Thrasymachus’ Ideas of Justice, Human Nature, and the Good

The Republic by Plato is considered one of his most known dialogues written in a style of a debate between Socrates and other philosophers who argue about various characteristics of an ideal utopian state – the Republic. One of such characteristics is justice, the definition of which is debated in Book 1, when Thrasymachus, a sophist, gives his notion of justice that completely contradicts the one of Socrates. In order to understand Thrasymachus’ viewpoint, it is necessary to analyze his assumptions about justice, human nature, and the good using the novel “The Lord of Flies” by W. Golding. Through the example of children on the inhabited island, the author describes how the civilization would look if social ties were removed.

Thrasymachus regards justice in the light of the advantages it can provide. Thus, even an unjust but more powerful person will receive more profits than a just one. He is sure that just people commit just acts in favor of unjust ones, and this is the case of the right justice. Such point of view is supported by Golding in his novel in case of Jack. Ralph and Jack are two main characters representing different styles of leadership – the civilized, loyal of Ralph against the military and immoral of Jack. Firstly, Jack agrees with the common decision that Ralph should be the leader but then he becomes brutal believing that there will be no rescue for them. Realizing that there is no punishment on the island without adults, Jack disobeys Ralphs’ orders and creates his own tribe of hunters. Other boys, who fear that Jack’s unjust acts will affect them, join his tribe. As Thrasymachus says, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” Therefore, to be unjust, according to the sophist, is better than to be just.

Thrasymachus regards human nature the way that everyone should act upon one’s own selfishness to maximize power and increase profits. Having more boys by his side, Jack wants Ralph to obey his orders and renounce power completely. He demands that Ralph give the knife to him, but Ralph refuses; therefore, he orders the boys to take it by force. Later, they take away Piggy’s glasses. Ralph’s reasonable appeal that they need the glasses for the fire that will attract rescuers does not produce any effect. The immoral behavior of Jack and boys is approved by Thrasymachus’ view on human nature who argues that ‘morality’ is not an objective notion but rather a creation of the stronger aimed at serving their interests. Immoral human nature of boys becomes apparent when they realize that they have the power to take away whatever they want, be the judges without being judged, punish or have mercy.

Thrasymachus states that the good is what a person can get by his/her unjust acts, for example power and wealth, to become the ruler and have any pleasure. The good is evaluated in terms of the advantages it can provide. Such an idea shows that people use others to gain more benefits for their own prosperity. This view is reflected in the scene when Jack takes away Piggy’s glasses. He knows that without them Piggy is almost blind, but he does not care about it and laughs at Piggy’s helplessness. ‘The good’ of the glasses has a bigger value then another fellow’s happiness.

In the culmination scene when rational and moral Ralph and Piggy face aggressive and unreasonable Jack and his boys, Golding displays to the greatest extent the immense difference between the civilized liberal community and animalistic anarchy. Ralph and Piggy try to approach the boys by appealing to return to the rational system of the community because by being organized and working together on achieving the common goal they will be more likely to survive on the island and be rescued. However, blinded by the feeling of being powerful and unpunished, boys stay unmoved by their appeal, kill Piggy, and hunt for Ralph.

To sum up, Thrasymachus’ perspectives on the social organization in terms of justice, human nature, and the good reflect the image of tyranny or anarchy as shown on the tribe ruled by Jack. Greed, avarice, and cruelty of the members of such tribe are the results of leaving in a state without civilized laws, justice, and moral approach.