The Blending Enthroned, book 3: Destiny

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Socrates, who is evidently preparing for an argument, next asks, What is the meaning of the word justice? To tell the truth and pay your debts? No more than this? Or must we admit exceptions? Ought I, for example, to put back into the hands of my friend, who has gone mad, the sword which I borrowed of him when he was in his right mind?

The description of old age is finished, and Plato, as his manner is, has touched the key-note of the whole work in asking for the definition of justice, first suggesting the question which Glaucon afterwards pursues respecting external goods, and preparing for Edition: current; Page: [ xviii ] the concluding mythus of the world below in the slight allusion of Cephalus. Jowett He proceeds: What did Simonides mean by this saying of his?

Did he mean that I was to give back arms to a madman? He meant that you were to do what was proper, good to friends and harm to enemies.

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He is answered that justice does good to friends and harm to enemies. But in what way good or harm? The answer is that justice is of use in contracts, and contracts are money partnerships.


Yes; but how in such partnerships is the just man of more use than any other man? And there is another difficulty: justice, like the art of war or any other art, must be of Jowett opposites, good at attack as well as at defence, at stealing as well as at guarding. And still there arises another question: Are friends to be interpreted Jowett as real or seeming; enemies as real or seeming?

And are our friends to be only the good, and our enemies to be the evil? The answer is, that we must do good to our seeming and real good friends, and evil to our seeming and real evil enemies—good to the good, evil to the evil. But ought we to render evil for evil at all, when to do so will only make men more evil?

Can justice produce injustice any more than the art of horsemanship Edition: current; Page: [ xix ] can make bad horsemen, or heat produce cold? The final conclusion is, that no sage or poet ever said that the just return evil for evil; this was a maxim of some rich and mighty man, Periander, Jowett Perdiccas, or Ismenias the Theban about b. Thus the first stage of aphoristic or unconscious morality is shown to be inadequate to the wants of the age; the authority of the poets is set aside, and through the winding mazes of dialectic we make an approach to the Christian precept of forgiveness of injuries.

We may note in passing the antiquity of casuistry, which not only arises out of the conflict of established principles in particular cases, but also out of the effort to attain them, and is prior as well as posterior to our fundamental notions of morality. Here Thrasymachus, who has made several attempts to interrupt, but has hitherto been kept in order by the company, takes advantage of a pause and rushes into the arena, beginning, like a savage animal, with a roar.

At first Thrasymachus is reluctant Jowett to argue; but at length, with a promise of payment on the part of Edition: current; Page: [ xx ] the company and of praise from Socrates, he is induced to open the game. Do you mean that because Polydamas the wrestler, who is stronger than we are, finds the eating of beef for his interest, the eating of beef is also for our interest, who are not so strong? Thrasymachus is indignant at the illustration, and in pompous words, apparently intended to restore dignity to the argument, he explains his meaning to be that the rulers make Jowett laws for their own interests.


But suppose, says Socrates, that the ruler or stronger makes a mistake—then the interest of the stronger is not his interest. The contradiction is escaped by the unmeaning evasion: for though his real and apparent interests may differ, what the ruler thinks to be his interest will always remain what he thinks to be his interest. Of course this was not the original assertion, nor is the new interpretation accepted by Thrasymachus himself. But Socrates is not disposed to quarrel about words, if, as he significantly insinuates, his adversary has changed his mind.

In what follows Thrasymachus does in fact withdraw his admission that the ruler may make a mistake, for he affirms that the ruler as a ruler is Jowett infallible. Socrates is quite ready to accept the new position, which he equally turns against Thrasymachus by the help of Jowett the analogy of the arts.

Every art or science has an interest, but this interest is to be distinguished from the accidental interest of the artist, and is only concerned with the good of the things or persons which come under the art. And justice has an interest which is the interest not of the ruler or judge, but of those who come under his sway. Thrasymachus is on the brink of the inevitable conclusion, Jowett when he makes a bold diversion.

Why do you ask? For you fancy that shepherds and rulers never think of their own interest, but only of their sheep or subjects, Edition: current; Page: [ xxi ] whereas the truth is that they fatten them for their use, sheep and subjects alike. And experience proves that in every relation of life the just man is the loser and the unjust the gainer, Jowett especially where injustice is on the grand scale, which is quite another thing from the petty rogueries of swindlers and burglars and robbers of temples.

Thrasymachus, who is better at a speech than at a close argument, having deluged the company with words, has a mind Jowett to escape. But the others will not let him go, and Socrates adds a humble but earnest request that he will not desert them at such a crisis of their fate. Jowett Then why are they paid? Is not the reason, that their interest is not comprehended in their art, and is therefore the concern of another art, the art of pay, which is common to the arts in general, and therefore not identical with any one of them?

Jowett Nor would any man be a ruler unless he were induced by the hope of reward or the fear of punishment;—the reward is money or honour, the punishment is the necessity of being ruled by a man worse than himself. The satire on existing governments is heightened by the simple and apparently incidental manner in which the last remark is introduced. There is a similar irony in the argument that the governors of mankind do not like being in office, and that therefore they demand pay.

Enough of this: the other assertion of Thrasymachus is far Edition: current; Page: [ xxii ] more important—that the unjust life is more gainful than the just. Jowett Now, as you and I, Glaucon, are not convinced by him, we must reply to him; but if we try to compare their respective gains we shall want a judge to decide for us; we had better therefore proceed by making mutual admissions of the truth to one another.

Thrasymachus had asserted that perfect injustice was more gainful than perfect justice, and after a little hesitation he is induced by Socrates to admit the still greater paradox that injustice Jowett is virtue and justice vice. Socrates praises his frankness, and assumes the attitude of one whose only wish is to understand the meaning of his opponents.

At the same time he is weaving a net in which Thrasymachus is finally enclosed. The admission is elicited from him that the just man seeks to gain an advantage over the unjust only, but not over the just, while the unjust would gain an advantage over either.

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Socrates, in order to test this statement, employs once more the favourite analogy of the Jowett arts. The musician, doctor, skilled artist of any sort, does not seek to gain more than the skilled, but only more than the unskilled that is to say, he works up to a rule, standard, law, and does not exceed it , whereas the unskilled makes random efforts at excess.

Thus the skilled falls on the side of the good, and the unskilled on the side of the evil, and the just is the skilled, and the unjust is the unskilled. There was great difficulty in bringing Thrasymachus to the point; the day was hot and he was streaming with perspiration, and for the first time in his life he was seen to blush.

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  • But his other thesis that injustice was stronger than justice has not yet been refuted, and Socrates now proceeds to the consideration of this, which, with the assistance of Thrasymachus, he hopes to clear up; the latter is at first churlish, but in the judicious hands Jowett of Socrates is soon restored to good-humour: Is there not honour among thieves? Is not the strength of injustice only a remnant of justice? Is not absolute injustice absolute weakness also?

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    Not wickedness therefore, but semi-wickedness flourishes in states,—a remnant of good is needed in order to make union in action possible,—there is no kingdom of evil in this world. Another question has not been answered: Is the just or the Jowett unjust the happier? To this we reply, that every art has an end and an excellence or virtue by which the end is accomplished. And is not the end of the soul happiness, and justice the excellence of the soul by which happiness is attained? Justice Jowett and happiness being thus shown to be inseparable, the question whether the just or the unjust is the happier has disappeared.

    And yet not a good entertainment—but that was my own fault, for I tasted of too many things.

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    First of all the nature of justice was the subject of our enquiry, and then whether justice is virtue and wisdom, or evil and folly; and then the comparative advantages of just and unjust: and the sum of all is that I know not what justice is; how then shall I know whether the just is happy or not? Thus the sophistical fabric has been demolished, chiefly by appealing to the analogy of the arts. Among early enquirers into the nature of human action the arts helped to fill up the void of speculation; and at first the comparison of the arts and the virtues was not perceived by them to be fallacious.

    They only saw the points of agreement in them and not the points of difference. Virtue, like art, must take means to an end; good manners are both an art and a virtue; character is naturally described under the image of a statue ii. The next generation cleared up these perplexities; or at least supplied after ages with a further analysis of them. And yet in the absurdities which follow from some uses of the analogy cp. Nor is it employed elsewhere either by Plato or by any other Greek writer. It is suggested by the argument, and seems to extend the conception of art to doing as well as making. Another flaw or inaccuracy of language may be noted in the words i. That the good is of the nature of the finite is a peculiarly Hellenic sentiment, which may be compared with the language of those modern writers who speak of virtue as fitness, and of freedom as obedience to law.

    Ideas of measure, equality, order, unity, proportion, still linger in the writings of moralists; and the true spirit of the fine arts is better conveyed by such terms than by superlatives. The harmony of the soul and body iii. In what may be called the epilogue of the discussion with Thrasymachus, Plato argues that evil is not a principle of strength, but of discord and dissolution, just touching the question which has been often treated in modern times by theologians and philosophers, of the negative nature of evil cp. In the last argument we trace the germ of the Edition: current; Page: [ xxv ] Aristotelian doctrine of an end and a virtue directed towards the end, which again is suggested by the arts.

    The final reconcilement of justice and happiness and the identity of the individual and the State are also intimated. Nothing is concluded; but the tendency of the dialectical process, here as always, is to enlarge our conception of ideas, and to widen their application to human life. Jowett Thrasymachus is pacified, but the intrepid Glaucon insists on continuing the argument. He then asks Socrates in which of the three Jowett classes he would place justice.

    In the second class, replies Socrates, among goods desirable for themselves and also for their results. Socrates answers that this is the doctrine of Thrasymachus which he rejects. Glaucon thinks that Thrasymachus was too ready to listen to the voice of the charmer, and proposes to consider the nature of justice and injustice in themselves and apart from the results and rewards of them which the world is always dinning in his ears.

    He will first of all speak of the nature and origin of justice; secondly, of the manner in which men view justice as a necessity and not a good; and thirdly, he will prove the reasonableness of this view. As the evil is discovered by experience to be greater than the Jowett good, the sufferers, who cannot also be doers, make a compact that they will have neither, and this compact or mean is called justice, but is really the impossibility of doing injustice.

    No one would observe such a compact if he were not obliged. Let us suppose that the just and unjust have two rings, like that of Gyges Edition: current; Page: [ xxvi ] Jowett in the well-known story, which make them invisible, and then no difference will appear in them, for every one will do evil if he can. And he who abstains will be regarded by the world as a fool for his pains.