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Page history last edited by George Pullman 14 years, 7 months ago


page created by Tristan Towne

Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, who lived during the 5th century BCE, was among the group of travelling philosopher-teachers known in Greece as Sophists.   By 427, Thrasymachus had made a name for himself as a teacher of rhetoric and also a speechwriter.  Most of what is known about Thrasymachus comes from Plato’s interpreted characterization of him in Republic, where his critique of justice creates a representative platform for the moral and political views of the Sophistic Enlightenment that occurred in Athens in the late 5th century.

He was a well-known Sophist, a teacher of Rhetoric, and he was a student of both Plato and Isocrates.  He made the distinction between philosophy and sophistry that the philosopher sacrificed everything, including eloquence, for the truth. On the contrary, he noted that the sophist sacrificed the truth for eloquence and persuasion.  This premise leads to the profession of Sophistry being regarded as being shallow and it began to be regarded negatively.  It could be said that Thrasymachus could be considered part of the reason that rhetoric fell under suspicion as to its validity in the pursuit of truth.

Thrasymachus was characterized in Republic as a passionate dissenter against Socrates’ conclusions regarding justice.  Thrasymachus is shown in the text to be passionate, almost to the point of violence, in his rhetorical exchange with Socrates.  He goes so far as to advocate that injustice far outweighs justice, to which Socrates exposes the weaknesses of his argument.  Thrasymachus famously blushes once Socrates has “tamed him.”


Thrasymachus’s assertions in the dialogue reflect his notion that all societies are divided into ruling and ruled subgroups.  He purports that there are three kinds of regime: democracy, tyranny, and oligarchy.  It is in this dialogue that he exposes that he does not view the poor, slaves and women to be politically important, which gives Socrates an opportunity to expose the weakness of his claims.  Though Thrasymachus is a skilled rhetorician, he is unable to avoid losing his argument to Socrates.  






Garrett, Jan. "Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, Glaucon and Socrates." Western Kentucky Intro. to Philosophy (2002): n. pag. Web. 28 Sep 2009. http://www.wku.edu/~jan.garrett/r1&2vws.htm#Thras.


Plato. Republic. Trans. G.M.A. Grube (rev. C.D.C. Reeve). Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992.

Rauhut, Nils. "Thrasymachus." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. <http://www.iep.utm.edu/thrasymachus/>. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrasymachus

"Thrasymachus." Wikipedia. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrasymachus>.



Circa 459 BCE.

Comments (2)

Tristan Towne said

at 10:45 pm on Sep 27, 2009

It was actually much more difficult than I had predicted finding information on Thrasymachus. He is more often a character in someone else's writing rather than a writer himself. But he seems to effectively exemplify a negative connotation for rhetoric, especially since he expected to be paid to display his skill.

lindsey.spring said

at 7:56 pm on Sep 28, 2009

Not surprising that rhetoric fell under suspicion when a teacher of rhetoric gave up the truth to sound good. Thrasymachus' association with sophistry and his agreement with its principle of teaching eloquence and persuasive over truth makes me wonder what type of students he attracted, especially since he charged a fee. In my experience most students dedicated to learning are in pursuit of the truth. However, I guess there are plenty of people who will pay a small fortune to look good and sound good in front of others. It makes me questions human nature. What's more important, you know?

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