According to Plato, the notion of justice is a person fulfilling his or her appropriate role in society and consequently giving back to society what is owed by them. On the other hand, Thrasymachus’ notion of justice is the survival of the fittest.
Those who are stronger will overpower those less able to overcome them. According to Thrasymachus the stronger will prevail over those weaker than them in the battle and hold the power. “Thrasymachus’ argument, is that the life of the unjust man (here understood as a true tyrant) is more blessed than that of the just man.
Plato refutes Thrasymachus’ argument and designating the most blessed life as that of the just man and the most miserable life as that of the unjust man” (Brickhouse & Smith, 2012). Plato believes that the moral and just man in society will prevail over the tyrant by doing what is right and just for all.
In Plato’s work, The Republic, the main focus of this publication is representative of the conflict of theories between Plato and Thrasymachus. The Republic possesses the question of “Is Justice better than Injustice? And will an unjust man fare better than a Just man?” (Plato).
Thrasymachus’ understanding of justice and injustice is as follows “justice is what is advantageous to the stronger, while injustice is to one’s own profit and advantage” (Plato, 2004). Thrasymachus believes that the just man is solely working for their own benefit and not for the good of the whole just like the unjust man who uses his strength to gain power and prestige.
Thrasymachus believes that people who are given the power to do injustice would do so as long and they would not have to deal with or face the punishment of such injustice. He feels that man has the right to claim a power so long as he has the strength to do so and can get away with it not having to face any moral or legal punishment for doing so.
While on the other hand, Plato believes that people are inherently good and will do what is morally right and just for the whole of society. They will earn their right to power and ensure fairness for all so as to prevent tyrants from trying to take control. In terms of why it is best to be just rather than unjust for the individual, Plato offers up three main arguments to this question.
“Plato says that a tyrant’s nature will leave him with horrid pains and pangs and that the typical tyrant engages in a lifestyle that will be physically and mentally exacting on such a ruler. Such a disposition is in contrast to the truth-loving philosopher king, and a tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship. The second argument proposes that of all the different types of people, only the Philosopher is able to judge which type of ruler is best since only he can see the form of the good.
Thirdly, Plato argues, Pleasures which are approved of by the lover of wisdom and reason are the truest.” In sum, Plato argues that philosophical pleasure is the only true pleasure since other pleasures experienced by others are simply a neutral state free of pain” (Blössner, 2007).
Plato is providing not only a power stand for man but a moral stand to help the individual soul of a person, be integrated and orchestrated under a just and productive government. Among other things, this analogical reading solves the problem of certain implausible statements Plato makes concerning an ideal political republic.
In a definitive treatment of the subject, according to Blössner (2007), “the argument presents and argues for the case that the Republic is best understood as an analysis of the workings and moral improvement of the individual soul with remarkable thoroughness and clarity. This view, of course, does not preclude a legitimate reading of the Republic as a political treatise (the work could operate at both levels). It merely implies that it deserves more attention as a work on psychology and moral philosophy than it has sometimes received.”
Plato and Thrasymachus both offer their ideas on the notion of justice as they feel is right and good for the individual and the city. While Thrasymachus is focused on the power of the man and their position, Plato takes a more philosophical look at justice and the power of man. Man alone is not true justice but it also encompasses his moral beliefs and actions in the city.
Plato believes that man is more than just his strength but also his moral beliefs and conduct. The purpose of right conduct and moral interpretation will make a man stronger and powerful within the city than that of a man who is willing to take power and control by his strength alone. A man is more powerful by being able to conduct righteous behavior and moral actions than another man who gains his power by other means such as that of force or threats.
The basic premise of Plato and Thrasymachus is good versus evil in the basic form of concept and theory. Or that of what is right and just over that of what is wrong and unjust in the basic terms of power and control injustice.
Blössner, N. (2007). The City-Soul Analogy, G. R. F. Ferrari (Translator). In: G. R. F. Ferrari
(Ed.), the Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Brickhouse, T, and Smith, N. (2012). Plato (c.427-347BC). The Internet Encyclopedia of
Philosophy University of Tennessee, cf Dating Plato’s Dialogues. Retrieved Sept. 3,
Plato. The Republic. Plato – His Philosophy and his life, www. Allphilosoohers.com. Retrieved
Sept. 3, 2014.
Plato. (2004). “Book I Line 344c.” Plato Republic. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004