The Republic by Plato
Socrates - Polemarchus - Thrasymachus
He roared out to the whole company: What folly. Socrates, has taken possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock under to one another? I say that if you want really to know what justice is, you should not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honour to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have your own answer; for there is many a one who can ask and cannot answer. And now I will not have you say that justice is duty or advantage or profit or gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not do for me; I must have clearness and accuracy.
I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him without trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye upon him, I should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising, I looked at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, don't be hard upon us. Polemarchus and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in the argument, but I can assure you that the error was not intentional. If we were seeking for a piece of gold, you would not imagine that we were `knocking under to one another,' and so losing our chance of finding it. And why, when we are seeking for justice, a thing more precious than many pieces of gold, do you say that we are weakly yielding to one another and not doing our utmost to get at the truth? Nay, my good friend, we are most willing and anxious to do so, but the fact is that we cannot. And if so, you people who know all things should pity us and not be angry with us.
How characteristic of Socrates! he replied, with a bitter laugh;-- that's your ironical style! Did I not foresee--have I not already told you, that whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer, and try irony or any other shuffle, in order that he might avoid answering?
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well know that if you ask a person what numbers make up twelve, taking care to prohibit him whom you ask from answering twice six, or three times four, or six times two, or four times three, `for this sort of nonsense will not do for me,'--then obviously, that is your way of putting the question, no one can answer you. But suppose that he were to retort, `Thrasymachus, what do you mean? If one of these numbers which you interdict be the true answer to the question, am I falsely to say some other number which is not the right one?--is that your meaning?' --How would you answer him?
Just as if the two cases were at all alike! he said.
Why should they not be? I replied; and even if they are not, but only appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not to say what he thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?
I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted answers?
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon reflection I approve of any of them.
But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better, he said, than any of these? What do you deserve to have done to you?
Done to me!--as becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise-- that is what I deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment! a pleasant notion!
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.