The Privilege of Power


Socrates the Greek
#1
At this point in the dialogue, Plato introduces Thrasymachus the sophist, another fictionalized portrait of an historical personality. After impatiently dismissing what has gone before, Thrasymachus recommends that we regard justice as the advantage of the stronger; those in positions of power simply use their might to decree what shall be right. This, too, expresses a fairly common (if somewhat pessimistic) view of the facts about social organization.

But of course Socrates has other ideas. For one thing, if the ruling party mistakenly legislates to its own disadvantage, justice will require the rest of us to perform the (apparently) contradictory feat of both doing what they decree and also doing what is best for them. More significantly, Socrates argues that the best ruler must always be someone who knows how to rule, someone who understands ruling as a craft. But since crafts of any sort invariably aim to produce some external goal (Gk. teloV [télos]), good practitioners of each craft always act for the sake of that goal, never in their own interest alone. Thus, good rulers, like good shepherds, must try to do what is best for those who have been entrusted to them, rather than seeking their own welfare. (Republic 342e)

Beaten down by the force of Socratic questioning, Thrasymachus lashes out bitterly and then shifts the focus of the debate completely. If Socrates does happen to be right about the nature of justice, he declares, then it follows that a life devoted to injustice is be more to one's advantage than a life devoted to justice. Surely anyone would prefer to profit by committing an act of injustice against another than to suffer as the victim of an act of injustice committed by someone else. ("Do unto others before they do unto you.") Thus, according to Thrasymachus, injustice is better than justice.

Some preliminary answers come immediately to mind: the personal rewards to be gained from performing a job well are commonly distinct from its intrinsic aims; just people are rightly regarded as superior to unjust people in intelligence and character; every society believes that justice (as conceived in that society) is morally obligatory; and justice is the proper virtue (Gk. areth [aretê]) of the human soul. But if Socrates himself might have been satisfied with responses of this sort, Plato the philosophical writer was not. There must be an answer that derives more fundamentally from the nature of reality.
 
zoofer
#2
I agree.
 
cortezzz
#3
platos concept of the philosopher king and hegels concept of the state is real-- are intrinsically undemocratic-- and have been favorites of dictators for a long time
i believe ayn rand--despised both these philosophies for this reason---
she also of course ---included marx in the mix

plato --may still be somewhat relevant today---
however---
aristotle--- is really the father of the western world
at least its most usefull defining feature----science

a plato was--- a bit of a mystic---and ---antidemocratic--

aristotle-- a materialist in the best sense of the word
 

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