From Plato's Republic, Book 1
1. Why does Thrasymacus think that the unjust life is better than the just life?
2. In what way does the analogy of the shepherd show that a ruler works for the interests or benefits of the ruled and not for himself?
3. What kind of pay would a good ruler want and why?
4. Why does Thrasymachus say that justice is sublime simplicity?
5. What is the aim, or goal, of the just man?
6. What does it mean to say that the various arts all aim at some excellence?
7. Why is the knower wise and good and the fool unwise?
8. What is the end or goal of the soul? What are the examples given of the horse, eyes, and ears?
9. How does Socrates support the conclusion that the just soul is happy and blessed and the unjust soul miserable?
10. What is the response of Thrasymachus to this argument and what does that response illustrate about the two possible responses to reason and a sound argument?
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 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 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.
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, 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 answered.
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was rehearsing?
Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me.
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 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 medicine?
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? They were.
And you also said that the lust 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 ignorant?
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 ignorant.
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 shall answer.
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 subjection?
True, he replied; and I will add the best and 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.
If you are right in you 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 one another?
No indeed, he said, they could not.
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act together better?
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 their friend?
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 ing at 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 thejust 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 to 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 some end?
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 fall 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 fulfill? 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 other?
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 excellence?
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 live ill?
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 justice.