Part 1 out of 9
translated by Benjamin Jowett
THE Republic of Plato is the longest of his works with the exception
of the Laws, and is certainly the greatest of them. There are nearer
approaches to modern metaphysics in the Philebus and in the Sophist;
the Politicus or Statesman is more ideal; the form and institutions
of the State are more clearly drawn out in the Laws; as works of art,
the Symposium and the Protagoras are of higher excellence. But no
other Dialogue of Plato has the same largeness of view and the same
perfection of style; no other shows an equal knowledge of the world,
or contains more of those thoughts which are new as well as old,
and not of one age only but of all. Nowhere in Plato is there a deeper
irony or a greater wealth of humor or imagery, or more dramatic power.
Nor in any other of his writings is the attempt made to interweave
life and speculation, or to connect politics with philosophy.
The Republic is the centre around which the other Dialogues may
be grouped; here philosophy reaches the highest point to which ancient
thinkers ever attained. Plato among the Greeks, like Bacon among
the moderns, was the first who conceived a method of knowledge,
although neither of them always distinguished the bare outline
or form from the substance of truth; and both of them had to be
content with an abstraction of science which was not yet realized.
He was the greatest metaphysical genius whom the world has seen;
and in him, more than in any other ancient thinker, the germs of future
knowledge are contained. The sciences of logic and psychology,
which have supplied so many instruments of thought to after-ages, are based
upon the analyses of Socrates and Plato. The principles of definition,
the law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle,
the distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion,
between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the division
of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible elements,
or of pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary--
these and other great forms of thought are all of them to be found
in the Republic, and were probably first invented by Plato.
The greatest of all logical truths, and the one of which writers
on philosophy are most apt to lose sight, the difference between
words and things, has been most strenuously insisted on by him,
although he has not always avoided the confusion of them in his
own writings. But he does not bind up truth in logical formulae,--
logic is still veiled in metaphysics; and the science which he
imagines to "contemplate all truth and all existence" is very unlike
the doctrine of the syllogism which Aristotle claims to have
Neither must we forget that the Republic is but the third part
of a still larger design which was to have included an ideal
history of Athens, as well as a political and physical philosophy.
The fragment of the Critias has given birth to a world-famous fiction,
second only in importance to the tale of Troy and the legend of Arthur;
and is said as a fact to have inspired some of the early navigators
of the sixteenth century. This mythical tale, of which the subject
was a history of the wars of the Athenians against the Island
of Atlantis, is supposed to be founded upon an unfinished poem
of Solon, to which it would have stood in the same relation
as the writings of the logographers to the poems of Homer.
It would have told of a struggle for Liberty, intended to represent
the conflict of Persia and Hellas. We may judge from the noble
commencement of the Timaeus, from the fragment of the Critias itself,
and from the third book of the Laws, in what manner Plato would
have treated this high argument. We can only guess why the great
design was abandoned; perhaps because Plato became sensible of some
incongruity in a fictitious history, or because he had lost his
interest in it, or because advancing years forbade the completion
of it; and we may please ourselves with the fancy that had this
imaginary narrative ever been finished, we should have found Plato
himself sympathizing with the struggle for Hellenic independence,
singing a hymn of triumph over Marathon and Salamis, perhaps making
the reflection of Herodotus where he contemplates the growth
of the Athenian empire--"How brave a thing is freedom of speech,
which has made the Athenians so far exceed every other state
of Hellas in greatness!" or, more probably, attributing the victory
to the ancient good order of Athens and to the favor of Apollo
Again, Plato may be regarded as the "captain" ('arhchegoz') or leader
of a goodly band of followers; for in the Republic is to be found
the original of Cicero's De Republica, of St. Augustine's City
of God, of the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and of the numerous
other imaginary States which are framed upon the same model.
The extent to which Aristotle or the Aristotelian school were indebted
to him in the Politics has been little recognized, and the recognition
is the more necessary because it is not made by Aristotle himself.
The two philosophers had more in common than they were conscious of;
and probably some elements of Plato remain still undetected in Aristotle.
In English philosophy too, many affinities may be traced, not only
in the works of the Cambridge Platonists, but in great original
writers like Berkeley or Coleridge, to Plato and his ideas.
That there is a truth higher than experience, of which the mind bears
witness to herself, is a conviction which in our own generation has
been enthusiastically asserted, and is perhaps gaining ground.
Of the Greek authors who at the Renaissance brought a new
life into the world Plato has had the greatest influence.
The Republic of Plato is also the first treatise upon education,
of which the writings of Milton and Locke, Rousseau, Jean Paul,
and Goethe are the legitimate descendants. Like Dante or Bunyan,
he has a revelation of another life; like Bacon, he is profoundly
impressed with the unity of knowledge; in the early Church
he exercised a real influence on theology, and at the Revival
of Literature on politics. Even the fragments of his words when
"repeated at second-hand" have in all ages ravished the hearts
of men, who have seen reflected in them their own higher nature.
He is the father of idealism in philosophy, in politics,
in literature. And many of the latest conceptions of modern thinkers
and statesmen, such as the unity of knowledge, the reign of law,
and the equality of the sexes, have been anticipated in a dream
The argument of the Republic is the search after Justice, the nature
of which is first hinted at by Cephalus, the just and blameless old man--
then discussed on the basis of proverbial morality by Socrates
and Polemarchus--then caricatured by Thrasymachus and partially
explained by Socrates--reduced to an abstraction by Glaucon
and Adeimantus, and having become invisible in the individual reappears
at length in the ideal State which is constructed by Socrates.
The first care of the rulers is to be education, of which an outline
is drawn after the old Hellenic model, providing only for an improved
religion and morality, and more simplicity in music and gymnastic,
a manlier strain of poetry, and greater harmony of the individual
and the State. We are thus led on to the conception of a higher State,
in which "no man calls anything his own," and in which there is neither
"marrying nor giving in marriage," and "kings are philosophers"
and "philosophers are kings;" and there is another and higher education,
intellectual as well as moral and religious, of science as well as of art,
and not of youth only but of the whole of life. Such a State is
hardly to be realized in this world and would quickly degenerate.
To the perfect ideal succeeds the government of the soldier
and the lover of honor, this again declining into democracy,
and democracy into tyranny, in an imaginary but regular order having
not much resemblance to the actual facts. When "the wheel has come
full circle" we do not begin again with a new period of human life;
but we have passed from the best to the worst, and there we end.
The subject is then changed and the old quarrel of poetry and
philosophy which had been more lightly treated in the earlier books
of the Republic is now resumed and fought out to a conclusion.
Poetry is discovered to be an imitation thrice removed from the truth,
and Homer, as well as the dramatic poets, having been condemned
as an imitator, is sent into banishment along with them.
And the idea of the State is supplemented by the revelation of a
The division into books, like all similar divisions, is probably later
than the age of Plato. The natural divisions are five in number;--( 1)
Book I and the first half of Book II down to the paragraph beginning,
"I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus,"
which is introductory; the first book containing a refutation
of the popular and sophistical notions of justice, and concluding,
like some of the earlier Dialogues, without arriving at any
definite result. To this is appended a restatement of the nature
of justice according to common opinion, and an answer is demanded
to the question--What is justice, stripped of appearances?
The second division (2) includes the remainder of the second and
the whole of the third and fourth books, which are mainly occupied
with the construction of the first State and the first education.
The third division (3) consists of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books,
in which philosophy rather than justice is the subject of inquiry,
and the second State is constructed on principles of communism
and ruled by philosophers, and the contemplation of the idea
of good takes the place of the social and political virtues.
In the eighth and ninth books (4) the perversions of States and of
the individuals who correspond to them are reviewed in succession;
and the nature of pleasure and the principle of tyranny are
further analyzed in the individual man. The tenth book (5) is
the conclusion of the whole, in which the relations of philosophy
to poetry are finally determined, and the happiness of the citizens
in this life, which has now been assured, is crowned by the vision
Or a more general division into two parts may be adopted; the first
(Books I - IV) containing the description of a State framed generally
in accordance with Hellenic notions of religion and morality,
while in the second (Books V - X) the Hellenic State is transformed
into an ideal kingdom of philosophy, of which all other governments
are the perversions. These two points of view are really opposed,
and the opposition is only veiled by the genius of Plato.
The Republic, like the Phaedrus, is an imperfect whole; the higher light
of philosophy breaks through the regularity of the Hellenic temple,
which at last fades away into the heavens. Whether this imperfection
of structure arises from an enlargement of the plan; or from the
imperfect reconcilement in the writer's own mind of the struggling
elements of thought which are now first brought together by him;
or, perhaps, from the composition of the work at different times--
are questions, like the similar question about the Iliad and the Odyssey,
which are worth asking, but which cannot have a distinct answer.
In the age of Plato there was no regular mode of publication,
and an author would have the less scruple in altering or adding
to a work which was known only to a few of his friends.
There is no absurdity in supposing that he may have laid his
labors aside for a time, or turned from one work to another;
and such interruptions would be more likely to occur in the case
of a long than of a short writing. In all attempts to determine
the chronological he order of the Platonic writings on internal evidence,
this uncertainty about any single Dialogue being composed at one time
is a disturbing element, which must be admitted to affect longer works,
such as the Republic and the Laws, more than shorter ones.
But, on the other hand, the seeming discrepancies of the Republic
may only arise out of the discordant elements which the philosopher
has attempted to unite in a single whole, perhaps without being
himself able to recognize the inconsistency which is obvious to us.
For there is a judgment of after ages which few great writers have
ever been able to anticipate for themselves. They do not perceive
the want of connection in their own writings, or the gaps in their
systems which are visible enough to those who come after them.
In the beginnings of literature and philosophy, amid the first
efforts of thought and language, more inconsistencies occur than now,
when the paths of speculation are well worn and the meaning of words
precisely defined. For consistency, too, is the growth of time;
and some of the greatest creations of the human mind have been wanting
in unity. Tried by this test, several of the Platonic Dialogues,
according to our modern ideas, appear to be defective, but the
deficiency is no proof that they were composed at different times
or by different hands. And the supposition that the Republic was
written uninterruptedly and by a continuous effort is in some degree
confirmed by the numerous references from one part of the work
The second title, "Concerning Justice," is not the one by
which the Republic is quoted, either by Aristotle or generally
in antiquity, and, like the other second titles of the Platonic
Dialogues, may therefore be assumed to be of later date.
Morgenstern and others have asked whether the definition of justice,
which is the professed aim, or the construction of the State
is the principal argument of the work. The answer is,
that the two blend in one, and are two faces of the same truth;
for justice is the order of the State, and the State is the visible
embodiment of justice under the conditions of human society.
The one is the soul and the other is the body, and the Greek ideal
of the State, as of the individual, is a fair mind in a fair body.
In Hegelian phraseology the State is the reality of which justice
is the ideal. Or, described in Christian language, the kingdom
of God is within, and yet develops into a Church or external kingdom;
"the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,"
is reduced to the proportions of an earthly building. Or, to use
a Platonic image, justice and the State are the warp and the woof
which run through the whole texture. And when the constitution
of the State is completed, the conception of justice is not dismissed,
but reappears under the same or different names throughout the work,
both as the inner law of the individual soul, and finally
as the principle of rewards and punishments in another life.
The virtues are based on justice, of which common honesty in buying
and selling is the shadow, and justice is based on the idea of good,
which is the harmony of the world, and is reflected both in
the institutions of States and in motions of the heavenly bodies.
The Timaeus, which takes up the political rather than the ethical
side of the Republic, and is chiefly occupied with hypotheses
concerning the outward world, yet contains many indications that
the same law is supposed to reign over the State, over nature,
and over man.
Too much, however, has been made of this question both in ancient
and in modern times. There is a stage of criticism in which
all works, whether of nature or of art, are referred to design.
Now in ancient writings, and indeed in literature generally,
there remains often a large element which was not comprehended
in the original design. For the plan grows under the author's hand;
new thoughts occur to him in the act of writing; he has not worked
out the argument to the end before he begins. The reader who seeks
to find some one idea under which the whole may be conceived,
must necessarily seize on the vaguest and most general.
Thus Stallbaum, who is dissatisfied with the ordinary explanations
of the argument of the Republic, imagines himself to have found
the true argument "in the representation of human life in a State
perfected by justice and governed according to the idea of good."
There may be some use in such general descriptions, but they can
hardly be said to express the design of the writer. The truth is,
that we may as well speak of many designs as of one; nor need
anything be excluded from the plan of a great work to which the mind
is naturally led by the association of ideas, and which does not
interfere with the general purpose. What kind or degree of unity
is to be sought after in a building, in the plastic arts, in poetry,
in prose, is a problem which has to be determined relatively to the
subject-matter. To Plato himself, the inquiry "what was the intention
of the writer," or "what was the principal argument of the Republic"
would have been hardly intelligible, and therefore had better be at
Is not the Republic the vehicle of three or four great truths which,
to Plato's own mind, are most naturally represented in the form
of the State? Just as in the Jewish prophets the reign of Messiah,
or "the day of the Lord," or the suffering Servant or people
of God, or the "Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings"
only convey, to us at least, their great spiritual ideals,
so through the Greek State Plato reveals to us his own thoughts
about divine perfection, which is the idea of good--like the sun
in the visible world;--about human perfection, which is justice--
about education beginning in youth and continuing in later years--
about poets and sophists and tyrants who are the false teachers
and evil rulers of mankind--about "the world" which is the embodiment
of them--about a kingdom which exists nowhere upon earth but is
laid up in heaven to be the pattern and rule of human life.
No such inspired creation is at unity with itself, any more
than the clouds of heaven when the sun pierces through them.
Every shade of light and dark, of truth, and of fiction which is
the veil of truth, is allowable in a work of philosophical imagination.
It is not all on the same plane; it easily passes from ideas
to myths and fancies, from facts to figures of speech. It is not
prose but poetry, at least a great part of it, and ought not to be
judged by the rules of logic or the probabilities of history.
The writer is not fashioning his ideas into an artistic whole;
they take possession of him and are too much for him.
We have no need therefore to discuss whether a State such as Plato
has conceived is practicable or not, or whether the outward form
or the inward life came first into the mind of the writer.
For the practicability of his ideas has nothing to do with their truth;
and the highest thoughts to which he attains may be truly said to bear
the greatest "marks of design"--justice more than the external frame-work
of the State, the idea of good more than justice. The great science
of dialectic or the organization of ideas has no real content;
but is only a type of the method or spirit in which the higher knowledge
is to be pursued by the spectator of all time and all existence.
It is in the fifth, sixth, and seventh books that Plato reaches
the "summit of speculation," and these, although they fail to satisfy
the requirements of a modern thinker, may therefore be regarded
as the most important, as they are also the most original, portions of
It is not necessary to discuss at length a minor question which has
been raised by Boeckh, respecting the imaginary date at which
the conversation was held (the year 411 B. C. which is proposed
by him will do as well as any other); for a writer of fiction,
and especially a writer who, like Plato, is notoriously careless
of chronology, only aims at general probability. Whether all the persons
mentioned in the Republic could ever have met at any one time is
not a difficulty which would have occurred to an Athenian reading
the work forty years later, or to Plato himself at the time of writing
(any more than to Shakespeare respecting one of his own dramas);
and need not greatly trouble us now. Yet this may be a question having
no answer "which is still worth asking," because the investigation
shows that we can not argue historically from the dates in Plato;
it would be useless therefore to waste time in inventing far-fetched
reconcilements of them in order avoid chronological difficulties,
such, for example, as the conjecture of C. F. Hermann, that Glaucon
and Adeimantus are not the brothers but the uncles of Plato,
or the fancy of Stallbaum that Plato intentionally left anachronisms
indicating the dates at which some of his Dialogues were written.
The principal characters in the Republic are Cephalus,
Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus.
Cephalus appears in the introduction only, Polemarchus drops at
the end of the first argument, and Thrasymachus is reduced to silence
at the close of the first book. The main discussion is carried on
by Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Among the company are Lysias
(the orator) and Euthydemus, the sons of Cephalus and brothers
of Polemarchus, an unknown Charmantides--these are mute auditors;
also there is Cleitophon, who once interrupts, where, as in the Dialogue
which bears his name, he appears as the friend and ally of Thrasymachus.
Cephalus, the patriarch of house, has been appropriately engaged in
offering a sacrifice. He is the pattern of an old man who has almost
done with life, and is at peace with himself and with all mankind.
He feels that he is drawing nearer to the world below, and seems
to linger around the memory of the past. He is eager that Socrates
should come to visit him, fond of the poetry of the last generation,
happy in the consciousness of a well-spent life, glad at having
escaped from the tyranny of youthful lusts. His love of conversation,
his affection, his indifference to riches, even his garrulity,
are interesting traits of character. He is not one of those who have
nothing to say, because their whole mind has been absorbed in making money.
Yet he acknowledges that riches have the advantage of placing men
above the temptation to dishonesty or falsehood. The respectful
attention shown to him by Socrates, whose love of conversation,
no less than the mission imposed upon him by the Oracle, leads him
to ask questions of all men, young and old alike, should also be noted.
Who better suited to raise the question of justice than Cephalus,
whose life might seem to be the expression of it? The moderation
with which old age is pictured by Cephalus as a very tolerable
portion of existence is characteristic, not only of him, but of Greek
feeling generally, and contrasts with the exaggeration of Cicero
in the De Senectute. The evening of life is described by Plato
in the most expressive manner, yet with the fewest possible touches.
As Cicero remarks (Ep. ad Attic. iv. 16), the aged Cephalus would
have been out of place in the discussion which follows, and which he
could neither have understood nor taken part in without a violation of
His "son and heir" Polemarchus has the frankness and impetuousness
of youth; he is for detaining Socrates by force in the opening scene,
and will not "let him off" on the subject of women and children.
Like Cephalus, he is limited in his point of view, and represents
the proverbial stage of morality which has rules of life rather
than principles; and he quotes Simonides as his father had quoted Pindar.
But after this he has no more to say; the answers which he
makes are only elicited from him by the dialectic of Socrates.
He has not yet experienced the influence of the Sophists like Glaucon
and Adeimantus, nor is he sensible of the necessity of refuting them;
he belongs to the pre-Socratic or pre-dialectical age.
He is incapable of arguing, and is bewildered by Socrates
to such a degree that he does not know what he is saying.
He is made to admit that justice is a thief, and that the virtues
follow the analogy of the arts. From his brother Lysias we learn
that he fell a victim to the Thirty Tyrants, but no allusion
is here made to his fate, nor to the circumstance that Cephalus
and his family were of Syracusan origin, and had migrated from Thurii
The "Chalcedonian giant," Thrasymachus, of whom we have already heard
in the Phaedrus, is the personification of the Sophists, according to
Plato's conception of them, in some of their worst characteristics.
He is vain and blustering, refusing to discourse unless he
is paid, fond of making an oration, and hoping thereby to escape
the inevitable Socrates; but a mere child in argument, and unable
to foresee that the next "move" (to use a Platonic expression)
will "shut him up." He has reached the stage of framing general notions,
and in this respect is in advance of Cephalus and Polemarchus.
But he is incapable of defending them in a discussion,
and vainly tries to cover his confusion in banter and insolence.
Whether such doctrines as are attributed to him by Plato were really
held either by him or by any other Sophist is uncertain; in the infancy
of philosophy serious errors about morality might easily grow up--
they are certainly put into the mouths of speakers in Thucydides;
but we are concerned at present with Plato's description of him,
and not with the historical reality. The inequality of the contest
adds greatly to the humor of the scene. The pompous and empty Sophist
is utterly helpless in the hands of the great master of dialectic,
who knows how to touch all the springs of vanity and weakness in him.
He is greatly irritated by the irony of Socrates, but his noisy
and imbecile rage only lays him more and more open to the thrusts
of his assailant. His determination to cram down their throats,
or put "bodily into their souls" his own words, elicits a cry
of horror from Socrates. The state of his temper is quite as worthy
of remark as the process of the argument. Nothing is more amusing
than his complete submission when he has been once thoroughly beaten.
At first he seems to continue the discussion with reluctance,
but soon with apparent good-will, and he even testifies his
interest at a later stage by one or two occasional remarks.
When attacked by Glaucon he is humorously protected by Socrates
"as one who has never been his enemy and is now his friend."
From Cicero and Quintilian and from Aristotle's Rhetoric we learn
that the Sophist whom Plato has made so ridiculous was a man of note
whose writings were preserved in later ages. The play on his name
which was made by his contemporary Herodicus, "thou wast ever bold
in battle," seems to show that the description of him is not devoid of
When Thrasymachus has been silenced, the two principal respondents,
Glaucon and Adeimantus, appear on the scene: here, as in Greek tragedy,
three actors are introduced. At first sight the two sons of Ariston
may seem to wear a family likeness, like the two friends Simmias
and Cebes in the Phaedo. But on a nearer examination of them
the similarity vanishes, and they are seen to be distinct characters.
Glaucon is the impetuous youth who can "just never have enough of fechting"
(cf. the character of him in Xen. Mem. iii. 6); the man of pleasure
who is acquainted with the mysteries of love; the "juvenis qui
gaudet canibus," and who improves the breed of animals; the lover
of art and music who has all the experiences of youthful life.
He is full of quickness and penetration, piercing easily below
the clumsy platitudes of Thrasymachus to the real difficulty;
he turns out to the light the seamy side of human life, and yet
does not lose faith in the just and true. It is Glaucon who seizes
what may be termed the ludicrous relation of the philosopher
to the world, to whom a state of simplicity is "a city of pigs,"
who is always prepared with a jest when the argument offers him
an opportunity, and who is ever ready to second the humor of Socrates
and to appreciate the ridiculous, whether in the connoisseurs of music,
or in the lovers of theatricals, or in the fantastic behavior of
the citizens of democracy. His weaknesses are several times alluded
to by Socrates, who, however, will not allow him to be attacked
by his brother Adeimantus. He is a soldier, and, like Adeimantus,
has been distinguished at the battle of Megara.
The character of Adeimantus is deeper and graver, and the profounder
objections are commonly put into his mouth. Glaucon is more demonstrative,
and generally opens the game. Adeimantus pursues the argument further.
Glaucon has more of the liveliness and quick sympathy of youth;
Adeimantus has the maturer judgment of a grown-up man of the world.
In the second book, when Glaucon insists that justice and injustice
shall be considered without regard to their consequences,
Adeimantus remarks that they are regarded by mankind in general only
for the sake of their consequences; and in a similar vein of reflection
he urges at the beginning of the fourth book that Socrates falls
in making his citizens happy, and is answered that happiness is not
the first but the second thing, not the direct aim but the indirect
consequence of the good government of a State. In the discussion
about religion and mythology, Adeimantus is the respondent, but Glaucon
breaks in with a slight jest, and carries on the conversation
in a lighter tone about music and gymnastic to the end of the book.
It is Adeimantus again who volunteers the criticism of common
sense on the Socratic method of argument, and who refuses to let
Socrates pass lightly over the question of women and children.
It is Adeimantus who is the respondent in the more argumentative,
as Glaucon in the lighter and more imaginative portions of the Dialogue.
For example, throughout the greater part of the sixth book, the causes
of the corruption of philosophy and the conception of the idea of
good are discussed with Adeimantus. Then Glaucon resumes his place
of principal respondent; but he has a difficulty in apprehending
the higher education of Socrates, and makes some false hits in the course
of the discussion. Once more Adeimantus returns with the allusion
to his brother Glaucon whom he compares to the contentious State;
in the next book he is again superseded, and Glaucon continues to
Thus in a succession of characters Plato represents the successive stages
of morality, beginning with the Athenian gentleman of the olden time,
who is followed by the practical man of that day regulating his life
by proverbs and saws; to him succeeds the wild generalization of
the Sophists, and lastly come the young disciples of the great teacher,
who know the sophistical arguments but will not be convinced by them,
and desire to go deeper into the nature of things. These too,
like Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, are clearly distinguished
from one another. Neither in the Republic, nor in any other Dialogue
of Plato, is a single character repeated.
The delineation of Socrates in the Republic is not wholly consistent.
In the first book we have more of the real Socrates,
such as he is depicted in the Memorabilia of Xenophon,
in the earliest Dialogues of Plato, and in the Apology.
He is ironical, provoking, questioning, the old enemy of the Sophists,
ready to put on the mask of Silenus as well as to argue seriously.
But in the sixth book his enmity towards the Sophists abates;
he acknowledges that they are the representatives rather than
the corrupters of the world. He also becomes more dogmatic
and constructive, passing beyond the range either of the political
or the speculative ideas of the real Socrates. In one passage Plato
himself seems to intimate that the time had now come for Socrates,
who had passed his whole life in philosophy, to give his own
opinion and not to be always repeating the notions of other men.
There is no evidence that either the idea of good or the conception
of a perfect State were comprehended in the Socratic teaching,
though he certainly dwelt on the nature of the universal and
of final causes (cp. Xen. Mem. i. 4; Phaedo 97); and a deep
thinker like him in his thirty or forty years of public teaching,
could hardly have falled to touch on the nature of family relations,
for which there is also some positive evidence in the Memorabilia
(Mem. i. 2, 51 foll.) The Socratic method is nominally retained;
and every inference is either put into the mouth of the respondent
or represented as the common discovery of him and Socrates.
But any one can see that this is a mere form, of which the affectation
grows wearisome as the work advances. The method of inquiry
has passed into a method of teaching in which by the help of
interlocutors the same thesis is looked at from various points
The nature of the process is truly characterized by Glaucon,
when he describes himself as a companion who is not good for much
in an investigation, but can see what he is shown, and may,
perhaps, give the answer to a question more fluently than another.
Neither can we be absolutely certain that, Socrates himself taught
the immortality of the soul, which is unknown to his disciple
Glaucon in the Republic; nor is there any reason to suppose
that he used myths or revelations of another world as a vehicle
of instruction, or that he would have banished poetry or have
denounced the Greek mythology. His favorite oath is retained,
and a slight mention is made of the daemonium, or internal sign,
which is alluded to by Socrates as a phenomenon peculiar to himself.
A real element of Socratic teaching, which is more prominent
in the Republic than in any of the other Dialogues of Plato,
is the use of example and illustration ('taphorhtika auto
prhospherhontez'): "Let us apply the test of common instances."
"You," says Adeimantus, ironically, in the sixth book, "are so
unaccustomed to speak in images." And this use of examples or images,
though truly Socratic in origin, is enlarged by the genius of Plato
into the form of an allegory or parable, which embodies in the concrete
what has been already described, or is about to be described,
in the abstract. Thus the figure of the cave in Book VII
is a recapitulation of the divisions of knowledge in Book VI.
The composite animal in Book IX is an allegory of the parts of the soul.
The noble captain and the ship and the true pilot in Book VI are a
figure of the relation of the people to the philosophers in the State
which has been described. Other figures, such as the dog in
the second, third, and fourth books, or the marriage of the portionless
maiden in the sixth book, or the drones and wasps in the eighth
and ninth books, also form links of connection in long passages,
or are used to recall previous discussions.
Plato is most true to the character of his master when he describes
him as "not of this world." And with this representation of him
the ideal State and the other paradoxes of the Republic are quite
in accordance, though they can not be shown to have been speculations
of Socrates. To him, as to other great teachers both philosophical
and religious, when they looked upward, the world seemed to be
the embodiment of error and evil. The common sense of mankind has
revolted against this view, or has only partially admitted it.
And even in Socrates himself the sterner judgment of the multitude
at times passes into a sort of ironical pity or love. Men in general
are incapable of philosophy, and are therefore at enmity with
the philosopher; but their misunderstanding of him is unavoidable:
for they have never seen him as he truly is in his own image;
they are only acquainted with artificial systems possessing no
native force of truth--words which admit of many applications.
Their leaders have nothing to measure with, and are therefore ignorant
of their own stature. But they are to be pitied or laughed at,
not to be quarrelled with; they mean well with their nostrums,
if they could only learn that they are cutting off a Hydra's head.
This moderation towards those who are in error is one of
the most characteristic features of Socrates in the Republic.
In all the different representations of Socrates, whether of Xenophon
or Plato, and the differences of the earlier or later Dialogues,
he always retains the character of the unwearied and disinterested
seeker after truth, without which he would have ceased to
Leaving the characters we may now analyze the contents of the Republic,
and then proceed to consider (1) The general aspects of this Hellenic
ideal of the State, (2) The modern lights in which the thoughts
of Plato may be read.
SOCRATES - GLAUCON
I WENT down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston,
that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; and also because I
wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival,
which was a new thing. I was delighted with the procession
of the inhabitants; but that of the Thracians was equally,
if not more, beautiful. When we had finished our prayers and
viewed the spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city;
and at that instant Polemarchus the son of Cephalus chanced
to catch sight of us from a distance as we were starting on our
way home, and told his servant to run and bid us wait for him.
The servant took hold of me by the cloak behind, and said:
Polemarchus desires you to wait.
I turned round, and asked him where his master was.
There he is, said the youth, coming after you, if you will only wait.
Certainly we will, said Glaucon; and in a few minutes Polemarchus appeared,
and with him Adeimantus, Glaucon's brother, Niceratus the son
of Nicias, and several others who had been at the procession.
SOCRATES - POLEMARCHUS - GLAUCON - ADEIMANTUS
Polemarchus said to me: I perceive, Socrates, that you and our
companion are already on your way to the city.
You are not far wrong, I said.
But do you see, he rejoined, how many we are?
And are you stronger than all these? for if not, you will have
to remain where you are.
May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you
to let us go?
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured.
Adeimantus added: Has no one told you of the torch-race on horseback
in honour of the goddess which will take place in the evening?
With horses! I replied: That is a novelty. Will horsemen carry
torches and pass them one to another during the race?
Yes, said Polemarchus, and not only so, but a festival will
he celebrated at night, which you certainly ought to see.
Let us rise soon after supper and see this festival; there will be
a gathering of young men, and we will have a good talk. Stay then,
and do not be perverse.
Glaucon said: I suppose, since you insist, that we must.
Very good, I replied.
GLAUCON - CEPHALUS - SOCRATES
Accordingly we went with Polemarchus to his house; and there we
found his brothers Lysias and Euthydemus, and with them Thrasymachus
the Chalcedonian, Charmantides the Paeanian, and Cleitophon the son
of Aristonymus. There too was Cephalus the father of Polemarchus,
whom I had not seen for a long time, and I thought him very much aged.
He was seated on a cushioned chair, and had a garland on his head,
for he had been sacrificing in the court; and there were some other chairs
in the room arranged in a semicircle, upon which we sat down by him.
He saluted me eagerly, and then he said:--
You don't come to see me, Socrates, as often as you ought:
If I were still able to go and see you I would not ask you
to come to me. But at my age I can hardly get to the city,
and therefore you should come oftener to the Piraeus. For let
me tell you, that the more the pleasures of the body fade away,
the greater to me is the pleasure and charm of conversation.
Do not then deny my request, but make our house your resort and keep
company with these young men; we are old friends, and you will be
quite at home with us.
I replied: There is nothing which for my part I like better,
Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them
as travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go,
and of whom I ought to enquire, whether the way is smooth and easy,
or rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should
like to ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets
call the `threshold of old age'--Is life harder towards the end,
or what report do you give of it?
I will tell you, Socrates, he said, what my own feeling is.
Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather,
as the old proverb says; and at our meetings the tale of my
acquaintance commonly is--I cannot eat, I cannot drink;
the pleasures of youth and love are fled away: there was a good
time once, but now that is gone, and life is no longer life.
Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by relations,
and they will tell you sadly of how many evils their old age is
the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to blame
that which is not really in fault. For if old age were the cause,
I too being old, and every other old man, would have felt as they do.
But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom I have known.
How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in answer to
the question, How does love suit with age, Sophocles,--are you still
the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped
the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad
and furious master. His words have often occurred to my mind since,
and they seem as good to me now as at the time when he uttered them.
For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom;
when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says,
we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many.
The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints
about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is
not old age, but men's characters and tempers; for he who is
of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age,
but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally
I listened in admiration, and wanting to draw him out, that he
might go on--Yes, Cephalus, I said: but I rather suspect that
people in general are not convinced by you when you speak thus;
they think that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your
happy disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well
known to be a great comforter.
You are right, he replied; they are not convinced: and there is
something in what they say; not, however, so much as they imagine.
I might answer them as Themistocles answered the Seriphian who was
abusing him and saying that he was famous, not for his own merits
but because he was an Athenian: `If you had been a native of my
country or I of yours, neither of us would have been famous.'
And to those who are not rich and are impatient of old age,
the same reply may be made; for to the good poor man old age
cannot be a light burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace
May I ask, Cephalus, whether your fortune was for the most part
inherited or acquired by you?
Acquired! Socrates; do you want to know how much I acquired? In the art
of making money I have been midway between my father and grandfather:
for my grandfather, whose name I bear, doubled and trebled the value
of his patrimony, that which he inherited being much what I possess now;
but my father Lysanias reduced the property below what it is at present:
and I shall be satisfied if I leave to these my sons not less
but a little more than I received.
That was why I asked you the question, I replied, because I see
that you are indifferent about money, which is a characteristic
rather of those who have inherited their fortunes than of those
who have acquired them; the makers of fortunes have a second love
of money as a creation of their own, resembling the affection
of authors for their own poems, or of parents for their children,
besides that natural love of it for the sake of use and profit which
is common to them and all men. And hence they are very bad company,
for they can talk about nothing but the praises of wealth.
That is true, he said.
Yes, that is very true, but may I ask another question?
What do you consider to be the greatest blessing which you have
reaped from your wealth?
One, he said, of which I could not expect easily to convince others.
For let me tell you, Socrates, that when a man thinks himself to be
near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never had before;
the tales of a world below and the punishment which is exacted
there of deeds done here were once a laughing matter to him,
but now he is tormented with the thought that they may be true:
either from the weakness of age, or because he is now drawing
nearer to that other place, he has a clearer view of these things;
suspicions and alarms crowd thickly upon him, and he begins
to reflect and consider what wrongs he has done to others.
And when he finds that the sum of his transgressions is great he
will many a time like a child start up in his sleep for fear,
and he is filled with dark forebodings. But to him who is conscious
of no sin, sweet hope, as Pindar charmingly says, is the kind nurse of
Hope, he says, cherishes the soul of him who lives in
justice and holiness and is the nurse of his age and the
companion of his journey;--hope which is mightiest to sway
the restless soul of man.
How admirable are his words! And the great blessing of riches, I do not
say to every man, but to a good man, is, that he has had no occasion
to deceive or to defraud others, either intentionally or unintentionally;
and when he departs to the world below he is not in any apprehension
about offerings due to the gods or debts which he owes to men.
Now to this peace of mind the possession of wealth greatly contributes;
and therefore I say, that, setting one thing against another,
of the many advantages which wealth has to give, to a man of sense this
is in my opinion the greatest.
Well said, Cephalus, I replied; but as concerning justice, what is it?--
to speak the truth and to pay your debts--no more than this?
And even to this are there not exceptions? Suppose that a friend
when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he asks for them
when he is not in his right mind, ought I to give them back to him?
No one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing so,
any more than they would say that I ought always to speak the truth to one
who is in his condition.
You are quite right, he replied.
But then, I said, speaking the truth and paying your debts is not
a correct definition of justice.
CEPHALUS - SOCRATES - POLEMARCHUS
Quite correct, Socrates, if Simonides is to be believed,
said Polemarchus interposing.
I fear, said Cephalus, that I must go now, for I have to look
after the sacrifices, and I hand over the argument to Polemarchus
and the company.
Is not Polemarchus your heir? I said.
To be sure, he answered, and went away laughing to the sacrifices.
SOCRATES - POLEMARCHUS
Tell me then, O thou heir of the argument, what did Simonides say,
and according to you truly say, about justice?
He said that the repayment of a debt is just, and in saying so he
appears to me to be right.
I should be sorry to doubt the word of such a wise and inspired man,
but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of
clear to me. For he certainly does not mean, as we were now saying
that I ought to return a return a deposit of arms or of anything
else to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses;
and yet a deposit cannot be denied to be a debt.
Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am
by no means to make the return?
When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice,
he did not mean to include that case?
Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do
good to a friend and never evil.
You mean that the return of a deposit of gold which is to the injury
of the receiver, if the two parties are friends, is not the repayment
of a debt,--that is what you would imagine him to say?
And are enemies also to receive what we owe to them?
To be sure, he said, they are to receive what we owe them, and an enemy,
as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or proper to him--
that is to say, evil.
Simonides, then, after the manner of poets, would seem to have
spoken darkly of the nature of justice; for he really meant to say
that justice is the giving to each man what is proper to him,
and this he termed a debt.
That must have been his meaning, he said.
By heaven! I replied; and if we asked him what due or proper thing
is given by medicine, and to whom, what answer do you think that he
would make to us?
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink
to human bodies.
And what due or proper thing is given by cookery, and to what?
Seasoning to food.
And what is that which justice gives, and to whom?
If, Socrates, we are to be guided at all
by the analogy of the preceding instances,
then justice is the art which gives good to friends and evil to enemies.
That is his meaning then?
I think so.
And who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to his
enemies in time of sickness?
Or when they are on a voyage, amid the perils of the sea?
And in what sort of actions or with a view to what result is the just
man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friends?
In going to war against the one and in making alliances with the other.
But when a man is well, my dear Polemarchus, there is no need
of a physician?
And he who is not on a voyage has no need of a pilot?
Then in time of peace justice will be of no use?
I am very far from thinking so.
You think that justice may be of use in peace as well as in war?
Like husbandry for the acquisition of corn?
Or like shoemaking for the acquisition of shoes,--that is what you mean?
And what similar use or power of acquisition has justice in time
In contracts, Socrates, justice is of use.
And by contracts you mean partnerships?
But is the just man or the skilful player a more useful and better
partner at a game of draughts?
The skilful player.
And in the laying of bricks and stones is the just man a more useful
or better partner than the builder?
Quite the reverse.
Then in what sort of partnership is the just man a better partner
than the harp-player, as in playing the harp the harp-player
is certainly a better partner than the just man?
In a money partnership.
Yes, Polemarchus, but surely not in the use of money; for you do not
want a just man to be your counsellor the purchase or sale of a horse;
a man who is knowing about horses would be better for that,
would he not?
And when you want to buy a ship, the shipwright or the pilot would
Then what is that joint use of silver or gold in which the just man
is to be preferred?
When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference.
And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful
to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it,
then the art of the vine-dresser?
And when you want to keep a shield or a lyre, and not to use them,
you would say that justice is useful; but when you want to use them,
then the art of the soldier or of the musician?
And so of all the other things;--justice is useful when they
are useless, and useless when they are useful?
That is the inference.
Then justice is not good for much. But let us consider this
further point: Is not he who can best strike a blow in a boxing
match or in any kind of fighting best able to ward off a blow?
And he who is most skilful in preventing or escaping from a disease
is best able to create one?
And he is the best guard of a camp who is best able to steal a march
upon the enemy?
Then he who is a good keeper of anything is also a good thief?
That, I suppose, is to be inferred.
Then if the just man is good at keeping money, he is good at stealing it.
That is implied in the argument.
Then after all the just man has turned out to be a thief.
And this is a lesson which I suspect you must have learnt out of Homer;
for he, speaking of Autolycus, the maternal grandfather of Odysseus,
who is a favourite of his, affirms that
He was excellent above all men in theft and perjury.
And so, you and Homer and Simonides are agreed that justice is
an art of theft; to be practised however `for the good of friends
and for the harm of enemies,'--that was what you were saying?
No, certainly not that, though I do not now know what I did say;
but I still stand by the latter words.
Well, there is another question: By friends and enemies do we mean
those who are so really, or only in seeming?
Surely, he said, a man may be expected to love those whom he
thinks good, and to hate those whom he thinks evil.
Yes, but do not persons often err about good and evil:
many who are not good seem to be so, and conversely?
That is true.
Then to them the good will be enemies and the evil
will be their friends? True.
And in that case they will be right in doing good to the evil
and evil to the good?
But the good are just and would not do an injustice?
Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who do
Nay, Socrates; the doctrine is immoral.
Then I suppose that we ought to do good to the just and harm
to the unjust?
I like that better.
But see the consequence:--Many a man who is ignorant of human nature
has friends who are bad friends, and in that case he ought to do harm
to them; and he has good enemies whom he ought to benefit; but, if so,
we shall be saying the very opposite of that which we affirmed
to be the meaning of Simonides.
Very true, he said: and I think that we had better correct an error
into which we seem to have fallen in the use of the words `friend'
What was the error, Polemarchus? I asked.
We assumed that he is a friend who seems to be or who is thought good.
And how is the error to be corrected?
We should rather say that he is a friend who is, as well
as seems, good; and that he who seems only, and is not good,
only seems to be and is not a friend; and of an enemy the same may be said.
You would argue that the good are our friends and the bad our enemies?
And instead of saying simply as we did at first, that it is just to do
good to our friends and harm to our enemies, we should further say:
It is just to do good to our friends when they are good and harm
to our enemies when they are evil?
Yes, that appears to me to be the truth.
But ought the just to injure any one at all?
Undoubtedly he ought to injure those who are both wicked and his enemies.
When horses are injured, are they improved or deteriorated?
Deteriorated, that is to say, in the good qualities of horses,
not of dogs?
Yes, of horses.
And dogs are deteriorated in the good qualities of dogs, and not
And will not men who are injured be deteriorated in that which is
the proper virtue of man?
And that human virtue is justice?
To be sure.
Then men who are injured are of necessity made unjust?
That is the result.
But can the musician by his art make men unmusical?
Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen?
And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking general
can the good by virtue make them bad?
Any more than heat can produce cold?
Or drought moisture?
Nor can the good harm any one?
And the just is the good?
Then to injure a friend or any one else is not the act of a just man,
but of the opposite, who is the unjust?
I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates.
Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts,
and that good is the debt which a man owes to his friends, and evil
the debt which he owes to his enemies,--to say this is not wise;
for it is not true, if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of
another can be in no case just.
I agree with you, said Polemarchus.
Then you and I are prepared to take up arms against any one
who attributes such a saying to Simonides or Bias or Pittacus,
or any other wise man or seer?
I am quite ready to do battle at your side, he said.
Shall I tell you whose I believe the saying to be?
I believe that Periander or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias
the Theban, or some other rich and mighty man, who had a great
opinion of his own power, was the first to say that justice
is `doing good to your friends and harm to your enemies.'
Most true, he said.
Yes, I said; but if this definition of justice also breaks down,
what other can be offered?
Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus had made
an attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and had been
put down by the rest of the company, who wanted to hear the end.
But when Polemarchus and I had done speaking and there was a pause,
he could no longer hold his peace; and, gathering himself up,
he came at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were quite
panic-stricken at the sight of him.
SOCRATES - POLEMARCHUS - THRASYMACHUS
He roared out to the whole company: What folly. Socrates, has taken
possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock under to
one another? I say that if you want really to know what justice is,
you should not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honour
to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have your own answer;
for there is many a one who can ask and cannot answer. And now I
will not have you say that justice is duty or advantage or profit
or gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not do for me;
I must have clearness and accuracy.
I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him
without trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye
upon him, I should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising,
I looked at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, don't be hard upon us.
Polemarchus and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in
the argument, but I can assure you that the error was not intentional.
If we were seeking for a piece of gold, you would not imagine
that we were `knocking under to one another,' and so losing our
chance of finding it. And why, when we are seeking for justice,
a thing more precious than many pieces of gold, do you say that we
are weakly yielding to one another and not doing our utmost
to get at the truth? Nay, my good friend, we are most willing
and anxious to do so, but the fact is that we cannot. And if so,
you people who know all things should pity us and not be angry
How characteristic of Socrates! he replied, with a bitter laugh;--
that's your ironical style! Did I not foresee--have I not already
told you, that whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer,
and try irony or any other shuffle, in order that he might
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well
know that if you ask a person what numbers make up twelve,
taking care to prohibit him whom you ask from answering twice six,
or three times four, or six times two, or four times three,
`for this sort of nonsense will not do for me,'--then obviously,
that is your way of putting the question, no one can answer you.
But suppose that he were to retort, `Thrasymachus, what do you mean?
If one of these numbers which you interdict be the true answer
to the question, am I falsely to say some other number which is
not the right one?--is that your meaning?' --How would you
Just as if the two cases were at all alike! he said.
Why should they not be? I replied; and even if they are not,
but only appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not
to say what he thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?
I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted answers?
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon reflection
I approve of any of them.
But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better,
he said, than any of these? What do you deserve to have done
Done to me!--as becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise--
that is what I deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment! a pleasant notion!
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.
SOCRATES - THRASYMACHUS - GLAUCON
But you have, Socrates, said Glaucon: and you, Thrasymachus, need be
under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution
Yes, he replied, and then Socrates will do as he always does--
refuse to answer himself, but take and pull to pieces the answer
of some one else.
Why, my good friend, I said, how can any one answer who knows,
and says that he knows, just nothing; and who, even if he has some faint
notions of his own, is told by a man of authority not to utter them?
The natural thing is, that the speaker should be some one like
yourself who professes to know and can tell what he knows.
Will you then kindly answer, for the edification of the company
and of myself ?
Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request and Thrasymachus,
as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for he thought
that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish himself.
But at first he to insist on my answering; at length he consented
to begin. Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he refuses
to teach himself, and goes about learning of others, to whom he
never even says thank you.
That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am ungrateful
I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in praise,
which is all I have: and how ready I am to praise any one who appears
to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you answer;
for I expect that you will answer well.
Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else
than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me?
But of course you won't.
Let me first understand you, I replied. justice, as you say, is the
interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this?
You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast,
is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive
to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally
for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?
That's abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense
which is most damaging to the argument.
Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them;
and I wish that you would be a little clearer.
Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ;
there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there
Yes, I know.
And the government is the ruling power in each state?
And the different forms of government make laws democratical,
aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests;
and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests,
are the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who
transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust.
And that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same
principle of justice, which is the interest of the government;
and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable
conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of justice,
which is the interest of the stronger.
Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I
will try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice you
have yourself used the word `interest' which you forbade me to use.
It is true, however, that in your definition the words `of the stronger'
A small addition, you must allow, he said.
Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether
what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that justice
is interest of some sort, but you go on to say `of the stronger';
about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore consider further.
I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just or subjects
to obey their rulers?
But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they
sometimes liable to err?
To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.
Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly,
and sometimes not?
When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest;
when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?
And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects,--
and that is what you call justice?
Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience
to the interest of the stronger but the reverse?
What is that you are saying? he asked.
I am only repeating what you are saying, I believe. But let us consider:
Have we not admitted that the rulers may be mistaken about their own
interest in what they command, and also that to obey them is justice?
Has not that been admitted?
Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the interest
of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command things
to be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say,
justice is the obedience which the subject renders to their commands,
in that case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from the conclusion
that the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest,
but what is for the injury of the stronger?
Nothing can be clearer, Socrates, said Polemarchus.
SOCRATES - CLEITOPHON - POLEMARCHUS - THRASYMACHUS
Yes, said Cleitophon, interposing, if you are allowed to be his witness.
But there is no need of any witness, said Polemarchus, for Thrasymachus
himself acknowledges that rulers may sometimes command what is not
for their own interest, and that for subjects to obey them is justice.
Yes, Polemarchus,--Thrasymachus said that for subjects to do
what was commanded by their rulers is just.
Yes, Cleitophon, but he also said that justice is the interest
of the stronger, and, while admitting both these propositions,
he further acknowledged that the stronger may command the weaker
who are his subjects to do what is not for his own interest;
whence follows that justice is the injury quite as much as the interest
of the stronger.
But, said Cleitophon, he meant by the interest of the stronger
what the stronger thought to be his interest,--this was what
the weaker had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice.
Those were not his words, rejoined Polemarchus.
SOCRATES - THRASYMACHUS
Never mind, I replied, if he now says that they are, let us
accept his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus, I said, did you
mean by justice what the stronger thought to be his interest,
whether really so or not?
Certainly not, he said. Do you suppose that I call him who is
mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?
Yes, I said, my impression was that you did so, when you admitted
that the ruler was not infallible but might be sometimes mistaken.
You argue like an informer, Socrates. Do you mean, for example,
that he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is
mistaken? or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an arithmetician
or grammarian at the me when he is making the mistake, in respect
of the mistake? True, we say that the physician or arithmetician
or grammarian has made a mistake, but this is only a way of speaking;
for the fact is that neither the grammarian nor any other person
of skill ever makes a mistake in so far as he is what his name implies;
they none of them err unless their skill fails them, and then
they cease to be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler
errs at the time when he is what his name implies; though he is
commonly said to err, and I adopted the common mode of speaking.
But to be perfectly accurate, since you are such a lover of accuracy,
we should say that the ruler, in so far as he is the ruler,
is unerring, and, being unerring, always commands that which is for his
own interest; and the subject is required to execute his commands;
and therefore, as I said at first and now repeat, justice is the interest
of the stronger.
Indeed, Thrasymachus, and do I really appear to you to argue
like an informer?
Certainly, he replied.
And you suppose that I ask these questions with any design
of injuring you in the argument?
Nay, he replied, `suppose' is not the word--I know it; but you will
be found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never prevail.
I shall not make the attempt, my dear man; but to avoid any misunderstanding
occurring between us in future, let me ask, in what sense do you
speak of a ruler or stronger whose interest, as you were saying,
he being the superior, it is just that the inferior should execute--
is he a ruler in the popular or in the strict sense of the term?
In the strictest of all senses, he said. And now cheat and play
the informer if you can; I ask no quarter at your hands.
But you never will be able, never.
And do you imagine, I said, that I am such a madman as to try
and cheat, Thrasymachus? I might as well shave a lion.
Why, he said, you made the attempt a minute ago, and you failed.
Enough, I said, of these civilities. It will be better that I should
ask you a question: Is the physician, taken in that strict sense
of which you are speaking, a healer of the sick or a maker of money?
And remember that I am now speaking of the true physician.
A healer of the sick, he replied.
And the pilot--that is to say, the true pilot--is he a captain
of sailors or a mere sailor?
A captain of sailors.
The circumstance that he sails in the ship is not to be taken
into account; neither is he to be called a sailor; the name pilot
by which he is distinguished has nothing to do with sailing,
but is significant of his skill and of his authority over the sailors.
Very true, he said.
Now, I said, every art has an interest?
For which the art has to consider and provide?
Yes, that is the aim of art.
And the interest of any art is the perfection of it--this and
What do you mean?
I mean what I may illustrate negatively by the example of the body.
Suppose you were to ask me whether the body is self-sufficing
or has wants, I should reply: Certainly the body has wants;
for the body may be ill and require to be cured, and has therefore
interests to which the art of medicine ministers; and this is
the origin and intention of medicine, as you will acknowledge.
Am I not right?
Quite right, he replied.
But is the art of medicine or any other art faulty or deficient
in any quality in the same way that the eye may be deficient
in sight or the ear fail of hearing, and therefore requires
another art to provide for the interests of seeing and hearing--
has art in itself, I say, any similar liability to fault or defect,
and does every art require another supplementary art to provide
for its interests, and that another and another without end?
Or have the arts to look only after their own interests? Or have they
no need either of themselves or of another?--having no faults or defects,
they have no need to correct them, either by the exercise of their
own art or of any other; they have only to consider the interest
of their subject-matter. For every art remains pure and faultless
while remaining true--that is to say, while perfect and unimpaired.
Take the words in your precise sense, and tell me whether I am
Then medicine does not consider the interest of medicine,
but the interest of the body?
True, he said.
Nor does the art of horsemanship consider the interests
of the art of horsemanship, but the interests of the horse;
neither do any other arts care for themselves, for they have no needs;
they care only for that which is the subject of their art?
True, he said.
But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts are the superiors and rulers
of their own subjects?
To this he assented with a good deal of reluctance.
Then, I said, no science or art considers or enjoins the interest
of the stronger or superior, but only the interest of the subject
He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally acquiesced.
Then, I continued, no physician, in so far as he is a physician,
considers his own good in what he prescribes, but the good
of his patient; for the true physician is also a ruler having
the human body as a subject, and is not a mere money-maker;
that has been admitted?
And the pilot likewise, in the strict sense of the term, is a ruler
of sailors and not a mere sailor?
That has been admitted.
And such a pilot and ruler will provide and prescribe for the interest
of the sailor who is under him, and not for his own or the ruler's interest?
He gave a reluctant `Yes.'
Then, I said, Thrasymachus, there is no one in any rule who, in so far
as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own interest,
but always what is for the interest of his subject or suitable to his art;
to that he looks, and that alone he considers in everything which he
says and does.
When we had got to this point in the argument, and every one saw
that the definition of justice had been completely upset, Thrasymachus,
instead of replying to me, said: Tell me, Socrates, have you got a nurse?
Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather
to be answering?
Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose:
she has not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep.
What makes you say that? I replied.
Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens of tends the sheep
or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of himself
or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of states,
if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep,
and that they are not studying their own advantage day and night.
Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about the just
and unjust as not even to know that justice and the just are in
reality another's good; that is to say, the interest of the ruler
and stronger, and the loss of the subject and servant; and injustice
the opposite; for the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just:
he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his interest,
and minister to his happiness, which is very far from being their own.
Consider further, most foolish Socrates, that the just is always a loser
in comparison with the unjust. First of all, in private contracts:
wherever the unjust is the partner of the just you will find that,
when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always more
and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings with the State:
when there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and
the unjust less on the same amount of income; and when there is
anything to be received the one gains nothing and the other much.
Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is the just
man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses,
and getting nothing out of the public, because he is just;
moreover he is hated by his friends and acquaintance for refusing
to serve them in unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case
of the unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a
large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is more apparent;
and my meaning will be most clearly seen if we turn to that highest
form of injustice in which the criminal is the happiest of men,
and the sufferers or those who refuse to do injustice are the
most miserable--that is to say tyranny, which by fraud and force takes
away the property of others, not little by little but wholesale;
comprehending in one, things sacred as well as profane, private and public;
for which acts of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one
of them singly, he would be punished and incur great disgrace--
they who do such wrong in particular cases are called robbers
of temples, and man-stealers and burglars and swindlers and thieves.
But when a man besides taking away the money of the citizens has
made slaves of them, then, instead of these names of reproach,
he is termed happy and blessed, not only by the citizens but by all
who hear of his having achieved the consummation of injustice.
For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims
of it and not because they shrink from committing it. And thus,
as I have shown, Socrates, injustice, when on a sufficient scale,
has more strength and freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said
at first, justice is the interest of the stronger, whereas injustice
is a man's own profit and interest.
Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman,
deluged our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the company
would not let him; they insisted that he should remain and defend
his position; and I myself added my own humble request that he
would not leave us. Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man,
how suggestive are your remarks! And are you going to run away
before you have fairly taught or learned whether they are true or not?
Is the attempt to determine the way of man's life so small a matter
in your eyes--to determine how life may be passed by each one of us
to the greatest advantage?
And do I differ from you, he said, as to the importance of the enquiry?
You appear rather, I replied, to have no care or thought about us,
Thrasymachus--whether we live better or worse from not knowing what you
say you know, is to you a matter of indifference. Prithee, friend,
do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party;
and any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded.
For my own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I
do not believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if
uncontrolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting that there
may be an unjust man who is able to commit injustice either by fraud
or force, still this does not convince me of the superior advantage
of injustice, and there may be others who are in the same predicament
with myself. Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom
should convince us that we are mistaken in preferring justice to injustice.
And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already
convinced by what I have just said; what more can I do for you?
Would you have me put the proof bodily into your souls?
Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent;
or, if you change, change openly and let there be no deception.
For I must remark, Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously said,
that although you began by defining the true physician in an exact sense,
you did not observe a like exactness when speaking of the shepherd;
you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd tends the sheep not
with a view to their own good, but like a mere diner or banqueter
with a view to the pleasures of the table; or, again, as a trader
for sale in the market, and not as a shepherd. Yet surely the art
of the shepherd is concerned only with the good of his subjects;
he has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of the art
is already ensured whenever all the requirements of it are satisfied.
And that was what I was saying just now about the ruler. I conceived
that the art of the ruler, considered as ruler, whether in a state
or in private life, could only regard the good of his flock or subjects;
whereas you seem to think that the rulers in states, that is to say,
the true rulers, like being in authority.
Think! Nay, I am sure of it.
Then why in the case of lesser offices do men never take them
willingly without payment, unless under the idea that they govern
for the advantage not of themselves but of others? Let me ask you
a question: Are not the several arts different, by reason of their
each having a separate function? And, my dear illustrious friend,
do say what you think, that we may make a little progress.
Yes, that is the difference, he replied.
And each art gives us a particular good and not merely a general one--
medicine, for example, gives us health; navigation, safety at sea,
and so on?
Yes, he said.
And the art of payment has the special function of giving pay:
but we do not confuse this with other arts, any more than
the art of the pilot is to be confused with the art of medicine,
because the health of the pilot may be improved by a sea voyage.
You would not be inclined to say, would you, that navigation is
the art of medicine, at least if we are to adopt your exact use
Or because a man is in good health when he receives pay you would
not say that the art of payment is medicine?
I should say not.
Nor would you say that medicine is the art of receiving pay
because a man takes fees when he is engaged in healing?
And we have admitted, I said, that the good of each art is specially
confined to the art?
Then, if there be any good which all artists have in common,
that is to be attributed to something of which they all have
the common use?
True, he replied.
And when the artist is benefited by receiving pay the advantage
is gained by an additional use of the art of pay, which is not
the art professed by him?
He gave a reluctant assent to this.
Then the pay is not derived by the several artists from their
respective arts. But the truth is, that while the art of medicine
gives health, and the art of the builder builds a house, another art
attends them which is the art of pay. The various arts may be doing
their own business and benefiting that over which they preside,
but would the artist receive any benefit from his art unless he
were paid as well?
I suppose not.
But does he therefore confer no benefit when he works for nothing?
Certainly, he confers a benefit.
Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither
arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we
were before saying, they rule and provide for the interests
of their subjects who are the weaker and not the stronger--
to their good they attend and not to the good of the superior.
And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just
now saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes
to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his
concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of his work,
and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does
not regard his own interest, but always that of his subjects;
and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule,
they must be paid in one of three modes of payment: money, or honour,
or a penalty for refusing.
SOCRATES - GLAUCON
What do you mean, Socrates? said Glaucon. The first two modes
of payment are intelligible enough, but what the penalty is I
do not understand, or how a penalty can be a payment.
You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment
which to the best men is the great inducement to rule? Of course you
know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are,
And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for them;
good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for governing
and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping
themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves.
And not being ambitious they do not care about honour.
Wherefore necessity must be laid upon them, and they must
be induced to serve from the fear of punishment. And this,
as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office,
instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable.
Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses
to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.
And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office,
not because they would, but because they cannot help--not under the idea
that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves,
but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit
the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves,
or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city
were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be
as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present;
then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant
by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects;
and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive
a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one.
So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice is the
interest of the stronger. This latter question need not be further
discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that the life
of the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just, his new
statement appears to me to be of a far more serious character.
Which of us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon,
do you prefer?
I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous,
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus
Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me.
Then shall we try to find some way of convincing him, if we can,
that he is saying what is not true?
Most certainly, he replied.
If, I said, he makes a set speech and we make another recounting
all the advantages of being just, and he answers and we rejoin,
there must be a numbering and measuring of the goods which are claimed
on either side, and in the end we shall want judges to decide;
but if we proceed in our enquiry as we lately did, by making admissions
to one another, we shall unite the offices of judge and advocate
in our own persons.
Very good, he said.
And which method do I understand you to prefer? I said.
That which you propose.
Well, then, Thrasymachus, I said, suppose you begin at the beginning
and answer me. You say that perfect injustice is more gainful
than perfect justice?
SOCRATES - GLAUCON - THRASYMACHUS
Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons.
And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them
virtue and the other vice?
I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice?
What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm
injustice to be profitable and justice not.
What else then would you say?
The opposite, he replied.
And would you call justice vice?
No, I would rather say sublime simplicity.
Then would you call injustice malignity?
No; I would rather say discretion.
And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good?
Yes, he said; at any rate those of them who are able to be perfectly
unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and nations;
but perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses.
Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they
are not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking.
I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasymachus, I replied;
but still I cannot hear without amazement that you class injustice
with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the opposite.
Certainly I do so class them.
Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable ground;
for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be profitable
had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and deformity,
an answer might have been given to you on received principles;
but now I perceive that you will call injustice honourable and strong,
and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities which were
attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not hesitate to
rank injustice with wisdom and virtue.
You have guessed most infallibly, he replied.
Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through
with the argument so long as I have reason to think that you,
Thrasymachus, are speaking your real mind; for I do believe
that you are now in earnest and are not amusing yourself at our expense.
I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you?--to refute
the argument is your business.
Very true, I said; that is what I have to do: But will you
be so good as answer yet one more question? Does the just man
try to gain any advantage over the just?
Far otherwise; if he did would not be the simple, amusing creature
which he is.
And would he try to go beyond just action?
He would not.
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the unjust;
would that be considered by him as just or unjust?
He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage;
but he would not be able.
Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the point.
My question is only whether the just man, while refusing to have
more than another just man, would wish and claim to have more than
Yes, he would.
And what of the unjust--does he claim to have more than the just
man and to do more than is just
Of course, he said, for he claims to have more than all men.
And the unjust man will strive and struggle to obtain more than
the unjust man or action, in order that he may have more than all?
We may put the matter thus, I said--the just does not desire
more than his like but more than his unlike, whereas the unjust
desires more than both his like and his unlike?
Nothing, he said, can be better than that statement.
And the unjust is good and wise, and the just is neither?
Good again, he said.
And is not the unjust like the wise and good and the just unlike them?
Of course, he said, he who is of a certain nature, is like those
who are of a certain nature; he who is not, not.
Each of them, I said, is such as his like is?
Certainly, he replied.
Very good, Thrasymachus, I said; and now to take the case of the arts:
you would admit that one man is a musician and another not a musician?
And which is wise and which is foolish?