Critically Discuss Thrasymachus' Definition of Justice and Injustice

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There are three distinct routes one can elect to take in the reading of Thrasymachus’ definition of the nature of justice and injustice in Book I of The Republic: Thrasymachus the realist; Thrasymachus the pseudo-Marxist; and Thrasymachus the nihilist. (To be certain, each contains its own unique set of inconsistencies and contradictory elements, but the extent to which this may be a deliberate technique on the part of Plato to depict his master’s opponent as flustered and misled is a topic deserving of an entirely separate analysis). In keeping with each of the various accounts of justice offered in Book I of The Republic – from Cephalus, who proposes that justice consists of telling the truth and returning material debt, and from Polemarchus, who envisions justice as helping one’s friends and destroying one’s enemies – Thrasymachus’ own account is one that is founded on the matter of just actions. According to Thrasymachus, the just is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger (338c). It follows, then, that the ruled would be acting justly if they were to act in the interest of the stronger. In this defining passage, the influence of Thrasymachus’ equally ruthlessly-realist contemporary Thucydides is immediately apparent – for it is little more than a revision of the notion that “might makes right.” It is a statement of favour for what might be deemed “coercionist justice” in which one party (the ruler) freely shapes the actions of another (the polity), with little to no thought given to anything but the end result: namely, the maintenance of the aforementioned ruling party’s position of power. Thrasymachus also offers insight into why it is in the best interest of the ruled to follow rules at all: “For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because they shrink from committing it” (344c). In essence, it is little
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