Saturday, 1 June 2013


Translator's Preface.

Plato (427-347 B.C.) is, together with the historian Thucydides, perhaps the foremost writer of the  Attic Greek, which has been taken ever since as the model of Ancient Greek grammar and style. Plato's "Republic" is certainly the most renowned, most influential and most well-read of all his works. While it is worth reading in Greek as a great literary work in its own right, it has been used, and indeed still is, by universities as an introduction to the study of philosophy, covering, as it does, a remarkably wide field, including Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Epistemology and Metaphysics. The title "Republic" is somewhat misleading; it has nothing to do with modern republican institutions, involving democracy and  elected presidents. It comes from the Latin word "respublica" which is itself a direct translation of the Greek word "politeia", which means the "commonwealth" which would be established around any political entity, big or small. While the book does indeed cover a wide range of subjects, its principal purpose is an enquiry into the nature of "justice", but this word - "dikaiosyne" in Greek - does not have the relatively narrow juridical overtones of the English word. In fact the "Republic" is a discussion of good or bad conduct, both in a moral and in a wider political sense. 

Book I, which Sabidius has translated below, acts as an introduction to the work as a whole. In it the principal Platonic interlocutor Socrates demolishes some common fallacies about justice: a) that it involves giving a man his due (the argument of Polemarchus); and b) that it is nothing but the right of the stronger to prevail over the weak (the argument of Thrasymachus). However, as Socrates acknowledges somewhat ruefully right at the end of Book I, he has made no progress with regard to the original purpose of the dialogue, namely what justice actually is. A consideration of this is of course dealt with in the following books.  

The Greek text used by Sabidius in this translation is that of "Plato: Republic I", edited with notes and vocabulary by D.J.Allan, in the Bristol Classical Press (2002), but first published by Methuen (1940). However, Sabidius has also made use of the structural divisions and short summaries to be found in the Penguin Books' translation of "The Republic" by H.D.P.Lee, (1955). He has also appended Lee's note on the terms used in translation at the end of this passage, and this note links back to the point made above about the meaning of the word "justice".


The scene is set and the characters are introduced. The subject of the dialogue, Justice or Right, is introduced in a preliminary discussion with Cephalus, who defines it, in effect, as telling the truth and paying one's debts.

327. (I)  Socrates:  I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon, the son of Ariston, both to pray to the goddess and at the same time wishing to see in what manner they would be making the festival, inasmuch as they were now holding (it) for the first time. The procession of the local citizens seemed to me to be fine, but that which the Thracians displayed appeared to be less conspicuous. 

Having said our prayers and having seen (the show), we were going away to town. Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, noticing us from afar making our way homewards, told his boy to run and bid (us) to wait for him. And the boy, grasping me from behind by my cloak, said "Polemarchus bids you to wait", and I turned around and asked where his master was. "(Here) he (is)," he said, "coming along behind (you); but do wait for him!" Glaucon said, "So we shall wait."

And shortly afterwards Polemarchus came up, and Adeimantus, the brother of Glaucon, and Niceratus, the son of Nicias and some others, as though from the procession.

Thereupon Polemarchus said, "Socrates, you seem to me to have set out in order to go away".

"You do not judge badly," said I.

"But do you see us, how many we are?" he said.


"Well, either you must prove yourself stronger than them," he said, "or stay here."

"But isn't there," said I, "something left, the possibility that we may persuade you that you should release us?"

"Surely you cannot persuade (people) if they do not listen?"

"Certainly not!" said Glaucon.

"So then you may assume that we shall not listen."

328.  "Don't you know that there will be a torch-race on horseback in the evening in honour of the goddess?" added Adeimantus.

"On horseback?" said I. "That (is) something new. Will they hold the torches and pass (them) to one another (as they are) racing with the horses? or how do you mean?"

"That's right," said Polemarchus. "And besides they will be making an all-night festival which (it will be) worth seeing. We shall get up after dinner and watch the all-night festival. And we shall get together with the many young men (who will be) there and we shall converse (with them). So do stay and do not do otherwise!"

"Well, it looks like we shall have to stay," said Glaucon.

"If you think so," said I, "we must do so."

(II)  So we went to the house of Polemarchus, and there we found both Lysias and Euthydemus, the brothers of Polemarchus, and, in particular, Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, and also Charmantides of Paeania and Cleitophon, the (son) of Atristonymus. And Polemarchus' father, Cephalus, was also inside. And he seemed very aged to me; for indeed I had not seen him for a long time. He was sitting, garlanded, on a kind of cushioned chair; for he happened to have been sacrificing in the courtyard. So we sat down beside him. For some chairs were placed in a circle there. 

(On) seeing me, Cephalus welcomed (me) at once and said: "You don't often come down to the Piraeus and visit us, Socrates. But you should. If I were still able to make the journey to town easily, you would not need to come here at all, but we should go (to visit) you. But at the moment you ought to come here more frequently. Since you may be sure that, in my case, as much as the other pleasures of the body decay, so one's desire for and pleasure in conversation increase. So do not do otherwise, but get to know these young men and visit us here frequently as (though you are) among friends and very close intimates."

"Yes indeed, Cephalus," I said, "(as) I at any rate enjoy talking with the very old; I think it is necessary to learn from them, as though they have gone along a certain road, which we perhaps must also travel, whatever it is like, (whether) rough and difficult or easy and broad. And especially I should gladly learn from you how this (question) appears to you, since you are already at the very time of life which indeed the poets say exists at the furthest extremity of old age, whether it is a difficult (time) of life or however else you proclaim it."

329. (III)  "(Yes), by Zeus, Socrates, I shall tell you how it seems to me. For some of us, being of a similar age, meet together at the same place, verifying the old adage. So, coming together, most of us lament, longing for the pleasures of our youth, and remembering the love affairs, the drinking parties, the feasts and certain other things which go along with such (events), and are very vexed that they have have been deprived of these great things, and that then they lived well, but now they are not living at all. And some bewail the insults to old age from one's relatives, and especially for this reason they make a song of all those bad things (for which) old age (is) responsible in their view. But to me, Socrates, they do not seem to be blaming the (real) cause. For if this were to blame, I should have experienced the same feeling as far as old age is concerned, and all those others that have come to this time of life. But I in fact have already met others not having these (feelings), and in particular I was near at hand when the poet Sophocles was once asked by someone: 'How are you managing, Sophocles, with regard to love-making? Are you still able to go with a woman?' And he said, 'Hush, man! However I have most gladly left this thing behind, as though escaping some raging thing and a savage master.' I thought that man had spoken well then and now (I do) not (think) any less (of it). For undoubtedly in old age there comes much tranquillity in such matters, and a release. When passions cease to distract (us) and relax (their hold), the (view) of Sophocles comes about, (and) there is a deliverance from a host of insane rulers. But, with regard to these (complaints) and our (relations) with our relatives, there is just one cause, not old age, Socrates, but the character of men. For, if (men) are sober and good-tempered, old age is (only) moderately burdensome; but, if (they are) not, both old age and youth turn out problematic for such a man." 

(IV)  I admired these (words) he was saying, (and) wishing (him) to speak further, I drew him out and said: "I think, Cephalus, that many people whenever you say these things of yours, do not accept them but think that you bear old age easily, not on account of your character, but because you have acquired much wealth; for they say that the rich have many consolations.

"You speak the truth," he said, "for they don't accept (it). And they are partly right, though not however as much as they suppose; but the (story) of Themistocles applies well (here), who, when being abused by a man from Seriphos who said that he was renowned not on his own account but on account of his city, (330) replied that neither could he himself have become famous if he had been a Seriphian, nor (could) that man if (he had been) an Athenian. And the same principle applies to those people (who are) not rich and are bearing old age with difficulty, because neither would a reasonable man bear old age (when joined) with poverty easily in any way at all, nor would an unreasonable (but) wealthy man ever become satisfied within himself.

"Cephalus," I said, "did you inherit most of those things which you have acquired, or did you gain (them)?"

"How much more have I made? (Is that what you are asking), Socrates?" he said. "(As) a money-lender, I have come somewhere in between my grandfather and my father. For my grandfather and my namesake, who inherited almost about as much property as I have now acquired, made (it) many times as great, and yet my father Lysanias made (it) less than it is now; I shall be content if I do not leave less, but, at least by some slight measure, more to these (lads) than I inherited."

"I asked for this reason," I said, "that you have seemed to me not to be fond of money very much, and they are, for the most part, like this, who may not have gained (it) themselves. But those who have gained (it), welcome it twice as much as others (do). For just as poets are fond of their own poems and fathers of their sons, so money-lenders are especially eager about money as their own creation, and in accordance with need in the same way as other people. So they are hard to be with, as they do not wish to commend anything but wealth."

(V)  "You speak the truth, " he said. 

"Absolutely," said I. "But tell me this further. What do you think (is) the greatest benefit you have gained from acquiring (so) much wealth?"

"(Something), which I could not perhaps persuade many people of, if I told (them). For know you well, Socrates," he said, "that, when a man may be close to thinking that he is coming to the end of his life, there come into his mind fears and anxieties concerning (matters) which had not entered into it before. For the tales (which are) told about the things (which happen) in Hades, that the man who has done wrong here must pay the penalty there, though he may have laughed at (them) hitherto, then begin to torment his mind, lest they may be true; and apart from that the man himself - either from the weakness of old age, or, as though he is nearer to the things there, he catches a glimpse of these things a little more - accordingly becomes full of fear,  and now reckons up and considers whether he has wronged anyone in any way. So he, finding in the (course of) his life  many misdeeds, having been roused repeatedly from his dreams like children, is afraid, and lives with evil forebodings. (331)  But, in the case of him who is aware of nothing wicked (done) by himself, sweet and goodly hope is ever present (as) the nurse of old age, as Pindar too says. For indeed, Socrates, that (poet) charmingly said this, that (in the case of him) who may pass his life justly and reverently "sweet hope, which especially guides the changing mind of mortals, accompanies (him), gladdening his heart, (as) the nurse of his old age."  So how very admirably he speaks! For this (reason) then I consider the possession of wealth to be worth most, not perhaps to every man, but to the decent and sober (man). For not to cheat another, (even) unintentionally, or to lie, again not owing any sacrifices to a god or money to a man, (and) thereby having to depart to that place in fear, the possession of wealth contributes a large part to this (result). It has also many other uses. But (taking) one thing against another, Socrates, I would state that for a man with sense (it is not) least for this (purpose) that wealth is so very useful."

"You speak splendidly, Cephalus," I said. "But with regard to this very thing, justice, are we (really) to say so definitely that it is truthfulness and giving back anything (which) one may have received from someone, or is it that these very things are done sometimes justly and sometimes unjustly? I mean such a thing as this: everyone would doubtless admit that, if a person were to receive weapons from a friendly man in his right mind, (and) if (then), having gone mad, he were to demand them back, we ought neither to return these things, nor would he who returned (them) be acting justly, nor again should he consent to tell all the truth to one being in such (a state of mind)."

"You speak rightly," he said.

"So this is not the definition of justice, to tell the truth and to give back what one had received."

"But (it) certainly (is) so, Socrates," said Polemarchus, interrupting, "if indeed we should put our faith in Simonides."

"Well," said Cephalus, "I am handing over the argument to you. For I must now take charge of the sacrifices." 

"Am I not heir to everything of yours?" said Polemarchus.

"Certainly," he said, laughing, and at the same time he went off to the sacrifices.


Polemarchus takes up the argument and maintains that justice is giving a man his due. Socrates draws a number of conclusions in order to demonstrate the inadequacy of the general view. 

(VI)  "Tell me then," I said, "you inheritor of the argument, "what do you affirm that Simonides, if he speaks correctly, says about justice?"

"That it is just," said he, "to give back to each man the things he is owed. In saying this, I think he speaks well."

"(It is) certainly not easy to disbelieve Simonides; for he was a wise and inspired man. "But this thing that he once said, perhaps you know (it), Polemarchus, but I am unaware (of it). For it is evident that he does not mean this thing which we were just speaking of, the return of something which had been deposited by anyone at all, (even if) he demands (it) back (while) not being in his right mind. (332)  But yet that thing which he deposited is presumably owed (to him), is it not?

"But then it ought not to be returned in any way at all whenever a man may demand it is given back, (although) not being in his right mind."

"(That is) true," he said.

"Then it seems that Simonides means something other than this, that the return of things which are owed is just."

"Something else indeed, by Zeus," he said. "For he thinks that friends owe (it) to friends to do something good (for them) and not (something) evil." 

"I understand," said I, "that he does not return the things which are owed, who may return gold to a man who has deposited (this), if the return and the acceptance become harmful, and the receiver and the returner are friends - are you not saying that Simonides means this?"

"Exactly so,"

"But how about this? Should we give back to our enemies what may happen to be owed to them?"

"Certainly, by all means," he said, "what is owing to them, and I assume that (what) is owing from an enemy to an enemy (is) also what is fitting, some evil."  

(VII)  Apparently it seems that Simonides, spoke in riddles in the manner of poets about what is just. For it seems that the just thing was this, to give back to each man what is fitting, but he names this what is due. 

"But what else do you suppose?" said he.

"Oh, in the name of Zeus," said I, "if someone had questioned him in this way: "Simonides, why is the art  which assigns what is thus owed and is fitting called the medical (art)?" what do you think he would have replied to us?"

"(It is) obvious," he said, "that it is the (art supplying) both remedies and food and drink to bodies." 

"And why is the art which assigns what is owed and fitting to someone called the culinary (art)?"

"(As it is) the (art) which imparts the flavour to our food."

"Good! So then why can an art which assigns (something) to whoever be called justice?"

"If, Socrates, we are to follow the previous examples, (as it is) the (art) which assigns both help to our friends and harm to our enemies."

"Does he mean that justice is to benefit our friends and to harm our enemies?"

"I think (so)."

"So who (is) most able to treat our friends when they are ill and harm our enemies with regard to disease and health?"

"A physician."

"And who, when thy are sailing, with regard to the perils of the sea?"

"A helmsman."

"But what about the just man? In what action and with regard to what work will he be able to help his friends and harm his enemies?"

"In making war and in making alliances, I think.

"Very well! Yet to those people not suffering, my dear Polemarchus,a physician (is) useless.

"(That's) true."

 "And so is a helmsman to those not sailing."


"And isn't the just man useless to those not at war?"

"(No), I don't think that is correct."

"And is justice useful in peace-time?"

(333)  "(Yes, it is) useful."

"But farming (is) also, is it not?"


"For getting in the harvest?"


"And also the art of the cobbler?"


"For the getting of sandals, I think you would say."

"Quite correct."

"But then what about this?"

"For the use or getting of what would you say that justice is useful in peace-time?"

"For business contracts, Socrates."

"By contracts, do you mean partnerships, or something else?"

"Partnerships, yes certainly."

"So (is) the just man a good and useful partner in placing the chess-pieces, or (is) the chess-player?"

"The chess-player."

"But in the placing of bricks and stones, (is) the just man a better and more useful partner than the house-builder?"

"By no means." not?

"But in what partnership (is) the just man a better partner than the lyre-player, just as the lyre-player is (a better partner) than the just man in (the partnership) of striking chords?"

"In (a partnership) of money-dealing, I think."

"Except, perhaps, Polemarchus, for the use of money, when it is necessary to buy or sell a horse with money in common. But then I think (it would be) the horse-trainer, wouldn't it?

"It appears (so)."

"And yet again whenever (it is) a sailing vessel (it would be) the ship-builder or the helmsman."

"It looks like it."

"So for what then is it necessary to use silver and gold in common, when the just man (would be) more useful than others?"

"When it is to be deposited and kept safe, Socrates."

"Do you not mean whenever it should not be put to use, but to lie (idle)?"


"So is it that whenever money is useless, then justice (is) useful in relation to it."

"It is likely."

"And whenever a scythe has to be guarded, justice is useful, both in public an in private, but, whenever it is used, the art of the vine-dresser (is useful)."

"(So) it appears."

"And you will say that whenever a shield and a lyre have to be guarded and not to be used, justice is useful, but whenever they are used the military and the musical (arts are useful)."

"Of necessity."

"And with regard to many other things, in the use of each one, justice (is) useless, but in its uselessness (it is) useful."

"It is likely."

(VIII)  "So, my friend, justice cannot be a very valuable thing at all, if it happens to be useful (only) to useless things. But let us consider this (point). (Is) not the man (who is) most skilful to inflict a blow, either in boxing or in some other kind of conflict, the man (who) is also (most skilful) to guard against one?"


"So (is not) he who is skilful at guarding against disease also the man (who is) also most skilful at causing (it),(while) evading detection."

"I think (so)."

(334)  "But yet the very same man (is) a good guardian of an army, who also both steals the plans of the enemy and (steals a march upon them) in respect of their other operations."

"That's right."

"So, of whatever a man is a skilful guardian, of this (he is) also a skilful thief."

"It looks like it."

"So, if the just man is skilful at looking after money, (he is) also skilful at stealing (it)."

"The argument certainly indicates that."

"So it seems that the just man has been highlighted as a kind of thief, and you are likely to have learned this from Homer; for he shows approval towards Autolycus, the maternal grandfather of Odysseus, and he says that he surpassed all men in thieving and perjury. So justice according to you, and according to Homer, and according to Simonides, seems to be a kind of stealing, but with a view to helping one's friends and harming one's enemies. Didn't you mean that?"

"No, by Zeus," he said, "but I no longer know what I did mean. Yet I still think that justice helps friends and harms enemies."

"But do you mean that friends are those those who seem to a man to be good, or those who (really) are (good), even if they do not seem (to be), and enemies likewise?"

"(It is) likely," he said, "that a man (will) love (those) whom he supposes (to be) good, and dislike (those) whom (he deems to be) bad."

"Don't men make mistakes about this, so that many men seem to them to be good when they are not, and many (are) the reverse?"

"They do make mistakes."

"So for those (who thus err) the good (are) their enemies and the bad (are) their friends?"


"But nevertheless for them (it is) just to help the wicked and harm the good?"

"It seems (so)."

"But yet the good (are) both just and incapable of being unjust."

"(That's) true."

"So, according to your reasoning (it is) just to treat badly those who are doing nothing unjust."

"By no means, Socrates; for our reasoning seems to be wrong."

"So," said I, "(it is) just to harm the unjust and to benefit the just."

"This seems a better (conclusion) than that (other) one."hem)

"It will happen then for many of those who have completely misjudged men that it is just to harm their friends, for to them they are bad, and to benefit their enemies, for (to them they are) good; and so we shall say the very opposite of what we said Simonides meant."

"It does work out very much like that. But let us change the basis of our opinion. For we are likely to have defined friend and enemy incorrectly."

"How did we define (them), Polemarchus?"

"That the man who seems good (to us) is our friend."

 "And how should we change our opinion now," said I.

"That the man who both seems and is good," said he, "(is) good; (335)  but the man who seems (good) but is not, seems (to be), but is not (really), our friend; and (there will be) the same assumption about our enemy."

"Then it seems that by this argument the friend will be the good man, and the enemy the bad man."


"Then you are asking us to add to our notion of the just man, [or in other words] as we first formulated it, when we said that it was just to treat a friend well and an enemy badly; now in addition to this we are to say thus, that it is just to treat a friend well if he is good, and to harm an enemy if he is bad."

"Exactly," he said, "(and) I think it is fairly stated in that way."

(IX)  "Is it, then," said I, "the part of a just man to harm any man whatsoever?"

"Certainly," said he. "We ought to harm both those who are bad and our enemies."

"When they are harmed, do horses become better or worse?"


"(Is that) in relation to the standard for judging horses or dogs?"

"In relation to that of horses."

"So, do dogs, when they are harmed, become worse in relation to the (standard for judging) dogs but not in relation to the standard for judging horses?"

"Of necessity."

"And must we not say then, old fellow, that men, when they are harmed, become worse in relation to the standard for judging men?"

"Indeed so."

"But is not justice the human standard of excellence?"

"This too (is) a necessity."

"So, my friend, (is it) also a necessity that those men who are harmed become more unjust?"he art of music?

"It seems (so)."

"So can musicians make men unmusical by the (art of) music?"

"(That's) impossible."

"Well then, (do) horsemen (make) men unable to ride horses by the (art of) horsemanship?"

"It is not (so)."

"Then (do) the just (make) unjust by justice, or in short (do) the good (make) men bad by virtue?"

"But (that's) impossible."

"The function of heat, I take it, to chill but of its opposite."


"Nor (is it the function) of dryness to moisten but of its opposite."


"Nor indeed (is it the function) of the good to harm but of its opposite."

"(So) it seems."

"But the just man is good, (is he not)?


"So (it is) not," Polemarchus, "the function of the just man to harm either a friend or anyone else, but (rather) the function of his opposite, the unjust man."

"I think you speak the truth entirely, Socrates," he said.

"If, then, a man affirms that it is just to give back to each man what he is owed and this means to him that harm is due to his enemies from the just man and help to his friends, it was not a wise man who said this. For he did not speak the truth; for it has been made clear to us that it is not just in any way to harm anyone."

"I concede," he said.

"So," I said, "both you and I together will take up arms (against him), if anyone affirms that either Simonides or Bias or Pittacus or any other wise and blessed men has said this."

"I am certainly ready to take part in the battle," said he.

(336)  "But do you know," said I, "whose expression I think it is, (namely) the saying that it is just to benefit our friends and harm our enemies?"

"Whose?" he said.

"I think it was (a saying) of Periander or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias the Theban or some other rich man who considered himself very powerful."

"You are speaking very much the truth," he said.

"Well," said I, "since it has been made clear that this too is not justice nor the just, what else might a man say that it is?"


1. First Statement and Criticisms.

Socrates has shown that conventional morality is muddle-headed: Thrasymachus rejects it altogether and substitutes self-interest. He represents a view which was not uncommon in the Fifth Century B.C. among the Sophists in particular, and which has indeed never lacked advocates. He starts, after some introductory argumentative sparring with Socrates, by saying that Right is the 'Interest of the Stronger'; and explains this to mean that the ruling class in any state will forcibly exact a certain type of behaviour from its subjects to suit its own interests. Morality is nothing more or less than the code of behaviour so exacted. Socrates first asks how this is affected by the fact that rulers may often be mistaken about their own interests; and then when Thrasymachus replies that rulers, qua rulers, are never mistaken, uses the techne-analogy to show that rulers don't pursue their own interests. The last argument is very theoretical and scarcely valid, but, by talking of rulers who cannot err Thrasymachus has deserted his own would-be realism, and laid himself open to a purely theoretical refutation.    

(X)  Now during our conversation Thrasymachus often tried to take hold of the argument, (but) was, at that time, restrained by those sitting beside (him) who wanted to hear the argument to the end; but, when we had quite finished and I had said this, he kept quiet no longer, but, gathering himself up like a wild beast, he threw (himself) upon us as if to tear us to pieces.

Polemarchus and I were frightened and startled; and he, shouting out into our midst, said, "What nonsense has just now taken hold of you, Socrates? and why do you play the fool, deferring yourselves to one another? but, if indeed you really wish to know what the just is, do not only ask questions nor seek popularity (by) criticising whenever someone answers anything, knowing this (as you do), that it is easier to ask (questions) than to answer (them), but both answer yourself and say what you affirm the just to be. And don't you say to me that it is what is owed nor that (it is) what (is) beneficial, nor that (it is) what (is) profitable nor that (it is) what (is) advantageous, but tell me plainly and accurately whatever you do say, as I shall not accept (it) if you say such ludicrous (words)."

And I, having heard (this) was dismayed, and, looking upon him, was afraid, and I do believe that, if I had not looked at him before he (looked at) me, I should have become speechless. Now, at the moment when he began to be exasperated by (the course of) the argument, I glanced at him first, so that I became able to answer him, and, trembling, I said: "Don't be harsh with us, Thrasymachus; for, if I and this (fellow) are going astray at all in the examination of the arguments, rest assured that we err unwillingly.You must not suppose that, if we were searching for gold, we should not then willingly defer to one another in the search and ruin (the chance) to find it, but that, when we are searching for justice, a thing more valuable than much gold, we should then give way so unreasonably to one another and not be eager that it should be discovered. Indeed you must not think (that), my friend. But (rather) I think we are not capable. (337)  So surely it is much fairer that we should be pitied by you clever ones than to be the victims of your anger."

(XI)  And he (on) hearing this, burst out laughing, and spoke very sarcastically: "By Heracles," he said, "here is that customary irony of Socrates, and I knew it and predicted that you would not be willing to answer, but that you would feign ignorance and that you would do anything rather than answer if anyone asks you anything."

"For you are wise, Thrasymachus," said I; "and so you knew well that if you were to ask anyone how much is twelve and (in) asking you give him a warning  - 'Don't you be saying to me, fellow, that twelve is twice six, or that (it is) three times four, or that (it is) six times two or that (it is) four times three!' -  it was clear to you, I think, that no one would reply to someone enquiring in such a manner. But if he said to you, 'How do you mean, Thrasymachus? May I not answer (with any of the things) which you have warned me against? Not even, (you) wonderful man, if it happens to be one of these things, but am I to say something other than the truth? Or (else) what do you mean?' What would you have said to him with regard to these (points)?"

"Well," he said, "how similar indeed this (case is) to that."

"Nothing is preventing (it)," I said, "but even if it is not similar, yet if it appears such to the person questioned, do you suppose that he will answer any the less what appears to himself whether we forbid (him) or not?"

"Surely," he said, "you are going to do this? Are you going to give in answer one of those things which I forbade?"

"I shouldn't be surprised," I said, "if, on reflection, it seemed right to me."

"What then," he said, "if I show (you) another answer about justice (different) from all of these, a better one than these? What (penalty) do you deserve to suffer?"

"What else," said I, " than it befits anyone who is ignorant to suffer? Surely it befits (him) to learn from someone who does know; and so deserve to suffer this."

"You are amusing," he said; "but in addition to the learning you must pay some money."

"Certainly, when it is available to me."

"But it's (there)," said Glaucon. "But for the sake of the money, go on speaking, Thrasymachus. For we shall all contribute for Socrates."

"(Yes) of course, I suppose," said he, "so that Socrates can contrive (to do) what is usual for him; he does not answer himself but, when another answers, he can take up an argument and refute (it)."

"But how, my good (fellow), could anyone answer, in the first place if he did not know, nor professed to know, and, secondly, even if he knew a little, (if) he had been forbidden by a man of substance to say anything about the things which he is thinking? But (it is) more reasonable that you speak; for you can affirm that you know and are able to speak. (338) So do not do otherwise but grant me a favour (by) replying and do not  be grudging in instructing Glaucon here and the others."

(XII)  When I had said these things, Glaucon and the others begged him not to do otherwise. And it was obvious that Thrasymachus was eager to speak in order to himself credit, thinking that he had a splendid answer. But he pretended to strive towards the point that I was the respondent. But finally he conceded, and then said,  (This is) the wisdom of Socrates, to be unwilling himself to teach, but, as he goes about, to learn from others and not even to give thanks in return."

"You speak the truth that I learn from others, Thrasymachus," I said, "but you are mistaken to say that I do pay thanks; for I pay as much as I can; but I can only (offer) praise; for I do not have any money. That I do this readily if I think a man speaks well, you will know very well forthwith, whenever you reply; for I do think you will speak well."

"Then listen," he said. "For I affirm that the just is not anything other than the advantage of the stronger. But why do you not applaud? Oh no, you won't wish (to do that)."

"But (I might) if I understood first what you mean," I said. "For at present I do not yet know. You affirm that the advantage of the stronger is just. But why on earth do you say this, Thrasymachus? For, presumably, you do not mean something such as this: that, if Polydamas the pancratiast (is) stronger than us and beef  is advantageous to him in respect of his body, this diet is also advantageous, and at the same time just, for us who are weaker than him."

"You are a buffoon, Socrates," he said, "and you understand (my meaning) in a way by which you most injure my statement."

"Not at all, my good (fellow)," said I, "but say what you mean more plainly."

"Then, do you not know," he said, "that some cities are ruled by tyrants, some are ruled democratically, and others are ruled by aristocracies?"


"And does this not have the mastery in each city - the ruling party?"

"Yes, of course."

"And each (form of) rule enacts laws in accordance with its own advantage, democracy democratic (laws), tyranny autocratic (laws), and the others likewise; and they declare that to enact this, the thing (which is) advantageous to themselves, is just for their subjects, and they chastise anyone deviating from it as as a lawbreaker and a wrongdoer. So this, my good friend, is what I mean, that justice is identical in all cities, (339)  (namely) the advantage of the established authority; this (authority) no doubt rules so that it works out for the man thinking correctly that the just is everywhere the same, (namely) the advantage of the stronger."

"Now," said I, "I have learned what you mean, but whether (it is) true or not, I shall try to learn. So what (is) advantageous, Thrasymachus, you reply that it is also just; and yet you forbade me to give this answer  - but that 'of the stronger' is added to it."

"A slight addition perhaps," he said.

"(It is) not yet clear whether (it is) big; but this (is) clear, that we must enquire whether you speak the truth. But, since I acknowledge that the just is to some extent advantageous, but you are adding (something) and affirm it to be the advantage of the stronger, and I do not know, we must enquire."

"Do enquire (then)," he said.

(XIII)  "This will happen," I said. "Tell me then: do you not also still say that to obey one's rulers is just?"


"Are the rulers in the various states infallible, or capable of erring to some extent?

"Certainly, I presume," he said.

"So surely (when) attempting to enact laws, do they not enact some correctly, but others incorrectly?"

"Yes, I suppose (so)."

"(Does) enacting correctly (bring) what are advantageous things to themselves and (enacting) incorrectly what (are) disadvantageous things? Or how do you mean?"

"As you say."

"So according to your argument it is just not only to do what (is to) the advantage of the stronger but also to do the opposite, (namely) what is not to their advantage?"

"What are you saying?" he said.

"What you are saying, I think. Let us consider it better. Has it not been agreed that those ruling, (when) enjoining the ruled to do something, sometimes mistake what is the best (course) for themselves, and that whatever the rulers may command it is just for the ruled to do? Has this not been agreed?"

"Yes, I think (so)," he said.

"Then you must think," said I, "that to do what (is) disadvantageous to the rulers and to the stronger has been admitted to be just, whenever the rulers command bad things for themselves, and (whenever) you affirm that it is just for the others to do what they commanded - then is it not inevitable, my most wise Thrasymachus, that it should turn out as follows, that it is just to do the opposite of what you say? For what (is) disadvantageous to the stronger is surely enjoined for the weaker to do."

(340)  "Yes, by Zeus, Socrates," said Polemarchus, "it is indeed very clear."

"Of course, if you bear witness to him," said Cleitophon, interrupting.

"But why does one need a witness? For Thrasymachus himself admits that the rulers sometimes command  bad things for themselves, and yet it is just for the ruled to do this."

"(Yes), Polemarchus, "for Thrasymachus laid it down that to do  the things commanded by the rulers is just."

"(Yes), Cleitophon, and he also laid it down that the advantage of the stronger is just. And, having laid down both these things, he again admitted that the strong sometimes order the weaker and their subjects to do things unfavourable to themselves. And from these admissions the just would no more be what is advantageous to the stronger than what is not advantageous."

"But," said Cleitophon, "he meant the advantage of the stronger (to be) what the stronger supposed to be advantageous to himself. This was what must be done by the weaker and he laid this down (as) what (is) just."

"But he did not speak in such a way," said Polemarchus.

"It does not matter at all, Polemarchus," said I, "but, if Thrasymachus now means (it) in this way, let us take (it) from him in that sense."

(XIV)  "So, tell me, Thrasymachus, what you meant to define justice (to be), (namely) the advantage of the stronger, whether (it is) advantageous or not? Are we to say that you mean (it) in this way?"

"(Not) at all," said he; "do you think I call one who errs stronger whenever he errs?"

"I certainly thought," said I, "that you meant this, when you agreed that the rulers were not infallible, but made mistakes to some extent."

"But that is because you are malicious in your arguments, Socrates," he said. "For instance when do you call someone who has erred about the sick a doctor in respect of that thing about which he is in error? or someone who may err in his calculations an accountant in respect of that error at the (very) moment when he errs? But I take it we speak thus in our expression, that the doctor has erred and the accountant has erred and the school-master (as well), whereas in fact I think that each of them, in so far as he is that which we call him, never errs, so that in accordance with accurate wording, and since you are a stickler for accuracy, no one amongst the craftsmen errs. For, when his knowledge abandons (him), the erring man makes a mistake, while he is not a craftsman; so that no craftsman or scientist or ruler errs at the time when he is a ruler, but everyone would say that the doctor makes a mistake and the ruler makes a mistake. So, suppose that I was trying to give the answer in such a way to you just now, but the most precise statement happens to be that, (namely) that the ruler in so far, as he is ruling, does not err, (341)  and not erring he enacts what (is) best for himself, and this must be done by his subject. So that I say that the just thing (is) the very thing which I meant from the start, (namely) to do what (is to) the advantage of the stronger."

(XV)  "Well then, Thrasymachus," I said, "do I seem malicious to you?"

"Indeed so," he said.

"So do you think that out of malice and (wishing) to injure (you) in these arguments, I asked you as I did ask."

"Indeed, I know (it) well," he said. "But you will not gain anything further (in that respect). For you may neither take me by surprise (by) acting with stealth, nor, if you do not take me by surprise, can you overcome (me) in argument."

"I should not even have attempted (that), my blessed (chap)," I said. "But in order that no such thing should spring up between us again, define whether you are speaking of the ruler and the stronger, to describe him in (one) word, or in the precise sense in which you were speaking just now, (and)  for whose advantage, (as) being the stronger, it will be just for the weaker to act."

"I mean being the ruler in the most precise sense of the word," he said. Against this injure and slander (me), if you are at all able - I ask no mercy from you, but you are not likely to be able (to do so).

"So, do you (really) think, "said I, "that I am so mad as to try to beard the lion and trick Thrasymachus?"

"You most certainly tried just now," he said, "(although) in that respect also you were no good at all."

"Enough of such things," I said. "But tell me, is the doctor in the precise (sense of) the word, about whom you were just speaking, a money-maker or a healer of the sick? And talk of someone (who is) really a doctor."

"A healer of the sick," he said.

"And what of the helmsman? Is the rightly (called) helmsman a ruler of sailors or a sailor?"

"A ruler of sailors."

"It is not necessary, I imagine, for this to be taken into account, (namely) that he sails in the ship, nor should we call him a sailor; for he is not called a helmsman in respect of his sailing, but in respect of his skill and his rule of the sailors."

"True," he said.

"Is there not something advantageous for each of them?"

"Of course."

"And does not the skill naturally exist for this," said I," (namely) to discover and to devise what (is) advantageous to each man?"

"For this (purpose)," he said.

"So, is there for each one of the arts something advantageous other than whatever is its greatest perfection?"

"Why are you asking this?"

"Just as if," I said, "you should ask me whether it is sufficient for the body to be the body or whether it is in need also of something (else), I should say that, 'It is certainly in such need. For this (reason) the medical art has now been found, because the body is defective, and it is not enough for it to be of such a kind. So, in order to provide for this, (namely) what (is) advantageous, the art was invented for this (purpose).' (In) speaking thus,  do you think I am speaking correctly, or not?"

"Correctly," he said.

(342)  "But how about this? Is the medical art itself defective, or is there any other art that also has need of some virtue - just as the eyes (have need) of vision and the ears (have need) of hearing, and for this reason there is a need of some art over them that will consider and provide what (is) advantageous for these very (purposes) - but (is there) some defect in the art itself and is there a need in each art of another art which will consider what (is) advantageous to it and (is there a need) of such another in turn for the considering art, and this is unending? Or will it itself consider what (is) advantageous to itself? Or does it also have need neither of its own or of another's (skill) to consider what (is) advantageous in relation to its own defect? For neither any defect nor flaw is present in any art nor is it fitting for an art to seek what (is) advantageous to (anything) other than that of which the art is (comprised), but each (by) being correct is in itself faultless and unimpaired, so long as, taken in the accurate sense, it is entirely what it is. And consider (the matter) in that precise sense; is it so or otherwise?"

"It appears (to be) so," he said.

"So the medical art," I said, "does not look for what (is) advantageous to the medical (art) but (for what is advantageous) to the body."

"Yes," he said.

"Nor (the art of) horsemanship to (the art of) horsemanship but to horses; nor (does) any other art (look out) for itself - for it does not need to -  but for that of which it is the art."

"So it seems," he said.

"But yet, Thrasymachus, the arts rule and control that of which they are the arts."

There he conceded, but very reluctantly.

"So no science considers or enjoins what (is) advantageous to the stronger but that of the weaker which is ruled by it."

This he agreed to in the end, but he tried to fight about it; but after he conceded, "So (is there) anything else," said I, " than that no doctor, in so far as (he is) a doctor, considers or enjoins what (is) advantageous to a doctor, but (what is advantageous) to the sick? For the doctor, precisely defined, has been agreed to be a ruler of bodies but not a money-maker. Or has it not been agreed?"

He consented.

"So the helmsman, precisely defined, is a ruler of sailors but not a sailor?"

It was agreed.

"Then that sort of helmsman and ruler will not consider and enjoin what (is) advantageous to the helmsman but what (is advantageous) to the sailor whom he rules."

He consents reluctantly.

"Then surely, Thrasymachus," said I, "neither does anyone else in any position of rule, in so far as he is a ruler, consider or enjoin what is advantageous to himself, but what (is advantageous) to the ruled, and on whose behalf he himself exercises his craft, and, keeping his eyes fixed on that and what (is) advantageous and suitable to that, he says what he says and does what he does."

2.  Second Statement and Final Refutation.

To avoid a formal defeat in the argument Thrasymachus interrupts it with a reiteration of his main contention. This may be summarised in a contention from Marx: 'Political power properly so-called is  merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.' Thrasymachus regards conventional morality as a mere by-product of the process of oppression and exploitation: but unlike Marx he regards the class-conflict as a permanent feature of society, and not one that will be resolved in some future ideal state. In addition, he considers that the pursuit of self-interest, in its narrowest and most selfish form, is natural and right for everyone, though only seen in its perfect and uninhibited form in the tyrant. 

Socrates deals first with the more strictly political part of Thrasymachus' thesis, and argues that government, like any other form of professional skill, has its own standard of achievement, and is not merely a matter of profit-making or exploitation. The argument that 'money-making' or 'profit-making' is a separate activity may seem artificial to modern minds, for do we not exercise our profession to make our living? But what Plato is trying to say is that government is a job or profession like others, with specific tasks to perform, which it may perform well or ill, and that what the individual 'makes out of it' (as we should say) is to that extent irrelevant. 

(343)  (XVI)  

Then, since we  were so far advanced in the discussion and it was obvious to all that the definition of justice had come round to the opposite, Thrasymachus, instead of replying, said, "Tell me, Socrates, do you have a nurse?"

"What (do you mean)?" said I. "(Why) shouldn't you answer (my question) rather than asking such things?"

"Because," he said, "she really overlooks your snivelling around, and doesn't wipe your nose, (although) you need it, you who recognises for her not even the sheep or the shepherd."

"Why in particular (do you say) that?" I said.

"Because you think that the shepherds or the herdsmen are considering the good of the sheep or the (good) of the cattle, and fatten and tend them, looking towards anything other than the good of their masters and the (good) of themselves, and you especially think that those ruling in the cities, who are really ruling, are feeling towards their subjects somewhat differently than as a man might be disposed towards his sheep and consider them through night and day in some way other than something from which they themselves will receive a profit. You are so wide of the mark concerning the just and justice and the unjust and injustice that you are unaware that justice and the just (is) the good of another, in reality the advantage of the stronger and (the one) ruling, and the detriment (is) peculiar to (the one) obeying and serving, and that injustice (is) the opposite, and rules those who are in truth simple and just, and they who are ruled do what (is to) the advantage of that man who is stronger and make him happy (by) serving him but not themselves even to a limited extent. Any you should look at (the matter), my most simple-minded Socrates, in this way, that the just man always has less than the unjust man. Firstly, in their dealings between man and man, where any man may have been in partnership with another, you will nowhere find at the dissolution of the partnership the just man having more than the unjust man, but (rather having) less. Then, in matters concerning the city, whenever there are any taxes (to be paid), the just man contributes more from an equal estate, and the other (contributes) less, and whenever there are distributions the one gains nothing and the other a great deal. For whenever either man holds any office, it is the lot of the just man, even if (there is) no other loss, to maintain his own affairs most wretchedly due to neglect, and not to be benefited in any way by the public (fund), on account of his being just, and, in addition to this, he will be hateful to both his relatives and his acquaintances, whenever he is unwilling to serve them due to his (sense of) justice; but all the opposite things are available to the unjust man. I mean, of course, (the man) of whom I was speaking just now, (that is) the man who is able to take advantage on a large scale; (344)  so study this (type of man), if you wish to judge by how much more it benefits him privately to be unjust than his (being) just. And of all things you will understand (it) most easily, if you go to the most extreme injustice, which makes the unjust man most happy and those who have been wronged and are not willing to do wrong most miserable. And this is tyranny, which takes away, both by stealth and by force, what belongs to others, both sacred and profane, both private and public, not piecemeal but wholesale. With regard to each part of these (wrongdoings), whenever any unjust man does not evade (justice), he is punished and has the greatest disgrace - for those doing wrong are in turn called temple-robbers and kidnappers and house-breakers and swindlers and thieves in respect of such crimes - but, when in addition to the property of citizens, a man kidnaps and enslaves them, instead of those shameful names, they are called fortunate and blessed, not only by all citizens but also by those others who may learn of him who has wrongly committed extreme injustice. For those reviling wrongdoing revile (it), fearing not doing unjust things but suffering (them). Thus, Socrates, injustice occurring on a large scale exists strongly and more freely and more powerfully than justice, and, as I said, from the beginning, justice happens to be the advantage of the stronger, and injustice (is something) more profitable and advantageous to oneself."

(XVII)  Having said these things, Thrasymachus had (it) in mind to leave, like a bath attendant pouring upon our ears abundant and numerous words; but those present did not allow him (to do so), but compelled (him) to remain and to provide an explanation of what he had said. And I myself especially emphasised this need also, and said, "My dear Thrasymachus, (after) hurling such a  doctrine among (us), do you have (it) in mind to depart before instructing (us) sufficiently or learning (yourself) whether it is thus or otherwise?" Or do you think you are attempting to define a trivial matter, but not the whole conduct of life by which way each of us may live (by) passing the most profitable life?"

"Do I think it is otherwise?" said Thrasymachus.

"You appear (to do so)," said I. "Or else you (appear) to care nothing for us, nor even to pay attention at all (as to) whether we shall live better or worse, being ignorant of what you claim to know, but, my good (fellow), do be keen to prove (it) to us also - (345)  nor indeed will it be a bad investment for you that you may confer benefits on us, being as many (as we are) - for I tell you what (is) my view, (namely) that I am not persuaded, nor do I think, that injustice is more profitable than justice, not even if someone allows it to do what it wishes and does not shackle (it). But, my dear (fellow), (suppose a man) to be unjust, and to be able to act unjustly, either by stealth or by force, nevertheless his (example) does not persuade me that it is more profitable than justice. Now someone else among us may perhaps have felt this also, not only myself. Persuade us then sufficiently, my dear (fellow), that (in) valuing justice more than injustice we are not thinking correctly."

"And how shall I persuade you?" he said. "For if you have not been persuaded by what I said just now, what can I still do for you? Or am I to bring the argument and put (it) into your mind?"

"By Zeus," said I, "don't you (do that)! But in the first place, stick with those things which you may have said,   or if you ever shift your ground, change (it) openly and do not deceive us. But now you see, Thrasymachus - for let us still consider the previous matters - that, (though) you wished at first to define a doctor in the true sense of the word, you no longer thought it was necessary to maintain precisely the (definition of) shepherd in the true sense of the word but you think that he, in so far as he is a shepherd, fattens his flock, looking not towards what (is) best for the flock, but, like some guest about to enjoy a feast, with a view to the banquet, or again with a view to a sale, as though (he were) a businessman and not a shepherd. But the art of the shepherd is surely not concerned with anything other than how to provide the best for that over which it has been placed - since its own affairs have surely been provided for sufficiently, such that it is the best (estate), so long as it in no way falls short of being the shepherd's art - and for these reasons I have just now concluded that it is compulsory for us to acknowledge that every kind of rule, in so far as (it is) a rule, will consider what (is) best for nothing other than that thing which is ruled and cared  for by it, both in public and private rule. And do you think that those ruling in the true sense of the word, are ruling willingly?"

"By Zeus," he said, "I don't (think it), but I know well (they do)."


"But why?" said I. "Do you not notice that no one wishes to exercise willingly the other (kinds of) rule, but they ask for payment as there will be no benefit to them from their rule but (only) to their subjects?" (346)  So tell me this much: do we not say generally that each of the arts is different in the extent to which it has a different function? And, my dear (fellow), in order that we can achieve something, do not answer contrary to your (real) belief."

"But (yes), (it is) different in this (respect)," he said.

"And does not each one provide some benefit to us peculiar to itself but not general, as for instance the medical art health, the art of the helmsman safety in sailing, and then others similarly?"

"Of course."

"And (does) not the art of wage-earning (produce) a reward? For that is its function. Would you call the medical (art) and the (art of the) helmsman the same? Or, if you wish to define words precisely, as you proposed originally, (but) not in any way at all after that, if anyone steering (a ship) becomes healthy, because (it was) advantageous to him to sail on the sea, on account of this do you rather call it the medical (art)?

"Certainly not," he said.

"Nor, I presume, (do you call it the art of) wage-earning, if a man earning money is in (good) health?"

"Of course not."

"But what (of this)? (Do you call) the medical (art the art of) earning wages, if a man earns wages (while) healing?"

"No," he said.
"Did we not acknowledge that the benefit of each art is peculiar (to it)?"

"(So) be it!" he said.

"So, whatever benefit all craftsmen receive in common (it is) obvious that (by) using in addition some identical thing in common, they derive benefit from that."

"(So) it seems," he said.

"And we say that (when) craftsmen derive benefit (by) earning a wage, this comes to them by their using in addition the art of wage-earning."

He assented with reluctance.

"Then this benefit, (that is) the taking of payment, does not accrue to each man from his own art, but, if we must consider (it) precisely, the medical (art) produces health, and the art of wage-earning the payment, and the (art of) architecture a house, but the (art of) wage-earning which follows it a fee, and similarly (with) all the others, each performs his own task and benefits that over which he has been placed. But unless payment is added to it, will it be that the craftsman derives a benefit from his craft?"

"It appears not," he said.

"Then does he bestow no benefit whenever he works for nothing?"

"(Yes), I think (he does)."

"(Is) this not now clear, Thrasymachus, that no art or authority provides what (is) profitable to itself, but (something) which we have spoken about previously, it provides and enjoins this to its subject, considering what is (to) the advantage of that weaker (party), but not what (is to the advantage) of the stronger? Because of this, dear Thrasymachus, I said just now that no one wants to rule willingly and to take charge of other people's troubles in order to rectify(them),  without demanding payment, (347)  because he who is about to practise his art well never does or enjoins what (is) best for himself, when he gives instructions in accordance with his art, but (what is best) for his subject. On account of these things, so it seems, pay must be made available to those who are about to consent to rule, either money or honours or a penalty, if (a man) does not rule."


"How can you say this, Socrates?" said Glaucon. "For I recognise the two (forms of) reward, but I did not understand the penalty of which you speak and in what sense you have proclaimed (it) in place of a reward."

"Then," I said, "you do not understand the reward of the best men, on account of which the most suitable men govern, whenever the consent to rule. Or are you not aware that to be covetous of honours and (to be) money-loving is reckoned to be a disgrace?"

"I (do know that)," he said.

So, on this account," I said, good men do not agree to rule for the sake of money, or for honours; for they do not wish to be called hirelings (by) openly exacting payment in respect of their rule, nor (to be called) thieves (by) taking stealthily from their office themselves. Nor again for the sake of honours; for they are not covetous of honours. So compulsion and a penalty must be attached to them if they are on the point of consenting to govern - for this reason it seems to be that to approach governing willingly but not awaiting compulsion has been thought dishonourable - but the greatest penalty (is) to be ruled by (someone) worse, if (a man) does not rule himself. Fearing this, decent men seem to me to rule, whenever they can rule, and in fact they approach ruling not as if they are going to something good or as if they are going to enjoy themselves in it, but as something unavoidable and not being in a position to entrust (it) to better men than themselves nor even to men like them. Since it is likely that, if a city of good men (only) were to exist, not having to rule would be contended for as ruling (is) now, and that there it would become clear that in truth the genuine ruler does not by nature have regard for what (is) advantageous to himself but what (is advantageous) to the ruled. As a result every man of understanding would choose to be benefited by another rather than to have the bother of benefiting another."

Socrates now turns to the other part of Thrasymachus' argument, that the pursuit of self-interest or injustice is preferable to justice. He deals with it in three stages.

(A)  In the first he makes considerable play with ambiguities in the Greek language which it is difficult to render in English. The basis of the argument is again the Techne analogy. No two craftsmen or professional men are in disagreement about the standards of correctness in their own particular craft or profession, and in that sense are not in competition with each other; and since just men also do not compete with each other in this way, they are analogous to the skilled craftsman, and so the just man is 'wise and good', which is what Thrasymachus had denied. 

"So I by no means concede this (point) to Thrasymachus, that justice is the advantage of the stronger. But we shall consider this hereafter. But it seems to me that a much weightier matter is what Thrasymachus is now saying, (when) asserting that the life of the unjust man is better than that of the just man. So, which of the two do you choose, Glaucon," I said, "and which one seems to you to be said more truthfully?"

"I (say) that the life of the just man is more profitable," he said.

"Did you hear," I said, "how many good things Thrasymachus has just now described in the (life) of the unjust man?"

(348)  "I heard," he said, "but I am not persuaded."

 "Then do you wish that we should try to persuade him, if we can somehow find a way, that he does not speak the truth?"

"Of course I wish (it)," said he.

"Therefore," said I, "if we, contending with him, were to relate to him in argument upon argument how many good things there are which justice on the contrary has, and he (replies) in turn, and we (say) something else, we shall have to count up and measure how many good things we each are saying in each (list), and then we shall have the need for some judges to decide (between us); but, if, as though having just reached agreement with each other, we shall have regard for one another, we ourselves shall at the same time be both judges and pleaders."

"Quite so," he said.

"So which course do you prefer," I said.

"The latter," he said.

(XX)  "Come then, Thrasymachus," I said, "answer us from the beginning. Do you affirm that complete injustice is more profitable than justice which is complete?" 

"Indeed I affirm (it)," he said, "and I have told (you) why."

"Well then, how would you express (yourself) on this point about them? I presume you call one of them a virtue, and the other a vice?"

"Of course."

"So (is) justice the virtue and injustice the vice?"

"(That is) indeed likely, you dearest (of fellows)," he said, "when I say that injustice pays and justice doesn't."

"But what then (pray)?"

"The opposite," said he.

"(Do you mean) that justice is a vice?"

"No, but merely a sublime simplicity."

"So do you call injustice a badness of character?"

"No, but good judgment," he said.

"Do you, Thrasymachus, regard the unjust to be wise and good?"

"Yes (if they are) capable of being completely unjust," he said, "and if they are able to subject to themselves both cities and tribes of men; but perhaps you are thinking that I am talking about those who snatch purses? Such things are indeed profitable," said he, "if they escape notice, but such things are not worthy of account, but (only) the things which I spoke of just now."

"I am not unaware of what you wished to say, but I am surprised at this, if you should place injustice in the category of virtue and courage, and justice in the opposite (categories)."

"But I do certainly place (them) in this way."

"This," said I, (is) now a more stubborn (position), my friend, and (it is) no longer easy to know what one might say (in reply). For, if you were maintaining that injustice (is) profitable, yet you were confessing it to be vicious or shameful, as some others (do), we might have something to argue over, (when) arguing in accordance with convention; but now you are clear that you are affirming that it is both fine and strong and you will add to it all the other things which we have been used to ascribe to justice, (349)  since you have ventured to place it in the (category of) virtue and wisdom."

"You prophesy the truest things," he said.

"But yet," said I, "I must not shrink from following through enquiring into this argument, so long as I think you are saying what you believe. For I do not think, Thrasymachus, that you are now simply mocking us, but you are telling (us) what you think about the truth."

"What does it matter to you," he said, " whether I believe it or not, but shouldn't you examine the argument?"

"(It does) not (matter) at all," said I. "But try further to answer me this in addition to those things (which you have been saying). Do you think the just man would wish to surpass (another) just man?"

"Not at all, " he said. "For he would not (then) be the charming and simple (man) that (he) now (is)."

"But what (about this)? (Would he wish to go beyond) the just (action)?"

"(He would) not (go beyond) the just action," he said.

"But would he deem it proper to outdo the unjust man and think (this) to be just, or would he not think (it just)?"

"He would think it and deem (it) proper, but he would not be able (to do it)."

"But I am not asking that," said I, "but whether the just man does not consider it proper or wish to surpass (another) just man, but (only) an unjust man?"

"That's the case," he said.

"But what about the unjust man? Does he consider it proper to outdo the just man and the just (action)?"

"Of course," he said, "(for it is he) indeed who considers it right to have more of everything."

"Therefore the unjust man will outdo both an unjust man and an (unjust) action and will strive to take the best of everything himself, (won't he)?"

"That is (so)."

(XXI)  "Let us put it in this way," I said; "the just man does not (seek to) outdo his like, but his unlike, but the unjust man (seeks to outdo) both his like and his unlike."

"You have put (it) very well," he said.

"But the unjust man is both wise and good, and the just man is neither," I said.

"That too (is) well (put)," he said.

"Therefore," said I, "the unjust man is like the wise man and the good man, and the just man is not like (them), (is he)?"

"Of course," he said, "being such a man he is like such men, and the other is not like (them)."

"Fine". So each of them is such a man as those he resembles.

"What (else) is likely?"

"Very well, Thrasymachus; but do you speak of someone (as) musical and another (as) unmusical?"


"Which one (is) wise and which one (is) unwise?"

"The musical man (is) wise, I suppose, and the unmusical man (is) unwise."

"Surely (he is) good where (he is) wise and bad where (he is) ignorant?"


"But what of the doctor?" (Is it) not the same?

(Yes), the same."

"So do you think, my dearest (friend), that any musical man, (while) tuning a lyre, would wish to outdo another musical man in the tightening and relaxation of its strings, and would consider it proper to surpass him?"

"I do not think so."

"But then, (would he wish to outdo) the unmusical man?"

"Obviously," he said.

"And what of the doctor? (350)  Would he wish in (prescribing) food or drink to outdo (another) doctor in any way, either the (medical) man or the (medical) procedure?"

"Certainly not."

"But (he would wish to outdo) the unmedical man, (wouldn't he)?


"Then consider with regard to all knowledge and ignorance, whether you think that anyone who is knowledgeable would wish to choose either to do or to say more than another who is knowledgeable (might do or say), and not (rather) the same things (to be done or said) by one who is like himself in the same action."

"Maybe it must be so," he said.

"But what of the ignorant man? Would he not (wish to) outdo in the same way both the knowledgeable man and (another) ignorant man?"


"But the knowledgeable man (is) wise, (isn't he)?

"I say (so)."

"And (isn't) the wise man good?

"I say (so)."

"Then the good and wise man will not wish to outdo his like, but his unlike and his opposite."

"It seems that way," he said.

"And the bad and ignorant man (will outdo) his like and his opposite."

"It looks like it."

"Does not our unjust man, Thrasymachus, outdo both his unlike and like? Or did you not say this?"

"Yes, I (did)," he said.

"But the just man will not outdo his like, but (only) his unlike, (won't he)?


"So," said I, "the just man is like the wise and good man and the unjust man (is like) the bad and ignorant man."

"That seems to be the case."

"But yet we agreed that each thing is such as (that thing) which each resembles."

"Yes, we agreed (that)."

"So the just man is revealed to us (as) being both good and wise, and the unjust man both ignorant and bad."

(XXII)  Then Thrasymachus admitted all these things not as easily as I now relate (them), but being dragged from him with difficulty and with a wonderful amount of sweat, because it was summer. And then I beheld something (I had) not yet (seen) before, (namely) Thrasymachus blushing, but when we did reach agreement that justice and wisdom is virtue and injustice (is) vice and ignorance, I said, "Very well, may this be settled for us thus, but we were also affirming that injustice was something strong. Or don't you remember, Thrasymachus?"

"I do remember," he said; "but I don't agree with (those things) which you are now saying, and I am able to reply with regard to them. But if I were to speak I know (very) well that you would say I was delivering a harangue.  So, either allow me to speak as much as I want, or, if you wish to ask (me questions), (go ahead and) ask! And I, just like (we do) for old women telling their stories, will say to you, "Very good," and I shall nod (my head) in assent and shake (it) in dissent."

"But not otherwise, than in accordance with your (real) opinion," I said.

"(I shall), so that it pleases you," he said, since you do not allow (me) to speak. And yet do you want anything else?"

"Nothing, by Zeus," said I, "but if indeed you propose to do this, do (so); and I shall ask (the questions)."

"Ask (them) then."

(B)  Thrasymachus had claimed that injustice is a source of strength. On the contrary, says Socrates, it is a source of disunity and therefore of weakness. There must be honour among thieves if they are to achieve any common aim. 

"So I ask this (question), as (I asked) recently, in order that we may conduct the argument in sequence, (351)  (that is) what kind of thing does justice happen to be in comparison with injustice. For it was said, I believe, that injustice is more effective and stronger than justice; but now," I said, "if justice is wisdom and virtue, it will, I think, be easily shown (to be) a stronger thing than injustice - no one could still be ignorant of this - but, Thrasymachus, I don't want to examine the matter in so simple a fashion but, if possible, in the following manner: you would agree, (wouldn't you), that it was unjust for a city to attempt both to subject other cities to itself wrongly and, when it had enslaved (them), to hold many in subjection to itself."

"Of course," he said, "and the best (city), being most completely unjust, will do this most effectively."

"I realise," I said, "that this was your argument. But I am considering this (point) in relation to it: whether the city which shows itself stronger than (another) city will maintain this power without justice, or whether it must  (maintain it) with justice?"

"If," he replied, "what you were saying just now holds (good), (that is), justice (implies) wisdom, (it must be combined) with justice; if (it is) as I said, (it must be combined) with injustice."

"I am really full of admiration , Thrasymachus," I said, "that you are not only nodding and shaking (your head), but also you are giving really excellent replies."

"I (am trying to) please you," he said.


"You are doing well; but do please me and tell me this too; do you think that a city or an army or (a group of) bandits or thieves or any other class, in so far as it is planning any unjust (action) in common, can accomplish anything if they wrong one another?"

"Certainly not," said he.

"But what if they did not wrong one another? (Would they) not (do) better?"


"For surely, Thrasymachus, injustice and hatred bring factions and conflicts among themselves, but justice (brings) concord and love. Isn't that so?"

"Let it be so," said he, "in order that I may not differ with you."

"You are doing well, my very good (fellow). But tell me this: if it is the result of injustice to engender hatred wherever it may be found, won't it, when it springs up among both freemen and slaves, cause them to hate one another, and to be incapable of acting in common with one another?"


"But what if it appears between two persons? Will they not quarrel, and hate and be enemies both of each other and of just men."

"They will," he said.

"But then, Thrasymachus, if injustice arises in a single person, it will never lose its power, will it, or it will retain it nonetheless?"

"Let it keep it nonetheless."

"And is it not apparent that its power is such, that, wherever it appears, whether in some city, or nation or army or anything else whatsoever, (352)  it firstly renders it incapable of cooperating with itself, on account of faction and differences, and further on account of its being an enemy both to itself and to every opponent and to the just? (Is that) not so?"


"Then in the individual too, I presume, its being present will effect those same things which it is indeed its nature to work at: firstly, it will make him incapable of action with him being in conflict with himself and not being of one mind, and then (being) an enemy to himself and to the just. That's so, isn't it."


"And the gods, my friend, are also just, (aren't they)?"

"Let them be (so)," he said.

"So, the unjust man will be hateful to the gods as well, Thrasymachus, but the just man will be dear (to them)."

"Revel in your argument with confidence," he said; "for I shall not oppose you, so as not to incur the hatred of these men. "

"Go on then," said I, "and complete the remaining (parts) of my entertainment (by) answering as (you have) just now. For just men seem wiser and better and more able to act, and unjust men (are) not at all capable of acting in common with one another, but then, (if) we ever say that any men who are unjust vigorously accomplish anything in common with one another, we do not tell this altogether (as) the truth; for they would not have kept their hands off each other if they had been entirely unjust, but (it is) obvious that there was in them some (element of) justice, which caused them not to wrong one another as well as (those) whom they were at the same time attacking, (and) on account of this they accomplished what they did and they set out in the direction of injustice being (only) half-corrupted  by injustice, since utter rascals (who are) completely unjust are completely incapable of (effective) action. I understand that these things are so, but (they are) not as you laid down originally."

(C)  Finally, Socrates shows that the just man is happier than the unjust. Using the idea of 'function', he argues that man needs justice to enable him to perform his own particular function. Justice, however, remains undefined. 'Happiness depends on conformity to our nature as active beings. What active principles that nature comprises, and how they are organised into a system we learn in the immediately following books' (Taylor, Plato, p.270). 

"But, whether the just also live better than the unjust and are happier (than they are), (something) which we proposed to examine later, must (now) be considered. They appear (to be) even now, as it seems to me, from what we have been saying. But nevertheless we must still consider (this) more carefully. For the argument is not about something casual, but about in what manner we should live."

"So proceed with your enquiry," he said.

"I am proceeding," I said. "Now tell me, do you think that a horse has a function?"

"I do think so."

 "So would you define the function of a horse (to be) that which one can either only do with it or (do it) best?"

"I don't understand," he said.

"Well, (take it) in this way: is there (anything) by which you can see other than eyes?"

"Obviously not."

"And then, is there anything by which you can hear other than ears?"

"Nothing at all."

"Would we not be rightly saying that these things are the functions of these (organs)?"

"Yes, certainly."

"And again, (353)  could you cut the branches of a vine with a dirk and a knife and many other (instruments)?"

"How else?"

"But by nothing so well, I presume, as by a pruning-knife, which was manufactured for this purpose?"

"(That's) true."

"So shall we not agree that this is its function?"

"We should agree (it to be) so."

(XXIV)  "Then you may now understand better I think what I meant when I asked just now whether that is not the function of each thing, (namely) whatever it alone can perform or can perform better than anything else?"

"Well, I do understand," he said, "and I think that the function of each thing is that."

"Very good," said I. "So do you not think that there is a virtue to each thing to which some function has been assigned? Let us go back again to those examples: we say that the eyes have some function."

"They do have."

"Do the eyes also have a virtue?"

"(Yes), they have."

"And again, did the ears have some function?"


"And so also a virtue?"

"(Yes), a virtue also."

"And what about everything else? (Is it) not the same?"

"(It's) the same."

 "Then, take account of (this): could the eyes ever perform their function well, if they did not have their proper excellence, but a defect instead of their excellence."

"How could (they)?" he said; "for presumably you mean blindness instead of sight?"

"Whatever their excellence may be," said I; "for I am not yet asking that (question) but whether what is operating will perform its own function well by its own virtue and badly by (its own) defect."

"You say this truly," he said.

"And won't the ears, if they are deprived of their own virtue perform their function badly?"

"Yes, certainly."

"So do we apply all other things to the same argument?"

"I think (so)."

"Come then, consider this with these things. Is there any function which you could not perform with anything else in the world other than the mind, (things) such as the following: management, and government and deliberation, and all such things. Is there anything else except the mind to which you could rightly assign these things, and we could say that they were characteristic of it?

"(There is) nothing else."

"And again, what about life? Shall we not say that is a function of the mind?"

"Most certainly," he said.

"Do we not also say that the mind has a certain virtue?

"We do say (that)."

"So will the mind ever accomplish its own function if it is deprived of its virtue, or (is that) impossible?

"(It's) impossible."

"So (it is) inevitable that, in the case of a bad mind it rules and governs badly, and in the case of a good (one)
it does these things well."

"(It's) inevitable."

"Did we not agree that the virtue of the mind is justice and that its defect (is) injustice."

"Yes, we did agree (that)."

"So the just mind and the just man will live well, and the unjust (will live) badly."

"It seems (so)," he said, "according to your argument."

(354)  "But yet the man who lives well (is) blessed and happy, and the man (who does) not (is) the opposite."

"Of course."

"So the just man is happy and the unjust man (is) miserable."

"Let them be so," he said.

"But yet it does not pay to be miserable, but (to be) happy."

"Of course not."

"So, my dear Thrasymachus, injustice is never more profitable than injustice."

"May you feast on these things during the festival of Bendis," he said.

"(That will be) thanks to you, Thrasymachus, I said, since you have become gentle with me and you have ceased to be angry. I have not dined well, however, because of myself, and not because of you, but just as gluttons always snatch at everything that is handed around and taste (it) before they have benefited in moderation from the preceding (course), so I think in a similar way, that before I found what we were considering first, (namely) what justice is, (and), having let go of that, I set out to consider with regard to it, whether it was vice or ignorance, or wisdom and virtue, and again, when the view occurred (to us) later that injustice (was) more profitable than justice, I did not refrain from turning to this from that (other topic), so that for me it has now resulted from our discussion that I know nothing; for when I do not know what justice is, I shall scarcely know whether it happens to be a specific virtue or not, and whether the man possessing it is not happy or happy."


Note on Some Terms Used in Translation.

One of the standing difficulties of translation is that words do not bear the same range of meaning and association in different languages; and so a word that is a satisfactory translation of another in one context is not satisfactory in another. This is particularly true of moral terms, and the reader may have noticed in Book I a certain indecisiveness in the use of some words, as if the writer could not make up his mind which to use and kept shifting between them: in particular, such words as right, wrong, justice, injustice, good, bad, benefit, harm, injury. This reflects ambiguities in the Greek. The Republic is concerned with 'Justice', as we traditionally translate it. But the Greek group of words (noun, adjective, verb) cover a field which no single English word does. Thus 'justice' is a very wide term covering right conduct or morality in general; and the verb from the same root can mean to act 'rightly' or 'justly', while the converse can mean to act 'wrongly' or 'unjustly' but also to 'wrong' or 'injure'.The most that a translator can do is to pick the word which he thinks conveys the most relevant meaning, and to give some idea of the ambiguities involved by varying the word used. But the English reader when he meets the word 'justice' in particular should remember the wider overtones which the Greek word conveys. (From "Plato: The Republic", translated by H.D.P.Lee, Penguin Books, p.87.)

No comments:

Post a Comment