Socrates: Tell me then, O thou heir
of the argument, what did Simonides say, and according to you truly
say, about justice?
Polemarchus: He said that the repayment
of a debt is just, and in saying so he appears to me to be right.
Socrates: I should be sorry to doubt
the word of such a wise and inspired man, but his meaning, though
probably clear to you, is the reverse of clear to me. For he certainly
does not mean, as we were now saying that I ought to return a return
a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks for it when
he is not in his right senses; and yet a deposit cannot be denied
to be a debt.
Socrates: Then when the person who
asks me is not in his right mind I am by no means to make the return?
Socrates: When Simonides said that
the repayment of a debt was justice, he did not mean to include
Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do good
to a friend and never evil.
Socrates: You mean that the return
of a deposit of gold which is to the injury of the receiver, if
the two parties are friends, is not the repayment of a debt, --that
is what you would imagine him to say?
Socrates: And are enemies also to
receive what we owe to them?
Polemarchus: To be sure they are to
receive what we owe them, and an enemy, as I take it, owes to an
enemy that which is due or proper to him --that is to say, evil.
Socrates: Simonides, then, after the
manner of poets, would seem to have spoken darkly of the nature
of justice; for he really meant to say that justice is the giving
to each man what is proper to him, and this he termed a debt.
That must have been his meaning, he said.
Socrates: By heaven! and if we asked
him what due or proper thing is given by medicine, and to whom,
what answer do you think that he would make to us?
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink
to human bodies.
Socrates: And what due or proper thing
is given by cookery, and to what?
Seasoning to food.
Socrates: And what is that which justice
gives, and to whom?
If, Socrates, we are to be guided at all by the analogy of the preceding
instances, then justice is the art which gives good to friends and
evil to enemies.
Socrates: That is his meaning then?
Polemarchus: I think so.
Socrates: And who is best able to
do good to his friends and evil to his enemies in time of sickness?
Polemarchus: The physician.
Socrates: Or when they are on a voyage,
amid the perils of the sea?
Socrates: And in what sort of actions
or with a view to what result is the just man most able to do harm
to his enemy and good to his friends?
Polemarchus: In going to war against
the one and in making alliances with the other.
Socrates: But when a man is well,
my dear Polemarchus, there is no need of a physician?
And he who is not on a voyage has no need of a pilot?
Socrates: Then in time of peace justice
will be of no use?
Polemarchus: I am very far from thinking
Socrates: You think that justice may
be of use in peace as well as in war?
Socrates: Like husbandry for the acquisition
Socrates: Or like shoemaking for the
acquisition of shoes, --that is what you mean?
Socrates: And what similar use or
power of acquisition has justice in time of peace?
Polemarchus: In contracts, Socrates,
justice is of use.
Socrates: And by contracts you mean
Socrates: But is the just man or the
skilful player a more useful and better partner at a game of draughts?
Polemarchus: The skilful player.
Socrates: And in the laying of bricks
and stones is the just man a more useful or better partner than
Polemarchus: Quite the reverse.
Socrates: Then in what sort of partnership
is the just man a better partner than the harp-player, as in playing
the harp the harp-player is certainly a better partner than the
Polemarchus: In a money partnership.
Socrates: Yes, Polemarchus, but surely
not in the use of money; for you do not want a just man to be your
counsellor the purchase or sale of a horse; a man who is knowing
about horses would be better for that, would he not?
Socrates: And when you want to buy
a ship, the shipwright or the pilot would be better?
Socrates: Then what is that joint
use of silver or gold in which the just man is to be preferred?
Polemarchus: When you want a deposit
to be kept safely.
Socrates: You mean when money is not
wanted, but allowed to lie?
Socrates: That is to say, justice
is useful when money is useless?
Polemarchus: That is the inference.
Socrates: And when you want to keep
a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and
to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?
Socrates: And when you want to keep
a shield or a lyre, and not to use them, you would say that justice
is useful; but when you want to use them, then the art of the soldier
or of the musician?
Socrates: And so of all the other
things; --justice is useful when they are useless, and useless when
they are useful?
Polemarchus: That is the inference.
Socrates: Then justice is not good
for much. But let us consider this further point: Is not he who
can best strike a blow in a boxing match or in any kind of fighting
best able to ward off a blow?
Socrates: And he who is most skilful
in preventing or escaping from a disease is best able to create
Socrates: And he is the best guard
of a camp who is best able to steal a march upon the enemy?
Socrates: Then he who is a good keeper
of anything is also a good thief?
Polemarchus: That, I suppose, is to
Socrates: Then if the just man is
good at keeping money, he is good at stealing it.
Polemarchus: That is implied in the
Socrates: Then after all the just
man has turned out to be a thief. And this is a lesson which I suspect
you must have learnt out of Homer; for he, speaking of Autolycus,
the maternal grandfather of Odysseus, who is a favourite of his,
affirms that “He was excellent above all men in theft and
perjury. And so, you and Homer and Simonides are agreed that justice
is an art of theft; to be practiced however 'for the good of friends
and for the harm of enemies,” --that was what you were saying?
Polemarchus: No, certainly not that,
though I do not now know what I did say; but I still stand by the
Socrates: Well, there is another question:
By friends and enemies do we mean those who are so really, or only
Polemarchus: Surely, he said, a man
may be expected to love those whom he thinks good, and to hate those
whom he thinks evil.
Socrates: Yes, but do not persons
often err about good and evil: many who are not good seem to be
so, and conversely?
Polemarchus: That is true.
Socrates: Then to them the good will
be enemies and the evil will be their friends?
Socrates: And in that case they will
be right in doing good to the evil and evil to the good?
Socrates: But the good are just and
would not do an injustice?
Socrates: Then according to your argument
it is just to injure those who do no wrong?
Polemarchus: Nay, Socrates; the doctrine
Socrates: Then I suppose that we ought
to do good to the just and harm to the unjust?
Polemarchus: I like that better.
Socrates: But see the consequence:
--Many a man who is ignorant of human nature has friends who are
bad friends, and in that case he ought to do harm to them; and he
has good enemies whom he ought to benefit; but, if so, we shall
be saying the very opposite of that which we affirmed to be the
meaning of Simonides.
Polemarchus: Very true, he said: and
I think that we had better correct an error into which we seem to
have fallen in the use of the words 'friend' and 'enemy.'
Socrates: What was the error, Polemarchus?
Polemarchus: We assumed that he is
a friend who seems to be or who is thought good.
Socrates: And how is the error to
Polemarchus: We should rather say
that he is a friend who is, as well as seems, good; and that he
who seems only, and is not good, only seems to be and is not a friend;
and of an enemy the same may be said.
Socrates: You would argue that the
good are our friends and the bad our enemies?
Socrates: And instead of saying simply
as we did at first, that it is just to do good to our friends and
harm to our enemies, we should further say: It is just to do good
to our friends when they are good and harm to our enemies when they
Polemarchus: Yes, that appears to
me to be the truth.
Socrates: But ought the just to injure
any one at all?
Polemarchus: Undoubtedly he ought
to injure those who are both wicked and his enemies.
Socrates: When horses are injured,
are they improved or deteriorated?
Polemarchus: The latter.
Socrates: Deteriorated, that is to
say, in the good qualities of horses, not of dogs?
Polemarchus: Yes, of horses.
Socrates: And dogs are deteriorated
in the good qualities of dogs, and not of horses?
Polemarchus: Of course.
Socrates: And will not men who are
injured be deteriorated in that which is the proper virtue of man?
Socrates: And that human virtue is
Polemarchus: To be sure.
Socrates: Then men who are injured
are of necessity made unjust?
Polemarchus: That is the result.
Socrates: But can the musician by
his art make men unmusical?
Polemarchus: Certainly not.
Socrates: Or the horseman by his art
make them bad horsemen?
Socrates: And can the just by justice
make men unjust, or speaking general can the good by virtue make
Polemarchus: Assuredly not.
Socrates: Any more than heat can produce
Polemarchus: It cannot.
Socrates: Or drought moisture?
Polemarchus: Clearly not.
Socrates: Nor can the good harm any
Socrates: And the just is the good?
Socrates: Then to injure a friend
or any one else is not the act of a just man, but of the opposite,
who is the unjust?
Polemarchus: I think that what you
say is quite true, Socrates.
Socrates: Then if a man says that
justice consists in the repayment of debts, and that good is the
debt which a man owes to his friends, and evil the debt which he
owes to his enemies, --to say this is not wise; for it is not true,
if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of another can be in
no case just.
Polemarchus: I agree with you, said
Socrates: Then you and I are prepared
to take up arms against any one who attributes such a saying to
Simonides or Bias or Pittacus, or any other wise man or seer?
Polemarchus: I am quite ready to do
battle at your side, he said.
Socrates: Shall I tell you whose I
believe the saying to be?
Socrates: I believe that Periander
or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias the Theban, or some other rich
and mighty man, who had a great opinion of his own power, was the
first to say that justice is 'doing good to your friends and harm
to your enemies.'
Polemarchus: Most true, he said.
Socrates: Yes, I said; but if this
definition of justice also breaks down, what other can be offered?