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According to Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, and/or St. Augustine, what is justice? According to your chosen writer(s), is the just man happier than the unjust man? Are there any particular strengths or weaknesses of the accounts of justice you considered? Explain your answer using the relevant text(s) as evidence.Guidelines: 550-650 words of actual content. You must stick to the word range. If you go over, I will only read up to 500 words. If you are under, you will lose points in most of the rubric categories since you did not provide sufficient evidence to back your ideas. I am enforcing the word limit since finding ways to concisely convey your ideas is essential in academia and in the real world.To receive a passing grade on papers, you must pull from the primary source(s) that are relevant to the prompt.For these papers, you do not have to use a formatting style (like APA). However, you must be very precise when referencing all texts. Since versions of the primary sources vary, do not give page #s. Instead, refer to the Book/Part/Chapter you are pulling from. Example: (Politics, Book I, Part II). It is recommended you view the rubric before writing the paper so you understand how you will be graded/expectations.THE REPUBLIC
LrrrD., F.B.A.
Fellow of Trinity CoI1ege, Cambric:Igc
Oxford london New York
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Cape Town Salisbury Ibadan Nairobi lusaka Addis Ababa
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First published by Oxford University Press, london, 1941
First issued as an Oxford University Press paperback, 1945
This reprint, 1970-3
Printed in the United States of America
CHAP. I (i. 32?-33I D). Cephalus. Justice as Honesty in word and
II (331 E-336 A). Polemarchus. Justice as Helping Friends and
Harming Enemies •
III (336 B-347 E). Thrasymachus. Justice as the Interest of the
IV (347 E-354 c). Thrasymachus. Is Injustice more profitable
than Justice?
V (ii. 357 A-367 E). The Problem stated
VI (367 E-372 A). The Rudiments of Social Organization
VII (372 A-374 E). The Luxurious State
VIII (375 A-376 E). The Guardian’s Temperament
IX (376 E-iii. 412 B). Primary Education of the Guardians
§ 1 (376 E-iii. 392 c). Censorship of Literature for School
§ 2 (392 c-398 B). The Influence of Dramatic Recitation
§ 3 (398 c-4°O c). Musical Accompaniment and Metre
§ 4 (“00 c-403 c). The Aim of Education in Poetry and
§ 5 (“03 C-412 B). Physical Training. Physicians and
Judges •
X (412 B-iv. 421 c). Selection of Rulers: The Guardians’ Manner of Living
XI (421 c-427 c). The Guardians’ Duties
XII (“27 c-434 D). The Virtues in the State
XIII (434 D-441 c). The Three Parts of the Soul
XIV (441 C-445 B). The Virtues in the Individual
XV (445 B-V. 457 B). The Equality of Women
XVI (457 B-466 D). Abolition of the Family for the Guardians 155
XVII (466 1)-471 c). Usages of War
XVIII (471 c-474 B). The Paradox: Philosophers must be Kings
XIX (474 B-48o). Definition of the Philosopher. The Two Worlds
xx: (vi. 484 A-487 A). The Philosopher’s Fitness to Rule
XXI (487 B-497 A). Why the Philosophic Nature is useless or corrupted in existing Society
XXII (497 A-502 c). A Philosophic Ruler is not an Impossibility
XXIII (502 C-S09 c). The Good as the Highest Object of Knowledge •
XXIV (509 0-511 E). Four Stages of Cognition. The Line
XXV (vii. 514 A-521 B). The Allegory of the Cave
XXVI (521 C-S31 c). Higher Education. Mathematics
§ I (524 0-526 c). Arithmetic
§ 2 (526 C-S27 c). Geometry
§ 3 (527 0-528 E). Solid Geometry
§ 4 (528 E-530 c). Astronomy
§ 5 (530 C-S31 c). Harmonics
XXVII (531 C-S35 A). Dialectic.
XXVIII (535 A-541 s). Programme of Studies
XXIX (viii. 543 A-550 c). The Fall of the Ideal State. Timocracy
and the Timocratic Man
xxx: (550 C-S55 s). Oligarchy (Plutocracy) and the Oligarchic
XXXI (555 B-562 A). Democracy and the Democratic Man .
XXXII (562 A-ix. 576 B). Despotism and the Despotic Man
XXXIII (576 B-588 A). The Just and Unjust Lives compared in respect of Happiness •
XXXIV (588 B-592 B). Justice, not Injustice, is profitable
PART V (Book X, 595 A-608 B).
xxxv (x. 595 A-602 B). How Representation in Art is related to
XXXVI (602 c-605 c). Dramatic Poetry appeals to the Emotions, not
to the Reason •
XXXVII (605 c-608 B). Th.: Effect of Dramatic Poetry on Character 337
PART VI (Book X, 608 C-END).
XXXVIII (608 c-6I2 A). A Proof of Immortality
XXXIX (612 A-613 E). The Rewards of Justice in this Life
XL (613 E-END). The Rewards of Justice after Death. The Myth
THE main question to be answered in the Republic is: What does Justice
mean, and how can it be realized in human society? The Greek
word for ‘just’ has as many senses as the English ‘right.’ It can mean:
observant of custom or of duty, righteous; fair, honest; legally right,
lawful; what is due to or from a person, deserts, rights; what one ought
to do. Thus it covers the whole field of the individual’s conduct in so
far as it affects others-all that they have a ‘right’ to expect from him
or he has a right to expect from them, whatever is right as opposed
to wrong. A proverbial saying declared that justice is the sum of all
The demand for a definition of Justice seems to imply that there is
some conception in which all these applications of the word meet like
lines converging to a common centre; or, in more concrete terms, that
there is some principle whereby human life might be so organized
that there would exist a just society composed of just men. The justice
of the society would secure that each member of it should perform his
duties and enjoy his rights. As a quality residing in each individual,
justice would mean that his personal life-or as a Greek would say,
his soul-was correspondingly ordered with respect to the rights and
duties. of each part of his nature.
A society so composed and organized would be ideal, in the sense
that it would offer a standard of perfection by which all existing s0cieties might be measured and appraised according to the degrees in
which they fell short of it. Any proposed reform, moreover, might be
judged by its tendency to bring us nearer to, or farther from, this goal.
The Republic is the first systematic attempt ever made to describe this
ideal, not as a baseless dream, but as a possible framework within which
man’s nature, with its unalterable claims, might find well-being and
happiness. Without some such goal in view, statecraft must be either
blind and aimless or directed (as it commonly is) to false and worthless
[I. 327
If a man of sceptical and inquiring mind were to ask, in any mixed
company of intelligent people, for a definition of ‘right’ or ‘justice,’
the answers produced would be likely to be superficial and to cover
only some part of the field. They might also reveal fundamental differences of conviction about what Socrates calls the most important of
all questions: how we ought to live. In the first Part of the Republic
Socrates opens up the whole range of inquiry by eliciting some typical
views of the nature of justice and criticizing them as either inadequate
or false. The criticism naturally reveals some glimpses of the principles
which will guide the construction that is to follow.
CHAPTER I (I. 327-331 D)
The whole imaginary conversation is narrated by Socrates to an unspecified audience. The company who will take part in it assemble
at the house of Cephalus, a retired manufacturer living at the
Piraeus, the harbour town about five miles from Athens. It includes, besides Plato’s elder brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus,
Cephalu/ sons, Polemarchus, Lysias, well known as a writer of
speeches, and Euthydemus; Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, a noted
teacher of rhetoric, who may have formulated the definition of
justice as ‘the interest of the stronger,’ though hardly any evidence
about his opinions exists outside the Republic; and a number of
Socrates’ young friends. The occasion is the festival of Bendis, a
goddess whose cult had been imported from Thrace. Cephalus embodies the wisdom of a long life honourably spent in business. He
is well-to-do, but values money as a means to that peace of mind
which comes of honesty and the ability to render to gods and men
their due. This is what he understands by ‘right’ conduct or justice.
I walked down to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon,
the son of Ariston, to make my prayers to the goddess. As this was
the first celebration of her festival, I wished also to see how the
ceremony would be conducted. The Thracians, I thought, made as
fine a show in the procession as our own people, though they did
well enough. The prayers and the spectacle were over, and we were
leaving to go back to the city, when from some way off Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, caught sight of us starting homewards
and sent his slave running to ask us to wait for him. The boy
caught my garment from behind and gave me the message.
I turned round and asked where his master was.
There, he answered; coming up behind. Please wait.
Very well, said Glaucon; we will.
A minute later Polemarchus joined us, with Glaucon’s brother,
Adeimantus, and Niceratus, the son of Nicias, and some others
who must have been at the procession.
Socrates, said Polemarchus, I do bdieve you are starting back to
town and leaving us.
You have guessed right, I answered.
Well, he said, you see what a large party we are?
I do.
Unless you are more than a match for us, then, you must stay
Isn’t there another alternative? said I; we might convince you
that you must let us go.
How will you convince us, if we refuse to listen?
We cannot, said Glaucon.
Well, we shall refuse; make up your minds to that.
Here Adeimantus interposed: Don’t you even know that in the
evening there is going to be a torch-race on horseback in honour of
the goddess?
On horseback I I exclaimed; that is something new. How will
they do it? Are the riders going to race with torches and hand
them on to one another?
Just so, said Polemarchus. Besides, there will be a festival lasting
all night, which will be worth seeing. We will go out after dinner
and look on. We shall find plenty of young men there and we can
have a talk. So please stay, and don’t disappoint”us.
It looks as if we had better stay, said Glaucon.
Well, said I, if you think so, we will.
Accordingly, we went home with Polemarchus; and there we
found his brothers, Lysias and Euthydemus, as well as Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, Charmantides of Paeania, .and Cleitophon, the
son of Aristonymus. Polemarchus’ father, Cephalus, was at home
too. I had not seen him for some time, and it struck me that he
had aged a good deal. He was sitting in a cushioned chair, wearing
a garland, as he had just been conducting a sacrifice in the courtyard. There were some chairs standing round, and we sat down beside him.
As soon as he saw me, Cephalus greeted me. You don’t often
come down to the Piraeus to visit us, Socrates, he said. But you
ought to. If I still had the strength to walk to town easily, you
would not have to come here; we would come to you. But, as
things are, you really ought to come here oftener. I find, I can assure you, that in proportion as bodily pleasures lose their savour,
my appetite for the things of the mind grows keener and I enjoy
discussing them more than ever. So you must not disappoint me.
Treat us like old friends, and come here often to have a talk with
these young men.
To tell the truth, Cephalus, I answered, I enjoy talking with very
old people. They have gone before us on a road by which we too
may have to travel, and I think we do well to learn from them
what it is like, easy or difficult, rough or smooth. And now that
you have reached an age when your foot, as the poets say, is on the
threshold, I should like to hear what report you can give and
whether you find it a painful time of life.
I will tell you by all means what it seems like to me, Socrates.
Some of us old men often meet, true to the old saying that people
of the same age like to be together. Most of our company are very
sorry for themselves, looking back with regret to the pleasures of
their young days, all the delights connected with love affairs and
merry-making. They are vexed at being deprived of what seems
to them so important; life was good in those days, they think, and
now they have no life at all. Some complain that their families
have no respect for their years, and make that a reason for harping
on all the miseries old age has brought. But to my mind, Socrates,
they are laying the blame on the wrong shoulders. If the fault
were in old age, so far as that goes, I and all who have ever reached
my time of life would have the same experience; but in point of
fact, I have met many who felt quite differently. For instance, I
remember someone asking Sophocles, the poet, whether he was
still capable of enjoying a woman. ‘Don’t talk in that way; he answered; ‘I am only too glad to be free of all that; it is like escaping from bondage to a raging madman.’ I thought that a good
answer at the time, and I still think so; for certainly a great peace
comes when age sets us free from passions of that sort. When they
weaken and relax their hold, most certainly it means, as Sophocles
said, a release from servitude to many forms of madness. All these
troubles, Socrates, including the complaints about not being respected, have only one cause; and that is not old age, but a man’s
character. If you have a contented mind at peace with itself, age is
no intolerable burden; without that, Socrates, age and youth will
be equally painful.
I was charmed with these words and wanted him to go on talking; so I tried to draw him out. I fancy, Cephalus, said I, most
people will not accept that account; they imagine that it is not
character that makes your burden h’ght, but your wealth. The rich,
they say, have many consolations.
That is true, he replied; they do not believe me; and there is
something in their suggestion, though not so much as they suppose.
When a man from Seriphus 1 taunted Themistocles and told him
that his fame was due not to himself but to his country, Themistocles made a good retort: ‘Certainly, if I had been born a Seriphian, I should not be famous; but no more would you, if you had
been born at Athens.’ And so one might say to men who are not
rich and feel old age burdensome: If it is true that a good man
will not find it easy to bear old age and poverty combined, no more
will riches ever make a bad man contented and cheerful.
And was your wealth, Cephalus, mostly inherited or have you
made your own fortune?
Made my fortune, Socrates? As a man of business I stand somewhere between my grandfather and my father. My grandfather,
who was my namesake, inherited about as much property as I have
1 An insignificant island, among the Cyclade5.
[I. 330
now and more than doubled it; whereas my father Lysanias reo
duced it below its present level. I shall be content if I can leave
these sons of mine not less than I inherited, and perhaps a litde
I asked, said I, because you strike me as not caring overmuch
about money; and that is generally so with men who have not
made their own fortune. Those who have are twice as fond of
their possessions as other people. They have the same affection for
the money they have earned that poets have for their poems, or
fathers for their children: they not merely find it useful, as we
all do, but it means much to them as being of their own creation.
That makes them disagreeable company; they have not a good
word for anything but riches.
That is quite true.
It is indeed, I said; but one more question: what do you take
to be the greatest advantage you helve got from being wealthy?
One that perhaps not many people would take my word for. I
can tell you, Socrates, that, when the prospect of dying is near at
hand, a man begins to feel some alarm about things that never
troubled him before. He may have laughed at those stories they
tell of another world and of punishments there for wrongdoing
in this life; but now the soul is tormented by a doubt whether
they may not be true. Maybe from the weakness of old age, or perhaps because, now that he is nearer to what lies beyond, he begins
to get some glimpse of it himself-at any rate he is beset with
fear and misgiving; he begins thinking over the past: is there
anyone he has wronged? If he finds that his life has been full of
wrongdoing, he starts up from his sleep in terror like a child, and
his life is haunted by dark forebodings; whereas, if his conscience
is clear, that ‘sweet Hope’ that Pindar speaks of is always with
him to tend his age. Indeed, Socrates, there is great charm in those
lines describing the man who has led a life of righteousness:
Hope is his sweet companion, she who guid-.:s
Man’s wandering purpose, warms his heart
And nurses tenderly his age.
I. 331]
That is admirably expressed, admirably. Now in this, as I believe,
lies the chief value of wealth, not for everyone, perhaps, but for
the right-thinking man. It can do much to save us from going to
that other world in fear of having cheated or deceived anyone even
unintentionally or of being in debt to some god for sacrifice or to
some man for money. Wealth has many other uses, of course;
but, taking one with another, I should regard this as the best use
that can be made of it by a man of sense.
You put your case admirably, Cephalus, said I. But take this
matter of doing right: can we say that it really consists in nothing
more nor less than telling the truth and paying back anything we
may have received? Are not these very actions sometimes right
and sometimes wrong? Suppose, for example, a friend who had
lent us a weapon were to go mad and then ask for it back, surely
anyone would say we ought not to return it. It would not be
‘right’ to do so; nor yet to tell the truth without reserve to a
No, it would not.
Right conduct, then, cannot be defined as telling the truth and
restoring anything we have been trusted with.
Yes, it can, Polemarchus broke in, at least if we are to believe
Well, well, said Cephalus, I will bequeath the argument to you.
It is time for me to attend to the sacrifice.
Your part, then, said Polemarchus, will fall to me as your heir.
By all means, said Cephalus with a smile; and with that he left
us, to see to the sacrifice.
CHAPTER II (1.331 E-336 A)
Criticism now begins. No doubt it is generally right or just to tell
the truth and pay one’s debts; but no list of external actions such as
[I. 331
these can tell us what ;s meant hy justice, the name of the quality
they have in common. Also what is superficially the same action,
e.g. repayment of a loan, may completely change its character when
we take into account the antecedents and consequences which form
its wider context.
Polemarchus can only meet this ohjection hy citing a maxim
horrowed from a famous poet. In Greece, where there was no
sacred hook like the Bihle, the poets were regarded as inspired
authorities on religion and morals; hut Socrates, when he questioned
them, found them unahle to give any rational account of their teaching (Apology, 22 B). Polemarchus, too, has never thought out the
implications of defining justice as ‘giving every man his due:
What is it that is due, and to whom?
Socrates’ first ohject is to bring home to Polemarchus the vagueness of his ideas hy leading him on to an ahsurd conclusion. In
approaching a very large and ohscure question, the first step is to
convince one who thinks he can answer it with a compact formula
that he knows much less than he imagines and cannot even understand his own formula.
Plato often, as here, compares the practice of morality to the useful (not the fine) arts or crafts: medicine, navigation, shoemaking.
He even speaks of an ‘art of justice: He adopted Socrates’ helief
that there should he an art of living, analogous to the craftsman’s
knowledge and consequent ahility to achieve a purposed end. A
huilder, huz1ding a house, knows what he is setting out to do and
how to do it; he can account for all his actions as contributing to
his end. This knowledge and ahz1ity constitute the craft emhodied
;n the huilder and his special excellence or ‘virtue’ (arete), qua
huilder. Similarly a man can live well only if he knows clearly
what is the end of life, what things are of real value, and how they
are to he attained. This knowledge is the moral virtue of man, qua
man, and constitutes the art of living. If a man imagines that the
end of life is to gain wealth or power, which are valueless in themselves, all his actions will he misdirected. This doctrine is fundamental in the Republic. It leads to the central thesis that society
must be ruled hy men who have learnt, hy long and severe train-
ing, not only the true end of human life, but the meaning of goodness in all its forms.
THEN, said I, if you are to inherit this discussion, tell me, what is
this saying of Simonides about right conduct which you approve?
That it is just to render every man his due. That seems to me a
fair statement.
It is certainly hard to question the inspired wisdom of a poet
like Simonides; but what this saying means you may know, Polemarchus, but I do not. Obviously it does not mean what we were
speaking of just now-returning something we have been entrusted
with to the owner even when he has gone out of his mind. And yet
surely it is his due, if he asks for it back?
But it is out of the question to give it back when he has gone
Simonides, then, must have meant something different from that
when he said it was just to render a man his due.
Certainly he did; his idea was that, as between friends, what one
owes to another is to do him good, not harm.
I see, said I; to repay money entrusted to one is not to render
what is due, if the two parties are friends and the repayment proves
harmful to the lender. That is what you say Simonides meant?
Yes, certainly.
And what about enemies? Are we to render whatever is their
due to them?
Yes certainly, what really is due to them; which means, I suppose, what is appropriate to an enemy-some sort of injury.
It seems, then, that Simonides was using words with a hidden
meaning, as poets will. He really meant to define justice as render·ing to everyone what is appropriate to him; only he called that his
Well, why not?
But look here, said I. Suppose we could question Simonides about
a physician can be described as renthe art of
Cr. 332
d.ering to some object what is due or appropriate to it; how do
you think he would answer?
That the physician administers the appropriate diet or remedies
to the body.
And the art of cookery-ean that be described in the same way?
Yes; the cook gives the appropriate seasoning to his dishes.
Good. And the practice of justice?
If we are to follow those analogies. Socrates. justice would be
rendering services or injuries to friends or enemies.
So Simonides means by justice doing good to friends and harm
to enemies?
I think so.
And in matters of health who would be the most competent to
treat friends and enemies in that way?
A physician.
And on a voyage. as regards the dangers of the sea?
A ship’s captain.
In what sphere of action, then. will the just man be the most
competent to do good or harm?
In war, I should imagine; when he is fighting on the side of
his friends and against his enemies.
I see. But when we are well and staying on shore. the doctor
and the ship’s captain are of no use to us.
Is it also true that the just man is useless when we are not at
I should not say that.
So justice has its uses in peace-time too?
Like farming. which is useful for producing crops, or shoemaking, which is useful for providing 1.1s with shoes. Can you tell me
for what purposes justice is useful or profitable in time of peace?
For matters of business, Socrates.
In a partnership, you mean?
But if we are playing draughts, or laying bricks, or making
L 333]
music, will the just man be as good and helpful a partner as an
expert draught-player, or a builder, or a musician?
Then in what kind of partnership will he be more helpful?
Where money is involved, I suppose.
Except, perhaps, Polemarchus, when we are putting our money
to some use. If we are buying or selling a horse, a judge of horses
would be a better partner; or if we are dealing in ships, a shipwright or a sea-captain.
I suppose so.
Well, when will the just man be specially useful in handling Out
When we want to deposit it for safe-keeping.
When the money is to lie idle, in fact?
So justice begins to be useful only when our money is out of use?
Perhaps so.
And in the same way, I suppose, if a pruning-knife is to be used,
or a shield, or a lyre, then a vine-dresser, or a soldier, or a musician
will be of service; but justice is helpful only when these things are
to be kept safe. In fact justice is never of any use in using things;
it becomes useful when they are useless.
That seems to follow.
If that is so, my friend, justice can hardly be a thing of much
value. And here is another point. In boxing or fighting of any
sort skill in dealing blows goes with skill in keeping them off;
and the same doctor that can keep us from disease would also be
clever at producing it by stealth; or again, a general will be good
at keeping his army safe, if he can also cheat the enemy and steal
his plans and dispositions. So a man who is expert in keeping
things will always make an expert thief.
The just man, then, being good at keeping money l’afe, will also
be good at stealing it.
That seems to be the conclusion, at any rate.
So the just man turns out to be a kind of thief. You must have
learnt that from Homer, who showed his predilection for Odysseus’
[I. 334
grandfather Autolycus by remarking that he surpassed all men in
cheating and perjury. Justice, according to yOll and Homer and
Simonides, turns out to be a form of skill in cheating, provided it
be to help a friend or harm an enemy. That was what you meant?
Good God, no, he protested; but I have forgotten now what I
did mean. All the same, I do still believe that justice consists in
helping one’s friends and harming one’s enemies.
[The argument now becomes more serious. Polemarchus, though
puzzled, clings to the belief that it must be right to help friends
and harm enemies. This was a traditional maxim of Greek morality, never doubted till Socrates denied it: no one had ever said that
we ought to do good, or even refrain from doing harm, to them
that hate us. Socrates’ denial rests on his principle, later adopted
by the Stoics, that the only thing that is good in itself is the goodness, virtue, well-being of the human soul. The only way really to
injure a man is to make him a worse man. This cannot be the
function of justice.]
Which do you mean by a man’s friends and enemies-those
whom he believes to be good honest people and the reverse, or
those who really are, though they may not seem so?
Naturally, his loves and hates depend on what he believes.
But don’t people often mistake an honest man for a rogue, or :1
rogue for an honest man; in which case they regard good people as
enemies and bad people as friends?
No doubt.
But all the same, it will then be right for them to help the rogue
and to injure the good man?
And yet a good man is one who is not given to doing wrong.
According to your account, then, it is right to ill-treat a man who
does no wrong.
No, no, Socrates; that can’t be sound doctrine.
It must be the wrongdoers, then, that it is right to injure, and
the honest that are to be helped.
L 334]
That sounds better.
Then, Polemarchus, the conclusion will be that for a bad judge
of character it will often be right to injure his friends, when they
really are rogues, and to help his enemies, when they really are
honest men-the exact opposite of what we took Simonides to
That certainly does follow, he said. We must shift our ground.
Perhaps our definition of friend and enemy was wrong.
What definition, Polemarchus?
We said a friend was one whom we believe to be an honest man.
And how are we to define him now?
As one who really is honest as well as seeming so. If he merely
seems so, he will be only a seeming friend. And the same will
apply to enemies.
On this showing, then, it is the good people that will be our
friends, the wicked our enemies.
You would have us, in fact, add something to our original definition of justice: it will not mean merely doing good to friends and
harm to enemies, but doing good to friends who are good, and
harm to enemies who are wicked.
Yes, I think that is all right.
Can it really be a just man’s business to harm any human being?
Certainly; it is right for him to harm bad men who are his
But does not harming a horse or a dog mean making it a worse
horse or dog, so that each will be a less perfect creature in its own
special way?
Isn’t that also true of human beings-that to harm them means
making them worse men by the standard of human excellence?
And is not justice a peculiarly human excellence?
To harm a man, then, must mean making him less just.
I suppose so.
[I. 335
But a musician or a riding-master cannot be exercising his special skill, if he makes his pupils unmusical or bad riders.
Whereas the just man is to exercise his justice by making men
unjust? Or, in more general terms, the good are to make men bad
by exercising their virtue? Can that be so?
No, it cannot.
It can no more be the function of goodness to do harm than
of heat to cool or of drought to produce moisture. So if the just
man is good, the business of harming people, whether frknds or
not, must belong to his opposite, the unjust.
I think that is perfectly true, Socrates.
So it was not a wise saying that justice is giving every man his
due, if that means that harm is due from the just man to his enemies, as well as help to his friends. That is not true; because we
have found that it is never right to harm anyone.
I agree.
Then you and I will make common cause against anyone who
attributes that doctrine to Simonides or to any of the old canonical
sages, like Bias or Pittacus.
Yes, he said, I am prepared to support you.
Do you know, I think that account of justice, as helping friends
and harming enemies, must be due to some despot, so rich and
powerful that he thought he could do as he liked-someone like
Periander, or Perdiccas, or Xerxes, or Ismenias of Thebes.
That is extremely probable.
Very good, said I; and now that we have disposed of that definition of justice, can anyone suggest another?
CHAPTER III (I. 336 B-347 E)
Socrates has opposed to the popular conception of justice one of his
own deepest convictions. Polemarchus’ ready acceptance of this
I. 336]
provokes a violent protest from T hrasymachus, who represents the
doctrine that might is right in an extreme form. He holds that
justice or right is nothing but the name given by the men actually
holding power in any state to any actions they enjoin by law upon
their subjects; and that all their laws are framed to promote their
own personal or class interests. ‘Just’ accordingly means what is for
the interest of the stronger, ruling party. Right and wrong have no
other meaning at all. This is not a theory of social contract: it is
not suggested that the subject has ever made a bargain with the
ruler, sacrificing some of his liberty to gain the benefits of a social
order. The ruler imposes his ‘rights’ by sheer force. The perfect example of such a ruler is the despot (the Greek ‘tyrant), whose position Thrasymachus regards as supremely enviable. He is precisely
the man who has the will and the power to ‘do good to himself and
his fr£ends and to harm his enemies:
The discussion begins by clearing up the ambiguities of Thrasymachus’ formula. The word translated ‘stronger’ commonly means
also ‘superior’ or ‘better’; but ‘better’ has no moral sense for
Thrasymachus, who does not recognize the existence of morality.
The superiority of the stronger lies in the skill and determination
which enable them to seize and hold power. ‘Interest,’ again, means
the personal satisfaction and aggrandizement of the ruling individuals.
ALL this time Thrasymachus had been trying more than once to
break in upon our conversation; but his neighbours had restrained
him, wishing to hear the argument to the end. In the pause after
my last words he could keep quiet no longer; but gathering himself up like a wild beast he sprang at us as if he would tear us in
pieces. Polemarchus and I were frightened out of our wits, when
he burst out to the whole company:
What is the matter with you two, Socrates? Why do you go on
in this imbecile way, politely deferring to each other’s nonsense?
If you really want to know what justice means, stop asking questions and scoring off the answers you get. You know very well it is
easier to ask questions than to answer them. Answer yourself, and
tell us what you think justice means. I won’t have you telling us
it is the same as what is obligatory or useful or advantageous or
profitable or expedient; I want a clear and precise statement; I
won’t put up with that sort of verbiage.
I was amazed by this onslaught and looked at him in terror. If
I had not seen this wolf before he saw me, I really believe I should
have been struck dumb; 1 but fortunately I had looked at him
earlier, when he was beginning to get exasperated with our
ment; so I was able to reply, though rather tremulously:
Don’t be hard on us, Thrasymachus. If Polemarchus and I have
gone astray in our search, you may be quite sure the mistake was
not intentional. If we had been looking for a piece of gold, we
should never have deliberately allowed politeness to spoil our (hance
of finding it; and now when we are looking for justice, a thing
much more precious than gold, you cannot imagine we should
defer to each other in that foolish way and not do our best to bring
it to light. You must believe we are in earnest, my friend; but I
am afraid the task is beyond our powers, and we might expect a
man of your ability to pity us instead of being so severe.
Thrasymachus replied with a burst of sardonic laughter.
Good Lord, he said; Socrates at his old trick of shamming
rancel I knew it; I told the others you would refuse to commit
yourself and do anything sooner than answer a question.
Yes, Thrasymachus, I replied; because you are clever enough
to know that if you asked someone what are the factors of the
number twelve, and at the same time warned him: ‘Look here, you
are not to tell me that 12 is twice 6, or 3 times 4, or 6 times 2, or
4 times 3; I won’t put up with any such nonsense’-you must surely
see that no one would answer a question put like that. He would
say: ‘What do you mean, Thrasymachus? Am I forbidden to give
any of these answers, even if one happens to be right? Do you
want me to give a wrong one?’ What would you say to that?
Humph I said he. As if that were a fair analogyl
I don’t see why it is not, said I; but in any case, do you suppose
our barring a certain answer would prevent the man from giving
it, if he thought it was the truth?
1 A popular superstition,
that if a wolf sees you first, you become dumb.
I. 337]
Do you mean that you are going to give me one of those an·
swers I barred?
I should not be surprised, if it seemed to me true, on reflection.
And what if I give you another definition of justice, better than
any of those? What penalty are you prepared to pay? 1
The penalty deserved by ignorance, which must surely be to reo
ceive instruction from the wise. So I would suggest that as a suitable punishment.
I like your notion of a penalty I he said; but you must pay the
costs as well.
I will, when I have any money.
That will be all right, said Glaucon; we will all subscribe for
Socrates. So let us have your definition, Thrasymachus.
Oh yes, he said; so that Socrates may play the old game of questioning and refuting someone else, instead of giving an answer
himself I
But really, I protested, what can you expect from a man who
does not know the answer or profess to know it, and, besides that,
has been forbidden by no mean authority to put forward any notions he may have? Surely the definition should naturally come
from you, who say you do know the answer and can tell it us.
Please do not disappoint us. I should take it as a kindness, and I
hope you will not be chary of giving Glaucon and the rest of us
the advantage of your instruction.
Glaucon and the others added their entreaties to mine. Thrasymachus was evidently longing to win credit, for he was sure he had
an admirable answer ready, though he made a show of insisting
that I should be the one to reply. In the end he gave way and exclaimed:
So this is what Socrates’ wisdom comes tol He refuses to teach,
and goes about learning from others without offering so much as
thanks in return.
I do learn from others, Thrasymachus; that is quite true; but
1 In certain lawsuits the defendant, if found guilty, was allowed to propose a
penalty alternative to that demanded by the prosecution. The judges then decided
which should be inflicted. The ‘costs’ here means the fee which the sophist, unlike
Socrates, expected from his pupils.
[I. 338
you are wrong to call me ungrateful. I give in return all I canpraise; for I have no money. And how ready I am to applaud any
idea that seems to me sound, you will see in a moment, when you
have stated your own; for I am sure that will be sound.
Listen then, Thrasymachus began. What I say is that ‘just’ or
‘right’ means nothing but what is to the interest of the stronger
party. Well, where is your applause? You don’t mean to give it me.
I will, as soon as I understand, I said. I don’t see yet what you
mean by right being the interest of the stronger party. For instance, Polydamas, the athlete, is stronger than we are, and it is to
his interest to eat beef for the sake of his muscles; but surely you
don’t mean that the same diet would be good for weaker men and
therefore be right for us?
You are trying to be funny, Socrates. It’s a low trick to take my
words in the sense you think will be most damaging.
No, no, I protested; but you must explain.
Don’t you know, then, that a state may be ruled by a despot, or
a democracy, or an aristocracy?
Of course.
And that the ruling element is always the strongest?
Well then, in every case the laws are made by the ruling party
in its own interest; a democracy makes democratic laws, a despot
autocratic ones, and so on. By making these laws they define as
‘right’ for their subjects whatever is for their own interest, and
they call anyone who breaks them a ‘wrongdoer’ and punish him
accordingly. That is what I mean: in all states alike ‘right’ has the
same meaning, namely what is for the interest of the party established in power, and that is the strongest. So the sound conclusion
is that what is ‘right’ is the same everywhere: the interest of the
stronger party.
Now I see what you mean, said I; whether it is true or not, I
must try to make out. When you define right in terms of interest,
you are yourself giving one of those answers you forbade to me;
though, to be sure, you add ‘to the stronger party”
An insignificant addition, perhaps I
I. 3391
Its importance is not clear yet; what is clear is that we must find
out whether your definition is true. I agree myself that right is in a
sense a matter of interest; but when you add ‘to the stronger party,’
I don’t know about that. I must consider.
Go ahead, then.
I will. Tell me this. No doubt you also think it is right to obey
the men in power?
I do.
Are they infallible in every type of state, or can they sometimes
make a mistake?
Of course they can make a mistake.
In framing laws, then, they may do their work well or badly?
No doubt.
Well, that is to say, when the laws they make are to their own
interest; badly, when they are not?
But the subjects are to obey any law they lay down, and they
will then be doing right?
Of course.
If so, by your account, it will be right to do what is not to the
interest of the stronger party, as well as what is so.
What’s that you are saying?
Just what you said, I believe; but let us look again. Haven’t you
admitted that the rulers, when they enjoin certain acts on their
subjects, sometimes mistake their own best interests, and at the
same time that it is right for the subjects to obey, whatever they
may enjoin?
Yes, I suppose so.
Well, that amounts to admitting that it is right to do what is not
to the interest of the rulers or the stronger party. They may unwittingly enjoin what is to their own disadvantage; and you say
it is right for the others to do as they are told. In that case, their
duty must be the opposite of what you said, because the weaker
will have been ordered to do what is against the interest of the
itronger. You with your intelligence must see how that follows.
Yes, Socrates, said Polemarchus, that is undeniable.
[I. 340
No doubt, Cleitophon broke in, if you are to be a witness on
Socrates’ side.
No witness is needed, replied Polemarchus; Thrasymachus himself admits that rulers sometimes ordain acts that are to their own
disadvantage, and that it is the subjects’ duty to do them.
That is because Thrasymachus said it was right to do what you
are told by the men in power.
Yes, but he also said that what is to the interest of the stronger
party is right; and, after making both these assertions, he admitted
that the stronger sometimes command the weaker subjects to act
against their interests. From all which it follows that what is in
the stronger’s interest is no more right than what is not.
No, said Cleitophon; he meant whatever the stronger believes
to be in his own interest. That is what the subject must do, and
what Thrasymachus meant to define as right.
That was not what he said, rejoined Polemarchus.
No matter, Polemarchus, said I; if Thrasymachus says so now,
let us take him in that sense. Now, Thrasymachus, tell me, was that
what you intended to say-that right means what the stronger
thinks is to his interest, whether it really is so or not?
Most certainly not, he replied. Do you suppose I should speak
of a man as ‘stronger’ or ‘superior’ at the very moment when he
is making a mistake?
I did think you said as much when you admitted that rulers
are not always infallible.
That is because you are a quibbler, Socrates. Would you say a
man deserves to be called a physician at the moment when he
makes a mistake in treating his patient and just in respect of that
mistal{e; or a mathematician, when he does a sum wrong and just
in so far as he gets a wrong result? Of course we do commonly
speak of a physician or a mathematician or a scholar having made
a mistake; but really none of these, I should say, is ever mistaken,
in so far as he is worthy of the name we give him. So strictly
speaking-and you are all for being precise-no one who practises
a craft makes mistakes. A man is mistaken when his knowledge
fails him; and at that moment he is no craftsman. And what is
I. 341}
true of craftsmanship or any sort of skill is true of the ruler: he is
never mistaken so long as he is acting as a ruler; though anyone
might speak of a ruler making a mistake, just as he might of a
physician. You must understand that I was talking in that loose
way when I answered your question just now; but the precise statement is this. The ruler, in so far as he is acting as a ruler, makes
no mistakes and consequently enjoins what is best for himself; and
that is what the subject is to do. So, as I said at first, ‘right’ means
doing what is to the interest of the stronger.
Very well, Thrasymachus, said I. So you think I am quibbling?
I am sure you are.
You believe my questIOns were maliciously designed to damage
your position?
I know it. But you will gain nothing by that. You cannot outwit
me by cunning, and you are not the man to crush me in the open.
Bless your soul, I answered, I should not think of trying. But,
to prevent any more misunderstanding, when you speak of that
ruler or stronger party whose interest the weaker ought to serve,
please make it clear whether you are using the words in the ordinary way or in that strict sense you have just defined.
I mean a ruler in the strictest possible sense. Now quibble away
and be as malicious as you can. I want no mercy. But you are no
match for me.
Do you think me mad enough to beard a lion or try to outwit
a Thrasymachus?
You did try just now, he retorted, but it wasn’t a success.
[Thrasymachus has already shifted his ground. At first ‘the
stronger’ meant only the men ruling by superior force; but now
their superiority must include the knowledge and ability needed to
govern without making mistakes. This knowledge and ability constitute an art of government, comparable to other useful arts or
crafts requiring special skill. The ruler in his capacity as ruler, or
the craftsman qua craftsman, can also be spoken of as the craft personified, since a craft exists only in the man who embodies it, and
we are considering the man only as the embodiment of this special
[I. 341
capacity, neglecting all personal characteristics and any other capacities he may chance to have. When Socrates talks of the art or craft
in this abstract way as having an interest of its own, he means the
same thing as if he spoke of the interest of the craftsman qua craftsman. Granted that there is, as Thrasymachus suggested, an art of
government exercised by a ruler who, qua ruler, is infallible and so
in the full sense ‘superior,’ the question now is, what his interest
should be, on the analogy of other crafts.]
Enough of this, said I. Now tell me about the physician in that
strict sense you spoke of: is it his business to earn money or to
treat his patients? Remember, I mean your physician who is
worthy of the name.
To treat his patients.
And what of the ship’s captain in the true sense? Is he a mere
seaman or the commander of the crew?
The commander.
Yes, we shall not speak of him as a seaman just because he is on
board a ship. That is not the point. He is called captain because
of his skill and authority over the crew.
Quite true.
And each of these people has some special interest? 1
No doubt.
And the craft in question exists for the very purpose of discovering that interest and providing for it?
Can it equally be said of any craft that it has an interest, other
than its own greatest possible perfection?
What do you mean by that?
Here is an illustration. If you ask me whether it is sufficient for
the human body just to be itself, with no need of hdp from without, I should say, Certainly not; it has weaknesses and defects, and
its condition is not all that it might be. That is precisdy why the art
1 All the persons mentioned have some interest. The craftsIJ’lan qua craftsman
has an interest in doing his work as well as possible, which is the same thing as
serving the interest of the subjects on whom his craft is exercised; and the subjects
have their interest, which the craftsman is there to promote.
of medicine was invented: it was designed to help the body and
‘Provide for its interests. Would not that be true?
It would.
But now take the art of medicine itself. Has that any defects
or weaknesses? Does any art stand in need of some further
fection, as the eye would be imperfect without the power of vision
or the ear without hearing, so that in their case an art is required
that will study their interests and provide for their carrying out
those functions? Has the art itself any corresponding need of some
further art to remedy its defects and look after its interests; and
will that further art require yet another, and so on for ever? Or
will every art look after its own interests? Or, finally, is it not true
that no art needs to have its weaknesses remedied or its interests
studied either by another art or by itself, because no art has in itself any weakness or fault, and the only interest it is required to
serve is that of its subject-matter? In itself, an art is sound and
flawless, so long as it is entirely true to its own nature as an art in
the strictest sense-and it is the strict sense that I want you to keep
in view. Is not that true?
So it appears.
Then, said I, the art of medicine does not study its own interest,
but the needs of the body, just as a groom shows his skill by caring
for horses, not for the art of grooming. And so every art seeks, not
its own advantage-for it has no deficiencies-but the interest of
the subject on which it is exercised.
It appears so.
But surely, Thrasymachus, every art has authority and superior
power over its subject.
To this he agreed, though very reluctantly.
So far as arts are concerned, then, no art ever studies or enjoins
the interest of the superior or stronger party, but always that of
the weaker over which it has authority.
Thrasymachus assented to this at last, though he tried to put up
a fight. I then went on:
So the physician, as such, studies only the patient’s interest, not
his own. For as we agreed, the business of the physician, in the
strict sense, is not to make money for himself, but to exercise his
[L 343
power over the patient’s body; and the ship’s captain, again, con·
sidered strictly as no mere sailor, but in command of the crew,.
will study and enjoin the interest of his subordinates, not his own.
He agreed reluctantly.
And so with government of any kind: no ruler, in so far as he is
acting as ruler, will study or enjoin what is for his own interest.
All that he says and does will be said and done with a view to what
is good and proper for the subject for whom he practises his art.
[Thrasymachus can hardly challenge this last argument, based
as it is on his own ‘precise’ distinction of the ruler acting in hiS’
special capacity with knowledge and ability like the craftsman’s and
impeccable. Accordingly he takes refuge in an appeal to facts. The
ruler, from the Homeric king onwards, had been called the
shepherd of the people. Thrasymachus truly remarks that these
shepherds have commonly been less concerned with the good of
their flock than with shearing and butchering them for their own
prOfit and aggrandizement. This behaviour is called ‘injustice’ because it means getting more than one’s fair share,’ but the entirely
selfish autocrat who practises it on a grand scale is envied and admired; and Thrasymachus himself regards him as the happiest of
men. Justice, fairness, honesty, he concludes, never pay; the IzJe of
injustice is always more profitable.
Socrates leaves this more general proposition to be challenged in
the next chapter. Here he is still concerned with the art of government. He takes up the analogy of the shepherd and applies once
more Thrasymachul own distinction of ‘capacities: The shepherd
qua shepherd cares for his flock; he receives wages in a different
capacity, qua wage-earner. The fact that the rulers of mankind
expect to be rewarded shows that the proper task of governing is
commonly regarded as an irksome and unprofitable business.]
At this point, when everyone could see that Thrasymachus’ definition of justice had been turned inside out, instead of making any
reply, he said:
Socrates, have you a nurse?
Why do you ask such a question as that? I said. Wouldn’t it be
better to answer mine?
t. 3431
Because she lets you go about sniffling like a child whose nose
wants wiping. She hasn’t even taught you to know a shepherd
when you see one, or his sheep either.
What makes you say that?
Why, you imagine that a herdsman studies the interests of his
flocks or cattle, tending and fattening them up with some other
end in view than his master’s profit or his own; and so you don’t
see that, in politics, the genuine ruler regards his subjects exactly
like sheep, and thinks of nothing else, night and day, but the good
he can get out of them for himself. You are so far out in your
notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, as not to know
that ‘right’ actually means what is good for someone else, and to be

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