1. Thrasymachus first defines justice as the “advantage of the stronger” (338c), then moves on to state that smart, prudent people will act unjustly because it will bring the most good (343d). Is he employing two substantively different definitions of justice? If so, how do they differ? If not, how are they consistent? The argument presented by Thrasymachus, as well as prior definitions by Cephalus and Polemarchus provides the basis of argument and examination in determining the idea and essence of justice.
Thrasymachus argues that justice is the “advantage of the stronger: In every city, the same thing is just, the advantage of the established ruling body. It sure is master; so the man who reasons rightly concludes that everywhere justice is the same thing” (Plato 338c). And subsequently, presents another “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” (Plato 342d).
Both arguments are relative and consistent with the other in lieu of power relations and oppression in terms of the strong few as opposed to the weak majority. First we examine Thrysmachus’ conviction where justice is the advantage of the stronger. In a political society wherein rule is bestowed upon a select few, it is only but a natural implication for the majority to rule upon the minority who does not have power.
Thus, the context of the general will is taken literally, where an individual who does not belong to the majority, has no choice but to adhere to the general opinion rather than redirecting the purposes of majority power to the common good. In social context, the opinion of the few yet powerful has more lasting and profound impact on the dictates of social norms as compared to the poor majority. Thrasymachus also mentions the role of power or the ‘advantage of the stronger’ where justice is held as a tool of oppression.
Social classification is based on power, wealth and influence and in an unbalanced social strata, the strong few ironically holds more power compared to the weak majority in terms of wealth. Wealth becomes relative to power and influence and becomes a requirement in order to hold power in order to unconsciously control society. The second argument that unjust actions are profitable and advantageous to the powerful implies that persons situated in power has the duty to act unjust in order to maintain and prevent others in usurping their position.
By committing acts of injustice in Thrysmachus’ definition, is to further establish the distinction to those who have power and to those who have not. Thus, those who do not have power are forced to create their own sense of justice and injustice, but under the concept of poverty, they cannot bridge the barrier of the elite’s definition of justice since their classification delimits their ability to influence the norms dictated by the powerful.
Though their greatness in number may reinforce their own concept but under the necessity of income and wealth, their dependence negates the idea of equality and instead comport among themselves to create agreements to never commit injustice against each other in order to avoid further suffering from the injustice imposed by the stronger few.
The rich and powerful who are higher up in the societal ladder may commit injustices without any thought of repercussions from the oppressed. Oppression is then a continuous cycle that inhibits equality and further instigate conflict and widens the rift of division into different societal groups instead of fulfilling Socrates’ idealized unified city-state.
Justice is then is a mean where it situates itself from committing injustice (strong few) and suffering from it (weak majority). Plato’s Socrates argues that Thrysmachus’s definition of justice is something that is external; an object that can be accomplished or used as a tool instead of a natural virtue of man that obligates the individual to create harmonious relationships without the regard for social classification or discrimination.