previous next
[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 oppose1 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.

“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,2 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 simplicity3 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,4 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,5 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 other6 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

1 This is done in 358 D ff. It is the favorite Greek method of balancing pros and cons in set speeches and antithetic enumerations. Cf. Herodotus viii. 83, the διαλέξεις(Diels, Vorsokratiker ii. pp. 334-345), the choice of Heracles (Xenophon Memorabilia ii. 1), and the set speeches in Euripides. With this method the short question and answer of the Socratic dialectic is often contrasted. Cf. Protagoras 329 A, 334-335, Gorgias 461-462, also Gorgias 471 E, Cratylus 437 D, Theaetetus 171 A.

2 Thrasymachus's “Umwertung aller Werte” reverses the normal application of the words, as Callicles does in Gorgias 491 E.

3 Thrasymachus recoils from the extreme position. Socrates' inference from the etymology of εὐήθεια(cf. 343 C) is repudiated. Injustice is not turpitude (bad character) but—discretion.εὐβουλία in a higher sense is what Protagoras teaches (Protagoras 318 E) and in the highest sense is the wisdom of Plato's guardians (428 B).

4 Socrates understands the theory, and the distinction between wholesale injustice and the petty profits that are not worth mentioning, but is startled by the paradox that injustice will then fall in the category of virtue and wisdom. Thrasymachus affirms the paradox and is brought to self-contradiction by a subtle argument (349-350 C) which may pass as a dramatic illustration of the game of question and answer. Cf. Introduction p. x.

5 ἤδη marks the advance from the affirmation that injustice is profitable to the point of asserting that it is a virtue. This is a “stiffer proposition,” i.e. harder to refute, or possibly more stubborn.

6 e.g. Polus in Gorgias 474 ff., 482 D-E. Cf. Isocrates De Pace 31. Thrasymachus is too wary to separate the κακόν and the αἰσχρόν and expose himself to a refutation based on conventional usage. Cf. Laws 627 D, Politicus 306 A, Laws 662 A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (James Adam)
load focus Greek (1903)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: