If anyone has read Plato's Republic you'll know what I'm talking about. In Book I or II Thrasymachus (a sophist and rival of Socrates) argues, in lay terms, that might makes right. He says that justice is the advantage of the stronger. I won't get into the whole argument between Socrates and Thrasymachus in this post. (But here's a link!)
Is Thrasymachus correct? Does might in fact make right? If so, why? If not, why not? I'll offer my input later but my understanding of this isn't top notch, hence the question.
Well if you pound your enemies into submission or completely eliminate them then I guess you're version of right is the only one that's going to matter.
D.J. You pose an interesting question that has been, evidently, asked throughout the ages! Most of the time I keep my opinions on such a matter private because I find they are a tad radical and most people have a hard time conceptualizing them or stepping "Outside of the box", to use a tired cliche.
Anyways, in a sense I believe that Thrasymachus is "Right" however! I believe you are getting into muddy waters here and suggesting some sort of moral imperative with the designation "right" which also suggests a possible designation of "wrong".
Personally I believe that the only thing the universe understands are power-dynamics i.e. what one wants/needs and another has and the exchange between the two. It seems to me that this is how most of mankind behaves, certainly it is evident between nations right down to the individuals of society. It is also clear in certain theories of science and nature such as in Valence Bond Theory where the orbitals of one atom will take from another without asking permission and without hesitation and most importantly without any moral conscience.
In Plato's "Phaedo" we also encounter the "Exclusion of opposites" Argument which dictates that when two essential opposites approach each other one must either parish or withdraw. Heat can not approach cold, Dark can not approach light, life can not approach death. Each has what the other wants and therefore a side will be chosen.
Many years after Plato/Socrates Nietzsche came around with a different explication of this sort of "phenomena" ,which I prefer:
“My idea is that every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (-its will to powerJ and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to n arrangement (“union”) with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on. (Nietzsche – The Will To Power, 340)
Although there are forces at odds, so to speak, an accord will ultimately be reached. This allows for not just a parish or withdraw situation but also for room in the middle as well. A Symbiotic relationship that is agreed upon between the forces.
I think the important parts of this are: a) there will more than likely always be forces in opposition - as that seems to be part of the intrinsic nature of the universe and 2) these opposing forces will more than likely find an accord of sorts
But the most important part to investigate, at least in my mind, is the notion of "Right" and "Wrong". I like to distinguish between Morals and Ethics and I find (in the key of Nietzsche) that Morality is bread in us from years of obedient servitude to various institutions that seek to control.Thus we must 'move beyond good and evil' so to speak. Move beyond right and wrong and establish personal purpose and ethics. I leave you now , once more, with the inspiriring words of Friederich Nietzsche.
"Inasmuch as in all ages, as long as mankind has existed, there have also been human herds (family alliances, communities, tribes, peoples, states, churches), and always a great number who obey in proportion to the small number who command—in view, therefore, of the fact that obedience has been most practiced and fostered among mankind hitherto, one may reasonably suppose that, generally speaking, the need thereof is now innate in every one, as a kind of FORMAL CONSCIENCE which gives the command ‘Thou shalt unconditionally do something, unconditionally refrain from something’, in short, ‘Thou shalt". (Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil, 131).
I appologize if this has all been a bit technical, long winded and at times muddled (I've been writing this in parts from my desk at work and have been distracted periodically).
Typical of most of the early Philosophers and not to take anything away from their contributions to our world today but they did have a tendency to make "absolute" declarations. For example in Plato's "Phaedo" the statement about heat and cold, light and dark... did not take into account the real world. For example, if you add cold water to hot water what do you get? Warm water. If you add light to dark what do you get? Shade. So to argue in the manner of the early philosophers there is a middle ground a somewhere in between the absolutes. I think sometimes we forget this. Weakness does not make wrong, it just means you're at a disadvantage when it comes to defending yourself.
This is definitely an important point to make! Shades of gray were rarely appreciated with these early folks. It was all abstract concepts.
Early philosophers knew the value of making preposterous arguments; apparently, you do not. The Phaedo is a great example because Socrates argues for the sake of the two dudes that in fact soul and body are so different that it is better to be dead (soul free of body) than alive (soul mixed with body). Anybody who is not an idiot will notice that is an absurd conclusion. Early philosophers never chose to die when they could go on living the philosophic life, so it's doubtful even they believed this sort of idiocy. But apparently only a few people will wonder how that absurd conclusion was reached and why did the dudes fall for it, which is precisely the point there.
If you consider hot water and the hotter fire that warms it, you realize the water is colder than the fire. There, do you think early philosophers were too stupid to realize that conceptual opposites in fact mixed? If you want something like thematic discussions of putting opposites together, read Plato's Sophist and Statesman. They were not idiots, they were just subtle.
From reading the discussion between Socrates and Thrasymachus i would say that it doesn't.
Thrasymachus' definition of justice is " Justice is the advantage of the stronger." So lets assume for a moment that might does make right, or in other words, that the deeds done by the stronger in its own benefit are just ( or right). So from this perspective we could say that awful episodes in history were right, because they worked in the ruler's advantage, at this point as an example one could mention The Holocaust, and every other genocide that has taken place in history. I think that we can all agree that the holocaust wasn't right. To avoid episodes like the previously mentioned is that there are laws that estipulate what's right and what isn't, and no matter how strong, nobody is above the law.
Which law(s) are you referring to? And should those laws be observed? It seems to me that you are arguing for a very utilitarian (greatest good for the greatest number) approach. I submit to you that your current line of thinking (as I interpret it) is hinged on the belief that death is the worst thing that can happen to a person but I assure you, it isn't.
Laws may "stipulate" right and wrong but in no way does that make them "correct", for lack of a better word at the moment.
I absolutely agree that death's not the worst thing that can happen to a human being.
The previous was just a example. What i was trying to say is that might doesn't necessarily make it right. I understand that in the world we live in, the strong normaly makes the rules ( and laws) but as, in the article mentioned before, socrates argued, in a democracy, the people that rule, should rule in the best interest of the people they rule, not themselves. As you said, in a brilliant post by the way, right and wrong is a matter of perception, and what for someone is right, it may be wrong for others, and as Michael Morris said above, most of the time, the perception of right from the strong is the one that matters, and i agree, but in the end, history is the great judge and what seemed right in a specific time, may ( and probably will) change.
I appreciate the compliment Thomas, frankly when I voice my sort of abstract views on things I'm met with more jeers than cheers. That sort of comes with the territory of being some declension of a Tyrannical Libertarian Oligarch, I suppose.
However I would like to clarify something regarding my beliefs on 'right and wrong' - which for me as I indicated before is more to the heart of this dilemma than the use of force; because if "Might is right - or wrong" I think we need to know what it is to be 'Right" or "Wrong"
Right and Wrong is definitely a matter of perception, however my personal feelings are that any perception of "Right" and "Wrong" are incorrect. I believe that any displays of pious finger wagging are the narrow minded actions of an ill bread herd animal; with the caveat that no one is responsible for what they are born with. HOWEVER! The crux lies in breaking free of the shackles of ignorance much like we see in Plato's Allegory Of The Cave (Book XII of The Republic 507b-514a) and hopefully freeing (enlightening) others.
Again I would like to emphasize that I understand the degree of abstraction I am suggesting.
I do not want to come off as defensive but I just want to be clear that I have heard all the pseudo-arguments countering my points but I'm happy to respond to any legitimately philosophical queries or objections.
However I have no time for hypothetical "WHAT IF's" situations, especially if they are regarding Hitler, Holocaust, Genocide, Infanticide, Rape, Mutilation or the "what if it was your (family member)" hypothesis.
As a sub note I really appreciate this discourse. Truthfully this has been a topic on my mind for some time now.
Using the allegory of the cave as an illustration of a Nietzschian overcoming and writing of new tablets? Epic fail.
Thanks for the input. It was a tremendous help. Clearly you're missing the picture but thats ok, if you sit tight someone will venture back into the cave for you one day.
By the by, saying things like "Epic ____" makes you a gigantic turd.