The Argument with Thrasymachus

  • R. C. Cross
  • A. D. Woozley


The next stage in the conversation is taken over by Thrasymachus the Sophist, who bursts explosively into the dialogue (336b) with the familiar complaints made by Socrates’s opponents — that he uses childish arguments, makes an absurd parade of politeness, plays to the gallery and, above all, indulges his usual practice of asking all the questions and getting his victims to provide the answers which he then demolishes without ever offering any positive contributions himself. This characterisation of the Socratic method is fair enough, although the implication that Socrates’s purpose was negative is not; Socrates wanted to get at the truth, and he did it by eliminating accounts that were prima facie plausible but would not stand up to examination. By this means he was trying to show how much more difficult an innocent-looking philosophical question was than appeared at first sight, and what a serious business philosophical inquiry was. By his persistent questioning Socrates naturally irritated the Sophists, exposing the inadequacy and superficiality of the answers which they too readily put forward in their teachings. It was characteristic of the Sophists, itinerant teachers who tended to centre on Athens as the chief intellectual and cultural city of Greece, that, while professing to teach arete or virtue, they concentrated mainly on the arts which made for practical success and would be of value to men who wished, as politicians and public figures, to get to the top.


Moral Judgment Extreme Position Greek Word Moral Term Expert Musician 
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Copyright information

© R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. C. Cross
    • 1
  • A. D. Woozley
    • 2
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK
  2. 2.University of VirginiaUSA

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