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Lecture 2

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University of Toronto St. George
Joseph Boyle

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 PHL275H1 LEC0101 Introduction to Ethics – Lecture 2 What is morality? How does it fit in society? What does it do? What is its function? In the reading “What is Right Conduct?” (Plato, p. 2-17), Socrates uses the terms “morality” and “justice” interchangeably as he discusses the issue of “what is justice?” with a number of thinkers. Thrasymachus, a Sophist finally enters the dialogue on page 6, boldly stating his views on justice. Thrasymachus • Says “Justice is the advantage of the stronger” • Thinks the function of morality is to manipulate people • Announces this as if it is fact • Didn’t provide evidence • Felt this was really self-evident • He is not talking about petty crooks but major manipulators Socrates • Although Thrasymachus did not give evidence when stating his claim, Socrates is willing to see if there is evidence to support Thrasymachus’ claim • If justice is the advantage of the strong, how do we know what is to the advantage of the strong? Thrasymachus • The strong person is someone acting in their strength • When a person is not acting in his/her strength, he/she is not a strong person • This is a very technical definition Socrates • The role of the strong is to look out for the weak • He considers the social functions of the strong • This argument can be taken apart but Thrasymachus accepts it and decides to revise his original argument Thrasymachus • If you are going to be immoral, be smart about it, do it right • Don’t be a petty crook • Claims that injustice is better than justice: a) Injustice is wiser b) It is more profitable c) More powerful d) The unjust
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