Thursday, December 9, 2021

Republic Book 1, Sections 3 & 4

"Polemarchus seems to accept Socrates' argument, but at this point, Thrasymachus jumps into the conversation."

Little fool kid get pwned, has to tap out. It's not that Polemarchus agrees, it's that he's noticed he's sounding like an idiot and going further would only make it worse, so he cuts his losses. 

"He objects to the manner in which the argument is proceeding."

Thrasymachus tone polices. Technically this discussion isn't happening in the Forum, but, like, it's a forum. It's twitter. Sophists gonna Soph.

"He regards Socrates' questions as being tedious, and he says, professional teacher of argument that he is, that it is time to stop asking questions and to provide some answers."
"What, he says, is Thrasymachus' definition of justice?"

Cool point bro. By all means; you first.

"Thrasymachus says that he will provide the answer if he is provided his fee."

Ah, so you provide criticism for free. Of course. And folk think the Gyews came up with this sort of behaviour...

"Thrasymachus' argument is that might makes right."

Very Keynesian. Tell the buyer they can do no wrong. Tell them whatever they need to hear to feel justified in doing what they were going to do anyway. I guess Keynes studied his classics. 

At this point the summary confirms Thrasymachus is a Sophist, but, to repeat, you can tell immediately from the tone policing incident. 


Socrates could have destroyed Thrasymachus utterly. If a ruler causes his subjects to destroy him, he hasn't made a mistake? Do you even listen to yourself?

It's patently obvious that rulers can perform well or poorly, just as any other tradesman. Thrashy is lying boldly, and as a result sounds like a drooling madman. 

You can't argue with a liar.

Exactly as if he were genuinely demented. Just take his sword away and have done with it. 


In Plato's flawed attempt at noble imagination, Sophists will admit it when caught in a contradiction. As we know from reading literally any newspaper, in fact a Sophist will only admit to anything if they have backup gaslighting to fall back on. "Yeah well the vaccine isn't killing anyone and if it were they deserve to die." 

Indeed Thrashy is far more honest than Sophists in practice. "We'll tell you whatever we want and you'll like it because we'll beat you up if you don't." Still wildly dishonourable, but refreshingly honest by comparison to moderns - I rather suspect Athenians Sophists were not less competent than modern Sophists. Plato doesn't mind his codex being rather wandering, but he doesn't want it to get permanently bogged down with Thrashy, who would realistically move the goalposts in a circle while denying he's moving the goalposts.


"Thrasymachus continues to bluster and to engage in persiflage (whistle-talk). He argues that most people are "good" in appearance only; they do "right" things or try to pursue dike (the way things ought to be) only because they are ignorant, or stupid, or afraid of the punishment of the law."

Hey summary dude, no need to point it out he's blustering. We'll notice without your help.

The above sounds largely true. No doubt Thrashy will end up taking a left turn.

"Strong men and intelligent men have the courage to do wrong; they can out-think simpler citizens and overpower weaker ones, weaker in whatever sense."

Non sequitur.

Note that Thrashy accidentally admits he's advocating for wrong, here. 

This Sophist technique is sometimes called the halo fallacy. Argument by emotional association rather than logical implication. 'Getting away with crime is high status. You want to be high status, right?'

"Injustice (adikia) is the best course of action"

As with modern Sophistry, the priests admit, at one remove, that what they're doing is unjust. Justice is not obedience to the Assembly and their pet theologians: on the contrary, you can rule out their instructions without thinking about it.

Thrashy accidentally justifies this disobedience while trying to say they're justified in forcing you to obey. You're supposed to take the Assembly and the priests as great, when in fact they're somewhat mediocre; they crowd together out of necessity, covering for each other's glaring weaknesses. 

Thrashy wants to justify flouting peasant mores, but has only justified flouting priestly edicts. The best men can hear that the priests are in opposition to the heavens, and likewise they can get away with siding with the heavens in opposition to the priests. 

Here I note that Plato seems to have gone wildly off topic. ADHD isn't actually a good thing, guys...

"And if one steals, Thrasymachus says, one ought to steal big. The more power, the better: The tyrant's life is the good life. At this point, Thrasymachus would like to leave the debate."

So, uh, anyway I'm out byeeeeee-

Almost as if Thrashy knows his fallacies are transparent and is willing to do anything to avoid having to deal with having them pointed out.

"Socrates says that Thrasymachus is wrong on three counts: that the unjust man is more knowledgeable than the just, that injustice is a source of strength; and that injustice brings happiness."

Socrates is correct. I shouldn't have to say so, but probably do.

Sophists themselves tell you the best lies start with truth. It is true that the best men can straight up ignore not only human laws, but largely get away with flouting inhuman laws as well. However, that doesn't mean they should. Doing the right thing is always more prudent than doing the wrong thing. Cooperation is rational etc etc.

Sophists have difficulty remembering this due to their immersion in Gyewish social games. They forget that there are laws aside from the laws they can argue about.

You can see Thrashy is anxious and insecure. These are the wages of injustice. 

"always the man ignorant of music who attempts to outdo the musician and thereby shows his ignorance of the art."

The Dunning-Kruger effect is apparently the Socrates effect.

My congenital optimism is acting up. I really do hope one day we can, through accumulation of enormous investment and the heroic efforts of our greatest minds, advance all the way to 400BC, so as to catch up to atomized Athenian auteurs. 

"Next, Socrates reminds Thrasymachus that even thieves have to trust one another and to show it by a fair division of their ill-gotten gain. That is, they too have to practice a kind of justice; otherwise, a gang of thieves would break up and their little "state" would degenerate into disunity, chaos, unhappiness."

Thrashy fucks up by agreeing to an implicit definition of justice.

Which is, as expected, the fact that cooperation is rational. Even if you're a group dedicated to defecting on other groups, defecting inside the group is just stupid. Imprudent. 

For the above quote I went back to the original translation to confirm something, and reminded myself that yes, reading a summary is the correct decision. Nothing meaningful is lost when cutting it to 1/10 or less of the original size.



P.S. Correct Pope procedure when encountering a Thrash Machine depends heavily on the details. His heresy is flagrant, not some kind of honest misunderstanding, so we don't give him the chance to renounce the faith. "Okay Thrashy, you're a heretic. Will you loudly and publicly recant your previous statements and perform penance?" If not, it's the bonfire for him. 

Further, due to the risk of a false repentance, suggest Thrashy never speak on matters of justice again. We are threatening him with death, so he might pretend to recant to save his life. As a result, his free speech is revoked. Any tiny mistake means you need to un-commute his sentence, because that's exactly what a committed heretic would say.

Heresy is not a small matter and should not be treated as a minor crime. Don't tolerate grey areas. It shouldn't be something you can accidentally do, any more than you can accidentally stab someone 68 times. If Thrasymachus wants to contradict good sense so directly, he has to first leave the church and forgo the benefits of church membership. Outsiders can say whatever they want. Heathens gonna heath, or something of that nature.

If your Pope does not burn Thrashy at the stake, then renounce the faith, because your Pope is a heretic. Find a sect that doesn't suck. Don't worry, the heavens take care of their own, one way or another.


Anonymous said...

The more I read pretty much all political thought and moral arguments, the more it seems to all boil down to the prisoners dilemma.

"If I defect and you cooperate I get x times more benefit than you and therefore you should do it because I can make you cooperate with force".

ie, use your life to benefit me more.

Even in the real of, say, woke Tik-tokers I see the same argument.

"Use language which doesn't offend me because of my group membership but I can offend you all I want because of your group membership"

"Might makes right" - Even chimpanzees have worked out this doesn't work. Using might to enforce your divine right to defect just makes you a target for co-operators.

Alrenous said...

The fundamental theorem of algebra is that every equation has a solution. (Roughly...close enough for physicists.)

The fundamental theorem of sociology is the prisoner's dilemma.

Cooperators have more total wealth, and thus it's kind of mysterious that nobody has tried a full-cooperator society.

Anonymous said...

Torturing defectors to death in public certainly seems like an attempt to make the defect-defect outcome extremely low utility.

Hmm. If co-operators have more wealth, then how are they distinguishable from defectors?

Is not then, say, Marxist thought an attempt to frame people who gain the spoils from a co-operate/co-operate equilibrium into the victor of spoils from defect/co-operate?

Alrenous said...

Cooperators have more total wealth. As has been found in tit-for-tat simulations: the [cooperative society] eats the [uncooperative society]'s lunch. However, the defector has more individual wealth. Something like 4/4 vs. -2/6, 8 total vs. 4 total.

Marxists (Communists/Fascists in general) do tend to portray cooperators as defectors, but they don't genuinely believe it. What they want is to defect on you and have you cooperate with them. It's mainly projection, with a side of knowing they can't meaningfully contribute and have no choice but to defect or receive charity.