12/09/2019

Thrasymachus Online?

"But why does Thrasymachus blush? In asking this, we put ourselves in the position of our students when we wonder, for instance, if Thrasymachus was simply vain and here got shown up by Socrates. Did he hope to show off in front of prospective clients in an effort to gain more fees-paying students? Perhaps he is just not that good at rhetoric and is embarrassed at having been tripped-up by Socrates and the subsequent loss of clientele that this entails. Or does he blush because Socrates’ refutation has exposed as hollow his claims to know the awful truth about the weakness of justice? Does his blush reveal that, despite his outrageously candid claim to see through the hollowness of honor and self-restraint, a pose that allows him to defy conventional opinion, Thrasymachus possesses a deeper underlying attachment to honor and justice than he is himself aware? Does his shame amount to a self-indictment, a case where Thrasymachus has weighed and measured himself and found himself to be wanting?
It is not my purpose here to settle a dispute that has perennially engaged and puzzled students and scholars of Plato’s work. What I am interested in are the conditions required to produce that shame. And it seems painfully evident that inducing such a reaction required publicity; it required an audience. Socrates could not have provoked such embarrassment in Thrasymachus had the two of them not been surrounded by several young men interestedly watching their exchange in person and face-to-face. This is crucial.
That Thrasymachus was held to account before others induces an experience that makes him accountable before himself. Having made public claims to know the truth about justice and then having those claims publicly exposed as bankrupt, induces an experience in him that Thrasymachus can’t simply ignore. The shame he experiences involuntarily brings to the surface things about himself that he did not know and that he must face, even if he chooses to address them later more fully in private."