Refuting Immorality

August 27, 2019 by Essay Writer

Very early in Plato’s Republic, Thrasymachus argues that “In any and every situation, a moral person is worse off than an immoral one”. (343d) Furthermore, that a moral person is a simpleton, while an immoral person exercises sound judgement. (348c-d) Socrates is faced with a challenge that sets the stage for much of the rest of the discussion. In response to this argument, Socrates goes to great length in redefining morality in such a way as to dodge this assertion. However Socrates’ arguments are fundamentally flawed. Despite his efforts he is never able to convincingly refute the claim that the consummate wrong-doer leads a better life than the moral person.Cephalus describes morality as consisting of telling the truth and always returning what one has borrowed. (331b) Although this is a narrow definition, it is a good example of an act based definition of morality. One in which your everyday actions determine whether or not you are a moral person. Under this definition Socrates was unable to satisfy his rhetorical opponents. In recognition of his shortcomings, Socrates attempts to evade the problem he is faced with. He redefines how we think of morality by introducing the concept of an agent based definition of morality. Yet this argument is also flawed.Although Plato spared Socrates an embarrassing defeat in the deliberation over the advantages and disadvantages of morality in an act framing, it was evident to even him that the contentions were insufficient. Gloucon’s explanation of the nature and origins of morality is a persuasive argument to which Socrates can not respond. Essentially, Gloucon argues that the social contract on which the idea of morality is based, evolved from the fact that doing wrong is good for the individual while being wronged is bad. An agreement was reached, for most people the badness of being wronged outweighs the goodness of doing wrong. This led to the general agreement that wrongs would not be tolerated in society. (Lecture of Sept. 11) The wrong-doer who breaks this contract is therefore labeled immoral, however this individual has achieved the benefits of committing injustice and avoided the setbacks of being victimized. Hence he leads a better life than the moral man, who doesn’t benefit from the potential rewards of dishonesty.Socrates’ only enjoys one substantial success in his argument with Thrasymachus. He proves that a community of immoral individuals will ultimately fail. He uses the example of a band of thieves to illustrate this point, if each is an immoral actor than they will turn upon one another. (351c-d) This is a valid point in the condemnation of an unrighteous way of life, but it doesn’t contradict the larger question at hand. The consummate wrong-doer is only one individual in a community comprised of honest people.Socrates realizes that he must create a more innovative way of thinking about morality if he is going to refute Thrasymachus’ argument. If living a rewarding life is thought of strictly in material terms, than morality can only be valued for what it can earn you. Although there are certain tangible benefits that can befall a parson who is thought of as moral, such as an appointment to some prestigious position, Socrates argues that the usage of an image of integrity for this purpose is inherently dishonorable. Although this person practices everyday morality as it was described by Cephalus, he is not truly moral. Morality, according to Socrates, should be something that is welcomed for its own sake and for its desirable consequences. Gloucon and Thrasymachus disagree and insist that it is something unwelcome for its own sake, but has desirable repercussions. (Lecture of Sept. 11)In pursuit if his new definition, Socrates creates an analogy between morality in the community and in the individual. Socrates argues that the ideal community, and therefore the moral one, is ruled by specialization. Each person should do the task for which they are most naturally suited, this is most efficient. He divides the people into three social classes; the Guardians (rulers), Auxiliaries (soldiers), and Producers (commoners). (Lecture of Sept. 13) Socrates goes to great length to describe his ideal community, especially the education and life of the Guardians. This is an important part of the book in its own right, but the translation of the moral community to the individual is flawed and not applicable.Socrates claims that if the moral community is one in which each class performs its duty, than the moral individual is one in which each part of his soul performs its duty. He divides the psyche into three parts; reason, passion, and desire. Socrates insists that the moral man is governed primarily by reason while the other two aspects are relegated to subservient positions. He claims that a wise man lets reason rule the soul, a courageous man’s passion is rightly regulated and oriented, and a self-disciplined man defers his desire to reason. (Lecture of Sept. 18) Socrates has therefore changed the way moral people are thought of from an act based definition to an agent based definition. Its not what you do that makes you moral, but rather who you are and why you do it.Socrates assumes that if you are a moral person in the agent sense of the term, you will consequently act conscientiously. Accordingly becoming a moral person in the act based sense of the word as well. This argument is never elaborated on and shouldn’t be taken for granted. There is no convincing evidence in Socrates’ argument suggesting that the proper ordering of one’s soul leads to moral action in everyday life. In fact, Thrasymachus’ argument that the immoral parson exercises sound judgement seems to fit well into the context of a person governed by reason. The consummate wrong-doer may even be governed by stricter cost-benefit analysis than the moralist.In addition, the idea of unequal roles played by the parts of the soul is contradictory to Socrates own argument of specialization on which his whole community was based. It is important to realize that the three parts of the soul correspond directly to the three social classes of Socrates’ community; Guardians as reason, Auxiliaries as passion, and Producers as desire. (Lecture of Sept. 16) Using his own analogy, it is true that the producer class defers to the guardian class. Nevertheless, the necessity of the producer class to the success of the community cannot be disputed. Henceforth, the importance of desire should not be diminished.In conclusion, Socrates never disprove Thrasymachus’ claim that the consummate wrong- doer can lead a better life than a moral person. He never even explains why everyday morality is beneficial to the individual. I believe that Plato was over-reliant on analogies between individuals and community in formulating his argument. Even though immoral individuals play a clearly destructive role in society, their consequence is passed along to the other members of the group. It is obvious for this reason why immorality is so renownedly despised, notwithstanding, the consummate wrong-doer is still in a position of net advantage.

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