Wednesday, September 12, 2012
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.
• 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
• 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?
• 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
• 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
• 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