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Statesman by Plato

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YOUNG SOCRATES: That is evident.

STRANGER: Shall we break up this hornless herd into sections, and
endeavour to assign to him what is his?

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: Shall we distinguish them by their having or not having cloven
feet, or by their mixing or not mixing the breed? You know what I mean.


STRANGER: I mean that horses and asses naturally breed from one another.


STRANGER: But the remainder of the hornless herd of tame animals will not
mix the breed.


STRANGER: And of which has the Statesman charge,--of the mixed or of the
unmixed race?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly of the unmixed.

STRANGER: I suppose that we must divide this again as before.


STRANGER: Every tame and herding animal has now been split up, with the
exception of two species; for I hardly think that dogs should be reckoned
among gregarious animals.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not; but how shall we divide the two remaining

STRANGER: There is a measure of difference which may be appropriately
employed by you and Theaetetus, who are students of geometry.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What is that?

STRANGER: The diameter; and, again, the diameter of a diameter. (Compare

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: How does man walk, but as a diameter whose power is two feet?


STRANGER: And the power of the remaining kind, being the power of twice
two feet, may be said to be the diameter of our diameter.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly; and now I think that I pretty nearly understand

STRANGER: In these divisions, Socrates, I descry what would make another
famous jest.


STRANGER: Human beings have come out in the same class with the freest and
airiest of creation, and have been running a race with them.

YOUNG SOCRATES: I remark that very singular coincidence.

STRANGER: And would you not expect the slowest to arrive last?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Indeed I should.

STRANGER: And there is a still more ridiculous consequence, that the king
is found running about with the herd and in close competition with the
bird-catcher, who of all mankind is most of an adept at the airy life.
(Plato is here introducing a new suddivision, i.e. that of bipeds into men
and birds. Others however refer the passage to the division into
quadrupeds and bipeds, making pigs compete with human beings and the pig-
driver with the king. According to this explanation we must translate the
words above, 'freest and airiest of creation,' 'worthiest and laziest of


STRANGER: Then here, Socrates, is still clearer evidence of the truth of
what was said in the enquiry about the Sophist? (Compare Sophist.)


STRANGER: That the dialectical method is no respecter of persons, and does
not set the great above the small, but always arrives in her own way at the
truest result.


STRANGER: And now, I will not wait for you to ask the, but will of my own
accord take you by the shorter road to the definition of a king.

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: I say that we should have begun at first by dividing land
animals into biped and quadruped; and since the winged herd, and that
alone, comes out in the same class with man, we should divide bipeds into
those which have feathers and those which have not, and when they have been
divided, and the art of the management of mankind is brought to light, the
time will have come to produce our Statesman and ruler, and set him like a
charioteer in his place, and hand over to him the reins of state, for that
too is a vocation which belongs to him.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good; you have paid me the debt,--I mean, that you
have completed the argument, and I suppose that you added the digression by
way of interest. (Compare Republic.)

STRANGER: Then now, let us go back to the beginning, and join the links,
which together make the definition of the name of the Statesman's art.

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: The science of pure knowledge had, as we said originally, a part
which was the science of rule or command, and from this was derived another
part, which was called command-for-self, on the analogy of selling-for-
self; an important section of this was the management of living animals,
and this again was further limited to the management of them in herds; and
again in herds of pedestrian animals. The chief division of the latter was
the art of managing pedestrian animals which are without horns; this again
has a part which can only be comprehended under one term by joining
together three names--shepherding pure-bred animals. The only further
subdivision is the art of man-herding,--this has to do with bipeds, and is
what we were seeking after, and have now found, being at once the royal and


STRANGER: And do you think, Socrates, that we really have done as you say?


STRANGER: Do you think, I mean, that we have really fulfilled our
intention?--There has been a sort of discussion, and yet the investigation
seems to me not to be perfectly worked out: this is where the enquiry

YOUNG SOCRATES: I do not understand.

STRANGER: I will try to make the thought, which is at this moment present
in my mind, clearer to us both.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Let me hear.

STRANGER: There were many arts of shepherding, and one of them was the
political, which had the charge of one particular herd?


STRANGER: And this the argument defined to be the art of rearing, not
horses or other brutes, but the art of rearing man collectively?


STRANGER: Note, however, a difference which distinguishes the king from
all other shepherds.

YOUNG SOCRATES: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: I want to ask, whether any one of the other herdsmen has a rival
who professes and claims to share with him in the management of the herd?

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean to say that merchants, husbandmen, providers of food, and
also training-masters and physicians, will all contend with the herdsmen of
humanity, whom we call Statesmen, declaring that they themselves have the
care of rearing or managing mankind, and that they rear not only the common
herd, but also the rulers themselves.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Are they not right in saying so?

STRANGER: Very likely they may be, and we will consider their claim. But
we are certain of this,--that no one will raise a similar claim as against
the herdsman, who is allowed on all hands to be the sole and only feeder
and physician of his herd; he is also their match-maker and accoucheur; no
one else knows that department of science. And he is their merry-maker and
musician, as far as their nature is susceptible of such influences, and no
one can console and soothe his own herd better than he can, either with the
natural tones of his voice or with instruments. And the same may be said
of tenders of animals in general.


STRANGER: But if this is as you say, can our argument about the king be
true and unimpeachable? Were we right in selecting him out of ten thousand
other claimants to be the shepherd and rearer of the human flock?


STRANGER: Had we not reason just to now to apprehend, that although we may
have described a sort of royal form, we have not as yet accurately worked
out the true image of the Statesman? and that we cannot reveal him as he
truly is in his own nature, until we have disengaged and separated him from
those who hang about him and claim to share in his prerogatives?


STRANGER: And that, Socrates, is what we must do, if we do not mean to
bring disgrace upon the argument at its close.

YOUNG SOCRATES: We must certainly avoid that.

STRANGER: Then let us make a new beginning, and travel by a different


STRANGER: I think that we may have a little amusement; there is a famous
tale, of which a good portion may with advantage be interwoven, and then we
may resume our series of divisions, and proceed in the old path until we
arrive at the desired summit. Shall we do as I say?

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: Listen, then, to a tale which a child would love to hear; and
you are not too old for childish amusement.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Let me hear.

STRANGER: There did really happen, and will again happen, like many other
events of which ancient tradition has preserved the record, the portent
which is traditionally said to have occurred in the quarrel of Atreus and
Thyestes. You have heard, no doubt, and remember what they say happened at
that time?

YOUNG SOCRATES: I suppose you to mean the token of the birth of the golden

STRANGER: No, not that; but another part of the story, which tells how the
sun and the stars once rose in the west, and set in the east, and that the
god reversed their motion, and gave them that which they now have as a
testimony to the right of Atreus.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes; there is that legend also.

STRANGER: Again, we have been often told of the reign of Cronos.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, very often.

STRANGER: Did you ever hear that the men of former times were earth-born,
and not begotten of one another?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, that is another old tradition.

STRANGER: All these stories, and ten thousand others which are still more
wonderful, have a common origin; many of them have been lost in the lapse
of ages, or are repeated only in a disconnected form; but the origin of
them is what no one has told, and may as well be told now; for the tale is
suited to throw light on the nature of the king.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good; and I hope that you will give the whole story,
and leave out nothing.

STRANGER: Listen, then. There is a time when God himself guides and helps
to roll the world in its course; and there is a time, on the completion of
a certain cycle, when he lets go, and the world being a living creature,
and having originally received intelligence from its author and creator,
turns about and by an inherent necessity revolves in the opposite

YOUNG SOCRATES: Why is that?

STRANGER: Why, because only the most divine things of all remain ever
unchanged and the same, and body is not included in this class. Heaven and
the universe, as we have termed them, although they have been endowed by
the Creator with many glories, partake of a bodily nature, and therefore
cannot be entirely free from perturbation. But their motion is, as far as
possible, single and in the same place, and of the same kind; and is
therefore only subject to a reversal, which is the least alteration
possible. For the lord of all moving things is alone able to move of
himself; and to think that he moves them at one time in one direction and
at another time in another is blasphemy. Hence we must not say that the
world is either self-moved always, or all made to go round by God in two
opposite courses; or that two Gods, having opposite purposes, make it move
round. But as I have already said (and this is the only remaining
alternative) the world is guided at one time by an external power which is
divine and receives fresh life and immortality from the renewing hand of
the Creator, and again, when let go, moves spontaneously, being set free at
such a time as to have, during infinite cycles of years, a reverse
movement: this is due to its perfect balance, to its vast size, and to the
fact that it turns on the smallest pivot.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Your account of the world seems to be very reasonable

STRANGER: Let us now reflect and try to gather from what has been said the
nature of the phenomenon which we affirmed to be the cause of all these
wonders. It is this.


STRANGER: The reversal which takes place from time to time of the motion
of the universe.

YOUNG SOCRATES: How is that the cause?

STRANGER: Of all changes of the heavenly motions, we may consider this to
be the greatest and most complete.

YOUNG SOCRATES: I should imagine so.

STRANGER: And it may be supposed to result in the greatest changes to the
human beings who are the inhabitants of the world at the time.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Such changes would naturally occur.

STRANGER: And animals, as we know, survive with difficulty great and
serious changes of many different kinds when they come upon them at once.


STRANGER: Hence there necessarily occurs a great destruction of them,
which extends also to the life of man; few survivors of the race are left,
and those who remain become the subjects of several novel and remarkable
phenomena, and of one in particular, which takes place at the time when the
transition is made to the cycle opposite to that in which we are now


STRANGER: The life of all animals first came to a standstill, and the
mortal nature ceased to be or look older, and was then reversed and grew
young and delicate; the white locks of the aged darkened again, and the
cheeks the bearded man became smooth, and recovered their former bloom; the
bodies of youths in their prime grew softer and smaller, continually by day
and night returning and becoming assimilated to the nature of a newly-born
child in mind as well as body; in the succeeding stage they wasted away and
wholly disappeared. And the bodies of those who died by violence at that
time quickly passed through the like changes, and in a few days were no
more seen.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Then how, Stranger, were the animals created in those
days; and in what way were they begotten of one another?

STRANGER: It is evident, Socrates, that there was no such thing in the
then order of nature as the procreation of animals from one another; the
earth-born race, of which we hear in story, was the one which existed in
those days--they rose again from the ground; and of this tradition, which
is now-a-days often unduly discredited, our ancestors, who were nearest in
point of time to the end of the last period and came into being at the
beginning of this, are to us the heralds. And mark how consistent the
sequel of the tale is; after the return of age to youth, follows the return
of the dead, who are lying in the earth, to life; simultaneously with the
reversal of the world the wheel of their generation has been turned back,
and they are put together and rise and live in the opposite order, unless
God has carried any of them away to some other lot. According to this
tradition they of necessity sprang from the earth and have the name of
earth-born, and so the above legend clings to them.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly that is quite consistent with what has preceded;
but tell me, was the life which you said existed in the reign of Cronos in
that cycle of the world, or in this? For the change in the course of the
stars and the sun must have occurred in both.

STRANGER: I see that you enter into my meaning;--no, that blessed and
spontaneous life does not belong to the present cycle of the world, but to
the previous one, in which God superintended the whole revolution of the
universe; and the several parts the universe were distributed under the
rule of certain inferior deities, as is the way in some places still.
There were demigods, who were the shepherds of the various species and
herds of animals, and each one was in all respects sufficient for those of
whom he was the shepherd; neither was there any violence, or devouring of
one another, or war or quarrel among them; and I might tell of ten thousand
other blessings, which belonged to that dispensation. The reason why the
life of man was, as tradition says, spontaneous, is as follows: In those
days God himself was their shepherd, and ruled over them, just as man, who
is by comparison a divine being, still rules over the lower animals. Under
him there were no forms of government or separate possession of women and
children; for all men rose again from the earth, having no memory of the
past. And although they had nothing of this sort, the earth gave them
fruits in abundance, which grew on trees and shrubs unbidden, and were not
planted by the hand of man. And they dwelt naked, and mostly in the open
air, for the temperature of their seasons was mild; and they had no beds,
but lay on soft couches of grass, which grew plentifully out of the earth.
Such was the life of man in the days of Cronos, Socrates; the character of
our present life, which is said to be under Zeus, you know from your own
experience. Can you, and will you, determine which of them you deem the


STRANGER: Then shall I determine for you as well as I can?

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: Suppose that the nurslings of Cronos, having this boundless
leisure, and the power of holding intercourse, not only with men, but with
the brute creation, had used all these advantages with a view to
philosophy, conversing with the brutes as well as with one another, and
learning of every nature which was gifted with any special power, and was
able to contribute some special experience to the store of wisdom, there
would be no difficulty in deciding that they would be a thousand times
happier than the men of our own day. Or, again, if they had merely eaten
and drunk until they were full, and told stories to one another and to the
animals--such stories as are now attributed to them--in this case also, as
I should imagine, the answer would be easy. But until some satisfactory
witness can be found of the love of that age for knowledge and discussion,
we had better let the matter drop, and give the reason why we have
unearthed this tale, and then we shall be able to get on. In the fulness
of time, when the change was to take place, and the earth-born race had all
perished, and every soul had completed its proper cycle of births and been
sown in the earth her appointed number of times, the pilot of the universe
let the helm go, and retired to his place of view; and then Fate and innate
desire reversed the motion of the world. Then also all the inferior
deities who share the rule of the supreme power, being informed of what was
happening, let go the parts of the world which were under their control.
And the world turning round with a sudden shock, being impelled in an
opposite direction from beginning to end, was shaken by a mighty
earthquake, which wrought a new destruction of all manner of animals.
Afterwards, when sufficient time had elapsed, the tumult and confusion and
earthquake ceased, and the universal creature, once more at peace, attained
to a calm, and settled down into his own orderly and accustomed course,
having the charge and rule of himself and of all the creatures which are
contained in him, and executing, as far as he remembered them, the
instructions of his Father and Creator, more precisely at first, but
afterwords with less exactness. The reason of the falling off was the
admixture of matter in him; this was inherent in the primal nature, which
was full of disorder, until attaining to the present order. From God, the
constructor, the world received all that is good in him, but from a
previous state came elements of evil and unrighteousness, which, thence
derived, first of all passed into the world, and were then transmitted to
the animals. While the world was aided by the pilot in nurturing the
animals, the evil was small, and great the good which he produced, but
after the separation, when the world was let go, at first all proceeded
well enough; but, as time went on, there was more and more forgetting, and
the old discord again held sway and burst forth in full glory; and at last
small was the good, and great was the admixture of evil, and there was a
danger of universal ruin to the world, and to the things contained in him.
Wherefore God, the orderer of all, in his tender care, seeing that the
world was in great straits, and fearing that all might be dissolved in the
storm and disappear in infinite chaos, again seated himself at the helm;
and bringing back the elements which had fallen into dissolution and
disorder to the motion which had prevailed under his dispensation, he set
them in order and restored them, and made the world imperishable and
immortal. And this is the whole tale, of which the first part will suffice
to illustrate the nature of the king. For when the world turned towards
the present cycle of generation, the age of man again stood still, and a
change opposite to the previous one was the result. The small creatures
which had almost disappeared grew in and stature, and the newly-born
children of the earth became grey and died and sank into the earth again.
All things changed, imitating and following the condition of the universe,
and of necessity agreeing with that in their mode of conception and
generation and nurture; for no animal was any longer allowed to come into
being in the earth through the agency of other creative beings, but as the
world was ordained to be the lord of his own progress, in like manner the
parts were ordained to grow and generate and give nourishment, as far as
they could, of themselves, impelled by a similar movement. And so we have
arrived at the real end of this discourse; for although there might be much
to tell of the lower animals, and of the condition out of which they
changed and of the causes of the change, about men there is not much, and
that little is more to the purpose. Deprived of the care of God, who had
possessed and tended them, they were left helpless and defenceless, and
were torn in pieces by the beasts, who were naturally fierce and had now
grown wild. And in the first ages they were still without skill or
resource; the food which once grew spontaneously had failed, and as yet
they knew not how to procure it, because they had never felt the pressure
of necessity. For all these reasons they were in a great strait; wherefore
also the gifts spoken of in the old tradition were imparted to man by the
gods, together with so much teaching and education as was indispensable;
fire was given to them by Prometheus, the arts by Hephaestus and his
fellow-worker, Athene, seeds and plants by others. From these is derived
all that has helped to frame human life; since the care of the Gods, as I
was saying, had now failed men, and they had to order their course of life
for themselves, and were their own masters, just like the universal
creature whom they imitate and follow, ever changing, as he changes, and
ever living and growing, at one time in one manner, and at another time in
another. Enough of the story, which may be of use in showing us how
greatly we erred in the delineation of the king and the statesman in our
previous discourse.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What was this great error of which you speak?

STRANGER: There were two; the first a lesser one, the other was an error
on a much larger and grander scale.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean to say that when we were asked about a king and statesman
of the present cycle and generation, we told of a shepherd of a human flock
who belonged to the other cycle, and of one who was a god when he ought to
have been a man; and this a great error. Again, we declared him to be the
ruler of the entire State, without explaining how: this was not the whole
truth, nor very intelligible; but still it was true, and therefore the
second error was not so great as the first.


STRANGER: Before we can expect to have a perfect description of the
statesman we must define the nature of his office.


STRANGER: And the myth was introduced in order to show, not only that all
others are rivals of the true shepherd who is the object of our search, but
in order that we might have a clearer view of him who is alone worthy to
receive this appellation, because he alone of shepherds and herdsmen,
according to the image which we have employed, has the care of human


STRANGER: And I cannot help thinking, Socrates, that the form of the
divine shepherd is even higher than that of a king; whereas the statesmen
who are now on earth seem to be much more like their subjects in character,
and much more nearly to partake of their breeding and education.


STRANGER: Still they must be investigated all the same, to see whether,
like the divine shepherd, they are above their subjects or on a level with


STRANGER: To resume:--Do you remember that we spoke of a command-for-self
exercised over animals, not singly but collectively, which we called the
art of rearing a herd?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, I remember.

STRANGER: There, somewhere, lay our error; for we never included or
mentioned the Statesman; and we did not observe that he had no place in our

YOUNG SOCRATES: How was that?

STRANGER: All other herdsmen 'rear' their herds, but this is not a
suitable term to apply to the Statesman; we should use a name which is
common to them all.

YOUNG SOCRATES: True, if there be such a name.

STRANGER: Why, is not 'care' of herds applicable to all? For this implies
no feeding, or any special duty; if we say either 'tending' the herds, or
'managing' the herds, or 'having the care' of them, the same word will
include all, and then we may wrap up the Statesman with the rest, as the
argument seems to require.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Quite right; but how shall we take the next step in the

STRANGER: As before we divided the art of 'rearing' herds accordingly as
they were land or water herds, winged and wingless, mixing or not mixing
the breed, horned and hornless, so we may divide by these same differences
the 'tending' of herds, comprehending in our definition the kingship of to-
day and the rule of Cronos.

YOUNG SOCRATES: That is clear; but I still ask, what is to follow.

STRANGER: If the word had been 'managing' herds, instead of feeding or
rearing them, no one would have argued that there was no care of men in the
case of the politician, although it was justly contended, that there was no
human art of feeding them which was worthy of the name, or at least, if
there were, many a man had a prior and greater right to share in such an
art than any king.


STRANGER: But no other art or science will have a prior or better right
than the royal science to care for human society and to rule over men in


STRANGER: In the next place, Socrates, we must surely notice that a great
error was committed at the end of our analysis.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What was it?

STRANGER: Why, supposing we were ever so sure that there is such an art as
the art of rearing or feeding bipeds, there was no reason why we should
call this the royal or political art, as though there were no more to be

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: Our first duty, as we were saying, was to remodel the name, so
as to have the notion of care rather than of feeding, and then to divide,
for there may be still considerable divisions.

YOUNG SOCRATES: How can they be made?

STRANGER: First, by separating the divine shepherd from the human guardian
or manager.


STRANGER: And the art of management which is assigned to man would again
have to be subdivided.

YOUNG SOCRATES: On what principle?

STRANGER: On the principle of voluntary and compulsory.


STRANGER: Because, if I am not mistaken, there has been an error here; for
our simplicity led us to rank king and tyrant together, whereas they are
utterly distinct, like their modes of government.


STRANGER: Then, now, as I said, let us make the correction and divide
human care into two parts, on the principle of voluntary and compulsory.


STRANGER: And if we call the management of violent rulers tyranny, and the
voluntary management of herds of voluntary bipeds politics, may we not
further assert that he who has this latter art of management is the true
king and statesman?

YOUNG SOCRATES: I think, Stranger, that we have now completed the account
of the Statesman.

STRANGER: Would that we had, Socrates, but I have to satisfy myself as
well as you; and in my judgment the figure of the king is not yet
perfected; like statuaries who, in their too great haste, having overdone
the several parts of their work, lose time in cutting them down, so too we,
partly out of haste, partly out of a magnanimous desire to expose our
former error, and also because we imagined that a king required grand
illustrations, have taken up a marvellous lump of fable, and have been
obliged to use more than was necessary. This made us discourse at large,
and, nevertheless, the story never came to an end. And our discussion
might be compared to a picture of some living being which had been fairly
drawn in outline, but had not yet attained the life and clearness which is
given by the blending of colours. Now to intelligent persons a living
being had better be delineated by language and discourse than by any
painting or work of art: to the duller sort by works of art.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very true; but what is the imperfection which still
remains? I wish that you would tell me.

STRANGER: The higher ideas, my dear friend, can hardly be set forth except
through the medium of examples; every man seems to know all things in a
dreamy sort of way, and then again to wake up and to know nothing.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I fear that I have been unfortunate in raising a question about
our experience of knowledge.


STRANGER: Why, because my 'example' requires the assistance of another

YOUNG SOCRATES: Proceed; you need not fear that I shall tire.

STRANGER: I will proceed, finding, as I do, such a ready listener in you:
when children are beginning to know their letters--

YOUNG SOCRATES: What are you going to say?

STRANGER: That they distinguish the several letters well enough in very
short and easy syllables, and are able to tell them correctly.


STRANGER: Whereas in other syllables they do not recognize them, and think
and speak falsely of them.


STRANGER: Will not the best and easiest way of bringing them to a
knowledge of what they do not as yet know be--


STRANGER: To refer them first of all to cases in which they judge
correctly about the letters in question, and then to compare these with the
cases in which they do not as yet know, and to show them that the letters
are the same, and have the same character in both combinations, until all
cases in which they are right have been placed side by side with all cases
in which they are wrong. In this way they have examples, and are made to
learn that each letter in every combination is always the same and not
another, and is always called by the same name.


STRANGER: Are not examples formed in this manner? We take a thing and
compare it with another distinct instance of the same thing, of which we
have a right conception, and out of the comparison there arises one true
notion, which includes both of them.


STRANGER: Can we wonder, then, that the soul has the same uncertainty
about the alphabet of things, and sometimes and in some cases is firmly
fixed by the truth in each particular, and then, again, in other cases is
altogether at sea; having somehow or other a correct notion of
combinations; but when the elements are transferred into the long and
difficult language (syllables) of facts, is again ignorant of them?

YOUNG SOCRATES: There is nothing wonderful in that.

STRANGER: Could any one, my friend, who began with false opinion ever
expect to arrive even at a small portion of truth and to attain wisdom?


STRANGER: Then you and I will not be far wrong in trying to see the nature
of example in general in a small and particular instance; afterwards from
lesser things we intend to pass to the royal class, which is the highest
form of the same nature, and endeavour to discover by rules of art what the
management of cities is; and then the dream will become a reality to us.


STRANGER: Then, once more, let us resume the previous argument, and as
there were innumerable rivals of the royal race who claim to have the care
of states, let us part them all off, and leave him alone; and, as I was
saying, a model or example of this process has first to be framed.


STRANGER: What model is there which is small, and yet has any analogy with
the political occupation? Suppose, Socrates, that if we have no other
example at hand, we choose weaving, or, more precisely, weaving of wool--
this will be quite enough, without taking the whole of weaving, to
illustrate our meaning?


STRANGER: Why should we not apply to weaving the same processes of
division and subdivision which we have already applied to other classes;
going once more as rapidly as we can through all the steps until we come to
that which is needed for our purpose?

YOUNG SOCRATES: How do you mean?

STRANGER: I shall reply by actually performing the process.


STRANGER: All things which we make or acquire are either creative or
preventive; of the preventive class are antidotes, divine and human, and
also defences; and defences are either military weapons or protections; and
protections are veils, and also shields against heat and cold, and shields
against heat and cold are shelters and coverings; and coverings are
blankets and garments; and garments are some of them in one piece, and
others of them are made in several parts; and of these latter some are
stitched, others are fastened and not stitched; and of the not stitched,
some are made of the sinews of plants, and some of hair; and of these,
again, some are cemented with water and earth, and others are fastened
together by themselves. And these last defences and coverings which are
fastened together by themselves are called clothes, and the art which
superintends them we may call, from the nature of the operation, the art of
clothing, just as before the art of the Statesman was derived from the
State; and may we not say that the art of weaving, at least that largest
portion of it which was concerned with the making of clothes, differs only
in name from this art of clothing, in the same way that, in the previous
case, the royal science differed from the political?


STRANGER: In the next place, let us make the reflection, that the art of
weaving clothes, which an incompetent person might fancy to have been
sufficiently described, has been separated off from several others which
are of the same family, but not from the co-operative arts.

YOUNG SOCRATES: And which are the kindred arts?

STRANGER: I see that I have not taken you with me. So I think that we had
better go backwards, starting from the end. We just now parted off from
the weaving of clothes, the making of blankets, which differ from each
other in that one is put under and the other is put around: and these are
what I termed kindred arts.

YOUNG SOCRATES: I understand.

STRANGER: And we have subtracted the manufacture of all articles made of
flax and cords, and all that we just now metaphorically termed the sinews
of plants, and we have also separated off the process of felting and the
putting together of materials by stitching and sewing, of which the most
important part is the cobbler's art.


STRANGER: Then we separated off the currier's art, which prepared
coverings in entire pieces, and the art of sheltering, and subtracted the
various arts of making water-tight which are employed in building, and in
general in carpentering, and in other crafts, and all such arts as furnish
impediments to thieving and acts of violence, and are concerned with making
the lids of boxes and the fixing of doors, being divisions of the art of
joining; and we also cut off the manufacture of arms, which is a section of
the great and manifold art of making defences; and we originally began by
parting off the whole of the magic art which is concerned with antidotes,
and have left, as would appear, the very art of which we were in search,
the art of protection against winter cold, which fabricates woollen
defences, and has the name of weaving.


STRANGER: Yes, my boy, but that is not all; for the first process to which
the material is subjected is the opposite of weaving.


STRANGER: Weaving is a sort of uniting?


STRANGER: But the first process is a separation of the clotted and matted

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I mean the work of the carder's art; for we cannot say that
carding is weaving, or that the carder is a weaver.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: Again, if a person were to say that the art of making the warp
and the woof was the art of weaving, he would say what was paradoxical and


STRANGER: Shall we say that the whole art of the fuller or of the mender
has nothing to do with the care and treatment of clothes, or are we to
regard all these as arts of weaving?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: And yet surely all these arts will maintain that they are
concerned with the treatment and production of clothes; they will dispute
the exclusive prerogative of weaving, and though assigning a larger sphere
to that, will still reserve a considerable field for themselves.


STRANGER: Besides these, there are the arts which make tools and
instruments of weaving, and which will claim at least to be co-operative
causes in every work of the weaver.


STRANGER: Well, then, suppose that we define weaving, or rather that part
of it which has been selected by us, to be the greatest and noblest of arts
which are concerned with woollen garments--shall we be right? Is not the
definition, although true, wanting in clearness and completeness; for do
not all those other arts require to be first cleared away?


STRANGER: Then the next thing will be to separate them, in order that the
argument may proceed in a regular manner?

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: Let us consider, in the first place, that there are two kinds of
arts entering into everything which we do.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What are they?

STRANGER: The one kind is the conditional or co-operative, the other the
principal cause.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: The arts which do not manufacture the actual thing, but which
furnish the necessary tools for the manufacture, without which the several
arts could not fulfil their appointed work, are co-operative; but those
which make the things themselves are causal.

YOUNG SOCRATES: A very reasonable distinction.

STRANGER: Thus the arts which make spindles, combs, and other instruments
of the production of clothes, may be called co-operative, and those which
treat and fabricate the things themselves, causal.


STRANGER: The arts of washing and mending, and the other preparatory arts
which belong to the causal class, and form a division of the great art of
adornment, may be all comprehended under what we call the fuller's art.


STRANGER: Carding and spinning threads and all the parts of the process
which are concerned with the actual manufacture of a woollen garment form a
single art, which is one of those universally acknowledged,--the art of
working in wool.


STRANGER: Of working in wool, again, there are two divisions, and both
these are parts of two arts at once.

YOUNG SOCRATES: How is that?

STRANGER: Carding and one half of the use of the comb, and the other
processes of wool-working which separate the composite, may be classed
together as belonging both to the art of wool-working, and also to one of
the two great arts which are of universal application--the art of
composition and the art of division.


STRANGER: To the latter belong carding and the other processes of which I
was just now speaking; the art of discernment or division in wool and yarn,
which is effected in one manner with the comb and in another with the
hands, is variously described under all the names which I just now


STRANGER: Again, let us take some process of wool-working which is also a
portion of the art of composition, and, dismissing the elements of division
which we found there, make two halves, one on the principle of composition,
and the other on the principle of division.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Let that be done.

STRANGER: And once more, Socrates, we must divide the part which belongs
at once both to wool-working and composition, if we are ever to discover
satisfactorily the aforesaid art of weaving.


STRANGER: Yes, certainly, and let us call one part of the art the art of
twisting threads, the other the art of combining them.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Do I understand you, in speaking of twisting, to be
referring to manufacture of the warp?

STRANGER: Yes, and of the woof too; how, if not by twisting, is the woof

YOUNG SOCRATES: There is no other way.

STRANGER: Then suppose that you define the warp and the woof, for I think
that the definition will be of use to you.

YOUNG SOCRATES: How shall I define them?

STRANGER: As thus: A piece of carded wool which is drawn out lengthwise
and breadthwise is said to be pulled out.


STRANGER: And the wool thus prepared, when twisted by the spindle, and
made into a firm thread, is called the warp, and the art which regulates
these operations the art of spinning the warp.


STRANGER: And the threads which are more loosely spun, having a softness
proportioned to the intertexture of the warp and to the degree of force
used in dressing the cloth,--the threads which are thus spun are called the
woof, and the art which is set over them may be called the art of spinning
the woof.


STRANGER: And, now, there can be no mistake about the nature of the part
of weaving which we have undertaken to define. For when that part of the
art of composition which is employed in the working of wool forms a web by
the regular intertexture of warp and woof, the entire woven substance is
called by us a woollen garment, and the art which presides over this is the
art of weaving.


STRANGER: But why did we not say at once that weaving is the art of
entwining warp and woof, instead of making a long and useless circuit?

YOUNG SOCRATES: I thought, Stranger, that there was nothing useless in
what was said.

STRANGER: Very likely, but you may not always think so, my sweet friend;
and in case any feeling of dissatisfaction should hereafter arise in your
mind, as it very well may, let me lay down a principle which will apply to
arguments in general.


STRANGER: Let us begin by considering the whole nature of excess and
defect, and then we shall have a rational ground on which we may praise or
blame too much length or too much shortness in discussions of this kind.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Let us do so.

STRANGER: The points on which I think that we ought to dwell are the


STRANGER: Length and shortness, excess and defect; with all of these the
art of measurement is conversant.


STRANGER: And the art of measurement has to be divided into two parts,
with a view to our present purpose.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Where would you make the division?

STRANGER: As thus: I would make two parts, one having regard to the
relativity of greatness and smallness to each other; and there is another,
without which the existence of production would be impossible.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Do you not think that it is only natural for the greater to be
called greater with reference to the less alone, and the less less with
reference to the greater alone?


STRANGER: Well, but is there not also something exceeding and exceeded by
the principle of the mean, both in speech and action, and is not this a
reality, and the chief mark of difference between good and bad men?


STRANGER: Then we must suppose that the great and small exist and are
discerned in both these ways, and not, as we were saying before, only
relatively to one another, but there must also be another comparison of
them with the mean or ideal standard; would you like to hear the reason


STRANGER: If we assume the greater to exist only in relation to the less,
there will never be any comparison of either with the mean.


STRANGER: And would not this doctrine be the ruin of all the arts and
their creations; would not the art of the Statesman and the aforesaid art
of weaving disappear? For all these arts are on the watch against excess
and defect, not as unrealities, but as real evils, which occasion a
difficulty in action; and the excellence or beauty of every work of art is
due to this observance of measure.


STRANGER: But if the science of the Statesman disappears, the search for
the royal science will be impossible.


STRANGER: Well, then, as in the case of the Sophist we extorted the
inference that not-being had an existence, because here was the point at
which the argument eluded our grasp, so in this we must endeavour to show
that the greater and less are not only to be measured with one another, but
also have to do with the production of the mean; for if this is not
admitted, neither a statesman nor any other man of action can be an
undisputed master of his science.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, we must certainly do again what we did then.

STRANGER: But this, Socrates, is a greater work than the other, of which
we only too well remember the length. I think, however, that we may fairly
assume something of this sort--


STRANGER: That we shall some day require this notion of a mean with a view
to the demonstration of absolute truth; meanwhile, the argument that the
very existence of the arts must be held to depend on the possibility of
measuring more or less, not only with one another, but also with a view to
the attainment of the mean, seems to afford a grand support and
satisfactory proof of the doctrine which we are maintaining; for if there
are arts, there is a standard of measure, and if there is a standard of
measure, there are arts; but if either is wanting, there is neither.

YOUNG SOCRATES: True; and what is the next step?

STRANGER: The next step clearly is to divide the art of measurement into
two parts, as we have said already, and to place in the one part all the
arts which measure number, length, depth, breadth, swiftness with their
opposites; and to have another part in which they are measured with the
mean, and the fit, and the opportune, and the due, and with all those
words, in short, which denote a mean or standard removed from the extremes.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Here are two vast divisions, embracing two very different

STRANGER: There are many accomplished men, Socrates, who say, believing
themselves to speak wisely, that the art of measurement is universal, and
has to do with all things. And this means what we are now saying; for all
things which come within the province of art do certainly in some sense
partake of measure. But these persons, because they are not accustomed to
distinguish classes according to real forms, jumble together two widely
different things, relation to one another, and to a standard, under the
idea that they are the same, and also fall into the converse error of
dividing other things not according to their real parts. Whereas the right
way is, if a man has first seen the unity of things, to go on with the
enquiry and not desist until he has found all the differences contained in
it which form distinct classes; nor again should he be able to rest
contented with the manifold diversities which are seen in a multitude of
things until he has comprehended all of them that have any affinity within
the bounds of one similarity and embraced them within the reality of a
single kind. But we have said enough on this head, and also of excess and
defect; we have only to bear in mind that two divisions of the art of
measurement have been discovered which are concerned with them, and not
forget what they are.

YOUNG SOCRATES: We will not forget.

STRANGER: And now that this discussion is completed, let us go on to
consider another question, which concerns not this argument only but the
conduct of such arguments in general.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What is this new question?

STRANGER: Take the case of a child who is engaged in learning his letters:
when he is asked what letters make up a word, should we say that the
question is intended to improve his grammatical knowledge of that
particular word, or of all words?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly, in order that he may have a better knowledge of
all words.

STRANGER: And is our enquiry about the Statesman intended only to improve
our knowledge of politics, or our power of reasoning generally?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Clearly, as in the former example, the purpose is general.

STRANGER: Still less would any rational man seek to analyse the notion of
weaving for its own sake. But people seem to forget that some things have
sensible images, which are readily known, and can be easily pointed out
when any one desires to answer an enquirer without any trouble or argument;
whereas the greatest and highest truths have no outward image of themselves
visible to man, which he who wishes to satisfy the soul of the enquirer can
adapt to the eye of sense (compare Phaedr.), and therefore we ought to
train ourselves to give and accept a rational account of them; for
immaterial things, which are the noblest and greatest, are shown only in
thought and idea, and in no other way, and all that we are now saying is
said for the sake of them. Moreover, there is always less difficulty in
fixing the mind on small matters than on great.


STRANGER: Let us call to mind the bearing of all this.


STRANGER: I wanted to get rid of any impression of tediousness which we
may have experienced in the discussion about weaving, and the reversal of
the universe, and in the discussion concerning the Sophist and the being of
not-being. I know that they were felt to be too long, and I reproached
myself with this, fearing that they might be not only tedious but
irrelevant; and all that I have now said is only designed to prevent the
recurrence of any such disagreeables for the future.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good. Will you proceed?

STRANGER: Then I would like to observe that you and I, remembering what
has been said, should praise or blame the length or shortness of
discussions, not by comparing them with one another, but with what is
fitting, having regard to the part of measurement, which, as we said, was
to be borne in mind.


STRANGER: And yet, not everything is to be judged even with a view to what
is fitting; for we should only want such a length as is suited to give
pleasure, if at all, as a secondary matter; and reason tells us, that we
should be contented to make the ease or rapidity of an enquiry, not our
first, but our second object; the first and highest of all being to assert
the great method of division according to species--whether the discourse be
shorter or longer is not to the point. No offence should be taken at
length, but the longer and shorter are to be employed indifferently,
according as either of them is better calculated to sharpen the wits of the
auditors. Reason would also say to him who censures the length of
discourses on such occasions and cannot away with their circumlocution,
that he should not be in such a hurry to have done with them, when he can
only complain that they are tedious, but he should prove that if they had
been shorter they would have made those who took part in them better
dialecticians, and more capable of expressing the truth of things; about
any other praise and blame, he need not trouble himself--he should pretend
not to hear them. But we have had enough of this, as you will probably
agree with me in thinking. Let us return to our Statesman, and apply to
his case the aforesaid example of weaving.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Very good;--let us do as you say.

STRANGER: The art of the king has been separated from the similar arts of
shepherds, and, indeed, from all those which have to do with herds at all.
There still remain, however, of the causal and co-operative arts those
which are immediately concerned with States, and which must first be
distinguished from one another.


STRANGER: You know that these arts cannot easily be divided into two
halves; the reason will be very evident as we proceed.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Then we had better do so.

STRANGER: We must carve them like a victim into members or limbs, since we
cannot bisect them. (Compare Phaedr.) For we certainly should divide
everything into as few parts as possible.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What is to be done in this case?

STRANGER: What we did in the example of weaving--all those arts which
furnish the tools were regarded by us as co-operative.


STRANGER: So now, and with still more reason, all arts which make any
implement in a State, whether great or small, may be regarded by us as co-
operative, for without them neither State nor Statesmanship would be
possible; and yet we are not inclined to say that any of them is a product
of the kingly art.


STRANGER: The task of separating this class from others is not an easy
one; for there is plausibility in saying that anything in the world is the
instrument of doing something. But there is another class of possessions
in a city, of which I have a word to say.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What class do you mean?

STRANGER: A class which may be described as not having this power; that is
to say, not like an instrument, framed for production, but designed for the
preservation of that which is produced.

YOUNG SOCRATES: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: To the class of vessels, as they are comprehensively termed,
which are constructed for the preservation of things moist and dry, of
things prepared in the fire or out of the fire; this is a very large class,
and has, if I am not mistaken, literally nothing to do with the royal art
of which we are in search.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: There is also a third class of possessions to be noted,
different from these and very extensive, moving or resting on land or
water, honourable and also dishonourable. The whole of this class has one
name, because it is intended to be sat upon, being always a seat for


STRANGER: A vehicle, which is certainly not the work of the Statesman, but
of the carpenter, potter, and coppersmith.

YOUNG SOCRATES: I understand.

STRANGER: And is there not a fourth class which is again different, and in
which most of the things formerly mentioned are contained,--every kind of
dress, most sorts of arms, walls and enclosures, whether of earth or stone,
and ten thousand other things? all of which being made for the sake of
defence, may be truly called defences, and are for the most part to be
regarded as the work of the builder or of the weaver, rather than of the


STRANGER: Shall we add a fifth class, of ornamentation and drawing, and of
the imitations produced by drawing and music, which are designed for
amusement only, and may be fairly comprehended under one name?


STRANGER: Plaything is the name.


STRANGER: That one name may be fitly predicated of all of them, for none
of these things have a serious purpose--amusement is their sole aim.

YOUNG SOCRATES: That again I understand.

STRANGER: Then there is a class which provides materials for all these,
out of which and in which the arts already mentioned fabricate their
works;--this manifold class, I say, which is the creation and offspring of
many other arts, may I not rank sixth?

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: I am referring to gold, silver, and other metals, and all that
wood-cutting and shearing of every sort provides for the art of carpentry
and plaiting; and there is the process of barking and stripping the cuticle
of plants, and the currier's art, which strips off the skins of animals,
and other similar arts which manufacture corks and papyri and cords, and
provide for the manufacture of composite species out of simple kinds--the
whole class may be termed the primitive and simple possession of man, and
with this the kingly science has no concern at all.


STRANGER: The provision of food and of all other things which mingle their
particles with the particles of the human body, and minister to the body,
will form a seventh class, which may be called by the general term of
nourishment, unless you have any better name to offer. This, however,
appertains rather to the husbandman, huntsman, trainer, doctor, cook, and
is not to be assigned to the Statesman's art.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: These seven classes include nearly every description of
property, with the exception of tame animals. Consider;--there was the
original material, which ought to have been placed first; next come
instruments, vessels, vehicles, defences, playthings, nourishment; small
things, which may be included under one of these--as for example, coins,
seals and stamps, are omitted, for they have not in them the character of
any larger kind which includes them; but some of them may, with a little
forcing, be placed among ornaments, and others may be made to harmonize
with the class of implements. The art of herding, which has been already
divided into parts, will include all property in tame animals, except


STRANGER: The class of slaves and ministers only remains, and I suspect
that in this the real aspirants for the throne, who are the rivals of the
king in the formation of the political web, will be discovered; just as
spinners, carders, and the rest of them, were the rivals of the weaver.
All the others, who were termed co-operators, have been got rid of among
the occupations already mentioned, and separated from the royal and
political science.


STRANGER: Let us go a little nearer, in order that we may be more certain
of the complexion of this remaining class.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Let us do so.

STRANGER: We shall find from our present point of view that the greatest
servants are in a case and condition which is the reverse of what we

YOUNG SOCRATES: Who are they?

STRANGER: Those who have been purchased, and have so become possessions;
these are unmistakably slaves, and certainly do not claim royal science.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: Again, freemen who of their own accord become the servants of
the other classes in a State, and who exchange and equalise the products of
husbandry and the other arts, some sitting in the market-place, others
going from city to city by land or sea, and giving money in exchange for
money or for other productions--the money-changer, the merchant, the ship-
owner, the retailer, will not put in any claim to statecraft or politics?

YOUNG SOCRATES: No; unless, indeed, to the politics of commerce.

STRANGER: But surely men whom we see acting as hirelings and serfs, and
too happy to turn their hand to anything, will not profess to share in
royal science?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly not.

STRANGER: But what would you say of some other serviceable officials?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Who are they, and what services do they perform?

STRANGER: There are heralds, and scribes perfected by practice, and divers
others who have great skill in various sorts of business connected with the
government of states--what shall we call them?

YOUNG SOCRATES: They are the officials, and servants of the rulers, as you
just now called them, but not themselves rulers.

STRANGER: There may be something strange in any servant pretending to be a
ruler, and yet I do not think that I could have been dreaming when I
imagined that the principal claimants to political science would be found
somewhere in this neighbourhood.


STRANGER: Well, let us draw nearer, and try the claims of some who have
not yet been tested: in the first place, there are diviners, who have a
portion of servile or ministerial science, and are thought to be the
interpreters of the gods to men.


STRANGER: There is also the priestly class, who, as the law declares, know
how to give the gods gifts from men in the form of sacrifices which are
acceptable to them, and to ask on our behalf blessings in return from them.
Now both these are branches of the servile or ministerial art.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, clearly.

STRANGER: And here I think that we seem to be getting on the right track;
for the priest and the diviner are swollen with pride and prerogative, and
they create an awful impression of themselves by the magnitude of their
enterprises; in Egypt, the king himself is not allowed to reign, unless he
have priestly powers, and if he should be of another class and has thrust
himself in, he must get enrolled in the priesthood. In many parts of
Hellas, the duty of offering the most solemn propitiatory sacrifices is
assigned to the highest magistracies, and here, at Athens, the most solemn
and national of the ancient sacrifices are supposed to be celebrated by him
who has been chosen by lot to be the King Archon.


STRANGER: But who are these other kings and priests elected by lot who now
come into view followed by their retainers and a vast throng, as the former
class disappears and the scene changes?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Whom can you mean?

STRANGER: They are a strange crew.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Why strange?

STRANGER: A minute ago I thought that they were animals of every tribe;
for many of them are like lions and centaurs, and many more like satyrs and
such weak and shifty creatures;--Protean shapes quickly changing into one
another's forms and natures; and now, Socrates, I begin to see who they

YOUNG SOCRATES: Who are they? You seem to be gazing on some strange

STRANGER: Yes; every one looks strange when you do not know him; and just
now I myself fell into this mistake--at first sight, coming suddenly upon
him, I did not recognize the politician and his troop.


STRANGER: The chief of Sophists and most accomplished of wizards, who must
at any cost be separated from the true king or Statesman, if we are ever to
see daylight in the present enquiry.

YOUNG SOCRATES: That is a hope not lightly to be renounced.

STRANGER: Never, if I can help it; and, first, let me ask you a question.


STRANGER: Is not monarchy a recognized form of government?


STRANGER: And, after monarchy, next in order comes the government of the


STRANGER: Is not the third form of government the rule of the multitude,
which is called by the name of democracy?


STRANGER: And do not these three expand in a manner into five, producing
out of themselves two other names?

YOUNG SOCRATES: What are they?

YOUNG SOCRATES: What are they?

STRANGER: There is a criterion of voluntary and involuntary, poverty and
riches, law and the absence of law, which men now-a-days apply to them; the
two first they subdivide accordingly, and ascribe to monarchy two forms and
two corresponding names, royalty and tyranny.


STRANGER: And the government of the few they distinguish by the names of
aristocracy and oligarchy.


STRANGER: Democracy alone, whether rigidly observing the laws or not, and
whether the multitude rule over the men of property with their consent or
against their consent, always in ordinary language has the same name.


STRANGER: But do you suppose that any form of government which is defined
by these characteristics of the one, the few, or the many, of poverty or
wealth, of voluntary or compulsory submission, of written law or the
absence of law, can be a right one?


STRANGER: Reflect; and follow me.

YOUNG SOCRATES: In what direction?

STRANGER: Shall we abide by what we said at first, or shall we retract our

YOUNG SOCRATES: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: If I am not mistaken, we said that royal power was a science?


STRANGER: And a science of a peculiar kind, which was selected out of the
rest as having a character which is at once judicial and authoritative?


STRANGER: And there was one kind of authority over lifeless things and
another other living animals; and so we proceeded in the division step by
step up to this point, not losing the idea of science, but unable as yet to
determine the nature of the particular science?


STRANGER: Hence we are led to observe that the distinguishing principle of
the State cannot be the few or many, the voluntary or involuntary, poverty
or riches; but some notion of science must enter into it, if we are to be
consistent with what has preceded.

YOUNG SOCRATES: And we must be consistent.

STRANGER: Well, then, in which of these various forms of States may the
science of government, which is among the greatest of all sciences and most
difficult to acquire, be supposed to reside? That we must discover, and
then we shall see who are the false politicians who pretend to be
politicians but are not, although they persuade many, and shall separate
them from the wise king.

YOUNG SOCRATES: That, as the argument has already intimated, will be our

STRANGER: Do you think that the multitude in a State can attain political


STRANGER: But, perhaps, in a city of a thousand men, there would be a
hundred, or say fifty, who could?

YOUNG SOCRATES: In that case political science would certainly be the
easiest of all sciences; there could not be found in a city of that number
as many really first-rate draught-players, if judged by the standard of the
rest of Hellas, and there would certainly not be as many kings. For kings
we may truly call those who possess royal science, whether they rule or
not, as was shown in the previous argument.

STRANGER: Thank you for reminding me; and the consequence is that any true
form of government can only be supposed to be the government of one, two,
or, at any rate, of a few.


STRANGER: And these, whether they rule with the will, or against the will,
of their subjects, with written laws or without written laws, and whether
they are poor or rich, and whatever be the nature of their rule, must be
supposed, according to our present view, to rule on some scientific
principle; just as the physician, whether he cures us against our will or
with our will, and whatever be his mode of treatment,--incision, burning,
or the infliction of some other pain,--whether he practises out of a book
or not out of a book, and whether he be rich or poor, whether he purges or
reduces in some other way, or even fattens his patients, is a physician all
the same, so long as he exercises authority over them according to rules of
art, if he only does them good and heals and saves them. And this we lay
down to be the only proper test of the art of medicine, or of any other art
of command.


STRANGER: Then that can be the only true form of government in which the
governors are really found to possess science, and are not mere pretenders,
whether they rule according to law or without law, over willing or
unwilling subjects, and are rich or poor themselves--none of these things
can with any propriety be included in the notion of the ruler.


STRANGER: And whether with a view to the public good they purge the State
by killing some, or exiling some; whether they reduce the size of the body
corporate by sending out from the hive swarms of citizens, or, by
introducing persons from without, increase it; while they act according to
the rules of wisdom and justice, and use their power with a view to the
general security and improvement, the city over which they rule, and which
has these characteristics, may be described as the only true State. All
other governments are not genuine or real; but only imitations of this, and
some of them are better and some of them are worse; the better are said to
be well governed, but they are mere imitations like the others.

YOUNG SOCRATES: I agree, Stranger, in the greater part of what you say;
but as to their ruling without laws--the expression has a harsh sound.

STRANGER: You have been too quick for me, Socrates; I was just going to
ask you whether you objected to any of my statements. And now I see that
we shall have to consider this notion of there being good government
without laws.


STRANGER: There can be no doubt that legislation is in a manner the
business of a king, and yet the best thing of all is not that the law
should rule, but that a man should rule supposing him to have wisdom and
royal power. Do you see why this is?


STRANGER: Because the law does not perfectly comprehend what is noblest
and most just for all and therefore cannot enforce what is best. The
differences of men and actions, and the endless irregular movements of
human things, do not admit of any universal and simple rule. And no art
whatsoever can lay down a rule which will last for all time.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Of course not.

STRANGER: But the law is always striving to make one;--like an obstinate
and ignorant tyrant, who will not allow anything to be done contrary to his
appointment, or any question to be asked--not even in sudden changes of
circumstances, when something happens to be better than what he commanded
for some one.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly; the law treats us all precisely in the manner
which you describe.

STRANGER: A perfectly simple principle can never be applied to a state of
things which is the reverse of simple.


STRANGER: Then if the law is not the perfection of right, why are we
compelled to make laws at all? The reason of this has next to be


STRANGER: Let me ask, whether you have not meetings for gymnastic contests
in your city, such as there are in other cities, at which men compete in
running, wrestling, and the like?

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes; they are very common among us.

STRANGER: And what are the rules which are enforced on their pupils by
professional trainers or by others having similar authority? Can you

YOUNG SOCRATES: To what do you refer?

STRANGER: The training-masters do not issue minute rules for individuals,
or give every individual what is exactly suited to his constitution; they
think that they ought to go more roughly to work, and to prescribe
generally the regimen which will benefit the majority.


STRANGER: And therefore they assign equal amounts of exercise to them all;
they send them forth together, and let them rest together from their
running, wrestling, or whatever the form of bodily exercise may be.


STRANGER: And now observe that the legislator who has to preside over the
herd, and to enforce justice in their dealings with one another, will not
be able, in enacting for the general good, to provide exactly what is
suitable for each particular case.

YOUNG SOCRATES: He cannot be expected to do so.

STRANGER: He will lay down laws in a general form for the majority,
roughly meeting the cases of individuals; and some of them he will deliver
in writing, and others will be unwritten; and these last will be
traditional customs of the country.

YOUNG SOCRATES: He will be right.

STRANGER: Yes, quite right; for how can he sit at every man's side all
through his life, prescribing for him the exact particulars of his duty?
Who, Socrates, would be equal to such a task? No one who really had the
royal science, if he had been able to do this, would have imposed upon
himself the restriction of a written law.

YOUNG SOCRATES: So I should infer from what has now been said.

STRANGER: Or rather, my good friend, from what is going to be said.

YOUNG SOCRATES: And what is that?

STRANGER: Let us put to ourselves the case of a physician, or trainer, who
is about to go into a far country, and is expecting to be a long time away
from his patients--thinking that his instructions will not be remembered
unless they are written down, he will leave notes of them for the use of
his pupils or patients.


STRANGER: But what would you say, if he came back sooner than he had
intended, and, owing to an unexpected change of the winds or other
celestial influences, something else happened to be better for them,--would
he not venture to suggest this new remedy, although not contemplated in his
former prescription? Would he persist in observing the original law,
neither himself giving any new commandments, nor the patient daring to do
otherwise than was prescribed, under the idea that this course only was
healthy and medicinal, all others noxious and heterodox? Viewed in the
light of science and true art, would not all such enactments be utterly


STRANGER: And if he who gave laws, written or unwritten, determining what
was good or bad, honourable or dishonourable, just or unjust, to the tribes
of men who flock together in their several cities, and are governed in
accordance with them; if, I say, the wise legislator were suddenly to come
again, or another like to him, is he to be prohibited from changing them?--
would not this prohibition be in reality quite as ridiculous as the other?


STRANGER: Do you know a plausible saying of the common people which is in

YOUNG SOCRATES: I do not recall what you mean at the moment.

STRANGER: They say that if any one knows how the ancient laws may be
improved, he must first persuade his own State of the improvement, and then
he may legislate, but not otherwise.

YOUNG SOCRATES: And are they not right?

STRANGER: I dare say. But supposing that he does use some gentle violence
for their good, what is this violence to be called? Or rather, before you
answer, let me ask the same question in reference to our previous

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: Suppose that a skilful physician has a patient, of whatever sex
or age, whom he compels against his will to do something for his good which
is contrary to the written rules; what is this compulsion to be called?
Would you ever dream of calling it a violation of the art, or a breach of
the laws of health? Nothing could be more unjust than for the patient to
whom such violence is applied, to charge the physician who practises the
violence with wanting skill or aggravating his disease.


STRANGER: In the political art error is not called disease, but evil, or
disgrace, or injustice.


STRANGER: And when the citizen, contrary to law and custom, is compelled
to do what is juster and better and nobler than he did before, the last and
most absurd thing which he could say about such violence is that he has
incurred disgrace or evil or injustice at the hands of those who compelled


STRANGER: And shall we say that the violence, if exercised by a rich man,
is just, and if by a poor man, unjust? May not any man, rich or poor, with
or without laws, with the will of the citizens or against the will of the
citizens, do what is for their interest? Is not this the true principle of
government, according to which the wise and good man will order the affairs
of his subjects? As the pilot, by watching continually over the interests
of the ship and of the crew,--not by laying down rules, but by making his
art a law,--preserves the lives of his fellow-sailors, even so, and in the
self-same way, may there not be a true form of polity created by those who
are able to govern in a similar spirit, and who show a strength of art
which is superior to the law? Nor can wise rulers ever err while they
observing the one great rule of distributing justice to the citizens with
intelligence and skill, are able to preserve them, and, as far as may be,
to make them better from being worse.

YOUNG SOCRATES: No one can deny what has been now said.

STRANGER: Neither, if you consider, can any one deny the other statement.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What was it?

STRANGER: We said that no great number of persons, whoever they may be,
can attain political knowledge, or order a State wisely, but that the true
government is to be found in a small body, or in an individual, and that
other States are but imitations of this, as we said a little while ago,
some for the better and some for the worse.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean? I cannot have understood your previous
remark about imitations.

STRANGER: And yet the mere suggestion which I hastily threw out is highly
important, even if we leave the question where it is, and do not seek by
the discussion of it to expose the error which prevails in this matter.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What do you mean?

STRANGER: The idea which has to be grasped by us is not easy or familiar;
but we may attempt to express it thus:--Supposing the government of which I
have been speaking to be the only true model, then the others must use the
written laws of this--in no other way can they be saved; they will have to
do what is now generally approved, although not the best thing in the

YOUNG SOCRATES: What is this?

STRANGER: No citizen should do anything contrary to the laws, and any
infringement of them should be punished with death and the most extreme
penalties; and this is very right and good when regarded as the second best
thing, if you set aside the first, of which I was just now speaking. Shall
I explain the nature of what I call the second best?

YOUNG SOCRATES: By all means.

STRANGER: I must again have recourse to my favourite images; through them,
and them alone, can I describe kings and rulers.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What images?

STRANGER: The noble pilot and the wise physician, who 'is worth many
another man'--in the similitude of these let us endeavour to discover some
image of the king.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What sort of an image?

STRANGER: Well, such as this:--Every man will reflect that he suffers
strange things at the hands of both of them; the physician saves any whom
he wishes to save, and any whom he wishes to maltreat he maltreats--cutting
or burning them; and at the same time requiring them to bring him payments,
which are a sort of tribute, of which little or nothing is spent upon the
sick man, and the greater part is consumed by him and his domestics; and
the finale is that he receives money from the relations of the sick man or
from some enemy of his, and puts him out of the way. And the pilots of
ships are guilty of numberless evil deeds of the same kind; they
intentionally play false and leave you ashore when the hour of sailing
arrives; or they cause mishaps at sea and cast away their freight; and are
guilty of other rogueries. Now suppose that we, bearing all this in mind,
were to determine, after consideration, that neither of these arts shall
any longer be allowed to exercise absolute control either over freemen or
over slaves, but that we will summon an assembly either of all the people,
or of the rich only, that anybody who likes, whatever may be his calling,
or even if he have no calling, may offer an opinion either about seamanship
or about diseases--whether as to the manner in which physic or surgical
instruments are to be applied to the patient, or again about the vessels
and the nautical implements which are required in navigation, and how to
meet the dangers of winds and waves which are incidental to the voyage, how
to behave when encountering pirates, and what is to be done with the old-
fashioned galleys, if they have to fight with others of a similar build--
and that, whatever shall be decreed by the multitude on these points, upon
the advice of persons skilled or unskilled, shall be written down on
triangular tablets and columns, or enacted although unwritten to be
national customs; and that in all future time vessels shall be navigated
and remedies administered to the patient after this fashion.

YOUNG SOCRATES: What a strange notion!

STRANGER: Suppose further, that the pilots and physicians are appointed
annually, either out of the rich, or out of the whole people, and that they
are elected by lot; and that after their election they navigate vessels and
heal the sick according to the written rules.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Worse and worse.

STRANGER: But hear what follows:--When the year of office has expired, the
pilot or physician has to come before a court of review, in which the
judges are either selected from the wealthy classes or chosen by lot out of
the whole people; and anybody who pleases may be their accuser, and may lay
to their charge, that during the past year they have not navigated their
vessels or healed their patients according to the letter of the law and the
ancient customs of their ancestors; and if either of them is condemned,
some of the judges must fix what he is to suffer or pay.

YOUNG SOCRATES: He who is willing to take a command under such conditions,
deserves to suffer any penalty.

STRANGER: Yet once more, we shall have to enact that if any one is
detected enquiring into piloting and navigation, or into health and the
true nature of medicine, or about the winds, or other conditions of the
atmosphere, contrary to the written rules, and has any ingenious notions
about such matters, he is not to be called a pilot or physician, but a
cloudy prating sophist;--further, on the ground that he is a corrupter of
the young, who would persuade them to follow the art of medicine or
piloting in an unlawful manner, and to exercise an arbitrary rule over
their patients or ships, any one who is qualified by law may inform against
him, and indict him in some court, and then if he is found to be persuading
any, whether young or old, to act contrary to the written law, he is to be
punished with the utmost rigour; for no one should presume to be wiser than
the laws; and as touching healing and health and piloting and navigation,
the nature of them is known to all, for anybody may learn the written laws
and the national customs. If such were the mode of procedure, Socrates,
about these sciences and about generalship, and any branch of hunting, or
about painting or imitation in general, or carpentry, or any sort of
handicraft, or husbandry, or planting, or if we were to see an art of
rearing horses, or tending herds, or divination, or any ministerial
service, or draught-playing, or any science conversant with number, whether
simple or square or cube, or comprising motion,--I say, if all these things
were done in this way according to written regulations, and not according
to art, what would be the result?

YOUNG SOCRATES: All the arts would utterly perish, and could never be
recovered, because enquiry would be unlawful. And human life, which is bad
enough already, would then become utterly unendurable.

STRANGER: But what, if while compelling all these operations to be
regulated by written law, we were to appoint as the guardian of the laws
some one elected by a show of hands, or by lot, and he caring nothing about
the laws, were to act contrary to them from motives of interest or favour,
and without knowledge,--would not this be a still worse evil than the


STRANGER: To go against the laws, which are based upon long experience,
and the wisdom of counsellors who have graciously recommended them and
persuaded the multitude to pass them, would be a far greater and more
ruinous error than any adherence to written law?


STRANGER: Therefore, as there is a danger of this, the next best thing in
legislating is not to allow either the individual or the multitude to break
the law in any respect whatever.


STRANGER: The laws would be copies of the true particulars of action as
far as they admit of being written down from the lips of those who have

YOUNG SOCRATES: Certainly they would.

STRANGER: And, as we were saying, he who has knowledge and is a true
Statesman, will do many things within his own sphere of action by his art
without regard to the laws, when he is of opinion that something other than
that which he has written down and enjoined to be observed during his
absence would be better.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, we said so.

STRANGER: And any individual or any number of men, having fixed laws, in
acting contrary to them with a view to something better, would only be
acting, as far as they are able, like the true Statesman?


STRANGER: If they had no knowledge of what they were doing, they would
imitate the truth, and they would always imitate ill; but if they had
knowledge, the imitation would be the perfect truth, and an imitation no


STRANGER: And the principle that no great number of men are able to
acquire a knowledge of any art has been already admitted by us.

YOUNG SOCRATES: Yes, it has.

STRANGER: Then the royal or political art, if there be such an art, will
never be attained either by the wealthy or by the other mob.


STRANGER: Then the nearest approach which these lower forms of government
can ever make to the true government of the one scientific ruler, is to do
nothing contrary to their own written laws and national customs.


STRANGER: When the rich imitate the true form, such a government is called
aristocracy; and when they are regardless of the laws, oligarchy.


STRANGER: Or again, when an individual rules according to law in imitation
of him who knows, we call him a king; and if he rules according to law, we
give him the same name, whether he rules with opinion or with knowledge.


STRANGER: And when an individual truly possessing knowledge rules, his
name will surely be the same--he will be called a king; and thus the five
names of governments, as they are now reckoned, become one.

YOUNG SOCRATES: That is true.

STRANGER: And when an individual ruler governs neither by law nor by
custom, but following in the steps of the true man of science pretends that
he can only act for the best by violating the laws, while in reality
appetite and ignorance are the motives of the imitation, may not such an
one be called a tyrant?


STRANGER: And this we believe to be the origin of the tyrant and the king,
of oligarchies, and aristocracies, and democracies,--because men are
offended at the one monarch, and can never be made to believe that any one
can be worthy of such authority, or is able and willing in the spirit of
virtue and knowledge to act justly and holily to all; they fancy that he
will be a despot who will wrong and harm and slay whom he pleases of us;
for if there could be such a despot as we describe, they would acknowledge
that we ought to be too glad to have him, and that he alone would be the
happy ruler of a true and perfect State.


STRANGER: But then, as the State is not like a beehive, and has no natural
head who is at once recognized to be the superior both in body and in mind,
mankind are obliged to meet and make laws, and endeavour to approach as
nearly as they can to the true form of government.

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