The Republic

Refuting Immorality

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...

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