Part 5 out of 12
The 'City of the Sun' written by Campanella (1568-1639), a Dominican friar,
several years after the 'New Atlantis' of Bacon, has many resemblances to
the Republic of Plato. The citizens have wives and children in common;
their marriages are of the same temporary sort, and are arranged by the
magistrates from time to time. They do not, however, adopt his system of
lots, but bring together the best natures, male and female, 'according to
philosophical rules.' The infants until two years of age are brought up by
their mothers in public temples; and since individuals for the most part
educate their children badly, at the beginning of their third year they are
committed to the care of the State, and are taught at first, not out of
books, but from paintings of all kinds, which are emblazoned on the walls
of the city. The city has six interior circuits of walls, and an outer
wall which is the seventh. On this outer wall are painted the figures of
legislators and philosophers, and on each of the interior walls the symbols
or forms of some one of the sciences are delineated. The women are, for
the most part, trained, like the men, in warlike and other exercises; but
they have two special occupations of their own. After a battle, they and
the boys soothe and relieve the wounded warriors; also they encourage them
with embraces and pleasant words. Some elements of the Christian or
Catholic religion are preserved among them. The life of the Apostles is
greatly admired by this people because they had all things in common; and
the short prayer which Jesus Christ taught men is used in their worship.
It is a duty of the chief magistrates to pardon sins, and therefore the
whole people make secret confession of them to the magistrates, and they to
their chief, who is a sort of Rector Metaphysicus; and by this means he is
well informed of all that is going on in the minds of men. After
confession, absolution is granted to the citizens collectively, but no one
is mentioned by name. There also exists among them a practice of perpetual
prayer, performed by a succession of priests, who change every hour. Their
religion is a worship of God in Trinity, that is of Wisdom, Love and Power,
but without any distinction of persons. They behold in the sun the
reflection of His glory; mere graven images they reject, refusing to fall
under the 'tyranny' of idolatry.
Many details are given about their customs of eating and drinking, about
their mode of dressing, their employments, their wars. Campanella looks
forward to a new mode of education, which is to be a study of nature, and
not of Aristotle. He would not have his citizens waste their time in the
consideration of what he calls 'the dead signs of things.' He remarks that
he who knows one science only, does not really know that one any more than
the rest, and insists strongly on the necessity of a variety of knowledge.
More scholars are turned out in the City of the Sun in one year than by
contemporary methods in ten or fifteen. He evidently believes, like Bacon,
that henceforward natural science will play a great part in education, a
hope which seems hardly to have been realized, either in our own or in any
former age; at any rate the fulfilment of it has been long deferred.
There is a good deal of ingenuity and even originality in this work, and a
most enlightened spirit pervades it. But it has little or no charm of
style, and falls very far short of the 'New Atlantis' of Bacon, and still
more of the 'Utopia' of Sir Thomas More. It is full of inconsistencies,
and though borrowed from Plato, shows but a superficial acquaintance with
his writings. It is a work such as one might expect to have been written
by a philosopher and man of genius who was also a friar, and who had spent
twenty-seven years of his life in a prison of the Inquisition. The most
interesting feature of the book, common to Plato and Sir Thomas More, is
the deep feeling which is shown by the writer, of the misery and ignorance
prevailing among the lower classes in his own time. Campanella takes note
of Aristotle's answer to Plato's community of property, that in a society
where all things are common, no individual would have any motive to work
(Arist. Pol.): he replies, that his citizens being happy and contented in
themselves (they are required to work only four hours a day), will have
greater regard for their fellows than exists among men at present. He
thinks, like Plato, that if he abolishes private feelings and interests, a
great public feeling will take their place.
Other writings on ideal states, such as the 'Oceana' of Harrington, in
which the Lord Archon, meaning Cromwell, is described, not as he was, but
as he ought to have been; or the 'Argenis' of Barclay, which is an
historical allegory of his own time, are too unlike Plato to be worth
mentioning. More interesting than either of these, and far more Platonic
in style and thought, is Sir John Eliot's 'Monarchy of Man,' in which the
prisoner of the Tower, no longer able 'to be a politician in the land of
his birth,' turns away from politics to view 'that other city which is
within him,' and finds on the very threshold of the grave that the secret
of human happiness is the mastery of self. The change of government in the
time of the English Commonwealth set men thinking about first principles,
and gave rise to many works of this class...The great original genius of
Swift owes nothing to Plato; nor is there any trace in the conversation or
in the works of Dr. Johnson of any acquaintance with his writings. He
probably would have refuted Plato without reading him, in the same fashion
in which he supposed himself to have refuted Bishop Berkeley's theory of
the non-existence of matter. If we except the so-called English
Platonists, or rather Neo-Platonists, who never understood their master,
and the writings of Coleridge, who was to some extent a kindred spirit,
Plato has left no permanent impression on English literature.
7. Human life and conduct are affected by ideals in the same way that they
are affected by the examples of eminent men. Neither the one nor the other
are immediately applicable to practice, but there is a virtue flowing from
them which tends to raise individuals above the common routine of society
or trade, and to elevate States above the mere interests of commerce or the
necessities of self-defence. Like the ideals of art they are partly framed
by the omission of particulars; they require to be viewed at a certain
distance, and are apt to fade away if we attempt to approach them. They
gain an imaginary distinctness when embodied in a State or in a system of
philosophy, but they still remain the visions of 'a world unrealized.'
More striking and obvious to the ordinary mind are the examples of great
men, who have served their own generation and are remembered in another.
Even in our own family circle there may have been some one, a woman, or
even a child, in whose face has shone forth a goodness more than human.
The ideal then approaches nearer to us, and we fondly cling to it. The
ideal of the past, whether of our own past lives or of former states of
society, has a singular fascination for the minds of many. Too late we
learn that such ideals cannot be recalled, though the recollection of them
may have a humanizing influence on other times. But the abstractions of
philosophy are to most persons cold and vacant; they give light without
warmth; they are like the full moon in the heavens when there are no stars
appearing. Men cannot live by thought alone; the world of sense is always
breaking in upon them. They are for the most part confined to a corner of
earth, and see but a little way beyond their own home or place of abode;
they 'do not lift up their eyes to the hills'; they are not awake when the
dawn appears. But in Plato we have reached a height from which a man may
look into the distance and behold the future of the world and of
philosophy. The ideal of the State and of the life of the philosopher; the
ideal of an education continuing through life and extending equally to both
sexes; the ideal of the unity and correlation of knowledge; the faith in
good and immortality--are the vacant forms of light on which Plato is
seeking to fix the eye of mankind.
8. Two other ideals, which never appeared above the horizon in Greek
Philosophy, float before the minds of men in our own day: one seen more
clearly than formerly, as though each year and each generation brought us
nearer to some great change; the other almost in the same degree retiring
from view behind the laws of nature, as if oppressed by them, but still
remaining a silent hope of we know not what hidden in the heart of man.
The first ideal is the future of the human race in this world; the second
the future of the individual in another. The first is the more perfect
realization of our own present life; the second, the abnegation of it: the
one, limited by experience, the other, transcending it. Both of them have
been and are powerful motives of action; there are a few in whom they have
taken the place of all earthly interests. The hope of a future for the
human race at first sight seems to be the more disinterested, the hope of
individual existence the more egotistical, of the two motives. But when
men have learned to resolve their hope of a future either for themselves or
for the world into the will of God--'not my will but Thine,' the difference
between them falls away; and they may be allowed to make either of them the
basis of their lives, according to their own individual character or
temperament. There is as much faith in the willingness to work for an
unseen future in this world as in another. Neither is it inconceivable
that some rare nature may feel his duty to another generation, or to
another century, almost as strongly as to his own, or that living always in
the presence of God, he may realize another world as vividly as he does
The greatest of all ideals may, or rather must be conceived by us under
similitudes derived from human qualities; although sometimes, like the
Jewish prophets, we may dash away these figures of speech and describe the
nature of God only in negatives. These again by degrees acquire a positive
meaning. It would be well, if when meditating on the higher truths either
of philosophy or religion, we sometimes substituted one form of expression
for another, lest through the necessities of language we should become the
slaves of mere words.
There is a third ideal, not the same, but akin to these, which has a place
in the home and heart of every believer in the religion of Christ, and in
which men seem to find a nearer and more familiar truth, the Divine man,
the Son of Man, the Saviour of mankind, Who is the first-born and head of
the whole family in heaven and earth, in Whom the Divine and human, that
which is without and that which is within the range of our earthly
faculties, are indissolubly united. Neither is this divine form of
goodness wholly separable from the ideal of the Christian Church, which is
said in the New Testament to be 'His body,' or at variance with those other
images of good which Plato sets before us. We see Him in a figure only,
and of figures of speech we select but a few, and those the simplest, to be
the expression of Him. We behold Him in a picture, but He is not there.
We gather up the fragments of His discourses, but neither do they represent
Him as He truly was. His dwelling is neither in heaven nor earth, but in
the heart of man. This is that image which Plato saw dimly in the
distance, which, when existing among men, he called, in the language of
Homer, 'the likeness of God,' the likeness of a nature which in all ages
men have felt to be greater and better than themselves, and which in
endless forms, whether derived from Scripture or nature, from the witness
of history or from the human heart, regarded as a person or not as a
person, with or without parts or passions, existing in space or not in
space, is and will always continue to be to mankind the Idea of Good.
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE.
Socrates, who is the narrator.
And others who are mute auditors.
The scene is laid in the house of Cephalus at the Piraeus; and the whole
dialogue is narrated by Socrates the day after it actually took place to
Timaeus, Hermocrates, Critias, and a nameless person, who are introduced in
I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston, that
I might offer up my prayers to the goddess (Bendis, the Thracian Artemis.);
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.
Polemarchus said to me: I perceive, Socrates, that you and your 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
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 be 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.
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 a burden.
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 with himself.
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
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 his age:
'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.
Quite correct, Socrates, if Simonides is to be believed, said Polemarchus
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.
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 just now saying, that I ought to
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
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
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
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink to human
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
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 friend?
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
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 of peace?
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 in 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 be
Then what is that joint use of silver or gold in which the just man is to
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 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
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?
And in that case they will be right in doing good to the evil and evil to
But the good are just and would not do an injustice?
Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who do no wrong?
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
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' and 'enemy.'
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 of horses?
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 generally, 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 just 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
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
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.
He roared out to the whole company: What folly, Socrates, has taken
possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock under to one
another? I say that if you want really to know what justice is, you should
not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honour to yourself from
the refutation of an opponent, but have your own answer; for there is many
a one who can ask and cannot answer. And now I will not have you say that
justice is duty or advantage or profit or gain or interest, for this sort
of nonsense will not do for me; I must have clearness and accuracy.
I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him without
trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye upon him, I
should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising, I looked at
him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, don't be hard upon us. Polemarchus
and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in the argument, but I can
assure you that the error was not intentional. If we were seeking for a
piece of gold, you would not imagine that we were 'knocking under to one
another,' and so losing our chance of finding it. And why, when we are
seeking for justice, a thing more precious than many pieces of gold, do you
say that we are weakly yielding to one another and not doing our utmost to
get at the truth? Nay, my good friend, we are most willing and anxious to
do so, but the fact is that we cannot. And if so, you people who know all
things should pity us and not be angry with us.
How characteristic of Socrates! he replied, with a bitter laugh;--that's
your ironical style! Did I not foresee--have I not already told you, that
whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer, and try irony or any other
shuffle, in order that he might avoid answering?
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well know that if you
ask a person what numbers make up twelve, taking care to prohibit him whom
you ask from answering twice six, or three times four, or six times two, or
four times three, 'for this sort of nonsense will not do for me,'--then
obviously, if that is your way of putting the question, no one can answer
you. But suppose that he were to retort, 'Thrasymachus, what do you mean?
If one of these numbers which you interdict be the true answer to the
question, am I falsely to say some other number which is not the right
one?--is that your meaning?'--How would you answer him?
Just as if the two cases were at all alike! he said.
Why should they not be? I replied; and even if they are not, but only
appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not to say what he
thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?
I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted answers?
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon reflection I
approve of any of them.
But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better, he said,
than any of these? What do you deserve to have done to you?
Done to me!--as becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise--that is
what I deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment! a pleasant notion!
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.
But you have, Socrates, said Glaucon: and you, Thrasymachus, need be under
no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution for Socrates.
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
affected 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 praise me? But of course
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 are aristocracies?
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' are added.
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 for 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
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.
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.
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 time 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 a 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
Certainly, he replied.
And do 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
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 nothing else?
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
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 and weaker?
He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally
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
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
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 or 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 most 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 bath-man, 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
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 banquetter 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
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
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 of language?
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 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
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.
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, a disgrace?
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, he
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was
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
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 he would not be the simple amusing creature which
And would he try to go beyond just action?
He would not.
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the unjust;
would that be considered by him as just or unjust?
He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage; but he would
not be able.
Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the point. My
question is only whether the just man, while refusing to have more than
another just man, would wish and claim to have more than the unjust?
Yes, he would.
And what of the unjust--does he claim to have more than the just man and to
do more than is just?
Of course, he said, for he claims to have more than all men.
And the unjust man will strive and struggle to obtain more than the unjust
man or action, in order that he may have more than all?
We may put the matter thus, I said--the just does not desire more than his
like but more than his unlike, whereas the unjust desires more than both
his like and his unlike?
Nothing, he said, can be better than that statement.
And the unjust is good and wise, and the just is neither?
Good again, he said.
And is not the unjust like the wise and good and the just unlike them?
Of course, he said, he who is of a certain nature, is like those who are of
a certain nature; he who is not, not.
Each of them, I said, is such as his like is?
Certainly, he replied.
Very good, Thrasymachus, I said; and now to take the case of the arts: you
would admit that one man is a musician and another not a musician?
And which is wise and which is foolish?
Clearly the musician is wise, and he who is not a musician is foolish.
And he is good in as far as he is wise, and bad in as far as he is foolish?
And you would say the same sort of thing of the physician?
And do you think, my excellent friend, that a musician when he adjusts the
lyre would desire or claim to exceed or go beyond a musician in the
tightening and loosening the strings?
I do not think that he would.
But he would claim to exceed the non-musician?
And what would you say of the physician? In prescribing meats and drinks
would he wish to go beyond another physician or beyond the practice of
He would not.
But he would wish to go beyond the non-physician?
And about knowledge and ignorance in general; see whether you think that
any man who has knowledge ever would wish to have the choice of saying or
doing more than another man who has knowledge. Would he not rather say or
do the same as his like in the same case?
That, I suppose, can hardly be denied.
And what of the ignorant? would he not desire to have more than either the
knowing or the ignorant?
I dare say.
And the knowing is wise?
And the wise is good?
Then the wise and good will not desire to gain more than his like, but more
than his unlike and opposite?
I suppose so.
Whereas the bad and ignorant will desire to gain more than both?
But did we not say, Thrasymachus, that the unjust goes beyond both his like
and unlike? Were not these your words?
And you also said that the just will not go beyond his like but his unlike?
Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the evil and
That is the inference.
And each of them is such as his like is?
That was admitted.
Then the just has turned out to be wise and good and the unjust evil and
Thrasymachus made all these admissions, not fluently, as I repeat them, but
with extreme reluctance; it was a hot summer's day, and the perspiration
poured from him in torrents; and then I saw what I had never seen before,
Thrasymachus blushing. As we were now agreed that justice was virtue and
wisdom, and injustice vice and ignorance, I proceeded to another point:
Well, I said, Thrasymachus, that matter is now settled; but were we not
also saying that injustice had strength; do you remember?
Yes, I remember, he said, but do not suppose that I approve of what you are
saying or have no answer; if however I were to answer, you would be quite
certain to accuse me of haranguing; therefore either permit me to have my
say out, or if you would rather ask, do so, and I will answer 'Very good,'
as they say to story-telling old women, and will nod 'Yes' and 'No.'
Certainly not, I said, if contrary to your real opinion.
Yes, he said, I will, to please you, since you will not let me speak. What
else would you have?
Nothing in the world, I said; and if you are so disposed I will ask and you
Then I will repeat the question which I asked before, in order that our
examination of the relative nature of justice and injustice may be carried
on regularly. A statement was made that injustice is stronger and more
powerful than justice, but now justice, having been identified with wisdom
and virtue, is easily shown to be stronger than injustice, if injustice is
ignorance; this can no longer be questioned by any one. But I want to view
the matter, Thrasymachus, in a different way: You would not deny that a
state may be unjust and may be unjustly attempting to enslave other states,
or may have already enslaved them, and may be holding many of them in
True, he replied; and I will add that the best and most perfectly unjust
state will be most likely to do so.
I know, I said, that such was your position; but what I would further
consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the superior state
can exist or be exercised without justice or only with justice.
If you are right in your view, and justice is wisdom, then only with
justice; but if I am right, then without justice.
I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding assent and
dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent.
That is out of civility to you, he replied.
You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to inform
me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of robbers and
thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at all if they injured
No indeed, he said, they could not.
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act
And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and fighting,
and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, Thrasymachus?
I agree, he said, because I do not wish to quarrel with you.
How good of you, I said; but I should like to know also whether injustice,
having this tendency to arouse hatred, wherever existing, among slaves or
among freemen, will not make them hate one another and set them at variance
and render them incapable of common action?
And even if injustice be found in two only, will they not quarrel and
fight, and become enemies to one another and to the just?
And suppose injustice abiding in a single person, would your wisdom say
that she loses or that she retains her natural power?
Let us assume that she retains her power.
Yet is not the power which injustice exercises of such a nature that
wherever she takes up her abode, whether in a city, in an army, in a
family, or in any other body, that body is, to begin with, rendered
incapable of united action by reason of sedition and distraction; and does
it not become its own enemy and at variance with all that opposes it, and
with the just? Is not this the case?
And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person; in the
first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not at unity
with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy to himself and
the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?
And O my friend, I said, surely the gods are just?
Granted that they are.
But if so, the unjust will be the enemy of the gods, and the just will be
Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will not
oppose you, lest I should displease the company.
Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the remainder of my
repast. For we have already shown that the just are clearly wiser and
better and abler than the unjust, and that the unjust are incapable of
common action; nay more, that to speak as we did of men who are evil acting
at any time vigorously together, is not strictly true, for if they had been
perfectly evil, they would have laid hands upon one another; but it is
evident that there must have been some remnant of justice in them, which
enabled them to combine; if there had not been they would have injured one
another as well as their victims; they were but half-villains in their
enterprises; for had they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they
would have been utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the
truth of the matter, and not what you said at first. But whether the just
have a better and happier life than the unjust is a further question which
we also proposed to consider. I think that they have, and for the reasons
which I have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no
light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life.
I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a horse has
And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which could not
be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing?
I do not understand, he said.
Let me explain: Can you see, except with the eye?
Or hear, except with the ear?
These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs?
But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel, and in
many other ways?
And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the purpose?
May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook?
Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding my meaning
when I asked the question whether the end of anything would be that which
could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other thing?
I understand your meaning, he said, and assent.
And that to which an end is appointed has also an excellence? Need I ask
again whether the eye has an end?
And has not the eye an excellence?
And the ear has an end and an excellence also?
And the same is true of all other things; they have each of them an end and
a special excellence?
That is so.
Well, and can the eyes fulfil their end if they are wanting in their own
proper excellence and have a defect instead?
How can they, he said, if they are blind and cannot see?
You mean to say, if they have lost their proper excellence, which is sight;
but I have not arrived at that point yet. I would rather ask the question
more generally, and only enquire whether the things which fulfil their ends
fulfil them by their own proper excellence, and fail of fulfilling them by
their own defect?
Certainly, he replied.
I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own proper
excellence they cannot fulfil their end?
And the same observation will apply to all other things?
Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfil? for
example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are not
these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be assigned to any
To no other.
And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Assuredly, he said.
And has not the soul an excellence also?
And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that
Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and superintendent, and
the good soul a good ruler?
And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and
injustice the defect of the soul?
That has been admitted.
Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust man will
That is what your argument proves.
And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the
reverse of happy?
Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?
So be it.
But happiness and not misery is profitable.
Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more profitable than
Let this, Socrates, he said, be your entertainment at the Bendidea.
For which I am indebted to you, I said, now that you have grown gentle
towards me and have left off scolding. Nevertheless, I have not been well
entertained; but that was my own fault and not yours. As an epicure
snatches a taste of every dish which is successively brought to table, he
not having allowed himself time to enjoy the one before, so have I gone
from one subject to another without having discovered what I sought at
first, the nature of justice. I left that enquiry and turned away to
consider whether justice is virtue and wisdom or evil and folly; and when
there arose a further question about the comparative advantages of justice
and injustice, I could not refrain from passing on to that. And the result
of the whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know
not what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or
is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or unhappy.
With these words I was thinking that I had made an end of the discussion;
but the end, in truth, proved to be only a beginning. For Glaucon, who is
always the most pugnacious of men, was dissatisfied at Thrasymachus'
retirement; he wanted to have the battle out. So he said to me: Socrates,
do you wish really to persuade us, or only to seem to have persuaded us,
that to be just is always better than to be unjust?
I should wish really to persuade you, I replied, if I could.
Then you certainly have not succeeded. Let me ask you now:--How would you
arrange goods--are there not some which we welcome for their own sakes, and
independently of their consequences, as, for example, harmless pleasures
and enjoyments, which delight us at the time, although nothing follows from
I agree in thinking that there is such a class, I replied.
Is there not also a second class of goods, such as knowledge, sight,
health, which are desirable not only in themselves, but also for their
Certainly, I said.
And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, and the care
of the sick, and the physician's art; also the various ways of
money-making--these do us good but we regard them as disagreeable; and no
one would choose them for their own sakes, but only for the sake of some
reward or result which flows from them?
There is, I said, this third class also. But why do you ask?
Because I want to know in which of the three classes you would place
In the highest class, I replied,--among those goods which he who would be
happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake of their results.
Then the many are of another mind; they think that justice is to be
reckoned in the troublesome class, among goods which are to be pursued for
the sake of rewards and of reputation, but in themselves are disagreeable
and rather to be avoided.
I know, I said, that this is their manner of thinking, and that this was
the thesis which Thrasymachus was maintaining just now, when he censured
justice and praised injustice. But I am too stupid to be convinced by him.
I wish, he said, that you would hear me as well as him, and then I shall
see whether you and I agree. For Thrasymachus seems to me, like a snake,
to have been charmed by your voice sooner than he ought to have been; but
to my mind the nature of justice and injustice have not yet been made
clear. Setting aside their rewards and results, I want to know what they
are in themselves, and how they inwardly work in the soul. If you, please,
then, I will revive the argument of Thrasymachus. And first I will speak
of the nature and origin of justice according to the common view of them.
Secondly, I will show that all men who practise justice do so against their
will, of necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, I will argue that
there is reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all
better far than the life of the just--if what they say is true, Socrates,
since I myself am not of their opinion. But still I acknowledge that I am
perplexed when I hear the voices of Thrasymachus and myriads of others
dinning in my ears; and, on the other hand, I have never yet heard the
superiority of justice to injustice maintained by any one in a satisfactory
way. I want to hear justice praised in respect of itself; then I shall be
satisfied, and you are the person from whom I think that I am most likely
to hear this; and therefore I will praise the unjust life to the utmost of
my power, and my manner of speaking will indicate the manner in which I
desire to hear you too praising justice and censuring injustice. Will you
say whether you approve of my proposal?
Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of sense would
oftener wish to converse.
I am delighted, he replied, to hear you say so, and shall begin by
speaking, as I proposed, of the nature and origin of justice.
They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injustice,
evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men have
both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of both, not being
able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think that they had better
agree among themselves to have neither; hence there arise laws and mutual
covenants; and that which is ordained by law is termed by them lawful and
just. This they affirm to be the origin and nature of justice;--it is a
mean or compromise, between the best of all, which is to do injustice and
not be punished, and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without
the power of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the
two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honoured by
reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy
to be called a man would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able
to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such is the received account,
Socrates, of the nature and origin of justice.
Now that those who practise justice do so involuntarily and because they
have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we imagine something of
this kind: having given both to the just and the unjust power to do what
they will, let us watch and see whither desire will lead them; then we
shall discover in the very act the just and unjust man to be proceeding
along the same road, following their interest, which all natures deem to be
their good, and are only diverted into the path of justice by the force of
law. The liberty which we are supposing may be most completely given to
them in the form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by
Gyges, the ancestor of Croesus the Lydian. According to the tradition,
Gyges was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great
storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where he
was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the opening,
where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen horse, having doors,
at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead body of stature, as appeared
to him, more than human, and having nothing on but a gold ring; this he
took from the finger of the dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met
together, according to custom, that they might send their monthly report
about the flocks to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring
on his finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the
collet of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to
the rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no
longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he
turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials of the
ring, and always with the same result--when he turned the collet inwards he
became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he contrived to
be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the court; whereas soon as
he arrived he seduced the queen, and with her help conspired against the
king and slew him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two
such magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the other;
no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand
fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when
he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and
lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he
would, and in all respects be like a God among men. Then the actions of
the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at
last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof
that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any
good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks
that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in
their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than
justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are
right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming
invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, he
would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although
they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up appearances with
one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice. Enough of
Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and unjust,