when he departs to the other world he is not in any apprehen-
sion about offerings due to the gods or debts which he owes
to men. Now the possession of wealth has a great deal to do
with this; and therefore I say that, setting one thing against
another, this, in my opinion, is to a man of sense the greatest
of the many advantages which wealth has to. give.
That is excellent, Cephalus, I replied ; but then is justice
no more than this — to speak the truth and pay your debts ?
And are there not exceptions even to this? If I have received
arms from a friend when in his right mind, 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, any
more than they would say that I ought always to speak the
truth to one who is in that 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.
And yet, said Polemarchus, that is the definition which has
the authority of Simonides. 14
I fear, said Cephalus, that I must look to the sacrifices ; and
therefore I now take leave of this argument, which I bequeath
to you and Polemarchus.
Is not Polemarchus your heir ? I said.
To be sure, he answered, and went away laughing to the
13 See Euthydemus, note 22.
14 See Protagoras, note 26. The authority of the greater poets was re-
vered almost as we revere that of the Bible.
THE REPUBLIC 193
[Socrates and Polemarchus enter into a discussion of the
definition of justice. They examine the view mentioned
above that justice consists in speaking the truth and paying - ,' • lf%
one's debts. They finally agree that this definition is un-
satisfactory and cannot be the true one.]
Several times in the middle of our discourse Thrasymachus
had made an attempt to get the argument into his own hands
by interrupting us, and had been put down by the rest of the
company, who wanted to hear the end. But when 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, and Polemarchus and I quaked
What folly has possessed you, Socrates ? he said, with a roar.
Why do you drop down at one another's feet in this silly
way ? I say that if you want to know what justice really is,
you should answer and not ask, and you shouldn't pride your-
self in refuting others, but have your own answer ; for there
is many a one who can ask and cannot answer. And don't
tell me that justice is duty or advantage or profit or gain or
interest, for that sort of watery stuff won't do for me ; I must
and will have a precise answer.
I was panic-stricken at these words, and trembled at the
very look of him ; and I verily believe that if I had not
caught his eye first, I should have been deprived of utterance :
but now, when I saw his fury rising, I had the presence of
mind to keep my eye upon him, and this enabled me to reply
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, have mercy on us.
Our error, if we were guilty of any error, was certainly unin-
tentional ; and therefore you, in your wisdom, should have
pity upon us, and not be angry with us. If we were seeking
for gold, you would not imagine that we were pretending only,
or dropping down, as you say, out of foolish complaisance, at
one another's feet. Do not imagine, then, that we are pre-
tending to seek for justice, which is a treasure far more pre-
cious than gold.
How characteristic of Socrates ! he replied, with a
bitter laugh ; that's your ironical way ! Did I not foresee —
did I not tell you all that he would refuse to answer, and try
194 PLATO THE TEACHER
irony or any other shift in order that he might avoid answer-
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well
know that if you ask what numbers make up twelve, taking
care to prohibit the person whom you ask from answering
twice six, or three times four, or six times two, or four times
three, " for this sort of nonsense won't do for me," then
obviously, if that is your way of putting the question to him,
neither he nor any one can answer. And suppose he were
to say, " Thrasymachus, what do you mean ? And if the true
answer to the question is one of these numbers which you in-
terdict, am I to say some other number which is not the right
one? — is that your meaning?" How would you answer
Yes, said he ; but how remarkably parallel the two cases
Very likely they are, I replied ; but even if they are not,
and only appear to be parallel to the person who is asked, can
he to whom the question is put avoid saying what he thinks,
even though you and I join in forbidding him ?
Well, then, I suppose you are going to make one of the in-
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon
reflection I approve of any of them.
But what if I give you a new and better answer, he said,
than any of these ? What do you deserve to have done to
Done to me ! I can but suffer the penalty of ignorance ;
and the penalty is to learn from the wise — and that is what I
deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment ! that's a pleasant notion !
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.
But you have, Socrates, said Glaucon ; and you, Thrasym-
achus, need be under no anxiety about money, for we will all
make a contribution for Socrates.
Yes, he replied, and I know what will happen ; Socrates
will do as he always does — not answer, but take and pull the
argument to pieces.
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 had some faint notions of his own, is told by a man of
THE REPUBLIC 195
authority not to utter them ? The natural thing is, that the
speaker should be one who knows, like yourself ; and I must
earnestly request that you will kindly answer for the 338-
edification of the company and of myself. 343
Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request,
and Thrasymachus, as any one might see, was really eager to
speak ; for he thought that he had an excellent answer, and
would distinguish himself. But at first he affected to in-
sist on my answering; at length he consented to begin. Be-
hold, 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 there-
fore I pay in praise, which is all I have ; and how ready I am
to praise any one who speaks 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 might is right, jus-
tice the interest of the stronger. But why don't you praise
Let me first understand you, I replied.
[Socrates now puts a series of questions to Thrasymachus,
and in answering Thrasymachus is led to admit statements
which contradict his own definition of justice. When he
finds himself cornered in the argument, he tries to escape
by means of a long speech upon the advantages of injustice,
as follows :]
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, who are true rulers, never think of
their subjects as sheep, and that they are not studying their
own advantage day and night. O, no ; and so entirely astray
are you in the very rudiments of justice and injustice 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 ; whereas the reverse holds
in the case of injustice ; for the unjust is lord over the truly
simple and just : he is the stronger, and his subjects do what
I96 PLATO THE TEACHER
is for his benefit, 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 their private dealings: wherever the
unjust is the partner of the just the conclusion of the affair al-
ways is that the unjust man has more and the just less. Next,
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
that when they come into office, there is the just man neglect-
ing his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, but he will
not compensate himself out of the public purse because he is
just ; moreover he is hated by his friends and relations for
refusing to serve them in unlawful ways. Now all this is re-
versed in the case of the unjust man. I am speaking of in-
justice on a large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is
most apparent, and my meaning will be most clearly
seen in that highest form of injustice the perpetrator of
which is the happiest of men, as the sufferers or those who re-
fuse to do injustice are the most miserable — I mean tyranny,
which by fraud and force takes away the property of others,
not retail but wholesale ; comprehending in one, things sacred
as well as profane, private and public ; for any one of which
acts of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating them singly,
he would be punished and incur great dishonor ; for they
who are guilty of any of these crimes in single instances are
called robbers of temples and man -stealers and burglars and
swindlers and thieves. But when a man has taken away the
money of the citizens and made slaves of them, then, instead
of these dishonorable names, he is called happy and blessed,
not only by the citizens but by all who hear of his having
achieved the consummation of injustice. For injustice is cen-
sured because the censurers are afraid of suffering, and not
from any fear which they have of doing injustice. 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
THE REPUBLIC 197
away. But the company would not allow this, and they com-
pelled him to 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 words ! And are you going 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 such a small mat-
ter in your eyes — the attempt to determine the way in which
life may be passed by one of us to the greatest advantage ?
My reason is that I do not agree with you, he replied.
I should rather think, Thrasymachus, that you have no feel-
ing about us, I said ; you don't seem to care whether we live
better or worse from not knowing what you say you know.
Prithee, friend, be obliging and impart your wisdom to us ;
any benefit which is conferred on a large party such as this is
will not be unrewarded. For my own part I frankly ad-
mit that I am not convinced, and that I do not believe 3 ^5-
injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if uncon-
trolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting that
there may be an unjust man who is able to commit injus-
tice 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 as myself. Perhaps we may
be wrong ; if so, you should convince us that we are mistaken
in preferring justice to injustice.
[In the discussion which follows, Thrasymachus again finds
himself caught in the net of Socrates' questions and his argu-
ment refuted. But they arrive at no conclusion satisfactory
to Socrates for they have not yet defined justice. At the close
of the discussion Thrasymachus says :]
Let this, Socrates, be your entertainment at the Bendidea.
And for this I am indebted to you, I said, now that you
have grown gentle toward me, and have left off scolding.
Nevertheless, I have not been well entertained ; but that was
my own fault and not yours. I may liken myself to an epicure
who snatches a taste of every dish which is successively
brought to table before he has fairly enjoyed the one before ;
and this has been the case with me. For before I discovered
the nature of justice, I left that and proceeded to inquire
198 PLATO THE TEACHER
whether justice was virtue and wisdom or evil and folly ; and
then arose a further question about the comparative advan-
tages of justice and injustice, and I could not refrain from
passing on to that. And the result of all is 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 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 at all times the boldest
of men, was dissatisfied at Thrasymachus' retirement ; he 5 ^
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 un-
I should wish really to persuade you, I replied, if I could.
Then you certainly have not succeeded. And will you tell
me, he said, how you would arrange goods ; is there not one
class of goods which are desirable in themselves, and independ-
ently of their results, as, for example, mere innocent pleasures
and enjoyments, upon which nothing follows ?
I think that there is such a class, I replied.
What would you say to a second class of goods which are
desirable not only in themselves, but also for their results, such
as knowledge, sight, health ?
To that likewise I assent.
Thirdly, would you recognize a class of goods troublesome
in themselves, yet profitable to us ; such, for example, as gym-
nastic exercises, or the healing and treatment of disease, and
the business of money-making, which no one would choose
for their own sakes, but only for the sake of some reward or
result of them ?
There is, I said, this third class also. But why do you
Because I want to know in which of the three classes you
would place justice ?
In the highest and noblest class, I replied, of goods, ~
which he who is to be happy desires for their own sakes
as well as for their results.
Then the many are of another mind ; they think that jus-
tice is of the troublesome class of goods, which are to be pur-
sued for the sake of rewards and reputation, but in themselves
are rather to be avoided.
I know, I said, that this is their doctrine, and this was also
200 PLATO THE TEACHER
the sentiment of Thrasymachus, when originally he blamed
justice and praised injustice; but I appear not to understand
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 to have been charmed by your voice, like a snake,
sooner than he ought to have been j and I am not yet satis-
fied with the account which has been given of the nature of
justice and injustice. Leaving the rewards and results of them,
I want to know what they, either of them, are in themselves,
and what power they have 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 com-
mon view of them. Secondly, I will show that all men who
practice justice do so against their will, and not as a good, but
as a necessity. And thirdly, I will maintain that there is rea-
son in this, for in their view, the life of the unjust is better far
than the life of the just. That is only what they say, Socrates,
for 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 thesis that justice is better
than injustice maintained in a satisfactory way. If I could
hear the praises of justice and injustice considered in them-
selves, then I should be satisfied, and you are the person from
whom I expect to hear this ; and therefore I will praise the
unjust life to the utmost of my power, and the manner in which
I speak will indicate also the manner in which I desire to hear
you praising justice and censuring injustice. Will you say
whether you approve of this ?
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 that, and shall
begin by speaking 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
when men have done and suffered and had experience of both,
not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other,
they think that they had better agree with one another
to have neither, and thence arise laws and covenants among
them ; and that which is ordained by law they term lawful
THE REPUBLIC 201
and just. This, as they affirm, is the origin and nature of jus-
tice, arising out of a mean or compromise between the best of
all, which is to do and not to suffer injustice, and the worst of
all, which is to suffer without the power of retaliation ; and
justice, being in a mean between the two, is tolerated not as a
good, but as the lesser evil, and honored by reason of the ina-
bility of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be
called a man would submit to such an agreement if he were
able to resist ; he would be mad if he did. This, Socrates, is
the received account of the nature and origin of justice.
Now that justice is only the inability to do injustice will
best appear if we imagine something of this kind : suppose we
give both the just and the unjust entire liberty to do what they
will, and let us attend and see whither desire will lead them ;
then we shall detect the just man in the very act ; the just and
unjust will be found going the same way, — following their
interest, which all natures conceive 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 conveniently
given to them in the form of such a power as is said to have
been possessed by Gyges, 1 the ancestor of Croesus, 2 the
Lydian. For Gyges, according to the tradition, was a shep-
herd and servant of the king of Lydia, and, while he was in
the field, there was a storm and earthquake, which made an
opening in the earth at the place where he was feeding his
flock. He was amazed at the sight, and 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 out of the open-
ing. Now the shepherds met together, according to custom,
that they might send their monthly report concerning the flock
to the king; and 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 towards the inner
side of the hand, when instantly he became invisible, and the
others began to speak of him as if he were no longer there. He
1 Gyges (gi'jez).
2 Croesus (6th century bc): a king of Lydia in Asia Minor, whose wealth
became proverbial in all languages.
202 PLATO THE TEACHER
was astonished at this, and again touching the ring he turned
the collet outward and reappeared j thereupon he made trials
of the ring, and always with the same result ; when he turned
the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he re-
appeared. Perceiving this, he immediately contrived to be
chosen messenger to the court, where he no sooner arrived
than 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 is of such adaman-
tine temper that he would stand fast in justice, — that is what
they think. No man would dare to be honest 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 ; just or unjust would arrive at last at the same
goal. And this is surely 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 be-
lieve in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the
individual than justice, and he who takes this line of argument
will say that they are right. For if you could imagine anyone
having such a power, 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 be sufferers of injustice.
Enough of this.
Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the
just and unjust, we must isolate them ; there is no other way ;
and how is the isolation to be effected ? I answer : Let the
unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just ;
nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and both are
to be perfected for the fulfillment of their respective parts.
First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of
, crafts ; like the skillful pilot or physician, who knows his
own powers and attempts only what is within their limits,
and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So
let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and
THE REPUBLIC 203
keep in the dark if he means to be great in his injustice (he
who is detected is nobody) : for the highest reach of injustice is,
to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore, I say that to
the perfectly unjust man we must attribute the most perfect in-
justice ; there is to be no deduction, and we must allow him,
while doing the most unjust acts, to have won for himself the
greatest reputation for justice. If he has taken a false step he
must be able to retrieve himself, being one who can speak with
effect, if any of his deeds come to light, and force his way
where force is required, and having gifts of courage and
strength, and command of money and friends. And at his side
let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, being,
as ^Eschylus 3 says, and not seeming. There must be no seem-
ing, for if he seem to be just he will be honored and rewarded,
and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of
justice or for the sake of honors and rewards ; therefore, let
him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering ;
and he must be imagined in a state of life very different from
that of the last. Let him be the best of men, and be esteemed
to be the worst ; then let us see whether his virtue is proof
against infamy and its consequences. And let him continue
thus to the hour of death ; being just, let him seem to be un-
just. Then when both have reached the uttermost extreme,
the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be
given which of them is the happier of the two. 4
Heavens ! my dear Glaucon, I said, how energetically you
polish them up for the decision, first one and then the other,
as if they were two statues.
I do my best, he said. And now that we know what they
are like there is no difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which
awaits either of them. But as you may think the description
of this a little too coarse, I will ask you to fancy, Socrates, that
the words which follow are not mine. Let me put them into
the mouths of the eulogists of injustice. They will tell you