I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of Ariston,
that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; and also because I
wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the festival, which
was a new thing. I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants;
but that of the Thracians was equally, if not more, beautiful. When we
had finished our prayers and viewed the spectacle, we turned in the
direction of the city; and at that instant Polemarchus the son of
Cephalus chanced to catch sight of us from a distance as we were
starting on our way home, and told his servant to run and bid us wait
for him. The servant took hold of me by the cloak behind, and said:
Polemarchus desires you to wait.
I turned round, and asked him where his master was.
There he is, said the youth, coming after you, if you will only wait.
Certainly we will, said Glaucon; and in a few minutes Polemarchus
appeared, and with him Adeimantus, Glaucon's brother, Niceratus the son
of Nicias, and several others who had been at the procession.
Polemarchus said to me: I perceive, Socrates, that you and our companion
are already on your way to the city.
You are not far wrong, I said.
But do you see, he rejoined, how many we are?
And are you stronger than all these? for if not, you will have to remain
where you are.
May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you to
let us go?
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured.
Adeimantus added: Has no one told you of the torch-race on horseback in
honour of the goddess which will take place in the evening?
With horses! I replied: That is a novelty. Will horsemen carry torches
and pass them one to another during the race?
Yes, said Polemarchus, and not only so, but a festival will he
celebrated at night, which you certainly ought to see. Let us rise soon
after supper and see this festival; there will be a gathering of young
men, and we will have a good talk. Stay then, and do not be perverse.
Glaucon said: I suppose, since you insist, that we must.
Very good, I replied.
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
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
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 now saying that I ought
to return a return a deposit of arms or of anything else to one who asks
for it when he is not in his right senses; and yet a deposit cannot be
denied to be a debt.
Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am by no
means to make the return?
When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice, he did not
mean to include that case?
Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do good to a
friend and never evil.
You mean that the return of a deposit of gold which is to the injury of
the receiver, if the two parties are friends, is not the repayment of a
debt -- that is what you would imagine him to say?
And are enemies also to receive what we owe to them?
To be sure, he said, they are to receive what we owe them, and an enemy,
as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or proper to him --
that is to say, evil.
Simonides, then, after the manner of poets, would seem to have spoken
darkly of the nature of justice; for he really meant to say that justice
is the giving to each man what is proper to him, and this he termed a
That must have been his meaning, he said.
By heaven! I replied; and if we asked him what due or proper thing is
given by medicine, and to whom, what answer do you think that he would
make to us?
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink to
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
That is his meaning then?
I think so.
And who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to his enemies
in time of sickness?
Or when they are on a voyage, amid the perils of the sea?
And in what sort of actions or with a view to what result is the just
man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friends?
In going to war against the one and in making alliances with the other.
But when a man is well, my dear Polemarchus, there is no need of a
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
And what similar use or power of acquisition has justice in time of
In contracts, Socrates, justice is of use.
And by contracts you mean partnerships?
But is the just man or the skilful player a more useful and better
partner at a game of draughts?
The skilful player.
And in the laying of bricks and stones is the just man a more useful or
better partner than the builder?
Quite the reverse.
Then in what sort of partnership is the just man a better partner than
the harp-player, as in playing the harp the harp-player is certainly a
better partner than the just man?
In a money partnership.
Yes, Polemarchus, but surely not in the use of money; for you do not
want a just man to be your counsellor the purchase or sale of a horse; a
man who is knowing about horses would be better for that, would he not?
And when you want to buy a ship, the shipwright or the pilot would be
Then what is that joint use of silver or gold in which the just man is
to be preferred?
When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference.
And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to
the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the
art of the vine-dresser?
And when you want to keep a shield or a lyre, and not to use them, you
would say that justice is useful; but when you want to use them, then
the art of the soldier or of the musician?
And so of all the other things -- justice is useful when they are
useless, and useless when they are useful?
That is the inference.
Then justice is not good for much. But let us consider this further
point: Is not he who can best strike a blow in a boxing match or in any
kind of fighting best able to ward off a blow?
And he who is most skilful in preventing or escaping from a disease is
best able to create one?
And he is the best guard of a camp who is best able to steal a march
upon the enemy?
Then he who is a good keeper of anything is also a good thief?
That, I suppose, is to be inferred.
Then if the just man is good at keeping money, he is good at stealing
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
And in that case they will be right in doing good to the evil and evil
to the good?
But the good are just and would not do an injustice?
Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who do no
Nay, Socrates; the doctrine is immoral.
Then I suppose that we ought to do good to the just and harm to the
I like that better.
But see the consequence: -- Many a man who is ignorant of human nature
has friends who are bad friends, and in that case he ought to do harm to
them; and he has good enemies whom he ought to benefit; but, if so, we
shall be saying the very opposite of that which we affirmed to be the
meaning of Simonides.
Very true, he said: and I think that we had better correct an error into
which we seem to have fallen in the use of the words "friend" and
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
When horses are injured, are they improved or deteriorated?
Deteriorated, that is to say, in the good qualities of horses, not of
Yes, of horses.
And dogs are deteriorated in the good qualities of dogs, and not of
And will not men who are injured be deteriorated in that which is the
proper virtue of man?
And that human virtue is justice?
To be sure.
Then men who are injured are of necessity made unjust?
That is the result.
But can the musician by his art make men unmusical?
Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen?
And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking general can the
good by virtue make them bad?
Any more than heat can produce cold?
Or drought moisture?
Nor can the good harm any one?
And the just is the good?
Then to injure a friend or any one else is not the act of a just man,
but of the opposite, who is the unjust?
I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates.
Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts, and
that good is the debt which a man owes to his friends, and evil the debt
which he owes to his enemies -- to say this is not wise; for it is not
true, if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of another can be in
no case just.
I agree with you, said Polemarchus.
Then you and I are prepared to take up arms against any one who
attributes such a saying to Simonides or Bias or Pittacus, or any other
wise man or seer?
I am quite ready to do battle at your side, he said.
Shall I tell you whose I believe the saying to be?
I believe that Periander or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias the Theban,
or some other rich and mighty man, who had a great opinion of his own
power, was the first to say that justice is "doing good to your friends
and harm to your enemies."
Most true, he said.
Yes, I said; but if this definition of justice also breaks down, what
other can be offered?
Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus had made an
attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and had been put down by
the rest of the company, who wanted to hear the end. But when
Polemarchus and I had done speaking and there was a pause, he could no
longer hold his peace; and, gathering himself up, he came at us like a
wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were quite panic-stricken at the
sight of him.
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, 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
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
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
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
Why, my good friend, I said, how can any one answer who knows, and says
that he knows, just nothing; and who, even if he has some faint notions
of his own, is told by a man of authority not to utter them? The natural
thing is, that the speaker should be some one like yourself who
professes to know and can tell what he knows. Will you then kindly
answer, for the edification of the company and of myself?
Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request and
Thrasymachus, as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for
he thought that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish
himself. But at first he to insist on my answering; at length he
consented to begin. Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he refuses
to teach himself, and goes about learning of others, to whom he never
even says thank you.
That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am
ungrateful I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in
praise, which is all I have: and how ready I am to praise any one who
appears to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you answer;
for I expect that you will answer well.
Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the
interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me? But of course you
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
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
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
A small addition, you must allow, he said.
Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether
what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that justice is
interest of some sort, but you go on to say "of the stronger"; about
this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore consider further.
I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just or subjects to
obey their rulers?
But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they
sometimes liable to err?
To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.
Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly, and
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 me when he is making the mistake, in respect of the
mistake? True, we say that the physician or arithmetician or grammarian
has made a mistake, but this is only a way of speaking; for the fact is
that neither the grammarian nor any other person of skill ever makes a
mistake in so far as he is what his name implies; they none of them err
unless their skill fails them, and then they cease to be skilled
artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs at the time when he is what his
name implies; though he is commonly said to err, and I adopted the
common mode of speaking. But to be perfectly accurate, since you are
such a lover of accuracy, we should say that the ruler, in so far as he
is the ruler, is unerring, and, being unerring, always commands that
which is for his own interest; and the subject is required to execute
his commands; and therefore, as I said at first and now repeat, justice
is the interest of the stronger.
Indeed, Thrasymachus, and do I really appear to you to argue like an
Certainly, he replied.
And you suppose that I ask these questions with any design of injuring
you in the argument?
Nay, he replied, "suppose" is not the word -- I know it; but you will be
found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never prevail.
I shall not make the attempt, my dear man; but to avoid any
misunderstanding occurring between us in future, let me ask, in what
sense do you speak of a ruler or stronger whose interest, as you were
saying, he being the superior, it is just that the inferior should
execute -- is he a ruler in the popular or in the strict sense of the
In the strictest of all senses, he said. And now cheat and play the
informer if you can; I ask no quarter at your hands. But you never will
be able, never.
And do you imagine, I said, that I am such a madman as to try and cheat,
Thrasymachus? I might as well shave a lion.
Why, he said, you made the attempt a minute ago, and you failed.
Enough, I said, of these civilities. It will be better that I should ask
you a question: Is the physician, taken in that strict sense of which
you are speaking, a healer of the sick or a maker of money? And remember
that I am now speaking of the true physician.
A healer of the sick, he replied.
And the pilot -- that is to say, the true pilot -- is he a captain of
sailors or a mere sailor?
A captain of sailors.
The circumstance that he sails in the ship is not to be taken into
account; neither is he to be called a sailor; the name pilot by which he
is distinguished has nothing to do with sailing, but is significant of
his skill and of his authority over the sailors.
Very true, he said.
Now, I said, every art has an interest?
For which the art has to consider and provide?
Yes, that is the aim of art.
And the interest of any art is the perfection of it -- this and nothing
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 not right.
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
He gave a reluctant "Yes."
Then, I said, Thrasymachus, there is no one in any rule who, in so far
as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own interest, but
always what is for the interest of his subject or suitable to his art;
to that he looks, and that alone he considers in everything which he
says and does.
When we had got to this point in the argument, and every one saw that
the definition of justice had been completely upset, Thrasymachus,
instead of replying to me, said: Tell me, Socrates, have you got a
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 of tends the
sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of
himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of
states, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep,
and that they are not studying their own advantage day and night. Oh,
no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about the just and
unjust as not even to know that justice and the just are in reality
another's good; that is to say, the interest of the ruler and stronger,
and the loss of the subject and servant; and injustice the opposite; for
the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger,
and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his
happiness, which is very far from being their own. Consider further,
most foolish Socrates, that the just is always a loser in comparison
with the unjust. First of all, in private contracts: wherever the unjust
is the partner of the just you will find that, when the partnership is
dissolved, the unjust man has always more and the just less. Secondly,
in their dealings with the State: when there is an income tax, the just
man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income; and
when there is anything to be received the one gains nothing and the
other much. Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is
the just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses,
and getting nothing out of the public, because he is just; moreover he
is hated by his friends and acquaintance for refusing to serve them in
unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man. I
am speaking, as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the
advantage of the unjust is more apparent; and my meaning will be most
clearly seen if we turn to that highest form of injustice in which the
criminal is the happiest of men, and the sufferers or those who refuse
to do injustice are the most miserable -- that is to say tyranny, which
by fraud and force takes away the property of others, not little by
little but wholesale; comprehending in one, things sacred as well as
profane, private and public; for which acts of wrong, if he were
detected perpetrating any one of them singly, he would be punished and
incur great disgrace -- they who do such wrong in particular cases are
called robbers of temples, and man-stealers and burglars and swindlers
and thieves. But when a man besides taking away the money of the
citizens has made slaves of them, then, instead of these names of
reproach, he is termed happy and blessed, not only by the citizens but
by all who hear of his having achieved the consummation of injustice.
For mankind censure injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of
it and not because they shrink from committing it. And thus, as I have
shown, Socrates, injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more
strength and freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said at first,
justice is the interest of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man's
own profit and interest.
Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman, deluged
our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the company would
not let him; they insisted that he should remain and defend his
position; and I myself added my own humble request that he would not
leave us. Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man, how suggestive are
your remarks! And are you going to run away before you have fairly
taught or learned whether they are true or not? Is the attempt to
determine the way of man's life so small a matter in your eyes -- to
determine how life may be passed by each one of us to the greatest
And do I differ from you, he said, as to the importance of the enquiry?
You appear rather, I replied, to have no care or thought about us,
Thrasymachus -- whether we live better or worse from not knowing what
you say you know, is to you a matter of indifference. Prithee, friend,
do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party; and any
benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded. For my own part
I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I do not believe
injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if uncontrolled and
allowed to have free play. For, granting that there may be an unjust man
who is able to commit injustice either by fraud or force, still this
does not convince me of the superior advantage of injustice, and there
may be others who are in the same predicament with myself. Perhaps we
may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom should convince us that we are
mistaken in preferring justice to injustice.
And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already convinced
by what I have just said; what more can I do for you? Would you have me
put the proof bodily into your souls?
Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent; or, if you
change, change openly and let there be no deception. For I must remark,
Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously said, that although
you began by defining the true physician in an exact sense, you did not
observe a like exactness when speaking of the shepherd; you thought that
the shepherd as a shepherd tends the sheep not with a view to their own
good, but like a mere diner or banqueter with a view to the pleasures of
the table; or, again, as a trader for sale in the market, and not as a
shepherd. Yet surely the art of the shepherd is concerned only with the
good of his subjects; he has only to provide the best for them, since
the perfection of the art is already ensured whenever all the
requirements of it are satisfied. And that was what I was saying just
now about the ruler. I conceived that the art of the ruler, considered
as ruler, whether in a state or in private life, could only regard the
good of his flock or subjects; whereas you seem to think that the rulers
in states, that is to say, the true rulers, like being in authority.
Think! Nay, I am sure of it.
Then why in the case of lesser offices do men never take them willingly
without payment, unless under the idea that they govern for the
advantage not of themselves but of others? Let me ask you a question:
Are not the several arts different, by reason of their each having a
separate function? And, my dear illustrious friend, do say what you
think, that we may make a little progress.
Yes, that is the difference, he replied.
And each art gives us a particular good and not merely a general one --
medicine, for example, gives us health; navigation, safety at sea, and
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 say not.
Nor would you say that medicine is the art of receiving pay because a
man takes fees when he is engaged in healing?
And we have admitted, I said, that the good of each art is specially
confined to the art?
Then, if there be any good which all artists have in common, that is to
be attributed to something of which they all have the common use?
True, he replied.
And when the artist is benefited by receiving pay the advantage is
gained by an additional use of the art of pay, which is not the art
professed by him?
He gave a reluctant assent to this.
Then the pay is not derived by the several artists from their respective
arts. But the truth is, that while the art of medicine gives health, and
the art of the builder builds a house, another art attends them which is
the art of pay. The various arts may be doing their own business and
benefiting that over which they preside, but would the artist receive
any benefit from his art unless he were paid as well?
I suppose not.
But does he therefore confer no benefit when he works for nothing?
Certainly, he confers a benefit.
Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither arts
nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we were before
saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their subjects who
are the weaker and not the stronger -- to their good they attend and not
to the good of the superior. And this is the reason, my dear
Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now saying, no one is willing to
govern; because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils
which are not his concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of
his work, and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does not
regard his own interest, but always that of his subjects; and therefore
in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of
three modes of payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.
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 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
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? They were.
And you also said that the lust will not go beyond his like but his
Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the evil
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"
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
And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and
fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true,
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 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 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
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
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 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
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 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
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.
1. Bendis, the Thracian Artemis.
Back to The Republic - Introduction
Next: The Republic - Book II