasoned argument. With regard to the politics of the soul Polemarchus' elderly father
    Cephalus illustrates the problem. As a young man he was ruled by pleasure:

    It is like escaping from a raving and savage slave master.’
    (329c)

    He is concerned with what will happen to him when he dies. He worries about the injustice he has done. His concern with justice is entirely selfish. Cephalus relies on another means of persuasion, the power of money.

    The discussion will center on how justice benefits oneself. This condition is accepted from the beginning, before Thrasymachus says a word. Socrates task will be to persuade those who will listen that justice benefits the one who is just. This is also what Thrasymachus claims.

    Thrasymachus trades on persuasion as power. His power is a pale imitation of the power of the man of action he hopes to persuade to listen to him and from whom he will be paid. The man of action, however, often has a low opinion of talk. Thrasymachus accuses Socrates of conducting the argument unfairly. (340d) If might makes right then what does being unfair have to do with it? For all his talk of power he is weak and dependent on others to buy what he is selling.

    In the background of the discussion of friends and enemies is the fact that Thrasymachus regards Socrates as his enemy. Socrates does for free what Thrasymachus charges money for. By the end of the discussion Socrates has disarmed Thrasymachus and made him gentle. (354a) He has gotten him to agree:

    "In that case, will a soul ever carry out its own functions well, Thrasymachus, when deprived of its own particular excellence, or is that impossible?”

    “It is impossible.”

    “So, of necessity a bad soul exercises rule and care badly, and a good soul does all this well.”

    “Of necessity.”

    “Did we not agree that excellence of soul is justice, and badness is injustice?”

    “Yes, we agreed.”

    “Then the just soul, and the just man, will live well, while the unjust man will live badly.”

    “So it appears,” said he, “according to your argument.”

    “But someone who lives well is blessed and happy, while someone who does not is the opposite.”

    “Of course.”

    “In that case, the just person is happy, while the unjust is wretched.”

    “Let it be so,” said he.

    “But there is no profit in being wretched, but in being happy there is.”

    “Of course.”

    “Then, blessed Thrasymachus, injustice is never more profitable than justice.”

    “Well, Socrates, let this be your feast for the festival of Bendis.”
    (354a)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.6k

    I think what Plato was showing is that persuasive discourse produces friends, and friends are a multitude united as one. The power of the unity of the multitude is stronger than the might of one individual. Therefore the power of argument is actually the strongest might.

    It seems to me that Thrasymachus, with respect to what history can tell us, isn't entirely 'wrong.'Shawn

    This may be true, but only in the sense that "might" turns out to be a chameleon with a number of different presentations. True strength or "might", turns out to be hidden within the power of language, as demonstrated by argumentation and rhetoric. Therefore to understand what gives language this might, this power, to determine what is "right", we need to understand how people are persuaded.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    I wonder what Hegel or Hegelians would say...
  • Paine
    2.1k

    I think it would be along the lines that the fight-to-the-death or submit scenario, that appears during the pursuit of recognition, changes both sides where the 'powerful', as such, confers power to the slave in spite of itself.
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    I think it would be along the lines that the fight-to-the-death or submit scenario, that appears during the pursuit of recognition, changes both sides where the 'powerful', as such, confers power to the slave in spite of itself.Paine

    Very interesting. What about Marxism? Seems to follow into Marxist logic?
  • Hanover
    12.2k
    Listen—I say that justice is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger.Shawn

    I don't follow how this definition of "justice" comforts with our use of the term.

    Do you suggest an innocent person who is kidnapped and tortured is treated justly as long as his kidnapper is never subjugated by someone stronger?

    If the most heinous acts are just as long as the authority committing them is stronger than you, then wouldn't you be unjust to protest against that which is just?

    This just isn't what we mean by justice. To make this point even more clear, you'd agree we don't evaluate the strength of the rapist when asking ourselves if a rape were just.
  • Shawn
    12.8k


    The context or stipulation to the term you provided doesn't seem to be addressed by what was meant by Thrasymachus.

    Justice is a concept made-up by not one person; but, a group of people who believe in it, not the individual.
  • Paine
    2.1k

    It is difficult to approach the matter. As a war between classes, the singularity of Hegel's account is not definitive. But the value of that individual life is lauded in other parts of Marx's text.
    Where does one logic begin and the other end?
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    Where does one logic begin and the other end?Paine

    In history, according to Hegel's dialectics?
  • Paine
    2.1k

    I was thinking more in the context of personal freedom. The view of private ownership being a product of an historical process is said to provide the context of what is possible as an individual in particular situations.
    But I am also told that there is something about the results that will satisfy the need to violently oppose what is happening.
    So, where does that differ from the view of community Plato put forward?
  • Shawn
    12.8k
    I was thinking more in the context of personal freedom.Paine

    Yes, it seems that the Greek concept of the polis, seemed to prevail over what community Plato had put forward.

    But I am also told that there is something about the results that will satisfy the need to violently oppose what is happening.Paine

    Yes, again. I believe that Marx had to, as you say-by force- upend the continuation of exploitation of the proletariat by the few bourgeoisie.

    So, where does that differ from the view of community Plato put forward?Paine

    It would not make sense to say that Plato would have agreed with Marx; but, rather the other way around. The dialectics of history are many and cannot be reconciled with the Forms.
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