Persons in the dialogue:
- Socrates, the narrator
The scene is in Cephalus’ house at the Piraeus. Socrates narrates the dialogue to Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and a nameless person, who are introduced in the Timaeus, the day after it happened.
- Glaucon is the son of Ariston
- I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with him:
- to offer prayers to the goddess (Bendis, the Thracian Artemis.); and
- because I wanted to see how they would celebrate the festival, which was a new thing.
- I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants.
- But the procession of the Thracians was equally, if not more, beautiful.
- When we had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we went the city.
- Polemarchus is the son of Cephalus
- Just then he saw us from a distance and so he came with:
- Adeimantus, Glaucon’s brother,
- Niceratus the son of Nicias, and
- several others who had been at the procession.
- Just then he saw us from a distance and so he came with:
- Polemarchus is the son of Cephalus
Polemarchus: Socrates, you are on your way to the city. We want you to go somewhere else.
Adeimantus: Has no one told you of the torch-race on horseback in honour of the goddess which will take place in the evening?
- Will horsemen carry torches and pass them one to another during the race?
Polemarchus: Yes. Let us rise soon after supper and see this festival
- We went to Polemarchus’ house.
- We found:
- his brothers Lysias and Euthydemus,
- Thrasymachus the Chalcedonian,
- Charmantides the Paeanian, and
- Cleitophon the son of Aristonymus.
- Cephalus the father of Polemarchus
Cephalus: I am old and I like conversation more as I get older. So please stay with us.
- How is your old life?
Cephalus: A lot of old men complain. But to me these complainers complain about the wrong thing because I don’t feel the same way. I feel more like Sophocles.
- I think you have a good old life because you are rich.
Cephalus: Yes, but people think that wealth is the cause, rather than the person.
- Was your wealth inherited or did you work hard for it?
Cephalus: I tripled the value of my parents’ wealth
- I see that you are indifferent about money like people who have inherited their fortunes.
- The makers of fortunes love money as their own creation, just as authors love their own poems, or parents loving their children
- Hence they are very bad company, for they can talk about nothing but the praises of wealth.
- What is the greatest blessing which you have reaped from your wealth?
Cephalus: When a person is near death, he thinks about all the bad things he has done. But if someone has done no wrong, then he is hopeful instead. A good man who never defrauded others, intentionally or unintentionally will not fear.Wealth contributes to this peace of mind. This is the greatest contribution of wealth.
- What is your idea of justice? Just to speak the truth and pay your debts?
- If a friend gives his weapons to me and asks for them when he goes crazy, should I give them back to him? People could just say that I should always speak the truth to him even if he were crazy.
- Wrong. Speaking the truth and paying your debts is not a correct definition of justice.
Polemarchus: Socrates is correct according to Simonides.
Cephalus: I have to go now lol. You can continue with Polemarchus and the others.
- Socrates to Polemarchus: What did Simonides say about justice?
Polemarchus: He said that the repayment of a debt is just
- I think it’s wrong.
- He doesn’t mean that I should return the weapons to a crazy man. But a deposit is a debt.
- I should not return the weapon to the crazy man.
- When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice, he did not mean to include that case?
Polemarchus: Certainly not. for he thinks that a friend should always do good to a friend and never evil.
- 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.
- What we owe to enemies who receive them?
Polemarchus: They are to receive what we owe them.
- An enemy owes to an enemy that which is due or proper to him—that is to say, evil.
- Simonides, then would 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.
- OMG. If we asked him what medicine should be given and to whom, how would he respond?
Polemarchus: He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink to human bodies.
- What should be given by cookery and for what?
Polemarchus: Seasoning to food.
- What is that which justice gives, and to whom?
Polemarchus: Justice is the art which gives good to friends and evil to enemies.
- Who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to his enemies in time of sickness?
Polemarchus: The physician.
- Or when they are on a voyage, amid the perils of the sea?
Polemarchus: The pilot.
- How is the just man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friend?
Polemarchus: In going to war against the one and in making alliances with the other.
- But when a man is well, there is no need of a physician.
- A person who is not on a voyage does not need a pilot.
- Then in time of peace, justice will be of no use?
Polemarchus: No, it will still be needed
- So justice is useful in peace and in war, like husbandry and corn acquisition and shoemaking for getting shoes.
- What is the use of justice peacetime?
Polemarchus: In contracts, like partnerships.
- But who is a more useful and better partner at a game of draughts? The just man or the skilful player?
Polemarchus: The skilful player.
- In the laying of bricks and stones, is the just man a more useful or better partner than the builder?
Polemarchus: The builder is better
- Then in what sort of partnership is the just man a better partner than a harp-player?
Polemarchus: In a money partnership.
- Yes, but surely not in the use of money.
- You do not want a just man to be your counsellor in buying or selling a horse.
- A horse expert is better for that.
- When you want to buy a ship, the shipwright or the pilot would be better.
- 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.
- Money is not wanted, but allowed to lie.
- Justice is useful when money is useless.
- 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.
- 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.
- And so of all other things;—justice is useful when they are useless, and useless when they are useful.
- Then justice is not good for much.
- The best boxer that can box is also the best one to avoid the blows.
- The most skilful in preventing a disease is the best able to create one.
- The best guard of a camp is the best able to steal a march upon the enemy.
- A good keeper of anything is also a good thief
- Then if the just man is good at keeping money, he is good at stealing it.
- 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;
- Autolycus was the maternal grandfather of Odysseus, who is a favourite of Homer.
- Homer said of Autolycus 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.
- But it is to be practised ‘for the good of friends and for the harm of enemies’?
- And this is a lesson which I suspect you must have learnt out of Homer;
Polemarchus: No. But I still stand by ‘for the good of friends and for the harm of enemies’
- By friends and enemies do we mean those who are so really, or only in seeming?
Polemarchus: a man may be expected to love those whom he thinks good, and to hate those whom he thinks evil.
- Yes, many people often err about good and evil.
- Many who are not good seem to be so, and conversely.
- To them the good will be enemies and the evil will be their friends.
- In that case, they will be right in doing good to the evil and evil to the good.
- But the good are just and would not do an injustice.
- Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who do no wrong?
Polemarchus: No. It’s immoral.
- Then I suppose that we should do good to the just and harm the unjust?
Polemarchus: Yes, I like that more.
- But see the consequence:
- Many people ignorant of human nature have friends who are bad.
- In that case they should harm them.
- People with 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: Yep. 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.’
- What was the error?
Polemarchus: We assumed that he is a friend who seems to be or who is thought good. We should rather say that he is a friend who seems good, but is not good.
- He seems to be a friend, but not a friend.
- And of an enemy the same may be said.
- You would argue that the good are our friends and the bad our enemies?
- Are you saying that It is just to do good to our friends when they are good and harm to our enemies when they are evil?
- Polemarchus: Yep
- Socrates: But ought the just to injure any one at all?
- Polemarchus: He should injure those who are both wicked and his enemies.
- Socrates: When horses are injured, are they improved or deteriorated?
- Polemarchus: Deteriorated
- Socrates: And injured men become deteriorated as men?
- Polemarchus: Yep
- Socrates:: Then men who are injured are of necessity made unjust?
- Polemarchus: Yep
- Socrates: But can the musician by his art make men unmusical?
- Polemarchus: No
- Socrates: Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen?
- Polemarchus: No
- Socrates: And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking generally, can the good by virtue make them bad?
- Any more than heat can produce cold?
- Or drought moisture?
Nor can the good harm any one?
And the just is the good?
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?
I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates.
Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts, and that good is the debt which a just 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.
I agree with you, said Polemarchus.
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?
I am quite ready to do battle at your side, he said.
Shall I tell you whose I believe the saying to be?
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.’
Most true, he said.
- Yes, but if this definition of justice also breaks down, what other can be offered?
- Several times, Thrasymachus tried to get the argument into his own hands.
- He had been put down by the rest of the company.
- They wanted to hear the end.
- But when Polemarchus and I had done speaking, he could no longer hold his peace.
- He came at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us.
- We were quite panic-stricken at the sight of him.
Thrasymachus: 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.
- I looked at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
- Thrasymachus, 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.
Thrasymachus: 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,
- You know 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, if 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!
- Why should they not be?
- 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.
Glaucon: But you have, Socrates. You, Thrasymachus, need be under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution for Socrates.
Thrasymachus: Yes 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.
- Why, my good friend, 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
- Thrasymachus was eager to speak.
- He thought that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish himself.
- But at first he affected 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.
- That I learn of others 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; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not praise me? But of course you won’t.
- 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.
- 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, have you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?
- Yes, I know.
And the government is the ruling power in each state?
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.
- Now I understand you
- 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
- 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.
- It is just for subjects to obey their rulers.
- But the rulers of states sometimes make mistakes
- In making their laws they may sometimes make mistakes
- When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest;
- when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest
- The laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects is justice
- Then justice 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
- We have admitted that the rulers may be mistaken about their own interest in what they command, and also that to obey them is justice?
- 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.
- 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.
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?
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 time 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 a 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 an informer?
Certainly, he replied.
And do 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 else?
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 and weaker?
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 interest?
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 nurse?
Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather to be answering?
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 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 most 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.
Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bath-man, 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 banquetter 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 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 use?
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.
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 you prefer?
I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous, he answered.
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was rehearsing?
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 own persons.
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 perfect justice?
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 he 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 unjust?
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 foolish?
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?
And you also said that the just will not go beyond his like but his unlike?
Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the evil and ignorant?
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 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:
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 that the best and most 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 or only with justice.
If you are right in your 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 together better?
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 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 I 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 other thing?
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 fail 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 excellence?
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 than justice.
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.
With these words I was thinking that I had made an end of the discussion; but the end, in truth, proved to be only a beginning. For Glaucon, who is always the most pugnacious of men, was dissatisfied at Thrasymachus’ retirement; he wanted to have the battle out. So he said to me: Socrates, do you wish really to persuade us, or only to seem to have persuaded us, that to be just is always better than to be unjust?
I should wish really to persuade you, I replied, if I could.
Then you certainly have not succeeded. Let me ask you now:—How would you arrange goods—are there not some which we welcome for their own sakes, and independently of their consequences, as, for example, harmless pleasures and enjoyments, which delight us at the time, although nothing follows from them?
I agree in thinking that there is such a class, I replied.
Is there not also a second class of goods, such as knowledge, sight, health, which are desirable not only in themselves, but also for their results?
Certainly, I said.
And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, and the care of the sick, and the physician’s art; also the various ways of money-making—these do us good but we regard them as disagreeable; and no one would choose them for their own sakes, but only for the sake of some reward or result which flows from them?
There is, I said, this third class also. But why do you ask?
Because I want to know in which of the three classes you would place justice?
In the highest class, I replied,—among those goods which he who would be happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake of their results.
Then the many are of another mind; they think that justice is to be reckoned in the troublesome class, among goods which are to be pursued for the sake of rewards and of reputation, but in themselves are disagreeable and rather to be avoided.
I know, I said, that this is their manner of thinking, and that this was the thesis which Thrasymachus was maintaining just now, when he censured justice and praised injustice. But I am too stupid to be convinced by him.
I wish, he said, that you would hear me as well as him, and then I shall see whether you and I agree. For Thrasymachus seems to me, like a snake, to have been charmed by your voice sooner than he ought to have been; but to my mind the nature of justice and injustice have not yet been made clear. Setting aside their rewards and results, I want to know what they are in themselves, and how they inwardly work in the soul. If you, please, then, I will revive the argument of Thrasymachus. And first I will speak of the nature and origin of justice according to the common view of them. Secondly, I will show that all men who practise justice do so against their will, of necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, I will argue that there is reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all better far than the life of the just—if what they say is true, Socrates, since I myself am not of their opinion. But still I acknowledge that I am perplexed when I hear the voices of Thrasymachus and myriads of others dinning in my ears; and, on the other hand, I have never yet heard the superiority of justice to injustice maintained by any one in a satisfactory way. I want to hear justice praised in respect of itself; then I shall be satisfied, and you are the person from whom I think that I am most likely to hear this; and therefore I will praise the unjust life to the utmost of my power, and my manner of speaking will indicate the manner in which I desire to hear you too praising justice and censuring injustice. Will you say whether you approve of my proposal?
Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of sense would oftener wish to converse.
I am delighted, he replied, to hear you say so, and shall begin by speaking, as I proposed, of the nature and origin of justice.
They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice;—it is a mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice.
Now that those who practise justice do so involuntarily and because they have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we imagine something of this kind: having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of law. The liberty which we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges, the ancestor of Croesus the Lydian. According to the tradition, Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the ring, and always with the same result—when he turned the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; whereas soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice. Enough of this.
Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and unjust, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the isolation to be effected? I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of craft; like the skilful pilot or physician, who knows intuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits, and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie hidden if he means to be great in his injustice: (he who is found out is nobody:) for the highest reach of injustice is, to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be able to recover himself; he must be one who can speak with effect, if any of his deeds come to light, and who can force his way where force is required by his courage and strength, and command of money and friends. And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two.
Heavens! my dear Glaucon, I said, how energetically you polish them up for the decision, first one and then the other, as if they were two statues.
I do my best, he said. And now that we know what they are like there is no difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which awaits either of them. This I will proceed to describe; but as you may think the description a little too coarse, I ask you to suppose, Socrates, that the words which follow are not mine.—Let me put them into the mouths of the eulogists of injustice: They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound—will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be impaled: Then he will understand that he ought to seem only, and not to be, just; the words of Aeschylus may be more truly spoken of the unjust than of the just. For the unjust is pursuing a reality; he does not live with a view to appearances—he wants to be really unjust and not to seem only:—
‘His mind has a soil deep and fertile, Out of which spring his prudent counsels.’
In the first place, he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in the city; he can marry whom he will, and give in marriage to whom he will; also he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own advantage, because he has no misgivings about injustice; and at every contest, whether in public or private, he gets the better of his antagonists, and gains at their expense, and is rich, and out of his gains he can benefit his friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he can offer sacrifices, and dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and magnificently, and can honour the gods or any man whom he wants to honour in a far better style than the just, and therefore he is likely to be dearer than they are to the gods. And thus, Socrates, gods and men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the life of the just.
I was going to say something in answer to Glaucon, when Adeimantus, his brother, interposed: Socrates, he said, you do not suppose that there is nothing more to be urged?
Why, what else is there? I answered.
The strongest point of all has not been even mentioned, he replied.
Well, then, according to the proverb, ‘Let brother help brother’—if he fails in any part do you assist him; although I must confess that Glaucon has already said quite enough to lay me in the dust, and take from me the power of helping justice.
Nonsense, he replied. But let me add something more: There is another side to Glaucon's argument about the praise and censure of justice and injustice, which is equally required in order to bring out what I believe to be his meaning. Parents and tutors are always telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but why? not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputation; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just some of those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the reputation of justice. More, however, is made of appearances by this class of persons than by the others; for they throw in the good opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which the heavens, as they say, rain upon the pious; and this accords with the testimony of the noble Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says, that the gods make the oaks of the just— 'To bear acorns at their summit, and bees in the middle; And the sheep are bowed down with the weight of their fleeces,'
and many other blessings of a like kind are provided for them. And Homer has a very similar strain; for he speaks of one whose fame is—
‘As the fame of some blameless king who, like a god, Maintains justice; to whom the black earth brings forth Wheat and barley, whose trees are bowed with fruit, And his sheep never fail to bear, and the sea gives him fish.’
Still grander are the gifts of heaven which Musaeus and his son vouchsafe to the just; they take them down into the world below, where they have the saints lying on couches at a feast, everlastingly drunk, crowned with garlands; their idea seems to be that an immortality of drunkenness is the highest meed of virtue. Some extend their rewards yet further; the posterity, as they say, of the faithful and just shall survive to the third and fourth generation. This is the style in which they praise justice. But about the wicked there is another strain; they bury them in a slough in Hades, and make them carry water in a sieve; also while they are yet living they bring them to infamy, and inflict upon them the punishments which Glaucon described as the portion of the just who are reputed to be unjust; nothing else does their invention supply. Such is their manner of praising the one and censuring the other.
Once more, Socrates, I will ask you to consider another way of speaking about justice and injustice, which is not confined to the poets, but is found in prose writers. The universal voice of mankind is always declaring that justice and virtue are honourable, but grievous and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion. They say also that honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty; and they are quite ready to call wicked men happy, and to honour them both in public and private when they are rich or in any other way influential, while they despise and overlook those who may be weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better than the others. But most extraordinary of all is their mode of speaking about virtue and the gods: they say that the gods apportion calamity and misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked. And mendicant prophets go to rich men’s doors and persuade them that they have a power committed to them by the gods of making an atonement for a man’s own or his ancestor’s sins by sacrifices or charms, with rejoicings and feasts; and they promise to harm an enemy, whether just or unjust, at a small cost; with magic arts and incantations binding heaven, as they say, to execute their will. And the poets are the authorities to whom they appeal, now smoothing the path of vice with the words of Hesiod;—
‘Vice may be had in abundance without trouble; the way is smooth and her dwelling-place is near. But before virtue the gods have set toil,’
and a tedious and uphill road: then citing Homer as a witness that the gods may be influenced by men; for he also says:—
‘The gods, too, may be turned from their purpose; and men pray to them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties, and by libations and the odour of fat, when they have sinned and transgressed.’
And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who were children of the Moon and the Muses—that is what they say—according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.
He proceeded: And now when the young hear all this said about virtue and vice, and the way in which gods and men regard them, how are their minds likely to be affected, my dear Socrates,—those of them, I mean, who are quickwitted, and, like bees on the wing, light on every flower, and from all that they hear are prone to draw conclusions as to what manner of persons they should be and in what way they should walk if they would make the best of life? Probably the youth will say to himself in the words of Pindar—
‘Can I by justice or by crooked ways of deceit ascend a loftier tower which may be a fortress to me all my days?’
For what men say is that, if I am really just and am not also thought just profit there is none, but the pain and loss on the other hand are unmistakeable. But if, though unjust, I acquire the reputation of justice, a heavenly life is promised to me. Since then, as philosophers prove, appearance tyrannizes over truth and is lord of happiness, to appearance I must devote myself. I will describe around me a picture and shadow of virtue to be the vestibule and exterior of my house; behind I will trail the subtle and crafty fox, as Archilochus, greatest of sages, recommends. But I hear some one exclaiming that the concealment of wickedness is often difficult; to which I answer, Nothing great is easy. Nevertheless, the argument indicates this, if we would be happy, to be the path along which we should proceed. With a view to concealment we will establish secret brotherhoods and political clubs. And there are professors of rhetoric who teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies; and so, partly by persuasion and partly by force, I shall make unlawful gains and not be punished. Still I hear a voice saying that the gods cannot be deceived, neither can they be compelled. But what if there are no gods? or, suppose them to have no care of human things—why in either case should we mind about concealment? And even if there are gods, and they do care about us, yet we know of them only from tradition and the genealogies of the poets; and these are the very persons who say that they may be influenced and turned by ‘sacrifices and soothing entreaties and by offerings.’ Let us be consistent then, and believe both or neither. If the poets speak truly, why then we had better be unjust, and offer of the fruits of injustice; for if we are just, although we may escape the vengeance of heaven, we shall lose the gains of injustice; but, if we are unjust, we shall keep the gains, and by our sinning and praying, and praying and sinning, the gods will be propitiated, and we shall not be punished. ‘But there is a world below in which either we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds.’ Yes, my friend, will be the reflection, but there are mysteries and atoning deities, and these have great power. That is what mighty cities declare; and the children of the gods, who were their poets and prophets, bear a like testimony.
On what principle, then, shall we any longer choose justice rather than the worst injustice? when, if we only unite the latter with a deceitful regard to appearances, we shall fare to our mind both with gods and men, in life and after death, as the most numerous and the highest authorities tell us. Knowing all this, Socrates, how can a man who has any superiority of mind or person or rank or wealth, be willing to honour justice; or indeed to refrain from laughing when he hears justice praised? And even if there should be some one who is able to disprove the truth of my words, and who is satisfied that justice is best, still he is not angry with the unjust, but is very ready to forgive them, because he also knows that men are not just of their own free will; unless, peradventure, there be some one whom the divinity within him may have inspired with a hatred of injustice, or who has attained knowledge of the truth—but no other man. He only blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some weakness, has not the power of being unjust. And this is proved by the fact that when he obtains the power, he immediately becomes unjust as far as he can be.
The cause of all this, Socrates, was indicated by us at the beginning of the argument, when my brother and I told you how astonished we were to find that of all the professing panegyrists of justice—beginning with the ancient heroes of whom any memorial has been preserved to us, and ending with the men of our own time—no one has ever blamed injustice or praised justice except with a view to the glories, honours, and benefits which flow from them. No one has ever adequately described either in verse or prose the true essential nature of either of them abiding in the soul, and invisible to any human or divine eye; or shown that of all the things of a man’s soul which he has within him, justice is the greatest good, and injustice the greatest evil. Had this been the universal strain, had you sought to persuade us of this from our youth upwards, we should not have been on the watch to keep one another from doing wrong, but every one would have been his own watchman, because afraid, if he did wrong, of harbouring in himself the greatest of evils. I dare say that Thrasymachus and others would seriously hold the language which I have been merely repeating, and words even stronger than these about justice and injustice, grossly, as I conceive, perverting their true nature. But I speak in this vehement manner, as I must frankly confess to you, because I want to hear from you the opposite side; and I would ask you to show not only the superiority which justice has over injustice, but what effect they have on the possessor of them which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil to him. And please, as Glaucon requested of you, to exclude reputations; for unless you take away from each of them his true reputation and add on the false, we shall say that you do not praise justice, but the appearance of it; we shall think that you are only exhorting us to keep injustice dark, and that you really agree with Thrasymachus in thinking that justice is another’s good and the interest of the stronger, and that injustice is a man’s own profit and interest, though injurious to the weaker. Now as you have admitted that justice is one of that highest class of goods which are desired indeed for their results, but in a far greater degree for their own sakes—like sight or hearing or knowledge or health, or any other real and natural and not merely conventional good—I would ask you in your praise of justice to regard one point only: I mean the essential good and evil which justice and injustice work in the possessors of them. Let others praise justice and censure injustice, magnifying the rewards and honours of the one and abusing the other; that is a manner of arguing which, coming from them, I am ready to tolerate, but from you who have spent your whole life in the consideration of this question, unless I hear the contrary from your own lips, I expect something better. And therefore, I say, not only prove to us that justice is better than injustice, but show what they either of them do to the possessor of them, which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.
I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus, but on hearing these words I was quite delighted, and said: Sons of an illustrious father, that was not a bad beginning of the Elegiac verses which the admirer of Glaucon made in honour of you after you had distinguished yourselves at the battle of Megara:—
‘Sons of Ariston,’ he sang, ‘divine offspring of an illustrious hero.’
The epithet is very appropriate, for there is something truly divine in being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of injustice, and remaining unconvinced by your own arguments. And I do believe that you are not convinced—this I infer from your general character, for had I judged only from your speeches I should have mistrusted you. But now, the greater my confidence in you, the greater is my difficulty in knowing what to say. For I am in a strait between two; on the one hand I feel that I am unequal to the task; and my inability is brought home to me by the fact that you were not satisfied with the answer which I made to Thrasymachus, proving, as I thought, the superiority which justice has over injustice. And yet I cannot refuse to help, while breath and speech remain to me; I am afraid that there would be an impiety in being present when justice is evil spoken of and not lifting up a hand in her defence. And therefore I had best give such help as I can.
Glaucon and the rest entreated me by all means not to let the question drop, but to proceed in the investigation. They wanted to arrive at the truth, first, about the nature of justice and injustice, and secondly, about their relative advantages. I told them, what I really thought, that the enquiry would be of a serious nature, and would require very good eyes. Seeing then, I said, that we are no great wits, I think that we had better adopt a method which I may illustrate thus; suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by some one to read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to some one else that they might be found in another place which was larger and in which the letters were larger—if they were the same and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the lesser—this would have been thought a rare piece of good fortune.
Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to our enquiry?
I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our enquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State.
True, he replied.
And is not a State larger than an individual?
Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we enquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.
That, he said, is an excellent proposal.
And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.
I dare say.
When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our search will be more easily discovered.
Yes, far more easily.
But ought we to attempt to construct one? I said; for to do so, as I am inclined to think, will be a very serious task. Reflect therefore.
I have reflected, said Adeimantus, and am anxious that you should proceed.
A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other origin of a State be imagined?
There can be no other.
Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State.
True, he said.
And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.
Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.
Of course, he replied.
Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the condition of life and existence.
The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like.
And now let us see how our city will be able to supply this great demand: We may suppose that one man is a husbandman, another a builder, some one else a weaver—shall we add to them a shoemaker, or perhaps some other purveyor to our bodily wants?
The barest notion of a State must include four or five men.
And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his labours into a common stock?—the individual husbandman, for example, producing for four, and labouring four times as long and as much as he need in the provision of food with which he supplies others as well as himself; or will he have nothing to do with others and not be at the trouble of producing for them, but provide for himself alone a fourth of the food in a fourth of the time, and in the remaining three fourths of his time be employed in making a house or a coat or a pair of shoes, having no partnership with others, but supplying himself all his own wants?
Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only and not at producing everything.
- Probably, that would be the better way; and when I hear you say this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike;
- there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different occupations.
- And will you have a work better done when the workman has many occupations, or when he has only one?
When he has only one.
- Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not done at the right time?
- For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the business is at leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is doing, and make the business his first object.
- And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other things.
- Then more than four citizens will be required; for the husbandman will not make his own plough or mattock, or other implements of agriculture, if they are to be good for anything. Neither will the builder make his tools—and he too needs many; and in like manner the weaver and shoemaker.
- Then carpenters, and smiths, and many other artisans, will be sharers in our little State, which is already beginning to grow?
- Yet even if we add neatherds, shepherds, and other herdsmen, in order that our husbandmen may have oxen to plough with, and builders as well as husbandmen may have draught cattle, and curriers and weavers fleeces and hides,—still our State will not be very large.
That is true; yet neither will it be a very small State which contains all these.
Then, again, there is the situation of the city—to find a place where nothing need be imported is wellnigh impossible.
Then there must be another class of citizens who will bring the required supply from another city?
But if the trader goes empty-handed, having nothing which they require who would supply his need, he will come back empty-handed.
That is certain.
And therefore what they produce at home must be not only enough for themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to accommodate those from whom their wants are supplied.
Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required?
Not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called merchants?
Then we shall want merchants?
And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skilful sailors will also be needed, and in considerable numbers?
Yes, in considerable numbers.
Then, again, within the city, how will they exchange their productions? To secure such an exchange was, as you will remember, one of our principal objects when we formed them into a society and constituted a State.
Clearly they will buy and sell.
Then they will need a market-place, and a money-token for purposes of exchange.
- Suppose now that a husbandman, or an artisan, brings some production to market, and he comes at a time when there is no one to exchange with him,—is he to leave his calling and sit idle in the market-place?
Not at all; he will find people there who, seeing the want, undertake the office of salesmen. In well-ordered states they are commonly those who are the weakest in bodily strength, and therefore of little use for any other purpose; their duty is to be in the market, and to give money in exchange for goods to those who desire to sell and to take money from those who desire to buy.
This want, then, creates a class of retail-traders in our State. Is not ‘retailer’ the term which is applied to those who sit in the market-place engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander from one city to another are called merchants?
Yes, he said.
And there is another class of servants, who are intellectually hardly on the level of companionship; still they have plenty of bodily strength for labour, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I do not mistake, hirelings, hire being the name which is given to the price of their labour.
Then hirelings will help to make up our population?
And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?
I think so.
Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of the State did they spring up?
Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another. I cannot imagine that they are more likely to be found any where else.
I dare say that you are right in your suggestion, I said; we had better think the matter out, and not shrink from the enquiry.
Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn, and wine, and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for themselves? And when they are housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy converse with one another. And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.
But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal.
True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish—salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.
Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?
But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.
Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.
Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever-heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of life. They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.
True, he said.
Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of music—poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women’s dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.
And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians than before?
And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants will be too small now, and not enough?
Then a slice of our neighbours’ land will be wanted by us for pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?
That, Socrates, will be inevitable.
And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?
Most certainly, he replied.
Then without determining as yet whether war does good or harm, thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in States, private as well as public.
And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlargement will be nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things and persons whom we were describing above.
Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?
No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was acknowledged by all of us when we were framing the State: the principle, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practise many arts with success.
Very true, he said.
But is not war an art?
And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?
And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be a husbandman, or a weaver, or a builder—in order that we might have our shoes well made; but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work for which he was by nature fitted, and at that he was to continue working all his life long and at no other; he was not to let opportunities slip, and then he would become a good workman. Now nothing can be more important than that the work of a soldier should be well done. But is war an art so easily acquired that a man may be a warrior who is also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other artisan; although no one in the world would be a good dice or draught player who merely took up the game as a recreation, and had not from his earliest years devoted himself to this and nothing else? No tools will make a man a skilled workman, or master of defence, nor be of any use to him who has not learned how to handle them, and has never bestowed any attention upon them. How then will he who takes up a shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a day, whether with heavy-armed or any other kind of troops?
Yes, he said, the tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond price.
And the higher the duties of the guardian, I said, the more time, and skill, and art, and application will be needed by him?
No doubt, he replied.
Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?
Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are fitted for the task of guarding the city?
And the selection will be no easy matter, I said; but we must be brave and do our best.
Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of guarding and watching?
What do you mean?
I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to overtake the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they have caught him, they have to fight with him.
All these qualities, he replied, will certainly be required by them.
Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?
And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?
Then now we have a clear notion of the bodily qualities which are required in the guardian.
And also of the mental ones; his soul is to be full of spirit?
But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one another, and with everybody else?
A difficulty by no means easy to overcome, he replied.
Whereas, I said, they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and gentle to their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves without waiting for their enemies to destroy them.
True, he said.
What is to be done then? I said; how shall we find a gentle nature which has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction of the other?
He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these two qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impossible; and hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impossible.
I am afraid that what you say is true, he replied.
Here feeling perplexed I began to think over what had preceded.—My friend, I said, no wonder that we are in a perplexity; for we have lost sight of the image which we had before us.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean to say that there do exist natures gifted with those opposite qualities.
And where do you find them?
Many animals, I replied, furnish examples of them; our friend the dog is a very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are perfectly gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to strangers.
Yes, I know.
Then there is nothing impossible or out of the order of nature in our finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities?
Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited nature, need to have the qualities of a philosopher?
I do not apprehend your meaning.
The trait of which I am speaking, I replied, may be also seen in the dog, and is remarkable in the animal.
Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an acquaintance, he welcomes him, although the one has never done him any harm, nor the other any good. Did this never strike you as curious?
The matter never struck me before; but I quite recognise the truth of your remark.
And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming;—your dog is a true philosopher.
Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?
And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is philosophy?
They are the same, he replied.
And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a lover of wisdom and knowledge?
That we may safely affirm.
Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness and strength?
Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this an enquiry which may be expected to throw light on the greater enquiry which is our final end—How do justice and injustice grow up in States? for we do not want either to omit what is to the point or to draw out the argument to an inconvenient length.
Adeimantus thought that the enquiry would be of great service to us.
Then, I said, my dear friend, the task must not be given up, even if somewhat long.
Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.
By all means.
And what shall be their education? Can we find a better than the traditional sort?—and this has two divisions, gymnastic for the body, and music for the soul.
Shall we begin education with music, and go on to gymnastic afterwards?
By all means.
And when you speak of music, do you include literature or not?
And literature may be either true or false?
And the young should be trained in both kinds, and we begin with the false?
I do not understand your meaning, he said.
You know, I said, that we begin by telling children stories which, though not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main fictitious; and these stories are told them when they are not of an age to learn gymnastics.
That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music before gymnastics.
Quite right, he said.
You know also that the beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.
And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?
Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorised ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded.
Of what tales are you speaking? he said.
You may find a model of the lesser in the greater, I said; for they are necessarily of the same type, and there is the same spirit in both of them.
Very likely, he replied; but I do not as yet know what you would term the greater.
Those, I said, which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and the rest of the poets, who have ever been the great story-tellers of mankind.
But which stories do you mean, he said; and what fault do you find with them?
A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie, and, what is more, a bad lie.
But when is this fault committed?
Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods and heroes,—as when a painter paints a portrait not having the shadow of a likeness to the original.
Yes, he said, that sort of thing is certainly very blameable; but what are the stories which you mean?
First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies in high places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too,—I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated on him. The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted upon him, even if they were true, ought certainly not to be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons; if possible, they had better be buried in silence. But if there is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few might hear them in a mystery, and they should sacrifice not a common (Eleusinian) pig, but some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the number of the hearers will be very few indeed.
Why, yes, said he, those stories are extremely objectionable.
- Yes, Adeimantus, they are stories not to be repeated in our State;
- The young man should not be told that in committing the worst of crimes he is far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he chastises his father when he does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only be following the example of the first and greatest among the gods.
I entirely agree with you, he said; in my opinion those stories are quite unfit to be repeated.
- Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true.
- No, we shall never mention the battles of the giants, or let them be embroidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women should begin by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit. But the narrative of Hephaestus binding Here his mother, or how on another occasion Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being beaten, and all the battles of the gods in Homer—these tales must not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.
But if any one asks where are such models to be found and of what tales are you speaking—how shall we answer him?
- You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not poets, but founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to know the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and the limits which must be observed by them, but to make the tales is not their business.
Very true, he said; but what are these forms of theology which you mean?
Something of this kind, I replied:—God is always to be represented as he truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric or tragic, in which the representation is given.
And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?
And no good thing is hurtful?
And that which is not hurtful hurts not?
And that which hurts not does no evil?
And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
And the good is advantageous?
And therefore the cause of well-being?
It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things, but of the good only?
Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.
That appears to me to be most true, he said.
Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of the folly of saying that two casks
‘Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other of evil lots,’
and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two
‘Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good;’
but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,
‘Him wild hunger drives o’er the beauteous earth.’
‘Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.’
And if any one asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which was really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus, or that the strife and contention of the gods was instigated by Themis and Zeus, he shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, that
‘God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house.’
And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe—the subject of the tragedy in which these iambic verses occur—or of the house of Pelops, or of the Trojan war or on any similar theme, either we must not permit him to say that these are the works of God, or if they are of God, he must devise some explanation of them such as we are seeking; he must say that God did what was just and right, and they were the better for being punished; but that those who are punished are miserable, and that God is the author of their misery—the poet is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the wicked are miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited by receiving punishment from God; but that God being good is the author of evil to any one is to be strenuously denied, and not to be said or sung or heard in verse or prose by any one whether old or young in any well-ordered commonwealth. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous, impious.
I agree with you, he replied, and am ready to give my assent to the law.
Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the gods, to which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform,—that God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
That will do, he said.
And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one shape, and now in another—sometimes himself changing and passing into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his own proper image?
I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.
Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing?
And things which are at their best are also least liable to be altered or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest, the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks, and the plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from winds or the heat of the sun or any similar causes.
And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or deranged by any external influence?
And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all composite things—furniture, houses, garments: when good and well made, they are least altered by time and circumstances.
Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or both, is least liable to suffer change from without?
But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?
Of course they are.
Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many shapes?
But may he not change and transform himself?
Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.
And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for the worse and more unsightly?
If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.
Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would any one, whether God or man, desire to make himself worse?
Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every God remains absolutely and for ever in his own form.
That necessarily follows, he said, in my judgment.
Then, I said, my dear friend, let none of the poets tell us that
‘The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up and down cities in all sorts of forms;’
and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, neither let any one, either in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Here disguised in the likeness of a priestess asking an alms
‘For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos;’
—let us have no more lies of that sort. Neither must we have mothers under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad version of these myths—telling how certain gods, as they say, ‘Go about by night in the likeness of so many strangers and in divers forms;’ but let them take heed lest they make cowards of their children, and at the same time speak blasphemy against the gods.
Heaven forbid, he said.
But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by witchcraft and deception they may make us think that they appear in various forms?
Perhaps, he replied.
Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, whether in word or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?
I cannot say, he replied.
Do you not know, I said, that the true lie, if such an expression may be allowed, is hated of gods and men?
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest and highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest matters; there, above all, he is most afraid of a lie having possession of him.
Still, he said, I do not comprehend you.
The reason is, I replied, that you attribute some profound meaning to my words; but I am only saying that deception, or being deceived or uninformed about the highest realities in the highest part of themselves, which is the soul, and in that part of them to have and to hold the lie, is what mankind least like;—that, I say, is what they utterly detest.
There is nothing more hateful to them.
And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of him who is deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words is only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous affection of the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. Am I not right?
The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?
Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful; in dealing with enemies—that would be an instance; or again, when those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just now speaking—because we do not know the truth about ancient times, we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to account.
Very true, he said.
But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that he is ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?
That would be ridiculous, he said.
Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?
I should say not.
Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?
That is inconceivable.
But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?
But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God.
Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?
Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood?
Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or waking vision.
Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.
You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form in which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive mankind in any way.
I grant that.
Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her nuptials
‘Was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to be long, and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all things blessed of heaven he raised a note of triumph and cheered my soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus, being divine and full of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who uttered the strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said this—he it is who has slain my son.’
These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse our anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of the young, meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can be, should be true worshippers of the gods and like them.
I entirely agree, he said, in these principles, and promise to make them my laws.