The emergence of the Sophists and Socratics brought an intellectual upheaval in Greece after the end of the Persian Wars in 479 BCE; the great fifty years that followed brought an intellectual explosion in Greece. The explosion gave birth to two groups of philosophers: The Sophists and The Socratics, who disagreed with one another in the fifth and fourth century BCE over politics, ethics and morality. This paper endeavours to exemplify how Plato regards the Sophist philosophy as being flawed. Through Socrates, Plato advocates his claim without providing resolution to the question of justice in book one of The Republic. Prior to concentrating on the dialogue between Thrasymachus and Socrates concerning justice, one must understand the philosophies of the men. This paper will commence with an explanation of Thrasymachus’ philosophical group, the Sophists. A development of their foundations, concerns, as well as their history will enable comprehension on where Thrasymachus’ thoughts of justice derive. After addressing the Sophist philosophy, revealing the Socratic philosophy is imperative; conveying what Socratic philosophy is and how Socratic arguments develop. Lastly, once the philosophies of both Thrasymachus and Socrates are clear, there will be an analysis of their conversation on justice in book 1 of The Republic.
The Sophist philosophy rose during the “Great Fifty Years”, a time when Athens became the power of Greece. During this time, Athens reached a new level of artistic achievement and material gain. Furthermore, the religion and ethics of Greece at this moment differentiated on family traditions. In the fifth century, especially in Athens, individuals held their citizen duties as supremely important and a full time job. The common Athenian individual focused on perfecting an art form, the art of public life. Individuals needed teachers if they were to perfect this art form and these teachers were known as the Sophists. The Sophists were traveling teachers, who went city to city offering to teach multiple subjects. The subjects they taught included astronomy, music, history and literature. Moreover, the epitome of a Sophist teaching was the art of rhetoric, as well as the study of debate and persuasion. The rhetoric art and the study of debate were essential for an individual to succeed in court and most importantly, in a democracy. The Sophists were kings of free thought and only taught their skills of rhetoric to those who could pay. The masters of free thought not only were teachers, but professional philosophers as well, meaning they also were paid to explain philosophy. Sophists like Protagoras epitomized sophism, conveying that truth is relative to the individual or the culture.
The classical period of Greece (490 – 323 B. C. ) saw the artists perfecting their style. Following Alexander’s conquests, ancient Greece entered the Hellenistic period (323 – 31 B. C. ) (“Timeline of Ancient Greece”). Of course, Alexander the Great was not the only god of the ancient Greek civilization. Ancient Greeks worshipped plenty of gods that were believed to have appeared to them in human ...
Protagoras heavily believed that “man is the measure of all things”. This quote means that man determines ethics, justice, and knowledge. The quote raises controversy about what Protagoras meant by “man”. The “man” whom Protagoras mentions can be either the individual or the community. The former would suggest that Protagoras is in favor of subjective relativism. A Protagoras example of subjective relativism is sense perception. Sense perception is empirical knowledge based on the senses. Sense perception varies from person to person, since one may feel something greater than another may. An example would be a chilly wind blowing, where one individual feels slightly chilly while another is excruciatingly cold. The coldness of the wind is subjective to the individuals; one would define it as chilly while the other would describe the same wind to be cold. Therefore, with regards to sense perception, Protagoras refers to the individual man. The latter would be a cultural relativist whereby the community or government determines the standards of knowledge, ethics and justice. This piece of thought relates to the people who Sophists were concerned in teaching how to speak with eloquence in a democratic council. The men in the council were placed to create a greater city-state and as such, the individual who thinks only to himself cannot work in this function. Therefore, Protagoras seems in favour of cultural relativism in the aspect, which concerns a communal standard of truth. In retrospect, the Sophists were nomadic teachers, traveling across Greece and received payment for their duties. The Sophists philosophy states that man should regard knowledge to the individual when in contact with the sense and that the same man should absorb the communal tradition in order to be a good citizen. This form of philosophy is the opposite of Socratic philosophy, which believes that no man has absolute knowledge.
There is a certain positive position taken when the words knowledge and individual power are placed together. As my mind flooded with emerging ideas to define my feelings and thoughts on these words I kept coming back to independence, healthy self esteem and accepting. Reading through the assigned stories and poems and there analysis by others, I found that they too concluded a certain theme of ...
The Socratic philosophy is often attributed to Plato, for Socrates appears in approximately twenty-four of his pieces, with only one exception, the Laws. Since Plato uses Socrates as his muse, there are concerns regarding to Socrates’ existence. Xenophon provides a historical account of Socrates’ philosophy, independent of Plato. History states that Xenophon traveled to Asia two years before Socrates’ death and afterwards, he was exiled for thirty years. One can establish that Xenophon completed his Socratic writings during his thirty-year spell away from Athens. Now that the suspicious aspect to Socrates’ existence is covered, the paper can proceed to the Socratic philosophy.
The heart of Socratic philosophy is a journey for knowledge. Socrates’ search is about how to make people better, what constitutes a virtuous life and what awaits us after death; concluding it is not available for people to understand. Socrates admits that an individual can possess wisdom of the world of nature. The wisdom of the world of nature involves everything within the known world. However, Socratic philosophy suggests that although there is a possibility to possess absolute wisdom, “what passes for knowledge in this domain is probably not knowledge”. In a simpler context, Socratic philosophy does not deny the possibility to possess wisdom; however, it is highly unlikely that an individual knows everything of any particular subject. It is for this reason that Socrates thinks of himself in Platonic dialogue, as a seeker for wisdom and not as a teacher. Similarly, by presenting himself like a student, Socrates asks questions and challenges the people who claim to be professionals in a certain field. Socrates endeavours to seek knowledge and therefore his ignorance leads to persistent questions and is regarded as a thought provoker. The thought provoking is part of the Socratic dialogue, where one individual takes the position of a questioner and the other, the role of the answerer.
In Book 1 of the 'Republic', Socrates, in answer to the question 'What is Justice' is presented with a real and dangerous alternative to what he thinks to be the truth about Justice. Julia Annas believes Thrasymachus thinks Justice and Injustice do have a real existence that is independent of human institutions; and that Thrasymachus makes a decided commitment to Injustice. She calls this view ' ...
The answerer’s objective is to respond to whatever the questioner asks without contradicting himself. Socrates plays the role of the questioner in Plato’s works since he claims to have lack knowledge, therefore, he cannot be the answerer. Ultimately, Socrates, through the game of questioner and answerer defeats his opponent by pursuing universal definitions in which the answerer stumbles and contradicts himself, concluding that he too knows nothing. Lastly, in Plato’s work, Socrates was concerned with virtue as knowledge. This is regarded as Socratic “intellectualism” which presents virtue as a form of wisdom because it provides a moral understanding, which is essential for virtuous action. This means knowledge is critical to strive for moral excellence. Additionally, Socratic “intellectualism” argues that no individual acts malevolently on purpose; rather they do so with ignorance, and never against ones judgement. Simply, all beings strive to be virtuous, however, when one does not have the wisdom of what is right or wrong, than one can act badly without realizing. In remembrance, Socratic philosophy is a never-ending journey to find knowledge. Socrates is eager to learn from those who claim to have knowledge by persistently questioning them. This becomes apparent in The Republic during Socrates’ discussion of justice with Thrasymachus.
The dialogue between Thrasymachus and Socrates over justice is a clash between the Sophist and the Socratic. The dialogue begins when Thrasymachus is unsatisfied with Polemarchus and Socrates’ answer that “[j]ustice is duty”. Socrates, pain- stricken, makes a remark about how Sophists claim to know everything by saying, “you people who know all things should pity us and not be angry with us”. Plato then has the two argue over whether knowledge should be distributed freely for passion or demand compensation. This debate occurs when Plato writes “Socrates: I must learn from the wise-that is what I deserve to have done to me. Thrasymachus: what and no payment! A pleasant notion!” This quote is accurately describing the Sophist take on knowledge, as being the privilege of the wealthy. Plato gives a suggestion that Sophists were greedy, for Thrasymachus says, “Socrates refuses to teach himself and goes about learning of others to whom he never say thank you”. The quote suggests that the ‘thank you’ Socrates does not give is a financial reward for knowledge, since Socrates says, “[m]oney, I have none and therefore I pay in praise”. Thusly, Plato is stating that The Sophists were greedy since gratitude to them was found in the coin purse. Afterwards, the stage is set for the essence of the dialogue, where Thrasymachus explains his philosophy on justice.
Justice by Plato The Republic written by Plato examines many things. It mainly is about the Good life. Plato seems to believe that the perfect life is led only under perfect conditions which is the perfect society. Within the perfect society there would have to be justice. In the Republic it seems that justice is defined many different ways. In this paper I am going to discuss a few.First I am ...
Thrasymachus proclaims, “justice is the interest of the stronger”. Thrasymachus means that by the advantage of the stronger, the government is the ruling power, albeit a tyranny, democracy or aristocracy. Thrasymachus’ advantage of the stronger means a city-state implements laws to its own interest and makes justice with its power over the people. This form of justice is a cultural relativist philosophy. As mentioned in the section of Sophism, cultural relativism states that justice varies from city-state since every city-state is different. Thrasymachus uses the word ‘interest’ since governments establish justice based on their needs. Thrasymachus states that the sole commonality between all forms of government is that they are shepherds. The government implements laws and punishes those who oppose or go against them, forcing the people to be sheep since the government is stronger. Once Thrasymachus is done expressing his idea of justice control by power, Socrates becomes dissatisfied with the definition.
Socrates pursues knowledge and does so by demanding for universal definitions. Socrates plays the questioner with Thrasymachus by saying,
Justice, as you say, is the interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this? You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conductive to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?
It is hard to imagine the Western world without the influence of the Greeks. It is fair to say that if not without Greek culture and the contributions of Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the Western hemisphere would still be ruled by barbarians. The ideas coming from the lips and pens of the aforementioned thinkers were enough to educate and transform Europe into a civilized ...
Socrates dissects Thrasymachus’ original statement since the statement does not specify to which extent the interest of the stronger applies. Socrates gives an example of Polydamas and beef, asking why justice has to do with the bodily strength of an individual. Socrates is playing the role of the questioner by stating something outrageous and acting ignorant. Socrates’ ignorance is to have Thrasymachus contradict himself when he is refining the definition. Similarly, Thrasymachus does exactly that as Socrates asks if the rulers are sometimes “liable to err”. Thrasymachus, once again, refines his definition exclaiming that rulers can make mistakes. Socrates than proceeds to continue playing the role of questioner when asking, “when they make them right, they make them agreeably to their interest and when rulers are mistaken, contrary to their interest?” This question defeats Thrasymachus’ claim that justice is the interest of the stronger, since if a ruler makes an error, the ruler unintentionally commands things to be done to hurt him. Further, since the stronger command the weaker, when the ruler makes a mistake, Socrates claims that the weaker injure the stronger. This is a contradiction for if justice were to be the interest of the stronger than all decisions would need to benefit the stronger. Furthermore, if the stronger are commanding the weaker to injure their interests, then where is the strength that gives the stronger advantage to rule? Therefore, Socrates is dissatisfied with Thrasymachus’ claim of justice belonging to the stronger, since the definition Thrasymachus provides contradicts itself. The problem with then discussion about justice being the advantage of the stronger is that Socrates never provides a resolution to the topic.
The dialogue between Thrasymachus and Socrates ends without resolve to what is justice. The dialogue explains how one should not value the Sophists argument since Socratics defeats Thrasymachus in the Sophist game of speech. The essence of the dialogue was to be destructive of Thrasymachus’ idea of justice belonging to the stronger. Plato does not provide an alternative idea for what should serve as justice since Socrates is a seeker of knowledge and truly understands nothing. Perhaps, justice is placed by convention and part of the human soul. If this were to be the case than Socrates cannot provide an answer to the puzzle of justice, since the human soul is metaphysical, and just like his search for what constitutes a virtuous life, he concludes that it is not available for humans to understand.
... than perfect justice. Socrates changed Thrasymachus' mindset by making him agree that justice was goodness and knowledge and injustice their opposites. Plato argues that ... good of the whole. In a just society, the rulers, the military, the working-class persons, all do what they ... to him or her. Thrasymachus interjects that justice is that which is in the interest of the stronger party. When he ...
In essence, the clash between Thrasymachus and Socrates is intended by Plato to represent an argument between a Sophist and a Socratic. Plato, in book one of The Republic, expresses his comments to the Sophist approach to knowledge. In the dialogue, Plato argues that knowledge should not be given on the account of wealth. Moreover, Socrates defaces Thrasymachus’ argument through thought provoking and a game of questioner and answerer. Socrates, in the end, cannot provide an explanation to the nature of justice, for he admits that he knows nothing. Socrates made Thrasymachus’ argument invalid and thus, never absorbed any knowledge. The sole conclusion a Socratic philosopher can give to the nature of justice is that justice is instilled in the human soul and cannot be understood by humanity.
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