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Plato and Platonism by Walter Horatio Pater

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side through their long days of eager labour, and above all on the
battlefield, became respectively, aitês,+ the [232] hearer, and
eispnêlas,+ the inspirer; the elder inspiring the younger with his own
strength and noble taste in things.

What, it has been asked, what was there to occupy persons of the
privileged class in Lacedaemon from morning to night, thus cut off as
they were from politics and business, and many of the common interests
of men's lives? Our Platonic visitor would have asked rather, Why this
strenuous task-work, day after day; why this loyalty to a system, so
costly to you individually, though it may be thought to have survived
its original purpose; this laborious, endless, education, which does
not propose to give you anything very useful or enjoyable in itself?
An intelligent young Spartan might have replied: "To the end that I
myself may be a perfect work of art, issuing thus into the eyes of all
Greece." He might have observed--we may safely observe for him--that
the institutions of his country, whose he was, had a beauty in
themselves, as we may observe also of some at least of our own
institutions, educational or religious: that they bring out, for
instance, the lights and shadows of human character, and relieve the
present by maintaining in it an ideal sense of the past. He might have
added that he had his friendships to solace him; and to encourage him,
the sense of honour.

Honour, friendship, loyalty to the ideal of the [233] past, himself as
a work of art! There was much of course in his answer. Yet still,
after all, to understand, to be capable of, such motives, was itself
but a result of that exacting discipline of character we are trying to
account for; and the question still recurs, To what purpose? Why, with
no prospect of Israel's reward, are you as scrupulous, minute, self-
taxing, as he? A tincture of asceticism in the Lacedaemonian rule may
remind us again of the monasticism of the Middle Ages. But then,
monastic severity was for the purging of a troubled conscience, or for
the hope of an immense prize, neither of which conditions is to be
supposed here. In fact the surprise of Saint Paul, as a practical man,
at the slightness of the reward for which a Greek spent himself,
natural as it is about all pagan perfection, is especially applicable
about these Lacedaemonians, who indeed had actually invented that so
"corruptible" and essentially worthless parsley crown in place of the
more tangible prizes of an earlier age. Strange people! Where,
precisely, may be the spring of action in you, who are so severe to
yourselves; you who, in the words of Plato's supposed objector that the
rulers of the ideal state are not to be envied, have nothing you can
really call your own, but are like hired servants in your own houses,--
qui manducatis panem doloris?+

Another day-dream, you may say, about those [234] obscure ancient
people, it was ever so difficult really to know, who had hidden their
actual life with so much success; but certainly a quite natural dream
upon the paradoxical things we are told of them, on good authority. It
is because they make us ask that question; puzzle us by a paradoxical
idealism in life; are thus distinguished from their neighbours; that,
like some of our old English places of education, though we might not
care to live always at school there, it is good to visit them on
occasion; as some philosophic Athenians, as we have now seen, loved to
do, at least in thought.


198. +Transliteration: Gnôthi sauton . . . Mêden agan. E-text editor's
translation: "Know thyself . . . nothing too much." Plato, Protagoras

200. +Transliteration: mousikê. Liddell and Scott definition: "any art
over which the Muses presided, esp. music or lyric poetry set and sung
to music...."

205. +Transliteration: hoi gerontes, hê gerousia. Liddell and Scott
definitions: "the old . . . a Council of Elders, Senate, esp. at
Sparta, where it consisted of 28."

206. +Transliteration: paraleipomenon. Pater's translation:
"oversights." The verb paraleipô means, "to leave on one side . . .
leave unnoticed."

207. +Transliteration: koilê Spartê. Pater's translation: "hollow

207. +Transliteration: polichnia. Pater's translation: "hamlets."

214. +Transliteration: ophrya te kai koilainetai. E-text editor's
translation: "craggy and hollowed out." Strabo cites this proverb
about Corinth. Strabo, Geography, Book 8, Chapter 6, Section 23.

216. +Transliteration: scholê. Pater's translation: "leisure."

216. +Transliteration: êthos. Liddell and Scott definition: "an
accustomed place . . . custom, usage, habit."

217. +Transliteration: aretê. Liddell and Scott definition: "goodness,
excellence, of any kind."

218. +Transliteration: êthos. Liddell and Scott definition: "an
accustomed place . . . custom, usage, habit."

218. +Transliteration: hê diaita Dôrikê. E-text editor's translation:
"the Dorian way of life."

219. +Transliteration: homoiôs apo te tôn skelôn kai apo cheirôn kai apo
trachêlou gymnazontai. E-text editor's translation: "Their exercises
train the legs, arms and neck with the same care." Xenophon, Minor
Works, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, Chapter 5, Section 9.

221. +Transliteration: homoioi . . . hypomeiones. Pater's translation:
"superiors and inferiors."

221. +Transliteration: Eirên, melleirên, sideunês. Liddell and Scott
definition of the first term: "a Lacedaemonian youth from his 18th.
year, when he was entitled to speak in the assembly and to lead an
army." I have not come across the second or third terms, but the root
meaning of the words suggests that they would mean, roughly, "one who
is of age, or nearly of age" and "a young man who is old enough to bear
a sword."

222. +Transliteration: agelai. Pater's translation: "in their

223. +Transliteration: mousikê. Liddell and Scott definition: "any art
over which the Muses presided, esp. music or lyric poetry set and sung
to music...."

225. +Transliteration: paraleipomenon. Pater's translation:
"oversights." The verb paraleipô means, "to leave on one side . . .
leave unnoticed."

226. +Transliteration: deisidaimones. Liddell and Scott definition:
"fearing the gods," in both a good and bad sense--i.e. either pious or

229. +A Chitôn was "a woollen shirt worn next the body." (Liddell and

231. +Transliteration: aitês. Pater's translation: "the hearer."

232. +Transliteration: eispnêlas. Pater's translation: "the hearer."

233. +Psalm 127, verse 2. The King James Bible translation is "to eat
the bread of sorrows."


[235] "THE Republic," as we may realise it mentally within the limited
proportions of some quite imaginable Greek city, is the protest of
Plato, in enduring stone, in law and custom more imperishable still,
against the principle of flamboyancy or fluidity in things, and in
men's thoughts about them. Political "ideals" may provide not only
types for new states, but also, in humbler function, a due corrective
of the errors, thus renewing the life, of old ones. But like other
medicines the corrective or critical ideal may come too late, too near
the natural end of things. The theoretic attempt made by Plato to
arrest the process of disintegration in the life of Athens, of Greece,
by forcing it back upon a simpler and more strictly Hellenic type,
ended, so far as they were concerned, in theory.

It comes of Plato's literary skill, his really dramatic handling of a
conversation, that one subject rises naturally out of another in the
[236] course of it, that in the lengthy span of The Republic, though
they are linked together after all with a true logical coherency, now
justice, now the ideal state, now the analysis of the individual soul,
or the nature of a true philosopher, or his right education, or the law
of political change, may seem to emerge as the proper subject of the
whole book. It is thus incidentally, and by way of setting forth the
definition of Justice or Rightness, as if in big letters, that the
constitution of the typically Right State is introduced into what,
according to one of its traditional titles-- Peri Dikaiosynês +--might
actually have figured as a dialogue on the nature of Justice. But tod'
ên hôs eoike prooimion+--the discussion of the theory of the abstract
and invisible rightness was but to introduce the practical architect,
the creator of the right state. Plato then assumes rather than
demonstrates that so facile parallel between the individual
consciousness and the social aggregate, passes lightly backwards and
forwards from the rightness or wrongness, the normal or abnormal
conditions, of the one to those of the other, from you and me to the
"colossal man," whose good or bad qualities, being written up there on
a larger scale, are easier to read, and if one may say so, "once in
bricks and mortar," though but on paper, is lavish of a world as it
should be. A strange world in some ways! Let us look from the small
type of the individual to the monumental [237] inscription on those
high walls, as he proposes; while his fancy wandering further and
further, over tower and temple, its streets and the people in them, as
if forgetful of his original purpose he tells us all he sees in thought
of the City of the Perfect.

To the view of Plato, as of all other Greek citizens, the state, in its
local habitation here or there, had been in all cases the gift or
ordinance of one or another real though half-divine founder, some Solon
or Lycurgus, thereafter a proper object of piety, of filial piety, for
ever, among those to whom he had bequeathed the blessings of civilised
life. Himself actually of Solon's lineage, Plato certainly is less
aware than those who study these matters in the "historic spirit" of
the modern world that for the most part, like other more purely
physical things, states "are not made, but grow." Yet his own work as
a designer or architect of what shall be new is developed quite
naturally out of the question how an already existing state, such as
the actual Athens of the day, might secure its pre-eminence, or its
very existence. Close always, by the concrete turn of his genius, to
the facts of the place and the hour, his first thought is to suggest a
remedy for the peculiar evils of the Athenians at that moment; and in
his delineation of the ideal state he does but elevate what Athens in
particular, a ship so early going to pieces, might well be forced to
become for her salvation, were [238] it still possible, into the
eternal type of veritable statecraft, of a city as such, "a city at
unity in itself," defiant of time. He seems to be seeking in the first
instance a remedy for the sick, a desperate political remedy; and
thereupon, as happens with really philosophic enquirers, the view
enlarges on all sides around him.

Those evils of Athens then, which were found in very deed somewhat
later to be the infirmity of Greece as a whole, when, though its
versatile gifts of intellect might constitute it the teacher of its
eventual masters, it was found too incoherent politically to hold its
own against Rome:--those evils of Athens, of Greece, came from an
exaggerated assertion of the fluxional, flamboyant, centrifugal Ionian
element in the Hellenic character. They could be cured only by a
counter-assertion of the centripetal Dorian ideal, as actually seen
best at Lacedaemon; by the way of simplification, of a rigorous
limitation of all things, of art and life, of the souls, aye, and of
the very bodies of men, as being the integral factors of all beside.
It is in those simpler, corrected outlines of a reformed Athens that
Plato finds the "eternal form" of the State, of a city as such, like a
well-knit athlete, or one of those perfectly disciplined Spartan
dancers. His actual purpose therefore is at once reforming and
conservative. The drift of his charge is, in his own words, that no
political constitution then existing is suitable to the philosophic,
that is to [239] say, as he conceives it, to the aristocratic or kingly
nature. How much that means we shall see by and bye, when he maintains
that in the City of the Perfect the kings will be philosophers. It
means that those called, like the gifted, lost Alcibiades, to be the
saviours of the state, as a matter of fact become instead its
destroyers. The proper soil in which alone that precious exotic seed,
the kingly or aristocratic seed, will attain its proper qualities, in
which alone it will not yield wine inferior to its best, or rather,
instead of bearing any wine at all, become a deadly poison, is still to
be laid down according to rules of art, the ethic or political art; but
once provided must be jealously kept from innovation. Organic unity
with one's self, body and soul, is the well-being, the rightness, or
righteousness, or justice of the individual, of the microcosm; but is
the ideal also, it supplies the true definition, of the well-being of
the macrocosm, of the social organism, the state. On this Plato has to
insist, to the disadvantage of what we actually see in Greece, in
Athens, with all its intricacies of disunion, faction against faction,
as displayed in the later books of Thucydides. Remember! the question
Plato is asking throughout The Republic, with a touch perhaps of the
narrowness, the fanaticism, or "fixed idea," of Machiavel himself, is,
not how shall the state, the place we must live in, be gay or rich or
populous, but strong--strong enough to remain [240] itself, to resist
solvent influences within or from without, such as would deprive it not
merely of the accidental notes of prosperity but of its own very being.

Now what hinders this strengthening macrocosmic unity, the oneness of
the political organism with itself, is that the unit, the individual,
the microcosm, fancies itself, or would fain be, a rival macrocosm,
independent, many-sided, all-sufficient. To make him that, as you
know, had been the conscious aim of the Athenian system in the
education of its youth, as also in its later indirect education of the
citizen by the way of political life. It was the ideal of one side of
the Greek character in general, of much that was brilliant in it and
seductive to others. In this sense, Pericles himself interprets the
educational function of the city towards the citizen:--to take him as
he is, and develope him to the utmost on all his various sides, with a
variety in those parts however, as Plato thinks, by no means likely to
promote the unity of the whole, of the state as such, which must move
all together if it is to move at all, at least against its foes. With
this at first sight quite limited purpose then, paradoxical as it might
seem to those whose very ideal lay precisely in such manifold
development, to Plato himself perhaps, manifold as his own genius and
culture conspicuously were--paradoxical [241] as it might seem, Plato's
demand is for the limitation, the simplifying, of those constituent
parts or units; that the unit should be indeed no more than a part, it
might be a very small part, in a community, which needs, if it is still
to subsist, the wholeness of an army in motion, of the stars in their
courses, of well-concerted music, if you prefer that figure, or, as the
modern reader might perhaps object, of a machine. The design of Plato
is to bring back the Athenian people, the Greeks, to thoughts of order,
to disinterestedness in their functions, to that self-concentration of
soul on one's own part, that loyal concession of their proper parts to
others, on which such order depends, to a love of it, a sense of its
extreme aesthetic beauty and fitness, according to that indefectible
definition of Justice, of what is right, to hen prattein, to ta hautou
prattein+, in opposition, as he thinks, to those so fascinating
conditions of Injustice, poikilia, pleonexia, polypragmosynê,+ figuring
away, as they do sometimes, so brilliantly.

For Plato would have us understand that men are in truth after all
naturally much simpler, much more limited in character and capacity,
than they seem. Such diversity of parts and function as is presupposed
in his definition of Justice has been fixed by nature itself on human
life. The individual, as such, humble as his proper function may be,
is unique in fitness for, in a consequent "call" to, that function. We
[242] know how much has been done to educate the world, under the
supposition that man is a creature of very malleable substance,
indifferent in himself, pretty much what influences may make of him.
Plato, on the other hand, assures us that no one of us "is like another
all in all."--Prôton men phyetai hekastos ou pany homoios hekastô, alla
diapherôn tên physin, allos ep allou ergou praxin +.--But for this,
social Justice, according to its eternal form or definition, would in
fact be nowhere applicable. Once for all he formulates clearly that
important notion of the function, (ergon)+ of a thing, or of a person.
It is that which he alone can do, or he better than any one else.

That Plato should exaggerate this definiteness in men's natural
vocations, thus to be read as it were in "plain figures" upon each, is
one of the necessities of his position. Effect of nature itself, such
inequality between men, this differentiation of one from another, is to
be further promoted by all the cunning of the political art. The
counter-assertion of the natural indifference of men, their pliability
to circumstance, while it is certainly truer to our modern experience,
is also in itself more hopeful, more congruous with all the processes
of education. But for Plato the natural inequality of men, if it is
the natural ground of that versatility, (poikilia),+ of the wrongness or
Injustice he must needs correct, will be the natural ground of Justice
also, as essentially a unity or harmony enforced on disparate [243]
elements, unity as of an army, or an order of monks, organic, mechanic,
liturgical, whichever you please to call it; but a kind of music
certainly, if the founder, the master, of the state, for his proper
part, can but compose the scattered notes.

Just here then is the original basis of society--gignetai toinyn hôs
egômai polis epeidê tunchanei hêmôn hekastos ouk autarkês +--at first in
its humblest form; simply because one can dig and another spin; yet
already with anticipations of The Republic, of the City of the Perfect,
as developed by Plato, as indeed also, beyond it, of some still more
distant system "of the services of angels and men in a wonderful
order"; for the somewhat visionary towers of Plato's Republic blend of
course with those of the Civitas Dei of Augustine. Only, though its
top may one day "reach unto heaven," it by no means came down thence;
but, as Plato conceives, arises out of the earth, out of the humblest
natural wants. Grote was right.--There is a very shrewd matter-of-fact
utilitarian among the dramatis personae which together make up the
complex genius of Plato. Poiêsei hôs egômai tên polin hêmetera
chreia+.--Society is produced by our physical necessities, our
inequality in regard to them:--an inequality in three broad divisions
of unalterable, incommunicable type, of natural species, among men,
with corresponding differentiation of political and social functions:
three firmly outlined orders [244] in the state, like three primitive
castes, propagating, reinforcing, their peculiarities of condition, as
Plato will propose, by exclusive intermarriage, each within itself. As
in the class of the artisans (hoi dêmiourgoi)+ some can make swords
best, others pitchers, so, on the larger survey, there will be found
those who can use those swords, or, again, think, teach, pray, or lead
an army, a whole body of swordsmen, best, thus defining within
impassable barriers three essential species of citizenship--the
productive class, the military order, the governing class thirdly, or
spiritual order.

The social system is in fact like the constitution of a human being.
There are those who have capacity, a vocation, to conceive thoughts,
and rule their brethren by intellectual power. Collectively of course
they are the mind or brain, the mental element, in the social organism.
There are those secondly, who have by nature executive force, who will
naturally wear arms, the sword in the sheath perhaps, but who will also
on occasion most certainly draw it. Well, these are like the active
passions and the ultimately decisive will in the bosom of man, most
conspicuous as anger--anger, it may be, resentment, against known wrong
in another or in one's self, the champion of conscience, flinging away
the scabbard, setting the spear against the foe, like a soldier of
spirit. They are in a word the conscience, the armed conscience, of
the state, [245] nobly bred, sensitive for others and for themselves,
informed by the light of reason in their natural kings. And then,
thirdly, protected, controlled, by the thought, the will, above them,
like those appetites in you and me, hunger, thirst, desire, which have
been the motive, the actual creators, of the material order all around
us, there will be the "productive" class, labouring perfectly in the
cornfields, in the vineyards, or on the vessels which are to contain
corn and wine, at a thousand handicrafts, every one still exquisitely
differentiated, according to Plato's rule of right--eis hen kata physin
+; as within the military class also there will be those who command and
those who can but obey, and within the true princely class again those
who know all things and others who have still much to learn; those also
who can learn and teach one sort of knowledge better than another.

Plato however, in the first steps of the evolution of the State, had
lighted quite naturally on what turns out to be a mistaken or
inadequate ideal of it, in an idyll pretty enough, indeed, from "The
Golden Age."--How sufficient it seems for a moment, that innocent
world! is, nevertheless, actually but a false ideal of human society,
allowing in fact no place at all for Justice; the very terms of which,
precisely because they involve differentiation of life and its
functions, are inapplicable to a society, if so it may be called, still
essentially inorganic. In [246] a condition, so rudimentary as to
possess no opposed parts at all, of course there will be no place for
disturbance of parts, for proportion or disproportion of faculty and
function. It is, in truth, to a city which has lost its first
innocence (polis êdê tryphôsa)+ that we must look for the consciousness
of Justice and Injustice; as some theologians or philosophers have held
that it was by the "Fall" man first became a really moral being.

Now in such a city, in the polis êdê tryphôsa,+ there will be an
increase of population:-- kai hê chôra pou hê tote hikanê smikra ex
hikanês estai.+ And in an age which perhaps had the military spirit in
excess Plato's thoughts pass on immediately to wars of aggression:--
oukoun tês tôn plêsion chôras hêmin apotmêteon?+ We must take something,
if we can, from Megara or from Sparta; which doubtless in its turn
would do the same by us. As a measure of relief however that was not
necessarily the next step. The needs of an out-pushing population
might have suggested to Plato what is perhaps the most brilliant and
animating episode in the entire history of Greece, its early
colonisation, with all the bright stories, full of the piety, the
generosity of a youthful people, that had gathered about it. No, the
next step in social development was not necessarily going to war. In
either case however, aggressive action against our neighbours, or
defence of our distant brethren beyond the seas [247] at Cyrene or
Syracuse against rival adventurers, we shall require a new class of
persons, men of the sword, to fight for us if need be. Ah! You hear
the notes of the trumpet, and therewith already the stir of an
enlarging human life, its passions, its manifold interests. Phylakes
or epikouroi,+ watchmen or auxiliaries, our new servants comprehend at
first our masters to be, whom a further act of differentiation will
distinguish as philosophers and kings from the strictly military order.
Plato nevertheless in his search for the true idea of Justice, of
rightness in things, may be said now to have seen land. Organic
relationship is come into the rude social elements and made of them a
body, a society. Rudimentary though it may still be, the definition of
Justice, as also of Injustice, is now applicable to its processes.
There is a music in the affairs of men, in which one may take one's due
part, which one may spoil.

Criticising mythology Plato speaks of certain fables, to be made by
those who are apt at such things, under proper spiritual authority, so
to term it, hôs en pharmakou eidei ta pseudê ta en deonti genomena,+
medicinable lies or fictions, with a provisional or economised truth in
them, set forth under such terms as simple souls could best receive.
Just here, at the end of the third book of The Republic he introduces
such a fable: phoinikikon pseudos,+ he calls it, a miner's story, about
copper and silver and gold, such as may really [248] have been current
among the primitive inhabitants of the island from which metal and the
art of working it had been introduced into Greece.--

And I shall try first of all to persuade the rulers themselves
and our soldiers, and afterwards the rest of the community, as
to the matter of the rearing and the education we gave them,
that in fact it did but seem to happen with them, they seemed
to experience all that, only as in dreams. They were then in
very truth nourished and fashioned beneath the earth within,
and the armour upon them and their equipment put together; and
when they were perfectly wrought out the earth even their mother
put them forth. Now, therefore, it is their duty to think
concerning the land in which they are as of a mother, or
foster-mother, and to protect it if any foe come against it,
and to think of their fellow-citizens as being their brothers,
born of the earth as they. All ye in the city, therefore, are
brothers, we shall say to them proceeding with our story; but
God, when he made you, mixed gold in the generation of those
among you fit to be our kings, for which cause they are the
most precious of all; and silver in those fit to be our guards;
and in the husbandmen and all other handicraftsmen iron and
brass. Forasmuch then as ye are all of one kindred, for the
most part ye would beget offspring like to yourselves; but at
times a silver child will come of one golden, and from the
silver a child of gold, and so forth, interchangeably. To
those who rule, then, first and above all God enjoins that of
nothing shall they be so careful guardians, nothing shall they
so earnestly regard, as the young children--what metal has
been mixed to their hands in the souls of these. And if a
child of their own be born with an alloy of iron or brass, they
shall by no means have pity upon it, but, allotting unto it the
value which befits its nature, they shall thrust it into the
class of husbandmen or artisans. And if, again, of these a
child be born with gold or silver in him, with due estimate
they shall promote such to wardenship or to arms, inasmuch as
an oracular saying declares that the city is perished already
when it has iron or brass to guard it. Can you suggest a way
of getting them to believe this mythus? Republic, 414.

[249] Its application certainly is on the surface: the Lacedaemonian
details also--the military turn taken, the disinterestedness of the
powerful, their monastic renunciation of what the world prizes most,
above all the doctrine of a natural aristocracy with its "privileges
and also its duties." Men are of simpler structure and capacities than
you have fancied, Plato would assure us, and more decisively appointed
to this rather than to that order of service. Nay, with the boldness
proper to an idealist, he does not hesitate to represent them (that is
the force of the mythus) as actually made of different stuff; and
society, assuming a certain aristocratic humour in the nature of
things, has for its business to sanction, safeguard, further promote
it, by law.

The state therefore, if it is to be really a living creature, will
have, like the individual soul, those sensuous appetites which call the
productive powers into action, and its armed conscience, and its far-
reaching intellectual light: its industrial class, that is to say, its
soldiers, its kings--the last, a kind of military monks, as you might
think, on a distant view, their minds full of a kind of heavenly
effulgence, yet superintending the labours of a large body of work-
people in the town and the fields about it. Of the industrial or
productive class, the artists and artisans, Plato speaks only in
outline, but is significant in what he says; and enough remains of the
actual fruits [250] of Greek industry to enable us to complete his
outline for ourselves, as we may also, by aid of Greek art, together
with the words of Homer and Pindar, equip and realise the full
character of the true Platonic "war-man" or knight; and again, through
some later approximate instances, discern something of those
extraordinary, half-divine, philosophic kings.

We must let industry then mean for Plato all it meant, would naturally
mean, for a Greek, amid the busy spectacle of Athenian handicrafts.
The "rule" of Plato, its precepts of temperance, proportion, economy,
though designed primarily for its soldiers, and its kings or archons,
for the military and spiritual orders, would probably have been
incumbent also in relaxed degree upon those who work with their hands;
and we have but to walk through the classical department of the Louvre
or the British Museum to be reminded how those qualities of temperance
and the like did but enhance, could not chill or impoverish, the
artistic genius of Greek workmen. In proportion to what we know of the
minor handicrafts of Greece we shall find ourselves able to fill up, as
the condition of everyday life in the streets of Plato's City of the
Perfect, a picture of happy protected labour, "skilled" to the utmost
degree in all its applications. Those who prosecute it will be
allowed, as we may gather, in larger proportion than those who "watch,"
in silent thought or sword in hand, such animal [251] liberties as seem
natural and right, and are not really "illiberal," for those who labour
all day with their bodies, though they too will have on them in their
service some measure of the compulsion which shapes the action of our
kings and soldiers to such effective music. With more or less of
asceticism, of a "common life," among themselves, they will be the
peculiar sphere of the virtue of temperance in the State, as being the
entirely willing subjects of wholesome rule. They represent, as we
saw, in the social organism, the bodily appetites of the individual,
its converse with matter, in a perfect correspondence, if all be right
there, with the conscience and with the reasonable soul in it.
Labouring by system at the production of perfect swords, perfect lamps,
perfect poems too, and a perfect coinage, such as we know, to enable
them the more readily to exchange their produce (nomisma tês allagês
heneka)+ working perhaps in guilds and under rules to insure perfection
in each specific craft, refining matter to the last degree, they would
constitute the beautiful body of the State, in rightful service, like
the copper and iron, the bronze and the steel, they manipulate so
finely, to its beautiful soul--to its natural though hereditary
aristocracy, its "golden" humanity, its kings, in whom Wisdom, the
light, of a comprehensive Synopsis, indefectibly resides, and who, as
being not merely its discursive or practical reason, but its faculty of
contemplation likewise, will be also its priests, the [252] medium of
its worship, of its intercourse with the gods.

Between them, between that intellectual or spiritual order, those novel
philosophic kings, and the productive class of the artists and
artisans, moves the military order, as the sensitive armed conscience,
the armed will, of the State, its executive power in the fullest sense
of that term--a "standing army," as Plato supposes, recruited from a
great hereditary caste born and bred to such functions, and certainly
very different from the mere "militia" of actual Greek states, hastily
summoned at need to military service from the fields and workshops.
Remember that the veritable bravery also, as the philosopher sees it,
is a form of that "knowledge," which in truth includes in itself all
other virtues, all good things whatever; that it is a form of "right
opinion," and has a kind of insight in it, a real apprehension of the
occasion and its claims on one's courage, whether it is worth while to
fight, and to what point. Platonic knighthood then will have in it
something of the philosophy which resides in plenitude in the class
above it, by which indeed this armed conscience of the State, the
military order, is continuously enlightened, as we know the conscience
of each one of us severally needs to be. And though Plato will not
expect his fighting-men, like the Christian knight, like Saint Ranieri
Gualberto, [253] to forgive their enemies, yet, moving one degree out
of the narrower circle of Greek habits, he does require them, in
conformity with a certain Pan-Hellenic, a now fully realised national
sense, which fills himself, to love the whole Greek race, to spare the
foe, if he be Greek, the last horrors of war, to think of the soil, of
the dead, of the arms and armour taken from them, with certain scruples
of a natural piety.

As the knights share the dignity of the regal order, are in fact
ultimately distinguished from it by degree rather than in kind, so they
will be sharers also in its self-denying "rule." In common with it,
they will observe a singular precept which forbids them so much as to
come under the same roof with vessels or other objects wrought of gold
or silver--they "who are most worthy of it," precisely because while
"many iniquities have come from the world's coinage, they have gold in
them undefiled." Yet again we are not to suppose in Platonic Greece--
how could we indeed anywhere within the range of Greek conceptions?--
anything rude, uncomely, or unadorned. No one who reads carefully in
this very book of The Republic those pages of criticism which concern
art quite as much as poetry, a criticism which drives everywhere at a
conscientious nicety of workmanship, will suppose that. If kings and
knights never drink from vessels of silver or gold, their earthen cups
and platters, we may be sure, would be what we can [254] still see; and
the iron armour on their bodies exquisitely fitted to them, to its
purpose, with that peculiar beauty which such fitness secures. See
them, then, moving, in perfect "Justice" or "Rightness," to their
Dorian music, their so expressive plain-song, under the guidance of
their natural leaders, those who can see and fore-see--of those who

That they may be one!--If, like an individual soul, the state has
attained its normal differentiation of parts, as with that also its
vitality and effectiveness will be proportionate to the unity of those
parts in their various single operations. The productive, the
executive, the contemplative orders, respectively, like their
psychological analogues, the senses, the will, and the intelligence,
will be susceptible each of its own proper virtue or excellence,
temperance, bravery, spiritual illumination. Only, let each work
aright in its own order, and a fourth virtue will supervene upon their
united perfections, the virtue or perfection of the organic whole as
such. The Justice which Plato has been so long in search of will be
manifest at last--that perfect oikeiopragia,+ which will be also perfect
co-operation. Oneness, unity, community, an absolute community of
interests among fellow-citizens, philadelphia, over against the selfish
ambition of those naturally ascendant, like Alcibiades or Crito, in
that competition for office, for wealth and honours, which has rent
Athens into factions ever breeding [255] on themselves, the centripetal
force versus all centrifugal forces:--on this situation, Plato, in the
central books of The Republic, dwells untired, in all its variety of
synonym and epithet, the conditions, the hazard and difficulty of its
realisation, its analogies in art, in music, in practical life, like
three strings of a lyre, or like one colossal person, the painted dêmos+
or civic genius on the walls of a Greek town-house, or, again, like the
consummate athlete whose body, with no superfluities, is the precise,
the perfectly finished, instrument of his will. Hence, at once cause
and effect of such "seamless" unity, his paradoxical new law of
property in the City of the Perfect--mandatum novum, a "new
commandment," we might fairly call it--ta tôn philôn koina.+ "And no
one said that aught of the things he possessed was his own but they had
all things common." Ah, you see! Put yourself in Plato's company, and
inevitably, from time to time, he will seem to pass with you beyond the
utmost horizon actually opened to him.

Upon the aristocratic class therefore, in its two divisions, the army
and the church or hierarchy, so to speak, the "rule" of Plato--poverty,
obedience, contemplation, will be incumbent in its fullest rigour.
"Like hired servants in their own house," they may not seem very
enviable persons, on first thoughts. But remember again that Plato's
charge against things as they are is partly in a theoretic interest--
the philosopher, [256] the philosophic soul, loves unity, but finds it
nowhere, neither in the State nor in its individual members: it is
partly also practical, and of the hour. Divided Athens, divided
Greece, like some big, lax, self-neglectful person would be an easy
prey to any well-knit adversary really at unity in himself. It is by
way of introducing a constringent principal into a mass of amorphic
particles, that Plato proclaims that these friends will have all things
in common; and, challenged by the questions of his companions in the
dialogue to say how far he will be ready to go in the application of so
paradoxical a rule, he braces himself to a surprising degree of
consistency. How far then will Plato, a somewhat Machiavelian
theorist, as you saw, and with something of "fixed" ideas about
practical things, taking desperate means towards a somewhat exclusively
conceived ideal of social well-being, be ready to go?

Now we have seen that the genuine citizens of his Perfect City will
have much of monasticism, of the character of military monks, about
them already, with their poverty, their obedience, their contemplative
habit. And there is yet another indispensable condition of the
monastic life. The great Pope Hildebrand, by the rule of celibacy, by
making "regulars" to that extent of the secular clergy, succeeded, as
many have thought, in his design of making them in very deed, soul and
body, but parts of the corporate order they [257] belonged to; and what
Plato is going to add to his rule of life, for the archontes,+ who are
to be philopolides,+ to love the corporate body they belong to better
than themselves, is in its actual effects something very like a law of
celibacy. Difficult, paradoxical, as he admits it to be, he is pressed
on by his hearers, and by the natural force of his argument,
reluctantly to declare that the rule of communism will apply to a man's
ownership of his wife and children.

Observe! Plato proposes this singular modification of married life as
an elevation or expansion of the family, but, it may be rightly
objected, is, in truth, only colouring with names exclusively
appropriate to the family, arrangements which will be a suppression of
all those sentiments that naturally pertain to it. The wisdom of Plato
would certainly deprive mothers of that privacy of affection, regarding
which the wisdom of Solomon beamed forth, by sending all infants soon
after birth to be reared in a common nursery, where the facts of their
actual parentage would be carefully obliterated. The result, as he
supposes, will be a common and universal parentage, sonship,
brotherhood; but surely with but a shadowy realisation of the
affections, the claims, of these relationships. It will involve a loss
of differentiation in life, and be, as such, a movement backward, to a
barbarous or merely animal grade of existence.

[258] Ta tôn philôn koina.+--With this soft phrase, then, Plato would
take away all those precious differences that come of our having a
little space in things to do what one will or can with. The Platonic
state in fact, with its extraordinary common marriages, would be
dealing precisely after the manner of those who breed birds or dogs. A
strange forbidding experiment, it seems, or should seem, to us, looking
back on it in the light of laws now irrevocably fixed on these subjects
by the judgment of the Christian church. We must remember however, in
fairness, that Plato in this matter of the relation of the sexes
especially, found himself in a world very different from ours,
regulated and refined, as it already is in some degree, by Christian
ideas about women and children. A loose law of marriage, beyond it
concubinage in some degree sanctioned by religion, beyond that again
morbid vice: such was the condition of the Greek world. What Christian
marriage, in harmonious action with man's true nature, has done to
counteract this condition, that Plato tried to do by a somewhat forced
legislation, which was altogether out of harmony with the facts of
man's nature. Neither the church nor the world has endorsed his
theories about it. Think, in contrast, of the place occupied in
Christian art by the mother and her child. What that represents in
life Plato wishes to take from us, though, as he would have us think,
in our own behalf.

[259] And his views of the community of male and female education, and
of the functions of men and women in the State, do but come of the
relief of women in large measure from home-duties. Such duties
becoming a carefully economised department of the State, the women will
have leisure to share the work of men; and will need a corresponding
education. The details of their common life in peace and war he
certainly makes effective and bright. But if we think of his proposal
as a reinstatement of the Amazon we have in effect condemned it. For
the Amazon of mythology and art is but a survival from a half-animal
world, which Theseus, the embodiment of adult reason, had long since

Plato himself divides this confessedly so difficult question into two:
Is the thing good? and in the second place, Is it possible? Let us
admit that at that particular crisis, or even generally, what he
proposes is for the best. Thereupon the question which suggested
itself in regard to the community of goods recurs with double force:
Where may lie the secret of the magnanimity (that is the term to hold
by) which will make wealth and office, with all their opportunities for
puissant wills, no motive in life at all? Is it possible, and under
what conditions--this disinterestedness on the part of those who might
do what they will as with their own, this indifference, this surrender,
not of one's goods and [260] time only, but of one's last resource,
one's very home, for "the greatest happiness of the greatest number."--
Those are almost the exact words of Plato. How shall those who might
be egotists on the scale of an Alcibiades or an Alexander be kept to
this strange "new mandate" of altruism? How shall a paradox so bold be
brought within the range of possibilities? Well! by the realisation of
another paradox,--if we make philosophers our kings or our kings
philosophers. It is the last "wave of paradox," from the advancing
crest of which Plato still shrinks back, oddly reluctant, as we may
think, to utter his whole mind. But, concede his position, and all
beside, in the strange, paradoxical new world he is constructing, its
extraordinary reaches of philadelphia, will be found practicable.

Our kings must be philosophers. But not, we must carefully note,
because, as people are apt to fancy, philosophers as such necessarily
despise or are unable to feel what is fascinating in the world of
action, are un-formed or withered on one side, and, as regards the
allurements of the world of sense, are but "corpses." For Plato
certainly they are no starvelings. The philosophic, or aristocratic,
or kingly, nature, as he conceives it, will be the perfect flower of
the whole compass of natural endowments, promoted to the utmost by the
artificial influences of society--kalokagathos +--capable therefore in
the extreme degree of success in a purely "self-regarding" policy, of
an [261] exploitation, in their own interests, of all that men in
general value most, to the surfeiting, if they cared, of their
ambition, their vanity, their love of liberty or license.

Nor again must our kings be philosophers mainly because in such case
the world will be very wisely, very knowingly, governed. Of course it
would be well that wise men should rule. Even a Greek, still "a youth
in the youth of the world," who indeed was not very far gone from an
essentially youthful evaluation of things, was still apt to think with
Croesus that the richest must of course be the happiest of men, and to
have a head-ache when compelled to think, even he would have taken so
much for granted. That it would be well that wise men should govern,
wise after the Platonic standard, bringing, that is to say, particular
details under coherent general rules, able to foresee and influence the
future by their knowledge of the past:--there is no paradox in that: it
belongs rather, you might complain, to the range of platitudes. But,
remember! the hinge of Plato's whole political argument is, that the
ruinous divisions of Athens, of Greece, of the entire social community,
is the want of disinterestedness in its rulers; not that they are unfit
to rule; rather, that they have often, it may be, a natural call to
office--those exceptional high natures--but that they "abound" therein
exclusively "in their own sense." And the precise point of paradox in
philosophic kingship, [262] as Plato takes it, is this, that if we have
philosophers for our kings, our archons, we shall be under a sort of
rulers who as such have made sacrifice of themselves, and in coming to
office at all must have taken upon them "the form of a servant."--

For thus it is.--If you can find out a life better than being
a king, for those who shall be kings, a well-governed city
will become possible, and not otherwise. For in that city
alone will those be kings who are in very deed rich. But if
poor men, hungering after their private good, proceed to public
offices, it is not possible; for, the kingly office becoming an
object of contention, the sort of battle which results, being
at home and internal, destroys them, along with the common-
wealth.--Most truly, he replied.--Have you then, I asked, any
kind of life which can despise political offices, other than
the life of true philosophers?--Certainly not.--Yet still it
is necessary that those who come to office should not be lovers
of it; otherwise the rival lovers will fight.--That must be
so.--Whom then will you compel to proceed to the guardianship
of the city save those, who, being wisest of all in regard to
the conditions of her highest welfare, are themselves possessed
of privileges of another order, and a life better than the
politician's? Republic, 520.

More capable than others of an adroit application of all that power
usually means in the way of personal advantage, your "legitimate," and
really elect royalty or aristocracy must be secured from the love of
it; you must insure their magnanimity in office by a counter-charm.
But where is such a charm, or counter-charm, to be found? Throughout,
as usual in so provident a writer as Plato, the answer to that leading
[263] question has had its prelude, even in the first book.--

Therefore it was, for my part, friend Thrasymachus, I was saying
just now that no one would be willing of his own motion to rule,
and take in hand the ills of other people to set them right, but
that he would ask a reward; because he who will do fairly by his
art, or prosper by his art, never does what is best for himself,
nor ordains that, in ordaining what is proper to his art, but
what is best for the subject of his rule. By reason of which
indeed, as it seems, there must needs be a reward for those who
shall be willing to rule, either money, or honour, or a penalty
unless he will rule.--How do you mean this Socrates? said
Glaucon: for the two rewards I understand; but the penalty, of
which you speak, and have named as in the place of a reward, I
do not understand.--Then you do not understand, I said, the
reward of the best, for the sake of which the most virtuous
rule, when they are willing to rule. Or do you not know that
the being fond of honours, fond of money, is said to be, and
is, a disgrace?--For my part, Yes! he said.--On this ground
then, neither for money are the good willing to rule, nor for
honour; for they choose neither, in openly exacting hire as
a return for their rule, to be called hirelings, nor, in taking
secretly therefrom, thieves. Nor again is it for honour they
will rule; for they are not ambitious. Therefore it is, that
necessity must be on them, and a penalty, if they are to be
willing to rule: whence perhaps it has come, that to proceed
with ready will to the office of ruler, and not to await
compulsion, is accounted indecent. As for the penalty,--the
greatest penalty is to be ruled by one worse than oneself,
unless one will rule. And it is through fear of that, the
good seem to me to rule, when they rule: and then they proceed
to the office of ruler, not as coming to some good thing, nor
as to profit therein, but as to something unavoidable, and
as having none better than themselves to whom to entrust it,
nor even as good. Since it seems likely that if a city of good
men came to be, not to rule would be the matter of contention,
as nowadays to rule; and here it would become manifest that a
ruler in very deed, in the nature of things, considers not what
is profitable for himself, but for the subject of his rule.
So [264] that every intelligent person would choose rather to
be benefited by another, than by benefiting another to have
trouble himself. Republic, 346.

Now if philosophy really is where Plato consistently puts it, and is
all he claims for it, then, for those capable of it, who are capable
also in the region of practice, it will be precisely "that better thing
than being a king for those who must be our kings, our archons." You
see that the various elements of Platonism are interdependent; that
they really cohere.

Just at this point then you must call to memory the greatness of the
claim Plato makes for philosophy--a promise, you may perhaps think,
larger than anything he has actually presented to his readers in the
way of a philosophic revelation justifies. He seems, in fact, to
promise all, or almost all, that in a later age natures great and high
have certainly found in the Christian religion. If philosophy is only
star-gazing, or only a condition of doubt, if what the sophist or the
philistine says of it is all that can be said, it could hardly compete
with the rewards which the vulgar world holds out to its servants. But
for Plato, on the other hand, if philosophy is anything at all, it is
nothing less than an "escape from the evils of the world," and
homoiôsis tô theô,+ a being made like to God. It provides a
satisfaction not for the intelligence only but for the whole nature of
man, his imagination and faith, his affections, his capacity [265] for
religious devotion, and for some still unimagined development of the
capacities of sense.

How could anything which belongs to the world of mere phenomenal change
seem great to him who is "the spectator of all time and all existence"?
"For the excellency" of such knowledge as that, we might say, he must
"count all things but loss." By fear of punishment in some roundabout
way, he might indeed be compelled to descend into "the cave," "to take
in hand the wrongs of other people to set them right"; but of course
the part he will take in your sorry exhibition of passing shadows, and
dreamy echoes concerning them, will not be for himself. You may think
him, that philosophic archon or king, who in consenting to be your
master has really taken upon himself "the form of a servant"--you may
think him, in our late age of philosophic disillusion, a wholly
chimerical being. Yet history records one instance in which such a
figure actually found his way to an imperial throne, and with a certain
approach to the result Plato promises. It was precisely because his
whole being was filled with philosophic vision, that the Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, that fond student of philosophy, of this very philosophy of
Plato, served the Roman people so well in peace and war--with so much
disinterestedness, because, in fact, so reluctantly. Look onward, and
what is strange and inexplicable in his realisation of the Platonic
scheme--strange, if we consider how cold and [266] feeble after all
were the rays of light on which he waited so devoutly--becomes clear in
the person of Saint Louis, who, again, precisely because his whole
being was full of heavenly vision, in self-banishment from it for a
while, led and ruled the French people so magnanimously alike in peace
and war. The presence, then, the ascendancy amid actual things, of the
royal or philosophic nature, as Plato thus conceives it--that, and
nothing else, will be the generating force, the seed, of the City of
the Perfect, as he conceives it: this place, in which the great things
of existence, known or divined, really fill the soul. Only, he for one
would not be surprised if no eyes actually see it. Like his master
Socrates, as you know, he is something of a humorist; and if he
sometimes surprises us with paradox or hazardous theory, will sometimes
also give us to understand that he is after all not quite serious. So
about this vision of the City of the Perfect, The Republic, Kallipolis,+
Uranopolis, Utopia, Civitas Dei, The Kingdom of Heaven--

Suffer me, he says, to entertain myself as men of listless
minds are wont to do when they journey alone. Such persons,
I fancy, before they have found out in what way ought of what
they desire may come to be, pass that question by lest they
grow weary in considering whether the thing be possible or no;
and supposing what they wish already achieved, they proceed at
once to arrange all the rest, pleasing themselves in the
tracing out all they will do, when that shall have come to
pass--making a mind already idle idler still. Republic, 144.


236. +Transliteration: Peri Dikaiosynês. Pater's translation: "on the
nature of justice."

236. +Transliteration: tod' ên hôs eoike prooimion. E-text editor's
translation: "this was only by way of introduction." Plato, Republic

241. +Transliteration: to hen prattein, to ta hautou prattein. E-text
editor's translation: "to do one thing [only], to do only things proper
to oneself." Plato, Republic 369e.

241. +Transliteration: poikilia, pleonexia, polypragmosynê. Liddell and
Scott definitions: "poikilia = metaph: cunning; pleonexia = a
disposition to take more than one's share; polupragmosunê = meddling."

242. +Transliteration: Prôton men phyetai hekastos ou pany homoios
hekastô, alla diapherôn tên physin, allos ep allou ergou praxin. E-
text editor's translation: "To begin with, each person is of a nature
not the same as another's; rather, people differ in nature, and so one
person will be best fitted for one task, and another for a different
kind of work." Plato, Republic 370a-b.

242. +Transliteration: ergon. Liddell and Scott definition: "work . . .

242. +Transliteration: poikilia. Liddell and Scott definition: "metaph:

243. +Transliteration: gignetai toinyn hôs egômai polis epeidê tunchanei
hêmôn hekastos ouk autarkês. E-text editor's translation: "As I see
it, the city will come into existence because it so happens that as
individuals we are not sufficient to provide for ourselves." Plato,
Republic 369b.

243. +Transliteration: Poiêsei hôs egômai tên polin hêmetera chreia. E-
text editor's translation: "As I see it, it will be our needs that
create the city." Plato, Republic 369c.

244. +Transliteration: hoi dêmiourgoi. Liddell and Scott definition of
dêmiourgos: "workman."

245. +Transliteration: eis hen kata physin. E-text editor's
translation: "to one activity in accordance with [a given person's]
nature." Plato, Republic 372e..

246. +Transliteration: polis êdê tryphôsa. E-text editor's translation:
"a city already [grown] luxurious." The verb tryphaô means "to live
softly or delicately, fare sumptuously, live in luxury." (Liddell and
Scott.) Plato, Republic 372e.

246. +Transliteration: polis êdê tryphôsa. E-text editor's translation:
"a city already [grown] luxurious." The verb tryphaô means "to live
softly or delicately, fare sumptuously, live in luxury." (Liddell and
Scott.) Plato, Republic 372e.

246. +Transliteration: kai hê chôra pou hê tote hikanê smikra ex hikanês
estai. E-text editor's translation: "And the land that used to be
sufficient will be insufficient." Plato, Republic 373d.

246. +Transliteration: oukoun tês tôn plêsion chôras hêmin apotmêteon.
E-text editor's translation: "And so we will appropriate for ourselves
some of our neighbor's land." Plato, Republic 373d.

247. +Transliteration: Phylakes . . . epikouroi. Pater's translation:
"watchmen or auxiliaries."

247. +Transliteration: hôs en pharmakou eidei ta pseudê ta en deonti
genomena. E-text editor's translation: "timely falsehoods that take
the form of medicine." Plato, Republic 389b and 414b contain parts of
the quotation.

247. +Transliteration: phoinikikon pseudos. E-text editor's
translation: "Phoenician story." Plato, Republic 414c.

251. +Transliteration: nomisma tês allagês heneka. E-text editor's
translation: "a common currency for exchange." Plato, Republic 371b.

254. +Transliteration: oikeiopragia. E-text editor's translation:
"functioning," from oikeios (proper to a thing, fitting) and pragos or,
in everyday non-poetic speech, pragma(deed). Plato, Republic 434c.

255. +Transliteration: dêmos. Liddell and Scott definition: "the
commons, common people, plebeians; in Attica, townships or hundreds."

255. +Transliteration: ta tôn philôn koina. E-text editor's
translation: "the possessions of friends are held in common." Plato,
Phaedrus 279c contains similar language.

257. +Transliteration: archontes. Liddell and Scott definition of
archon: "ruler."

257. +Transliteration: philopolides. Liddell and Scott definition:
"[those] loving [their] city, state, or country."

258. +Transliteration: Ta tôn philôn koina. E-text editor's
translation: "the possessions of friends are held in common." Plato,
Phaedrus 279c contains similar language.

260. +Transliteration: kalokagathos. Liddell and Scott definition:
"beautiful and good, noble and good."

264. +Transliteration: homoiôsis tô theô. Pater's translation: "a
[process or act of] being made like to God." Plato, Republic 454c.

266. +Transliteration: Kallipolis. Liddell and Scott definition:
"beautiful city." Plato, Republic 527c.


[267] WHEN we remember Plato as the great lover, what the visible world
was to him, what a large place the idea of Beauty, with its almost
adequate realisation in that visible world, holds in his most abstract
speculations as the clearest instance of the relation of the human mind
to reality and truth, we might think that art also, the fine arts,
would have been much for him; that the aesthetic element would be a
significant one in his theory of morals and education. Ta terpna en
Helladi+ (to use Pindar's phrase) all the delightful things in Hellas:--
Plato least of all could have been unaffected by their presence around
him. And so it is. Think what perfection of handicraft, what a subtle
enjoyment therein, is involved in that specially Platonic rule, to mind
one's business (to ta hautou prattein)+ that he who, like Fra Damiano of
Bergamo, has a gift for poikilia,+ intarsia or marqueterie, for example,
should confine himself exclusively to that. Before him, [268] you
know, there had been no theorising about the beautiful, its place in
life, and the like; and as a matter of fact he is the earliest critic
of the fine arts. He anticipates the modern notion that art as such
has no end but its own perfection,--"art for art's sake." Ar' oun kai
hekastê tôn technôn esti ti sympheron allo ê hoti malista telean
einai;+ We have seen again that not in theory only, by the large place
he assigns to our experiences regarding visible beauty in the formation
of his doctrine of ideas, but that in the practical sphere also, this
great fact of experience, the reality of beauty, has its importance
with him. The loveliness of virtue as a harmony, the winning aspect of
those "images" of the absolute and unseen Temperance, Bravery, Justice,
shed around us in the visible world for eyes that can see, the claim of
the virtues as a visible representation by human persons and their acts
of the eternal qualities of "the eternal," after all far out-weigh, as
he thinks, the claim of their mere utility. And accordingly, in
education, all will begin and end "in music," in the promotion of
qualities to which no truer name can be given than symmetry, aesthetic
fitness, tone. Philosophy itself indeed, as he conceives it, is but
the sympathetic appreciation of a kind of music in the very nature of

There have been Platonists without Plato, and a kind of traditional
Platonism in the world, independent of, yet true in spirit to, the
Platonism [269] of the Platonic Dialogues. Now such a piece of
traditional Platonism we find in the hypothesis of some close connexion
between what may be called the aesthetic qualities of the world about
us and the formation of moral character, between aesthetics and ethics.
Wherever people have been inclined to lay stress on the colouring, for
instance, cheerful or otherwise, of the walls of the room where
children learn to read, as though that had something to do with the
colouring of their minds; on the possible moral effect of the beautiful
ancient buildings of some of our own schools and colleges; on the
building of character, in any way, through the eye and ear; there the
spirit of Plato has been understood to be, and rightly, even by those
who have perhaps never read Plato's Republic, in which however we do
find the connexion between moral character and matters of poetry and
art strongly asserted. This is to be observed especially in the third
and tenth books of The Republic. The main interest of those books lies
in the fact, that in them we read what Plato actually said on a subject
concerning which people have been so ready to put themselves under his

It is said with immediate reference to metre and its various forms in
verse, as an element in the general treatment of style or manner
(lexis)+ as opposed to the matter (logoi)+ in the imaginative
literature, with which as in time past the [270] education of the
citizens of the Perfect City will begin. It is however at his own
express suggestion that we may apply what he says, in the first
instance, about metre and verse, to all forms of art whatever, to music
(mousikê)+ generally, to all those matters over which the Muses of Greek
mythology preside, to all productions in which the form counts equally
with, or for more than, the matter. Assuming therefore that we have
here, in outline and tendency at least, the mind of Plato in regard to
the ethical influence of aesthetic qualities, let us try to distinguish
clearly the central lines of that tendency, of Platonism in art, as it
is really to be found in Plato.

"You have perceived have you not," observes the Platonic Socrates,
"that acts of imitation, if they begin in early life, and continue,
establish themselves in one's nature and habits, alike as to the body,
the tones of one's voice, the ways of one's mind."

Yes, that might seem a matter of common observation; and what is
strictly Platonic here and in what follows is but the emphasis of the
statement. Let us set it however, for the sake of decisive effect, in
immediate connexion with certain other points of Plato's aesthetic

Imitation then, imitation through the eye and ear, is irresistible in
its influence over human nature. And secondly, we, the founders, the
people, of the Republic, of the city that shall be [271] perfect, have
for our peculiar purpose the simplification of human nature: a purpose
somewhat costly, for it follows, thirdly, that the only kind of music,
of art and poetry, we shall permit ourselves, our citizens, will be of
a very austere character, under a sort of "self-denying ordinance." We
shall be a fervently aesthetic community, if you will; but therewith
also very fervent "renunciants," or ascetics.

In the first place, men's souls are, according to Plato's view, the
creatures of what men see and hear. What would probably be found in a
limited number only of sensitive people, a constant susceptibility to
the aspects and other sensible qualities of things and persons, to the
element of expression or form in them and their movements, to phenomena
as such--this susceptibility Plato supposes in men generally. It is
not so much the matter of a work of art, what is conveyed in and by
colour and form and sound, that tells upon us educationally--the
subject, for instance, developed by the words and scenery of a play--as
the form, and its qualities, concision, simplicity, rhythm, or,
contrariwise, abundance, variety, discord. Such "aesthetic" qualities,
by what we might call in logical phrase, metabasis eis allo genos,+ a
derivation into another kind of matter, transform themselves, in the
temper of the patient the hearer or spectator, into terms of ethics,
into the sphere of the desires and the will, of the moral taste,
engendering, nursing [272] there, strictly moral effects, such
conditions of sentiment and the will as Plato requires in his City of
the Perfect, or quite the opposite, but hardly in any case indifferent,

Imitation:--it enters into the very fastnesses of character; and we,
our souls, ourselves, are for ever imitating what we see and hear, the
forms, the sounds which haunt our memories, our imagination. We
imitate not only if we play a part on the stage but when we sit as
spectators, while our thoughts follow the acting of another, when we
read Homer and put ourselves, lightly, fluently, into the place of
those he describes: we imitate unconsciously the line and colour of the
walls around us, the trees by the wayside, the animals we pet or make
use of, the very dress we wear. Only, Hina mê ek tês mimêseôs tou
einai apolausôsin.+--Let us beware how men attain the very truth of what
they imitate.

That then is the first principle of Plato's aesthetics, his first
consideration regarding the art of the City of the Perfect. Men,
children, are susceptible beings, in great measure conditioned by the
mere look of their "medium." Like those insects, we might fancy, of
which naturalists tell us, taking colour from the plants they lodge on,
they will come to match with much servility the aspects of the world
about them.

But the people of the Perfect City would not [273] be there at all
except by way of a refuge, an experiment, or tour de force, in moral
and social philosophy; and this circumstance determines the second
constituent principle of Plato's aesthetic scheme. We, then, the
founders, the citizens, of the Republic have a peculiar purpose. We
are here to escape from, to resist, a certain vicious centrifugal
tendency in life, in Greek and especially in Athenian life, which does
but propagate a like vicious tendency in ourselves. We are to become--
like little pieces in a machine! you may complain.--No, like performers
rather, individually, it may be, of more or less importance, but each
with a necessary and inalienable part, in a perfect musical exercise
which is well worth while, or in some sacred liturgy; or like soldiers
in an invincible army, invincible because it moves as one man. We are
to find, or be put into, and keep, every one his natural place; to
cultivate those qualities which will secure mastery over ourselves, the
subordination of the parts to the whole, musical proportion. To this
end, as we saw, Plato, a remorseless idealist, is ready even to
suppress the differences of male and female character, to merge, to
lose the family in the social aggregate.

Imitation then, we may resume, imitation through the eye and ear, is
irresistible in its influence on human nature. Secondly, the founders
of the Republic are by its very purpose bound to the simplification of
human nature: [274] and our practical conclusion follows in logical
order. We shall make, and sternly keep, a "self-denying" ordinance in
this matter, in the matter of art, of poetry, of taste in all its
varieties; a rule, of which Plato's own words, applied by him in the
first instance to rhythm or metre, but like all he says on that subject
fairly applicable to the whole range of musical or aesthetic effects,
will be the brief summary: Alternations will be few and far between:--
how differently from the methods of the poetry, the art, the choruses,
we most of us love so much, not necessarily because our senses are
inapt or untrained:--Smikrai hai metabolai.+ We shall allow no musical
innovations, no Aristophanic cries, no imitations however clever of
"the sounds of the flute or the lyre," no free imitation by the human
voice of bestial or mechanical sounds, no such artists as are "like a
mirror turning all about." There were vulgarities of nature, you see,
in the youth of ideal Athens even. Time, of course, as such, is itself
a kind of artist, trimming pleasantly for us what survives of the rude
world of the past. Now Plato's method would promote or anticipate the
work of time in that matter of vulgarities of taste. Yes, when you
read his precautionary rules, you become fully aware that even in
Athens there were young men who affected what was least fortunate in
the habits, the pleasures, the sordid business of the class below them.
[275] But they would not be allowed quite their own way in the streets
or elsewhere in a reformed world, to whose chosen imperial youth
(Basilikê phylê)+ it would not be permitted even to think of any of
those things--oudeni prosechein ton voun.+ To them, what was illiberal,
the illiberal crafts, would be (thanks to their well-trained power of
intellectual abstraction!) as though it were not. And if art, like
law, be, as Plato thinks, "a creation of mind, in accordance with right
reason," we shall not wish our boys to sing like mere birds.

Yet what price would not the musical connoisseur pay to handle the
instruments we may see in fancy passing out through the gates of the
City of the Perfect, banished, not because there is no one within its
walls who knows the use of, or would receive pleasure from, them (a
delicate susceptibility in these matters Plato, as was said,
presupposes) but precisely because they are so seductive, must be
conveyed therefore to some other essentially less favoured
neighbourhood, like poison, say! moral poison, for one's enemies'
water-springs. A whole class of painters, sculptors, skilled workmen
of various kinds go into like banishment--they and their very tools;
not, observe again carefully, because they are bad artists, but very
good ones.--Alla mên, ô Adeimante, hêdys ge kai ho kekramenos.+ Art, as
such, as Plato knows, has no purpose but itself, its own perfection.
The proper art of the [276] Perfect City is in fact the art of
discipline. Music (mousikê)+ all the various forms of fine art, will be
but the instruments of its one over-mastering social or political
purpose, irresistibly conforming its so imitative subject units to
type: they will be neither more nor less than so many variations, so to
speak, of the trumpet-call.

Or suppose again that a poet finds his way to us, "able by his genius,
as he chooses, or as his audience chooses, to become all things, or all
persons, in turn, and able to transform us too into all things and
persons in turn, as we listen or read, with a fluidity, a versatility
of humour almost equal to his own, a poet myriad-minded, as we say,
almost in Plato's precise words, as our finest touch of praise, of
Shakespeare for instance, or of Homer, of whom he was thinking:--Well!
we shall have been set on our guard. We have no room for him. Divine,
delightful, being, "if he came to our city with his works, his poems,
wishing to make an exhibition of them, we should certainly do him
reverence as an object, sacred, wonderful, delightful, but we should
not let him stay. We should tell him that there neither is, nor may
be, any one like that among us, and so send him on his way to some
other city, having anointed his head with myrrh and crowned him with a
garland of wool, as something in himself half-divine, and for ourselves
should make use of some more austere and less pleasing sort of poet,
for his practical [277] uses." Tô austêroterô kai aêdesterô poiêtê,
ôphelias heneka.+ Not, as I said, that the Republic any more than
Lacedaemon will be an artless place. Plato's aesthetic scheme is
actually based on a high degree of sensibility to such influences in
the people he is dealing with.--

Right speech, then, and rightness of harmony and form and
rhythm minister to goodness of nature; not that good-nature
which we so call with a soft name, being really silliness,
but the frame of mind which in very truth is rightly and
fairly ordered in regard to the moral habit.--Most certainly
he said.--Must not these qualities, then, be everywhere
pursued by the young men if they are to do each his own
business?--Pursued, certainly.--Now painting, I suppose, is
full of them (those qualities which are partly ethical, partly
aesthetic) and all handicraft such as that; the weaver's art
is full of them, and the inlayer's art and the building of
houses, and the working of all the other apparatus of life;
moreover the nature of our own bodies, and of all other living
things. For in all these, rightness or wrongness of form is
inherent. And wrongness of form, and the lack of rhythm, the
lack of harmony, are fraternal to faultiness of mind and charac-
ter, and the opposite qualities to the opposite condition--the
temperate and good character:--fraternal, aye! and copies of
them.--Yes, entirely so: he said.--

Must our poets, then, alone be under control, and compelled to
work the image of the good into their poetic works, or not to
work among us at all; or must the other craftsmen too be
controlled, and restrained from working this faultiness and
intemperance and illiberality and formlessness of character
whether into the images of living creatures, or the houses
they build, or any other product of their craft whatever;
or must he who is unable so to do be forbidden to practise
his art among us, to the end that our guardians may not,
nurtured in images of vice as in a vicious pasture, cropping
and culling much every day little by little from many sources,
composing together some one great evil in their own souls, go
undetected? Must we not rather seek for those craftsmen who
have the [278] power, by way of their own natural virtue, to
track out the nature of the beautiful and seemly, to the end
that, living as in some wholesome place, the young men may
receive good from every side, whencesoever, from fair works
of art, either upon sight or upon hearing anything may strike,
as it were a breeze bearing health from kindly places, and
from childhood straightway bring them unaware to likeness and
friendship and harmony with fair reason?--Yes: he answered: in
this way they would be by far best educated.--Well then, I said,
Glaucon, on these grounds is not education in music of the
greatest importance--because, more than anything else, rhythm
and harmony make their way down into the inmost part of the
soul, and take hold upon it with the utmost force, bringing
with them rightness of form, and rendering its form right, if
one be correctly trained; if not, the opposite? and again
because he who has been trained in that department duly, would
have the sharpest sense of oversights (tôn paraleipomenôn)+ and
of things not fairly turned out, whether by art or nature (mê
kalôs dêmiourgêthentôn ê mê kalôs phyntôn)+ and disliking them,
as he should, would commend things beautiful, and, by reason of
his delight in these, receiving them into his soul, be nurtured
of them, and become kalokagathos,+ while he blamed the base,
as he should, and hated it, while still young, before he was
able to apprehend a reason, and when reason comes would welcome
it, recognising it by its kinship to himself--most of all one
thus taught?--Yes: he answered: it seems to me that for reasons
such as these their education should be in music. Republic, 400.

Understand, then, the poetry and music, the arts and crafts, of the
City of the Perfect--what is left of them there, and remember how the
Greeks themselves were used to say that "the half is more than the
whole." Liken its music, if you will, to Gregorian music, and call to
mind the kind of architecture, military or monastic again, that must be
built to such music, and then the kind of colouring that will fill its
[279] jealously allotted space upon the walls, the sort of carving that
will venture to display itself on cornice or capital. The walls, the
pillars, the streets--you see them in thought! nay, the very trees and
animals, the attire of those who move along the streets, their looks
and voices, their style--the hieratic Dorian architecture, to speak
precisely, the Dorian manner everywhere, in possession of the whole of
life. Compare it, for further vividness of effect, to Gothic building,
to the Cistercian Gothic, if you will, when Saint Bernard had purged it
of a still barbaric superfluity of ornament. It seems a long way from
the Parthenon to Saint Ouen "of the aisles and arches," or Notre-Dame
de Bourges; yet they illustrate almost equally the direction of the
Platonic aesthetics. Those churches of the Middle Age have, as we all
feel, their loveliness, yet of a stern sort, which fascinates while
perhaps it repels us. We may try hard to like as well or better
architecture of a more or less different kind, but coming back to them
again find that the secret of final success is theirs. The rigid logic
of their charm controls our taste, as logic proper binds the
intelligence: we would have something of that quality, if we might, for
ourselves, in what we do or make; feel, under its influence, very
diffident of our own loose, or gaudy, or literally insignificant,
decorations. "Stay then," says the Platonist, too sanguine perhaps,--
"Abide," he says to youth, "in these [280] places, and the like of
them, and mechanically, irresistibly, the soul of them will impregnate
yours. With whatever beside is in congruity with them in the order of
hearing and sight, they will tell (despite, it may be, of unkindly
nature at your first making) upon your very countenance, your walk and
gestures, in the course and concatenation of your inmost thoughts."

And equation being duly made of what is merely personal and temporary
in Plato's view of the arts, it may be salutary to return from time to
time to the Platonic aesthetics, to find ourselves under the more
exclusive influence of those qualities in the Hellenic genius he has
thus emphasised. What he would promote, then, is the art, the
literature, of which among other things it may be said that it solicits
a certain effort from the reader or spectator, who is promised a great
expressiveness on the part of the writer, the artist, if he for his
part will bring with him a great attentiveness. And how satisfying,
how reassuring, how flattering to himself after all, such work really
is--the work which deals with one as a scholar, formed, mature and
manly. Bravery--andreia+ or manliness--manliness and temperance, as we
know, were the two characteristic virtues of that old pagan world; and
in art certainly they seem to be involved in one another. Manliness in
art, what can it be, as distinct from that which in opposition to it
[281] must be called the feminine quality there,--what but a full
consciousness of what one does, of art itself in the work of art,
tenacity of intuition and of consequent purpose, the spirit of
construction as opposed to what is literally incoherent or ready to
fall to pieces, and, in opposition to what is hysteric or works at
random, the maintenance of a standard. Of such art êthos+ rather than
pathos+ will be the predominant mood. To use Plato's own expression
there will be here no paraleipomena,+ no "negligences," no feminine
forgetfulness of one's self, nothing in the work of art unconformed to
the leading intention of the artist, who will but increase his power by
reserve. An artist of that kind will be apt, of course, to express
more than he seems actually to say. He economises. He will not spoil
good things by exaggeration. The rough, promiscuous wealth of nature
he reduces to grace and order: reduces, it may be, lax verse to staid
and temperate prose. With him, the rhythm, the music, the notes, will
be felt to follow, or rather literally accompany as ministers, the
sense,--akolouthein ton logon.+

We may fairly prefer the broad daylight of Veronese to the contrasted
light and shade of Rembrandt even; and a painter will tell you that the
former is actually more difficult to attain. Temperance, the
temperance of the youthful Charmides, super-induced on a nature
originally rich and impassioned,--Plato's own [282] native preference
for that is only reinforced by the special needs of his time, and the
very conditions of the ideal state. The diamond, we are told, if it be
a fine one, may gain in value by what is cut away. It was after such
fashion that the manly youth of Lacedaemon had been cut and carved.
Lenten or monastic colours, brown and black, white and grey, give their
utmost value for the eye (so much is obvious) to the scarlet flower,
the lighted candle, the cloth of gold. And Platonic aesthetics,
remember! as such, are ever in close connexion with Plato's ethics. It
is life itself, action and character, he proposes to colour; to get
something of that irrepressible conscience of art, that spirit of
control, into the general course of life, above all into its energetic
or impassioned acts.

Such Platonic quality you may trace of course not only in work of
Doric, or, more largely, of Hellenic lineage, but at all times, as the
very conscience of art, its saving salt, even in ages of decadence.
You may analyse it, as a condition of literary style, in historic
narrative, for instance; and then you have the stringent, shorthand art
of Thucydides at his best, his masterly feeling for master-facts, and
the half as so much more than the whole. Pindar is in a certain sense
his analogue in verse. Think of the amount of attention he must have
looked for, in those who were, not to read, but to sing him, or to
listen while he was sung, and to understand. [283] With those fine,
sharp-cut gems or chasings of his, so sparely set, how much he leaves
for a well-drilled intelligence to supply in the way of connecting

And you may look for the correlative of that in Greek clay, in Greek
marble, as you walk through the British Museum. But observe it, above
all, at work, checking yet reinforcing his naturally fluent and
luxuriant genius, in Plato himself. His prose is a practical
illustration of the value of that capacity for correction, of the
effort, the intellectual astringency, which he demands of the poet
also, the musician, of all true citizens of the ideal Republic,
enhancing the sense of power in one's self, and its effect upon others,
by a certain crafty reserve in its exercise, after the manner of a true
expert. Chalepa ta kala+--he is faithful to the old Greek saying.
Patience,--"infinite patience," may or may not be, as was said, of the
very essence of genius; but is certainly, quite as much as fire, of the
mood of all true lovers. Isôs to legomenon alêthes, hoti chalepa ta
kala.+ Heraclitus had preferred the "dry soul," or the "dry light" in
it, as Bacon after him the siccum lumen. And the dry beauty,--let
Plato teach us, to love that also, duly.



267. +Transliteration: Ta terpna en Helladi. Pater's translation: "all
the delightful things in Hellas." Pindar, though I have not located
the poem to which Pater refers.

267. +Transliteration: to ta hautou prattein. E-text editor's
translation: "to do only things proper to oneself." Plato, Republic

267. +Transliteration: poikilia. Liddell and Scott definition: "metaph:

268. +Transliteration: Ar' oun kai hekastê tôn technôn esti ti sympheron
allo ê hoti malista telean einai. E-text editor's translation: "Does
there belong to each of the arts any advantage other than perfection?"
Plato, Republic 341d. Pater's reading is perhaps anachronistic in
suggesting that Plato anticipated modern thinking about the autonomy of

269. +Transliteration: lexis. Liddell and Scott definition: "a
speaking, speech . . . a way of speaking, diction, style."

269. +Transliteration: logoi. Pater's contextual translation: "matter."

270. +Transliteration: mousikê. Liddell and Scott definition: "any art
over which the Muses presided, esp. music or lyric poetry set and sung
to music...."

271. +Transliteration: metabasis eis allo genos. Pater's translation:
"a derivation into another kind of matter."

272. +Transliteration: Hina mê ek tês mimêseôs tou einai apolausôsin.
E-text editor's translation: "lest they draw the reality only from
their imitation of it." Plato, Republic 395c.

274. +Transliteration: Smikrai hai metabolai. E-text editor's
translation: "our senses are inapt or untrained." Plato, Republic

275. +Transliteration: Basilikê phylê. E-text editor's translation:
"royal tribe."

275. +Transliteration: oudeni prosechein ton voun. Pater's translation:
"[they] would not be permitted even to think of any of those things."
Plato, Republic 396b.

275. +Transliteration: Alla mên, ô Adeimante, hêdys ge kai ho
kekramenos. E-text editor's translation: "But indeed, Adeimantus, the
mixed kind of art also is pleasant." Plato, Republic 397d.

276. +Transliteration: mousikê. Liddell and Scott definition: "any art
over which the Muses presided, esp. music or lyric poetry set and sung
to music...."

277. +Transliteration: Tô austêroterô kai aêdesterô poiêtê, ôphelias
heneka. Pater's translation: "some more austere and less pleasing sort
of poet, for his practical uses." Plato, Republic 398a.

278. +Transliteration: tôn paraleipomenôn. Pater's translation:
"oversights." The verb paraleipô means, "to leave on one side . . .
leave unnoticed." Plato, Republic 401e.

278. +Transliteration: mê kalôs dêmiourgêthentôn ê mê kalôs phyntôn.
Pater's translation: "not fairly turned out, whether by art or nature."
Plato, Republic 401e.

278. +Transliteration: kalokagathos. Liddell and Scott definition:
"beautiful and good, noble and good." Plato, Republic 401e.

280. +Transliteration: andreia. Pater's translation: "manliness."

281. +Transliteration: êthos. Liddell and Scott definition: "an
accustomed place . . . custom, usage, habit."

281. +Transliteration: pathos. Liddell and Scott definition "1.
anything that befalls one, a suffering, misfortune, calamity; 2. a
passive condition: a passion, affection; 3. an incident."

281. +Transliteration: paraleipomena. Pater's translation:

281. +Transliteration: akolouthein ton logon. Pater's translation:
"follow the sense." Plato, Republic 398d.

283. +Transliteration: Chalepa ta kala. E-text editor's translation:
"fine things are hard [to obtain or understand]." Plato, Republic

283. +Transliteration: Isôs to legomenon alêthes, hoti chalepa ta kala.
E-text editor's translation: "Perhaps the saying is true--namely, that
fine things are hard [to obtain or understand]." Plato, Republic 435c.

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