Chapter 3 of Book 10

The Immortality of the Soul Icon

September 26, 2022

The Just Are Rewarded, and the Unjust are Punished in the Next Life

Glaucon You have not mentioned the greatest prizes and rewards which await virtue.
Socrates

Socrates= Virtue is great prize in itself. If there are greater prizes, then they must be of an inconceivable greatness. Forty years is surely a little thing compared with eternity. Then just say that there is nothing to reward virtue in the future.

An immortal being would rather think of eternity than this short life. Are you not aware that the soul of man is immortal and imperishable?

He looked at me in astonishment

Glaucon No. Are you really prepared to maintain this?
Socrates

Yes, it is easy to prove. The corrupting and destroying element is called “evil”. The saving and improving element is called “good”. Everything has a good and an evil.

Ophthalmia is the evil of the eyes and disease of the whole body. Mildew is the evil of corn. Rot is the evil of timber. Rust is the evil of copper and iron.

In almost everything, there is an inherent evil and disease. Anything which is infected by any of these evils is made evil. In the end, it dissolves and dies. The vice and evil which is inherent in each thing brings its own destruction.

If this does not destroy them, then nothing else will. For good, or anything that is not good nor evil, will not destroy them. If we find any nature which is not destroyed by this inherent corruption, then in that nature there is no destruction. Is there no evil which corrupts the soul?

Yes, there are all the evils unrighteousness, intemperance, cowardice, ignorance.
Socrates

But does any of these dissolve or destroy her? This does not mean that the unjust and foolish man perishes through his own injustice.

Take the analogy of the body. The evil of the body is a disease which wastes and annihilates the body. Bodies get destroyed from their own corruption attaching to them, inhering, and destroying them from the inside.

The injustice or other evil in the soul waste and consume the body. They attach to the soul, kill the body, and separate the soul from the body. Yet, it is unreasonable for anything to perish from outside by an external evil which could not be destroyed from within by a corruption of its own.

Socrates

Even the badness of food when confined to the actual food, and not eaten, does not destroy the body. The badness of food destroys the body by sending corruption as disease. The body, being one thing, can be destroyed by the badness of food, which is another thing which does not engender any natural infection.

On the same principle, the soul cannot be dissolved by any external evil which belongs to another, unless some bodily evil can produce an evil of the soul.

The soul cannot be destroyed by disease, a knife to the throat, or even the cutting up of the whole body.

These only destroy the soul if it makes it more unholy or unrighteous as a consequence. No one affirms that the soul can be destroyed by an external evil if it cannot be destroyed by an internal evil.

Surely, no one will ever prove that souls become more unjust as a consequence of death.

Socrates

Some people boldly reject the immortality of the soul.

They say that the dying do really become more evil. If this were true, then it would mean:

  • that injustice, like disease, would be fatal to the unjust, and
  • that the unjust die from their own injustice sooner or later through the natural inherent destructiveness of evil.

But this death is quite different from the death that the wicked get as punishment. In that case, injustice would not be so terrible to the unjust, because death will free him from evil.

But I rather suspect the opposite to be the truth. I suspect that injustice will cause the unjust to murder others while keeping the unjust murderer alive.

True, if the inherent natural vice or evil in the soul is unable to kill or destroy the soul, then any other thing which is appointed to destroy some other body will not be able to destroy the soul either.

Socrates

But the soul cannot be destroyed by an evil, whether internal or external. Therefore, it must exist forever. This has many proofs. This means that souls must always be the same.

If none are destroyed, then the souls will not diminish in number. Their numbers will not increase, for the increase of the immortal natures must come from something mortal and therefore end their immortality. But reason will not allow us to believe this.

Reason will also not allow us to believe that the soul, in its truest nature, is full of variety, difference, and dissimilarity. The immortal soul is the fairest of compositions. It cannot be made up of many elements. We should see the soul in its original purity, not when it is united with the body and other impurities.

Socrates

In this way, justice and injustice will manifest more clearly. The original image of the sea-god Glaucus can hardly be discerned because his natural members are broken off, crushed, and damaged by the waves in all sorts of ways.

Seaweed, shells, and stones have grown over them. He is more like some monster.

The soul is in a similar condition, disfigured by 10,000 ills. But we must look at its love of wisdom. The soul is kindred with the immortal, eternal, and divine.

We must see:

  • whom the soul affects and what what society it seeks in terms of virtue,
  • how different the soul would be if it wholly followed wisdom.
Socrates

This would disengage it from the stones, shells, and things of earth that spring up around it, which serve as the good things of this life and is a natural consequence of the soul feeding on physical existence.

In this way, you would see it as it is.

You would know whether it has one shape only or many, or what its nature is. We have explained its affections and the forms it takes in life. You say that the rewards of justice are to be found in Homer and Hesiod.

Socrates

But in reality, justice is the best for the soul in its own nature. Let a man do what is just, whether he has the ring of Gyges or not, and even the helmet of Hades.

We can now enumerate how many and great are the rewards which justice and the other virtues procure to the soul from gods and men, both in life and after death. You assumed that the just man should appear unjust and the unjust should appear just.

The eyes of gods and men will see through this illusion. But you still kept it so that pure justice could be weighed against pure injustice. Do you remember?

I should be much to blame if I had forgotten.
Socrates

Then, we restore the original definition of justice which cannot be misrepresented to gods and men.

The nature of the just and unjust is truly known to the gods. This makes one of them a friend of the gods and the other as their enemy. The friend of the gods receive from them all things at their best, except the evil which is the necessary consequence of former sins. Then their friend must be the just man.

Even when he is in poverty, sickness, or misfortune, all things will in the end work together for good to him in life and death because the gods have a care of anyone whose desire is to become just and to be like God by the pursuit of virtue.

Yes, if he is like God he will surely not be neglected by him.
Socrates

The gods will give victory to the just. The opposite may be supposed of the unjust. The clever unjust are runners who run well from the starting-place. They start at a great speed.

But in the end, they look foolish.

They slink away with their ears draggling on their shoulders, and without a crown. But the true runner–the just–comes to the finish, receives the prize, and is crowned. He who endures to the end in every action and occasion of his entire life has a good report. This is the prize which men have to bestow on him. The just can become rulers in their own city.

They marry whom they like and give in marriage to whom they will. On the other hand, most of the unjust can escape in their youth. The rest are found looking foolish in the end.

Socrates

They come to be old and miserable and flouted alike by stranger and citizen. They are beaten and will be racked and have their eyes burned out. You wrongly said [in Book 2, Chapter 1] that these awaited the just who pretended to be unjust. Assuming what I said are true, then these are the rewards and gifts bestowed on the just by gods and men in this life.

This is in addition to the other good things which justice itself provides. Yet, all these are as nothing in quality or quantity compared with those other recompenses which await both the just and unjust after death.