The Republic by Plato
Socrates - Glaucon - Thrasymachus
Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons.
And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them virtue and the other vice?
I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice?
What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm injustice to be profitable and justice not.
What else then would you say?
The opposite, he replied.
And would you call justice vice?
No, I would rather say sublime simplicity.
Then would you call injustice malignity?
No; I would rather say discretion.
And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good?
Yes, he said; at any rate those of them who are able to be perfectly unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and nations; but perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses.
Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking.
I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasymachus, I replied; but still I cannot hear without amazement that you class injustice with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the opposite.
Certainly I do so class them.
Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable ground; for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be profitable had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and deformity, an answer might have been given to you on received principles; but now I perceive that you will call injustice honourable and strong, and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities which were attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not hesitate to rank injustice with wisdom and virtue.
You have guessed most infallibly, he replied.
Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through with the argument so long as I have reason to think that you, Thrasymachus, are speaking your real mind; for I do believe that you are now in earnest and are not amusing yourself at our expense.
I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you?--to refute the argument is your business.
Very true, I said; that is what I have to do: But will you be so good as answer yet one more question? Does the just man try to gain any advantage over the just?
Far otherwise; if he did would not be the simple, amusing creature which he is.
And would he try to go beyond just action?
He would not.
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the unjust; would that be considered by him as just or unjust?
He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage; but he would not be able.
Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the point. My question is only whether the just man, while refusing to have more than another just man, would wish and claim to have more than the 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? They were.
And you also said that the lust 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 the best and perfectly unjust state will be most likely to do so.
I know, I said, that such was your position; but what I would further consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the superior state can exist or be exercised without justice.
If you are right in you view, and justice is wisdom, then only with justice; but if I am right, then without justice.
I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding assent and dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent.
That is out of civility to you, he replied.
You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured one another?
No indeed, he said, they could not.
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act 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 ing at more, that to speak as we did of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously together, is not strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil, they would have laid hands upon one another; but it is evident that there must have been some remnant of justice in them, which enabled them to combine; if there had not been they would have injured one another as well as their victims; they were but half--villains in their enterprises; for had they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they would have been utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the truth of the matter, and not what you said at first. But whether the just have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons which to have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life.
I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a horse has some end?
And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing?
I do not understand, he said.
Let me explain: Can you see, except with the eye?
Or hear, except with the ear?
These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs?
But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel, and in many other ways?
And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the purpose?
May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook?
Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding my meaning when I asked the question whether the end of anything would be that which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any 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 fall of fulfilling them by their own defect?
Certainly, he replied.
I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own proper excellence they cannot fulfil their end?
And the same observation will apply to all other things?
Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfil? for example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned to any other?
To no other.
And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Assuredly, he said.
And has not the soul an excellence also?
And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that 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.