Part 10 out of 12
and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends
again without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas,
and in ideas she ends.
I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me to be
describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate, I
understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science of
dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they
are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also
contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because
they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who
contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason upon them,
although when a first principle is added to them they are cognizable by the
higher reason. And the habit which is concerned with geometry and the
cognate sciences I suppose that you would term understanding and not
reason, as being intermediate between opinion and reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, corresponding to
these four divisions, let there be four faculties in the soul--reason
answering to the highest, understanding to the second, faith (or
conviction) to the third, and perception of shadows to the last--and let
there be a scale of them, and let us suppose that the several faculties
have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.
I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your arrangement.
And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened
or unenlightened:--Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which
has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here
they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained
so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by
the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is
blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a
raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way,
like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which
they show the puppets.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of
vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and
various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking,
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the
shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were
never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only
see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose
that they were naming what was actually before them?
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other
side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that
the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of
That is certain.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are
released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is
liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and
walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will
distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his
former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to
him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is
approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real
existence, he has a clearer vision,--what will be his reply? And you may
further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass
and requiring him to name them,--will he not be perplexed? Will he not
fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects
which are now shown to him?
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a
pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the
objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in
reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
True, he said.
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged
ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun
himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches
the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything
at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And
first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other
objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze
upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he
will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of
the sun by day?
Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him
in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in
another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the
years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a
certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been
accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and
his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself
on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves on
those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which
of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and
who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you
think that he would care for such honours and glories, or envy the
possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
'Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,'
and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain
these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be
replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes
full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows
with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was
still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would
be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable),
would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down
he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of
ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the
light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the
previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the
fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the
journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world
according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed--
whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my
opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of
all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to
be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light
and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of
reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which
he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to this
beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for their souls
are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which
desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a
ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has become
accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to fight in courts
of law, or in other places, about the images or the shadows of images of
justice, and is endeavouring to meet the conceptions of those who have
never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the
eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of
the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye,
quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees
any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh;
he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter
life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having
turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will
count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity
the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from
below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh
which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when
they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there
before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists
in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from
darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of
knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the
world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the
sight of being, and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words,
of the good.
And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest
and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists
already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away
from the truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to
bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can be
implanted later by habit and exercise, the virtue of wisdom more than
anything else contains a divine element which always remains, and by this
conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, on the other hand,
hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the narrow intelligence
flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue--how eager he is, how clearly
his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he is the reverse of blind, but
his keen eye-sight is forced into the service of evil, and he is
mischievous in proportion to his cleverness?
Very true, he said.
But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the days of
their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual pleasures, such
as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were attached to them
at their birth, and which drag them down and turn the vision of their souls
upon the things that are below--if, I say, they had been released from
these impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same
faculty in them would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their
eyes are turned to now.
Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely, or rather a
necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the uneducated and
uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make an end of their
education, will be able ministers of State; not the former, because they
have no single aim of duty which is the rule of all their actions, private
as well as public; nor the latter, because they will not act at all except
upon compulsion, fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the
islands of the blest.
Very true, he replied.
Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State will be
to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already
shown to be the greatest of all--they must continue to ascend until they
arrive at the good; but when they have ascended and seen enough we must not
allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be allowed;
they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the den, and
partake of their labours and honours, whether they are worth having or not.
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life, when
they might have a better?
You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the
legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy
above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he held the
citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them benefactors of
the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to this end he created
them, not to please themselves, but to be his instruments in binding up the
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling our
philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall explain to
them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share in
the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow up at their
own sweet will, and the government would rather not have them. Being
self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any gratitude for a culture
which they have never received. But we have brought you into the world to
be rulers of the hive, kings of yourselves and of the other citizens, and
have educated you far better and more perfectly than they have been
educated, and you are better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore
each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to the general underground
abode, and get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the
habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the
den, and you will know what the several images are, and what they
represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their
truth. And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a reality, and not
a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other
States, in which men fight with one another about shadows only and are
distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes is a great good.
Whereas the truth is that the State in which the rulers are most reluctant
to govern is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in
which they are most eager, the worst.
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn at the
toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater part of their
time with one another in the heavenly light?
Impossible, he answered; for they are just men, and the commands which we
impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt that every one of them
will take office as a stern necessity, and not after the fashion of our
present rulers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said; and there lies the point. You must contrive for
your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler, and then
you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the State which offers this,
will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver and gold, but in virtue
and wisdom, which are the true blessings of life. Whereas if they go to
the administration of public affairs, poor and hungering after their own
private advantage, thinking that hence they are to snatch the chief good,
order there can never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the
civil and domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers
themselves and of the whole State.
Most true, he replied.
And the only life which looks down upon the life of political ambition is
that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?
Indeed, I do not, he said.
And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task? For, if they are,
there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? Surely they will
be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and by whom the State is
best administered, and who at the same time have other honours and another
and a better life than that of politics?
They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be produced, and
how they are to be brought from darkness to light,--as some are said to
have ascended from the world below to the gods?
By all means, he replied.
The process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell (In
allusion to a game in which two parties fled or pursued according as an
oyster-shell which was thrown into the air fell with the dark or light side
uppermost.), but the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is
little better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from
below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?
And should we not enquire what sort of knowledge has the power of effecting
such a change?
What sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from becoming to
being? And another consideration has just occurred to me: You will
remember that our young men are to be warrior athletes?
Yes, that was said.
Then this new kind of knowledge must have an additional quality?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were there not?
There was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay of the body,
and may therefore be regarded as having to do with generation and
Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover?
But what do you say of music, which also entered to a certain extent into
our former scheme?
Music, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart of gymnastic, and
trained the guardians by the influences of habit, by harmony making them
harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical, but not giving them science; and the
words, whether fabulous or possibly true, had kindred elements of rhythm
and harmony in them. But in music there was nothing which tended to that
good which you are now seeking.
You are most accurate, I said, in your recollection; in music there
certainly was nothing of the kind. But what branch of knowledge is there,
my dear Glaucon, which is of the desired nature; since all the useful arts
were reckoned mean by us?
Undoubtedly; and yet if music and gymnastic are excluded, and the arts are
also excluded, what remains?
Well, I said, there may be nothing left of our special subjects; and then
we shall have to take something which is not special, but of universal
What may that be?
A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences use in common,
and which every one first has to learn among the elements of education.
What is that?
The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three--in a word, number
and calculation:--do not all arts and sciences necessarily partake of them?
Then the art of war partakes of them?
To be sure.
Then Palamedes, whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon
ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark how he declares
that he had invented number, and had numbered the ships and set in array
the ranks of the army at Troy; which implies that they had never been
numbered before, and Agamemnon must be supposed literally to have been
incapable of counting his own feet--how could he if he was ignorant of
number? And if that is true, what sort of general must he have been?
I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of arithmetic?
Certainly he should, if he is to have the smallest understanding of
military tactics, or indeed, I should rather say, if he is to be a man at
I should like to know whether you have the same notion which I have of this
What is your notion?
It appears to me to be a study of the kind which we are seeking, and which
leads naturally to reflection, but never to have been rightly used; for the
true use of it is simply to draw the soul towards being.
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
I will try, I said; and I wish you would share the enquiry with me, and say
'yes' or 'no' when I attempt to distinguish in my own mind what branches of
knowledge have this attracting power, in order that we may have clearer
proof that arithmetic is, as I suspect, one of them.
Explain, he said.
I mean to say that objects of sense are of two kinds; some of them do not
invite thought because the sense is an adequate judge of them; while in the
case of other objects sense is so untrustworthy that further enquiry is
You are clearly referring, he said, to the manner in which the senses are
imposed upon by distance, and by painting in light and shade.
No, I said, that is not at all my meaning.
Then what is your meaning?
When speaking of uninviting objects, I mean those which do not pass from
one sensation to the opposite; inviting objects are those which do; in this
latter case the sense coming upon the object, whether at a distance or
near, gives no more vivid idea of anything in particular than of its
opposite. An illustration will make my meaning clearer:--here are three
fingers--a little finger, a second finger, and a middle finger.
You may suppose that they are seen quite close: And here comes the point.
What is it?
Each of them equally appears a finger, whether seen in the middle or at the
extremity, whether white or black, or thick or thin--it makes no
difference; a finger is a finger all the same. In these cases a man is not
compelled to ask of thought the question what is a finger? for the sight
never intimates to the mind that a finger is other than a finger.
And therefore, I said, as we might expect, there is nothing here which
invites or excites intelligence.
There is not, he said.
But is this equally true of the greatness and smallness of the fingers?
Can sight adequately perceive them? and is no difference made by the
circumstance that one of the fingers is in the middle and another at the
extremity? And in like manner does the touch adequately perceive the
qualities of thickness or thinness, of softness or hardness? And so of the
other senses; do they give perfect intimations of such matters? Is not
their mode of operation on this wise--the sense which is concerned with the
quality of hardness is necessarily concerned also with the quality of
softness, and only intimates to the soul that the same thing is felt to be
both hard and soft?
You are quite right, he said.
And must not the soul be perplexed at this intimation which the sense gives
of a hard which is also soft? What, again, is the meaning of light and
heavy, if that which is light is also heavy, and that which is heavy,
Yes, he said, these intimations which the soul receives are very curious
and require to be explained.
Yes, I said, and in these perplexities the soul naturally summons to her
aid calculation and intelligence, that she may see whether the several
objects announced to her are one or two.
And if they turn out to be two, is not each of them one and different?
And if each is one, and both are two, she will conceive the two as in a
state of division, for if there were undivided they could only be conceived
of as one?
The eye certainly did see both small and great, but only in a confused
manner; they were not distinguished.
Whereas the thinking mind, intending to light up the chaos, was compelled
to reverse the process, and look at small and great as separate and not
Was not this the beginning of the enquiry 'What is great?' and 'What is
And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.
This was what I meant when I spoke of impressions which invited the
intellect, or the reverse--those which are simultaneous with opposite
impressions, invite thought; those which are not simultaneous do not.
I understand, he said, and agree with you.
And to which class do unity and number belong?
I do not know, he replied.
Think a little and you will see that what has preceded will supply the
answer; for if simple unity could be adequately perceived by the sight or
by any other sense, then, as we were saying in the case of the finger,
there would be nothing to attract towards being; but when there is some
contradiction always present, and one is the reverse of one and involves
the conception of plurality, then thought begins to be aroused within us,
and the soul perplexed and wanting to arrive at a decision asks 'What is
absolute unity?' This is the way in which the study of the one has a power
of drawing and converting the mind to the contemplation of true being.
And surely, he said, this occurs notably in the case of one; for we see the
same thing to be both one and infinite in multitude?
Yes, I said; and this being true of one must be equally true of all number?
And all arithmetic and calculation have to do with number?
And they appear to lead the mind towards truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
Then this is knowledge of the kind for which we are seeking, having a
double use, military and philosophical; for the man of war must learn the
art of number or he will not know how to array his troops, and the
philosopher also, because he has to rise out of the sea of change and lay
hold of true being, and therefore he must be an arithmetician.
That is true.
And our guardian is both warrior and philosopher?
Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly prescribe; and
we must endeavour to persuade those who are to be the principal men of our
State to go and learn arithmetic, not as amateurs, but they must carry on
the study until they see the nature of numbers with the mind only; nor
again, like merchants or retail-traders, with a view to buying or selling,
but for the sake of their military use, and of the soul herself; and
because this will be the easiest way for her to pass from becoming to truth
That is excellent, he said.
Yes, I said, and now having spoken of it, I must add how charming the
science is! and in how many ways it conduces to our desired end, if pursued
in the spirit of a philosopher, and not of a shopkeeper!
How do you mean?
I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and elevating
effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, and rebelling
against the introduction of visible or tangible objects into the argument.
You know how steadily the masters of the art repel and ridicule any one who
attempts to divide absolute unity when he is calculating, and if you
divide, they multiply (Meaning either (1) that they integrate the number
because they deny the possibility of fractions; or (2) that division is
regarded by them as a process of multiplication, for the fractions of one
continue to be units.), taking care that one shall continue one and not
become lost in fractions.
That is very true.
Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are these
wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as you say,
there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit is equal, invariable,
indivisible,--what would they answer?
They would answer, as I should conceive, that they were speaking of those
numbers which can only be realized in thought.
Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called necessary,
necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence in the
attainment of pure truth?
Yes; that is a marked characteristic of it.
And have you further observed, that those who have a natural talent for
calculation are generally quick at every other kind of knowledge; and even
the dull, if they have had an arithmetical training, although they may
derive no other advantage from it, always become much quicker than they
would otherwise have been.
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study, and not many
You will not.
And, for all these reasons, arithmetic is a kind of knowledge in which the
best natures should be trained, and which must not be given up.
Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next, shall we
enquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?
You mean geometry?
Clearly, he said, we are concerned with that part of geometry which relates
to war; for in pitching a camp, or taking up a position, or closing or
extending the lines of an army, or any other military manoeuvre, whether in
actual battle or on a march, it will make all the difference whether a
general is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said, but for that purpose a very little of either geometry or
calculation will be enough; the question relates rather to the greater and
more advanced part of geometry--whether that tends in any degree to make
more easy the vision of the idea of good; and thither, as I was saying, all
things tend which compel the soul to turn her gaze towards that place,
where is the full perfection of being, which she ought, by all means, to
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us; if becoming
only, it does not concern us?
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will not deny that
such a conception of the science is in flat contradiction to the ordinary
language of geometricians.
They have in view practice only, and are always speaking, in a narrow and
ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and applying and the like--
they confuse the necessities of geometry with those of daily life; whereas
knowledge is the real object of the whole science.
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made?
That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal, and
not of aught perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards truth, and
create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is now unhappily
allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect.
Then nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the inhabitants of
your fair city should by all means learn geometry. Moreover the science
has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
There are the military advantages of which you spoke, I said; and in all
departments of knowledge, as experience proves, any one who has studied
geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehension than one who has not.
Yes indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference between them.
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge which our youth
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third--what do you say?
I am strongly inclined to it, he said; the observation of the seasons and
of months and years is as essential to the general as it is to the farmer
I am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes you guard
against the appearance of insisting upon useless studies; and I quite admit
the difficulty of believing that in every man there is an eye of the soul
which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed, is by these purified and
re-illumined; and is more precious far than ten thousand bodily eyes, for
by it alone is truth seen. Now there are two classes of persons: one
class of those who will agree with you and will take your words as a
revelation; another class to whom they will be utterly unmeaning, and who
will naturally deem them to be idle tales, for they see no sort of profit
which is to be obtained from them. And therefore you had better decide at
once with which of the two you are proposing to argue. You will very
likely say with neither, and that your chief aim in carrying on the
argument is your own improvement; at the same time you do not grudge to
others any benefit which they may receive.
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly on my own
Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the order of the
What was the mistake? he said.
After plane geometry, I said, we proceeded at once to solids in revolution,
instead of taking solids in themselves; whereas after the second dimension
the third, which is concerned with cubes and dimensions of depth, ought to
That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet about these
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons:--in the first place, no government
patronises them; this leads to a want of energy in the pursuit of them, and
they are difficult; in the second place, students cannot learn them unless
they have a director. But then a director can hardly be found, and even if
he could, as matters now stand, the students, who are very conceited, would
not attend to him. That, however, would be otherwise if the whole State
became the director of these studies and gave honour to them; then
disciples would want to come, and there would be continuous and earnest
search, and discoveries would be made; since even now, disregarded as they
are by the world, and maimed of their fair proportions, and although none
of their votaries can tell the use of them, still these studies force their
way by their natural charm, and very likely, if they had the help of the
State, they would some day emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable charm in them. But I do not clearly
understand the change in the order. First you began with a geometry of
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step backward?
Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state of solid
geometry, which, in natural order, should have followed, made me pass over
this branch and go on to astronomy, or motion of solids.
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into existence if
encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy, which will be fourth.
The right order, he replied. And now, Socrates, as you rebuked the vulgar
manner in which I praised astronomy before, my praise shall be given in
your own spirit. For every one, as I think, must see that astronomy
compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.
Every one but myself, I said; to every one else this may be clear, but not
And what then would you say?
I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy appear
to me to make us look downwards and not upwards.
What do you mean? he asked.
You, I replied, have in your mind a truly sublime conception of our
knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a person were to
throw his head back and study the fretted ceiling, you would still think
that his mind was the percipient, and not his eyes. And you are very
likely right, and I may be a simpleton: but, in my opinion, that knowledge
only which is of being and of the unseen can make the soul look upwards,
and whether a man gapes at the heavens or blinks on the ground, seeking to
learn some particular of sense, I would deny that he can learn, for nothing
of that sort is matter of science; his soul is looking downwards, not
upwards, whether his way to knowledge is by water or by land, whether he
floats, or only lies on his back.
I acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I should like
to ascertain how astronomy can be learned in any manner more conducive to
that knowledge of which we are speaking?
I will tell you, I said: The starry heaven which we behold is wrought upon
a visible ground, and therefore, although the fairest and most perfect of
visible things, must necessarily be deemed inferior far to the true motions
of absolute swiftness and absolute slowness, which are relative to each
other, and carry with them that which is contained in them, in the true
number and in every true figure. Now, these are to be apprehended by
reason and intelligence, but not by sight.
True, he replied.
The spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and with a view to that
higher knowledge; their beauty is like the beauty of figures or pictures
excellently wrought by the hand of Daedalus, or some other great artist,
which we may chance to behold; any geometrician who saw them would
appreciate the exquisiteness of their workmanship, but he would never dream
of thinking that in them he could find the true equal or the true double,
or the truth of any other proportion.
No, he replied, such an idea would be ridiculous.
And will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he looks at the
movements of the stars? Will he not think that heaven and the things in
heaven are framed by the Creator of them in the most perfect manner? But
he will never imagine that the proportions of night and day, or of both to
the month, or of the month to the year, or of the stars to these and to one
another, and any other things that are material and visible can also be
eternal and subject to no deviation--that would be absurd; and it is
equally absurd to take so much pains in investigating their exact truth.
I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.
Then, I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ problems, and
let the heavens alone if we would approach the subject in the right way and
so make the natural gift of reason to be of any real use.
That, he said, is a work infinitely beyond our present astronomers.
Yes, I said; and there are many other things which must also have a similar
extension given to them, if our legislation is to be of any value. But can
you tell me of any other suitable study?
No, he said, not without thinking.
Motion, I said, has many forms, and not one only; two of them are obvious
enough even to wits no better than ours; and there are others, as I
imagine, which may be left to wiser persons.
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one already
And what may that be?
The second, I said, would seem relatively to the ears to be what the first
is to the eyes; for I conceive that as the eyes are designed to look up at
the stars, so are the ears to hear harmonious motions; and these are sister
sciences--as the Pythagoreans say, and we, Glaucon, agree with them?
Yes, he replied.
But this, I said, is a laborious study, and therefore we had better go and
learn of them; and they will tell us whether there are any other
applications of these sciences. At the same time, we must not lose sight
of our own higher object.
What is that?
There is a perfection which all knowledge ought to reach, and which our
pupils ought also to attain, and not to fall short of, as I was saying that
they did in astronomy. For in the science of harmony, as you probably
know, the same thing happens. The teachers of harmony compare the sounds
and consonances which are heard only, and their labour, like that of the
astronomers, is in vain.
Yes, by heaven! he said; and 'tis as good as a play to hear them talking
about their condensed notes, as they call them; they put their ears close
alongside of the strings like persons catching a sound from their
neighbour's wall--one set of them declaring that they distinguish an
intermediate note and have found the least interval which should be the
unit of measurement; the others insisting that the two sounds have passed
into the same--either party setting their ears before their understanding.
You mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the strings and
rack them on the pegs of the instrument: I might carry on the metaphor and
speak after their manner of the blows which the plectrum gives, and make
accusations against the strings, both of backwardness and forwardness to
sound; but this would be tedious, and therefore I will only say that these
are not the men, and that I am referring to the Pythagoreans, of whom I was
just now proposing to enquire about harmony. For they too are in error,
like the astronomers; they investigate the numbers of the harmonies which
are heard, but they never attain to problems--that is to say, they never
reach the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers are
harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of more than mortal knowledge.
A thing, I replied, which I would rather call useful; that is, if sought
after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if pursued in any other
Very true, he said.
Now, when all these studies reach the point of inter-communion and
connection with one another, and come to be considered in their mutual
affinities, then, I think, but not till then, will the pursuit of them have
a value for our objects; otherwise there is no profit in them.
I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work.
What do you mean? I said; the prelude or what? Do you not know that all
this is but the prelude to the actual strain which we have to learn? For
you surely would not regard the skilled mathematician as a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was
capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a reason will
have the knowledge which we require of them?
Neither can this be supposed.
And so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn of dialectic.
This is that strain which is of the intellect only, but which the faculty
of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate; for sight, as you may
remember, was imagined by us after a while to behold the real animals and
stars, and last of all the sun himself. And so with dialectic; when a
person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only,
and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure
intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he at last
finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight
at the end of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?
But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their translation from
the shadows to the images and to the light, and the ascent from the
underground den to the sun, while in his presence they are vainly trying to
look on animals and plants and the light of the sun, but are able to
perceive even with their weak eyes the images in the water (which are
divine), and are the shadows of true existence (not shadows of images cast
by a light of fire, which compared with the sun is only an image)--this
power of elevating the highest principle in the soul to the contemplation
of that which is best in existence, with which we may compare the raising
of that faculty which is the very light of the body to the sight of that
which is brightest in the material and visible world--this power is given,
as I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which has been
I agree in what you are saying, he replied, which may be hard to believe,
yet, from another point of view, is harder still to deny. This, however,
is not a theme to be treated of in passing only, but will have to be
discussed again and again. And so, whether our conclusion be true or
false, let us assume all this, and proceed at once from the prelude or
preamble to the chief strain (A play upon the Greek word, which means both
'law' and 'strain.'), and describe that in like manner. Say, then, what is
the nature and what are the divisions of dialectic, and what are the paths
which lead thither; for these paths will also lead to our final rest.
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be able to follow me here, though I
would do my best, and you should behold not an image only but the absolute
truth, according to my notion. Whether what I told you would or would not
have been a reality I cannot venture to say; but you would have seen
something like reality; of that I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
But I must also remind you, that the power of dialectic alone can reveal
this, and only to one who is a disciple of the previous sciences.
Of that assertion you may be as confident as of the last.
And assuredly no one will argue that there is any other method of
comprehending by any regular process all true existence or of ascertaining
what each thing is in its own nature; for the arts in general are concerned
with the desires or opinions of men, or are cultivated with a view to
production and construction, or for the preservation of such productions
and constructions; and as to the mathematical sciences which, as we were
saying, have some apprehension of true being--geometry and the like--they
only dream about being, but never can they behold the waking reality so
long as they leave the hypotheses which they use unexamined, and are unable
to give an account of them. For when a man knows not his own first
principle, and when the conclusion and intermediate steps are also
constructed out of he knows not what, how can he imagine that such a fabric
of convention can ever become science?
Impossible, he said.
Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle
and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make
her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is literally buried in an
outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid lifted upwards; and she uses as
handmaids and helpers in the work of conversion, the sciences which we have
been discussing. Custom terms them sciences, but they ought to have some
other name, implying greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than
science: and this, in our previous sketch, was called understanding. But
why should we dispute about names when we have realities of such importance
Why indeed, he said, when any name will do which expresses the thought of
the mind with clearness?
At any rate, we are satisfied, as before, to have four divisions; two for
intellect and two for opinion, and to call the first division science, the
second understanding, the third belief, and the fourth perception of
shadows, opinion being concerned with becoming, and intellect with being;
and so to make a proportion:--
As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion.
And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding
to the perception of shadows.
But let us defer the further correlation and subdivision of the subjects of
opinion and of intellect, for it will be a long enquiry, many times longer
than this has been.
As far as I understand, he said, I agree.
And do you also agree, I said, in describing the dialectician as one who
attains a conception of the essence of each thing? And he who does not
possess and is therefore unable to impart this conception, in whatever
degree he fails, may in that degree also be said to fail in intelligence?
Will you admit so much?
Yes, he said; how can I deny it?
And you would say the same of the conception of the good? Until the person
is able to abstract and define rationally the idea of good, and unless he
can run the gauntlet of all objections, and is ready to disprove them, not
by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth, never faltering at any step
of the argument--unless he can do all this, you would say that he knows
neither the idea of good nor any other good; he apprehends only a shadow,
if anything at all, which is given by opinion and not by science;--dreaming
and slumbering in this life, before he is well awake here, he arrives at
the world below, and has his final quietus.
In all that I should most certainly agree with you.
And surely you would not have the children of your ideal State, whom you
are nurturing and educating--if the ideal ever becomes a reality--you would
not allow the future rulers to be like posts (Literally 'lines,' probably
the starting-point of a race-course.), having no reason in them, and yet to
be set in authority over the highest matters?
Then you will make a law that they shall have such an education as will
enable them to attain the greatest skill in asking and answering questions?
Yes, he said, you and I together will make it.
Dialectic, then, as you will agree, is the coping-stone of the sciences,
and is set over them; no other science can be placed higher--the nature of
knowledge can no further go?
I agree, he said.
But to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way they are to be
assigned, are questions which remain to be considered.
You remember, I said, how the rulers were chosen before?
Certainly, he said.
The same natures must still be chosen, and the preference again given to
the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest; and, having
noble and generous tempers, they should also have the natural gifts which
will facilitate their education.
And what are these?
Such gifts as keenness and ready powers of acquisition; for the mind more
often faints from the severity of study than from the severity of
gymnastics: the toil is more entirely the mind's own, and is not shared
with the body.
Very true, he replied.
Further, he of whom we are in search should have a good memory, and be an
unwearied solid man who is a lover of labour in any line; or he will never
be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise and to go through all
the intellectual discipline and study which we require of him.
Certainly, he said; he must have natural gifts.
The mistake at present is, that those who study philosophy have no
vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is the reason why she has
fallen into disrepute: her true sons should take her by the hand and not
What do you mean?
In the first place, her votary should not have a lame or halting industry--
I mean, that he should not be half industrious and half idle: as, for
example, when a man is a lover of gymnastic and hunting, and all other
bodily exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of the labour of learning
or listening or enquiring. Or the occupation to which he devotes himself
may be of an opposite kind, and he may have the other sort of lameness.
Certainly, he said.
And as to truth, I said, is not a soul equally to be deemed halt and lame
which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant at herself and
others when they tell lies, but is patient of involuntary falsehood, and
does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the mire of ignorance, and
has no shame at being detected?
To be sure.
And, again, in respect of temperance, courage, magnificence, and every
other virtue, should we not carefully distinguish between the true son and
the bastard? for where there is no discernment of such qualities states and
individuals unconsciously err; and the state makes a ruler, and the
individual a friend, of one who, being defective in some part of virtue, is
in a figure lame or a bastard.
That is very true, he said.
All these things, then, will have to be carefully considered by us; and if
only those whom we introduce to this vast system of education and training
are sound in body and mind, justice herself will have nothing to say
against us, and we shall be the saviours of the constitution and of the
State; but, if our pupils are men of another stamp, the reverse will
happen, and we shall pour a still greater flood of ridicule on philosophy
than she has to endure at present.
That would not be creditable.
Certainly not, I said; and yet perhaps, in thus turning jest into earnest I
am equally ridiculous.
In what respect?
I had forgotten, I said, that we were not serious, and spoke with too much
excitement. For when I saw philosophy so undeservedly trampled under foot
of men I could not help feeling a sort of indignation at the authors of her
disgrace: and my anger made me too vehement.
Indeed! I was listening, and did not think so.
But I, who am the speaker, felt that I was. And now let me remind you
that, although in our former selection we chose old men, we must not do so
in this. Solon was under a delusion when he said that a man when he grows
old may learn many things--for he can no more learn much than he can run
much; youth is the time for any extraordinary toil.
And, therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other elements of
instruction, which are a preparation for dialectic, should be presented to
the mind in childhood; not, however, under any notion of forcing our system
Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of knowledge
of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body;
but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the
Then, my good friend, I said, do not use compulsion, but let early
education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to find out
the natural bent.
That is a very rational notion, he said.
Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see the battle
on horseback; and that if there were no danger they were to be brought
close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood given them?
Yes, I remember.
The same practice may be followed, I said, in all these things--labours,
lessons, dangers--and he who is most at home in all of them ought to be
enrolled in a select number.
At what age?
At the age when the necessary gymnastics are over: the period whether of
two or three years which passes in this sort of training is useless for any
other purpose; for sleep and exercise are unpropitious to learning; and the
trial of who is first in gymnastic exercises is one of the most important
tests to which our youth are subjected.
Certainly, he replied.
After that time those who are selected from the class of twenty years old
will be promoted to higher honour, and the sciences which they learned
without any order in their early education will now be brought together,
and they will be able to see the natural relationship of them to one
another and to true being.
Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting root.
Yes, I said; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great criterion of
dialectical talent: the comprehensive mind is always the dialectical.
I agree with you, he said.
These, I said, are the points which you must consider; and those who have
most of this comprehension, and who are most steadfast in their learning,
and in their military and other appointed duties, when they have arrived at
the age of thirty have to be chosen by you out of the select class, and
elevated to higher honour; and you will have to prove them by the help of
dialectic, in order to learn which of them is able to give up the use of
sight and the other senses, and in company with truth to attain absolute
being: And here, my friend, great caution is required.
Why great caution?
Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has
What evil? he said.
The students of the art are filled with lawlessness.
Quite true, he said.
Do you think that there is anything so very unnatural or inexcusable in
their case? or will you make allowance for them?
In what way make allowance?
I want you, I said, by way of parallel, to imagine a supposititious son who
is brought up in great wealth; he is one of a great and numerous family,
and has many flatterers. When he grows up to manhood, he learns that his
alleged are not his real parents; but who the real are he is unable to
discover. Can you guess how he will be likely to behave towards his
flatterers and his supposed parents, first of all during the period when he
is ignorant of the false relation, and then again when he knows? Or shall
I guess for you?
If you please.
Then I should say, that while he is ignorant of the truth he will be likely
to honour his father and his mother and his supposed relations more than
the flatterers; he will be less inclined to neglect them when in need, or
to do or say anything against them; and he will be less willing to disobey
them in any important matter.
But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he would diminish
his honour and regard for them, and would become more devoted to the
flatterers; their influence over him would greatly increase; he would now
live after their ways, and openly associate with them, and, unless he were
of an unusually good disposition, he would trouble himself no more about
his supposed parents or other relations.
Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable to the
disciples of philosophy?
In this way: you know that there are certain principles about justice and
honour, which were taught us in childhood, and under their parental
authority we have been brought up, obeying and honouring them.
That is true.
There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which flatter and
attract the soul, but do not influence those of us who have any sense of
right, and they continue to obey and honour the maxims of their fathers.
Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit asks what is
fair or honourable, and he answers as the legislator has taught him, and
then arguments many and diverse refute his words, until he is driven into
believing that nothing is honourable any more than dishonourable, or just
and good any more than the reverse, and so of all the notions which he most
valued, do you think that he will still honour and obey them as before?
And when he ceases to think them honourable and natural as heretofore, and
he fails to discover the true, can he be expected to pursue any life other
than that which flatters his desires?
And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker of it?
Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I have
described, and also, as I was just now saying, most excusable.
Yes, he said; and, I may add, pitiable.
Therefore, that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our citizens
who are now thirty years of age, every care must be taken in introducing
them to dialectic.
There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early; for
youngsters, as you may have observed, when they first get the taste in
their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always contradicting and
refuting others in imitation of those who refute them; like puppy-dogs,
they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come near them.
Yes, he said, there is nothing which they like better.
And when they have made many conquests and received defeats at the hands of
many, they violently and speedily get into a way of not believing anything
which they believed before, and hence, not only they, but philosophy and
all that relates to it is apt to have a bad name with the rest of the
Too true, he said.
But when a man begins to get older, he will no longer be guilty of such
insanity; he will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for truth, and
not the eristic, who is contradicting for the sake of amusement; and the
greater moderation of his character will increase instead of diminishing
the honour of the pursuit.
Very true, he said.
And did we not make special provision for this, when we said that the
disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast, not, as now, any
chance aspirant or intruder?
Suppose, I said, the study of philosophy to take the place of gymnastics
and to be continued diligently and earnestly and exclusively for twice the
number of years which were passed in bodily exercise--will that be enough?
Would you say six or four years? he asked.
Say five years, I replied; at the end of the time they must be sent down
again into the den and compelled to hold any military or other office which
young men are qualified to hold: in this way they will get their
experience of life, and there will be an opportunity of trying whether,
when they are drawn all manner of ways by temptation, they will stand firm
And how long is this stage of their lives to last?
Fifteen years, I answered; and when they have reached fifty years of age,
then let those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in every
action of their lives and in every branch of knowledge come at last to
their consummation: the time has now arrived at which they must raise the
eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things, and
behold the absolute good; for that is the pattern according to which they
are to order the State and the lives of individuals, and the remainder of
their own lives also; making philosophy their chief pursuit, but, when
their turn comes, toiling also at politics and ruling for the public good,
not as though they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a
matter of duty; and when they have brought up in each generation others
like themselves and left them in their place to be governors of the State,
then they will depart to the Islands of the Blest and dwell there; and the
city will give them public memorials and sacrifices and honour them, if the
Pythian oracle consent, as demigods, but if not, as in any case blessed and
You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors
faultless in beauty.
Yes, I said, Glaucon, and of our governesses too; for you must not suppose
that what I have been saying applies to men only and not to women as far as
their natures can go.
There you are right, he said, since we have made them to share in all
things like the men.
Well, I said, and you would agree (would you not?) that what has been said
about the State and the government is not a mere dream, and although
difficult not impossible, but only possible in the way which has been
supposed; that is to say, when the true philosopher kings are born in a
State, one or more of them, despising the honours of this present world
which they deem mean and worthless, esteeming above all things right and
the honour that springs from right, and regarding justice as the greatest
and most necessary of all things, whose ministers they are, and whose
principles will be exalted by them when they set in order their own city?
How will they proceed?
They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabitants of the
city who are more than ten years old, and will take possession of their
children, who will be unaffected by the habits of their parents; these they
will train in their own habits and laws, I mean in the laws which we have
given them: and in this way the State and constitution of which we were
speaking will soonest and most easily attain happiness, and the nation
which has such a constitution will gain most.
Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have very
well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come into being.
Enough then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image--there
is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.
There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in thinking that
nothing more need be said.
And so, Glaucon, we have arrived at the conclusion that in the perfect
State wives and children are to be in common; and that all education and
the pursuits of war and peace are also to be common, and the best
philosophers and the bravest warriors are to be their kings?
That, replied Glaucon, has been acknowledged.
Yes, I said; and we have further acknowledged that the governors, when
appointed themselves, will take their soldiers and place them in houses
such as we were describing, which are common to all, and contain nothing
private, or individual; and about their property, you remember what we
Yes, I remember that no one was to have any of the ordinary possessions of
mankind; they were to be warrior athletes and guardians, receiving from the
other citizens, in lieu of annual payment, only their maintenance, and they
were to take care of themselves and of the whole State.
True, I said; and now that this division of our task is concluded, let us
find the point at which we digressed, that we may return into the old path.
There is no difficulty in returning; you implied, then as now, that you had
finished the description of the State: you said that such a State was
good, and that the man was good who answered to it, although, as now
appears, you had more excellent things to relate both of State and man.
And you said further, that if this was the true form, then the others were
false; and of the false forms, you said, as I remember, that there were
four principal ones, and that their defects, and the defects of the
individuals corresponding to them, were worth examining. When we had seen
all the individuals, and finally agreed as to who was the best and who was
the worst of them, we were to consider whether the best was not also the
happiest, and the worst the most miserable. I asked you what were the four
forms of government of which you spoke, and then Polemarchus and Adeimantus
put in their word; and you began again, and have found your way to the
point at which we have now arrived.
Your recollection, I said, is most exact.
Then, like a wrestler, he replied, you must put yourself again in the same
position; and let me ask the same questions, and do you give me the same
answer which you were about to give me then.
Yes, if I can, I will, I said.
I shall particularly wish to hear what were the four constitutions of which
you were speaking.
That question, I said, is easily answered: the four governments of which I
spoke, so far as they have distinct names, are, first, those of Crete and
Sparta, which are generally applauded; what is termed oligarchy comes next;
this is not equally approved, and is a form of government which teems with
evils: thirdly, democracy, which naturally follows oligarchy, although
very different: and lastly comes tyranny, great and famous, which differs
from them all, and is the fourth and worst disorder of a State. I do not
know, do you? of any other constitution which can be said to have a
distinct character. There are lordships and principalities which are
bought and sold, and some other intermediate forms of government. But
these are nondescripts and may be found equally among Hellenes and among
Yes, he replied, we certainly hear of many curious forms of government
which exist among them.
Do you know, I said, that governments vary as the dispositions of men vary,
and that there must be as many of the one as there are of the other? For
we cannot suppose that States are made of 'oak and rock,' and not out of
the human natures which are in them, and which in a figure turn the scale
and draw other things after them?
Yes, he said, the States are as the men are; they grow out of human
Then if the constitutions of States are five, the dispositions of
individual minds will also be five?
Him who answers to aristocracy, and whom we rightly call just and good, we
have already described.
Then let us now proceed to describe the inferior sort of natures, being the
contentious and ambitious, who answer to the Spartan polity; also the
oligarchical, democratical, and tyrannical. Let us place the most just by
the side of the most unjust, and when we see them we shall be able to
compare the relative happiness or unhappiness of him who leads a life of
pure justice or pure injustice. The enquiry will then be completed. And
we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus
advises, or in accordance with the conclusions of the argument to prefer
Certainly, he replied, we must do as you say.
Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to clearness, of
taking the State first and then proceeding to the individual, and begin
with the government of honour?--I know of no name for such a government
other than timocracy, or perhaps timarchy. We will compare with this the
like character in the individual; and, after that, consider oligarchy and
the oligarchical man; and then again we will turn our attention to
democracy and the democratical man; and lastly, we will go and view the
city of tyranny, and once more take a look into the tyrant's soul, and try
to arrive at a satisfactory decision.
That way of viewing and judging of the matter will be very suitable.
First, then, I said, let us enquire how timocracy (the government of
honour) arises out of aristocracy (the government of the best). Clearly,
all political changes originate in divisions of the actual governing power;
a government which is united, however small, cannot be moved.
Very true, he said.
In what way, then, will our city be moved, and in what manner will the two
classes of auxiliaries and rulers disagree among themselves or with one
another? Shall we, after the manner of Homer, pray the Muses to tell us
'how discord first arose'? Shall we imagine them in solemn mockery, to
play and jest with us as if we were children, and to address us in a lofty
tragic vein, making believe to be in earnest?
How would they address us?
After this manner:--A city which is thus constituted can hardly be shaken;
but, seeing that everything which has a beginning has also an end, even a
constitution such as yours will not last for ever, but will in time be
dissolved. And this is the dissolution:--In plants that grow in the earth,
as well as in animals that move on the earth's surface, fertility and
sterility of soul and body occur when the circumferences of the circles of
each are completed, which in short-lived existences pass over a short
space, and in long-lived ones over a long space. But to the knowledge of
human fecundity and sterility all the wisdom and education of your rulers
will not attain; the laws which regulate them will not be discovered by an
intelligence which is alloyed with sense, but will escape them, and they
will bring children into the world when they ought not. Now that which is
of divine birth has a period which is contained in a perfect number (i.e. a
cyclical number, such as 6, which is equal to the sum of its divisors 1, 2,
3, so that when the circle or time represented by 6 is completed, the
lesser times or rotations represented by 1, 2, 3 are also completed.), but
the period of human birth is comprehended in a number in which first
increments by involution and evolution (or squared and cubed) obtaining
three intervals and four terms of like and unlike, waxing and waning
numbers, make all the terms commensurable and agreeable to one another.
(Probably the numbers 3, 4, 5, 6 of which the three first = the sides of
the Pythagorean triangle. The terms will then be 3 cubed, 4 cubed, 5
cubed, which together = 6 cubed = 216.) The base of these (3) with a third
added (4) when combined with five (20) and raised to the third power
furnishes two harmonies; the first a square which is a hundred times as
great (400 = 4 x 100) (Or the first a square which is 100 x 100 = 10,000.
The whole number will then be 17,500 = a square of 100, and an oblong of
100 by 75.), and the other a figure having one side equal to the former,
but oblong, consisting of a hundred numbers squared upon rational diameters
of a square (i.e. omitting fractions), the side of which is five (7 x 7 =
49 x 100 = 4900), each of them being less by one (than the perfect square
which includes the fractions, sc. 50) or less by (Or, 'consisting of two
numbers squared upon irrational diameters,' etc. = 100. For other
explanations of the passage see Introduction.) two perfect squares of
irrational diameters (of a square the side of which is five = 50 + 50 =
100); and a hundred cubes of three (27 x 100 = 2700 + 4900 + 400 = 8000).
Now this number represents a geometrical figure which has control over the
good and evil of births. For when your guardians are ignorant of the law
of births, and unite bride and bridegroom out of season, the children will
not be goodly or fortunate. And though only the best of them will be
appointed by their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to hold their
fathers' places, and when they come into power as guardians, they will soon
be found to fail in taking care of us, the Muses, first by under-valuing
music; which neglect will soon extend to gymnastic; and hence the young men
of your State will be less cultivated. In the succeeding generation rulers
will be appointed who have lost the guardian power of testing the metal of
your different races, which, like Hesiod's, are of gold and silver and
brass and iron. And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass with
gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and
irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred and war.
This the Muses affirm to be the stock from which discord has sprung,
wherever arising; and this is their answer to us.
Yes, and we may assume that they answer truly.
Why, yes, I said, of course they answer truly; how can the Muses speak
And what do the Muses say next?
When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways: the iron
and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and gold and silver;
but the gold and silver races, not wanting money but having the true riches
in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of
things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to
distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved
their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the
condition of freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they
themselves were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.
I believe that you have rightly conceived the origin of the change.
And the new government which thus arises will be of a form intermediate
between oligarchy and aristocracy?
Such will be the change, and after the change has been made, how will they
proceed? Clearly, the new State, being in a mean between oligarchy and the
perfect State, will partly follow one and partly the other, and will also
have some peculiarities.
True, he said.
In the honour given to rulers, in the abstinence of the warrior class from
agriculture, handicrafts, and trade in general, in the institution of
common meals, and in the attention paid to gymnastics and military
training--in all these respects this State will resemble the former.
But in the fear of admitting philosophers to power, because they are no
longer to be had simple and earnest, but are made up of mixed elements; and
in turning from them to passionate and less complex characters, who are by
nature fitted for war rather than peace; and in the value set by them upon
military stratagems and contrivances, and in the waging of everlasting
wars--this State will be for the most part peculiar.
Yes, I said; and men of this stamp will be covetous of money, like those
who live in oligarchies; they will have, a fierce secret longing after gold
and silver, which they will hoard in dark places, having magazines and
treasuries of their own for the deposit and concealment of them; also
castles which are just nests for their eggs, and in which they will spend
large sums on their wives, or on any others whom they please.
That is most true, he said.
And they are miserly because they have no means of openly acquiring the
money which they prize; they will spend that which is another man's on the
gratification of their desires, stealing their pleasures and running away
like children from the law, their father: they have been schooled not by
gentle influences but by force, for they have neglected her who is the true
Muse, the companion of reason and philosophy, and have honoured gymnastic
more than music.
Undoubtedly, he said, the form of government which you describe is a
mixture of good and evil.
Why, there is a mixture, I said; but one thing, and one thing only, is
predominantly seen,--the spirit of contention and ambition; and these are
due to the prevalence of the passionate or spirited element.
Assuredly, he said.
Such is the origin and such the character of this State, which has been
described in outline only; the more perfect execution was not required, for
a sketch is enough to show the type of the most perfectly just and most
perfectly unjust; and to go through all the States and all the characters
of men, omitting none of them, would be an interminable labour.
Very true, he replied.
Now what man answers to this form of government-how did he come into being,
and what is he like?
I think, said Adeimantus, that in the spirit of contention which
characterises him, he is not unlike our friend Glaucon.
Perhaps, I said, he may be like him in that one point; but there are other
respects in which he is very different.
In what respects?
He should have more of self-assertion and be less cultivated, and yet a
friend of culture; and he should be a good listener, but no speaker. Such
a person is apt to be rough with slaves, unlike the educated man, who is
too proud for that; and he will also be courteous to freemen, and
remarkably obedient to authority; he is a lover of power and a lover of
honour; claiming to be a ruler, not because he is eloquent, or on any
ground of that sort, but because he is a soldier and has performed feats of
arms; he is also a lover of gymnastic exercises and of the chase.
Yes, that is the type of character which answers to timocracy.
Such an one will despise riches only when he is young; but as he gets older
he will be more and more attracted to them, because he has a piece of the
avaricious nature in him, and is not single-minded towards virtue, having
lost his best guardian.
Who was that? said Adeimantus.
Philosophy, I said, tempered with music, who comes and takes up her abode
in a man, and is the only saviour of his virtue throughout life.
Good, he said.
Such, I said, is the timocratical youth, and he is like the timocratical
His origin is as follows:--He is often the young son of a brave father, who
dwells in an ill-governed city, of which he declines the honours and
offices, and will not go to law, or exert himself in any way, but is ready
to waive his rights in order that he may escape trouble.
And how does the son come into being?
The character of the son begins to develope when he hears his mother
complaining that her husband has no place in the government, of which the
consequence is that she has no precedence among other women. Further, when
she sees her husband not very eager about money, and instead of battling
and railing in the law courts or assembly, taking whatever happens to him
quietly; and when she observes that his thoughts always centre in himself,
while he treats her with very considerable indifference, she is annoyed,
and says to her son that his father is only half a man and far too
easy-going: adding all the other complaints about her own ill-treatment
which women are so fond of rehearsing.
Yes, said Adeimantus, they give us plenty of them, and their complaints are
so like themselves.
And you know, I said, that the old servants also, who are supposed to be
attached to the family, from time to time talk privately in the same strain
to the son; and if they see any one who owes money to his father, or is
wronging him in any way, and he fails to prosecute them, they tell the
youth that when he grows up he must retaliate upon people of this sort, and
be more of a man than his father. He has only to walk abroad and he hears
and sees the same sort of thing: those who do their own business in the
city are called simpletons, and held in no esteem, while the busy-bodies
are honoured and applauded. The result is that the young man, hearing and
seeing all these things--hearing, too, the words of his father, and having
a nearer view of his way of life, and making comparisons of him and others
--is drawn opposite ways: while his father is watering and nourishing the
rational principle in his soul, the others are encouraging the passionate
and appetitive; and he being not originally of a bad nature, but having
kept bad company, is at last brought by their joint influence to a middle
point, and gives up the kingdom which is within him to the middle principle
of contentiousness and passion, and becomes arrogant and ambitious.
You seem to me to have described his origin perfectly.
Then we have now, I said, the second form of government and the second type
Next, let us look at another man who, as Aeschylus says,
'Is set over against another State;'
or rather, as our plan requires, begin with the State.
By all means.
I believe that oligarchy follows next in order.
And what manner of government do you term oligarchy?
A government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have
power and the poor man is deprived of it.
I understand, he replied.
Ought I not to begin by describing how the change from timocracy to
Well, I said, no eyes are required in order to see how the one passes into
The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals is the ruin
of timocracy; they invent illegal modes of expenditure; for what do they or
their wives care about the law?
And then one, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus the
great mass of the citizens become lovers of money.
And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a
fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are
placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the
And in proportion as riches and rich men are honoured in the State, virtue
and the virtuous are dishonoured.
And what is honoured is cultivated, and that which has no honour is
That is obvious.
And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become lovers
of trade and money; they honour and look up to the rich man, and make a
ruler of him, and dishonour the poor man.
They do so.
They next proceed to make a law which fixes a sum of money as the
qualification of citizenship; the sum is higher in one place and lower in
another, as the oligarchy is more or less exclusive; and they allow no one
whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any share in the
government. These changes in the constitution they effect by force of
arms, if intimidation has not already done their work.
And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is established.
Yes, he said; but what are the characteristics of this form of government,
and what are the defects of which we were speaking?
First of all, I said, consider the nature of the qualification. Just think
what would happen if pilots were to be chosen according to their property,
and a poor man were refused permission to steer, even though he were a
You mean that they would shipwreck?
Yes; and is not this true of the government of anything?
I should imagine so.
Except a city?--or would you include a city?
Nay, he said, the case of a city is the strongest of all, inasmuch as the
rule of a city is the greatest and most difficult of all.
This, then, will be the first great defect of oligarchy?
And here is another defect which is quite as bad.
The inevitable division: such a State is not one, but two States, the one
of poor, the other of rich men; and they are living on the same spot and
always conspiring against one another.
That, surely, is at least as bad.
Another discreditable feature is, that, for a like reason, they are
incapable of carrying on any war. Either they arm the multitude, and then
they are more afraid of them than of the enemy; or, if they do not call
them out in the hour of battle, they are oligarchs indeed, few to fight as
they are few to rule. And at the same time their fondness for money makes
them unwilling to pay taxes.
And, as we said before, under such a constitution the same persons have too
many callings--they are husbandmen, tradesmen, warriors, all in one. Does
that look well?
Anything but well.
There is another evil which is, perhaps, the greatest of all, and to which
this State first begins to be liable.
A man may sell all that he has, and another may acquire his property; yet
after the sale he may dwell in the city of which he is no longer a part,
being neither trader, nor artisan, nor horseman, nor hoplite, but only a
poor, helpless creature.
Yes, that is an evil which also first begins in this State.
The evil is certainly not prevented there; for oligarchies have both the
extremes of great wealth and utter poverty.
But think again: In his wealthy days, while he was spending his money, was
a man of this sort a whit more good to the State for the purposes of
citizenship? Or did he only seem to be a member of the ruling body,
although in truth he was neither ruler nor subject, but just a spendthrift?
As you say, he seemed to be a ruler, but was only a spendthrift.
May we not say that this is the drone in the house who is like the drone in
the honeycomb, and that the one is the plague of the city as the other is
of the hive?
Just so, Socrates.
And God has made the flying drones, Adeimantus, all without stings, whereas
of the walking drones he has made some without stings but others have
dreadful stings; of the stingless class are those who in their old age end
as paupers; of the stingers come all the criminal class, as they are
Most true, he said.
Clearly then, whenever you see paupers in a State, somewhere in that
neighborhood there are hidden away thieves, and cut-purses and robbers of
temples, and all sorts of malefactors.
Well, I said, and in oligarchical States do you not find paupers?
Yes, he said; nearly everybody is a pauper who is not a ruler.
And may we be so bold as to affirm that there are also many criminals to be
found in them, rogues who have stings, and whom the authorities are careful
to restrain by force?
Certainly, we may be so bold.
The existence of such persons is to be attributed to want of education,
ill-training, and an evil constitution of the State?
Such, then, is the form and such are the evils of oligarchy; and there may
be many other evils.
Then oligarchy, or the form of government in which the rulers are elected
for their wealth, may now be dismissed. Let us next proceed to consider
the nature and origin of the individual who answers to this State.
By all means.
Does not the timocratical man change into the oligarchical on this wise?