IV: Justice as the interest of the stronger (might
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Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus had
made an attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and had
been put down by the rest of the company, who wanted to hear the
end. But when Polemarchus and I had done speaking and there was
a pause, he could no longer hold his peace; and, gathering himself
up, he came at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were
quite panic-stricken at the sight of him.
He roared out to the whole company: What folly. Socrates, has taken
possession of you all? And why, Simple Simons, do you knock under
to one another? 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
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: Just as if the two cases
were at all alike!
Socrates: Why should they not be?
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?
Thrasymachus: I presume then that
you are going to make one of the interdicted answers?
Socrates: I dare say that I may, notwithstanding
the danger, if upon reflection I approve of any of them.
Thrasymachus: 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?
Socrates: Done to me! --as becomes
the ignorant, I must learn from the wise --that is what I deserve
to have done to me.
Thrasymachus: What, and no payment!
a pleasant notion!
Socrates: I will pay when I have the
money, I replied.
Justice is the interest of the stronger (might makes right)
Glaucon: But you have, Socrates, and you, Thrasymachus, need be
under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution
Thrasymachus: 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 one else.
Socrates: 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 you.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: 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 you won't.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: That's abominable of
you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense which is most damaging
to the argument.
Socrates: Not at all, my good sir,
I said; I am trying to understand them; and I wish that you would
be a little clearer.
Thrasymachus: Well, he said, have
you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies,
and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?
Socrates: Yes, I know.
Thrasymachus: And the government is
the ruling power in each state?
Thrasymachus: And the different forms
of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, 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.
Socrates: 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' are added.
Thrasymachus: A small addition, you
must allow, he said.
Socrates: 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 further.
Socrates: I will; and first tell me,
Do you admit that it is just or subjects to obey their rulers?
Thrasymachus: I do.
Socrates: But are the rulers of states
absolutely infallible, or are they sometimes liable to err?
Thrasymachus: To be sure, he replied,
they are liable to err.
Socrates: Then in making their laws
they may sometimes make them rightly, and sometimes not?
Socrates: When they make them rightly,
they make them agreeably to their interest; when they are mistaken,
contrary to their interest; you admit that?
Socrates: And the laws which they
make must be obeyed by their subjects, --and that is what you call
Socrates: Then justice, according
to your argument, is not only obedience to the interest of the stronger
but the reverse?
Thrasymachus: What is that you are
saying? he asked.
Socrates: 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
Socrates: 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?
Polemarchus: Nothing can be clearer,
Cleitophon: Yes, if you are allowed
to be his witness.
Polemarchus: But there is no need
of any witness 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.
Cleitophon: Yes, Polemarchus, --Thrasymachus
said that for subjects to do what was commanded by their rulers
Polemarchus: 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.
Cleitophon: But, 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
Polemarchus: Those were not his words..
Socrates: 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 not?
Thrasymachus: Certainly not. Do you
suppose that I call him who is mistaken the stronger at the time
when he is mistaken?
Socrates: Yes, I said, my impression
was that you did so, when you admitted that the ruler was not infallible
but might be sometimes mistaken.
Thrasymachus: 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.
Socrates: Indeed, Thrasymachus, and
do I really appear to you to argue like an informer?
Thrasymachus: Certainly, he replied.
Socrates: And you suppose that I ask
these questions with any design of injuring you in the argument?
Thrasymachus: 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.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: In the strictest of
all senses, . And now cheat and play the informer if you can; I
ask no quarter at your hands. But you never will be able, never.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: Why, you made the attempt
a minute ago, and you failed.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: A healer of the sick,
Socrates: And the pilot --that is
to say, the true pilot --is he a captain of sailors or a mere sailor?
Thrasymachus: A captain of sailors.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: Very true.
Socrates: Now, I said, every art has
Socrates: For which the art has to
consider and provide?
Thrasymachus: Yes, that is the aim
Socrates: And the interest of any
art is the perfection of it --this and nothing else?
Thrasymachus: What do you mean?
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: Quite right, he replied.
Socrates: 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."
Thrasymachus: Yes, clearly.
Socrates: Then medicine does not consider
the interest of medicine, but the interest of the body?
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: But surely, Thrasymachus,
the arts are the superiors and rulers of their own subjects?
Thrasymachus: To this he assented
with a good deal of reluctance.
Socrates: Then, I said, no science
or art considers or enjoins the interest of the stronger or superior,
but only the interest of the subject and weaker?
Thrasymachus: He made an attempt to
contest this proposition also, but finally acquiesced.
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: And the pilot likewise,
in the strict sense of the term, is a ruler of sailors and not a
Thrasymachus: That has been admitted.
Socrates: 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 interest?
He gave a reluctant 'Yes.'
Socrates: 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
Socrates: Why do you ask such a question,
I said, when you ought rather to be answering?
Thrasymachus: Because she leaves you
to snivel, and never wipes your nose: she has not even taught you
to know the shepherd from the sheep.
Socrates: What makes you say that?
Thrasymachus: Because you fancy that
the shepherd fattens or 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 perpetrating any one of them singly, he would be
punished and incur great disgrace --they who do such wrong in particular
cases are called robbers of temples, and man-stealers and burglars
and swindlers and thieves. But when a man besides taking away the
money of the citizens has made slaves of them, then, instead of
these 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 and interest.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: And do I differ from
you as to the importance of the enquiry?
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: And how am I to convince
you, 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?
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: Think! Nay, I am sure
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: Yes, that is the difference,
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: Certainly not.
Socrates: Or because a man is in good
health when he receives pay you would not say that the art of payment
Thrasymachus: I should say not.
Socrates: Nor would you say that medicine
is the art of receiving pay because a man takes fees when he is
engaged in healing?
Thrasymachus: Certainly not.
Socrates: And we have admitted, I
said, that the good of each art is specially confined to the art?
Socrates: 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 use?
Thrasymachus: True, he replied.
Socrates: And when the artist is benefitted
by receiving pay the advantage is gained by an additional use of
the art of pay, which is not the art professed by him?
Thrasymachus: He gave a reluctant
assent to this.
Socrates: 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
benefitting that over which they preside, but would the artist receive
any benefit from his art unless he were paid as well?
Thrasymachus: I suppose not.
Socrates: But does he therefore confer
no benefit when he works for nothing?
Thrasymachus: Certainly, he confers
Socrates: 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 honor, or a penalty for refusing.
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.
Socrates: 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?
Glaucon: Very true.
Socrates: And for this reason, I said,
money and honor 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 honor. 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 dishonorable.
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 you prefer?
Glaucon: I for my part deem the life
of the just to be the more advantageous, he answered.
Socrates: Did you hear all the advantages
of the unjust which Thrasymachus was rehearsing?
Glaucon: Yes, I heard him, he replied,
but he has not convinced me.
Socrates: Then shall we try to find
some way of convincing him, if we can, that he is saying what is
Glaucon: Most certainly, he replied.
Socrates: 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 own persons.
Glaucon: Very good.
Socrates: And which method do I understand
you to prefer? I said.
Glaucon: That which you propose.
Socrates: Well, then, Thrasymachus,
I said, suppose you begin at the beginning and answer me. You say
that perfect injustice is more gainful than perfect justice?
Thrasymachus: Yes, that is what I
say, and I have given you my reasons.
Socrates: And what is your view about
them? Would you call one of them virtue and the other vice?
Socrates: I suppose that you would
call justice virtue and injustice vice?
Thrasymachus: What a charming notion!
So likely too, seeing that I affirm injustice to be profitable and
Socrates: What else then would you
Thrasymachus: The opposite, he replied.
Socrates: And would you call justice
Thrasymachus: No, I would rather say
Socrates: Then would you call injustice
Thrasymachus: No; I would rather say
Socrates: And do the unjust appear
to you to be wise and good?
Yes; 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.
Thrasymachus: Even this profession
if undetected has advantages, though they are not to be compared
with those of which I was just now speaking.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: Certainly I do so class
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: You have guessed most
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: I may be in earnest
or not, but what is that to you? --to refute the argument is your
Socrates: 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
Thrasymachus: Far otherwise; if he
did would not be the simple, amusing creature which he is.
Socrates: And would he try to go beyond
Thrasymachus: He would not.
Socrates: And how would he regard
the attempt to gain an advantage over the unjust; would that be
considered by him as just or unjust?
Thrasymachus: He would think it just,
and would try to gain the advantage; but he would not be able.
Socrates: 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 unjust?
Thrasymachus: Yes, he would.
Socrates: And what of the unjust --does
he claim to have more than the just man and to do more than is just
Thrasymachus: Of course, for he claims
to have more than all men.
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: 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
Thrasymachus: Nothing, can be better
than that statement.
Socrates: And the unjust is good and
wise, and the just is neither?
Thrasymachus: Good again.
Socrates: And is not the unjust like
the wise and good and the just unlike them?
Thrasymachus: Of course, he who is
of a certain nature, is like those who are of a certain nature;
he who is not, not.
Socrates: Each of them, I said, is
such as his like is?
Thrasymachus: Certainly, he replied.
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: And which is wise and which
Thrasymachus: Clearly the musician
is wise, and he who is not a musician is foolish.
Socrates: And he is good in as far
as he is wise, and bad in as far as he is foolish?
Socrates: And you would say the same
sort of thing of the physician?
Socrates: 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
Thrasymachus: I do not think that
Socrates: But he would claim to exceed
Thrasymachus: Of course.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: He would not.
Socrates: But he would wish to go
beyond the non-physician?
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: That, I suppose, can
hardly be denied.
Socrates: And what of the ignorant?
would he not desire to have more than either the knowing or the
Thrasymachus: I dare say.
Socrates: And the knowing is wise?
Socrates: And the wise is good?
Socrates: Then the wise and good will
not desire to gain more than his like, but more than his unlike
Thrasymachus: I suppose so.
Socrates: Whereas the bad and ignorant
will desire to gain more than both?
Socrates: But did we not say, Thrasymachus,
that the unjust goes beyond both his like and unlike? Were not these
Thrasymachus: They were.
Socrates: And you also said that the
lust will not go beyond his like but his unlike?
Socrates: Then the just is like the
wise and good, and the unjust like the evil and ignorant?
Thrasymachus: That is the inference.
Socrates: And each of them is such
as his like is?
Thrasymachus: That was admitted.
Socrates: Then the just has turned
out to be wise and good and the unjust evil and ignorant.
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:
Socrates: Well, I said, Thrasymachus,
that matter is now settled; but were we not also saying that injustice
had strength; do you remember?
Thrasymachus: Yes, I remember, 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'
Socrates: Certainly not, I said, if
contrary to your real opinion.
Thrasymachus: Yes, I will, to please
you, since you will not let me speak. What else would you have?
Socrates: Nothing in the world, I
said; and if you are so disposed I will ask and you shall answer.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: True, he replied; and
I will add the best and perfectly unjust state will be most likely
to do so.
Socrates: 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.
Thrasymachus: If you are right in
you view, and justice is wisdom, then only with justice; but if
I am right, then without justice.
Socrates: I am delighted, Thrasymachus,
to see you not only nodding assent and dissent, but making answers
which are quite excellent.
Thrasymachus: That is out of civility
to you, he replied.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: No indeed, they could
Socrates: But if they abstained from
injuring one another, then they might act together better?
Socrates: And this is because injustice
creates divisions and hatreds and fighting, and justice imparts
harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?
Thrasymachus: I agree, because I do
not wish to quarrel with you.
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: 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
Thrasymachus: They will.
Socrates: And suppose injustice abiding
in a single person, would your wisdom say that she loses or that
she retains her natural power?
Thrasymachus: Let us assume that she
retains her power.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: Yes, certainly.
Socrates: 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?
Socrates: And O my friend, I said,
surely the gods are just?
Thrasymachus: Granted that they are.
Socrates: But if so, the unjust will
be the enemy of the gods, and the just will be their friend?
Thrasymachus: Feast away in triumph,
and take your fill of the argument; I will not oppose you, lest
I should displease the company.
Socrates: 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.
Socrates: I will proceed by asking
a question: Would you not say that a horse has some end?
Thrasymachus: I should.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: I do not understand.
Socrates: Let me explain: Can you
see, except with the eye?
Thrasymachus: Certainly not.
Socrates: Or hear, except with the
Socrates: These then may be truly
said to be the ends of these organs?
Thrasymachus: They may.
Socrates: But you can cut off a vine-branch
with a dagger or with a chisel, and in many other ways?
Thrasymachus: Of course.
Socrates: And yet not so well as with
a pruning-hook made for the purpose?
Socrates: May we not say that this
is the end of a pruning-hook?
Thrasymachus: We may.
Socrates: 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 other thing?
Thrasymachus: I understand your meaning,
Socrates: And that to which an end
is appointed has also an excellence? Need I ask again whether the
eye has an end?
Thrasymachus: It has.
Socrates: And has not the eye an excellence?
Socrates: And the ear has an end and
an excellence also?
Socrates: And the same is true of
all other things; they have each of them an end and a special excellence?
Thrasymachus: That is so.
Socrates: Well, and can the eyes fulfil
their end if they are wanting in their own proper excellence and
have a defect instead?
Thrasymachus: How can they, if they
are blind and cannot see?
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: Certainly, he replied.
Socrates: I might say the same of
the ears; when deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot
fulfil their end?
Socrates: And the same observation
will apply to all other things?
Thrasymachus: I agree.
Socrates: 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?
Thrasymachus: To no other.
Socrates: And is not life to be reckoned
among the ends of the soul?
Socrates: And has not the soul an
Socrates: And can she or can she not
fulfil her own ends when deprived of that excellence?
Thrasymachus: She cannot.
Socrates: Then an evil soul must necessarily
be an evil ruler and superintendent, and the good soul a good ruler?
Thrasymachus: Yes, necessarily.
Socrates: And we have admitted that
justice is the excellence of the soul, and injustice the defect
of the soul?
Thrasymachus: That has been admitted.
Socrates: Then the just soul and the
just man will live well, and the unjust man will live ill?
Thrasymachus: That is what your argument
Socrates: And he who lives well is
blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the reverse of happy?
Socrates: Then the just is happy,
and the unjust miserable?
Thrasymachus: So be it.
Socrates: But happiness and not misery
Thrasymachus: Of course.
Socrates: Then, my blessed Thrasymachus,
injustice can never be more profitable than justice.
Thrasymachus: Let this, Socrates,
be your entertainment at the Bendidea.
Socrates: 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.