Chapter 2 Book 4

Justice is Svadharma

by Socrates Icon

The last virtue is justice which we now hunt for. The hunting grounds are dark and perplexing. I perceived something so I tracked it. At the beginning of our enquiry, there was justice tumbling about at our feet yet we never saw her. We are like people who go about looking for what was already in their hands.

The original principle at the foundation of the State is that one man should practise one thing only whatever his nature was best adapted to. [svadharma]

Justice is this principle or a part of it. Justice was doing one’s own business, and not being a busybody. So doing one’s own business in a certain way is justice because this is the only virtue which remains when temperance, courage, and wisdom are abstracted. This is the ultimate cause and condition of the existence of all those other virtues. This is also their preservative.


If wisdom, courage, and temperance were discovered by us, justice would be the remaining one. It is not easy to answer which of these four virtues contributes most to the excellence of the State:

  • the wisdom and watchfulness in the rulers, [satya, svadhyaya]
  • the temperance in the agreement of rulers and subjects, [asteya, brahmacarya, aparigraha]
  • the courage of the soldiers in preserving the state, [santosa, iisvara
  • the justice between children and women; slave, freeman, and artisan; ruler and subject, and the principle of every one doing his own work. [dharma, svadharma]

This last one is the correct answer. This means that the power of each individual in the State to do his own work competes with the other political virtues, wisdom, temperance, courage. The virtue which enters into this competition is justice.


The rulers in a State are entrusted to determine the suits at law. Suits are decided by the principle that a man may not take what is another’s, nor be deprived of what is his own. Then justice is the having and doing what is a man’s own, and belongs to him.

Suppose a carpenter is doing the business of a trader and a trader doing that of a carpenter. Suppose them to exchange their tools or their duties. This would not cause much harm to the State.

But if the trader’s heart is lifted by wealth, strength, the number of his followers, or any like advantage, and he forces his way into the class of warriors, then this meddling of one with another is the ruin of the State.

This also happens when:

  • warriors become legislators and guardians, for which he is unfitted,
  • one man is a trader, legislator, and warrior all in one.

There are 3 distinct classes.

Any meddling of one with another, or the change of one into another, is the greatest harm to the State.

It can be called evil-doing. ‘Injustice’ is the greatest degree of evil-doing to one’s own city. On the other hand, justice is when the trader, auxiliary, and the guardian each do their own business. It will make the city just. This idea of justice is verified both in the individual as well as in the State.

If we could examine justice on the larger scale, there would be less difficulty in discerning her in the individual level. That larger example was the State. Accordingly, we constructed as good a one as we could, knowing that the good State has justice.

Let our definition of justice be now applied to the individual. If they agree, we shall be satisfied. The friction of the person and the State when rubbed together may possibly strike a light in which justice will shine forth.


When a small and a big thing is called by the same name, they become like each other. The just man will be like the just State. A State is just when:

  • its 3 classes did their own business, and
  • were temperate, valiant, and wise.

A man is just when he has the same three virtues in his own soul. Thus, the soul does not have these virtues in the beginning. But we must acknowledge:

  • that in each of us, there are the same virtues and habits that are in the State, and
  • that from the individual they pass into the State.

The same may be said of:

  • the love of knowledge (This is the special characteristic of us Greeks.)
  • the love of money (This is the characteristic of the Thracians, Scythians, the northern nations, and the Phoenicians and Egyptians.)

But it is not so easy to know whether these principles are three or one. Do we learn through Part 1 of our nature, and get angry through Part 2, and develop natural appetites from Part 3?


Two contrary things cannot come from the same thing at the same time. Therefore, when this contradiction comes from sources apparently the same, then those sources are really different.

For example, a thing cannot be at rest and in motion at the same time. Imagine a man who is standing but is also moving his hands. A person will say that he is in motion and at rest at the same time.

Imagine a top that is spinning but is staying in one location. A person will say that the top is in motion and at rest at the same time.

We should rather say that they have both an axis and a circumference. The axis stands still, but the circumference is in motion. But if the axis also moves, then the object is not at rest. This will prevent us from being confused.


The following are all opposites:

  • assent and dissent,
  • desire and aversion, and
  • attraction and repulsion.

It does not matter whether they are active or passive since they oppose regardless.

The soul who desires is seeking after the object of his desire. The opposing lack of desire is in the class of repulsion and rejection. The object of hunger is food. The object of thirst is drink. Thirst is the desire of the soul to drink, and of drink only, unqualified by temperature, amount, or kind. If the desire is accompanied by cold, then it becomes a desire of warm drink. If the thirst be excessive, then the drink desired will be excessive. But pure and simple thirst will desire pure and simple drink. This is the natural satisfaction of thirst, as food is of hunger.

Glaucon Yes, the simple desire is in every instance of the simple object. The qualified desire is in the case of qualified object.

People will say that no man desires drink only, but good drink, or food only, but good food. Good is the universal object of desire. Thirst is a desire and will necessarily mean thirst for a good drink. The same is true of every other desire.

Nevertheless, I think that relatives will have some quality attached to the original word or the relation between the words. Simple words will have simple correlatives.

  • “Greater” is related to “less”.
  • “Sometime greater” is related to “sometime less”.
  • “Greater to be” is related to “less that is to be”.
  • “More” is related to “less”.
  • “Double” is related to “half”.
  • “Heavier” is related to “lighter”.
  • “Swifter” is related to “slower”.
  • “Hot” is related to “cold”.


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