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Doing Justice to Thrasymachus

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

Thrasymachus’ variegated pronouncements on the nature of justice in Book I of the Republic have generated considerable dispute concerning whether those claims are consistent, and about what sorts of theoretical commitments those claims involve, if they are in fact consistent. After clarifying Thrasymachus’ position and explaining how it generates charges of inconsistency, I argue that the charges dissolve if we approach the text with the proper conception of just action, as being synonymous with adherence to the norms that proscribe taking advantage of others by fraud or force. A major virtue of this solution is that it allows us to give equal weight to virtually all of Thrasymachus’ claims without being forced to isolate one as Thrasymachus’ ‘true’ position as against his other ‘merely apparent’ positions. After completing my argument, I provide speculation as to why Plato might have been motivated to intentionally present Thrasymachus’ position in a way so generative of consistency disputes.


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