Ancient History & Civilisation


1. Justice in the State

The State which we have founded must possess the four ‘cardinal virtues’ of wisdom, courage, discipline, and justice. (Plato does not call them ‘virtues’, and the translation therefore uses the more neutral term ‘qualities’.) It will have wisdom because of the knowledge possessed by the Rulers, courage because of the courage of the Auxiliaries, and self-discipline because of the harmony between all three Classes and their common agreement ‘about who ought to rule’. Finally, justice is the principle which has in fact been followed throughout, the principle of one man one job, of ‘minding one’s own business’, in the sense of doing the job for which one is naturally fitted and not interfering with other people.

[427] (d) ‘Well, we seem to have got your city founded for you, Adeimantus,’ I said. ‘Now you must look at it and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of them to see if they can help you throw enough light on it for us to see where justice and injustice are to be found, how they differ from each other, and which of them anyone who is to be happy needs, irrespective of whether gods or men think he has it or not.’

‘Nonsense, Socrates,’ said Glaucon. ‘You promised to deal with the problem yourself, because you said it would be wicked (e) for you not to give justice all the support of which you were capable.1

‘That’s true,’ I said; ‘I remember. I must do as I said, but you must all help.’

‘Yes, we will,’ he said.

‘I think we shall probably find what we want as follows. If we have founded it properly, our state is presumably perfect.’

‘It must be.’

‘Then it will obviously have the qualities of wisdom, courage, self-discipline, and justice.’2


‘Then if we can identify some of these qualities in it, the ones that are left will be the ones we are still looking for.’

‘Yes.’ 428 (a)

‘So suppose us to be looking first for one of any four things. If we find it, well and good. But if we find the other three before it, by so doing we have in effect identified the object of our search, which must obviously be the one left over.’

‘That’s true.’

‘Should we not therefore follow this method in the present case, where again there are four things at issue?’


‘The first of the four that I can see clearly is wisdom, and there is one odd feature about it.’ (b)

‘What?’ he asked.

‘The state we have described seems to me to be genuinely wise. For its judgement is good, isn’t it?’


‘And the quality of good judgement is clearly a form of knowledge, as it is because of knowledge and not because of ignorance that we judge well.’


‘But there are many different kinds of knowledge in our city.’

‘Of course there are.’

‘And do we say it has wisdom and judgement because of the knowledge of its carpenters?’

‘Certainly not – that merely makes it good at carpentry.’ (c)

‘So it’s not called wise because of its knowledge of woodwork and the excellence of its designs?’


‘The same is presumably true of bronze and other materials.’

‘The same is true,’ he said.

‘And I expect you would agree that knowledge of farming merely makes it good at agriculture.’


‘Well then,’ I said, ‘is there any form of knowledge to be found among any of the citizens in the state we’ve just founded which is exercised not on behalf of any particular interest but on behalf of the city as a whole, in such a way as to benefit the (d) state both in its internal and external relations?’

‘There is.’

‘What is it, and where shall we find it?’ I asked.

‘It is the Guardians’ knowledge,’ he answered, ‘and is to be found with those we called Guardians in the full sense.’

‘And how do you describe the state because of it?’

‘I say it has good judgement and wisdom.’

‘And do you think that there will be more metal-workers in (e) our state or Guardians in this sense?’

‘Many more metal-workers,’ he said.

‘Won’t the Guardians, in fact, be far fewer in number than any other group with special knowledge and name?’


‘So the state founded on natural principles is wise as a whole in virtue of the knowledge inherent in its smallest constituent part or class, which exercises authority over the rest. And it appears further that the naturally smallest class is the one which 429 (a) is endowed with that form of knowledge which alone of all others deserves the title of wisdom.’

‘That is all perfectly true,’ he agreed.

‘Well, then, we have somehow or other managed to find this one of our four qualities and its place in our society.’

‘And as far as I’m concerned I’m quite satisfied with our findings,’ he said.

‘And it’s not very difficult,’ I went on, ‘to see courage and the place of courage, which makes us call our state brave.’

‘Tell me how.’

(b) ‘We shall say it’s brave or cowardly with sole reference to the part which defends it and campaigns for it.’

‘That is all that we need refer to.’

‘Because I don’t think that members of other classes have the power, by being cowardly or brave, to make the state one or the other.’

‘No, they haven’t.’

‘Our city is therefore brave too in virtue of a part of itself. That part retains in all circumstances the power to judge, on the basis laid down by our lawgiver in its education, what and what (c) sort of things are to be feared. For that, I take it, is what you mean by courage.’

‘I didn’t quite understand what you said,’ he answered; ‘say it again.’

‘I say,’ I replied, ‘that courage is a sort of safe-keeping.’

‘What sort?’

‘The sort that will safely keep the opinion inculcated by the established education about what things and what kind of things are to be feared. And by retaining it in all circumstances I meant retaining it safely, without losing it in pleasure or pain, desire (d) or fear. If you like, I’ll give you an analogy.’

‘Yes, do.’

‘Well, take dyeing,’ I said. ‘You know that, when they want to dye wool purple, they are very particular about the natural colour of the material, which must be white; they then subject it to an elaborate process in order to prepare it to take the dye before they actually dip it. And the colour of anything dyed by this process remains fast, and the dye won’t come out if you wash the material, whether you use soap or not; but if they start (e) with wool of any other colour or don’t give it this treatment – well, you know what happens to it.’

‘Yes – the colour washes out and it looks silly,’ he said.

‘Assume, then,’ I said, ‘that this was the sort of result we were doing our best to achieve in choosing our soldier-class, and in educating them physically and mentally. Our whole object was 430 (a) to steep them in the spirit of our laws like a dye, so that nature and nurture might combine to fix in them indelibly their convictions about what is dangerous, and about all other topics, and prevent them being washed out by those most powerful detergents, pleasure, so much more effective than soap and soda, and pain and fear and desire, the most effective of all. This kind (b) of ability to retain safely in all circumstances a judgement about what is to be feared, which is correct and in accord with law,3 is what I propose to call courage, unless you have any alternative to suggest.’

‘No,’ he replied, ‘I haven’t. For I imagine that you would not regard mere uninstructed judgement, such as an animal or slave might have on these matters, as being in accordance with law, even if right, and that you would use some other name for it.’

(c) ‘You are quite right,’ I said.

‘Then I accept your description of courage.’

‘Accept it as a description of the ordinary citizen’s courage, and you won’t be far wrong,’ I replied; ‘we will go into it more fully later, if you like.4 For the moment it’s justice not courage we are looking for, and for this purpose I think the description’s adequate.’

‘That is fair enough.’

‘Well, we are left with two qualities to look for in our state,’ I (d) said, ‘self-discipline and the real object of our whole inquiry, justice.’

‘Yes, we are.’

‘I wonder if we could find justice without having to bother further about self-discipline.’

‘Personally,’ he said, ‘I don’t know, and I shouldn’t want to find it, if it meant we were to give up looking for self-discipline. What I should like you to do is to look for self-discipline first.’

(e) ‘And it would be wrong to refuse you,’ I said.

‘Then carry on,’ he said.

‘I will,’ I replied, ‘At first sight, self-discipline looks more like some sort of harmony or concord than the other virtues did.’

‘In what way?’

‘Self-discipline,’ I said, ‘is surely a kind of order, a control of certain desires and appetites. So people use “being master of oneself” (whatever that means) and similar phrases as indications of it. Isn’t that so?’


‘But “master of oneself” is an absurd phrase. For if you’re master of yourself you’re presumably also subject to yourself, and so both master and subject. For there is only one person in 431 (a) question throughout.’


‘What the expression is intended to mean, I think, is that there is a better and a worse element in the personality5 of each individual, and that when the naturally better element controls the worse then the man is said to be “master of himself”, as a term of praise. But when (as a result of bad upbringing or bad company) the smaller forces of one’s better element are (b) overpowered by the numerical superiority of one’s worse, then one is adversely criticized and said not to be master of oneself and to be in a state of indiscipline.’

‘Which is quite reasonable.’

‘Then look at our newly founded state,’ I said, ‘and you will find the first of these descriptions applies to it. For you will admit that it is right to call it master of itself, if we speak of self-discipline and self-mastery where the better part rules the worse.’

‘Yes, I see; that’s quite true.’

‘And, what is more, the greatest number and variety of desires and pleasures and pains is generally to be found in children (c) and women and slaves, and in the less respectable majority of so-called free men.’


‘While the simple and moderate desires, guided by reason and right judgement and reflection, are to be found in a minority who have the best natural gifts and best education.’


‘This feature too you can see in our state, where the desires of the less respectable majority are controlled by the desires and (d) the wisdom of the superior minority.’

‘Yes, I can see that.’

‘And so if any city is to be said to be master of its pleasures and desires, and of itself, ours must be.’

‘That is certainly true.’

‘Then on all these counts we can surely say it is self-disciplined.’

‘We can indeed,’ he said.

(e) ‘And of our state, if of any, it will be true that government and subjects will agree about who ought to rule. Or don’t you think so?’

‘I’m quite sure of it,’ he said.

‘In these circumstances, of which class do you think discipline is characteristic, rulers or subjects?’

‘Of both, I suppose,’ he replied.

‘So you can see how right we were to guess just now that self-discipline was like a kind of concord.’


‘Because, unlike courage and wisdom, which made our state 432 (a) brave and wise by being present in a particular part of it, self-discipline stretches across the whole scale. It produces a harmony between its strongest and weakest and middle elements, whether you measure by the standard of intelligence, or of strength, or of numbers or money or the like. And so we are quite justified in regarding self-discipline as this unanimity in which there is a natural concordance between higher and lower about which of them is to rule in state and individual.’

‘I entirely agree.’

(b) ‘Good,’ said I; ‘it looks as if we had spotted three of the qualities we are looking for in our state. What about the fourth of them, to which it will owe another form of excellence? It must obviously be justice.’


‘Then we must stand like hunters round a covert and make sure that justice does not escape us and disappear from view. It (c) must be somewhere about. Try and see if you can catch sight of it before I can, and tell me where it is.’

‘I wish I could,’ he said. ‘All you can reasonably expect of me is to follow your lead and see things when you point them out.’

‘Then follow me and hope for the best.’

‘I will,’ he said; ‘lead on.’

‘It looks to me,’ I said, ‘as if we were in a pretty impassable and obscure spot; it’s certainly dark and difficult to find a way through. But we must push on all the same.’

(d) ‘Yes, we must,’ he agreed.

I cast about a bit and then cried, ‘Tally ho, Glaucon! I think we are on the track, and our quarry won’t altogether escape us.’

‘That’s good news.’

‘We really are being a bit slow.’

‘In what way?’

‘Our quarry is lurking right under our feet all the time, and we haven’t seen it but have been making perfect fools of ourselves. We are like people searching for something they have in their hands all the time; we’re looking away into the distance (e) instead of at the thing we want, which is probably why we haven’t found it.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘I mean that it seems to me that we have failed to understand that we have in a sort of way been talking about it all through our discussion.’

‘You are a longtime leading up to what you’ve got to say; I’m getting impatient.’

‘Well then, listen, and see if you think I’m talking sense. I 433 (a) believe justice is the requirement we laid down at the beginning as of universal application when we founded our state, or else some particular form of it. We laid down, if you remember, and have often repeated, that in our state one man was to do one job, the job he was naturally most suited for.’

‘Yes, we did.’

‘And further, we have often heard it said and often said ourselves that justice consists in minding your own business and (b) not interfering with other people.’6


‘So perhaps justice is, in a certain sense, just this minding one’s own business. Do you know my grounds for so thinking?’

‘No; what are they?’

‘Because I think that the quality left over, now that we have discussed discipline, courage and wisdom, must be what makes it possible for them to come into being in our state and preserves them by its continued presence7 when they have done so. And we agreed that it would be justice that was left over if we found (c) the other three.’

‘It must be.’

‘Now, if we were asked to judge which of these qualities by its presence contributed most to the goodness of our state, we should find it a difficult decision to make. Is it the agreement between rulers and subjects? Is it the retention by our soldiers of a law-abiding judgement about what is and is not to be feared? Is it the wisdom and watchfulness of our Guardians? Or is the greatest contribution to its excellence made by the quality which makes each individual – child or woman, slave, (d) free man or artisan, ruler or subject – get on with his own job and not interfere with other people?’

‘A difficult decision, I agree.’

‘At any rate, wisdom, discipline, courage, and the ability to mind one’s own business are all rivals in this respect. And we can regard justice as making a contribution to the excellence of (e) our city that rivals that of the rest.’

‘Yes, certainly.’

‘Look at it again this way. I assume that you will make it the duty of our rulers to administer justice?’

‘Of course.’

‘And won’t they try to follow the principle that men should not take other people’s belongings or be deprived of their own?’

‘Yes, they’re bound to.’

‘Their reason presumably being that it is just .’


‘So we reach again by another route the conclusion that justice 434 (a) is keeping what is properly one’s own and doing one’s own job.’

‘That is true.’

‘There’s another point on which I should like your agreement. Suppose a builder and a shoemaker tried to exchange jobs, or to take on the tools and the prestige of each other’s trade, or suppose alternatively the same man tried to do both jobs, would this and other exchanges of the kind do great harm to the state?’

‘Not much.’

‘But if someone who belongs by nature to the class of artisans (b) and businessmen is puffed up by wealth or popular support or physical strength or any similar quality, and tries to enter our military class; or if one of our military Auxiliaries tries to get into the class of administering Guardians for which he is unfit, and they exchange tools and prestige; or if a single individual tries to do all these jobs at the same time – well, I think you’ll agree that this sort of mutual interchange and interference spells destruction to our state.’


‘Interference by the three classes with each other’s jobs, and interchange of jobs between them, therefore, does the greatest (c) harm to our state, and we are entirely justified in calling it the worst of evils.’

‘Absolutely justified.’

‘But will you not agree that the worst of evils for one’s own community is injustice?’

‘Of course.’

‘So that is what injustice is. And conversely, when each of our three classes (businessmen, Auxiliaries, and Guardians) does its own job and minds its own business, that, by contrast, is justice and makes our state just.’

‘I entirely agree with what you say,’ he said. (d)

‘Don’t let’s be too emphatic about it yet,’ I replied. ‘If we find that the same pattern applies to the individual and is agreed to yield justice in him, we can finally accept it – there will be nothing to prevent us; if not, we shall have to think again. For the moment let us finish our investigation.’

2. The Elements in Mental Conflict

Plato starts by reasserting the parallel between state (society) and individual; ‘since the qualities of a community are those of the component individuals, we may expect to find three corresponding elements in the individual soul. All three will be present in every soul; but the structure of society is based on the fact that they are developed to different degrees in different types of character’ (Cornford, p. 126). After a warning that in what follows we must not expect too much philosophic precision, Plato proceeds to examine the conflict of motives in the individual, and concludes that we cannot, without contradiction, assume the existence of less than three types of motive or impulse in the mind. First there is reason, the faculty that calculates and decides: second there is desire or appetite, in the sense of bare physical and instinctive craving. There is also a third type of motive, covering, as noted above (opening note to Part II, section 3), such characteristics as pugnacity, enterprise, ambition, indignation, which are often found in conflict with unthinking impulse.

This is often referred to as Plato’s doctrine of ‘the three parts of the soul’. Two main questions arise in understanding it: (1) To what extent and in what sense does Plato think of separate ‘parts’ of the soul or mind? In the present passage the words he uses mostcommonly( eidos , genos )mean ‘kinds’, ‘types’, ‘forms’, though he does on occasion use the Greek word for part ( meros ); the words (‘element’, ‘constituent’) used in the translation are intended to beindeterminate. Elsewhere Plato sometimes speaks as if the soul or mind had three distinct parts, as in the Phaedrus andTimaeus, sometimes as if there were a single stream of mental energy manifesting itself in different activities, as in the Symposium. We perhaps do well, first, to remember that he has warned us that he is not speaking with scientific precision, but rather on the level of ordinary conversation; and, second, to bear in mind that he is concerned with morals and not with psychology, with a general classification of the main motives or impulses to action, rather than a scientific analysis of the mind. He is, in fact, probably always conscious that in speaking of ‘parts’ (‘elements’ or what not) of the soul he is using a metaphor. (2) What exactly are the three ‘elements’ that Plato describes? There is little difficulty with two of them. By ‘appetite’ Plato means the purely instinctive desires in their simplest form; it is easy enough, on a common-sense level, to recognize them. ‘Reason’ includes not only the ability to understand and to think before we act, the faculty of calculation and foresight, but also the ability to make up one’s mind, the faculty of decision. The third element at first appears more miscellaneous, including, as we have seen, such qualities as indignation, courage, determination, spirit, and so on. Two illustrations may help us to understand it. First the distinction, still commonly made, between ‘heart’ and ‘head’. When we make that distinction we do not include under ‘heart’ the mere animal instincts; we perhaps include more of the ‘feelings’ than Plato, but our meaning is not far from his second ‘part of the soul’. (In the Timaeus reason is located in the head, ‘spirit’ in the breast, i.e. heart, and appetite in the belly.) Second, when Butler analysed the motives of moral action he found them threefold. Conscience, a rational faculty capable of judgement and having authority; particular passions, like hunger and thirst; and ‘self-love’, or, as we might call it today, the ‘self-regarding instinct’, or perhaps the instinct of self-preservation and self-assertion.8Each of these two analyses recognizes a rational, controlling, authoritative part of the mind; each recognizes animal instinct; but each also recognizes a third element, one which is not easy to define, but which is perhaps most comprehensively described as self-regard, and which ranges from self-assertion, through self-respect, to our relations with others (Butler coupled ‘self-love’ and ‘benevolence’) and our concern for our reputation and good name.

Plato uses two words , thumos and thumoeides, for this element in the mind. Neither is easy to translate. I have used ‘anger’, ‘indignation’, ‘spirit’ as seemed to suit the context best.

‘We thought it would be easier to see justice in the individual if we looked for it first in some larger field which also contained (e) it. We thought this larger field was the state, and so we set about founding an ideal state, being sure we should find justice in it because it was good. Let us therefore transfer our findings to the individual, and if they fit him, well and good; on the other hand, if we find justice in the individual is something different, we will return to the state and test our new definition. So by the friction of comparison we may strike a spark which will 435 (a) illuminate justice for us, and once we see it clearly we can fix it firmly in our own minds.’

‘That is the right method; let us follow it,’ he said.

‘Then when we apply the same term to two things, one large and the other small, will they not be similar in respect of that to which the common term is applied?’


(b) ‘So there will be no difference between a just man and a just city, so far as the element of justice goes.’


‘But we agreed that a state was just when its three natural constituents were each doing their job, and that it was self-disciplined and brave and wise in virtue of certain other states and dispositions of those constituents.’

‘That is so,’ he said.

‘Well, then, my dear Glaucon,’ I continued, ‘we shall expect to find that the individual has the same three elements in his personality9 and to be justified in using the same language of (c) him because he is affected by the same conditions.’

‘That must follow.’

‘Another nice little inquiry we’ve tumbled into!’ I exclaimed. ‘Has the personality these three constituents or not?’

‘I shouldn’t call it a little inquiry,’ he said; ‘but it’s probably true enough, Socrates, that, as the saying goes, anything that’s worth while is difficult.’

‘So it seems. And I must tell you that in my opinion we shall (d) never find an exact answer by the method of argument we are usingin our present discussion – to get one we should have to go much further afield10 but we can probably find one that will be satisfactory by the standards we have so far used in our inquiry.’

‘That’s good enough,’ he replied; ‘at any rate, it would suit me for the present.’

‘And it will be quite enough for me.’

‘Then press on with the investigation.’

(e) ‘Well, we are bound to admit that the elements and traits that belong to a state must also exist in the individuals that compose it. There is nowhere else for them to come from. It would be absurd to suppose that the vigour and energy for which northern people like the Thracians and Scythians have a reputation aren’t due to their individual citizens; and similarly with intelligence, 436 (a) which can be said to be the main attribute of our own part of the world, or with the commercial instinct which one connects particularly with the Phoenicians and Egyptians.’

‘That’s perfectly true.’

‘Here, then, we have a fact which is not particularly difficult to recognize.’

‘Not at all difficult.’

‘What is difficult is to see whether we perform all these functions with the same part of us, or each with a different part. Do we learn with one part of us, feel angry with another, and desire the pleasures of eating and sex and the like with another? (b) Or do we employ our mind11 as a whole when our energies are employed in any of these ways? These are questions it’s difficult to answer satisfactorily.’

‘I agree,’ he said.

‘Then let us try to decide whether the faculties concerned are the same or different.’

‘How are we to do it?’

‘Clearly one and the same thing cannot act or be affected in opposite ways at the same time in the same part of it and in relation to the same object; so if we find these contradictions, we shall know we are dealing with more than one faculty.’ (c)


‘Then look here –’

‘Yes – go on.’

‘Can a thing be at rest and in motion at the same time and in the same part of itself?’


‘Let us be even more precise, to avoid ambiguities later on. If we were told that a man, who was standing still but moving his hands and his head, was simultaneously both at rest and in motion, we should not accept that as a proper statement of the case, but say that part of him was standing still and part of him in motion. Isn’t that so?’ (d)


‘We might have a still more ingenious case put to us. It might be argued as a further refinement that a top, spinning round a fixed axis, is both at rest and in motion as a whole, as indeed is any body in circular motion on the same spot. We should not agree, but argue that it is not the same partsof such bodies that are at rest and in motion; they have both an axis and a (e) circumference, and their axis, as it has no inclination in any direction, is at rest, but their circumference is in motion. And further, if their axis inclines in any direction, right or left, forward or back, while they are still spinning, then they are not at rest at all.’

‘That is quite correct,’ he agreed.

‘We shan’t, then, be shaken by objections of this kind into believing that the same thing can ever act or be affected in opposite ways, or bear opposite predicates, at the same time in 437 (a) the same part of itself and in relation to the same thing.’

I certainly shan’t.’

‘Anyway,’ I said, ‘we don’t want to have to examine all such objections and prove at length they aren’t true, so let us proceed on the assumption we are right, it being understood that if we change our minds all the consequences of our assumption will fall to the ground.’

(b) ‘Yes, that’s the thing to do.’

‘Then would you not class assent and dissent, impulse and aversion to something, attraction and repulsion and the like as opposite actions or states – no matter which?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I should.’

‘And what about hunger and thirst and the desires generally,’ I went on, ‘or, again, willing and wishing, don’t they all fall under one of the two classes of opposites just mentioned? When (c) a man’s mind desires anything, don’t you either say that he has animpulse to what he desires or speak of his trying to attract anything he wishes to get? And again, if he wants to get possession of anything, is it not as a result of assent given by his mind to an inward question prompted by his longing to get it?’

‘I agree.’

‘And what about disinclination, unwillingness and dislike? Shouldn’t we put them in the opposite class, with repulsion and rejection?’

(d) ‘Of course.’

‘That being so, we can say that the desires form a class, of which those we call thirst and hunger are the clearest examples.’


‘And thirst is the desire for drink, hunger for food?’


‘Then is thirst, in so far as it is thirst, the desire in the mind for anything more than simply drink? Is it thirst for hot drink or cold, for a lot to drink or a little, or, in short, for any particular kind of drink at all? Isn’t it rather that if heat is added to thirst it brings with it the desire for cold, while cold brings the desire for heat; and if the thirst is great because accompanied (e) by magnitude you want a lot to drink, if it’s small you only want a little?12 Simple thirst, on the other hand, is the desire for its natural object, drink, without qualification: and the same is true of hunger and food.’

‘In that case,’ he said, ‘each desire is directed simply towards its own natural object, and any qualification is an addition.’

‘And we must beware,’ I went on, ‘of letting ourselves be 438 (a) taken off our guard and upset by the objection that no one simply desires drink, but drink that is good for him, and similarly food that is good for him. For – so runs the argument – all men desire what is good for them, and therefore, if thirst is a desire, it will be the desire for drink (or what not) that is good for one; and the same is true of the other desires.’13

‘It’s an argument which perhaps has some force,’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘but when two terms are correlative it seems (b) that either both must be qualified or both unqualified.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Well, you can understand that what is “greater” must always be greater than something .’

‘Of course.’

‘And that something is smaller.’


‘And what is much greater is much greater than something much smaller. Agreed?’


‘And the same is true of greater and smaller in the past or in the future .’

‘Of course. What then?’

‘And is not the same also true of more and less, double and (c) half and the like, of heavier and lighter, quicker and slower, of hot and cold, and indeed of all similar correlative terms?’

‘Yes, it is.’

‘But what about the various branches of knowledge? Does not the same relationship hold? Knowledge unqualified is knowledge simply of something learned (or whatever we should call the object of knowledge); knowledge of a particular kind is knowledge of a particular kind of object. For example, when (d) men discovered how to make houses, this was a form of knowledge differing from others, and was called building.’


‘And wasn’t it so called because it is knowledge of a certain kind different from all other kinds of knowledge?’


‘And isn’t it knowledge of a certain kind because it has a certain kind of object? And is not the same true of all forms of skill14 and knowledge?’

‘Yes, that is so.’

‘I hope you can see now,’ I said, ‘that that is what I meant when I said that among correlative terms if the first is unqualified so is the second, if the first is qualified so again is the second. And I don’t mean that you can transfer the epithet simply from (e) one term to the other, saying for example that the knowledge of health and disease is healthy and diseased, or that the knowledge of good and evil is itself good and evil. What I mean is that when the object of knowledge is of a particular kind, for example health or disease, then the knowledge itself must also be of a particular kind, and is in consequence no longer called knowledge simply, but medical knowledge, by addition of a qualifying epithet.’

‘I understand; and I think you are right.’

439 (a) ‘To return to thirst then,’ I said, ‘is it not something which is what it is in relation to something else? It is, of course, thirst for –’

‘– for drink; I agree,’ he said.

‘And for a particular kind of drink there will be a particular kind of thirst. But thirst in itself is the desire not for a lot or a little to drink, or for good drink or bad, or, in a word, for any kind of drink at all, but for drink pure and simple.’


‘The mind of the thirsty man, therefore, in so far as he is thirsty, simply wants to drink, and it is to that end that its (b) energies are directed.’


‘If therefore there is something in it that resists its thirst, it must be something in it other than the thirsty impulse which is dragging it like a wild animal to drink. For we have agreed that the same thing cannot act in opposite ways with the same part of itself towards the same object.’

‘That is impossible.’

‘For instance, it is not fair to say that an archer’s hands are pulling and pushing the bow at the same time, but that one hand is pushing it, the other pulling.’

‘Certainly.’ (c)

‘Now, can we say that men are sometimes unwilling to drink even though they are thirsty?’

‘Oh yes; that is often true of many people,’ he said.

‘Then how are we to describe such cases?’ I asked. ‘Must we not say that there is one element in their minds which bids them drink, and a second which prevents them and masters the first?’

‘So it seems.’

‘And isn’t the element of prevention, when present, due to our reason, while the urges and impulses are due to our feelings (d) and unhealthy cravings?’

‘It looks like it.’

‘Then we shan’t be without justification if we recognize these two elements as distinct. We can call the reflective element in the mind the reason, and the element with which it feels hunger and thirst, and the agitations of sex and other desires, the element of irrational appetite – an element closely connected with satisfaction and pleasure.’

‘Yes, that is a reasonable view to take,’ he agreed. (e)

‘Well, we’ve defined two elements in the mind, then,’ I said. ‘Now, is indignation,15 and the part in which we feel it, a third element, or is it of the same nature as one of the two we have defined?’

‘Maybe it’s the same as appetite,’ he said.

‘I rely on a story I once heard,’ I answered. ‘It’s about Leontion, son of Aglaion, who was on his way up from the Piraeus, under the outer side of the north wall, when he noticed some corpses lying on the ground with the executioner standing by them. He wanted to go and look at them, and yet at the same 440 (a) time held himself back in disgust. For a time he struggled with himself and covered his eyes, but at last his desire got the better of him and he ran up to the corpses, opening his eyes wide and saying to them, “There you are, curse you – a lovely sight! Have a real good look!” ’16

‘I’ve heard the story too.’

‘And it shows,’ I said, ‘that anger is different from desire and sometimes opposes it.’

‘Yes, it does.’

‘And don’t we often see other instances of a man whose (b) desires are trying to force him to do something his reason disapproves of, cursing himself and getting indignant at their violence? It’s like a struggle between political factions, with indignation fighting on the side of reason. But I don’t suppose you’ve ever observed indignation, either in yourself or in anyone else, taking the side of the desires and resisting the decision of reason.’

‘No, certainly not.’

(c) ‘And what about a man who feels he’s in the wrong? The more honest he is, the less angry he feels at hunger or cold or any similar suffering which he thinks is inflicted on him with justification. As I say, his indignation simply refuses to be roused.’

‘Quite true.’

‘And what if he thinks he’s being wronged? Then his indignation boils over and fights obstinately for what he thinks right, persevering and winning through hunger and cold and all similar trials. It won’t give up the struggle till death or victory, or till (d) reason calls it back to heel and calms it, like a shepherd calls his dog.’

‘That describes it exactly,’ he agreed; ‘and,’ he went on, ‘in our state we said the Auxiliaries were to be like watchdogs obeying the Rulers, who were the shepherds of the community.’

‘I see you quite understand what I mean. But there’s another point to notice.’

‘What?’ (e)

‘That we’ve changed our mind about this third element in the mind. We were wondering if it was something like appetite; now we have gone to the other extreme and are saying that, when there’s a conflict in the mind, it’s more likely to take up arms for reason.’

‘That’s quite true.’

‘Then is it different from reason? Or is it a form of reason, so that there are not three, but only two elements in the mind, reason and appetite? The state was made up of three classes, 441 (a) businessmen, auxiliaries, and governors; is the mind like it in having spirit as a third element, which, unless corrupted by bad upbringing, is reason’s natural auxiliary?’

‘There must be a third element.’

‘Yes there must,’ I said, ‘if spirit can be shown to be distinct from reason, as it is from appetite.’

‘But that’s not difficult to prove,’ he answered. ‘You can see it in children, who are full of spirit as soon as they’re born; but some never seem to acquire any degree of reason and most of them only at a late stage.’ (b)

‘That puts it very well,’ I agreed; ‘and you can see the same thing happening in animals. There is further evidence in the passage from Homer we quoted before,17 where Odysseus “strikes himself on the chest and calls his heart to order”. It is clear enough that Homer here makes one element rebuke another, distinguishing the power to reflect about good and evil from unreasoning passion.’18(c)

‘You are absolutely right.’

3. Justice in the Individual

Justice in the individual is now defined analogously to justice in the state. The individual is wise and brave in virtue of his reason and ‘spirit’ respectively: he is disciplined when ‘spirit’ and appetite are in proper subordination to reason. He is just in virtue of the harmony which exists when all three elements of the mind perform their proper function and so achieve their proper fulfilment; he is unjust when no such harmony exists.

‘Well, it’s been a rough passage, but we have pretty well reached agreement that there are the same three elements in the personality of the individual as there are in the state.’


‘Must it not follow, then, that the individual is wise in the same way and with the same part of himself as the state?’

‘That is so.’

(d) ‘And that the individual is brave with the same part and in the same way as the state, and that there is the same correspondence in all the other constituents of excellence?’

‘That must follow.’

‘And so, my dear Glaucon,’ I went on, ‘we shall also say that the individual man is just in the same way that the state is just.’

‘That must inevitably follow too.’

‘And I suppose we have not forgotten that the state was just when the three elements within it each minded their own business.’

‘No, I don’t think we’ve forgotten that.’

‘Then we must remember that each of us will be just and (e) perform his proper function only if each part of him is per-formingits proper function.’19

‘Yes, we must certainly remember that.’

‘So the reason ought to rule, having the wisdom and foresight to act for the whole, and the spirit ought to obey and support it.’


‘And this concord between them is effected, as we said, by a combination of intellectual and physical training, which tunes 442 (a) up the reason by a training in rational argument and higher studies, and tones down and soothes the element of “spirit” by harmony and rhythm.’


‘When these two elements have been so brought up, and trained and educated to their proper function, they must be put in chargeof appetite, which forms the greater partof each man’s make-up and is naturally insatiable. They must prevent it taking its fill of the so-called physical pleasures, for otherwise it will get too large and strong to mind its own business and will try (b) to subject and control the other elements, which it has no right to do, and so wreck the life of all of them.’


‘At the same time,’ I went on, ‘won’t these two elements be the best defence that mind and body have against external enemies? One of them will do the thinking, the other will fight under the orders of its superior and provide the courage to carry its decisions into effect.’

‘Yes, I agree.’

‘And we call an individual brave because of this part of him, I think, when he has a spirit which holds fast to the orders of (c) reason about what he ought or ought not to fear, in spite of pleasure and pain?’

‘That is quite right.’

‘And we call him wise in virtue of that small part of him which is in control and issues the orders, knowingas it does what is best for each of the three elements and for the whole made up of them.’

‘Yes, I agree.’

‘Then don’t we call him self-disciplined when all these three elements are in friendly and harmonious agreement, when reason and its subordinates are all agreed that reason should rule and there is no civil war among them?’(d)

‘That is exactly what we mean by self-control or discipline in a city or in an individual.’

‘And a man will be just by following the principle we have stated so often.’

‘That must be so.’

‘Well, then,’ I said, ‘is our picture in any way indistinct? Does it look as if justice in the individual were different from what we found it to be in the state?’

‘I can’t see any difference,’ he answered.

‘If there are still any doubts in our minds,’ I said, ‘a few commonplace examples should finally convince us.’ (e)

‘What sort of examples?’

‘Well, suppose for instance we were asked whether our state or a man of corresponding nature and training would embezzle money deposited with him. Do you think we should reckon him 443 (a) more likely to do it than other people?’

‘He would be the last person to do such a thing.’

‘And wouldn’t it be out of the question for him to commit sacrilege or theft, or to betray his friends or his country?’

‘Out of the question.’

‘And he would never break a solemn promise or any other agreement.’

‘Certainly not.’

‘And he would be the last man to commit adultery, dishonour his parents, or be irreligious.’

‘The last man,’ he agreed.

(b) ‘And is not the reason for all this that each element within him is performing its proper function, whether it is givingor obeyingorders?’

‘Yes, that is the reason.’

‘Are you now convinced, then, that justice is what produces men and states of this character?’

‘Yes, I am quite convinced,’ he said.

‘So our dream has come true, and, as we guessed,20 we have (c) been lucky enough, with god’s help, to run across a basic pattern of justice at the very beginning of the foundation of our state.’

‘Yes, we have.’

‘In fact, my dear Glaucon, the provision that the man naturally fitted to be a shoemaker, or carpenter, or anything else, should stick to his own trade has turned out to be a kind of adumbration of justice – hence its usefulness.’

‘So it seems.’

‘Justice, therefore, we may say, is a principle of this kind; its real concern is not with external actions, but with a man’s (d) inward self, his true concern and interest. The just man will not allow the three elements which make up his inward self to trespass on each other’s functions or interfere with each other, but, by keeping all three in tune, like the notes of a scale (high, middle, and low, and any others there be), will in the truest sense set his house to rights, attain self-mastery and order, and live on good terms with himself. When he has bound these elements into a disciplined and harmonious whole, and so (e) become fully one instead of many, he will be ready for action of any kind, whether it concerns his personal or financial welfare, whether it is political or private; and he will reckon and call any of these actions just and honourable if it contributes to and helps to maintain this disposition of mind, and will call the knowledge which controls such action wisdom. Similarly, he will call unjust any action destructive of this disposition, and the opinions which control such action ignorance.’ 444 (a)

‘That is all absolutely true, Socrates.’

‘Good,’ I said. ‘So we shan’t be very far wrong if we claim to have discovered what the just man and the just state are, and in what their justice consists.’

‘No, we shan’t.’

‘Shall we make the claim, then?’


‘So much for that,’ I said. ‘And next, I suppose, we ought to consider injustice.’


‘It must be some kind of civil war between these same three (b) elements, when they interfere with each other and trespass on each other’s functions, or when one of them rebels against the whole to get control when it has no business to do so, because its natural role is to be a slave to the rightfully controlling element. This sort of situation, when the elements of the mind are confused and displaced, is what constitutes injustice, indiscipline, cowardice, ignorance and, in short, wickedness of all kinds.’

‘Yes, that’s so.’

‘And if we know what injustice and justice are, it’s clear (c) enough, isn’t it, what acting unjustly and doing wrong are or, again, what acting justly is?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘there is an exact analogy between these states of mind and bodily health and sickness.’


‘Healthy activities produce health, and unhealthy activities produce sickness.’


‘Well, then, don’t just actions produce justice, and unjust (d) actions injustice?’

‘They must.’

‘And health is produced by establishing a natural relation of control and subordination among the constituents of the body, disease by establishing an unnatural relation.’


‘So justice is produced by establishing in the mind a similar natural relation of control and subordination among its constituents, and injustice by establishing an unnatural one.’


‘It seems, then, that excellence is a kind of mental health or (e) beauty or fitness, and defect a kind of illness or deformity or


‘That is so.’

‘And each is in turn the result of one’s practice, good or bad.’

‘They must be.’

4. Conclusion

The definition of justice has now been given; but Socrates has been asked (367b–e above) not only to define it, but to show that it pays better in all circumstances than injustice. This, says Glaucon, is now as self-evident as that health is preferable to disease. But Socrates objects that it cannot be fully seen until our study of the good state and the good man, now complete, is supplemented by a study of the different forms of bad state and corresponding bad character. Of these there are four, and Socrates is about to describe them, when he is interrupted. He does not return to the description until Book viii(Part IX of this translation).

‘We are left, then, I suppose, with the question whether it pays to act justly and behave honourably and be just irrespective of appearances, or to do wrong and be unjust provided you 445 (a) escape punishment and consequent improvement.’

‘I think we have already shown the question to be an absurd one, Socrates,’ he replied. ‘Men don’t reckon that life is worth living when their physical health breaks down, even though they have all the food and drink and wealth and power in the world. So we can hardly reckon it worth living when the natural principle by which we live breaks down in confusion, and a man of his own choice avoids the one thing that will rid him of wickedness (b)and injustice, the acquisition of justice and excellence, now that they have been clearly shown to be as we have described them.’

‘Yes, it is an absurd question,’ I agreed. ‘But I don’t think we ought to give up just when we’ve got to a point from which we can get a really clear view of the facts.’

‘The last thing in the world we want to do is to give up,’ he returned.

‘Follow me, then, ’I said, ‘and you will see how many different forms of wickedness I think there are – a thing which, incidentally(c) , is well worth seeing.’

‘Go on. I’m waiting your lead.’

‘You know, we seem to me to have climbed in our argument to a kind of peak, from which we can see that there is only one form of goodness, but an infinite variety of wickedness, though there are four varieties in particular that are worth our attention.’


‘We shall probably find that there are as many types of character as there are types and forms of political constitution.’

‘And how many is that?’ (d)

‘Five of each,’ I replied.

‘And what are they?’

‘The first type of political constitution is the one we have been describing. It can be called by either of two names. If there is a single outstanding man among the Rulers, it is called a Monarchy; if not, it is called an Aristocracy.’


‘This, then, I regard as one of my five forms. For, whether control is in the hands of a single man or of a larger number, (e) they won’t make any change of importance in the constitution of our State so long as they have been brought up and educated as we have described.’

‘They aren’t likely to,’ he said.

BK V ‘This, then, is the kind of state and constitution and the kind of man I call good and true. And that being so, I call all other 449 (a) forms of social organization and conditions of individual character bad or defective. We can classify their faults under four headings.’

‘What are they?’ he asked.

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