Sean McAleer

Published On


Page Range

pp. 25-54

Print Length

29 pages

2. Taming the Beast

Socrates versus Thrasymachus, Book I

  • Sean McAleer (author)
Chapter of: Plato's 'Republic': An Introduction(pp. 25–54)
Chapter Two, ‘Taming the Beast: Socrates versus Thrasymachus’, is devoted to Socrates’ encounter with the sophist Thrasymachus in the second half of Book I. Thrasymachus’ answers to the Republic’s main questions are a provocative challenge to the reverential attitude Socrates has toward justice in particular and virtue in general. Thrasymachus defines justice as whatever benefits the politically powerful and argues that a conventionally just person lives less happily than their unjust counterpart. Socrates offers five different arguments against Thrasymachus’ views, which are spelled out clearly and evaluated carefully, with attention paid to the connections between them and to the crucial concepts around which they orbit (e.g., the notion of a virtue). Socrates’ arguments fall short of the mark, and we will examine why this is the case, exploring avenues of response that Thrasymachus could but does not take. By the close of Book I, Socrates realizes that he has not answered the Republic’s second question because he has not yet answered the first: we cannot know whether the just life is happier until we first know what justice is.


Sean McAleer