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A comparison of the unjust speech from The Clouds and the ideas of thrasymachus in book 1 of The Republic - Essay Example

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The argument of Just and Unjust in The Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes culminates with Unjust apparently winning the day. In Book 1 of The Republic Thrasymachus claims that injustice is stronger, freer and generally more powerful than justice…
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A comparison of the unjust speech from The Clouds and the ideas of thrasymachus in book 1 of The Republic
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"A comparison of the unjust speech from The Clouds and the ideas of thrasymachus in book 1 of The Republic"

Download file to see previous pages The argument of Just and Unjust in The Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes culminates with Unjust apparently winning the day. In Book 1 of The Republic Thrasymachus claims that injustice is stronger, freer and generally more powerful than justice It thus seems that the two Greek works come to different conclusions regarding the efficacy and desirability of justice and injustice, although the details and manners in which they do so are contrasting.Taking each in turn, the first argument suggests that Thrasymachus is a supporter of natural right, and thus claims that it is "just" (in natural terms) for the strong to rule over the weak. If this is the case, a consideration of the second argument reveals a tension and contradiction within Thrasymachus thinking. For it is rather unclear why somebody who always follows laws must always do what is in the interests of the politically stronger - unless one assumes that Thrasymachus is claiming that all laws are made in the interests of the strong, which he does not. The second argument casts Thrasymachus as something of a relativist who makes the simple argument that justice is nothing beyond obedience to existing laws.The third argument fits uneasily with the other two, because within it Thrasymachus is arguing that justice is not desirable because it leads to the advantage of another, and thus the disadvantage of the self. The self, according to Thrasymachus should look out for itself most of all. Once again, how obedience to either the powerful or to the law as written necessarily correlates with adherence to the other is not entirely clear. It can thus be stated that Thrasymachus loses the argument because the rationale and logic behind it are flawed.
Moving to the argument between the Just and the Unjust in The Clouds, the first difference is that this is much longer, more complex, and Unjust uses rhetorical techniques that almost guarantee his victory. In the opening exchange between the two Unjust indulges in an important departure from the argument that Thrasymachus has used in The Republic. Instead of arguing about the nature of what justice "is" or "is not", the Unjust claims that he will defeat the Just in their argument through "arguing there is no such thing as justice" (1150) (Aristophanes 1993). Arguing that it does not exist is easier and more powerful than trying to define justice in a way that shows that it is unfair, impractical or immoral.
Unjust tricks Just onto uncertain ground as he asks him ", well, if it does, where is it" to which Just replies, "with the gods", falling into the trap. Immediately Unjust retorts with "if Justice does exist, how come Zeus hasn't been destroyed for chaining up his father" Just has no answer to this, and has to resort to saying that what Unjust has just said makes him want to vomit. Essentially, in many ways, the argument is lost at this point, for if the stories of the Greek gods are to be taken literally, or even as metaphoric representations of the truth, they do seem to suggest that "Justice", in the sense envisioned by Just, does not in fact exist.
In the legends of the Greek gods, starting with Zeus and going down the hierarchy, "justice" would seem to be defined by power, violence, envy, jealousy, caprice and sheer luck. It is not "justice" by any sense of the word. Unjust has asked an unanswerable question, a brilliant rhetorical technique, and Just knows it. The argument soon descends into verbal abuse, and the Chorus feel the need to interpose themselves to make the two sides more organized. Thus they suggest ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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