Thrasymachus' First Argument Reconstructed

Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last revised date: January 13, 2005

Fully Formalized Reconstruction of the Argument

I am using "P" to indicate an ultimate premise, "IC" to indicate an intermediate conclusion, "A" to indicate an assumption, i.e., a premise that is assumed but not stated, and "FC" to indicate final conclusion. At this point I am renumbering the steps, using whole integers, so that the result will be cleaner.

(1, P) The ruling group or person is the stronger of the parts of a society.

(2, P) In a tyranny the (ruling) tyrant passes [and enforces] laws to his advantage.
(3, P) In an aristocracy the (ruling) aristocrats [and enforce] pass laws to their advantage.
(4, P) In a democracy the (ruling) masses pass [and enforce] laws to their advantage.
(5, A) There are no other types of regime.

(6, IC) The ruling part of any nation passes [and enforces] laws that are to its own advantage. (2-5)

(7, P) Every ruling party defines justice as obeying the law
(8, A) However all ruling parties agree on defining justice is the correct definition.
(9, IC) Justice is obeying the law. (7, 8)

(10, IC) Justice is everywhere to the advantage of the ruling party. (6, 9)

(11, FC) Justice is everywhere [to] the advantage of the stronger. (1,10)

Note: The numbers in parentheses after the statements indicate that the just stated conclusion or intermediate conclusion is meant to receive its logical support directly from these premises.

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The point of Argument Analysis and Reconstruction is to set out the structure of the argument, not necessarily to criticize it.

But, having done the Analysis and Reconstruction work correctly (or at least we hope so!), it is not hard to see where the argument might be challenged. For a start, how about step 8? How about 7 for that matter? If either of these premises is false, then 9 and 10 might not be justifiable, and if 10 is unjustified, then 11 has lost one of the two legs on which it stands.