The Double Life of Justice and Injustice
in Thrasymachus' Account
Saint Louis University
ABSTRACT: This paper has a two-fold task. First, I show that there are three types of individuals associated with the Thrasymachean view of society: (a) the many, i.e., the ruled or those exploited individuals who are just and obey the laws of the society; (b) the tyrant or ruler who sets down laws in the society in order to exploit the many for personal advantage; (c) the "stronger" individual (kreittoon) or member of the society who is detached from the many and aspires to become the tyrant. Second, I argue that if Thrasymachus’s account of the perfectly unjust life of the tyrant is to be more than a theoretical ideal, then the stronger individual who aspires to the tyrant’s position would do well to lead a double life—namely, pursuing private injustice while maintaining the public ‘appearance’ of justice. My interpretation accords with that of Glaucon, noted at the beginning of Republic II. I want to extend Glaucon’s interpretation to include the stronger individual as well. I argue that the standpoint of the stronger individual, as distinct from the standpoints of the tyrant and the many, shows Thrasymachus’s three statements regarding justice to be consistent with one another.
In the beginning of Republic II, during a conversation with Socrates and Adeimantus about which individual is deemed happier, the one who is just or the one who is unjust, Glaucon states:
For the extreme of injustice is to seem to be just when one is not. So the perfectly unjust man must be given the most perfect injustice, and nothing must be taken away; he must be allowed to do the greatest injustices while having provided himself with the greatest reputation for justice. And if, he should trip up in anything, he has the power to set himself aright; if any of his unjust deeds should come to light, he is capable both of speaking persuasively and of using force, to the extent that force is needed, since he is courageous and strong and since he has provided for friends and money. (361a-b)(1)I believe that Glaucon has captured the essence of the Thrasymachean position concerning the best way for the unjust individual to live. The one who pursues the life of injustice must at the same time be courageous and crafty, strong and shrewd, power-driven and persuasive. But most importantly, the unjust individual must be dastardly and deceptive. This deception is captured by Glaucon when he states that the perfectly unjust man must "seem" to be just. Appearances and reputations played a central role in the fifth century b.c.e. Greek polis and so it makes sense that Glaucon would cast light upon the idea of an individual’s pursuit of the unjust life while providing for the "greatest reputation for justice."(2) Such an individual leads a kind of double life and therefore has a double duty to perform in seeming to be just while actually being unjust.
These comments regarding Glaucon’s view of the perfectly unjust individual hint at the purpose of this discussion. This paper has a three-fold task. First, I will show that there are three types of individuals associated with the Thrasymachean view of society: a) the many, i.e., the ruled or those exploited individuals who are just and obey the laws of the society; b) the tyrant or ruler who sets down laws in the society to exploit the many for personal advantage; c) the "stronger" individual (kreitton) or member of the society who detaches from the many and aspires to become the tyrant.
Most commentaries dealing with Thrasymachus’ position give the tyrant and the many central roles in the discussion of justice and injustice.(3) My view draws out the role of the stronger individual in Thrasymachus’ account in order to show the activities associated with the genesis of the tyrant from the society. The stronger individual, in seeking the life of injustice, naturally detaches from the many and aspires to develop into the perfectly unjust tyrant. In the third section of this paper I shall argue that if Thrasymachus’ account of the perfectly unjust life of the tyrant is to be more than a theoretical ideal, then the stronger individual who aspires to become the tyrant would do well to lead a double life of pursuing private injustice while maintaining the public "appearance" of justice. My view conforms to Glaucon’s interpretation noted in the quotation above whereby a double life of justice and injustice is maintained by the tyrant who seeks to maintain power over the society. I want to extend Glaucon’s interpretation to include the stronger individual as well.
In the final section of this paper I will enter into dialogue with those commentators who maintain that Thrasymachus’ position concerning justice and injustice is inconsistent overall. I believe that a solution to the problem of inconsistency in Thrasymachus’ position can be achieved when considering the role of the stronger as a separate type of individual in the society. Thus, I will argue that the standpoint of the stronger, as distinct from the standpoints of the tyrant and the many, has value in that it shows Thrasymachus’ three statements regarding justice to be consistent with one another.
It is clear throughout Republic I, and specifically in his speech at 344a, that Thrasymachus has in mind the tyrant as exemplary of the perfectly unjust individual who "by stealth and force takes away what belongs to others, both what is sacred and profane, private and public, not bit by bit, but all at once." It is also clear, given the three statements Thrasymachus makes about justice as a) being advantageous to the stronger (338c), b) obedience to law (339c) and c) the good of another (343c) that the tyrant sets down laws in the society strictly for the tyrant’s own personal advantage. From the standpoint of the many, the three statements regarding justice are consistent with the idea that what is just is always advantageous to the tyrant. Seen from this standpoint, the very act of obedience to the laws set down in a society involves the many in an exploitative situation. According to Thrasymachus, the tyrant, in seeking a life of perfect injustice, "overreaches" (pleonektein) in exploiting the many. This means that the tyrant always greedily seeks to acquire more than a fair share and as Thrasymachus puts it, "get the better in a big way" (343e).
The tyrant can exploit the many because of the fact that the tyrant is the stronger of the two. At 339c and 343c Thrasymachus concludes that in every political situation the ruling body sets down laws that are to the advantage of the rulers precisely because such a ruling body is stronger than the hoi polloi. As the stronger ruler, the tyrant has the power to punish lawbreakers (338e), take away what belongs to others (344a), kidnap and enslave the many (344b) with the added benefit of being called "happy and blessed" for so doing (344b-c). Thrasymachus makes a connection between the notion of strength and the capacity for leading an unjust life. At 343c justice is defined by Thrasymachus as "really someone else’s good, the advantage of the man who is stronger and rules."(4) Injustice, we are told "is the opposite, and it rules the truly simple and just." So the life of injustice in its essence will be a self-seeking activity and the tyrant, who can pursue this life most perfectly on a grand scale, is in the position to frame social interaction in a way that is wholly self-advantageous. Thus, Thrasymachus can say to Socrates and company:
injustice, when it comes into being on a sufficient scale, is mightier, freer, and more masterful than justice; and, as I have said from the beginning, the just is the advantage of the stronger, and the unjust is what is profitable and advantageous for oneself. (344c)Thus far I have made explicit the existence of the tyrant as the unjust exploiter and the many as the just exploited in Thrasymachus’ view of the society. But there is another type of individual associated with society who, in a strict sense, is neither the tyrant nor a member of the many—namely, the kreitton. In his long speech that runs from 343b to 344c, Thrasymachus speaks of the tyrant as exemplary of the most perfect injustice. But within the context of this speech, he also mentions those who are only "partially" unjust: temple robbers, kidnappers, housebreakers, defrauders and thieves. (344b) Further, in contrasting concrete examples that distinguish the benefits of the unjust life as distinct from the just life, Thrasymachus states: "the just man everywhere has less than the unjust man." He continues:
First, in contracts, when the just man is a partner of the unjust man, you will always find that at the dissolution of the partnership the just man does not have more than the unjust man, but less. Second, in matters pertaining to the city, when there are taxes, the just man pays more on the basis of equal property, the unjust man less; and where there are distributions, the one makes no profit, the other much. (343d)Here, Thrasymachus is not speaking specifically of the tyrant in relation to the many. The type of unjust individual Thrasymachus speaks of in this quotation, as well as the housebreaker and thief, are those individuals who realize that to do justice means to place oneself in a weaker exploitative situation. Such individuals exemplify the stronger person who seeks the unjust life of what is "profitable and advantageous for oneself." The stronger resembles the tyrant in seeking the unjust life but lacks the perfection of injustice which "by stealth and force" overpowers the many "all at once."
Thrasymachus is concerned to show that if individuals in the society are in a position to do so, they should strive to do whatever is in their power to achieve the status of the tyrant because he thinks that the one who rules is the strongest, most powerful and consequently happiest individual in the society (344a-b). There is a developmental genesis of the tyrant within the context of society being made explicit by Thrasymachus’ account of the stronger. Thrasymachus’ examples of defrauders, kidnappers and those thieves who violate the commutative and distributive laws of justice confirm this to be the case. Actually, by explicating the role that the stronger plays in Thrasymachus’ social milieu, we get a better understanding of both the just and the unjust individual. Seen in this way, the stronger acts as a kind of midpoint character between the many and the tyrant—between justice and extreme injustice. The stronger is on the way to tyranthood transcending the exploitations of the society as exploiter; however, such exploits fall short of the tyrant who, in the words of Thrasymachus, "does injustice entire" (344c).
It is appropriate that Thrasymachus uses the image of sheep or cows in his speech at 343b to describe the many because there is a sense in which the individuals subject to a tyranny are incapable of overpowering the "sheep/cow-herder" or, like grazing animals, are unaware of what is truly going on around themselves. The question then becomes, "Are the many really so naive as to allow themselves to be exploited by some tyrannical ruler?" Two responses come to mind. The first is "No." People are not so naive as to not know that they are being exploited. They obey the laws and rules because they know full well who has the power and fear the consequences of disobedience. Or, they obey because they think they can placate or appease the tyrant’s self-indulgent pleonexia. Still some, like Socrates himself, know who is in charge and what is really going on, but obey the laws nonetheless on the grounds of a principle or ideal. This response would be consistent with Thrasymachus’s standpoint concerning the ruling power of the tyrant.
The second response to the question of the many's naivete is "Yes." It could be the case that the many are a group of really dense individuals who just cannot see the exploitation. There is another response related to this idea of naivete which considers the possibility that the tyrant in a society sets up laws that appear to be for the advantage of the many, but in reality are for the tyrant’s advantage. This has to do with Glaucon’s statement which I quoted in the first lines of this paper relating to the idea of seeming to be just when one is not. In his article entitled, "In Defense of Thrasymachus" T. Y. Henderson considers a similar alternative when he offers a hypothetical case whereby a "politically ambitious... intelligent and courageous" man named Setarcos is able to elevate himself to the status of the ruler by maintaining a "public facade of honesty and integrity."(5) In public Setarcos professes that the just life is the best life for individuals and is in fact, in the public arena, obedient to the laws of the society. But he secretly leads a private life of immorality whereby he "advances his own fortunes at the expense of others."(6) Eventually, through his private immoral maneuverings, and his public facade of justice, honesty and integrity, he becomes the ruler of the society. And when in power as the ruler, he is able to maintain this public facade "for a long time or even indefinitely, while remaining a thoroughly unjust man."(7)
Henderson asks if it is really possible for an immoral individual to dupe an entire society in such a way. Surely there would be some individuals who would catch on to Setarcos’ plans and realize that in acting justly by following the laws of the society, they would actually be serving the interests of Setarcos. In response to this, Henderson states that "Setarcos would want everyone in the state (except himself who knows better) to act justly, to live just lives, and to believe sincerely that in doing so they were serving their own best interests."(8) Henderson believes this to be a plausible account that is consistent with Thrasymachean immorality. As Henderson states:
If Setarcos were able to convince everyone in the state that he is a completely just man, that because he is just he is happy, that justice in general is most profitable to man as a way of life, while at the same time being able, covertly, to cheat and steal from the people systematically, then he would conform perfectly to Thrasymachus’ conception of the strong man.(9)Henderson’s account is valuable for two reasons. First, it shows how the tyrant can remain unjust without being an iron-fisted dictator who, in Thrasymachus’ words, "takes away what belongs to others, both what is sacred and profane, private and public... all at once" (344a). Even the most dense member of the society is going to recognize the villainy of an iron-fisted dictator and will consequently harbor feelings of fear and resentment toward such an approach. Henderson shows us that the tyrant can be cunning, covert and corrupt while appearing to be courteous, caring and concerned. And further, Henderson shows the value of such an approach as it lends itself to happiness on the parts of both the tyrant and the many. The tyrant’s happiness lies in true exploitation; the happiness of the many lies in believing that leading a just life is actually to their advantage.
Secondly, Henderson’s account is valuable because it underscores the point I have been making about the existence of the stronger in the society. Henderson tells us that
the strongest man in the state is most likely to be, or to become the ruler. He rises to the top naturally because he takes advantage of every opportunity to make an unjust profit and to further his own cause at the expense of others. Everyone and every group who deal with him justly are exploited by him for his own profit.(10)This account of the stronger can be coupled with the idea expressed by Glaucon that the unjust individual must "seem to be just" or the account given by Henderson that, as he rises to the top, the strong man Setarcos maintains a "public facade of honesty and integrity." In this way, the stronger leads a double life of pursuing injustice while seeming to pursue what is just. And in this way, the stronger dupes both the many and the tyrant.
That the stronger dupes both the many and the tyrant can be verified when we look at what Thrasymachus says in the text itself. Thrasymachus has made it clear that the unjust life is to be preferred to the just and that individuals in the society do act and should act so as to dupe their fellow neighbor. On the one hand, the stronger individual is clever enough to exploit the many as in Thrasymachus’s example of the broken contract at 343d. Again, we are told that as a result of such a contractual relationship, the "just man does not have more than the unjust man." But on the other hand, the stronger individual is clever enough to dupe the many along with the tyrant as in the case of the tax evasion mentioned in the same section: "in matters pertaining to the city, when there are taxes, the just man pays more on the basis of equal property, the unjust man less" (343d). This again shows the distinction more explicitly among the types of individuals (i.e., the many, the stronger and the tyrant) that can be found in Thrasymachus’ presentation of the just versus the unjust. And further, the stronger is shown to clearly and consistently conform to Thrasymachus’ description of the unjust individual.
We are now in a position to address the issue of consistency in Thrasymachus’ position. Commentators concerning Thrasymachus’ position are divided. There are those, like G. F. Hourani, who see Thrasymachus as advocating a legalism.(11) And there are those, like G. B. Kerferd, T. Y. Henderson and Julia Annas who maintain that Thrasymachus holds to an immoralism.(12) Many commentators are in agreement, however, that Thrasymachus position concerning justice and injustice is lacking in self-consistence.(13) The reason commentators see a lack of consistency in Thrasymachus’ position has to do with the fact that Thrasymachus says three distinct things about justice in the course of his conversation with Socrates and company. Justice is at once:
1) "nothing other than the advantage of the stronger" (338c)
2) obeying the laws of the ruler(s) (339b)
3) "really someone else’s good, the advantage of the man who is stronger and rules" (343c)The inconsistency arises precisely because both the ruled and the ruler must be taken into account when considering justice and injustice. Thrasymachus ultimately reveals that justice is "another's good" and it is this statement that involves him in a logical contradiction and much controversy from Socrates onward. Some commentators, such as Henderson, maintain that these three statements are consistent when seen from the standpoint of the many.(14) Considered from this standpoint, Thrasymachus’ three statements about justice and its opposite are consistent because the "other" that Thrasymachus refers to is the ruling tyrant: justice is obeying the laws set up by the ruler (statement #2 at 339b), and in obeying these laws the many are concerned for the other (statement #3 at 343c), i.e., the tyrant who has set up these laws with the advantage going to the tyrant as the stronger of the two parties (statement #1 at 338c).
From the standpoint of the tyrant, however, the statements regarding justice and injustice are inconsistent. Kerferd and Annas are examples of commentators who have maintained that Thrasymachus’ position is not consistent overall. Despite the inconsistency, they think that Thrasymachus is ultimately advocating an immoralism since justice is defined as "another’s good," i.e., the advantage of the stronger tyrant. From what he says at 343b, Thrasymachus makes it clear that the life of justice as another's good is to be rejected and that the life of injustice is to be accepted; thus, the immoralist position. However, when this definition of justice is applied to the ruled as well as to the ruler, there arises the problem of consistency in the definition itself. Statements 1)-3) hold from the standpoint of the ruled in society. In this sense, the "another’s good" which the ruled promotes in being just or violates in being unjust is precisely that of the ruling tyrant. But the injustice of the second part of the statement implies that the "other" in the first part is not the ruling tyrant, but the ruled many. Herein lies the problem of inconsistency, and, as Annas points out:
The same situation is described as both being just, form the point of view of the subjects who are serving the interests of another, and as unjust, from the point of view of the ruler who is exploiting them in his own interests.(15)From the standpoint of the ruled, the "another" is the ruler; from the standpoint of the ruler, the "another" is the ruled. So, it is clear that the praising of injustice from the ruler's perspective rests upon a standard of justice that is found to be the case from the ruled's perspective and therefore, the ruler never really escapes the standards of justice and injustice as Thrasymachus would want us to believe.
Annas notes that Thrasymachus starts off with a "muddled" position and, once in dialogue with Socrates, makes his position clearer. The three statements Thrasymachus makes "strictly speaking" conflict with one another in the end. Thrasymachus began by "thinking only of strong and successful rulers"(16) and, because of this, he first defines justice in a way that strictly applied only to their subjects, who by acting justly are serving the interests of their rulers, the stronger, and who are acting in a way that is to the interests not of themselves but of others.(17)
Likewise, Kerferd maintains that if all the statements that Thrasymachus makes regarding justice are to be taken seriously, "then he cannot have an overall consistent account of justice to offer."(18) In light of this overall inconsistency, Kerferd and Annas feel justified in holding that the third statement, i.e., "justice is another's good" is the real Thrasymachean position. Kerferd holds this view because he envisions Thrasymachus as trying to give an account of justice that will take into account the ruler and the ruled in society. According to Kerferd, the ruler is the stronger "other" in the society who lays down laws specifically for the interest of exploiting the ruled. Kerferd continues to state that Thrasymachean justice "always" entails seeking another's interest and therefore must be "scorned" as "something silly." The true ideal is "for everyone to seek his own interest" by leading a life of injustice.(19) To this extent, it would be just for the ruled in a society to obey the laws because these laws are set out for the good of another—namely, the tyrant. Kerferd does not see an inconsistency between the statements "justice is the interest of the stronger" and "justice is another's good" when considered from the standpoint of the ruled. In this case, when the ruled act justly, they do so for the stronger other's benefit who happens to be the ruling tyrant. But justice as obeying the laws is viewed by Kerferd as being inconsistent with justice as another's good or the interest of the stronger because the laws that are laid down by the tyrant for the ruled to follow could be mistakenly laid out and found to actually not be in the interest of the "other," i.e., the ruling tyrant.
Annas and Kerferd's concerns are well noted and justified. The inconsistency might be reconciled if we hold the view that the tyrant remains unjust in the concern for self only if the third statement about justice as being a concern for the other reveals that the other is merely the many. We really cannot maintain that the "other" Thrasymachus speaks of at 343c is the many because this "other" is immediately qualified as "the man who is stronger and rules" or the tyrant. (343c) And again, we see that outside of this limited interpretation of the other as the many, the tyrant would be mitigating against the personal advantage that is sought whenever the tyrant acted unjustly. When taking Thrasymachus’ three statements regarding justice and injustice in their entirety, it seems to follow that if justice is what is advantageous for the tyrant, then injustice, as its opposite, would be disadvantageous for the tyrant. The tyrant, in acting unjustly towards the many, wants the many to act justly towards the tyrant. However, from the standpoint of the tyrant Thrasymachus cannot endorse the injustice he defines.
When all is said and done, it seems apparent that Thrasymachus was not concerned with this inconsistency and that the utter power and strength associated with the notion of injustice became his real concern. That the strength and power associated with injustice became Thrasymachus’ ultimate concern is upheld by Annas and Kerferd,(20) but also verified in the text when Thrasymachus rejects Cleitophon’s suggestion that what Thrasymachus meant by the advantage of the stronger is really what the stronger merely believes to be an advantage. (340b) At this point in the dialogue, Cleitophon’s suggestion has given Thrasymachus the option of choosing to adopt a legalist position whereby justice is defined as obeying the laws, or the position more conducive to the immoralist one whereby justice is defined as what is in the interest of the stronger. If Thrasymachus had adopted Cleitophon’s suggestion, then he would be advocating the legalist view that justice is obedience to the laws and a commentator such as G. F. Hourani would have a clear case for his position.(21) This is so because the tyrant in a society would be laying down laws regardless of whether they would be truly in the interest, or merely seem to be in the interest of the tyrant. In either case, justice would be defined legalistically as an obedience to the given laws of the tyrant at a given time and place.
However, Thrasymachus specifically denies Cleitophon’s suggestion and thereby denies the legalist position in favor of defining justice as the interest of the stronger. (340c) What this means is that a distinction between the concepts of the "tyrant" (qua ruler) and the "stronger" is made explicit. In Cleitophon’s view, the tyrant enacts laws that would be just for the many to obey whether they were in the interest of the tyrant or not. If this were the case then justice would be defined as the ruled many obeying the laws of the tyrant. But Thrasymachus is interested in the tyrant only insofar as such an individual is understood as the stronger. (343c) Thrasymachus assumes that the strongest person will become the tyrant and when such a tyrant enacts laws for the many to follow, these laws are enacted with an eye to the many’s exploitation. In this way, justice is the interest of the stronger, tyrant who happens to be the ruler of the society.
Thrasymachus’ rejection of Cleitophon’s suggestion commits him to a position of immoralism and draws out the distinction between the conceptions of the tyrant and the stronger. Thrasymachus’ commitment to this immoralism also saddles him with the charge of being inconsistent when proffering a definition of justice. Both Thrasymachus’ immoralism and the inconsistency in Thrasymachus’ position concerning the status of the tyrant as living the life of injustice give credence to my claim that there is this third type of individual in society, distinct from the tyrant and the many—namely, the stronger. When we consider the definition of justice and injustice form the standpoint of the stronger, Thrasymachus’ three statements actually remain consistent. The unjust life of the kreitton entails violating the laws of the ruler at all costs since the concern and advantage would be for the stronger’s own self-interest.
Once the stronger individual is recognized as a part of Thrasymachus’ schematization, then it is possible to see how, from the standpoint of the stronger, the three statements that Thrasymachus makes regarding justice and its opposite remain consistent. Unfortunately, the problem of envisioning the same situation as being both just and unjust at the same time from the points of view of the many and the tyrant remains. When taking Thrasymachus’ three statements regarding justice and injustice in their entirety, it seems to follow that if justice is what is advantageous for the tyrant, then injustice, as its opposite, would be disadvantageous for the tyrant. However, if we take what Thrasymachus is saying regarding justice and injustice as applicable to the stronger, the inconsistency issue is skirted. This is to say that from the standpoint of the stronger, what is unjust would be disadvantageous both for the many as well as for the tyrant. The "other" which was the cause of inconsistency and concern for Kerferd and Annas can be either the ruled or the ruler or both. It makes no difference as both the ruled and the ruler are exploited by the kreitton. The many follow laws and are exploited by the tyrant. The stronger individual realizes this and does what is unjust, in terms either of breaking the laws or of exploiting the many. So, in this sense, the stronger individual, if he or she can get away with it, always seeks to exploit the exploited as well as exploit the exploiter.
What I have attempted to do in this paper is to draw out of Thrasymachus’ account a genesis of the tyrant from the many in a society. A tyrant just does not come out of nowhere and rule over a group of people. I believe that, in his conversation with Socrates and Cleitophon, Thrasymachus is offering us a developmental account of how the stronger individual detaches from the many to rise to the ranks of tyranthood by leading a life of injustice. At the same time, this life of injustice must be buffered, I believe, by a seeming or an appearance of justice whereby the stronger individual can dupe both the tyrant and the many in the ascent to tyranthood. I have tried to argue for this double life of justice and injustice through the support of Thrasymachus’ own words coupled with the suggestions of Glaucon in Republic II and Professor Henderson’s account of Setarcos.
I have also tried to show how the inconsistency issue can be skirted if we take Thrasymachus’ three statements regarding justice from the standpoint of the stronger. Both the ruler and the ruled become exploited by the kreitton. The task, then, for the stronger individual becomes devising ways in which to always get away with the exploitation. For it seems possible that the many and the tyrant, if confronted with the stronger’s activities, would not allow themselves to be exploited. Thrasymachus suggests that stealth be used by the perfectly unjust tyrant who possesses unlimited strength. (344a) But this stealth seems to be an option also for the stronger individual in the exploiting process. Stealth offers the path of least resistance as was pointed out in Henderson’s example of Setarcos. Furtive and covert unjust activity masked by outward signs of justice and integrity would enable the stronger individual to get away with exploiting the exploited and the exploiter. I have suggested that seeming or appearing to be just in the public realm while privately pursuing injustice would be conducive to this stealth that is endorsed by Thrasymachus. Thus, the double life of justice and injustice that the stronger individual leads.
Leading the stronger’s life of pleonexia, whereby an individual seeks to overpower and dupe another for the purpose of personal advantage and happiness is possible—certainly, Henderson's Setarcos and Thrasymachus think so. But such a life would entail an individual’s leading double roles. One would find it necessary to put up a deceptive front or an "appearance" of leading a life of justice so as to have the freedom to pursue what is entailed in the unjust life. Such a double-rolled life can be applied both to the "stronger," imperfectly unjust individual who seeks tyranthood and to the "strongest," perfectly unjust tyrant as in Henderson’s example of Setarcos. However, when all is said and done about the kreitton or the tyrant who spend so much of life in the realm of appearance, the question arises as to whether such individuals are truly "most blessed and happy." Is such blessedness and happiness worth the price given all of the deception and one-upmanship entailed in such a livelihood? Consider what Socrates says about those afflicted with a tyrannical nature in Republic IX:
Therefore, they live their whole life without ever being friends of anyone, always one man’s master or another’s slave. The tyrannic nature never has a taste of freedom and true friendship. (576a)
NOTES(1) The translation of Plato’s Republic that I will be utilizing throughout this paper is The Republic of Plato, trans. by Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 1968).
(2) For accounts that emphasize the "appearance-vs.-reality" schema of Greek civil life to which Glaucon is referring, see A. R. Burn, The Penguin History of Greece (New York: Penguin Books, 1985) pp. 249-252 and W. T. Jones, The Classical Mind (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1995), "The Sophists," pp. 63-73.
(3) For example, Seth Bernadette speaks of subjects in relation to the tyrant and that Thrasymachus makes the "tyrant the truth of his definition" concerning the issue of justice and injustice. See Bernadette’s work entitled, Socrates’ Second Sailing: On Plato’s Republic (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1989), pp. 20-32. Also see G. B. Kerferd, "The Doctrine of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic" Durham University Journal 9 (1947), pp. 19-27; G. F. Hourani, "Thrasymachus’ Definition of Justice in Plato’s Republic" Phronesis 7 (1962), pp. 110-120; Leo Strauss, "Plato" in History of Political Philosophy, ed. by Leo Strauss and J. Cropsey (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1963), pp. 11-12; F. E. Sparshott, "Socrates and Thrasymachus" The Monist 50 (1966), pp. 428-432; R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley, Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979), pp. 38-41; Julia Annas, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic (London: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1981), pp. 44-47.
(4) Terence Irwin offers a helpful distinction between what he terms "common justice" and "psychic justice." Irwin rightly notes that common justice is the virtue advocated by Thrasymachus and described as "another’s good." This brand of justice is distinct from "psychic justice" or the kind of justice defined by Socrates as a virtue of the soul in Republic IV. See Plato’s Ethics (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1995), pp. 256-261.
(5) T. Y. Henderson, "In Defense of Thrasymachus" American Philosophical Quarterly (July, 1970) vol. 7, pp. 221-2.
(6) Ibid., p. 222.
(7) Ibid., p. 222.
(8) Ibid., p. 222.
(9) Ibid., p. 222.
(10) Ibid., p. 221.
(11) George F. Hourani, "Thrasymachus’ Definition of Justice in Plato’s Republic" Phronesis 7 (1962), pp. 110-120. Thrasymachus makes three statements regarding justice: 1) justice is "nothing other than the advantage of the stronger" (338c); 2) justice is obeying the laws of the ruler(s) (339b); 3) justice is "really someone else’s good, the advantage of the man who is stronger and rules" (343c). Hourani down-plays statements 1) and 3) in favor of 2) because he takes statement 2) to be definitional and therefore, thinks that Thrasymachus is a legalist. It is clear that Hourani is advocating an ideal of definition which is more consistent with contemporary linguists and philosophers of language. In replying to Hourani’s claims, G. B. Kerferd correctly notes that such a linguistic reading of Thrasymachus’ position is "dangerously wrong." See his article entitled, "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply" Phronesis 9 (1964), pp. 12-16.
(12) Immoralism is a term I am borrowing from Julia Annas in her work entitled, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic (London: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1981). Annas prefers to use the term "immoralism" rather than "injusticism" to refer to the fact that Thrasymachus advocates a life of injustice. According to Annas, Thrasymachus is rejecting conventionalism in favor of an immoralism because he thinks that 1) "justice and injustice do have a real existence independent of any human institutions" and 2) injustice is to be preferred as a better way of life (pp. 36-37). Other commentators who would agree with Annas' interpretation regarding Thrasymachus' immoralism include G. B. Kerferd and T. Y. Henderson. See G. B. Kerferd, "The Doctrine of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic" Durham University Journal 9 (1947), pp. 19-47; G. B. Kerferd, "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply" Phronesis 9 (1964), pp. 12-16; T. Y. Henderson, "In Defense of Thrasymachus" American Philosophical Quarterly (July, 1970) vol. 7, pp. 218-228.
(13) There are a variety of commentators who hold that Thrasymachus’ view of justice is logically inconsistent when applying the definition of justice to rulers as well as their subjects. Cross and Woozley state that Thrasymachus "has advanced two different criteria of justice... without appreciating that they do not necessarily coincide," Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979), p. 41. J. P. Maguire, in his article entitled, "Thrasymachus...or Plato" Phronesis 16 (1971), pp. 142-163, holds that some of Thrasymachus’ arguments are his own, and those which are not consistent with his position belong to Plato. In P. P. Nicholson’s article entitled, "Unraveling Thrasymachus’ Arguments in the Republic" Phronesis 19 (1974), he quotes Jowett who "depicts Thrasymachus as a vain clown and a ‘mere child in argument,’ implying that consistency was beyond him," and Sidgwick who "does not think Thrasymachus’ arguments are to be taken too seriously" since Thrasymachus is a "rhetorician" utilizing a "cynical paradox" concerning his definition of justice. (p. 213) See B. Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato Translated into English with Analysis and Introductions (London: Oxford Univ., Pr., 1871), vol. II, p. 6. See also H. Sidgwick, The Philosophy of Kant and Other Lectures (London: Oxford Univ. Pr., 1905), p. 370.
(14) See T. Y. Henderson, "In Defense of Thrasymachus" American Philosophical Quarterly (July, 1970) vol. 7, pp. 218-228.
(15) An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, p. 46.
(16) Ibid., p. 46.
(17) Ibid., p. 45.
(18) "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply," p. 15.
(19) Ibid., p. 15.
(20) See An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, pp. 45-46; "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply," pp. 14-15.
(21) Kerferd and Annas argue that if Thrasymachus had adopted Cleitophon's suggestion, then Thrasymachus would have advocated the legalist view, espoused by Hourani, that justice is merely obedience to the laws. But Thrasymachus' rejection of Cleitophon's suggestion commits him to the immoralist position and (quite unfortunately) to an inconsistent position overall. Cf.. "Thrasymachus and Justice: A Reply," p. 14; An Introduction to Plato's Republic, p. 42. In their commentary Cross and Woozley maintain that Thrasymachus’ position would have remained consistent had he accepted Cleitophon’s suggestion. As they see it, there would then be "no conflict between its being just to serve what the stronger (ruler) believes to be his interest and its being just to obey the ruler, for while a ruler may make a mistake as to what actually is his interest he will hardly make a mistake as to what he believes to be his interest; and if it is right for subjects to do what the ruler believes to be in his interest, it will not matter what the ruler is mistaken in believing so." Cf.. Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary, p. 46.