Part 5 out of 9
the body corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients
do not require medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen,
the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough;
but when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of
That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?
I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose
of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects:
we were saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines
might be of advantage.
And we were very right.
And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed
in the regulations of marriages and births.
Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the best
of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior
with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they should rear
the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other,
if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition.
Now these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know,
or there will be a further danger of our herd, as the guardians may
be termed, breaking out into rebellion.
Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring
together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered
and suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number
of weddings is a matter which must be left to the discretion of
the rulers, whose aim will be to preserve the average of population?
There are many other things which they will have to consider,
such as the effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies,
in order as far as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming
either too large or too small.
Certainly, he replied.
We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less
worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together,
and then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.
To be sure, he said.
And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other
honours and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse
with women given them; their bravery will be a reason, and such
fathers ought to have as many sons as possible.
And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for offices
are to be held by women as well as by men--
The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to
the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses
who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior,
or of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be put away
in some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.
Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians
is to be kept pure.
They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers
to the fold when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible
care that no mother recognizes her own child; and other wet-nurses
may be engaged if more are required. Care will also be taken
that the process of suckling shall not be protracted too long;
and the mothers will have no getting up at night or other trouble,
but will hand over all this sort of thing to the nurses and attendants.
You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time
of it when they are having children.
Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with our scheme.
We were saying that the parents should be in the prime of life?
And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period
of about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?
Which years do you mean to include?
A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear
children to the State, and continue to bear them until forty;
a man may begin at five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point
at which the pulse of life beats quickest, and continue to beget
children until he be fifty-five.
Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the prime
of physical as well as of intellectual vigour.
Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the public
hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and unrighteous thing;
the child of which he is the father, if it steals into life,
will have been conceived under auspices very unlike the sacrifices
and prayers, which at each hymeneal priestesses and priest and
the whole city will offer, that the new generation may be better
and more useful than their good and useful parents, whereas his
child will be the offspring of darkness and strange lust.
Very true, he replied.
And the same law will apply to any one of those within the prescribed
age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of life
without the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he
is raising up a bastard to the State, uncertified and unconsecrated.
Very true, he replied.
This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified age:
after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man
may not marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his
mother or his mother's mother; and women, on the other hand,
are prohibited from marrying their sons or fathers, or son's son
or father's father, and so on in either direction. And we grant
all this, accompanying the permission with strict orders to prevent
any embryo which may come into being from seeing the light;
and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must understand
that the offspring of such an union cannot be maintained,
and arrange accordingly.
That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will they
know who are fathers and daughters, and so on?
They will never know. The way will be this:--dating from the day
of the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call
all the male children who are born in the seventh and tenth month
afterwards his sons, and the female children his daughters, and they
will call him father, and he will call their children his grandchildren,
and they will call the elder generation grandfathers and grandmothers.
All who were begotten at the time when their fathers and mothers
came together will be called their brothers and sisters, and these,
as I was saying, will be forbidden to inter-marry. This, however,
is not to be understood as an absolute prohibition of the marriage
of brothers and sisters; if the lot favours them, and they receive
the sanction of the Pythian oracle, the law will allow them.
Quite right, he replied.
Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians
of our State are to have their wives and families in common.
And now you would have the argument show that this community is consistent
with the rest of our polity, and also that nothing can be better--
would you not?
Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves
what ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws
and in the organization of a State,--what is the greatest I good,
and what is the greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous
description has the stamp of the good or of the evil?
By all means.
Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and plurality
where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than the bond of unity?
And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains--
where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions of joy
Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State
is disorganized--when you have one half of the world triumphing
and the other plunged in grief at the same events happening
to the city or the citizens?
Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the use
of the terms `mine' and `not mine,' `his' and `not his.'
And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest number
of persons apply the terms `mine' and `not mine' in the same way
to the same thing?
Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition
of the individual--as in the body, when but a finger of one of us
is hurt, the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and
forming one kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt
and sympathizes all together with the part affected, and we say
that the man has a pain in his finger; and the same expression
is used about any other part of the body, which has a sensation
of pain at suffering or of pleasure at the alleviation of suffering.
Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered
State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling
which you describe.
Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil,
the whole State will make his case their own, and will either rejoice
or sorrow with him?
Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State.
It will now be time, I said, for us to return to our State and see
whether this or some other form is most in accordance with these
Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?
All of whom will call one another citizens?
But is there not another name which people give to their rulers
in other States?
Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States they
simply call them rulers.
And in our State what other name besides that of citizens
do the people give the rulers?
They are called saviours and helpers, he replied.
And what do the rulers call the people?
Their maintainers and foster-fathers.
And what do they call them in other States?
And what do the rulers call one another in other States?
And what in ours?
Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who would speak
of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another as not being his friend?
Yes, very often.
And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has
an interest, and the other as a stranger in whom he has no interest?
But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other guardian
as a stranger?
Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be
regarded by them either as a brother or sister, or father or mother,
or son or daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus
connected with him.
Capital, I said; but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a family
in name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the name?
For example, in the use of the word `father,' would the care of a
father be implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience
to him which the law commands; and is the violator of these duties
to be regarded as an impious and unrighteous person who is not
likely to receive much good either at the hands of God or of man?
Are these to be or not to be the strains which the children will hear
repeated in their ears by all the citizens about those who are intimated
to them to be their parents and the rest of their kinsfolk?
These, he said, and none other; for what can be more ridiculous
than for them to utter the names of family ties with the lips
only and not to act in the spirit of them?
Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be more
often beard than in any other. As I was describing before, when any
one is well or ill, the universal word will be with me `it is well'
or `it is ill.'
And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we not
saying that they will have their pleasures and pains in common?
Yes, and so they will.
And they will have a common interest in the same thing which they
will alike call `my own,' and having this common interest they
will have a common feeling of pleasure and pain?
Yes, far more so than in other States.
And the reason of this, over and above the general constitution
of the State, will be that the guardians will have a community
of women and children?
That will be the chief reason.
And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good,
as was implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to
the relation of the body and the members, when affected by pleasure
That we acknowledged, and very rightly.
Then the community of wives and children among our citizens
is clearly the source of the greatest good to the State?
And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirming,--
that the guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other property;
their pay was to be their food, which they were to receive from
the other citizens, and they were to have no private expenses;
for we intended them to preserve their true character of guardians.
Right, he replied.
Both the community of property and the community of families,
as I am saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not
tear the city in pieces by differing about `mine' and `not mine;'
each man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate
house of his own, where he has a separate wife and children and private
pleasures and pains; but all will be affected as far as may be
by the same pleasures and pains because they are all of one opinion
about what is near and dear to them, and therefore they all tend
towards a common end.
Certainly, he replied.
And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call
their own, suits and complaints will have no existence among them;
they will be delivered from all those quarrels of which money or
children or relations are the occasion.
Of course they will.
Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely
to occur among them. For that equals should defend themselves
against equals we shall maintain to be honourable and right;
we shall make the protection of the person a matter of necessity.
That is good, he said.
Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a man has
a quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and there,
and not proceed to more dangerous lengths.
To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising
Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do any
other violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him;
nor will he slight him in any way. For there are two guardians,
shame and fear, mighty to prevent him: shame, which makes men
refrain from laying hands on those who are to them in the relation
of parents; fear, that the injured one will be succoured by the others
who are his brothers, sons, one wi fathers.
That is true, he replied.
Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the peace
with one another?
Yes, there will be no want of peace.
And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there
will be no danger of the rest of the city being divided either
against them or against one another.
I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they
will be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example,
as the flattery of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs
which men experience in bringing up a family, and in finding money
to buy necessaries for their household, borrowing and then repudiating,
getting how they can, and giving the money into the hands of women
and slaves to keep--the many evils of so many kinds which people
suffer in this way are mean enough and obvious enough, and not worth
Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive that.
And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life
will be blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed.
The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a part
only of the blessedness which is secured to our citizens,
who have won a more glorious victory and have a more complete
maintenance at the public cost. For the victory which they have won
is the salvation of the whole State; and the crown with which they
and their children are crowned is the fulness of all that life needs;
they receive rewards from the hands of their country while living,
and after death have an honourable burial.
Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.
Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous discussion
some one who shall be nameless accused us of making our guardians unhappy--
they had nothing and might have possessed all things-to whom we
replied that, if an occasion offered, we might perhaps hereafter
consider this question, but that, as at present advised, we would make
our guardians truly guardians, and that we were fashioning the State
with a view to the greatest happiness, not of any particular class,
but of the whole?
Yes, I remember.
And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made
out to be far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors--
is the life of shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen,
to be compared with it?
At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said elsewhere,
that if any of our guardians shall try to be happy in such a manner
that he will cease to be a guardian, and is not content with this safe
and harmonious life, which, in our judgment, is of all lives the best,
but infatuated by some youthful conceit of happiness which gets up
into his head shall seek to appropriate the whole State to himself,
then he will have to learn how wisely Hesiod spoke, when he said,
`half is more than the whole.'
If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are,
when you have the offer of such a life.
You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a common way
of life such as we have described--common education, common children;
and they are to watch over the citizens in common whether abiding
in the city or going out to war; they are to keep watch together,
and to hunt together like dogs; and always and in all things,
as far as they are able, women are to share with the men?
And in so doing they will do what is best, and will not violate,
but preserve the natural relation of the sexes.
I agree with you, he replied.
The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a community
be found possible--as among other animals, so also among men--
and if possible, in what way possible?
You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.
There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be carried
on by them.
Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will take
with them any of their children who are strong enough, that, after the
manner of the artisan's child, they may look on at the work which they
will have to do when they are grown up; and besides looking on they
will have to help and be of use in war, and to wait upon their fathers
and mothers. Did you never observe in the arts how the potters'
boys look on and help, long before they touch the wheel?
Yes, I have.
And shall potters be more careful in educating their children
and in giving them the opportunity of seeing and practising
their duties than our guardians will be?
The idea is ridiculous, he said.
There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with other animals,
the presence of their young ones will be the greatest incentive to valour.
That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated,
which may often happen in war, how great the danger is! the children
will be lost as well as their parents, and the State will never recover.
True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?
I am far from saying that.
Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so on
some occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the better
Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days
of their youth is a very important matter, for the sake
of which some risk may fairly be incurred.
Yes, very important.
This then must be our first step,--to make our children spectators of war;
but we must also contrive that they shall be secured against danger;
then all will be well.
Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of war,
but to know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions are safe
and what dangerous?
That may be assumed.
And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be cautious
about the dangerous ones?
And they will place them under the command of experienced veterans
who will be their leaders and teachers?
Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is
a good deal of chance about them?
Then against such chances the children must be at once furnished
with wings, in order that in the hour of need they may fly away
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest youth,
and when they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback to see war:
the horses must be spirited and warlike, but the most tractable
and yet the swiftest that can be had. In this way they will get
an excellent view of what is hereafter to be their own business;
and if there is danger they have only to follow their elder leaders
I believe that you are right, he said.
Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers
to one another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to propose
that the soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his arms,
or is guilty of any other act of cowardice, should be degraded
into the rank of a husbandman or artisan. What do you think?
By all means, I should say.
And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be made
a present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and let them
do what they like with him.
But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done to him?
In the first place, he shall receive honour in the army from his
youthful comrades; every one of them in succession shall crown him.
What do you say?
And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of fellowship?
To that too, I agree.
But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.
What is your proposal?
That he should kiss and be kissed by them.
Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and say:
Let no one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him
while the expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army,
whether his love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win
the prize of valour.
Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than others has
been already determined: and he is to have first choices in such matters
more than others, in order that he may have as many children as possible?
Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer,
brave youths should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax, after he
had distinguished himself in battle, was rewarded with long chines,
which seems to be a compliment appropriate to a hero in the flower
of his age, being not only a tribute of honour but also a very
Most true, he said.
Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too,
at sacrifices and on the like occasions, will honour the brave
according to the measure of their valour, whether men or women,
with hymns and those other distinctions which we were mentioning;
seats of precedence, and meats and full cups;
and in honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.
That, he replied, is excellent.
Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we not say,
in the first place, that he is of the golden race?
To be sure.
Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that when
they are dead
They are holy angels upon the earth, authors of good,
averters of evil, the guardians of speech-gifted men?
Yes; and we accept his authority.
We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of divine
and heroic personages, and what is to be their special distinction
and we must do as he bids?
By all means.
And in ages to come we will reverence them and knee. before their
sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they but any
who are deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from age,
or in any other way, shall be admitted to the same honours.
That is very right, he said.
Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about this?
In what respect do you mean?
First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that Hellenes
should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to enslave them,
if they can help? Should not their custom be to spare them,
considering the danger which there is that the whole race may one
day fall under the yoke of the barbarians?
To spare them is infinitely better.
Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a rule
which they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to observe.
Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against
the barbarians and will keep their hands off one another.
Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take anything
but their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy afford
an excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the dead,
pretending that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army
before now has been lost from this love of plunder.
And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse,
and also a degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy
of the dead body when the real enemy has flown away and left
only his fighting gear behind him,--is not this rather like a dog
who cannot get at his assailant, quarrelling with the stones
which strike him instead?
Very like a dog, he said.
Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their burial?
Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.
Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods,
least of all the arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good
feeling with other Hellenes; and, indeed, we have reason to fear
that the offering of spoils taken from kinsmen may be a pollution
unless commanded by the god himself?
Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning
of houses, what is to be the practice?
May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual
produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names `discord' and `war,'
and I imagine that there is also a difference in their natures;
the one is expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other
of what is external and foreign; and the first of the two is
termed discord, and only the second, war.
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race
is all united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien
and strange to the barbarians?
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians
with Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when
they fight, and by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism
should be called war; but when Hellenes fight with one another we
shall say that Hellas is then in a state of disorder and discord,
they being by nature friends and such enmity is to be called discord.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be
discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the lands
and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife appear!
No true lover of his country would bring himself to tear in pieces
his own nurse and mother: There might be reason in the conqueror
depriving the conquered of their harvest, but still they would
have the idea of peace in their hearts and would not mean to go
on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as their
own land, and share in the common temples?
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by them
as discord only--a quarrel among friends, which is not to be called
they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be reconciled? Certainly.
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy
their opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate Hellas,
nor will they burn houses, not even suppose that the whole population
of a city--men, women, and children--are equally their enemies,
for they know that the guilt of war is always confined to a few persons
and that the many are their friends. And for all these reasons
they will be unwilling to waste their lands and raze their houses;
their enmity to them will only last until the many innocent sufferers
have compelled the guilty few to give satisfaction?
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their
Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal
with one another.
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:-that they are
neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, all our
previous enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go
on in this way you will entirely forget the other question
which at the commencement of this discussion you thrust aside:--
Is such an order of things possible, and how, if at all?
For I am quite ready to acknowledge that the plan which you propose,
if only feasible, would do all sorts of good to the State.
I will add, what you have omitted, that your citizens will be
the bravest of warriors, and will never leave their ranks, for they
will all know one another, and each will call the other father,
brother, son; and if you suppose the women to join their armies,
whether in the same rank or in the rear, either as a terror to the enemy,
or as auxiliaries in case of need, I know that they will then be
absolutely invincible; and there are many domestic tic advantages
which might also be mentioned and which I also fully acknowledge:
but, as I admit all these advantages and as many more as you please,
if only this State of yours were to come into existence, we need
say no more about them; assuming then the existence of the State,
let us now turn to the question of possibility and ways and means--
the rest may be left.
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said,
and have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves,
and you seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me
the third, which is the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen
and heard the third wave, I think you be more considerate and will
acknowledge that some fear and hesitation was natural respecting
a proposal so extraordinary as that which I have now to state
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more
determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible:
speak out and at once.
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither
in the search after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them,
we are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of
absolute justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation,
and the attainment in him of a higher degree of justice than is
to be found in other men?
The approximation will be enough.
We are enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the character
of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly unjust,
that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order
that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according
to the standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled
them, but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated
with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man,
he was unable to show that any such man could ever have existed?
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove
the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try
and show how and under what conditions the possibility is highest,
I must ask you, having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realised in language?
Does not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual,
whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall short
of the truth? What do you say?
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will
in every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able
to discover how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed,
you will admit that we have discovered the possibility which you demand;
and will be contented. I am sure that I should be contented--
will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which is
the cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least
change which will enable a State to pass into the truer form;
and let the change, if possible, be of one thing only, or if not, of two;
at any rate, let the changes be as few and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only
one change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still
a possible one.
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest
of the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave
break and drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.
I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes
of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures
who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled
to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils,--
nor the human race, as I believe,--and then only will this our
State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.
Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have
uttered if it had not seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced
that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is
indeed a hard thing.
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that
the word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons,
and very respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their
coats all in a moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand,
will run at you might and main, before you know where you are,
intending to do heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an answer,
and put yourself in motion, you will be prepared by their fine wits,'
and no mistake.
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out of it;
but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and, perhaps,
I may be able to fit answers to your questions better than another--
that is all. And now, having such an auxiliary, you must do your best
to show the unbelievers that you are right.
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable assistance.
And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our escaping,
we must explain to them whom we mean when we say that philosophers
are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves:
There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to study
philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are not
born to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other
be able to give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you,
that a lover, if lie is worthy of the name, ought to show his love,
not to some one part of that which he loves, but to the whole.
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man
of pleasure like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower
of youth do somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast,
and are thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards.
Is not this a way which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose,
and you praise his charming face; the hook-nose of another has,
you say, a royal look; while he who is neither snub nor hooked
has the grace of regularity: the dark visage is manly, the fair
are children of the gods; and as to the sweet `honey pale,'
as they are called, what is the very name but the invention of a
lover who talks in diminutives, and is not adverse to paleness
if appearing on the cheek of youth? In a word, there is no excuse
which you will not make, and nothing which you will not say,
in order not to lose a single flower that blooms in the spring-time
If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake
of the argument, I assent.
And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing
the same? They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.
And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an army,
they are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be honoured
by really great and important persons, they are glad to be honoured
by lesser and meaner people, but honour of some kind they must have.
Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods,
desire the whole class or a part only?
And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover,
not of a part of wisdom only, but of the whole?
Yes, of the whole.
And he who dislikes learnings, especially in youth, when he has
no power of judging what is good and what is not, such an one
we maintain not to be a philosopher or a lover of knowledge,
just as he who refuses his food is not hungry, and may be said
to have a bad appetite and not a good one?
Very true, he said.
Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is curious
to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a philosopher?
Am I not right?
Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find
many a strange being will have a title to the name. All the lovers
of sights have a delight in learning, and must therefore be included.
Musical amateurs, too, are a folk strangely out of place among
philosophers, for they are the last persons in the world who would
come to anything like a philosophical discussion, if they could help,
while they run about at the Dionysiac festivals as if they had
let out their ears to hear every chorus; whether the performance
is in town or country--that makes no difference--they are there.
Now are we to maintain that all these and any who have similar tastes,
as well as the professors of quite minor arts, are philosophers?
Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.
He said: Who then are the true philosophers?
Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.
That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you mean?
To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in explaining;
but I am sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about
What is the proposition?
That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?
And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?
And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class,
the same remark holds: taken singly, each of them one; but from
the various combinations of them with actions and things and with
one another, they are seen in all sorts of lights and appear many?
And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking,
and who are alone worthy of the name of philosophers.
How do you distinguish them? he said.
The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive,
fond of fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial
products that are made out of them, but their mind is incapable
of seeing or loving absolute beauty.
True, he replied.
Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense
of absolute beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge
of that beauty is unable to follow--of such an one I ask,
Is he awake or in a dream only? Reflect: is not the dreamer,
sleeping or waking, one who likens dissimilar things, who puts
the copy in the place of the real object?
I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.
But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence
of absolute beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the
objects which participate in the idea, neither putting the objects
in the place of the idea nor the idea in the place of the objects--
is he a dreamer, or is he awake?
He is wide awake.
And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has knowledge,
and that the mind of the other, who opines only, has opinion
But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute
our statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to him,
without revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?
We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.
Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall we begin
by assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which he may have,
and that we are rejoiced at his having it? But we should like to ask
him a question: Does he who has knowledge know something or nothing?
(You must answer for him.)
I answer that he knows something.
Something that is or is not?
Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?
And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points
of view, that absolute being is or may be absolutely known,
but that the utterly non-existent is utterly unknown?
Nothing can be more certain.
Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be
and not to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure
being and the absolute negation of being?
Yes, between them.
And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of necessity
to not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being
there has to be discovered a corresponding intermediate between
ignorance and knowledge, if there be such?
Do we admit the existence of opinion?
As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?
Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of matter
corresponding to this difference of faculties?
And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before I
proceed further I will make a division.
I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves:
they are powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as we do.
Sight and hearing, for example, I should call faculties. Have I
clearly explained the class which I mean?
Yes, I quite understand.
Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them,
and therefore the distinctions of fire, colour, and the like, which enable
me to discern the differences of some things, do not apply to them.
In speaking of a faculty I think only of its sphere and its result;
and that which has the same sphere and the same result I call
the same faculty, but that which has another sphere and another
result I call different. Would that be your way of speaking?
And will you be so very good as to answer one more question?
Would you say that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would you
Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all faculties.
And is opinion also a faculty?
Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able
to form an opinion.
And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that knowledge
is not the same as opinion?
Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify
that which is infallible with that which errs?
An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite conscious
of a distinction between them.
Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also distinct
spheres or subject-matters?
That is certain.
Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and knowledge
is to know the nature of being?
And opinion is to have an opinion?
And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of opinion
the same as the subject-matter of knowledge?
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference
in faculty implies difference in the sphere or subject matter, and if,
as we were saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties,
then the sphere of knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.
Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something else
must be the subject-matter of opinion?
Yes, something else.
Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or, rather,
how can there be an opinion at all about not-being? Reflect:
when a man has an opinion, has he not an opinion about something?
Can he have an opinion which is an opinion about nothing?
He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?
And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking, nothing?
Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary correlative;
of being, knowledge?
True, he said.
Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?
Not with either.
And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?
That seems to be true.
But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them,
in a greater clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness
Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than knowledge,
but lighter than ignorance?
Both; and in no small degree.
And also to be within and between them?
Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?
But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be of a sort
which is and is not at the same time, that sort of thing would appear
also to lie in the interval between pure being and absolute not-being;
and that the corresponding faculty is neither knowledge nor ignorance,
but will be found in the interval between them?
And in that interval there has now been discovered something
which we call opinion?
Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes
equally of the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be
termed either, pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered,
we may truly call the subject of opinion, and assign each to its
proper faculty, -the extremes to the faculties of the extremes
and the mean to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion
that there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty--
in whose opinion the beautiful is the manifold--he, I say,
your lover of beautiful sights, who cannot bear to be told that
the beautiful is one, and the just is one, or that anything is one--
to him I would appeal, saying, Will you be so very kind, sir, as to tell
us whether, of all these beautiful things, there is one which will
not be found ugly; or of the just, which will not be found unjust;
or of the holy, which will not also be unholy?
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found ugly;
and the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves?--doubles, that is,
of one thing, and halves of another?
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed,
will not be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all
And can any one of those many things which are called by particular
names be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked
at feasts or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming
at the bat, with what he hit him, as they say in the puzzle,
and upon what the bat was sitting. The individual objects of
which I am speaking are also a riddle, and have a double sense:
nor can you fix them in your mind, either as being or not-being,
or both, or neither.
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better
place than between being and not-being? For they are clearly
not in greater darkness or negation than not-being, or more full
of light and existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the multitude
entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are tossing
about in some region which is halfway between pure being and pure not-being?
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we
might find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as
matter of knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught
and detained by the intermediate faculty.
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see
absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way thither;
who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the like,--
such persons may be said to have opinion but not knowledge?
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said
to know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one loves and embraces the subjects of knowledge, the other those
of opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say will remember,
who listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours, but would
not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers
of opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry
with us for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is true.
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers
of wisdom and not lovers of opinion.
SOCRATES - GLAUCON
AND thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way,
the true and the false philosophers have at length appeared in view.
I do not think, he said, that the way could have been shortened.
I suppose not, I said; and yet I believe that we might have had
a better view of both of them if the discussion could have been
confined to this one subject and if there were not many other
questions awaiting us, which he who desires to see in what respect
the life of the just differs from that of the unjust must consider.
And what is the next question? he asked.
Surely, I said, the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable,
and those who wander in the region of the many and variable
are not philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes
should be the rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institutions
of our State--let them be our guardians.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian
who is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge
of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls
no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye
to look at the absolute truth and to that original to repair,
and having perfect vision of the other world to order the laws
about beauty, goodness, justice in this, if not already ordered,
and to guard and preserve the order of them--are not such persons,
I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who,
besides being their equals in experience and falling short of them
in no particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this
greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first
place unless they fail in some other respect.
Suppose then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite this
and the other excellences.
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the
philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding
about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken,
we shall also acknowledge that such an union of qualities is possible,
and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be
rulers in the State.
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge
of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from
generation and corruption.
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true being;
there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honourable,
which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the lover
and the man of ambition.
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not another
quality which they should also possess?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their
mind falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
`May be,' my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather `must
be affirmed:' for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help
loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth,
as far as in him lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are
strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will
be like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be absorbed
in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily pleasure--
I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such an one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous;
for the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending,
have no place in his character.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be considered.
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can
more antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing
after the whole of things both divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator
of all time and all existence, think much of human life?
Or can such an one account death fearful?
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not
covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward-can he, I say,
ever be unjust or hard in his dealings?
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle,
or rude and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even
in youth the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will
love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he
makes little progress.
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns,
will he not be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Labouring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his
fruitless occupation? Yes.
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic natures;
we must insist that the philosopher should have a good memory?
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to disproportion?
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally
well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously
towards the true being of everything.
Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumerating,
go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul,
which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?
They are absolutely necessary, he replied.
And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue who has
the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn,--noble, gracious,
the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are his kindred?
The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with such
And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and education,
and to these only you will entrust the State.
SOCRATES - ADEIMANTUS
Here Adeimantus interposed and said: To these statements,
Socrates, no one can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way,
a strange feeling passes over the minds of your hearers: They fancy
that they are led astray a little at each step in the argument,
owing to their own want of skill in asking and answering questions;
these littles accumulate, and at the end of the discussion they
are found to have sustained a mighty overthrow and all their former
notions appear to be turned upside down. And as unskilful players
of draughts are at last shut up by their more skilful adversaries
and have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last;
for they have nothing to say in this new game of which words
are the counters; and yet all the time they are in the right.
The observation is suggested to me by what is now occurring.
For any one of us might say, that although in words he is not
able to meet you at each step of the argument, he sees as a fact
that the votaries of philosophy, when they carry on the study,
not only in youth as a part of education, but as the pursuit
of their maturer years, most of them become strange monsters,
not to say utter rogues, and that those who may be considered the best
of them are made useless to the world by the very study which
Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?
I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what is
Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not cease
from evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers
are acknowledged by us to be of no use to them?
You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be given
in a parable.
Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you are not
at all accustomed, I suppose.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged me
into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then
you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination:
for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States
is so grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it;
and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse
to fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things,
like the fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found
in pictures. Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there
is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew,
but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight,
and his knowledge of navigation is not much better.
The sailors are quarrelling with one another about the steering--
every one is of opinion that he has a right to steer, though he has
never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who taught him
or when he learned, and will further assert that it cannot be taught,
and they are ready to cut in pieces any one who says the contrary.
They throng about the captain, begging and praying him to commit
the helm to them; and if at any time they do not prevail, but others
are preferred to them, they kill the others or throw them overboard,
and having first chained up the noble captain's senses with drink
or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession of the ship
and make free with the stores; thus, eating and drinking, they proceed
on their voyage in such a manner as might be expected of them.
Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their plot
for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their own
whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name
of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man,
whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must
pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds,
and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really
qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and will
be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the possibility
of this union of authority with the steerer's art has never seriously
entered into their thoughts or been made part of their calling.
Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by sailors
who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded?
Will he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a
Of course, said Adeimantus.
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the figure,
which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the State;
for you understand already.
Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is
surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities;
explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour
would be far more extraordinary.
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be
useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him
to attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not
use them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg
the sailors to be commanded by him--that is not the order of nature;
neither are `the wise to go to the doors of the rich'--the ingenious
author of this saying told a lie--but the truth is, that, when a man
is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go,
and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern.
The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects
to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind are of a
different stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors,
and the true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest
pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of
the opposite faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury
is done to her by her opponents, but by her own professing followers,
the same of whom you suppose the accuser to say, that the greater
number of them are arrant rogues, and the best are useless;
in which opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority
is also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge
of philosophy any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the description
of the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will remember,
was his leader, whom he followed always and in all things;
failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or lot
in true philosophy.
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others,
greatly at variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover
of knowledge is always striving after being--that is his nature;
he will not rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an
appearance only, but will go on--the keen edge will not be blunted,
nor the force of his desire abate until he have attained the knowledge
of the true nature of every essence by a sympathetic and kindred
power in the soul, and by that power drawing near and mingling and
becoming incorporate with very being, having begotten mind and truth,
he will have knowledge and will live and grow truly, and then,
and not till then, will he cease from his travail.
Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a description of him.
And will the love of a lie be any part of a philosopher's nature?
Will he not utterly hate a lie?
And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect any evil of the band
which he leads?
Justice and health of mind will be of the company, and temperance
will follow after?
True, he replied.
Neither is there any reason why I should again set in array
the philosopher's virtues, as you will doubtless remember
that courage, magnificence, apprehension, memory, were his
natural gifts. And you objected that, although no one could deny
what I then said, still, if you leave words and look at facts,
the persons who are thus described are some of them manifestly useless,
and the greater number utterly depraved; we were then led to enquire
into the grounds of these accusations, and have now arrived at the point
of asking why are the majority bad, which question of necessity
brought us back to the examination and definition of the true philosopher.
And we have next to consider the corruptions of the philosophic nature,
why so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling--I am speaking
of those who were said to be useless but not wicked--and, when we
have done with them, we will speak of the imitators of philosophy,
what manner of men are they who aspire after a profession
which is above them and of which they are unworthy, and then,
by their manifold inconsistencies, bring upon philosophy, and upon
all philosophers, that universal reprobation of which we speak.
What are these corruptions? he said.
I will see if I can explain them to you. Every one will admit that
a nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required
in a philosopher, is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men.
And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these
In the first place there are their own virtues, their courage, temperance,
and the rest of them, every one of which praise worthy qualities
(and this is a most singular circumstance) destroys and distracts
from philosophy the soul which is the possessor of them.
That is very singular, he replied.
Then there are all the ordinary goods of life--beauty, wealth,
strength, rank, and great connections in the State--you understand
the sort of things--these also have a corrupting and distracting effect.
I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you
mean about them.
Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right way; you will
then have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks,
and they will no longer appear strange to you.
And how am I to do so? he asked.
Why, I said, we know that all germs or seeds, whether vegetable
or animal, when they fail to meet with proper nutriment or climate
or soil, in proportion to their vigour, are all the more sensitive
to the want of a suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy
to what is good than what is not.
There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under
alien conditions, receive more injury than the inferior,
because the contrast is greater.
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds,
when they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not
great crimes and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fulness
of nature ruined by education rather than from any inferiority,
whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any very great good
or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy-he is like a plant which,
having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature
into all virtue, but, if sown and planted in an alien soil,
becomes the most noxious of all weeds, unless he be preserved
by some divine power. Do you really think, as people so often say,
that our youth are corrupted by Sophists, or that private teachers
of the art corrupt them in any degree worth speaking of?
Are not the public who say these things the greatest of all Sophists?
And do they not educate to perfection young and old, men and women alike,
and fashion them after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly,
or in a court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other
popular resort, and there is a great uproar, and they praise
some things which are being said or done, and blame other things,
equally exaggerating both, shouting and clapping their hands,
and the echo of the rocks and the place in which they are assembled
redoubles the sound of the praise or blame--at such a time will not
a young man's heart, as they say, leap within him? Will any private
training enable him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood
of popular opinion? or will he be carried away by the stream?
Will he not have the notions of good and evil which the public
in general have--he will do as they do, and as they are, such will
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has
not been mentioned.
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death which,
as you are aware, these new Sophists and educators who are the public,
apply when their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person,
can be expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece
of folly; there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be,
any different type of character which has had no other training
in virtue but that which is supplied by public opinion--I speak,
my friend, of human virtue only; what is more than human,
as the proverb says, is not included: for I would not have
you ignorant that, in the present evil state of governments,
whatever is saved and comes to good is saved by the power of God,
as we may truly say.
I quite assent, he replied.
Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call
Sophists and whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact,
teach nothing but the opinion of the many, that is to say, the opinions
of their assemblies; and this is their wisdom. I might compare them
to a man who should study the tempers and desires of a mighty strong
beast who is fed by him-he would learn how to approach and handle him,
also at what times and from what causes he is dangerous or the reverse,
and what is the meaning of his several cries, and by what sounds,
when another utters them, he is soothed or infuriated; and you
may suppose further, that when, by continually attending upon him,
he has become perfect in all this, he calls his knowledge wisdom,
and makes of it a system or art, which he proceeds to teach,
although he has no real notion of what he means by the principles
or passions of which he is speaking, but calls this honourable
and that dishonourable, or good or evil, or just or unjust,
all in accordance with the tastes and tempers of the great brute.
Good he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights and evil to be
that which he dislikes; and he can give no other account of them except
that the just and noble are the necessary, having never himself seen,
and having no power of explaining to others the nature of either,
or the difference between them, which is immense. By heaven,
would not such an one be a rare educator?
Indeed, he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment
of the tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting
or music, or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been
describing? For when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits
to them his poem or other work of art or the service which he has
done the State, making them his judges when he is not obliged,
the so-called necessity of Diomede will oblige him to produce whatever
they praise. And yet the reasons are utterly ludicrous which they give
in confirmation of their own notions about the honourable and good.
Did you ever hear any of them which were not?
No, nor am I likely to hear.
You recognise the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me ask you
to consider further whether the world will ever be induced to believe
in the existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many beautiful,
or of the absolute in each kind rather than of the many in each kind?
Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure
of the world?
And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them?
That is evident.
Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved
in his calling to the end? and remember what we were saying of him,
that he was to have quickness and memory and courage and magnificence--
these were admitted by us to be the true philosopher's gifts.
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things
first among all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he gets
older for their own purposes?
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him honour
and flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now,
the power which he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he be likely to do under such circumstances,
especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and noble,
and a tall proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless aspirations,
and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes and of barbarians,
and having got such notions into his head will he not dilate
and elevate himself in the fulness of vain pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if some one gently comes
to him and tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding,
which can only be got by slaving for it, do you think that,
under such adverse circumstances, he will be easily induced
And even if there be some one who through inherent goodness
or natural reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is
humbled and taken captive by philosophy, how will his friends
behave when they think that they are likely to lose the advantage
which they were hoping to reap from his companionship?
Will they not do and say anything to prevent him from yielding
to his better nature and to render his teacher powerless,
using to this end private intrigues as well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities
which make a man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert
him from philosophy, no less than riches and their accompaniments