Benutzer:Thai/Barney, Rachel: Socrates' Refutation of Thrasymachus (with source)

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Thrasymachus on Justice

  • "Justice is the advantage of the stronger" (338c2-3): different ruling parties in each city make the laws for their own advantage, and decree that following those laws is "just"
  • treats "the advantage of the stronger" and "the advantage of the ruler" as equivalent (338e6-339a4)
  • justice is "the advantage of another person" rather than oneself (343c3-4): if you behave justly, others will reap the benefits of your behavior

these definitions are not equivalent (ruling for your own advantage x advantage of another person; tyranny is "the most complete injustice" (344a4)) - Thrasymachus is not giving a definition of justice, but rather is debunking it by pointing out the standard effects of justice as usually understood

cf Hesiod: justice is understood to be a matter of obeying the law, it is the virtue which makes us good citizens and neighbors

two different ways to challenge such a normative concept:

  • revise the scope of the term (Callicles in Gorgias: "according to nature," it is just for the strong to take whatever they want from the weak)
  • leave the traditional extension of the term in place while changing its value (Thrasymachus: justice, understood as Hesiod does, is worthless to the person who possesses it)

"amoralist"/"immoralist": injustice contributes to making a person happy, that talk of "justice" is no more than a tool of exploitation

central assumption: a person's "advantage" = "good" = "happiness" must be understood in worldly terms, and in particular as a function of money and power; goods are assumed to be "zero-sum" (for one member of a community to have more of them is for another to have less); everyone is naturally motivated by pleonexia (greed), the drive to "have more" (pleon echein) of these goods

Thrasymachus thus silently excludes two related possibilities:

  • justice might have other effects as important as those he reports (psychological effects of justice on the just person, its operation within the family and on personal relations, how it affects our relations with the gods)
  • other goods than wealth and power could matter at least as much to us

Thrasymachus most bold and important claim is that his analysis of justice captures the most important facts about it

Thrasymachus and the Ruler in the Strict Sense

Socrates begins by getting Thrasymachus to agree that, (1) justice is the advantage of the stronger, aka the rulers

[336b] Now Thrasymachus, even while we were conversing, had been trying several times to break in and lay hold of the discussion but he was restrained by those who sat by him who wished to hear the argument out. But when we came to a pause after I had said this, he couldn't any longer hold his peace. But gathering himself up like a wild beast he hurled himself upon us as if he would tear us to pieces. And Polemarchus and I were frightened and fluttered apart, and he bawled out into our midst, [336c] “What balderdash is this that you have been talking, and why do you Simple Simons truckle and give way to one another? But if you really wish, Socrates, to know what the just is, don't merely ask questions or plume yourself upon controverting any answer that anyone gives—since your acumen has perceived that it is easier to ask questions than to answer them, but do you yourself answer and tell [336d] what you say the just is. And don't you be telling me that it is that which ought to be, or the beneficial or the profitable or the gainful or the advantageous, but express clearly and precisely whatever you say. For I won't take from you any such drivel as that!” And I, when I heard him, was dismayed, and looking upon him was filled with fear, and I believe that if I had not looked at him before he did at me I should have lost my voice. But as it is, at the very moment when he began to be exasperated by the course of the argument [336e] I glanced at him first, so that I became capable of answering him and said with a light tremor: “Thrasymachus, don't be harsh with us. If I and my friend have made mistakes in the consideration of the question, rest assured that it is unwillingly that we err. For you surely must not suppose that while if our quest were for gold we would never willingly truckle to one another and make concessions in the search and so spoil our chances of finding it, yet that when we are searching for justice, a thing more precious than much fine gold, we should then be so foolish as to give way to one another and not rather do our serious best to have it discovered. You surely must not suppose that, my friend. But you see it is our lack of ability that is at fault. It is pity then that we should far more reasonably receive [337a] from clever fellows like you than severity.” And he on hearing this gave a great guffaw and laughed sardonically and said, “Ye gods! here we have the well-known irony of Socrates, and I knew it and predicted that when it came to replying you would refuse and dissemble and do anything rather than answer any question that anyone asked you.” “That's because you are wise, Thrasymachus, and so you knew very well that if you asked a man how many are twelve, [337b] and in putting the question warned him: don't you be telling me, fellow, that twelve is twice six or three times four or six times two or four times three, for I won't accept any such drivel as that from you as an answer—it was obvious I fancy to you that no one could give an answer to a question framed in that fashion. Suppose he had said to you, 'Thrasymachus, what do you mean? Am I not to give any of the prohibited answers, not even, do you mean to say, if the thing really is one of these, but must I say something different from the truth, [337c] or what do you mean?' What would have been your answer to him?” “Humph!” said he, “how very like the two cases are!” “There is nothing to prevent,” said I; “yet even granted that they are not alike, yet if it appears to the person asked the question that they are alike, do you suppose that he will any the less answer what appears to him, whether we forbid him or whether we don't?” “Is that, then,” said he, “what you are going to do? Are you going to give one of the forbidden answers?” “I shouldn't be surprised,” I said, “if on reflection that would be my view.” “What then,” [337d] he said, “if I show you another answer about justice differing from all these, a better one—what penalty do you think you deserve?” “Why, what else,” said I, “than that which it befits anyone who is ignorant to suffer? It befits him, I presume, to learn from the one who does know. That then is what I propose that I should suffer.” “I like your simplicity,” said he; “but in addition to 'learning' you must pay a fine of money.” “Well, I will when I have got it,” I said. “It is there,” said Glaucon: “if money is all that stands in the way, Thrasymachus, go on with your speech. We will all contribute for Socrates.” “Oh yes, of course,” [337e] said he, “so that Socrates may contrive, as he always does, to evade answering himself but may cross-examine the other man and refute his replies.” “Why, how,” I said, “my dear fellow, could anybody answer if in the first place he did not know and did not even profess to know, and secondly even if he had some notion of the matter, he had been told by a man of weight that he mustn't give any of his suppositions as an answer? [338a] Nay, it is more reasonable that you should be the speaker. For you do affirm that you know and are able to tell. Don't be obstinate, but do me the favor to reply and don't be chary of your wisdom, and instruct Glaucon here and the rest of us.” When I had spoken thus Glaucon and the others urged him not to be obstinate. It was quite plain that Thrasymachus was eager to speak in order that he might do himself credit, since he believed that he had a most excellent answer to our question. But he demurred and pretended to make a point of my being the respondent. Finally he gave way and then said, [338b] “Here you have the wisdom of Socrates, to refuse himself to teach, but go about and learn from others and not even pay thanks therefor.” “That I learn from others,” I said, “you said truly, Thrasymachus. But in saying that I do not pay thanks you are mistaken. I pay as much as I am able. And I am able only to bestow praise. For money I lack. But that I praise right willingly those who appear to speak well you will well know forthwith as soon as you have given your answer. [338c] For I think that you will speak well.” “Hearken and hear then,” said he. “I affirm that the just is nothing else than the advantage of the stronger. WeIl, why don't you applaud? Nay, you'll do anything but that.” “Provided only I first understand your meaning,” said I; “for I don't yet apprehend it. The advantage of the stronger is what you affirm the just to be. But what in the world do you mean by this? I presume you don't intend to affirm this, that if Polydamas the pancratiast is stronger than we are and the flesh of beeves is advantageous for him, [338d] for his body, this viand is also for us who are weaker than he both advantageous and just.” “You're a buffoon, Socrates, and take my statement in the most detrimental sense.” “Not at all, my dear fellow” said I; “I only want you to make your meaning plainer.” “Don't you know then,” said he, “that some cities are governed by tyrants, in others democracy rules, in others aristocracy?” “Assuredly.” “And is not this the thing that is strong and has the mastery in each—the ruling party?” “Certainly.” [338e] “And each form of government enacts the laws with a view to its own advantage, a democracy democratic laws and tyranny autocratic and the others likewise, and by so legislating they proclaim that the just for their subjects is that which is for their—the rulers'—advantage and the man who deviates from this law they chastise as a law-breaker and a wrongdoer. This, then, my good sir, is what I understand as the identical principle of justice that obtains in all states [339a] —the advantage of the established government. This I presume you will admit holds power and is strong, so that, if one reasons rightly, it works out that the just is the same thing everywhere, the advantage of the stronger.” “Now,” said I, “I have learned your meaning, but whether it is true or not I have to try to learn. The advantageous, then, is also your reply, Thrasymachus, to the question, what is the just—though you forbade me to give that answer. [339b] But you add thereto that of the stronger.” “A trifling addition perhaps you think it,” he said. “It is not yet clear whether it is a big one either; but that we must inquire whether what you say is true, is clear. For since I too admit that the just is something that is of advantage —but you are for making an addition and affirm it to be the advantage of the stronger, while I don't profess to know, we must pursue the inquiry.” “Inquire away,” he said.

(2) it is just to obey the rulers

“I will do so,” said I. “Tell me, then; you affirm also, do you not, that obedience to rulers is just?” [339c] “I do.”

(3) rulers sometimes err, and command what is not to their own advantage - this yields the contradictory result that

“May I ask whether the rulers in the various states are infallible or capable sometimes of error?” “Surely,” he said, “they are liable to err.” “Then in their attempts at legislation they enact some laws rightly and some not rightly, do they not?” “So I suppose.” “And by rightly we are to understand for their advantage, and by wrongly to their disadvantage? Do you mean that or not?” “That.” “But whatever they enact must be performed by their subjects and is justice?” “Of course.”

(4) it both is (2) and is not (1) just to do what the rulers command in such a situation (339d-e)

[339d] “Then on your theory it is just not only to do what is the advantage of the stronger but also the opposite, what is not to his advantage.” “What's that you're saying?” he replied. “What you yourself are saying, I think. Let us consider it more closely. Have we not agreed that the rulers in giving orders to the ruled sometimes mistake their own advantage, and that whatever the rulers enjoin is just for the subjects to perform? Was not that admitted?” “I think it was,” he replied. [339e] “Then you will have to think,” I said, “that to do what is disadvantageous to the rulers and the stronger has been admitted by you to be just in the case when the rulers unwittingly enjoin what is bad for themselves, while you affirm that it is just for the others to do what they enjoined. In that way does not this conclusion inevitably follow, my most sapient Thrasymachus, that it is just to do the very opposite of what you say? For it is in that case surely the disadvantage of the stronger or superior that the inferior [340a] are commanded to perform.” “Yes, by Zeus, Socrates,” said Polemarchus, “nothing could be more conclusive.”

(Cleitophon: surely what Thrasymachus means is that justice consists in what the stronger or ruler believes to be his advantage)

“Of course,” said Cleitophon, breaking in, “if you are his witness.” “What need is there of a witness?” Polemarchus said. “Thrasymachus himself admits that the rulers sometimes enjoin what is evil for themselves and yet says that it is just for the subjects to do this.” “That, Polemarchus, is because Thrasymachus laid it down that it is just to obey the orders of the rulers.” “Yes, Cleitophon, but he also took the position that the advantage of the stronger is just. [340b] And after these two assumptions he again admitted that the stronger sometimes bid the inferior and their subjects do what is to the disadvantage of the rulers. And from these admissions the just would no more be the advantage of the stronger than the contrary.” “O well,” said Cleitophon, “by the advantage of the superior he meant what the superior supposed to be for his advantage. This was what the inferior had to do, and that this is the just was his position.” “That isn't what he said,” [340c] replied Polemarchus. “Never mind, Polemarchus,” said I, “but if that is Thrasymachus's present meaning, let us take it from him in that sense.

Thrasymachus pointedly rejects this option and (3) by claiming that a "ruler" is an expert who never makes a mistake - no longer description of the empirical realm, but putting forward a norm for our approval (the perfect scientific tyrant of his imagination)

“XIV. So tell me, Thrasymachus, was this what you intended to say, that the just is the advantage of the superior as it appears to the superior whether it really is or not? Are we to say this was your meaning?” “Not in the least,” he said. “Do you suppose that I call one who is in error a superior when he errs?” “I certainly did suppose that you meant that,” I replied, “when you agreed that rulers are not infallible [340d] but sometimes make mistakes.” “That is because you argue like a pettifogger, Socrates. Why, to take the nearest example, do you call one who is mistaken about the sick a physician in respect of his mistake or one who goes wrong in a calculation a calculator when he goes wrong and in respect of this error? Yet that is what we say literally—we say that the physician erred and the calculator and the schoolmaster. But the truth, I take it, is, that each of these [340e] in so far as he is that which we entitle him never errs; so that, speaking precisely, since you are such a stickler for precision, no craftsman errs. For it is when his knowledge abandons him that he who goes wrong goes wrong—when he is not a craftsman. So that no craftsman, wise man, or ruler makes a mistake then when he is a ruler, though everybody would use the expression that the physician made a mistake and the ruler erred. It is in this loose way of speaking, then, that you must take the answer I gave you a little while ago. But the most precise statement is that other, that the ruler [341a] in so far forth as ruler does not err, and not erring he enacts what is best for himself, and this the subject must do, so that, even as I meant from the start, I say the just is to do what is for the advantage of the stronger.”

while Socrates and Thrasymachus are polar opposites, they can agree on a single crucial point: ruling is a craft (techné), and only the ruler who exercises power in a fully expert way deserves the name

“So then, Thrasymachus,” said I, “my manner of argument seems to you pettifogging?” “It does,” he said. “You think, do you, that it was with malice aforethought and trying to get the better of you unfairly that I asked that question?” “I don't think it, I know it,” he said, “and you won't make anything by it, for you won't get the better of me by stealth and [341b] , failing stealth, you are not of the force to beat me in debate.” “Bless your soul,” said I, “I wouldn't even attempt such a thing. But that nothing of the sort may spring up between us again, define in which sense you take the ruler and stronger. Do you mean the so-called ruler or that ruler in the precise sense of whom you were just now telling us, and for whose advantage as being the superior it will be just for the inferior to act?” “I mean the ruler in the very most precise sense of the word,” he said. “Now bring on against this your cavils and your shyster's tricks if you are able.


Socrates' Refutation of Thrasymachus

five arguments; first group (I-III) investigate the shared hypothesis, that ruling "in the strict sense" is a craft; second round (IV, V) sets out some central properties of justice which explain why this is so - attempt not only to undermine Thrasymachus' attack on justice but to establish the opposed Socratic position: it is justice, not injustice, which makes us happy | style='font-size:9pt' |

I The "nature of craft" argument (341c-342e)

every craft has a distinctive object or subject matter and is "by nature set over this to seek and provide what is advantageous to it" (341d8-9)

(1) Every craft has a distinctive end, which consists in serving the good of its subject matter; thus the craft practitioner "in the strict sense" serves the good of the subject matter, not his own.

[341c] I ask no quarter. But you'll find yourself unable.” “Why, do you suppose,” I said, “that I am so mad to try to try to beard a lion and try the pettifogger on Thrasymachus?” “You did try it just now,” he said, “paltry fellow though you be.” “Something too much of this sort of thing,” said I. “But tell me, your physician in the precise sense of whom you were just now speaking, is he a moneymaker, an earner of fees, or a healer of the sick? And remember to speak of the physician who is really such.” “A healer of the sick,” he replied. “And what of the lot—the pilot rightly so called—is he a ruler of sailors or a sailor?” [341d] “A ruler of sailors.” “We don't, I fancy, have to take into account the fact that he actually sails in the ship, nor is he to be denominated a sailor. For it is not in respect of his sailing that he is called a pilot but in respect of his art and his ruling of the sailors.” “True,” he said. “Then for each of them is there not a something that is for his advantage?” “Quite so.” “And is it not also true,” said I, “that the art naturally exists for this, to discover and provide for each his advantage?” “Yes, for this.” “Is there, then, for each of the arts any other advantage than to be perfect as possible?” [341e] “What do you mean by that question?” “Just as if,” I said, “you should ask me whether it is enough for the body to be the body or whether it stands in need of something else, I would reply, 'By all means it stands in need. That is the reason why the art of medicine has now been invented, because the body is defective and such defect is unsatisfactory. To provide for this, then, what is advantageous, that is the end for which the art was devised.' Do you think that would be a correct answer, or not?” [342a] “Correct,” he said. “But how about this? Is the medical art itself defective or faulty, or has any other art any need of some virtue, quality, or excellence—as the eyes of vision, the ears of hearing, and for this reason is there need of some art over them that will consider and provide what is advantageous for these very ends—does there exist in the art itself some defect and does each art require another art to consider its advantage and is there need of still another for the considering art and so on ad infinitum, or will the art look out for its own advantage? [342b] Or is it a fact that it needs neither itself nor another art to consider its advantage and provide against its deficiency? For there is no defect or error at all that dwells in any art. Nor does it befit an art to seek the advantage of anything else than that of its object. But the art itself is free from all harm and admixture of evil, and is right so long as each art is precisely and entirely that which it is. And consider the matter in that precise way of speaking. Is it so or not?” “It appears to be so,” he said. “Then medicine,” said I, [342c] “does not consider the advantage of medicine but of the body?” “Yes.” “Nor horsemanship of horsemanship but of horses, nor does any other art look out for itself—for it has no need—but for that of which it is the art.”

(2) A Thrasymachean ruler (i.e., an unjust, self-serving tyrant) serves his own good, not that of his subject matter (the ruled).

“So it seems,” he replied. “But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts do hold rule and are stronger than that of which they are the arts.” He conceded this but it went very hard. “Then no art considers or enjoins the advantage of the stronger but every art that of the weaker [342d] which is ruled by it.” This too he was finally brought to admit though he tried to contest it. But when he had agreed—“Can we deny, then,” said I, “that neither does any physician in so far as he is a physician seek or enjoin the advantage of the physician but that of the patient? For we have agreed that the physician, 'precisely' speaking, is a ruler and governor of bodies and not a moneymaker. Did we agree on that?” He assented. “And so the 'precise' pilot is a ruler of sailors, [342e] not a sailor?” That was admitted. “Then that sort of a pilot and ruler will not consider and enjoin the advantage of the pilot but that of the sailor whose ruler he is.” He assented reluctantly. “Then,” said I, “Thrasymachus, neither does anyone in any office of rule in so far as he is a ruler consider and enjoin his own advantage but that of the one whom he rules and for whom he exercises his craft, and he keeps his eyes fixed on that and on what is advantageous and suitable to that in all that he says and does.”

(3) Therefore, a Thrasymachean ruler ist not practicing a real craft.

the crucial thesis is (1); real craft is not self-interested but disinterested; nonetheless, (1) is eminently debatable; Socrates depends heavily on an "induction" (a survey of cases belonging to some general kind, leading to a general conclusion about that kind) - limitations of induction are obvious: the fact that a few examples of crafts are disinterested does not entail that all crafts are

Thrasymachus: "injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice. And, as I said from the first, the just ist what is advantageous to the stronger, while injustice is to one's own profit and advantage" - strong views, how an intelligent man should live - example of the shepherd shows, that Socrates' induction was unreliable

[343a] When we had come to this point in the discussion and it was apparent to everybody that his formula of justice had suffered a reversal of form, Thrasymachus, instead of replying, said, “Tell me, Socrates, have you got a nurse?” “What do you mean?” said I. “Why didn't you answer me instead of asking such a question?” “Because,” he said, “she lets her little 'snotty' run about drivelling and doesn't wipe your face clean, though you need it badly, if she can't get you to know the difference between the shepherd and the sheep.” “And what, pray, makes you think that?” said I. “Because you think that the shepherds [343b] and the neat-herds are considering the good of the sheep and the cattle and fatten and tend them with anything else in view than the good of their masters and themselves; and by the same token you seem to suppose that the rulers in our cities, I mean the real rulers, differ at all in their thoughts of the governed from a man's attitude towards his sheep or that they think of anything else night and day than [343c] the sources of their own profit. And you are so far out concerning the just and justice and the unjust and injustice that you don't know that justice and the just are literally the other fellow's good —the advantage of the stronger and the ruler, but a detriment that is all his own of the subject who obeys and serves; while injustice is the contrary and rules those who are simple in every sense of the word and just, and they being thus ruled do what is for his advantage who is the stronger and make him happy [343d] in serving him, but themselves by no manner of means. And you must look at the matter, my simple-minded Socrates, in this way: that the just man always comes out at a disadvantage in his relation with the unjust. To begin with, in their business dealings in any joint undertaking of the two you will never find that the just man has the advantage over the unjust at the dissolution of the partnership but that he always has the worst of it. Then again, in their relations with the state, if there are direct taxes or contributions to be paid, the just man contributes more from an equal estate and the other less, and when there is a distribution [343e] the one gains much and the other nothing. And so when each holds office, apart from any other loss the just man must count on his own affairs falling into disorder through neglect, while because of his justice makes no profit from the state, and thereto he will displease his friends and his acquaintances by his unwillingness to serve them unjustly. But to the unjust man all the opposite advantages accrue. I mean, of course, the one I was just speaking of, [344a] the man who has the ability to overreach on a large scale. Consider this type of man, then, if you wish to judge how much more profitable it is to him personally to be unjust than to be just. And the easiest way of all to understand this matter will be to turn to the most consummate form of injustice which makes the man who has done the wrong most happy and those who are wronged and who would not themselves willingly do wrong most miserable. And this is tyranny, which both by stealth and by force takes away what belongs to others, both sacred and profane, both private and public, not little by little but at one swoop. [344b] For each several part of such wrongdoing the malefactor who fails to escape detection is fined and incurs the extreme of contumely; for temple-robbers, kidnappers, burglars, swindlers, and thieves the appellations of those who commit these partial forms of injustice. But when in addition to the property of the citizens men kidnap and enslave the citizens themselves, instead of these opprobrious names they are pronounced happy and blessed not only by their fellow-citizens [344c] but by all who hear the story of the man who has committed complete and entire injustice. For it is not the fear of doing but of suffering wrong that calls forth the reproaches of those who revile injustice. Thus, Socrates, injustice on a sufficiently large scale is a stronger, freer, and a more masterful thing than justice, and, as I said in the beginning, it is the advantage of the stronger that is the just, while the unjust is what profits man's self and is for his advantage.” [344d]

Socrates: even in the case of the shepherding, any benefit to the practitioner of the craft is incidental to it

→ we are left with a stalemate between two radically different conceptions of craft; the conflict between these conceptions endures today (e.g. in the field of journalism or medecine: making money or serving the public good?)


II The "wage-earning" argument (345e-347d)

real crafts only benefit their practitioners if extrinsic "wages" are given in return: that is why craft-practitioners get paid - wage-earning ist distinct from the crafts it accompanies

(1) Every distinct craft has a particular distinctive end, different from the ends of the others.

After this Thrasymachus was minded to depart when like a bathman he had poured his speech in a sudden flood over our ears. But the company would not suffer him and were insistent that he should remain and render an account of what he had said. And I was particularly urgent and said, “I am surprised at you, Thrasymachus; after hurling such a doctrine at us, can it be that you propose to depart without staying to teach us properly or learn yourself whether this thing is so or not? Do you think it is a small matter that you are attempting to determine [344e] and not the entire conduct of life that for each of us would make living most worth while?” “Well, do I deny it?” said Thrasymachus. “You seem to,” said I, “or else to care nothing for us and so feel no concern whether we are going to live worse or better lives in our ignorance of what you affirm that you know. Nay, my good fellow, do your best to make the matter clear to us also: [345a] it will be no bad investment for you—any benefit that you bestow on such company as this. For I tell you for my part that I am not convinced, neither do I think that injustice is more profitable than justice, not even if one gives it free scope and does not hinder it of its will. But, suppose, sir, a man to be unjust and to be able to act unjustly either because he is not detected or can maintain it by violence, all the same he does not convince me that it is more profitable than justice. [345b] Now it may be that there is someone else among us who feels in this way and that I am not the only one. Persuade us, then, my dear fellow, convince us satisfactorily that we are ill advised in preferring justice to injustice.” “And how am I to persuade you?” he said. “If you are not convinced by what I just now was saying, what more can I do for you? Shall I take the argument and ram it into your head?” “Heaven forbid!” I said, “don't do that. But in the first place when you have said a thing stand by it, or if you shift your ground change openly and don't try to deceive us. [345c] But, as it is, you see, Thrasymachus—let us return to the previous examples—you see that while you began by taking the physician in the true sense of the word, you did not think fit afterwards to be consistent and maintain with precision the notion of the true shepherd, but you apparently think that he herds his sheep in his quality of shepherd not with regard to what is best for the sheep but as if he were a banqueter about to be feasted with regard to the good cheer or again with a view to the sale of them [345d] as if he were a money-maker and not a shepherd. But the art of the shepherd surely is concerned with nothing else than how to provide what is best for that over which is set, since its own affairs, its own best estate, are entirely sufficiently provided for so long as it in nowise fails of being the shepherd's art. And in like manner I supposed that we just now were constrained to acknowledge that every form of rule in so far as it is rule considers what is best for nothing else than that which is governed and cared for by it, [345e] alike in political and private rule. Why, do you think that the rulers and holders of office in our cities—the true rulers—willingly hold office and rule?” “I don't think,” he said, “I know right well they do.” “But what of other forms of rule, Thrasymachus? Do you not perceive that no one chooses of his own will to hold the office of rule, but they demand pay, which implies that not to them will benefit accrue from their holding office but to those whom they rule? [346a] For tell me this: we ordinarily say, do we not, that each of the arts is different from others because its power or function is different? And, my dear fellow, in order that we may reach some result, don't answer counter to your real belief.” “Well, yes,” he said, “that is what renders it different.”

(2) Medicine and navigation are distinct crafts.

And does not each art also yield us benefit that is peculiar to itself and not general, as for example medicine health, the pilot's art safety at sea, and the other arts similarly?” “Assuredly.”

(3) Wages can result from the practice of both medicine and navigation.

“And does not the wage-earner's art yield wage? For that is its function. [346b] Would you identify medicine and the pilot's art? Or if you please to discriminate 'precisely' as you proposed, none the more if a pilot regains his health because a sea voyage is good for him, no whit the more, I say, for this reason do you call his art medicine, do you?” “Of course not,” he said. “Neither, I take it, do you call wage-earning medicine if a man earning wages is in health.” “ Surely not.” [346c] “But what of this? Do you call medicine wage-earning, if a man when giving treatment earns wages?” “No,” he said. “And did we not agree that the benefit derived from each art is peculiar to it?” “So be it,” he said. “Any common or general benefit that all craftsmen receive, then, they obviously derive from their common use of some further identical thing.” “It seems so,” he said. “And we say that the benefit of earning wages accrues to the craftsmen from their further exercise of the wage-earning art.” He assented reluctantly.

(4) Therefore, wages are the end of neither medicine nor navigation.

“Then the benefit, [346d] the receiving of wages does not accrue to each from his own art. But if we are to consider it 'precisely' medicine produces health but the fee-earning art the pay, and architecture a house but the fee-earning art accompanying it the fee, and so with all the others, each performs its own task and benefits that over which it is set, but unless pay is added to it is there any benefit which the craftsman receives from the craft?” “Apparently not,” he said. “Does he then bestow no benefit either [346e] when he works for nothing?” “I'll say he does.” “Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself—but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why, friend Thrasymachus, I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people's troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, [347a] because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.”

(5) Therefore, wage-earning must be the end of a third craft distinct from medicine and navigation, and practiced by the doctor and navigator in common, namely wage-earning.

“What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don't understand. “Then,” said I, “you don't understand the wages of the best men [347b] for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don't you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?” “I do,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, [347c] for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves [347d] or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him. This point then I [347e] by no means concede to Thrasymachus, that justice is the advantage of the superior. But that we will reserve for another occasion. A far weightier matter seems to me Thrasymachus's present statement, his assertion that the life of the unjust man is better than that of the just. Which now do you choose, Glaucon?” said I, “and which seems to you to be the truer statement?” “That the life of the just man is more profitable, I say,” he replied. [348a] “Did you hear,” said I, “all the goods that Thrasymachus just now enumerated for the life of the unjust man?” “I heard,” he said, “but I am not convinced.” “Do you wish us then to try to persuade him, supposing we can find a way, that what he says is not true?” “Of course I wish it,” he said. “If then we oppose him in a set speech enumerating in turn the advantages of being just and he replies and we rejoin, we shall have to count up and measure the goods listed in the respective speeches [348b] and we shall forthwith be in need of judges to decide between us. But if, as in the preceding discussion, we come to terms with one another as to what we admit in the inquiry, we shall be ourselves both judges and pleaders.” “Quite so,” he said. “Which method do you like best?” said I. “This one,” he said.

((4) does not follow from the previous premises without some further assumptions, (5) bypasses the obvious possibility that, though wages may result from the practice of various crafts they are not the end of any craft at all.)

if crafts as such were beneficial to their practitioners, why would they get paid?

argument does not really do anything to disarm Thrasymachus' counterexample of the shepherd; problem with I (every craft benefits not its practitioner but what it is "set over"), it's the wages who benefit?


III The "non-pleonectic" argument (349b-350c)

a craftsperson does not seek to "outdo" or act pleonetically towards fellow craft-practitioners, but rather to do the same as they do; Socrates' claim is, that injustice is structurally or formally unlike a craft precisely inasmuch as it is pleonectic, whereas justice does have the structure of a craft

(1) In practicing the recognized crafts, one expert does not act pleonectically in relation to another, but only in relation to the non-expert; the non-expert acts pleonectically in relation to everyone.

“Come then, Thrasymachus,” I said, “go back to the beginning and answer us. You affirm that perfect and complete injustice is more profitable than justice that is complete.” [348c] “I affirm it,” he said, “and have told you my reasons.” “Tell me then how you would express yourself on this point about them. You call one of them, I presume, a virtue and the other a vice?” “Of course.” “Justice the virtue and injustice the vice?” “It is likely, you innocent, when I say that injustice pays and justice doesn't pay.” “But what then, pray?” “The opposite,” he replied. “What! justice vice?” “No, but a most noble simplicity or goodness of heart.” “Then do you call injustice badness of heart?” [348d] “No, but goodness of judgement.” “Do you also, Thrasymachus, regard the unjust as intelligent and good?” “Yes, if they are capable of complete injustice,” he said, “and are able to subject to themselves cities and tribes of men. But you probably suppose that I mean those who take purses. There is profit to be sure even in that sort of thing,” he said, “if it goes undetected. But such things are not worth taking into the account, [348e] but only what I just described.” “I am not unaware of your meaning in that,” I said; “but this is what surprised me, that you should range injustice under the head of virtue and wisdom, and justice in the opposite class.” “Well, I do so class them,” he said. “That,” said I, “is a stiffer proposition, my friend, and if you are going as far as that it is hard to know what to answer. For if your position were that injustice is profitable yet you conceded it to be vicious and disgraceful as some other disputants do, there would be a chance for an argument on conventional principles. But, as it is, you obviously are going to affirm that it is honorable and strong and you will attach to it all the other qualities [349a] that we were assigning to the just, since you don't shrink from putting it in the category of virtue and wisdom.” “You are a most veritable prophet,” he replied. “Well,” said I, “I mustn't flinch from following out the logic of the inquiry, so long as I conceive you to be saying what you think. For now, Thrasymachus, I absolutely believe that you are not 'mocking' us but telling us your real opinions about the truth.” “What difference does it make to you,” he said, “whether I believe it or not?” “Why don't you test the argument?” [349b] “No difference,” said I, “but here is something I want you to tell me in addition to what you have said. Do you think the just man would want to overreach or exceed another just man?” “By no means,” he said; “otherwise he would not be the delightful simpleton that he is.” “And would he exceed or overreach or go beyond the just action?” “Not that either,” he replied. “But how would he treat the unjust man—would he deem it proper and just to outdo, overreach, or go beyond him or would he not?” “He would,” he said, “but he wouldn't be able to.” “That is not my question,” I said, [349c] “but whether it is not the fact that the just man does not claim and wish to outdo the just man but only the unjust?” “That is the case,” he replied. “How about the unjust then? Does he claim to overreach and outdo the just man and the just action?” “Of course,” he said, “since he claims to overreach and get the better of everything.” “Then the unjust man will overreach and outdo also both the unjust man and the unjust action, and all his endeavor will be to get the most in everything for himself.” “That is so.” “Let us put it in this way,” I said; “the just man does not seek to take advantage of his like but of his unlike, but the unjust man [349d] of both.” “Admirably put,” he said. “But the unjust man is intelligent and good and the just man neither.” “That, too, is right,” he said. “Is it not also true,” I said, “that the unjust man is like the intelligent and good and the just man is not?” “Of course,” he said, “being such he will be like to such and the other not.” “Excellent. Then each is such as that to which he is like.” “What else do you suppose?” he said. “Very well, Thrasymachus, [349e] but do you recognize that one man is a musician and another unmusical?” “I do.” “Which is the intelligent and which the unintelligent?” “The musician, I presume, is the intelligent and the unmusical the unintelligent.” “And is he not good in the things in which he is intelligent and bad in the things in which he is unintelligent?” “Yes.” “And the same of the physician?” “The same.” “Do you think then, my friend, that any musician in the tuning of a lyre would want to overreach another musician in the tightening and relaxing of the strings or would claim and think fit to exceed or outdo him?” “I do not.” “But would the the unmusical man?” “Of necessity,” he said. “And how about the medical man? [350a] In prescribing food and drink would he want to outdo the medical man or the medical procedure?” “Surely not.” “But he would the unmedical man?” “Yes.” “Consider then with regard to all forms of knowledge and ignorance whether you think that anyone who knows would choose to do or say other or more than what another who knows would do or say, and not rather exactly what his like would do in the same action.” “Why, perhaps it must be so,” he said, “in such cases.” “But what of the ignorant man—of him who does not know? Would he not overreach or outdo equally [350b] the knower and the ignorant?” “It may be.” “But the one who knows is wise?” “I'll say so.” “And the wise is good?” “I'll say so.” “Then he who is good and wise will not wish to overreach his like but his unlike and opposite.” “It seems so,” he said. “But the bad man and the ignoramus will overreach both like and unlike?” “So it appears.”

(2) An unjust person acts pleonectically in relation to everyone, whereas a just person is pleonectic only towards the unjust.

“And does not our unjust man, Thrasymachus, overreach both unlike and like? Did you not say that?” “I did,” he replied. [350c] “But the just man will not overreach his like but only his unlike?” “Yes.”

(3) Therefore, the unjust person is not the practitioner of a craft; and inasmuch as he resembles the expert, a just person is like a good and a clever one, and an unjust person like an ignorant and a bad one.

“Then the just man is like the wise and good, and the unjust is like the bad and the ignoramus.” “It seems likely.”

(4) Each person, the just and the unjust, "is such as the one he resembles" (349d, 350c5-8)

“But furthermore we agreed that such is each as that to which he is like.” “Yes, we did.”

(5) Therefore the just person is good and clever, and an unjust one ignorant and bad.

“Then the just man has turned out on our hands to be good and wise and the unjust man bad and ignorant.”

(6) Justice is virtue and wisdom and injustice is vice and ignorance.

Thrasymachus made all these admissions [350d] not as I now lightly narrate them, but with much baulking and reluctance and prodigious sweating, it being summer, and it was then I beheld what I had never seen before—Thrasymachus blushing. But when we did reach our conclusion that justice is virtue and wisdom and injustice vice and ignorance, “Good,” said I, “let this be taken as established. But we were also affirming that injustice is a strong and potent thing. Don't you remember, Thrasymachus?” “I remember,” he said; “but I don't agree with what you are now saying either and I have an answer to it, [350e] but if I were to attempt to state it, I know very well that you would say that I was delivering a harangue. Either then allow me to speak at such length as I desire, or, if you prefer to ask questions, go on questioning and I, as we do for old wives telling their tales, will say 'Very good' and will nod assent and dissent.” “No, no,” said I, “not counter to your own belief.” “Yes, to please you,” he said, “since you don't allow me freedom of speech. And yet what more do you want?” “Nothing, indeed,” said I; “but if this is what you propose to do, do it and I will ask the questions.” “Ask on, then.” “This, then, is the question I ask, the same as before, so that our inquiry may proceed in sequence. [351a] What is the nature of injustice as compared with justice? For the statement made, I believe, was that injustice is a more potent and stronger thing than justice. pleonektein is here not simply to outdo in competition but to maximize one's possession of some good in a zero-sum context - since the goals aimed at in the practice of a craft do not exclude each other, craft is not competitive in the "win/lose" or "zero-sum" way characteristic of Thrasymachean pleonexia and the practice of injustice


IV The "gang-of-thieves" argument (351b-352b)

injustice is, in groups, a cause of disunity, conflict and impotence

(1) In groups, justice unifies, empowers, and enables successful action, while injustice does the opposite.

But now,” I said, “if justice is wisdom and virtue, it will easily, I take it, be shown to be also a stronger thing than injustice, since injustice is ignorance—no one could now fail to recognize that—but what I want is not quite so simple as that. I wish, Thrasymachus, to consider it in some such fashion as this. A city, you would say, may be unjust and [351b] try to enslave other cities unjustly, have them enslaved and hold many of them in subjection.” “Certainly,” he said; “and this is what the best state will chiefly do, the state whose injustice is most complete.” “I understand,” I said, “that this was your view. But the point that I am considering is this, whether the city that thus shows itself superior to another will have this power without justice or whether she must of necessity combine it with justice.” [351c] “If,” he replied, “what you were just now saying holds good, that justice is wisdom, with justice; if it is as I said, with injustice.” “Admirable, Thrasymachus,” I said; “you not only nod assent and dissent, but give excellent answers.” “I am trying to please you,” he replied. “Very kind of you. But please me in one thing more and tell me this: do you think that a city, an army, or bandits, or thieves, or any other group that attempted any action in common, could accomplish anything if they wronged one another?” [351d] “Certainly not,” said he. “But if they didn't, wouldn't they be more likely to?” “Assuredly.” “For factions, Thrasymachus, are the outcome of injustice, and hatreds and internecine conflicts, but justice brings oneness of mind and love. Is it not so?” “So be it,” he replied, “not to differ from you.” “That is good of you, my friend; but tell me this: if it is the business of injustice to engender hatred wherever it is found, will it not, when it springs up either among freemen or slaves, cause them to hate and be at strife with one another, and make them incapable [351e] of effective action in common?” “By all means.” “Suppose, then, it springs up between two, will they not be at outs with and hate each other and be enemies both to one another and to the just?” “They will,” he said. “And then will you tell me that if injustice arises in one it will lose its force and function or will it none the less keep it?” “Have it that it keeps it,” he said. “And is it not apparent that its force is such that wherever it is found in city, family, camp, or in anything else [352a] it first renders the thing incapable of cooperation with itself owing to faction and difference, and secondly an enemy to itself and to its opposite in every case, the just? Isn't that so?” “By all means.”

(2) Justice within a single individual must have the same effects on the soul as it does in groups.

“Then in the individual too, I presume, its presence will operate all these effects which it is its nature to produce. It will in the first place make him incapable of accomplishing anything because of inner faction and lack of self-agreement, and then an enemy to himself and to the just. Is it not so?” “Yes.” “But, my friend, [352b] the gods too are just.” “Have it that they are,” he said. “So to the gods also, it seems, the unjust man will be hateful, but the just man dear.” “Revel in your discourse,” he said, “without fear, for I shall not oppose you, so as not to offend your partisans here.” “Fill up the measure of my feast, then, and complete it for me,” I said, “by continuing to answer as you have been doing. Now that the just appear to be wiser and better and more capable of action and the unjust incapable of any common action, [352c] and that if we ever say that any men who are unjust have vigorously combined to put something over, our statement is not altogether true, for they would not have kept their hands from one another if they had been thoroughly unjust, but it is obvious that there was in them some justice which prevented them from wronging at the same time one another too as well as those whom they attacked; and by dint of this they accomplished whatever they did and set out to do injustice only half corrupted by injustice, since utter rascals completely unjust [352d] are completely incapable of effective action—all this I understand to be the truth, and not what you originally laid down.

(3) Therefore, justice within a single person must unify and empower that person's soul, while injustice does the opposite.

Socrates' thesis (2) can apply to an individual only on the assumption that a human being is a system with component parts, analogous to the members of the criminal gang, each of which can be just or unjust towards the other (cf Book IV) - Socrates' argument that we need internal justice has not shown that justice in the traditional, external sense is empowering or otherwise useful for us as individuals

The "function" argument (352d-354a)

this argument begins with a long induction to support the claim that the function of anything is "that which one can do only with it or best with it"

(1) The virtue of anything is what enables it to perform its function well.

But whether it is also true that the just have a better life than the unjust and are happier, which is the question we afterwards proposed for examination, is what we now have to consider. It appears even now that they are, I think, from what has already been said. But all the same we must examine it more carefully. For it is no ordinary matter that we are discussing, but the right conduct of life.” “Proceed with your inquiry,” he said. “I proceed,” said I. “Tell me then—would you say [352e] that a horse has a specific work or function?” “I would.” “Would you be willing to define the work of a horse or of anything else to be that which one can do only with it or best with it?” “I don't understand,” he replied. “Well, take it this way: is there anything else with which you can see except the eyes?” “Certainly not.” “Again, could you hear with anything but ears?” “By no means.” “Would you not rightly say that these are the functions of these (organs)?” “By all means.” “Once more, [353a] you could use a dirk to trim vine branches and a knife and many other instruments.” “Certainly.” “But nothing so well, I take it, as a pruning-knife fashioned for this purpose.” “That is true.” “Must we not then assume this to be the work or function of that?” “We must.” “You will now, then, I fancy, better apprehend the meaning of my question when I asked whether that is not the work of a thing which it only or it better than anything else can perform.” “Well,” he said, “I do understand, and agree [353b] that the work of anything is that.” “Very good,” said I. “Do you not also think that there is a specific virtue or excellence of everything for which a specific work or function is appointed? Let us return to the same examples. The eyes we say have a function?” “They have.” “Is there also a virtue of the eyes?” “There is.” “And was there not a function of the ears?” “Yes.” “And so also a virtue?” “Also a virtue.” “And what of all other things? Is the case not the same?” “The same.” “Take note now. Could the eyes possibly fulfil their function well [353c] if they lacked their own proper excellence and had in its stead the defect?” “How could they?” he said; “for I presume you meant blindness instead of vision.” “Whatever,” said I, “the excellence may be. For I have not yet come to that question, but am only asking whether whatever operates will not do its own work well by its own virtue and badly by its own defect.” “That much,” he said, “you may affirm to be true.” “Then the ears, too, if deprived of their own virtue will do their work ill?” “Assuredly.” “And do we then apply [353d] the same principle to all things?” “I think so.”

(2) The function of the human soul is "taking care of things, ruling, deliberating and the like," and indeed living itself (353d3-10).

“Then next consider this. The soul, has it a work which you couldn't accomplish with anything else in the world, as for example, management, rule, deliberation, and the like, is there anything else than soul to which you could rightly assign these and say that they were its peculiar work?” “Nothing else.” “And again life? Shall we say that too is the function of the soul?” “Most certainly,” he said. “And do we not also say that there is an excellence virtue of the soul?” [353e] “We do.” “Will the soul ever accomplish its own work well if deprived of its own virtue, or is this impossible?” “It is impossible.” “Of necessity, then, a bad soul will govern and manage things badly while the good soul will in all these things do well.” “Of necessity.” “And did we not agree that the excellence or virtue of soul is justice and its defect injustice?” “Yes, we did.”

(3) Justice is the virtue of the human soul (conclusion of argument III).

(4) Therefore, justice enables a human soul to deliberate and live well.

“The just soul and the just man then will live well and the unjust ill?” “So it appears,” he said, “by your reasoning.”

(5) Whoever lives well is happy.

[354a] “But furthermore, he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who does not the contrary.” “Of course.”

(6) Therefore, "the just person is happy, and the unjust one wretched" (354a4)

“Then the just is happy and the unjust miserable.” “So be it,” he said. “But it surely does not pay to be miserable, but to be happy.” “Of course not.” “Never, then, most worshipful Thrasymachus, can injustice be more profitable than justice.” “Let this complete your entertainment, Socrates, at the festival of Bendis.” “A feast furnished by you, Thrasymachus,” I said, “now that you have become gentle with me and are no longer angry. I have not dined well, however— [354b] by my own fault, not yours. But just as gluttons snatch at every dish that is handed along and taste it before they have properly enjoyed the preceding, so I, methinks, before finding the first object of our inquiry—what justice is—let go of that and set out to consider something about it, namely whether it is vice and ignorance or wisdom and virtue; and again, when later the view was sprung upon us that injustice is more profitable than justice I could not refrain from turning to that from the other topic. So that for me [354c] the present outcome of the discussion is that I know nothing. For if I don't know what the just is, I shall hardly know whether it is a virtue or not, and whether its possessor is or is not happy.”

Conclusions: The Function and Limitations of the Arguments

the debate between Socrates and Thrasymachus can be read on many levels:

  • as merely a trailer for the argument to come in the rest of the Republic
    - The Book I arguments are not just gesturing towards Book IV as a nice artistic touch, or softening us up for it as a rhetorical gambit: they are a philosophically necessary preparation for us to recognize justice when we encounter it there.
  • as a deliberate exercise in failure
    - the defects of the arguments, and in particular their failure to address the essential nature of justice, are intrinsic to them precisely because of the role as preparation for the essential account

it is important to distinguish between arguments "on the way to first principles" (Book I) and "from the first principles" (Book IV): it is like the difference between the race to the turning point and then back to the finish line

The Book I arguments are arguments on the way to the first principles (that is, the full account of justice in Book IV), and we can only really appreciate them when we have seen how they serve that function - which means, when we come to them again after reading the book as a whole. They show that the Republic is (as you already knew) a book to be read more than once.