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Thrasymachus and ΠΛΕΟΝΕΞΙΑ

Author(s): G. J. Boter
Source: Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 39, Fasc. 3/4 (1986), pp. 261-281
Published by: BRILL
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4431511
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Mnemosyne, Vol. XXXIX,

AND

THRASYMACHUS

Fase. 3-4 (1986)

?????????

BY
G. J.
1. Ever

since

Kerferd

in Plato's

Thrasymachus
discussion
about

the

in his discussion

asserting

I do not intend

Republic.
tions offered

BOTER

his article
"The Doctrine of
published
in
there
has been much
Republic"
1947l),
what
is
question
exactly
Thrasymachus
with

Socrates

in the first book

to give a full evaluation
but I will sketch briefly

hitherto2),
lines of interpretation.
can be summarized
as follows:
problem

of Plato's

of all interpretathe main features

of the different
The
tion

between

two remarks
Thrasymachus'
of
the
advantage
stronger"
explained
(338c2),
of the ruler" (338d7-339a4)
with its corollary
dience to the laws" (339b7-9)
and b) "justice
(343c3)?
justice?
second.
To

1) What

is the rela-

is the
"justice
"the
by
advantage
that "justice
is obea)

is another's

good"
of Thrasymachus'
on
2) What is the character
opinions
It will be clear that the first question
has priority over the

the

first

Thrasymachus
fore,
"justice

most interpreters
have answered
that
question,
is primarily
interested
in politics
and that, thereis the advantage
of the stronger,
i.e. the ruler"

1) DUJ 40 (1947), 19-27; his article is reprinted in J. Classen, ed., Sophistik,
Wege der Forschung, Band 187 (Darmstadt 1976), 545-563. Because I have not
been able to see a copy of DUJ, I will quote Kerferd's article according to the
page-numbers in Sophistik.
2) Kerferd 545-548 with nn. 2-15 gives a lucid summary of interpretations published before his article; these should be supplied, as W. K. C. Guthrie, History
of GreekPhilosophy III (Cambridge 1969), 91, n. 3, points out, by the article of M.
Salomon, Der Begriff des Naturrechtsbei den Sophisten, ZRG 1911, 142-147. A summary which takes account of the literature up to 1974 can be found in P. P.
Nicholson, Unravelling Thrasymachus' Arguments in <(The Republic", Phronesis 19
(1974), 210-232. To the studies mentioned by Kerferd and Nicholson the following can be added: T. Astrene, An analysis of Thrasymachus'true definition of justice,
Une nouvelle
Dialogue FS? 20 (1977-8), no. 2-3, 57-63; G. Michaelidas-Nouaros,
?valuationdu dialogueentre Thrasymaqueet Socrate, PAA 53 (1978), 117-137; J. Annas,
An Introductionto Plato's Republic (Oxford 1981), 34-57.

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262

THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

*
his real position3).
Others
believe
that
is anrepresents
'justice
other's good" is what Thrasymachus
means
to
really
say4). Others,
is a legalist or conventionalist
in
again, believe that Thrasymachus
'
the strict sense, and conclude
that 'justice is obedience
to the laws"
is Thrasymachus'
basic position
from which
his other remarks
derive5).
Most

believe

that Thrasymachus'
utterances
are inat
first
"the
interest of the stronger,
i.e.
because,
sight,
and "another's
accordgood" are in flat contradiction:

interpreters

compatible,
the ruler"

ing to the first remark, it is argued, the ruler acts justly by pursuing
his own advantage,
because justice is the advantage
of the stronger,
i.e. the ruler; according
to the second remark,
on the other hand,
consists
in promoting
"another's
so that the ruler
justice
good",
acts justly by not pursuing
Those
namely his subjects.
statements
as incompatible
consistency.
not capable

Most

his own

advantage,

but that of another,

who regard Thrasymachus'
interpreters
for his inadduce several explanations
of these scholars
believe
that Thrasymachus
is

of sound

and that Plato wants to show us
reasoning,
like those of Thrasymachus
are not
that people who hold opinions
even able to express themselves
in an intelligible
Others
way 6).
7)
3) For an extensive list of scholars who hold this opinion see Nicholson 211, n.
3.
4) E.g. Kerferd 559-561; Nicholson 216, 222 ff.; Annas 45.
5) See Kerferd 546-547, with nn. 8-12; to these can be added G. F. Hourani,
Thrasymachus'Definition offustice in Plato's Republic, Phronesis 7 (1962), 110-120.
6) Among others H. Sidgwick, The Philosophyof Kant and otherLectures(London
1905), 370; D. J. Allan, Plato: Republic bookI (London 1940) ad 344c7; Annas 46.
7) J. P. Maguire, Thrasymachus?or Plato? Phronesis 16 (1971), 142-163,
reprinted in Sophistik (see note 1), 546-588, passim; E. L. Harrison, Plato's
Manipulation of Thrasymachus, Phoenix 21 (1967), 27-39, esp. 32-35. Maguire,
though making many keen observations, is obsessed by the idea that Plato tries
to manipulate Thrasymachus from a political to a moral context; I shall deal with
some of his views below, but for the moment I may notice that this distinction is
not very helpful for the interpretation of the Republic, throughout the work, Plato
stresses the basic similarity of political and moral behaviour; as E. Barker, The
Political Thought of Plato and Aristotle (London 1906), 95, n. 1, puts it: "We must
not suppose for a moment any distinction of private morality and public duty, or
restrict justice to the latter. The two are one; and justice is both." Cf. Annas 40.
In fact, I believe that most difficulties in the interpretation of Thrasymachus' position have arisen from drawing too sharp a distinction between politics and morals.
Harrison argues that Plato manipulates Thrasymachus for artistic purposes, and
that that is the reason why Thrasymachus, in his speech, does not introduce the
????? - f?s?? antithesis: according to Harrison "Plato's answer to this doctrine

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

263

is being "manipulated"
that Thrasymachus
by Plato and
confor holding
we need not blame Thrasymachus
therefore,
an
A
refrains
from
views.
third
explanaoffering
group 8)
flicting
tion for Thrasymachus'
inconsistency.

believe
that,

statements
A minority
believe
that Thrasymachus'
of scholars
considers
"three
different
can be reconciled;
Nicholson
(213-216)
exhaust
the
that
possibilities)
claiming
they
explanations
(without
two statements
can be made coneach alleging that Thrasymachus'
sistent."
I will summarize
his very lucid account
briefly.
that "the advanThe first explanation
mentioned
by Nicholson,
tage

i.e.

the ruler"

breaks

down

of the stronger,

on

9) and "another's
the fact that

in

are
good"
343d3-e7

simply
synonyms,
acts
of just and unjust
some instances
mentions
Thrasymachus
on
the
other
are involved
where private persons
hand, it is
10). If,
is subordinate
to "the advantage
assumed
that "another's
good"
of the stronger,
i.e. the ruler"
that, in this
n), it could be objected
his
doctrine
to some
only
interpretation,
"Thrasymachus
applies
the subjects"
moreover,
namely,
214-215);
people,
(see Nicholson
the
in the passage
referred
to
343d3-e7,
above,
just man
already
The
third inof another who is not the ruler.
acts to the advantage
terpretation
one: it says
is subordinate

the gap is the reverse of the second
i.e. the ruler(s)"
of the stronger,
advantage
of
to "another's
This
is
the
interpretation
good".

offered
that

to bridge

"the

and Nicholson
Nicholson
and, in his wake,
12). Kerferd
'
of the stronger,
argue that in saying that 'justice is the advantage
i.e. the ruler(s)",
is speaking
from the point of
"Thrasymachus
Kerferd

could not be fitted into the Socratic elenchus: it belonged to the positive development he planned for the later books." (p. 34).
8) E.g. R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley, Plato's Republic, A Philosophical Commentary(London and Basingstoke 1964), 41.
9) The juxtaposition of the stronger and the ruler is Nicholson's, not mine; I
believe that it is at least premature to regard the two as synonyms; cf. below.
10) As far as I know, this interpretation has not been put forward by any
scholar; it is mentioned as a theoretical possibility by Nicholson.
11) This is the interpretation of E. Barker, GreekPolitical Theory. Plato and his
Predecessors(London 1918), 180, mentioned by Nicholson 214.
12) Kerferd 558 ff.; Nicholson 216, 222 ?.; with some modifications, it also
represents the position of F. E. Sparshott, Socrates and Thrasymachus, Monist 50
(1966), 421-459 and T. Y. Henderson, In Defense of Thrasymachus,APhQ 7 (1970),
218-228.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

264
view

of the ruled

only" (Kerferd
560), so that this statement
says
what
is
about
nothing
just for the ruler. In this way, they
evade the difficulty
mentioned
above, viz. that for the ruler the two
is
statements
the advantage
of the stronger,
i.e. the ruler"
"justice
is another's
are mutually
and "justice
exclusive.
good"
whatsoever

I do believe that, of all interpretations
which I have mentioned,
but I do not believe that it is
this one is by far the most attractive,
for the following
reasons.
In the first place,
wholly
satisfying,
in my opinion)
and Nicholson
(rightly,
agree in denying
i.e. the ruler" is a
is the advantage
of the stronger,
"justice
to
definition
that, according
13). Both, on the other hand, believe
is
another's
but
leave
it
Thrasymachus,
justice
they
good 14),
Kerferd
that

undecided

whether

Nicholson
fact,
"characterisation"
another's

good"

or not this

is to be regarded
as a definition; in
"characteristic"
and
of
speak

to
prefers
of justice
is
"justice
they consider
15). Anyway,
as a proposition
with universal
Now
validity
16).

13) Kerferd 560: "Thus the statement that Justice is the interest of the stronger
cannot be treated as a definition (his italics) in Thrasymachus' eyes?rather it is a
deliberate paradox framed in terms such as to arrest the attention (...)."
Nicholson 211: "(...) once it is understood that he (Thrasymachus, GJB) is concerned to characterise and not define (...)."
14) Kerferd 559: "Throughout he (Thrasymachus, GJB) has only one conception of justice and one conception of injustice"; Nicholson 227: "if we consider
just acts as a single class, then their common characteristic is that they are "the
advantage of another"."
15) Nicholson 211 (quoted n. 13); 224: "So "advantage of another" is the
universal characteristic of justice"; 227 (quoted in the previous note).
16) Kerferd 559: "So for example the subject acting in accordance with justice
will seek the interest of the stronger. He (Thrasymachus, GJB) might have added
"While the ruler acting in accordance with justice will seek the interest of the
"
Nicholson 224: "to be just
weaker, which for the ruler is the good of another."
is always to another person's advantage and your disadvantage, whilst to be unjust
is always the opposite."
Among philosophers, there has been much discussion about the question what
a definition is or should be. The results of this discussion have also been applied
to statements made in Plato's dialogues and, what is more important for our purpose, to Thrasymachus' statements in R. I. Thus Hourani 117-119 claims that
"justice is the advantage of another" cannot have been intended as a definition,
because it is synthetic. Kerferd, Thrasymachusand Justice: a Reply, Phronesis 9
(1964), 13 (supported by Maguire 144-145, D. J. Hadgopoulos, Thrasymachusand
Legalism, Phronesis 18 (1973), 204-208, and Nicholson 217) objects that "when
Plato asks questions in the form 'What is x' he is not asking questions about the
meaning of a word or about linguistic usage?he is asking questions about something which he regarded as a thing." It would be better to point out that the state-

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

265

of his speech, Thrasymachus
does not only say that
at the beginning
of the stronger
and
justice is another's
good, namely the advantage
the ruler, but he adds that it is one's own disadvantage
(343c3-5).
as a universal
if we regard
is another's
So,
"justice
good"
this means that justice,
characterization, i.e. a synthetic
proposition,
its essence
whatever
may be, always has as a result another's
good
and one's
own ruin, and that injustice
always has the opposite
to be the truth (see above,
believes
result. This is what Nicholson
and

notes

my

In the second
however,
part of his speech,
14-16).
a class of unjust acts which do not benefit
mentions

Thrasymachus
who
the person

acts which
commits
are
them,
namely
unjust
is always the advanso that it is not true that injustice
discovered,
it is not true that justice is always
tage of the unjust agent. Further,
the advantage
and one's own ruin: this is only the case
of another
the
a just man has to do with an unjust man (see 343d3-e7);
where everybody is just (and where, accordingly,
situation
everybody
in his speech.
If, on the
by Thrasymachus
profits) is not considered
when

as a definition,
is another's
hand, we regard "justice
good"
an analytic
as
Kerferd
does
proposition,
perhaps
(cf. above,
and my note 14), this means that anyone
who wishes to be just is
good, but also to pursue his own
obliged not only to seek another's

other
i.e.

ruin.
good"
give
In

This

is absurd.

as a universal
a universal
the

second

Thus

whether

characterization

account
place,

we take

"justice
or as a definition,
and injustice.

of justice
it is a vital

element

of

is another's
it does

Kerferd's

not
and

that "justice
is the advantage
of the
interpretation
i.e. the ruler" is only valid for the subjects
stronger,
(see above),
is another's
and
whilst
is valid for both subjects
"justice
good"
rulers. In his speech, however,
mentions
"another's
Thrasymachus
of the stronger,
and "the advantage
i.e. the ruler" in one
good"
Nicholson's

breath

(343c3-4);

therefore,

with

"another"

he means

to designate

ment "justice is the advantage of the stronger" in itself can be regarded both as
synthetic and as analytic: if it is regarded as analytic, it means that the essence
of justice is to pursue the advantage of the stronger; this is, basically, the position
of Callicles in the Gorgias (cf. my note 59). If, on the other hand, it is regarded
as synthetic, it means that justice, whatever its essence may be, in practice always
results in the advantage of the stronger. I therefore believe that in R. I "justice
is the advantage of the stronger" is to be regarded as a synthetic proposition, but
Hourani is not justified in assuming that it is qualitate qua synthetic.

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266

THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

"the stronger,
i.e. the ruler",
which excludes
the identification
of
"another"
with "the weaker,
i.e. the subject".
What is more, at
the end of his speech,
after having
mentioned
instances
of both
and
he returns to his initial statement,
private
political
injustice,
is the

of the

without
stronger",
any further
"the
of
the
therefore,
(344c7)
17);
advantage
to
"the
of
the
ruler"
and
"another's
stronger"
applies
advantage
Thus
"another"
is always "the stronger",
so that it is
good".
to say that for the ruler justice
is the advantage
of the
impossible
"justice

advantage

qualification

subject, because
"the weaker".

in that case "another"

would

be synonymous

with

Nicholson
(224 and 227) tries to evade this difficulty
by assuming
that the ruler is a sub-class
of another.
I wholly agree with him that
the ruler is a specific case of the stronger,
but his second distinction
breaks

down

other"

is regarded

Nicholson

on

the

observation

made above,
that "analready
as
identical
with
the
by Thrasymachus
stronger.
of another,
(224) says: "It (the advantage
GJB) is the
of the stronger"
only in those cases where the stronger

"advantage
takes advantage."
account,
however,
Throughout
Thrasymachus'
the stronger
is regarded
as the stronger
because
of
the fact
exactly
that he does unjustly
take advantage
of his neighbour;
a "stronger"
who does not do this, will no longer be the stronger but will become
the weaker,
because
he will himself be exploited
else,
by someone
who

will

then

In

my

be the stronger.

I will
that
contend
none
of
interpretation,
statements
is
to
a
be
a
i.e.
as
definition,
Thrasymachus'
regarded
which
of
the essence
describes
the thing defined
and
proposition
which is valid under all circumstances
and for everyone.
Instead of
2.

one of Thrasymachus'
trying to identify
tion, I will try to prove that Thrasymachus
essence
of justice
is ?s?t??, the opposite

as his defini-

statements

assumes

tacitly
of p?e??e??a,

that the

an opinion

recapitulation of
17) Kerferd 560, ?. 31, says that in Adeimantus'
Thrasymachus' doctrine in book II "it is the definition of the long speech which
is reproduced, rather than the earlier statement that justice is simply the interest
of the stronger (367c2-5)." This is not true: Adeimantus says that t? ??? d??a???
????t???? a?a???, s??f???? t?? ??e?tt????, thus combining Thrasymachus' two
statements.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????
which
ingly,

is held

Plato. Accordby every Greek of his time, including
I will contend
that Thrasymachus
is only speaking
about the

and that his real position
consequences of justice,
of
is
sequences
justice
exactly what it professes
the
of
I will illustrate
advantage
stronger".

be it in public or in private
affairs; "the
stronger'',
in my interpretation,
is a special case of "the stronger",
the one who is able to commit
the
injustice without running

ruler",

namely
risk of being
unjust man.
To

punished,

the question
I will answer

what

which

him

distinguishes

is the character

that he combines

from

the private

of Thrasymachus'
nihilism"
with

"ethical

an interpretation
chological
egoism",
H.
W.
B.
by
Joseph.
3.

the conconcerning
to be, namely
"the
that ''another''
is

"the

always

ions,

267

which

has already

been

opin''psygiven

Most

read the text in a so-called
linear way, that
interpreters
at 338c and follow Plato's text line by line
is, they start interpreting
and page by page.
Nicholson
instead
starts his interpretation
at
343b and only returns
to Thrasymachus'
initial
statement
after
dealt with his monologue.
I propose
to go further still: I
having
shall start with
at the beginning
who
has not
Thrasymachus,
clear-cut
way,

a brief

of the first part of Glaucon's
analysis
speech
of book II. My reason for doing so is that Glaucon,
been
satisfied
refutation
of
fully
by Socrates'
he
will
that
to
state
the
a
in
proclaims
try
problem
so that Socrates will be able to confront
the questions

in an equally
clear way. After having
isolated
the elements
of Glaucon's
account
I will turn to book I and apply the results of
this analysis
to the statements
made by Thrasymachus.
raised

The

way in which

own

words,

(358b7-cl)

Glaucon

intends

by
"restating
18). He then proceeds

to state the problem
Thrasymachus'
that
saying

by

is, in his

argument"
Thrasymachus'

18) There is no reason at all to assume that Plato makes Glaucon give a
distorted recapitulation of the views expounded by Thrasymachus, as K. R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, vol. I, The Spell of Plato (London 1945), 118
with nn. 52 and 53, does. In the first place, the views of Thrasymachus and
Glaucon coincide exactly, as I hope to show; in the second, it would have been
rather pointless for Plato to attack a theory which was represented in a distorted
way.
An exhaustive discussion of the speeches made by Glaucon and Adeimantus is

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268

THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

falls into three parts: 1) the origin and essence of justice;
argument
that nobody practises justice willingly;
2) the conviction
3) the belief
that the unjust life is better than the just life (358cl-6).
Glaucon
immediately
but that
pounded
358c8).

adds

that he does

he feels

unable

to these

them

when

opinions
he hears

himself,
them ex-

and countless

others (?a? ?????? ?????
of ?a? ?????? ?????
is of the
for our understanding
of the Thrasymachus
the view that is put forward by Thrasymachus

by Thrasymachus
I believe
that the

greatest
importance
as a whole:
passage
is not just a nihilist view
many people 19).
Glaucon
begins
justice.

not adhere

to refute

The

elements

addition

of a dishonest

his long speech
of this sketch

sophist,

a sketch

with

of the origin of
as follows:

be schematized

may
1) justice is a ??s?? (359a5 ?eta?? ??sa?;
best and the worst ways of life 20).
2) justice is qualitate qua a social
to other people (358e5
a???????;

it is the view of very

virtue,
359a2

a8 ?? ??s?)
only

between

the

in relation
practised
359a3 s?????a?

????????;

a?t??)

21).
wishes
to get as much
as possible
3) everybody
by nature
even at the expense
of others:
359c5 p?e??e??a?, d p?sa
himself,
thus successful
p?e??e??a can be
f?s?? d???e?? p?f??e? ?? a?a???;
identified
with t?? ??? a??st??
d?t??, e?? ?d???? ?? d?d? d????
(359a6).
359c5-6

People
????

are, however,
d? ??a pa???eta?

compelled
by law to stick to t? ?s??:
il?p? t?? t?? ?s?? t???? 22). Glaucon

now given by K. F. Moors, Glaucon and Adeimantus on Justice (Washington 1981);
on p. 13 of his book he says: "Glaucon is presenting a more conceptually oriented
while preserving the intention of
approach than that of Thrasymachus,
Thrasymachus' perception of justice."
19) In some places Glaucon repeats that he is reproducing the opinions of the
common people, e.g. 358e3 fas??, 360c8 pa? ????, 362c6 fas??. J. Adam, The
Republic of Plato (Cambridge 1902), vol. I, ad 337a ff., is therefore fully justified
in concluding that "the definition which Plato puts into the mouth of
Thrasymachus represents a theory current in the politics of the day." I hope to
make it clear that the definition is not restricted to politics.
20) Cf. Aristotle, EN 1130b30 ff. As Maguire 153 f. has rightly noted, but not
fully worked out, there are many points of contact between R. I (and II) and EN
book V. I will more than once refer to Aristotle's EN and Pol., because in many
points Aristotle's analysis states in a clear way what is implied in Plato's words.
21) Cf. Ar. EN 1129b26-27 ??? ap??? ???a p??? ?te???.
22) By using this terminology, Glaucon refers to the famous debate on ?????
and f?s??, for which see F. Heinimann, Nomos und Physis (Basel 1945) and Guthrie,
HGPUl 55-134.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????
lustr?tes

his thesis

at great

length
by telling
The
ring.
upshot

Gyges'

269

the
of

famous
the

story of
story is that
to get more

invisible-making
will behave
who has the opportunity
anyone
unjustly
than his due without
the risk of being punished.
running
The
most important
4)
point is not formulated
explicitly
Glaucon
means

because

it is self-evident:

that

by
if everybody
acts justly,
this
thus a simple
(t? ?s?? 359c6);
someone
takes more than his

everybody
gets his due
teaches us that, whenever
else will get less: the p???? e?e?? of the one implies the
due, someone
?'?att?? e?e?? of the other. This, again,
that if a person is
implies
determined
to stick to ?s?t?? (i.e. a just man), he gets away with
calculation

e?att??

when
an

having

affairs

with

someone

who

tries

to get p????

when

then,
Justice,
practised
by
when practised
is inby some,
p???? for the unjust,
?'?att?? for the just.
equality:
as
5) The relation between justice and the laws can be described
follows: the essence of justice is ?s?t??, this ?s?t?? is guaranteed by the
on the one hand, the laws forbid one to act unjustly
laws; 359al-4:
(i.e.

everybody,

unjust
man)
is equality;

?d??e?? a2);
(??t'
whenever
injustice

on

23).

injustice,

the

other

satisfaction
hand,
they promise
inflicted upon someone
(??t' ?d??e?s?a?
and d??a??? are practically
synonyms
(??????? te
has been

a2). Thus ???????
?a? d??a??? 359a4)
?? ????? are the
24): t? ?s?? is the content of justice,
and
the
laws
are
identical
form; therefore,
acting justly
obeying
25).
4.

I now

Thrasymachus

turn

to book
which

I, and I will start with those utterances
are most closely related to what Glaucon

of
has

23) For the popular identification of p?e??e??a and injustice see, e.g. Ar. EN
1129a32 ff.; R.-A. Gauthier and J.-Y. Jolif, Aristote, L'?thique ? Nicomaque (Louvain/Paris 19702) ad loc. cite many places in other authors; for the opposition
p?e??e??a??s?t?? cf. for instance Archytas fr. 47B3 DK, Isoc. Phil. 39, Paneg. 17;
Dem. C. Androt. 56, C. Timon. 68; see further Maguire 154 with n. 35. Ar. EN
1131al3 says that it is obvious to everyone that e? ??? t? ?d???? a??s??, t? d??a???
Gs??.
24) When a concept is illustrated and extended by another concept, Plato often
connects the two by means of te ?a?, thus indicating that from now on the two can
be regarded as synonyms; see, e.g., Smp. 200a3-6: the concept of ???? is extended
by the concept of ep?????a(200a3-4); from 200a5 on the two are mentioned in one
breath, ep????e?te ?a? Ipq. are regarded as interchangeable.
25) Cf.Ar. EN 1129a33 f. ?ste d???? dt? ?a? [?] d??a???esta? ? te ??????? ?a? ?
?s??.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

270

here Thrasymachus,
after having
said, to wit the passage 343d3-e7:
characterized
justice as ????t???? a?a??? and ???e?a ?????, mentions
his just countersome cases in which the unjust man overreaches
part in private affairs. When
man gets more, the just less;
man pays less, the just man
the just
among the citizens,

they have a joint enterprise,
when taxes should be paid,

the unjust
the unjust
is divided

pays more 26); when money
the unjust much;
man profits nothing,
to abuse his
office 27), the just refuses

they fulfil a public
power and thus incurs the anger of his family and friends, whereas
It is clear that in all these
in all respects.
the unjust gets the opposite
in an antithetic
cases the just man and the unjust man are depicted
when

28): if each of the two would act justly, each would get an
man
the
disturbs
that the unjust
now
share
equal
(?s?t??);
man
less:
the
and
takes
more,
automatically
gets
just
equilibrium
entails t? e?att??
t? p???? e?e?? of the one inevitably
e?e?? of the
situation

it must be noted that the unjust and the just man
other. Further,
live in a society which is ruled by laws that warrant ?s?t??: this apof
on a small scale is the opposite
injustice
pears from 344a7-8:
t??a????, ? ?? ?at?
344b 1-5: whenever

s?????? t????t??a
a private unjust

despised
29). That is to say,
to it that he either acts unnoticed

and

?a? ????a ?a? ??a afa??e?ta? and
he is punished
man is detected,
the private unjust man must see

?d????as??

his goal by
(????a) or reaches
him
his
victim
to
prevent
(e.g. by intimidating
he will be punishto the police); if he does not succeed,
are also men30). These two ways of evading punishment
???t? ?a? ? ?d???? ?p??e???? ????? t???
361a2-4
Glaucon:
?a?
e? ????e? sf?d?a
?d???? e??a?; 361b3-4
?a??a??t?,

???sas?a?

?sa a? ??a? d??ta?.

means

of violence

from

going
ed by law
tioned by

26) As Ar. EN 1134a 10 f. points out, e??e?? t?? ??a?e??? is virtually identical
with ?pe????? t?? a?a???.
27) It should be stressed that at 343el a??? has nothing to do with ruling a
state; what is meant is a public office, e.g., a tax-officer.
28) Cf. Nicholson 223, Annas 41.
29) Nicholson 224 therefore errs when he concludes that justice is always to the
advantage of another: when everybody is just, justice is advantageous for
everyone.
30) Thus Nicholson 223 is wrong in stating: "the rules of justice favour those
who break them."

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

271

initial statement:
Let us now look at Thrasymachus'
of
When asked
the
stronger
advantage
(338cl-2)31).
statement
ment

tries

Thrasymachus
to seek its own

the ruled (338d7-339a4)32).

proceeds
interest,
It must

justice is the
to clarify this

to explain
that every governand proclaims
this to be just/or
that by "t? a?t?
be emphasized

means
the advantage
of the
s??f????"
(338e 1-2) Thrasymachus
rulers themselves, not of the state as a whole, as some commentators
seem to think33);
if the rulers try to maintain
the stability
of the
state, they do so only because in that way they will be able to fortify
their own position
as rulers, and thus to go on serving
their own
like 338e4 t? sf?s?
This appears
interest34).
clearly from phrases
s??f????,

339c7

t? ta s??f????ta
(...) ea?t??? and 339d7
t? a?t? s??f????.

t?? ?a?t???

cf. 347d5

???t?st??;
Pol. 1279al7-20,
Aristotle,
states:
t????? ??
fa?e???

tells

us that

there

are

two

types

of

dsa? ?e? p???te?a? t? xotvfj s??f????
a?ta? ?e? ???a? t???????s??
??sa? ?at? t? ap??? d??a???,
s??p??sa,
p?sa ? ?a?
t??
dsa? de t? sfete???
a????t??,
??a?t????a?
?????
which
the
state
t??
Thus,
?????
p???te???35).
pa?e???se??
a
sketches
in
Aristotelian
terms,
is,
??a?t?????
Thrasymachus
the ruler does not fulfil his proper task, that
p???te?a, a pa????as??:
a
is to see to it that every citizen
gets his due, but he is simply
he
is
due
the
takes
more
what
to
same
than
him;
p?e????t??,
by
his subjects,
token the citizens,
automatically
get less than their
due.
own

Thrasymachus'
interest only,

blunt

statement

is elucidated

that

by Glaucon's

rulers

look

remark

after

their

at 359c5:

ac-

31) Nicholson 232 wonders why Plato speaks of the s??f???? of the ruler but
of the a?a??? of another, instead of using the same word throughout. I think that
the phrase t?? ?a?t??? ???t?st?? at 339d7 shows that Plato regards the terms as
synonyms; it could be objected that it is impossible to form a superlative of a participle, but if Plato had felt that s??f???? is essentially different from a?a???, he
would not have used the superlative of a?a??? in this context.
32) Kerferd 560, n. 32, rightly stresses the importance of this 'Vital qualifying
phrase".
33) See Maguire 146; O. Gigon, Gegenw?rtigkeitund Utopie I (Z?rich-M?nchen
1976), 52.
34) Cf. Nicholson 226: "(...) That is, when these rulers do benefit their subjects, when they keep law and order, defend the polis, promote trade, and so on,
they do it for their own advantage, and in fact it is ultimately for their own advantage and not for their subjects'."
35) Cf. Ar. Pol. 1279a28-31; EN 1160a31-b22, where Aristotle says (b2-3): ?
??? ?a? t??a???? t? a?t? s??f???? s??pe?, ? d? ?as??e?? t? t?? a????????.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

272

most people, including
believe
cording to Glaucon,
Thrasymachus,
that everyone
to get more than his due; if
(p?sa
f?s??) wishes
wishes this, the ruler does so too.
everyone
A second point which asks for comment
is the phrase 338e3-6:
d?
t??t?
d??a???
t??? ??????????
e??a?, t? sf?s?
???e?a?
?p?f??a?
?a?
t??
t??t??
te ?a?
s??f????,
???a????ta ???????s?? ?? pa?a??????ta
In my analysis
?d?????ta.
of Glaucon's
speech I have said that the
relation between justice and the laws is that of content to form: in
an op^r\ p???te?a the two coincide
in an ??a?t?????
p???te?a
exactly,
do
not
coincide
the
rulers
abuse
the
form
they
anymore:
(laws) of
=
to
serve
their
own
p?e??e??a (
Now, at last,
justice
injustice)36).
the relation
between
the private unjust man and the unjust ruler
becomes
clear: both are p?e????ta?,
and both are therefore
?d????
see
again and again says that his ruler is unjust:
whereas
the
344c2, 348d5, 348el0,
but,
351b4-5)37);
the ruler
private unjust man needs to act ????a ?a? ??a (cf. above),
runs no risk at all of being punished:
he has his injustice
sanctioned
laws! Thus the tyrant (i.e. the type of ruler who can
by self-imposed
do so most openly: a democratic
team of rulers will give themselves
more trouble to keep up the semblance
of justice)
is the perfect un(Thrasymachus
344al,
344a4,

man

and lives therefore,
in the opinion
of most
(344al-c2)38)
in the best condition,
that is, acting justly without
people,
being
punished
(359a6 t?? ??? ???st?? d?t??, ??? ?d???? ?? d?d? d????; cf.

just

344b6-c2)39).
36) Maguire 154 mentions the possibility of "a double layer of theory", but
strangely abstains from working this out for Thrasymachus' theory. Sparshott 429
mentions the distinction between conventional and natural justice as one solution
to the problem; he rejects it on the ground that "the distinction between natural
and conventional justice is conspicuously absent from the discussion, and it would
not fit the context, since Thrasymachus denies that there is any difference except
in scale between the injustice of the ruler and that of the lawbreaker (344a4-c4)."
Thus he does not recognize that the difference "in scale" is caused by the difference of the means they use to carry out their injustice.
37) This is rightly emphasized by Maguire 149, n. 24.
38) Nicholson 224 and 228 maintains that according to Thrasymachus "the
essence of ruling is to be unjust." This is an overstatement: Thrasymachus' ideal
unjust man, the tyrant, is someone who is in the position of a ruler and who is
clever enough to abuse his position as a ruler for his own advantage. According
to Thrasymachus everyonewho has good sense will act unjustly (cf. 348d2), therefore the ruler who has sense will do so, too.
39) Conversely, the just man lives, according to Thrasymachus, in the worst
condition, that is, being treated unjustly without having the opportunity to obtain
satisfaction (359a7; cf. 343c3-5).

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

273

a transition
that in 343c-344c
is effected
Maguire
(149) believes
from a political to a moral context40).
Of course, he is fully justified
in arguing
that from 343d3 on Thrasymachus
speaks for the first
time

about

but immediately
after the instances
of
the
returns
to
the
ruler,
injustice
Thrasymachus
private
namely
the tyrant41).
It aptype of ruler who is best able to act unjustly,
that
in
the
man
and
the
view,
pears
Thrasymachus'
unjust
tyrant
private

injustice;

in degree. For
are not qualitatively
but
differ
different,
only
the ideal unjust man, that is,
the tyrant represents
Thrasymachus,
the successful unjust man (cf. 344c6 ??a??? ?????????)42);
he does so
in
contrast
the
run the
to
does
not
because,
ordinary
tyrant
people,
since he has abolished
the justice to which
risk of being punished,
that
his victims
could resort. Another
place from which it appears
considers
the
difference
between
the
private
unjust
Thrasymachus
man

and the unjust ruler as one of degree
is beneficial,
but pales into insignificance
that is, tyranny.
5.

beside

as

1) the content of justice is ?s?t??: this means that everybody
his due. Laws are designed
this ?s?t??.
to warrant
would like to have more than
however,
2) most people,

gets

of my

interpretation

can

pickpocketing
the real injustice,

schematized

The

elements

is 348d5-9:

be

follows:

their

in getting
succeeds
more (p???? e?e??), the
due; if someone
mediate
result is that someone
else gets less (e?att??
e?e??).

im-

40) In fact, to draw a distinction between political and moral behaviour is to beg
the question; in the last resource, political behaviour too is morally determined.
It would be better to distinguish between political and private behaviour.
41) Maguire 149 ff. is compelled to misinterpret 344al-c7 in a remarkable way:
he fails, or possibly refuses, to recognize that the tyrant is a ruler. Thus he says
(149-150): "he (the tyrant, GJB) can violate all the moral rules?not the political
inhibit lesser mortals. He is best able
arrangements of particular regimes?which
p?e??e?te??." I dare say he is best able p?e??e?te??, but he is so because he imposes
his particular regime (tyranny) on his subjects. It is telling that in his note 25 (p.
150) Maguire mentions as types of government "democratic, oligarchic, or what
not" (my italics); at 338d7-8 Thrasymachus had mentioned democracy, oligarchy
and tyrannyas instance of political regimes. Maguire's basic error, in my opinion,
is that he believes that in 338d ff. the discussion is about the relation between individual and law (p. 151); it really is about the relation between individuals, in
this case rulers and subjects.
42) Cf. Nicholson 228: "(...) its key exemplification, the extreme case of the
tyrant."

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

274

3) in a society where the laws watch
breaks the laws must evade punishment
resp. threatening
(????a) or by using,
who is in the position
4) if someone
than his due, he does so by dissolving
justice:
justice

in fact is injustice
to the laws).
(obedience
what

possessing
d????s?ta?
5) thus
worse;

to use, violence
of a ruler desires

(??a).
to get more
of the laws and

the identity
of the ruler) is called
p?e??e??a
(the
The ruler is able to bring about this

he is the ruler. The
because
exactly
who is best able to do so is the tyrant,
who, beside
?a? a?t??? ??d?ap?d?s??e???
of his citizens
the goods
aller

"Umwertung
kind of ruler

man,

over the ?s?t??, anyone who
either by acting unnoticed

Werte"

(344b6).
in all cases

where

a just

man

has to do with

an unjust
comes off

or a private person,
the just man
to justice
?a?
therefore,
sticking
(cf. 344a6
disadand
??? a? ??????ta?) brings about another's
good
a ruler

whether

in all

cases,

?d???sa?
for the just agent himself.
vantage
the
ruler and the private
unjust man differ only in degree;
6)
their goals are the same,
p?e??e??a; their means are difnamely
ferent: the ruler abuses the laws, the private unjust man acts ????a
?a? ??a.

to a problem
which has already been mentioned
of
is justice for the ruler?" The interpretation
viz. "what
above,
is seeking
to wit that for the ruler justice
and Nicholson,
Kerferd
been dealt with above.
has already
of the subject,
the advantage
6.

I now

turn

hold
some scholars
to the question:
that
others
believe
justice for
justice43),
I
that the
believe
in seeking
his own interest44).
the ruler consists
essential justice (?s?t??) and formal justice (obedistinction
between
are
dience to the laws) shows that, in a sense, both interpretations
is
formal
the
have
to
the
The
which
d??a???
obey,
subjects
right.
There

are two

other

that the ruler stands

d??a???; Thrasymachus
the ruler
(338e3-4);
justice

being

only

answers

outside

says that this applies to the ruled
expressly
this kind of justice,
stands
outside
himself
his own
he pursues
the way
by which

43) Among others Maguire 146; T. Irwin, Plato's Moral Theory(Oxford 1977),
30, with n. 24 (p. 289).
44) Among others R. L. Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic of Plato (London
1901), 32; Allan 29; cf. Nicholson 215.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

275

of justice,
on the other hand, is the same
is
the
it
d??a???
ruler;
?s?t??. It is therefore
including
for the ruler to see to it that every citizen
his
due.
gets
At first sight, this amounts
to the same as what Kerferd
and
The

advantage45).
for everyone,

essence

Nicholson

to Thrasymachus
in his
maintain,
namely that according
it is just for the ruler to seek the advantage
of the ruled (see
To explain why this is not so, I will have to discuss at some
the phrase ????t???? a?a??? t? d?t? at 343c3-4.

speech
above).

length
Commentators

and

translators

agree

in

taking

t?

d?t?

as

"rever?"

(Stallbaum),
''eigentlich"
(Schleiermacher),
"literally"
"in reality"
"in Wahrheit"
(Shorey),
(Apelt) etc.; Allan
(Jowett),
ad loc. proposes
to put a comma after a?a???, and "to make t? d?t?
of the next phrase";
for this position of t? d?t? he comthe opening
I believe,
that the text should be
however,
pares Phdr. 238c946).
in
as
it
stands
all
other
and that t? d?t? has a
editions,
punctuated
very

important

Many
1130a3-4
d??a??s???

in this place.
on 343c3,
commenting

function

editors,
d?a de t?
and

refer

to

Aristotle

EN

a?t?

t??t? ?a? ????t????
a?a??? d??e? e??a? ?
?a? d?a t??t? ????t???? e??a? fas?? a?a???
that the phrase
has the
apparently
assuming

1134b5-6

t?? d??a??s????47),
same meaning
for Aristotle

as it has for Thrasymachus.
In the
is
of justice,
twoas
however,
justice
regarded
sided: on the one hand, it compels
people to act justly toward their
on the other, it protects
all citizens
the infellow-citizens;
against
Thus in the traditional
view of justice as
justice of other people48).
traditional

view

????t???? a?a???, justice is considered
only from the point of view
of the agent: acting justly toward someone
else, while having the optake
to
more
than
one's
could
indeed be described
due,
portunity
as "another's
own

ruin",

It is, however,
not at the same time "one's
good".
because
one has the guarantee
that one will be treated

45) In some translations (e.g. Jowett's, Annas 40) the second ?a? remains untranslated at 339b7; the word is, however, vital for the interpretation, since it indicates that obedience to the law is one form of justice beside other ones.
46) The parallel is not very convincing: at Phdr. 238c9 t? ??t? comes after a full
stop, and there is no word in the preceding sentence to which t? ??t? could possibly
belong, in other words, there is no ambiguity.
47) E.g., Adam ad loc; Jowett-Campbell ad loc; Kerferd 558, n. 29; Kerferd
even calls it "a traditional view of justice".
48) Cf. my discussion of R. 358e3 ff. above.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

276

so that, all in all,
by those whom one treats justly oneself,
is
In
for
a
this means
justice
everyone.
political context,
advantageous
that the ruler will look after the interest of his subjects,
while the
subjects will obey the ruler and give him a fitting reward for his ruljustly

so that

ing,
and

the state

everybody,
At 342e6-ll

as a whole

will live in the best possible
way
the
ruler, will get his due49).
including
the conclusion
Socrates
had reached
that the ruler

qua ruler does not serve
jects,

thereby

arriving
In
a?a???.

????t????

his own interest,
but the interest of his subat the concept
of justice
as
implicitly
reaction
to this conclusion
of Socrates'

is ????t????
says that justice
a?a??? t? ??t?, ant?
??t?
is
of t??
indeed;
explained
by the addition
???e?a d? t?? pe???????? te ?a?
??e?tt???? te ?a? ?????t??
s??f????,
the traditional concept
of ????t???? a?a??? as
?p??et???t??
?????:
valid for everyone
and therefore
for everyone,
is
advantageous
Thrasymachus
other's
good

replaced
by a one-way
serves another's
good,

concept of ????t???? a?a???: one party only
the other party only profits, without
giving
In this way acting justly, i.e. serving another's

in return.
anything
be it under compulsion
or of one's own free will, can ininterest,
as another's
deed be regarded
good and one's own ruin, and acting
will
indeed
be
the
Thus it is clear how widely the
unjustly
opposite.
traditional

concept of ????t???? a?a??? differs from Thrasymachus'
is marked by the addition
of the words
concept of it; the difference
t? ?'?t? to ????t???? a?a???.
7.
which
sistent.

So far, we have studied
has led to the conclusion
Let

Thrasymachus'

us now

read

the text

in a rather

order,
jumbled
that Thrasymachus'
position is conthe text in the order in which it stands.

first utterance

is that "justice

is nothing

but the in-

49) The question could be raised why the ruler profits by being just, while he
has the opportunity to take everything he wants by being unjust. The whole of the
Republic deals, in the last resource, with this question (cf. my remarks at the end
of this article). In book I, Socrates touches on it at 347a3 ff., where significantly
Glaucon is his interlocutor. The three types of reward for the ruler clearly correspond to the three parts of the soul: money (347a5, b5)??p?????t????; honour
(347a5, b6)?????e?d??; ????a? ??? ?? ???? (347a5-6) = ?p? p?????te??? a??es?a?
(347c4)?????st???? (cf. 347c2-3 with 520d2-521b5). A more satisfying answer to
the question can only be given after the exposition of the doctrine of the tripartite
soul, and the discussion of the different types of state and man; see R. 576b-588b,
esp. 587dl2-e4.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????
terest

277

Only after having been urged by
does he equate the stronger
with
the etymological
affinity of ??e?tt?? and

of the stronger"
(338cl-2).
to clarify this statement
Socrates

the ruler,

while

exploiting
are therefore

to assume
not entitled
that the ??e?tt??
is nothing
but a synonym
of the ruler; the ruler is mentioned as an instance
of the ??e?tt??.
it is simply not
Accordingly,
in a political
true that Thrasymachus
begins by giving a definition
as most, if not all, interpreters
seem to think50).
context,
We

??ate??.
of 338c2

Only when Thrasymachus
by means of the illustration
he turn

has not been

able to convince

Socrates

of his thesis

in a political
does
context,
of his position.
We have already
and the unjust ruler differ only in

to the general application
seen that the private unjust man
in a political
? ??e?tt??
is the ruler; in a private
context,
degree;
? ??e?tt??
is the successful
his
context,
unjust man, who exploits
fellow-citizens.
Both the tyrant and the successful
private
unjust
man

instances
of ? ??e?tt??:
the tyrant because
he
therefore,
is the ruler, the private unjust man because
he outdoes
his fellowcitizens,
Therefore,
by being successfully
Thrasymachus
unjust51).
is fully justified
in returning
to his initial position
and
(344c6-8)
*
that
is
the
of
the
saying
justice
advantage
stronger".
the linear interpretation
of 338cl-344c8,
it
Thus,
too, makes
are,

clear

that

is the
of the
is
"justice
advantage
stronger"
real position
in
a
con1-2,
political
(338c
344c6-8);
is the ruler, that is the one who abuses his position
as a ruler for selfish and unjust purposes;
in a private context,
it is
the successful
man
who
his just fellow-citizens.
In
unjust
exploits

Thrasymachus'
text the stronger

both

cases,

disadvantage,

justice
namely

is the

advantage
the disadvantage

of another,
and one's
own
of the weaker ( = the just

man)52).
50) See e.g. Kerferd 560: "Finally the very form of the statement "justice is
the interest of the stronger" suggests it is viewed from the point of view of the ruled." In reality, the ruled are not mentioned at all at 338c 1-2, but only at 338e4 ff.
51) It is noteworthy that Thrasymachus does not say that justice is the advantage "of the unjust", but "of the stronger", thus indicating the unjust man who
is able to bring his unjust conduct to a good end. Throughout, Thrasymachus is
anxious to stress that he is only interested in successful injustice; see 340dl-341a4;
344b 1-5; 344c6 (??a??? ?????????). The unjust man who does not succeed is despised and loathed by everyone, including Thrasymachus himself (344bl-5).
52) It has often been noticed, both by those who claim that Thrasymachus'
position is consistent and by those who say that it is not, that Thrasymachus con-

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

278
8.
turn

that we have

Now
to

the

seen

what

second

the essence
viz.

what

of justice is, we can
the character
of

is

question,
I do not intend to give
on justice.
Again,
Thrasymachus'
opinions
a full recapitulation
of all interpretations
but I will only
offered53),
ones.
the
most
mention
important
briefly
In

the

first

Thrasymachus
interpretation,
such a thing

many
place,
denies the existence

however,
as justice,

commentators

contend

that

of justice54);
to our
according
does not deny that there is
Thrasymachus

?s?t??.
namely
that justice
does not exist apart
holds
interpretation
that the laws are
the laws55). I hope to have shown sufficiently

A second
from

the form

in which

the essence

of justice

is laid

down,

so that

this

too, breaks down56).
interpretation,
a
is defending
A third interpretation
says that Thrasymachus
view
law.
is
the
maintained
of
natural
This
by, among
theory

eludes his speech by repeating his initial statement (344c6-8). Those who deny the
consistency say that it is simply another proof of Thrasymachus' stupidity or of
Plato's "manipulation". If Plato, however, thought Thrasymachus' position inconsistent, why then does not he make Socrates expose the inconsistency? The only difference between Thrasymachus' first statement and his speech, according to
Socrates, is that in his speech Thrasymachus says that the unjust life is more profitable than the just life; therefore, Socrates will deal with this remark first and
abandon the search for the essence of justice (347e2-4; cf. 354b l-c3). That is to
say, from now on Socrates will deal with the consequencesof Thrasymachus' statement "justice is the advantage of the stronger" (viz. the conviction that injustice
is the best policy, 344al-c8) instead of discussing this statement itself. Socrates does
not accuse Thrasymachus of any inconsistency concerning his first statement and
his speech; that Socrates is keen on any inconsistency on Thrasymachus' part appears from 345b7 ff. : Socrates points out that Thrasymachus' remark that the
shepherd cares for his sheep for his own profit is in contradiction with the conclusion that he had reached himself at 342e6-ll, a conclusion which Thrasymachus
had proved unable to refute.
For the alleged manipulation of Thrasymachus by Plato, see below, n. 64.
53) For a brief summary, see Kerferd I.e. (n. 2).
54) Among others Cross-Woozley 32-36, who call this the Nihilist view. Many
interpreters claim that Thrasymachus says that "moral obligation" has no existence, meaning that he says that justice does not exist. It is, however, better to
avoid the term "moral obligation", because modern conceptions of morality differ
from those held by the Greeks; cf. Nicholson 216-217 with n. 20.
55) Among others B. Bosanquet, A Companion to Plato's Republic (New York
1895), 49; cf. Kerferd 547, nn. 8-12; Hourani, I.e. (n. 5).
56) See further Kerferd's article ThrasymachusandJustice, a Reply, (already mentioned in n. 16), in which he answers Hourani.

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279

THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

and Cross-Woozley57).
however,
Thrasymachus,
so that it
is
his
ideal
ruler
that
unjust
above),
(see
says
repeatedly
believes
is completely
beside the mark to say that Thrasymachus
natural
a
has
the
that the successful
tyrant,
unjust man, namely
makes
it
at
348c2-d2
the discussion
perfectly
right to act unjustly;
Kerferd

others,

clear
ethical

that Thrasymachus
aspects of justice

from

qualifying

is not so much

interested

in the moral

or

"good-hearted

and injustice,
as in their results: he shrinks
as ?a??a, but prefers to call it p??? ?e??a?a
while
Thus
simple-mindedness"58).

praises
Thrasymachus
entail that the unjust
From this discussion

as the best way of life, this does not
injustice
to act unjustly59).
is by nature entitled
does not deny
it results that Thrasymachus

e???e?a,

justice

as ?s?t??, but that he does not bother
that justice
exists,
namely
in is personal
the only thing he is interested
about moral obligation;
I therefore
believe
is right in maintaining
that Joseph60)
success;
can be described
as "ethical
that the position
of Thrasymachus
nihilism"
From

with
together
discussion
my

Thrasymachus'
of the stronger"

"psychological
it will
also

first statement
cannot

egoism"61).
have
become

is nothing
"justice
be regarded
as a definition

clear

that

but the interest
in our sense

of

the

a definition,
in fact, need not be given,
because
word62);
who
is
even
at
the
one
discussion,
present
say every
everyone
might
57) Kerferd 562; Cross-Woozley 38 ff.; Nicholson 216-217 explicitly says that
he does not follow Kerferd in this part of his interpretation.
58) An interesting discussion of this section can be found in A. W. H. Adkins,
Merit and Responsibility (Oxford 1960), 277.
59) Although it has already been noted by many scholars (e.g. A. E. Taylor,
Plato, the Man and his Work (London 1926), 268; Guthrie, HGP III 97 with n. 1;
E. R. Dodds, Plato Gorgias (Oxford 1959), 14-15), it must again be emphasized
that Thrasymachus' views differ essentially from those which are expounded by
Callicles in the Gorgias: Callicles says that the behaviour of the stronger who exploits the weaker is sanctioned "by the justice of nature" (Grg. 483c9-dl0), whereas Thrasymachus is praising the perfect unjust man.
60) H. W. B.Joseph, Essays in Ancient and Modern Philosophy(Oxford 1935), 17.
61) This is also the conclusion of Guthrie, HGP III 96 and Maguire 158-159.
I do not, however, understand how Guthrie, o.e. 97, can say that this interpretation accords with fr. 8 DK, where Thrasymachus says (in a speech, so that we are
unable to tell whether he speaks these words on his own account or not) that people
do not use justice, which is the greatest of human goods. The one who spoke these
words may have been a "disillusioned moralist", the Thrasymachus we encounter
in R. I is far from being so.
62) This is rightly emphasized by Nicholson 211 and 218; cf. Kerferd 560.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

280

has the same opinion
about
Greek,
is
that
it
Further,
justice,
namely
justice
?s?t??63).
served that the formula
which Thrasymachus
uses
is nothing but the interest
of the
position,
"justice
???? t? ? 338c2)
is not very apt for a definition.
contemporary

9.
value
start

the

of

nature

be ob-

should

to express
stronger"

his
(???

The

could be raised why Plato attaches
so much
question
to the just and unjust ruler, that he makes Thrasymachus
the exposition
of his views with a statement
on politics64).

that Thrasymachus
sets up
(231 f.) very aptly remarks
which
is the mirror image of Plato's.
Overall,
(...)
Thrasymachus'
tyrant is the mirror image of Socrates'
Philosopher-

Nicholson
"an

ideal

I may add yet another reason which induced
on the ruler.
focus his attention
Thrasymachus
Ruler."

Plato

to make

63) This is not the place to develop the point, but I only want to mention the
fact that, in a certain sense, the definition of justice as developed by Socrates in
books II-IV, namely ta a?t?? p??tte??, is in reality only an expansion of the concept of ?s?t??. To speak in Aristotelian terms, the ?s?t?? which exists among the
three parts of the state, is a geometric analogy, i.e. each part gets its share according to its position (Ar. EN 1131bl2-16). Cf. Plato, Lg. 744b2-d3, ibid. 757a2-4).
64) It has already been noted that Maguire 151 ff. is wrong in maintaining that
in 343c-344c a shift is made from a political to a moral context, because
after having mentioned some instances of private unjust
Thrasymachus,
behaviour, immediately returns to the ruler, in this case the tyrant. Maguire's
follows
case is further weakened by the passage which immediately
Thrasymachus' monologue, 345b7-348b7, where the ruler again is the subject of
the discussion. Maguire notes that many scholars have claimed that this section
has been added by Plato when he reused his alleged aporetic dialogue Thrasymachus
as a preface to the Republic (Maguire 152 with n. 28; see also his note 40). Maguire
rightly remarks (n. 28), that "evidence drawn from anticipations in Bk. I of doctrines in II-X is double-edged"; but, of course, the burden of proof lies with those
who separate book I from the rest and who solve the obvious problems which arise
from this thesis by simply disconnecting those parts of R. I which are not in
accordance with their views from the rest of book I. Maguire 152, n. 28, mentions
some observations which plead against the existence of an aporetic dialogue
Thrasymachus;I may add that R. I is no aporetic dialogue at all, although this is
not the place to illustrate this. Cf. V. Goldschmidt, Les Dialogues de Platon (Paris
1947), 135.
Further, Maguire's remark (156) that Plato recognized that "he had made a'
mistake in trying to combine incompatibles in his argument with Thrasymachus*
rests upon a misunderstanding of Plato as a writer. If Plato had indeed recognized
that he had made a mistake in R. I, and if he had tried to correct this mistake by
adding Glaucon's argument at the beginning of book II, why then did he add R.
I at all, instead of omitting or completely rewriting it? The fact that the discussion
with Thrasymachus stands where it does shows that Plato had an aim in writing
it this way.

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THRASYMACHUS AND ?????????

281

We have

seen that the unjust ruler differs from the private unjust
in that he runs no risk at all of being punished
for his injustice,
which is exactly
the reason why Thrasymachus
him the
considers
man

of all men

(344a5,
b7). What Plato is going to try to prove
is that justice in itself is profitable;
that is to say, he
is going to show that anyone who is fully aware of the consequences
of justice and injustice
Now
themselves will naturally
choose justice.
the only one who is fully free to make a choice between justice and

happiest
in books

II-IX

is the ruler, because
the ruler runs no risk of being puninjustice
to act unjustly.
ished if he chooses
Thus the just ruler is the just
man par excellence; he is the one who shows that it is wise to prefer
to injustice,
because justice
in itself leads to happiness.
The
justice
of the just and unjust lives in books VIII-IX
finds its
in 587dl2-e4:
shows that the just man
there, Socrates
is 729
as the tyrant;
times
as happy
whom
the one
(93)
as
all
the
of
in
is
men,
happiest
Thrasymachus
reality by
regards
far the most unhappy65).
comparison
culmination

1015

KA

Amsterdam,

3e Goudsbloemdwarsstraat

8

65) I want to thank the members of the Amsterdam Hellenist Club for making
many stimulating remarks in discussing an earlier draft of this paper with me, and
Dr S. R. Slings for correcting my English.

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