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PLATO, THE REPUBLIC
DEBATE BETWEEN SOCRATES AND THRASYMACHUS ON THE NATURE OF JUSTICE
SELECTION FROM BOOK ONE
THRASYMACHUS; I say that if you want really to know what justice is,
you should not...PLATO, THE REPUBLIC
DEBATE BETWEEN SOCRATES AND THRASYMACHUS ON THE NATURE OF JUSTICE
SELECTION FROM BOOK ONE
THRASYMACHUS; I say that if you want really to know what justice is,
you should not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honour
to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have your own
answer; for there is many a one who can ask and cannot answer. And
now I will not have you say that justice is duty or advantage or profit
or gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not do for me;
I must have clearness and accuracy.
I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him without
trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye upon him,
I should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising, I
looked at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, don't be hard upon us. Polemarchus
and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in the argument, but
I can assure you that the error was not intentional. If we were seeking
for a piece of gold, you would not imagine that we were 'knocking
under to one another,' and so losing our chance of finding it. And
why, when we are seeking for justice, a thing more precious than many
pieces of gold, do you say that we are weakly yielding to one another
and not doing our utmost to get at the truth? Nay, my good friend,
we are most willing and anxious to do so, but the fact is that we
cannot. And if so, you people who know all things should pity us and
not be angry with us.
How characteristic of Socrates! he replied, with a bitter laugh; --that's
your ironical style! Did I not foresee --have I not already told you,
that whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer, and try irony
or any other shuffle, in order that he might avoid answering?
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well know that
if you ask a person what numbers make up twelve, taking care to prohibit
him whom you ask from answering twice six, or three times four, or
six times two, or four times three, 'for this sort of nonsense will
not do for me,' --then obviously, that is your way of putting the
question, no one can answer you. But suppose that he were to retort,
'Thrasymachus, what do you mean? If one of these numbers which you
interdict be the true answer to the question, am I falsely to say
some other number which is not the right one? --is that your meaning?'
-How would you answer him?
Just as if the two cases were at all alike! he said.
Why should they not be? I replied; and even if they are not, but only
appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not to say what
he thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?
I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted answers?
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon reflection
I approve of any of them.
But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better, he
said, than any of these? What do you deserve to have done to you?
Done to me! --as becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise
--that is what I deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment! a pleasant notion!
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.
Socrates - THRASYMACHUS - GLAUCON
But you have, Socrates, said Glaucon: and you, Thrasymachus, need
be under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution
Yes, he replied, and then Socrates will do as he always does --refuse
to answer himself, but take and pull to pieces the answer of some
Why, my good friend, I said, how can any one answer who knows, and
says that he knows, just nothing; and who, even if he has some faint
notions of his own, is told by a man of authority not to utter them?
The natural thing is, that the speaker should be some one like yourself
who professes to know and can tell what he knows. Will you then kindly
answer, for the edification of the company and of myself ?
Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request and Thrasymachus,
as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for he thought
that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish himself. But
at first he to insist on my answering; at length he consented to begin.
Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he refuses to teach himself,
and goes about learning of others, to whom he never even says thank
That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am ungrateful
I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in praise, which
is all I have: and how ready I am to praise any one who appears to
me to speak well you will very soon find out when you answer; for
I expect that you will answer well.
Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than
the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me? But of course
Let me first understand you, I replied. justice, as you say, is the
interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this?
You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, is
stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive to his
bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good
who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?
That's abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense
which is most damaging to the argument.
Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them; and
I wish that you would be a little clearer.
Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ;
there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are
Yes, I know.
And the government is the ruling power in each state?
And the different forms of government make laws democratical,
tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and these laws,
which are made by them for their own interests, are the justice which
they deliver to their subjects, and him who transgresses them they
punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean
when I say that in all states there is the same principle of justice,
which is the interest of the government; and as the government must
be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is, that
everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest
of the stronger.
Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I will
try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice you have
yourself used the word 'interest' which you forbade me to use. It
is true, however, that in your definition the words 'of the stronger'
A small addition, you must allow, he said.
Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether
what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that justice
is interest of some sort, but you go on to say 'of the stronger';
about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore consider
I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just or subjects
to obey their rulers?
But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they sometimes
liable to err?
To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.
Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly, and
When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest;
when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?
And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects, --and
that is what you call justice?
Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience to
the interest of the stronger but the reverse?
What is that you are saying? he asked.
I am only repeating what you are saying, I believe. But let us consider:
Have we not admitted that the rulers may be mistaken about their own
interest in what they command, and also that to obey them is justice?
Has not that been admitted?
Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the interest
of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command things to
be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say, justice
is the obedience which the subject renders to their commands, in that
case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from the conclusion that
the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest, but
what is for the injury of the stronger?
Nothing can be clearer, Socrates, said Polemarchus.
Socrates - CLEITOPHON - POLEMARCHUS - THRASYMACHUS
Yes, said Cleitophon, interposing, if you are allowed to be his witness.
But there is no need of any witness, said Polemarchus, for Thrasymachus
himself acknowledges that rulers may sometimes command what is not
for their own interest, and that for subjects to obey them is justice.
Yes, Polemarchus, --Thrasymachus said that for subjects to do what
was commanded by their rulers is just.
Yes, Cleitophon, but he also said that justice is the interest of
the stronger, and, while admitting both these propositions, he further
acknowledged that the stronger may command the weaker who are his
subjects to do what is not for his own interest; whence follows that
justice is the injury quite as much as the interest of the stronger.
But, said Cleitophon, he meant by the interest of the stronger what
the stronger thought to be his interest, --this was what the weaker
had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice.
Those were not his words, rejoined Polemarchus.
Socrates - THRASYMACHUS
Never mind, I replied, if he now says that they are, let us accept
his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus, I said, did you mean by justice
what the stronger thought to be his interest, whether really so or
Certainly not, he said. Do you suppose that I call him who is mistaken
the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?
Yes, I said, my impression was that you did so, when you admitted
that the ruler was not infallible but might be sometimes mistaken.
You argue like an informer, Socrates. Do you mean, for example, that
he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is mistaken?
or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an arithmetician or
grammarian at the me when he is making the mistake, in respect of
the mistake? True, we say that the physician or arithmetician or grammarian
has made a mistake, but this is only a way of speaking; for the fact
is that neither the grammarian nor any other person of skill ever
makes a mistake in so far as he is what his name implies; they none
of them err unless their skill fails them, and then they cease to
be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs at the time when
he is what his name implies; though he is commonly said to err, and
I adopted the common mode of speaking. But to be perfectly accurate,
since you are such a lover of accuracy, we should say that the ruler,
in so far as he is the ruler, is unerring, and, being unerring, always
commands that which is for his own interest; and the subject is required
to execute his commands; and therefore, as I said at first and now
repeat, justice is the interest of the stronger.
Indeed, Thrasymachus, and do I really appear to you to argue like
Certainly, he replied.
And you suppose that I ask these questions with any design of injuring
you in the argument?
Nay, he replied, 'suppose' is not the word --I know it; but you will
be found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never prevail.
I shall not make the attempt, my dear man; but to avoid any misunderstanding
occurring between us in future, let me ask, in what sense do you speak
of a ruler or stronger whose interest, as you were saying, he being
the superior, it is just that the inferior should execute --is he
a ruler in the popular or in the strict sense of the term?
In the strictest of all senses, he said. And now cheat and play the
informer if you can; I ask no quarter at your hands. But you never
will be able, never.
And do you imagine, I said, that I am such a madman as to try and
cheat, Thrasymachus? I might as well shave a lion.
Why, he said, you made the attempt a minute ago, and you failed.
Enough, I said, of these civilities. It will be better that I should
ask you a question: Is the physician, taken in that strict sense of
which you are speaking, a healer of the sick or a maker of money?
And remember that I am now speaking of the true physician.
A healer of the sick, he replied.
And the pilot --that is to say, the true pilot --is he a captain of
sailors or a mere sailor?
A captain of sailors.
The circumstance that he sails in the ship is not to be taken into
account; neither is he to be called a sailor; the name pilot by which
he is distinguished has nothing to do with sailing, but is significant
of his skill and of his authority over the sailors.
Very true, he said.
Now, I said, every art has an interest?
For which the art has to consider and provide?
Yes, that is the aim of art.
And the interest of any art is the perfection of it --this and nothing
What do you mean?
I mean what I may illustrate negatively by the example of the body.
Suppose you were to ask me whether the body is self-sufficing or has
wants, I should reply: Certainly the body has wants; for the body
may be ill and require to be cured, and has therefore interests to
which the art of medicine ministers; and this is the origin and intention
of medicine, as you will acknowledge. Am I not right?
Quite right, he replied.
But is the art of medicine or any other art faulty or deficient in
any quality in the same way that the eye may be deficient in sight
or the ear fail of hearing, and therefore requires another art to
provide for the interests of seeing and hearing --has art in itself,
I say, any similar liability to fault or defect, and does every art
require another supplementary art to provide for its interests, and
that another and another without end? Or have the arts to look only
after their own interests? Or have they no need either of themselves
or of another? --having no faults or defects, they have no need to
correct them, either by the exercise of their own art or of any other;
they have only to consider the interest of their subject-matter. For
every art remains pure and faultless while remaining true --that is
to say, while perfect and unimpaired. Take the words in your precise
sense, and tell me whether I am not right."
Then medicine does not consider the interest of medicine, but the
interest of the body?
True, he said.
Nor does the art of horsemanship consider the interests of the art
of horsemanship, but the interests of the horse; neither do any other
arts care for themselves, for they have no needs; they care only for
that which is the subject of their art?
True, he said.
But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts are the superiors and rulers of
their own subjects?
To this he assented with a good deal of reluctance.
Then, I said, no science or art considers or enjoins the interest
of the stronger or superior, but only the interest of the subject
He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally acquiesced.
Then, I continued, no physician, in so far as he is a physician, considers
his own good in what he prescribes, but the good of his patient; for
the true physician is also a ruler having the human body as a subject,
and is not a mere money-maker; that has been admitted?
And the pilot likewise, in the strict sense of the term, is a ruler
of sailors and not a mere sailor?
That has been admitted.
And such a pilot and ruler will provide and prescribe for the interest
of the sailor who is under him, and not for his own or the ruler's
He gave a reluctant 'Yes.'
Then, I said, Thrasymachus, there is no one in any rule who, in so
far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own interest,
but always what is for the interest of his subject or suitable to
his art; to that he looks, and that alone he considers in everything
which he says and does.
When we had got to this point in the argument, and every one saw that
the definition of justice had been completely upset, Thrasymachus,
instead of replying to me, said: Tell me, Socrates, have you got a
Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather to be
Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose: she has
not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep.
What makes you say that? I replied.
Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens of tends the
sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of
himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of
states, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as
sheep, and that they are not studying their own advantage day and
night. Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about
the just and unjust as not even to know that justice and the just
are in reality another's good; that is to say, the interest of the
ruler and stronger, and the loss of the subject and servant; and injustice
the opposite; for the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just:
he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest,
and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their
own. Consider further, most foolish Socrates, that the just is always
a loser in comparison with the unjust. First of all, in private contracts:
wherever the unjust is the partner of the just you will find that,
when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always more
and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings with the State: when
there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust
less on the same amount of income; and when there is anything to be
received the one gains nothing and the other much. Observe also what
happens when they take an office; there is the just man neglecting
his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, and getting nothing
out of the public, because he is just; moreover he is hated by his
friends and acquaintance for refusing to serve them in unlawful ways.
But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking,
as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the advantage of
the unjust is more apparent; and my meaning will be most clearly seen
if we turn to that highest form of injustice in which the criminal
is the happiest of men, and the sufferers or those who refuse to do
injustice are the most miserable --that is to say tyranny, which by
fraud and force takes away the property of others, not little by little
but wholesale; comprehending in one, things sacred as well as profane,
private and public; for which acts of wrong, if he were detected
any one of them singly, he would be punished and incur great disgrace
--they who do such wrong in particular
temples, and man-stealers and burglars
But when a man besides taking away the
slaves of them, then, instead of these
cases are called robbers of
and swindlers and thieves.
money of the citizens has made
names of reproach, he is termed
happy and blessed, not only by the citizens but by all who hear of
his having achieved the consummation of injustice. For mankind censure
injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because
they shrink from committing it. And thus, as I have shown, Socrates,
injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom
and mastery than justice; and, as I said at first, justice is the
interest of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man's own profit
Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman, deluged
our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the company would
not let him; they insisted that he should remain and defend his position;
and I myself added my own humble request that he would not leave us.
Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man, how suggestive are your
remarks! And are you going to run away before you have fairly taught
or learned whether they are true or not? Is the attempt to determine
the way of man's life so small a matter in your eyes --to determine
how life may be passed by each one of us to the greatest advantage?
And do I differ from you, he said, as to the importance of the enquiry?
You appear rather, I replied, to have no care or thought about us,
Thrasymachus --whether we live better or worse from not knowing what
you say you know, is to you a matter of indifference. Prithee, friend,
do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party; and
any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded. For my
own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I do not
believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if uncontrolled
and allowed to have free play. For, granting that there may be an
unjust man who is able to commit injustice either by fraud or force,
still this does not convince me of the superior advantage of injustice,
and there may be others who are in the same predicament with myself.
Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom should convince
us that we are mistaken in preferring justice to injustice.
And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already convinced
by what I have just said; what more can I do for you? Would you have
me put the proof bodily into your souls?
Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent; or,
if you change, change openly and let there be no deception. For I
must remark, Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously
said, that although you began by defining the true physician in an
exact sense, you did not observe a like exactness when speaking of
the shepherd; you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd tends the
sheep not with a view to their own good, but like a mere diner or
banqueter with a view to the pleasures of the table; or, again, as
a trader for sale in the market, and not as a shepherd. Yet surely
the art of the shepherd is concerned only with the good of his subjects;
he has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of
the art is already ensured whenever all the requirements of it are
satisfied. And that was what I was saying just now about the ruler.
I conceived that the art of the ruler, considered as ruler, whether
in a state or in private life, could only regard the good of his flock
or subjects; whereas you seem to think that the rulers in states,
that is to say, the true rulers, like being in authority.
Think! Nay, I am sure of it.
Then why in the case of lesser offices do men never take them willingly
without payment, unless under the idea that they govern for the advantage
not of themselves but of others? Let me ask you a question: Are not
the several arts different, by reason of their each having a separate
function? And, my dear illustrious friend, do say what you think,
that we may make a little progress.
Yes, that is the difference, he replied.
And each art gives us a particular good and not merely a general one
--medicine, for example, gives us health; navigation, safety at sea,
and so on?
Yes, he said.
And the art of payment has the special function of giving pay: but
we do not confuse this with other arts, any more than the art of the
pilot is to be confused with the art of medicine, because the health
of the pilot may be improved by a sea voyage. You would not be inclined
to say, would you, that navigation is the art of medicine, at least
if we are to adopt your exact use of language?
Or because a man is in good health when he receives pay you would
not say that the art of payment is medicine?
I should say not.
Nor would you say that medicine is the art of receiving pay because
a man takes fees when he is engaged in healing?
And we have admitted, I said, that the good of each art is specially
confined to the art?
Then, if there be any good which all artists have in common, that
is to be attributed to something of which they all have the common
True, he replied.
And when the artist is benefited by receiving pay the advantage is
gained by an additional use of the art of pay, which is not the art
professed by him?
He gave a reluctant assent to this.
Then the pay is not derived by the several artists from their respective
arts. But the truth is, that while the art of medicine gives health,
and the art of the builder builds a house, another art attends them
which is the art of pay. The various arts may be doing their own business
and benefiting that over which they preside, but would the artist
receive any benefit from his art unless he were paid as well?
I suppose not.
But does he therefore confer no benefit when he works for nothing?
Certainly, he confers a benefit.
Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither
arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we were
before saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their subjects
who are the weaker and not the stronger --to their good they attend
and not to the good of the superior.
And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now
saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take
in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without
remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his
orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest,
but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers
may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of
payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.
Socrates - GLAUCON
What do you mean, Socrates? said Glaucon. The first two modes of payment
are intelligible enough, but what the penalty is I do not understand,
or how a penalty can be a payment.
You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment which
to the best men is the great inducement to rule? Of course you know
that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace?
And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for
them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing
and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping themselves
out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves. And not being
ambitious they do not care about honour. Wherefore necessity must
be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve from the fear
of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness
to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed
dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who
refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.
And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office,
not because they would, but because they cannot help --not under the
idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves,
but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task
of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.
For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely
of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention
as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof
that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest,
but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose
rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble
of conferring one. So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that
justice is the interest of the stronger. This latter question need
not be further discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that
the life of the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just,
his new statement appears to me to be of a far more serious character.
Which of us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon, do
I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous,
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was
Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me.
Then shall we try to find some way of convincing him, if we can, that
he is saying what is not true?
Most certainly, he replied.
If, I said, he makes a set speech and we make another recounting all
the advantages of being just, and he answers and we rejoin, there
must be a numbering and measuring of the goods which are claimed on
either side, and in the end we shall want judges to decide; but if
we proceed in our enquiry as we lately did, by making admissions to
one another, we shall unite the offices of judge and advocate in our
Very good, he said.
And which method do I understand you to prefer? I said.
That which you propose.
Well, then, Thrasymachus, I said, suppose you begin at the beginning
and answer me. You say that perfect injustice is more gainful than
Socrates - GLAUCON - THRASYMACHUS
Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons.
And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them virtue
and the other vice?
I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice?
What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm injustice
to be profitable and justice not.
What else then would you say?
The opposite, he replied.
And would you call justice vice?
No, I would rather say sublime simplicity.
Then would you call injustice malignity?
No; I would rather say discretion.
And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good?
Yes, he said; at any rate those of them who are able to be perfectly
unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and nations; but
perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses.
Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are
not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking.
I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasymachus, I replied;
but still I cannot hear without amazement that you class injustice
with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the opposite.
Certainly I do so class them.
Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable ground;
for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be profitable had
been admitted by you as by others to be vice and deformity, an answer
might have been given to you on received principles; but now I perceive
that you will call injustice honourable and strong, and to the unjust
you will attribute all the qualities which were attributed by us before
to the just, seeing that you do not hesitate to rank injustice with
wisdom and virtue.
You have guessed most infallibly, he replied.
Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through with the argument
so long as I have reason to think that you, Thrasymachus, are speaking
your real mind; for I do believe that you are now in earnest and are
not amusing yourself at our expense.
I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you? --to refute the
argument is your business.
Very true, I said; that is what I have to do: But will you be so good
as answer yet one more question? Does the just man try to gain any
advantage over the just?
Far otherwise; if he did would not be the simple, amusing creature
which he is.
And would he try to go beyond just action?
He would not.
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the
unjust; would that be considered by him as just or unjust?
He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage; but he
would not be able.
Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the point.
My question is only whether the just man, while refusing to have more
than another just man, would wish and claim to have more than the
Yes, he would.
And what of the unjust --does he claim to have more than the just
man and to do more than is just
Of course, he said, for he claims to have more than all men.
And the unjust man will strive and struggle to obtain more than the
unjust man or action, in order that he may have more than all?
We may put the matter thus, I said --the just does not desire more
than his like but more than his unlike, whereas the unjust desires
more than both his like and his unlike?
Nothing, he said, can be better than that statement.
And the unjust is good and wise, and the just is neither?
Good again, he said.
And is not the unjust like the wise and good and the just unlike them?
Of course, he said, he who is of a certain nature, is like those who
are of a certain nature; he who is not, not.
Each of them, I said, is such as his like is?
Certainly, he replied.
Very good, Thrasymachus, I said; and now to take the case of the arts:
you would admit that one man is a musician and another not a musician?
And which is wise and which is foolish?
Clearly the musician is wise, and he who is not a musician is foolish.
And he is good in as far as he is wise, and bad in as far as he is
And you would say the same sort of thing of the physician?
And do you think, my excellent friend, that a musician when he adjusts
the lyre would desire or claim to exceed or go beyond a musician in
the tightening and loosening the strings?
I do not think that he would.
But he would claim to exceed the non-musician?
And what would you say of the physician? In prescribing meats and
drinks would he wish to go beyond another physician or beyond the
practice of medicine?
He would not.
But he would wish to go beyond the non-physician?
And about knowledge and ignorance in general; see whether you think
that any man who has knowledge ever would wish to have the choice
of saying or doing more than another man who has knowledge. Would
he not rather say or do the same as his like in the same case?
That, I suppose, can hardly be denied.
And what of the ignorant? would he not desire to have more than either
the knowing or the ignorant?
I dare say.
And the knowing is wise?
And the wise is good?
Then the wise and good will not desire to gain more than his like,
but more than his unlike and opposite?
I suppose so.
Whereas the bad and ignorant will desire to gain more than both?
But did we not say, Thrasymachus, that the unjust goes beyond both
his like and unlike? Were not these your words? They were.
And you also said that the lust will not go beyond his like but his
Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the evil
That is the inference.
And each of them is such as his like is?
That was admitted.
Then the just has turned out to be wise and good and the unjust evil
Thrasymachus made all these admissions, not fluently, as I repeat
them, but with extreme reluctance; it was a hot summer's day, and
the perspiration poured from him in torrents; and then I saw what
I had never seen before, Thrasymachus blushing. As we were now agreed
that justice was virtue and wisdom, and injustice vice and ignorance,
I proceeded to another point:
Well, I said, Thrasymachus, that matter is now settled; but were we
not also saying that injustice had strength; do you remember?
Yes, I remember, he said, but do not suppose that I approve of what
you are saying or have no answer; if however I were to answer, you
would be quite certain to accuse me of haranguing; therefore either
permit me to have my say out, or if you would rather ask, do so, and
I will answer 'Very good,' as they say to story-telling old women,
and will nod 'Yes' and 'No.'
Certainly not, I said, if contrary to your real opinion.
Yes, he said, I will, to please you, since you will not let me speak.
What else would you have?
Nothing in the world, I said; and if you are so disposed I will ask
and you shall answer.
Then I will repeat the question which I asked before, in order that
our examination of the relative nature of justice and injustice may
be carried on regularly. A statement was made that injustice is stronger
and more powerful than justice, but now justice, having been identified
with wisdom and virtue, is easily shown to be stronger than injustice,
if injustice is ignorance; this can no longer be questioned by any
one. But I want to view the matter, Thrasymachus, in a different way:
You would not deny that a state may be unjust and may be unjustly
attempting to enslave other states, or may have already enslaved them,
and may be holding many of them in subjection?
True, he replied; and I will add the best and perfectly unjust state
will be most likely to do so.
I know, I said, that such was your position; but what I would further
consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the superior
state can exist or be exercised without justice.
If you are right in you view, and justice is wisdom, then only with
justice; but if I am right, then without justice.
I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding assent and
dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent.
That is out of civility to you, he replied.
You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to
inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of
robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at
all if they injured one another?
No indeed, he said, they could not.
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act
And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting,
and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?
I agree, he said, because I do not wish to quarrel with you.
How good of you, I said; but I should like to know also whether injustice,
having this tendency to arouse hatred, wherever existing, among slaves
or among freemen, will not make them hate one another and set them
at variance and render them incapable of common action?
And even if injustice be found in two only, will they not quarrel
and fight, and become enemies to one another and to the just
And suppose injustice abiding in a single person, would your wisdom
say that she loses or that she retains her natural power?
Let us assume that she retains her power.
Yet is not the power which injustice exercises of such a nature that
wherever she takes up her abode, whether in a city, in an army, in
a family, or in any other body, that body is, to begin with, rendered
incapable of united action by reason of sedition and distraction;
and does it not become its own enemy and at variance with all that
opposes it, and with the just? Is not this the case?
And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person;
in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is
not at unity with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy
to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?
And O my friend, I said, surely the gods are just?
Granted that they are.
But if so, the unjust will be the enemy of the gods, and the just
will be their friend?
Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will
not oppose you, lest I should displease the company.
Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the remainder
of my repast. For we have already shown that the just are clearly
wiser and better and abler than the unjust, and that the unjust are
incapable of common action; nay ing at more, that to speak as we did
of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously together, is not
strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil, they would have
laid hands upon one another; but it is evident that there must have
been some remnant of justice in them, which enabled them to combine;
if there had not been they would have injured one another as well
as their victims; they were but half --villains in their enterprises;
for had they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they would have
been utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the truth
of the matter, and not what you said at first. But whether the just
have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question
which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for
the reasons which to have given; but still I should like to examine
further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule
of human life.
I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a horse
has some end?
And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which could
not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing?
I do not understand, he said.
Let me explain: Can you see, except with the eye?
Or hear, except with the ear?
These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs?
But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel,
and in many other ways?
And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the purpose?
May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook?
Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding my meaning
when I asked the question whether the end of anything would be that
which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any
I understand your meaning, he said, and assent.
And that to which an end is appointed has also an excellence? Need
I ask again whether the eye has an end?
And has not the eye an excellence?
And the ear has an end and an excellence also?
And the same is true of all other things; they have each of them an
end and a special excellence?
That is so.
Well, and can the eyes fulfil their end if they are wanting in their
own proper excellence and have a defect instead?
How can they, he said, if they are blind and cannot see?
You mean to say, if they have lost their proper excellence, which
is sight; but I have not arrived at that point yet. I would rather
ask the question more generally, and only enquire whether the things
which fulfil their ends fulfil them by their own proper excellence,
and fall of fulfilling them by their own defect?
Certainly, he replied.
I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own proper
excellence they cannot fulfil their end?
And the same observation will apply to all other things?
Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfil? for
example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are
not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned
to any other?
To no other.
And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Assuredly, he said.
And has not the soul an excellence also?
And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that
Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and superintendent,
and the good soul a good ruler?
And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and
injustice the defect of the soul?
That has been admitted.
Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust
man will live ill?
That is what your argument proves.
And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the
reverse of happy?
Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?
So be it.
But happiness and not misery is profitable.
Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable
Let this, Socrates, he said, be your entertainment at the Bendidea.
For which I am indebted to you, I said, now that you have grown gentle
towards me and have left off scolding. Nevertheless, I have not been
well entertained; but that was my own fault and not yours. As an epicure
snatches a taste of every dish which is successively brought to table,
he not having allowed himself time to enjoy the one before, so have
I gone from one subject to another without having discovered what
I sought at first, the nature of justice. I left that enquiry and
turned away to consider whether justice is virtue and wisdom or evil
and folly; and when there arose a further question about the comparative
advantages of justice and injustice, I could not refrain from passing
on to that. And the result of the whole discussion has been that I
know nothing at all. For I know not what justice is, and therefore
I am not likely to know whether it is or is not a virtue, nor can
I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.
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