Notes on Amoralism

The argument is that we all want to wrong each other but we want to avoid being wronged more than we want to wrong, so justice and morality and laws spring up in society as compromise.

Plato and his student Glaucon have a discourse designed to educate the audience. From it I gleaned the following:

- It demonstrates the unjust man, in order to be unjust finds himself needing to seem just. He becomes successful, does good for his friends etc through ‘schemes’ where he doesn’t get caught. He says the man who actually wants to be just and doesn’t care about seeming just will end up tortured, hated etc. - Problem: In reality you cannot ensure you don’t get caught like in the example. Ie. There are risks in being unjust. - Problem: glaucon doesn’t explain (gives no examples) of why the just man would fare so badly. Surely he cares about justice for himself also?

They keep arguing the case for injustice, saying it is a quicker road to happiess and that ‘appearance has more force than reality’ so they must put up the façade and appear just. And he answers the point about being caught, and says all he knows is injustice points to happiness (overall, on average, it is worth it etc). ‘Provided it has a vaneer of respectability injustice will enable us’ ‘he will never do right of his own free will’ – THAT is the problem… this is all illusion

Adiemantus adds that men only do right for what they can get out of it, in this life and the next. Adiemantus and Glaucon ask Socrates to show that just or right conduct is preferable in itself and without reference to any external reward or punishment. (doesn’t have his reply).


- life is much more complex now, for example most of the foods we buy from the supermarket come with a spoonful of injustice, be it slave/child labour, taxes being wrongly spent, additives that are bad for us, etc. (not at all obvious what justice is –) - He gives very few examples, hardly any, of how the just man does badly and how the unjust man wins every time. I am not convinced that someone who tries to e.g. cheat in exams will do better overall than someone who does the honest/just hard work, Surely their lack of learning would catch up with them? And surly if someone is constantly behind a ‘façade’ their relationships will suffer, as people would not really know them? - He wants Socrates to demonstate why justice is good in itself, but he doesn’t say why injustice is good in itself. Surely justice is an act that is good in itself, i.e. it feels right while the act is being done? Injustice is what feels wrong while being done but can have beneficial consequences.


There is no ‘just man’ or ‘unjust man’ only different shades of grey. Even in extreme cases. And also, the darker grey unjust man will know he has been unjust and may well envy the more just man who is a lighter grey.


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